Thursday, December 17, 2009
In fact, as much as I did not enjoy church services most of the year, I really loved them on Christmas eve when the lights were low and we held candles and sang songs. It felt peaceful, the one time each year that we all just got quiet and spoke of peace and love. To me, that is what the holiday season is about.
I love the songs of Christmas because I love music, and I especially love singing. I do it secretly and only at home but when my voice meshes perfectly with a song and I know all of the words I feel so peaceful and joyful. In my household growing up both my parents loved music. My father, as a collector of music, always had the right song for any occasion and kept the music constantly playing in the house. My mother is a singer, always singing and encouraging all of us to join in and participate in the music. They probably have hundreds of Christmas albums, some better than others. Last year it was Donny Osmond, which I have to say I could live without. In my house I only have about 4 albums but I keep them playing on my ipod daily throughout December. I especially like to play them while cooking dinner and singing along. Mark does sometimes join in because, why not? We like to sing songs about our cat or with our cat's name in them so they can get pretty silly. We like to in invent the best new lyrics and crack each other up. We are playing the Christmas edition of that game now.
I love really bad Lifetime or Oxygen holiday movies. I watch them on the weekends and get excited to see the new ones or old ones I missed somehow. I can waste hours on this, but they help to put me in the mood and pass the time while I make crafts or write holiday cards. I am also encouraged to see that some of my old TV friends are finding new work, even if it is once a year. This is a tradition Mark especially hates. But he already thinks I have bad taste in TV.
I love baking for the holidays. I sometimes run out of time so I don't do it every year, but there is something about homemade holiday treats as gifts or to share with co-workers and friends. It reminds me of my Grandma's house and the endless variety of cookies she would have on hand. This year I made my grandmother's Snowball cookies, my mother's Chocolate Drop cookies, my aunt's Almond Rocca and my newest recipe, pumpkin cookies with white chocolate chips. Mark also requested Snicker doodles, which are not technically holiday cookies but whatevs.
I love holiday cards. I love choosing them and spend a lot of time on it. I choose several different styles each year and sit down to pick the perfect card for each family on my list. Bet you didn't know I put such thought into it? I think it's fun. I get this from my mom who would go out the day after Christmas to buy holiday cards half-off and she would buy A TON. We had a special cabinet at home that was bursting with boxes of holiday cards, way more than she needed in any given year. I wonder if she is still slogging through her back-stash? She also writes a letter every year. Letters are controversial, which surprised me when I discovered it as an adult. I thought it was just what you do. Sitting down to reflect on your year and how it changed you or didn't or what you learned about life and yourself. Even if you don't send the letter, I recommend you write one as a way to reflect on each year and live a little more thoughtfully. Or you could just brag. I will read anything.
I love buying presents, because I love shopping, and researching and researching shopping. I spend several weeks looking at all of my options and thinking about the person and what they would like. I narrow it down; I first decide what gifts I will make and what I will buy and have to choose carefully in order to have time to make everything. This year I did not and had to purchase a last minute gift which I hate because there is no time for researching. Sometimes I choose poorly and after the holidays I wake from my stupor and think What was I THINKING? but will probably keep making those mistakes in different ways for different people each year. Sorry in advance.
To me, the best parts of Christmas are the weeks leading up to it with the planning and projects and dreaming. So, I wish you much Peace and Joy this holiday season, whatever you celebrate, whatever your cultural or religious (or both) traditions. They all connect us to those we love and remind us to live in peace and respect for all of the parts of this season that each of us enjoy most.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
We interrupt this holiday season with a post about the last share of produce from One Straw Farm. It was about 3 weeks ago that we got our final produce before the long dark winter of frozen veggies. This lovely gem appeared on my kitchen counter. Mark explained that it is called cosmic cauliflower and is a cross between cauliflower and broccoli. We eyed it suspiciously for about a week until we ran low on any other veggies and it started to look it's age. We had to decide to eat it or throw it away. Both options had their merits because, look at it! It was scary. I am not normally wasteful so I decided one night to cook it up. I didn't tell Mark because I thought it should be a surprise so he didn't have time to object. We had already tried purple cauliflower and it was not as good as the original so this could go either way.
I cooked it up the way I cook most cauliflower or broccoli with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. I had to kind of slice it up and it crumbled quite a bit in the pan. But, it was good, it did taste like both cauliflower and broccoli which is weird but not bad. Mark was a little nervous when he saw it but agreed that it was OK. I still don't know why you can't just eat one or the other but it looks cool at least.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Last year I made a scarf and some coasters for my brother, a stocking for my cousin's baby and some homemade ornaments. I also hand embroidered some handkerchiefs for my Dad and made a set of place-mats and napkins for my sister-in-law. I purchased quite a few handmade gifts including grocery bags, a hubcap clock, and reusable dryer sachets and natural handmade laundry soap all online from Etsy. I went to several handmade holiday markets to buy more stuff and save on shipping. I got a printed jersey scarf, printed kitchen towels, and I think some more soap. If you send out yearly holiday greetings, don't forget you can get those handmade too! Last year I got all my cards fromEtsy and hope to do it again this week (is it already too late?).
This year I plan to do a little more purchasing and less making myself because I was a little overwhelmed last year and when the sewing machine refuses to cooperate and you have literally hours to get a project done and in the mail it can be a bit stressful. There are so many wonderful handmade goods out there you are sure to find something perfect for everyone on your list. I really recommend going to some local craft fairs to meet the crafters in person and see everything in real life. Who knows, you might find a friend or a bargain or pick up a new skill.
If you are in the Baltimore area check out Holiday Heap on December 5
If you are in the Seattle area check out Urban Craft Uprising also on December 5
If you are anywhere else (and I would be surprised but hey) there is a complete list of upcoming craft fairs Here.
CRAFT magazine has a great blog and podcast series with some tutorials and fee patterns for a variety of crafts. That's how I found the stocking pattern last year. And if I have time I might make these cute felt holiday trees for my dining room table.
This year has been all about improving my cooking skills and since that is a craft too I am thinking of making some cookie holiday gifts. I just discovered a recipe for pumpkin spice cookies with white chocolate chips that are the bomb-dot-com!
No matter what, a handmade holiday is sooo much better than fighting the traffic at the mall. It helps keep the Joy and Peace in the holiday season.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Guess what? It's me! I have been taking a break from blogging because it kinda felt like a job coming up with postings and I had other things I wanted to do. Such is life I guess. But now I have lots of ideas buzzing around in my head and the holiday season is upon us so you might be hearing from me more often this winter.
Anyway - This post is about my holiday gift from #1 Super Hubby! We always exchange gifts in November because it's easier to budget the rest of the shopping and we are never home for xmas anyway. You might remember that last year I got a new computer which I am using right now. This year I finally got living room chairs!
Backstory - When we moved to MD we had to downsize from a 3-level 2 bedroom 4! bathroom finished basement apartment to just about 800 square ft. in our current place. We got rid of a ton of furniture, books, kitchen appliances and junk. There is something to be said for pairing down to the essentials and I am glad we did it but I sure miss my washer and dryer and I did miss the living room chairs. They belonged to my parents first so they were worn out and looked rough but they were comfortable and served the purpose. We always planned on taking the opportunity to finally replace them when we moved. Then the recession happened and pay cuts and debt repayment and they became a very low priority.
This was finally the year and while they are modest chairs from Target they are mine and they are cute and they look so good in the room! Plus, Target furniture always means I get to assemble them myself which I actually love doing. Weird, I know but it's so cool to figure it out and put it together and feel like you really accomplished something.
Miss Gimp loved the chairs right from the start, she thinks they are her holiday gift. Which holiday? Festivus.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
I have decided I am more of a craft wannabe instead of a true crafter because I like the IDEA of doing a project much more than actually completing them. I have about 3 sewing projects in process, one knitting project and an idea for a new embroidery project. Just haven't been in the mood to dive in for a while.
I have been more focused on cooking recently, as you can tell from my cake post. We haven't bought bread in like 2 months since I taught myself how to make it. I have even made up a great recipe for herb bread and the secret is garlic salt (which should be the secret to everything). I am also into using our CSA produce in new recipes, tonight I created my own recipe for roasted veggie pasta primavera with vegan cream sauce and I rocked it out. May post it but no pics.
Handmade Nation made me re-think my crafts again and I just might get back to them. Artscape is this weekend and this is the second year for the DIY tents so maybe I will just shop handmade instead.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Just want to give a shout out to my Dad because he is the greatest. That's him fishing with his father and here he is with me and my brother:
I just realized that I don't have many pictures with Dad because he was always the one taking the pictures. And I honestly don't know what is going on in this one.
There are so many great things about Dad, I always wanted to be like him because he seemed to know what's what. Still does. I am very lucky to have such a wonderful father and I am grateful every day.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
My favorite time of year - we picked up our first delivery of fresh produce yesterday. I should say Mark did. We chose to go with One Straw Farm this year instead of Cromwell Valley. We did this for several reasons. One - We really don't like having to volunteer on the farm because I hate nature. Two - It was a bit of a drive and when it was rainy and muddy it was not fun. Three - because we had to go there at a certain time and choose our produce, we quickly realized that we had to get there right when it opened or other people would take more than their share and leave only the broken and wilted produce. Getting there at opening was smack in the middle of a Saturday and totally inconvenient.
One Straw Farm drops off produce shares at various locations and one happened to be right across the street from us. It's also the location of a weekly farmers market which is totally awesome. Tuesday afternoon is our pick up time and because Mark gets home before me he is the one to pick up the share. I am a little concerned about this because I like to be in control and he gets to choose what to pick up. We get 8 items but they can be 8 different things or 8 of one thing or some combo. Someone said I should make him call me from the pick-up so I can help choose. Should I do it? I should just trust him, right? Maybe....
Mark picked up cabbage, kale, swiss chard, garlic scapes, strawberries, arugula and two lettuce. I decided to serve the kale and strawberries for dinner because the strawberries didn't look like they would last. After all the greens I ate last season I didn't think I would say this but I really was looking forward to cooked greens again. I became an expert in cooking kale and chard last year and this is how I made it last night:
1 bunch Kale
2 tsp. chopped garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
splash of white wine
remove stems and clean kale, set aside. Heat a pan on medium with the olive oil. add garlic and soy sauce when hot. Add the kale, toss with tongs and put the lid on, cook for about 5 minutes or until the kale has cooked down by half. Take lid off and add splash of white wine, replace lid. Cook another couple of minutes, its done when it is reduced and before it browns a lot.
This is my best guess for measurements, I just add what looks good, probably you should use less oil. Story of my life. You can drink the remaining wine while cooking, I usually do. Unless you are using actual cooking wine, I don't judge.
As you can see Miss Gimp preferres her greens raw and fresh. Yes she is on the kitchen counter; you can't stop a gimp cat, I've tried, it doesn't work, don't judge.
Friday, May 29, 2009
Follow the Star....
Last weekend my co-worker and friend Sarah got hitched in PA. Let me tell you, I have never been impressed with the old state of PA, outside of Philadelphia and arguably Pittsburgh there is really nothing to see. A whole lot of NOTHING. But for Sarah I decided I would brave the drive and visit Bethlehem.
Now, asking Mark to go along seemed to be out of the question as he hates car trips, being bored and PEOPLE. So, I hitched a ride with Amy, another co-worker and friend and promptly asked her to drive as the old 1994 Cavalier might not make it. Especially since the Cavalier got into a wee bit of an accident was was still nursing a broken driver side door. Now, Amy loves road trips and PA so she decided to plan a whopper and this trip became the stuff of legends. Seriously, everyone at the reception was asking us how the trip went since it was going to be EPIC. We had big plans to visit the Yuengling factory, the Roadside America miniature village and a winery or two. My focus was on finding a drink since I heard the reception would be sans alcohol and while I am not a big drinker I am also not good in social situations where I know almost no one without a drink in my hand. At least drinking before the wedding seemed like a good compromise.
Plans were dashed as we got to a late start and the drive took forever and the tolls cost like a million bucks (srsly people, the value of entering PA is certainly not equal to the actual cost). No beer factory tour only gawking at road side signs like the
The wedding was in a chapel on the Lehigh University campus which is beautiful and we got lots of pictures of the church. Being a historic preservation major I tend to be interested in and take lots of pictures of buildings. Usually, after a vacation I have random shots of building interiors and have forgotten what they are AND nobody cares. The priest was very funny in a peculiar, crazy uncle kind of way which I was not expecting but did seem to spice things up. It was over quickly for a catholic ceremony and I did very much appreciate it.
We spent the hour between in historic downtown Bethlehem, founded by the Moravians. I learned about the Moravians from a trip Mark and I took to a museum conference in Winston-Salem several years ago. We got a lot of comedy material from our tour of the historic Moravian settlement at Old Salem Museums. On the tour we found out that Moravians used to decide everything by drawing lots so if you had a question you would ask the council and they would draw lots to see the answer. One poor man wanted to get married and the drawing turned him down 7 TIMES. Moravians no longer draw lots. They do still have a special star and some tasty cookies. The best thing I saw in Historic Bethlehem was the Brew Works. That is where we spent the hour; trying the beer sampler and taking shots of beer in order to finish in time to get to the reception. It was really good beer, even the porter, not usually my favorite.
The reception was beautiful and Sarah even made the favors; ribbon embroidered bags with CHOCOLATE inside. We danced to some Jackson 5 and ate some cake from a real NJ Italian bakery. We didn't get out of there until later than expected and asked the bride for directions home to avoid tolls. Winding through the back roads of PA as the sun was setting we saw 2 wineries, lots of farm land and several Amish people riding strange looking bikes. The overall effect was surreal and we weren't sure if we were looking at the Amish on bikes or a group of Brooklyn hipsters with the plaid and the beards and the strange hand-made bikes. I didn't get a picture because my camera had already run out of battery life but if I did, this is what it would look like. All of the scenic distractions caused us to get lost twice and resort to a small stretch of toll road to get back on track. Got home late Saturday night and Mark and Gimp were glad to see me. Mark was especially glad to see the cookies I brought home from the reception in the paper bags printed with Sarah and Thomas' wedding date. MMMM... cookies. Gimp was less excited about the bubbles from the wedding, apparently the world's most fierce Gimp Cat is afraid of bubbles. Who knew?
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Happy Earth day from Sesame Street and Paul Rudd.....and me!
Like most things in life, if you think about ALL the things you maybe should be doing it becomes overwhelming. I prefer to slowly incorporate small steps to change my ways and try not to feel guilty about what I am not doing. This year I have some new ideas for small changes.
Like this knitted reusable Swiffer pad because I love my Swiffer but need to cut down on my disposables.
While my attempts at knitting plastic bags did not go so well, I have new inspiration thanks to Modish but I probably won't attempt anything as ambitious as the world's first plastic bag billboard.
If you are anything like me you have about a million t-shirts around the house. Luckily there are about a million ideas for what to do with them. I am working on turning one into a skirt for summer weekends but I also like the idea of weaving them or even making a cool quilt.
Last but not least, I love the idea of using an Altoids tin to make a travel candle.
One last idea you might want to try, Meatless Monday!
Just remember one thing - Earth Rocks!
Monday, April 13, 2009
I'm not much for Easter but I do think it's important to mark the seasons and I especially love spring! We decided to celebrate spring by visiting the Cherry Blossom Festival in DC. The weather was perfect and the trees were so pretty. It was such a great way to to welcome the season.
Now I need to change out my closet and go to the fabric store because I need some new spring skirts. I already have my spring shoes - new ivory ballet flats I got on clearance and have been saving for months.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Biographies are some of my favorite kinds of books to read. I love history because it is the culmination of stories of people's lives. Famous people, every day people and extraordinary people. I devoured the biography section of my elementary school library and my favorite at that time was a book about Nellie Bly . It was the first time I really thought about being a girl and understood the challenges that have historically come with that. I also just love stories about people that fight, fight back, change the world and don't take no for an answer. Those are the people I admire and those people give me hope for human kind. Nellie Bly was that kind of chick.
The Progressive Era gave us many such women including Ida B. Wells-Barnett who was also a journalist. Ida was a trouble maker of the highest order, she was so "difficult" that she was never really given credit for all that she did accomplish. She wasn't difficult as much as uncompromising, unwilling to back down in order to make peace or scratch backs. She was never good at politics. My favorite story involves the suffrage movement . As much as I am grateful for the work of Susan B. Anthony and other suffrage leaders, the great shame of the movement is that they allowed segregation and outright racism in order to appease some critics. In the National American Woman Suffrage Association's suffrage parade on March 3, 1913
in Washington DC, Ida refused to march in the back of the parade where they had segregated the African-American suffragettes. Instead, she hid in the crowd until her state delegation, Illinois, passed and then she jumped in and marched under her state flag, integrating the parade single-handedly!
Another Progressive Era hero has been my favorite since I read her biography in college; Margaret Sanger spent her life working with poor women and came to believe that if they had honest information and access to birth control they could improve their lives and the lives of their children. She fought for that cause the rest of her life and founded the American Birth Control League which became the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Her story is fascinating and worth a read.
Some women lead by example and Madam CJ Walker certainly did. Becoming the first self-made American woman millionaire the early 1900's she created a beauty empire. Her life story is worth the read and even the story of her daughter's life during the Harlem Renaissance is fascinating. For more on this amazing women I recommend the book On Her Own Ground : the Life and Times of Madam CJ Walker.
Just because it's almost April doesn't mean you can't pick up a biography of one of these amazing women, or let me know of a biography I need to read!
Friday, March 20, 2009
When we first got together my husband informed me that he does not like chocolate and in addition to that, sweets are not "his thing" . WHAT? or more accurately, WTF? This cannot be possible. So I set out to change his mind because I couldn't go through life eating treats all by myself. It took several years but I finally broke him and I can proudly proclaim that he especially loves Snickers and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. He also loves any kind of fruity treat and when I do have to "go get us some treats" I ask what he wants and he says, "something fruity and tasty".
I usually buy cookie dough, frozen cake or mixes if we want baked goods. I do sometimes make homemade treats but not often. If we have no treats and don't want to go to the store I make something I learned from my grandma, my Mom's Mom. She would take leftover pie crust and spread it with butter, sugar and cinnamon, cut it into strips and roll it. Bake up and eat; nom nom nom. Pie crust is easy to make fast and I can whip it up in no time.
Since reading In Defense of Food We have decided to do better eating real food. Our CSA was a good start but we can still cut processed food, white flour, High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) and the like. Real food takes more time and effort. Real food is sometime hard to find. Try going to the grocery store and not purchasing anything with HFCS . It's hard. We are learning so much. While organic crackers seem more expensive than 100 calorie snack packs they are actually not when portioned into 100 calorie packs of their own and they have less packaging. Also, organic ketchup is soooo much better than the regular kind.
This brings me back to our treats problem. Unfortunately we cannot at this time live without treats but we no longer want processed crap. So, I decided to learn to bake more. Baking is a challenge because I can't use real butter or milk (for Mark) and we are trying to use whole wheat flour which has a very particular taste and density. It requires some experimentation as to creating good recipes. I take my work seriously and have done the required research. I began with cake.
RESULTS: Worst cake ever: peanut butter cake with chocolate frosting - the peanut flavor highlighted the wheat flavor and the cake was too dry and heavy. Best non-chocolate cake: carrot cake from Betty Crocker with vegan vanilla
sour cream frosting from somewhere on the Internets - the spices covered the wheat flavor and the density worked well with the carrots and nuts. Best chocolate cake: this vegan chocolate cake with cocoa frosting from Betty Crocker. The recipe was for 12 cupcakes so I doubled it and made a cake. It is the perfect chocolate flavor and it is the lightest, melt-in-your-mouth texture ever, even with whole wheat flour. It is almost too dangerous to have in the house. And the frosting is definitely the best I have made; better than using baking chocolate or even vegan cream cheese frosting.
Monday is Mark's B-day so this weekend I am making his B-day cake. When I asked him he immediately requested the carrot cake but then he saw this recipe from Fat Free Vegan and has decided he wants that. It looks fruity and tasty. I hope its not also wheat-y.
On another note, have you heard of this thing they call "March Madness"? It annoys me and ruins perfectly good television. But Fug Madness is awesome!
Friday, March 13, 2009
I know I haven't posted much in the last 2 months and I have no excuse. I have spent the winter doing some crafting and recovering from various illnesses. I swear this winter has been the worst for catching bad stuff. It could also be the hundreds of kids I guided through the museum in these last months; all the sniffling and coughing hordes of them.
I have begun knitting again after a six month break. I started with a scarf for a xmas gift. While knitting the octopus scarf I joined a new craft group that meets at the library and stays in touch on Ravelry. These ladies are very nice and I forgot how helpful it is to have someone available to answer questions and help with problems. These ladies have even given me the courage to perhaps try a sweater! Amazing after 3 years of knitting to finally work up to a sweater. I also taught a friend to knit and made her go with me to the knitting group so we are now becoming obsessed with patterns and yarn.
After the holiday I decided to make myself some winter hats because its very cold and I didn't have hats and scarves that matched. My first hat was a beret that I first knit in chunky pink yarn and hated it so I frogged the hat and knit it in a medium weight purple-ish yarn. I really like it. I used the pink yarn for a matching scarf.
I decided I liked knitting hats so I tried a cap in 3 colors using yarn I got for xmas from cousin Briana. The hat turned out ok but I decided it wasn't girly enough so I experimented with some decoration and came up with this:
Pretty cool, huh? I really like it and I get compliments every time I wear it.
So it got me thinking that I really need a cool hat to go with my blue scarf. It was the first thing I ever knit and still my favorite scarf when its really cold. I had a very small amount of that same yarn left so I decided to build a hat around it. I used some black wool sport weight yarn to do the hat and then combined the blue yarn with some cream yarn and a red button to create this:
and my new favorite hat is made. I am afraid I can't stop making flowers because they help to use up leftover yarn and can be made in an endless combination of colors. also because, thanks to the furloughs, I don't have extra money for new yarn so I use what I have.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
But she is now middle aged and has the spread to prove it.
Poor Miss Gimpy doesn't really eat more but she has become a bit lazy, and it shows. She used to love to play fetch (really) and especially loved to chase after ponytail holders but lately she will only do it once or twice before deciding she would rather just lay down.
Mark is worried about her so he tries to wrestle with her more but she usually just gets annoyed and walks away.
Maybe our bad habits have rubbed off on her. You think she would join us on the Wii Fit?
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
We did get to see the inauguration at work, in the conference room on a TV with no cable so the reception was less than great. Sarah and I played around with the antenna to get a picture. What is this, 1985? (or 1995 if it was my parent's house)
The staff sat in silence during the ceremony. I tried to do my signature running commentary but no one really appreciated it so I shut up. But really, Aretha's hat deserved some sort of comment. It was AWESOME! as was our new president's speech and the entire ceremony (minus the incredibly lame Rick Warren).
after the TV viewing I came back to my office to see about 4 emails from hubby waiting for me, including:
HOLY S*** RICK WARREN HAS BEEN PRAYING FOR A LONG FU***** TIME!
So, great minds think alike.
I spent the rest of the afternoon unable to concentrate, despite the afternoon meeting with my boss and some minor emergency pertaining to the 80 elementary age school children visiting tomorrow.
On the ride home I shared the train with many, many people coming back from DC with their special inauguration posters, buttons and sock caps. I love me some souvenirs so I was a little jealous of the swag but then I remembered how cold it was and, again, the port-a-potties and I was OK.
We purchased some American made champagne-like sparkling white wine after work and I settled in to surf the net for pictures of Michelle's ballgown. Priorities, people.