24 December 2010

Moments Such As These

And this is the view of two girls hugging their grandpa for the horseback riding lessons they've just received for Christmas ... whilst riding Pops bareback. Sheer, unbridled, little girl bliss.

Off to go enjoy more moments such as these. Merry Christmas.

22 December 2010

A Little Bit Naughty and a Whole Lotta Bit Nice

"A harmony of unexpected contrasts: the intensity of dark chocolate and the delicate seasoning of hand harvested Fleur de Sel sea salt crystals." (Translation: "blah, blah, Dark chocolate, blah, blah, Fancy french salt that is super, super good, blah") The best $3 chocolate out there, if you ask me. And. You can get it at Target.

To all husbands out there ... this is an excellent stocking stuffer idea. I'm just sayin.

A Flurry of Festivity

A day full of last-minute shopping, meal-planning, grocery gathering, and general anticipation. This year, the children have taken an active role in gift planning. So interesting to notice how it has increased their level of excitement. The ol' adage,  "It is better to give than receive" certainly has wisdom behind it.

Of course, if your husband brings home some Christmas flowers ... the receiving is awfully nice.

20 December 2010

A Home-Day and Corduroy Happiness

We had to cancel some anticipated plans today in order to stay home and get healthy. Nothing too bad, but throaty coughs and persistent sniffles that just need a day at home.

The result of our self-imposed home-day is plenty of time to work on projects. Christmas cookie dough is chilling in the fridge and a viewing of White Christmas is bringing smiles and spontaneous dance sessions.

It has also brought time to work on some sewing projects all in lovely corduroy. Oh, corduroy. I forgot how much I love you! You are sturdy, soft, washable, and so very sweet. Perfect for dresses for both little girls ... and big girls too.

For you see, I stumbled upon a corduroy dress at the magical Anthropologie. Normally, this is a store I view as fantasy-land and explore it much like one would in a dream or a good novel. However. This time there was a massive clearance sale going on (the kind with a "take an additional 25% off the lowest marked price" ...) and a darling little dress that was cheap. I'm talking Target cheap! The only problem? A size too small.

Humpf. What's a girl to do?

Corner a sales-girl in the dressing room and demand for utter honesty. "Tell me. Does this look like I squeezed myself into a too-small dress? And don't be nice. I mean it. Don't you be sending me out of here looking like a stuffed sausage."

She said it looked good. And then another lady gave an unsolicited comment of approval. And I decided to believe them. So I bought it. (Insert giddy, maniacal laugh ...)

It actually fit nicely in most areas, just too tight in the arm-holes. Not a surprise since I have man shoulders. (I'm serious. I do. Like a burly dock-worker. I'm sure I could haul up a ship's anchor by hand.) No problems moving, sitting, walking ... but if I had to reach upwards or across my chest, the teensie arm-holes with their vicious cap-sleeves would just about sever my offending limbs.

So today I spent a little time deconstructing and widening arm-holes to accommodate my upper-torso beefiness. Ahhh...much better.

Now it's time to get back to work on some sweet corduroy dresses for two little girls who still have very lovely and proportional arms. Here's to hoping that the man-arm genes don't reveal themselves in my innocent progeny. It's a good thing they are learning to sew ...

18 December 2010

17 December 2010

16 December 2010

15 December 2010

14 December 2010

07 December 2010

For a Little Bit

Taking a few days off. Back in a bit friends ...

To Accomplish the Christmas Card

It's been a few years since my last attempt, but today I sat down to compose some Christmas cards. And I even liked it. You see, in the past it seemed to be such a herculean task to undertake. The letter, the postage, the photo and the ever expanding address list. At the very thought of it, my shoulders would slump, I'd develop a facial tick, and have to go eat the heads off of five gingerbread men.

However, this year is different. I'm sending out just a handful of cards with the recognition that not everyone that I love dearly or barely even know has to receive one. (So if you don't find one in your mailbox this year, just know that I am lazy and I still adore you now just as much as I ever did.)

Today I picked up some lovely evergreen postage stamps and a small set of photographs to tuck inside the cards. The photograph is not the crazed forest family image ... Lucette was just too mortified that her frumping was captured and the masses might be sent a copy of her meltdown moment. However, I am still sending out an equally odd and unrefined photo in which I manage to sport a sizable double chin. And I'm fine with it.

So there we have it. Cards done, no stress, and it's early December. What a concept!

04 December 2010

Packaged Beauty

My in-laws returned from a trip to Japan and brought us exotic treasures. Naturally there were the oddities like wasabi Kit-Kat bars (seriously), but then ... oh my.

I can hardly stand how gorgeous this set of chopsticks is. By themselves they are stunning, but the packaging is superb.

And a box of Japanese chocolates? Yes, please! I wish you could feel the texture of the paper this box is wrapped in. It's so rich and textured it feels almost as though it were fabric.

The presentation of these items make them all the more lovely to me. I think the chocolates certainly will taste better because they've resided in such a beautiful box. And the chopsticks? Oh yes, I'm determined to learn to use them properly now.

I think I'll go practice right now. On some chocolates ...

03 December 2010

A Right Jolly Old Elf

When I was little, I always loved going to Nanie's house at Christmas time. There would be be an appearance of Santa himself ... I never saw him, but I heard his bells, the tromping of hoofs, and Santa's bellowing voice as he filled our stockings and said nice things about us all. Funny. Santa's voice sounded an awful lot like Nanie's.

My stocking would be filled with various bits and bobs, but without fail, there would be cellophane wrapped Christmas nougats. The peppermint kind with a candy cane stripe around the circular edge and a little green Christmas tree in the middle. Marvelous.

I also looked forward to a cuddle or two with a Santa Baby. There were several sizes. All united, however, in their petite, austere cuteness. I'm told they once belonged to Nanie's mama. They had ... and still do have ... a faint smell of wool and nostalgia.

Just my size, these little, sturdy red elves would spend the day taking a ride on my hip or sitting in my lap.

And now they warm the laps of a new generation, just as enchanted as I.

02 December 2010

Well, we tried to take a family picture and this is the best we could do ...

Unless we magically manage a better group photo this weekend, this is what's going in the Christmas cards. Out of 50 shots, this is the best we could do. An ape boy, a mildly amused mother, a cute tot, a father who thinks he's Tommy Lee Jones in some cinematic thriller, and an overly perturbed girl-child who won't look at the camera.

Just keepin' it real, girls. Keepin' it real.

30 November 2010

A Nice Little Tape Pillow

We've been sewing a lot over here. Specifically, a lot of pillows! I've gone crazy with making zippered pillowcases in the last month, and the girls have followed suit. Now that Christmas is upon us and we found some festive vintage fabric, we're revved up for more.

Lucette has been busy with her sewing machine and some scraps of poinsettia fabric. She's produced two pillows and is contemplating more. Not to be left out, Jane rounded up some sturdy corduroy and some scotch tape. I think the craftsmanship is excellent ... and don't you just love the little pocket?

29 November 2010

Always an Original

 This past weekend we were able to spend Thanksgiving with my in-laws. I always look forward to the time. Not only is there mountains of good food but I do love the family time.

Another reason I love to come for an extended visit is to see great minds at work. The menfolk in my husband's family are nothing short of brilliant. Seriously. Last year my father-in-law built me a battery charger and fixed my sewing machine all with a wink and a shake of his finger. This year I brought a broken mixer (Pops' hadn't had time to look at it yet) and a suggestion for Peter and Grandpa to work on a school project.

The project called to make a figurine to accompany a book report. Peter had chosen Robin Hood and I figured the two could whittle a bonny little guy ... or something like that. Turns out, that idea was for amateurs.

Out came the computer and plans were drawn to create an outline (based on a sketch Peter had made) in a draw program that would then be interpreted by a robot ... a ROBOT that Grandpa MADE ...  and then the robot would control a milling machine which would then cut out the image in copper. 'Cause you know, copper is cool and doesn't everyone have sheets of it lying around?

For reasons far too complicated for my little brain to understand, they decided not to cut the figure out completely, but just etch the outline on the copper with the robot. They then proceeded to sprinkle colored glass enamel powder on specified regions and shove the thing in and out of a little kiln Grandpa just happened to have. Peter told me later that "I've decided that 1600 degrees is very, very hot." Uh ... yeah.

The two boys worked happily side-by-side. Occasionally they would discuss the task at hand or perhaps the previous day's hike and rifle shooting (oy, vey). But for the most part, there was only chatting when need be (I'm told it's not necessary to talk as much as girls).

And when they were done, they were pleased. Pleased with the end result of both product and time spent. School project accomplished, new concepts learned, man-time together.

I have a feeling there will probably not be a duplicate robotically-etched and kiln-fired Robin Hood turned in at school. But then, there certainly isn't a duplicate of Grandpa, either.

23 November 2010

A November Dusting

It's a rare thing, indeed, for us to experience a November dusting of snow. In our area, when the weathermen get chattering about snow it instantly becomes the "Artic Blast" of that calendar year. Yesterday people were out at the market stocking up on groceries and children were eagerly imagining the possibility of being snowed in by mountains of the glorious white stuff.

It turned out to be not quite the blizzard my children had hoped for, but it did allow for a delayed start time at school (three cheers for icy roads), a breakfast of pumpkin scones, and an episode of our beloved Leave It to Beaver.

I'm sure this winter visit it won't stay for long, but it is lovely while it lasts. Happy Thanksgiving, my friends ...

22 November 2010

So Much Life

This past weekend I was able to take pictures of one of my dearest friends and her stunning family. Jenny and I were once crib-mates when our parents first met at a church fellowship group. I'm told we napped together, though I'm sure we just tricked them and spent our whole time chatting. It's been our life pattern.

The years have been good to our friendship and we've spent the past thirty-four years invested in the life of the other. What a treasure. And speaking of, this photo of her husband and daughter just melts me. Might be one of my favorite pictures ever.

What a marvel to have shared so much life together.

19 November 2010

A Little Cozy Placed in Glass

I spent the day at a friend's house this past weekend and felt like I walked into a big hug. Her home is gracious, welcoming, and it smells sooo good. In fact, when we walked back into our home later in the day, I commented that our house smelled funny. Peter simply retorted, "Mom. It always smells like this." Hmmmm.

Anyhow, my comfy day at Jen's house led me to wish for more candles in ours! She had them lit all over the place and they accomplished both scent and cozy.

While she seems to prefer the jar-candles, I have a problem with smokin' them out. They always seem to get a raven-black coating of soot on the interior and I'm far too lazy to clean them repeatedly. So, I decided that pillar candles in simple glass hurricanes are my thing. They are cheap, you can change the candle at will, and most importantly, like the jar-candles, the glass hurricane prevents topples and spills from exuberant family members.

Ah, yes. It's drippy and nasty outside, but it's cozy in here ... and it smells good too!

Modish Vase in Yellow Light

I've been combing through photo archives as of late. These shots were taken within the initial week of obtaining my first digital SLR camera almost two years ago. I knew then, even less about photography than I know now, but the love began almost immediately.

These photos are far from perfect, technically speaking, but they represent a bit of wonder for me. To see, to frame, to snap, to view, to interpret ... I love looking at life through a lens ...

17 November 2010

Reminders of Love

When I was little, Grandpa and Nanie V. lived on a farm. We'd run the cornfields looking for baby kittens, eat our lunches in those big tractor scoops, carve monstrous pumpkins in the fall, and eat Pudding Pops to our hearts content. And always, I remember Nana puttering with plants. Iris by the front window, geraniums in the garage planters, African violets under those funny indoor purple lights. They do not live on the farm any more, but I do cherish those childhood memories.

We had Nanie V. in the hospital for a few days. She is back at home now, recovering well. We are thankful. My sweet Aunt Dawn, who has deep gifting in care-taking, emailed us all to give an update and soothe any worries.

She reported that she spent the night to make sure all continued well. This morning she happened to overhear Grandpa speak to Nana in regards to the night. He said, "I heard you cough and that reminded me that I love you."

 My heart swells.

16 November 2010

The Aesthetic Eye of a Young Man

After spending some backyard scavenge time armed with a hatchet, my thoughtful young son presented me with a bowl-full of brilliance. Thin sticks chopped to a uniform length, bundled in string and displayed artfully in a milk glass pedestal bowl. And accented with pinecones, of course.

It is, quite easily, my favorite display in the house.

15 November 2010

12 November 2010

My Love, Autumn Days

Go, sit upon the lofty hill,
And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild
Do hymn an autumn sound.
The summer sun is faint on them --
The summer flowers depart --
Sit still -- as all transform'd to stone,
Except your musing heart.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

11 November 2010

Preparing for Battle

We seem to have low immune systems this fall, as we're already working through our second cold as a family. We're a very thoughtful family. We like to share everything. Including colds. One at a time so each can singularly revel in it and thus, extend the duration of our household sickie status for as long as possible. Sigh. Can anyone else relate?

I decided to use a surprising, but appreciated burst of energy to fully equip ourselves for future germ-attacks. Naturally, hand-washing, healthy eating, and actually being consistent in taking our vitamins is a good start. But then, there are the practical steps. 'Cause if you are feeling crummy, who wants to paw through a tub of expired medicine in the dimly lit hallway in hopes to find your symptom salvation?

Preparing for Battle:
Locate, collect, and dump out the big ol' mess of medicinal boxes and bottles that you have scattered around the house. I recommend doing this at the kitchen counter, garbage at hand and wet rag to clean out the syrupy goo you know you'll find.

Throw out all expired, mostly used, or just plain suspicious products.

Separate products that you regularly use during sick-season, and those you don't use as often. Keep the high-use products in a bin in the kitchen if you have room. I find this a much better location than my aforementioned dimly lit hallway closet. And while you're at it, toss in band-aids and Neosporin. You know you'll need it for something within the week. Am I right?

Make a list of any products you need to replenish so you can snag them at the store the next time you are out.

Must Haves: 
-EmergenC packets
-Ricola Throat Drops
-Sambucol (elderberry stuff that seems to help)
-Pepto chewable tablets
-Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Anti-Histamine, Cough Syrup, Decongestant/Expectorant (Adult & Kid)
-Multi-Vitamins (Adult & Kid)
-Olive Leaf tablets
-Kleenex boxes (and lots of them!)

What are some of your favorite products from your cold/flu season arsenal?

10 November 2010

Little Baby Freezer Pies

I have been wanting to make these little freezer jar pies since last year! I thought they were too adorable when I first saw the idea. Little pies frozen and ready to pop into the oven whenever the hankerin' hits! Maybe for last minute guests or as a Christmas hostess gifts? 'Cause really. Who doesn't like pie?

I decided to use apples and cranberries, but I'm sure you can use any fruit in season. Just chop up and toss with some sugar, flour and spices. Done in a snap. In regards to the crust, however, I tried pressing the pie dough all around the insides of the jars so it would have a crust like a real pie. It worked, and I'm sure it will taste yummy, but after the second jar, I decided it took too much time. So, in went the fruit and on went the top crust, cobbler style. Ahhh. Much easier.

Here you'll find the basic recipe. Naturally, you can adjust. Add more dry ingredients if you have more fruit. Using really juicy, sweet fruit? Use less sugar and more flour to thicken. You get the idea.

Little Freezer Jar Pies

4 c. fruit (I used chopped apples and cranberries)
.5 c. sugar
1.5 t. pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon & nutmeg)
2 T flour

Mix together, spoon into small canning jars, dot with a smidge of butter and place crumb topping or pie crust on top. (I just rolled out dough and used the screw top jar lids to cut circles out.) If you use pie crust, be sure to use a knife and cut little slits to let the steam escape. Screw lids on tight and pop in the freezer.

When ready to bake, remove lids, place on cookie sheet (to catch the drips) and bake at 375 degrees for about 50-60 minutes (or 45 minutes if not frozen).

And if you have any extra ingredients? Place in ramekins and bake up for dessert tonight! No delayed gratification required.

09 November 2010

08 November 2010

Treasured, Together

This weekend we took a little car trip to see family and celebrate my birthday. Nothing like scads of people who love you, packages to open, and meals served ... to make a birthday nothing short of spectacular.

I also had the distinct honor of taking some family photos. It's not always often to have loved ones gathered together and willing to submit to my snapping and clicking, so I was most delighted. Naturally, we took plenty all clustered together trying to smile simultaneously and not look as awkward as we all felt. You gotta' have some of those! But then. There were the little moments. The kind that represent the un-posed part of family life.
The kind that are, simply ... treasures.

04 November 2010

For the Love of Buttermilk

I've mentioned my recent obsession with buttermilk. Such tangy richness! I'm finding that you can sneak it into all sorts of recipes, but the ol' standards, pancakes and biscuits, always turn out beautifully.

Tonight we're having some Leek & Potato Soup and a nice piping hot batch of Buttermilk Biscuits. These are so easy-peasy because I don't bother with the rolling and cutting. Just mix 'til combined and drop onto pan!

Mmmmm ... pass the butter and jam, please!

Basic Biscuit Recipe

Mix together:
2 c. flour (a mix of ww and white is nice)
3 t. baking powder
.5 t. cream of tartar
.25 t. salt
2 t. sugar (or a squirt of agave or honey -- but add at end since it is wet) 

Mix/cut in 'til combined and crumbly:
.5 cup butter, cut into small cubes 

Add all at once and stir 'til just combined:
2/3 c. milk

Drop batter onto baking sheet (use parchment paper, if you have it for easy clean up) in nice big, sticky blobs. Bake at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Makes 12.

** Buttermilk Biscuits -- add .25 t. baking soda and substitute .75 c. buttermilk for the milk.

** Cornmeal Biscuits -- use only 1.5 c. flour and add .5 c. cornmeal and 1 t. ground sage.