Monday, December 17, 2018

Advent Calendars

Last weekend we celebrated Dean's sixth birthday with kindergarten boys dressed up as dragons, lots of legos, and doughnuts. Now it's time to embrace Winter/Christmas/Solstice. For at least the last two years (possibly three) I have been working on a felt embroidered advent calendar. I really wanted to hang it up but clearly wasn't motivated to finish it because holiday seasons kept passing with it still sitting in my craft drawer, waiting to be finished. To be honest, it still isn't fully finished. I still need to sew beads and sequins onto the ornaments. I gave myself a pass on that for this year. Who knows, maybe I'll get one or two done before the 24th. I spent most of Dec 2 working on it at our dining table. The kids were very interested in what I was doing and spent time sewing their own creations out of felt. Dean even made his own tiny advent calendar. I taught him how to use a needle threader and it was the best decision I made all day. He loved the "trick" of it and I loved not having to re-thread his needle all day long.

Last month I tried to buy an advent calendar for myself made by the talented knitter/crafter Alicia Paulson of Posie Gets Cozy. Her limited release items sell very quickly. I came home from a PTA meeting at the kids' school and told my husband how I was a few minutes late to the meeting because I was sitting in my car trying to buy this advent calendar on my phone, but the signal was weak and paypal wasn't connecting, and then when it did -three minutes after the sale had started- they were already sold out. I wasn't surprised. That's how it goes with her specialty items. Well, he listened, and earlier this week he presented me with a chalet-style cabin advent calendar that HE MADE for me. The advent calendar I had tried to buy was filled with things specifically for knitters, so he made this one knitting themed as well. See the balls of yarn on it? And the tiny knitting needles? He's so thoughtful. The sweetest. It's amazing. I am amazed. So far I've gotten an ornament, a knitting sticker, a skein of hand dyed merino wool, and cute owl stitch markers.  I feel very loved and appreciated. I still kind of can't believe it.

And the kittens? My mom brought that advent calendar over. How can anyone not love adorable kittens in Santa hats?

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Cusp of Winter

I recently checked out from the library, and then purchased, the fabulous cook book Repertoire by Jessica Battilana. In the last few weeks I've made Candy Pork, Tortilla Soup and Chicken and Herbed Dumplings from the book. The Candy Pork called for palm sugar, which I'd never had before. It has a deep flavor, sort of like maple sugar. So yummy. These cold days call for warming meals. The Chicken and Dumplings and the Tortilla Soup start the same way with breaking down a whole chicken and making broth with it, then shredding it for the soup. It's not super easy, but it makes the best broth I've ever had. I'll be using her technique for years to come, I'm sure of it. My favorite recipe in the book is for a Negroni and potato chips. So simple and good. I haven't even tried the dessert chapter yet, but I'm excited to!

We are in this strange time of year where it is after Thanksgiving (the apple tart turned out really well, btw!) but before Dean's birthday. We always hold off putting up decorations until after his party, even though it feels like everyone else is already decorating. I'm trying hard to focus on his dragon themed birthday party, but I really just want to be thinking about Christmas...

Today I spent the whole school day at the kids' school matching kids up with costumes for their Civil War-era unit. There's still a lot to do and I anticipate a few more long days there. I'm sure I'll be dreaming about hoop skirts, and Confederate and Union uniforms.

Monday, November 12, 2018


This morning's sunrise was spectacular. It has been cold, windy and clear here the last few days, with each day making me think 'I should have brought my sunglasses today' which is unusual for this season for us. Normally we have moved into full time rain by now. I'm enjoying the sun and cold, especially with the wood stove to warm up by.

I impulse bought that cute pumpkin pie banner today. It's my husband's favorite dessert, and really I always want to celebrate baking! This year I'll be making a pumpkin pie for us, plus the best green bean casserole from Smitten Kitchen and (probably) the Glazed and Flakey Apple Tart and Fall Spritz from the latest issue of Bon App├ętit to share with family on Thanksgiving. It's funny, I'm not an apple fan, unless it's an apple pie or tart. This tart looks so delicious. Almonds! Puff Pastry! The Fall Spritz also has apple in it, but it is a dry cider which works for me. Plus the Amaro makes it really bitter, which I like.

I also impulse bought that Norwegian-inspired table runner today. Halloween ends and suddenly it feels like the holiday pressure is on. Plus, I've got a boy turning six in a month who will need a birthday party! I'm hoping this table runner will guide me through this season with an eye toward simplicity and harmony.

I've spent the last few months planning my kids' school Book Fair for this year, and it starts tomorrow! I've switched the company we usually partner with and have chosen a local book store instead, complete with students doing a poetry reading one evening. Fingers crossed that it all goes well! I'll be happy to have it off my plate because in two weeks another mom and I are heading up the costume committee for the third, fourth and fifth grade school play about The Underground Railroad. Time to dust off my sewing machine...

Monday, October 22, 2018

Almost Sweater Weather

October is the best. Crisp leaves, wool sweaters in the morning and t-shirts in the afternoon, Japanese Anemones and Chinese Lanterns, a visit to the pumpkin patch, soup and turning on the oven after months of outdoor grilling.

If you had stopped by this summer you most likely would have found Lemon-Pepper Chicken on the grill. It was the recipe of the summer for us. Vincent even made for his coworkers on a work retreat. It's that good. Now that indoor cooking is back I'm switching to my other favorite recent discovery from Bon Appetit, Lemon Chicken Thighs. I made them last night and everyone ate it. I cannot stress how amazing that is. I altered the recipe a bit, stopping after the thighs were finished in the oven. I didn't bother with the lemon vinaigrette because I'm the only person here who cares for it. Instead I drizzled a bit of honey over the plate of crispy thighs. Not enough to make them really sticky, just a little sweet. So really, these are just crispy chicken thighs, no lemon at all. Of course I don't have photos of either of these chicken meals. I used to snap photos of my dinner in the living room near the window right before sitting down to eat it. It's, of course, too dark at dinner time now for that. Even worse, one night I demonstrated to my kids why we don't bring food into the living room as I accidentally tipped my entire bowl of pasta into a large basket full of magnatiles. Such a mess.

I pre-ordered and received Let's Stay In, a fantastic new cookbook a week or so ago. The author wrote Date Night In, one of my all-time favorites. I've already made Chanterelle Corn Chowder with Bacon (and ate it for lunch all last week) and Salted Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars from the book. Both are so good. I had to freeze the second half of the bars because they were just too tempted sitting there on the counter every afternoon...

I ordered that cute sweater pin and card in an attempt to bring my knitting needles out of their slumber. It worked! I've been working on a sweater for Gianna forever. I posted about it last March and promptly set it aside. Last week I wove in all the ends. Now I need to stitch the underarms closed and block it. I had her try it on and she was so delighted, which made me even more delighted.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Sick Days + Links

Dean is home sick with strep throat this week. I've had to cancel appointments and meetings, leaving me free to do legos with him and make soup that he refuses to eat. Fingers crossed that his appetite returns soon. I have finished knitting the never-ending sweater! I still need to kitchener stitch the underarms, weave in all the loose ends, and block it. The knitting portion may be finished, but the work isn't. Spring is giving us a lot of hints outside. My rhubarb is coming up, no sign of the asparagus yet though.

Making me happy this week:

-the podcast series' Making Oprah and Making Obama

-this interview with Alex Delaney who has one of my favorite Instagram accounts

-the podcast Pantsuit Politics  - I've really been enjoying their nuanced point of view

-looking forward to Gaby's new cookbook. Her chicken parm meatballs recipe is incredible!

-this recipe for mug cake. It's so easy it's dangerous.

Lastly, a shoutout to the advice nurse at our doctor's office yesterday who, after telling me to bring Dean in if his symptoms didn't improve in a couple of days and hanging up the phone, changed her mind and got him an appointment to be seen within the hour. I'm so glad she trusted her instincts!