Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Up To Something

We were working on a new project today. It involved cake, which was good.

And other pretty things.

I just love this little vintage purse.

And Christina's lovely knitting.

More pictures to come sometime soon......

In the mean time, Michael is recovering from having his four wisdom teeth removed -- hopefully this will not affect his preaching (in more ways than one). Andrew is in bed with the side-effects from this nasty cold, and I'm still working on getting rid of this two-week fluish cold. But, who can complain about 63-degree weather in January!!!! Very strange if you ask me.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Embracing Winter: Bring Nature Inside

One of my favorite ways of beating the winter blues is to bring nature inside the house. It is amazing how frequently Europeans buy flowers for their houses. But, they know that the money spent on flowers is well-invested because of the joy it brings to otherwise dark and gloomy days.

I know most of us don't have a flower budget, as much as we'd like to have one. Keep your eyes open -- you may find some good bargains like these primroses, on sale for 99 cents each this week at Aldi. They make me happy everytime I look at them!

If there are no flowers around, think about sticks! A stick tree is fun and you can leave it plain or hang anything you like on it -- birds, popcorn, valentines..... I even put water in the vase in hopes that the branches might actually bud one day.

Get everyone drawing: draw winter scenes and spring scenes, animals, flowers, winter skies, winter food, garden plans.....

If only I had thought ahead I could be forcing bulbs right now! I am on the lookout for hyacinths about to bloom -- they are one of my favorite smells!!! I had also hoped to buy an amaryllis but none came my way. These flowers are thanks to my mom and sister.

Make flowers out of tissue paper. Here is a good tutorial.

Sewing flowers brings me so much joy! I love, love, love to do it! (Okay, once in awhile after sewing dozens and dozens I do need a little break.) There are so many types of flowers to craft and you can even google food flowers and be inspired to make flowers out of all kinds of edible things.

What joy nature gives to us! God is the ultimate artist and we are silly if we do not spend time enjoying what we have been given.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

What Not To Wear

This is what not to wear when you are whipping cream on a Sunday afternoon.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Embracing Winter: Inspiration Idea

My friend, Heather, from A Place of Quiet Rest, makes the most wonderful posters to remind her family of the things they enjoy each season. Don't you love this one she made for winter?!

Think how much fun it might be to make your own! Or, if you have kids, have them make one for your family.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Embracing Winter: Start a New Ritual

When winter seems long, the days gray and depressing, and your spirits begin to flag, why not start a new ritual? Some of you may feel scared at the sound of that word -- what does she mean? Really, "ritual" is just a romanticized trade-in for habit or tradition.

It was Alexandra Stoddard who first introduced me to the idea of personal rituals. I wish I could remember which of her books it was in..... Anyway, the kind of ritual I am speaking about is something that you begin to do and as the days go on becomes a habit, something you do automatically. It is something that brings you joy.

Perhaps you have a morning coffee "ritual." Why not make it more special: set out your cup the night before, on a little tray. Add a printed napkin, or if you have a flower to spare, a flower in a vase. Maybe a square of chocolate, or slip a little quote penned on a scrap of paper -- turn morning coffee into something that refreshes you even more than usual.

A ritual may begin as a reward for something you find difficult to do. If you have the money, make a habit of buying flowers for your house while you are doing the weekly shopping. Spend a moment arranging them and setting them where they will make you happy.

Maybe you hate to clean -- take a moment to sit and paint your nails when you are done.

I often find it hard to go down to the kitchen and begin working on dinner when it is dark and cold. A ritual helps me. I light a candle on the counter, pick out a CD, and start my work. Candle light and music help to motivate me.

Start a ritual baking day: if your schedule allows, choose a day of the week on which you will attempt to bake something. Think how your family or friends might start to look forward to this!

Choose a seat in the house to make "yours". Keep a magazine by it, or a candle, or pen and paper for writing or drawing. Make a ritual of sitting there once a day just to relax and think.

Start a journal, or continue on with one you already have. Write in it at the same time each day.

Start a beauty routine: a hot bath once a week, or buy a new jar of hand lotion to rub on your hands faithfully. Place delicious smelling chapstick at your desk and put some on each time you sit down. Eat by candlelight. Write a letter once a week -- make a letter station where everything is at your fingertips.

The possibilities are endless.....we have only to break out of our rut and try a new little path.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Laura's "Place of Her Own"

Laura has claimed the space under Michael's desk as "her own." She loves to sit there and draw.

She can be close to Daddy and all cozy with a blanket.

Don't we all want a cozy place of our own to hide on a cold winter's day?!

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Handmade Afternoon

Last week Christina and I got together with a friend for an afternoon of sipping tea, chatting, and sharing our latest craft inspiration.

Christina is working on a British flag pillow -- now we all want one.

Plenty of treats to go around....

Christina's yarn basket -- for creating her latest cardigan.

Janet brought this book which we carefully perused and I decided on the granny square tea cozy as an absolute must. Will whip one up as soon as possible.

The hours sped by very quickly.

We had four different teas to taste, and we were quite serious about it: Twinings Royal Wedding Blend, Harrod's Ceylon, Monk's tea from Tea's Me, and English Rose (with chocolate hints).

My latest little zipper case -- these were my 2011 gifts.

Christina's fingerless gloves -- her 2011 present.

More of Christina's gloves -- hers are white and mine are red.

Janet crocheted us these beautiful pillows. She knew exactly which colors and mine is happily sitting on my bed.

Inspirational colors were worn:

Rachel and Laura's baby dolls received new ponchos - aren't they cute!

And Janet showed us her finished afghan for her brown leather reading chair which sits in her reading room. Love it!

And this is my latest creation: a Kindle cover.

And now I've been diving back into Jane Brocket's "The Gentle Art of Domesticity" because it resonates so loudly with my own aspirations. Read it -- you will be inspired!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Lemon or Lime Shortbread

Here is a lovely little recipe for warding off the winter doldrums. Bake up a quick batch of lime, or lemon, shortbread and sit down for a few minutes with a friend over a cup of tea (Ceylon or Lady Grey would be my choice).

Lime or Lemon Shortbread
(Heather LeFebvre)

1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 cup softened butter (2 sticks), I prefer salted butter
1 large lime or lemon (zested and juiced)

Use a whisk to mix together the sugar, flour and cornstarch. Cut in the butter and use your hands to meld the butter into the flour mixture. Tip in the zest and juice of lime or lemon and pull it all together. Knead lightly a few times. Pat the dough into an 8 x 11-inch baking pan. Use a fork to prick the dough through all over.

Bake at 325 for about 45-55 minutes or until edges are a nice brown. Leave the shortbread in the pan but cut immediately. Allow to cool. Makes about 24 squares.

Embracing Winter: Eat Good Food

How would we survive winter without good food? Hot cocoa on coming in from hours spent in a winter wonderland, cinnamon rolls to savor after sleeping in on the weekend, steaming bowls of chili on a chilly evening, savory chicken soup when you are ill, broiled grapefruit to begin a workday, or tomato soup with grilled cheese when the snow begins to fall.

Here are a few cooking ideas to help you savor winter:

Have a dinner party -- one of our favorite books growing up was Old Man Rabbit's Dinner Party. His party wasn't about fancy food or important guests but about warm food for all in winter in a cozy, loving atmosphere. (I think I must buy this book somewhere.....)

--have an international themed dinner
--have a soup and salad dinner
--serve breakfast for dinner
--have a progressive dinner in your own home using different rooms
--invite the last person you would think of for dinner

Enjoy hot drinks -- tea is my favorite, but hot chocolate and coffee are nice too!

--have a tea tasting -- or coffee tasting (invite friends to sample 4-10 different kinds)
--try a tea/coffee you've never tried before
--put an electric kettle in your bathroom and make yourself a cup of something envigorating first thing in the morning
--buy a new teacup or mug just for winter drinking

Do some kid-friendly baking with your own kids, friends, nieces and nephews, grandkids, etc.

--doughnuts (did you see the post on The Cooks Next Door?) I have a GF recipe to try!

Make pancakes -- a winter comfort food for sure. These days we hardly eat them for breakfast because we don't have time but they serve us well for lunch and for Sunday evening snack. There are so many wonderful kinds:

--chocolate chip
--maple walnut

Bake Bread -- oh the memories of the smell of freshly baked bread in my mother's kitchen! A most nurturing thing for a small child. It can be as simple or as complicated as you want. The possibilities are endless:

--cinnamon raisin

Eat pie. Pie is my favorite. Think of winter pies:

--shoofly pie
--maple walnut
--apple, always apple
--pumpkin (this doesn't have to be for fall only)

Once in awhile, make a cake.

--Victoria sandwich
--spice cake
--one egg cake
--coffee cake
--pound cake
--angel food cake with fluffy whipped cream icing

Try new vegetables. Why not experiment? It's the time of year for healthy beginnings and getting back to basics.

--make beet salads
--try kale chips (my kids' favorite)
--stir fry swiss chard
--make potato leek soup
--try a raw kale smoothie (my favorite)
--eat spinach salad
--eat carrot salad, grapefruit-spinach salad, pineapple with mint and ginger
--add fresh ginger to fruit, soups, stir fries, tea (keep it in the freezer and grate from frozen)

Eat soup every week, or even every day.

--white bean and kale
--carrot ginger
--potato leek
--red lentil
--split pea and ham
--kale and sausage

Make something over and over again -- last winter I made this Pork Sausage, Fennel, and Navy Bean Stew more times than I can count.

Eat tomato soup and grilled cheese. This recipe is the easiest EVER and tastes amazing.

Read good cookbooks. Check books out of the library. Buy a new food magazine. Look at sites like Food Gawker, Pinterest, and Taste Spotting to be inspired.

A few of my favorite cookbooks to read in winter:

Nigella Kitchen
Nigella Lawson -- How To Eat
River Cottage cookbooks
Jacques Pepin Fast Food My Way DVD's
Kitchen Diaries (Nigel Slater)
Nigel Slater -- especially Appetite
Roast Figs Sugar Snow

Take some time to cook! And tell me what you make.......

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Embracing Winter When She Gives You The Cold Shoulder

Before I go further with my "Embrace Winter" posts, I wanted to acknowledge that winter can truly be a very difficult time for people. Forget the everyday complaints about the weather and the dreary gray in the sky. What if this is your first winter without a beloved spouse, or you suffer from seasonal affective disorder, or maybe your child gets severely ill in the winter months and that is ever present in your mind. Maybe you struggle with depression and the winter months seem like a tunnel with no light at the end. These are realities of winter for many people.

I suppose my posts are mostly aimed at the average winter-goer, for whom winter is more of an attitude problem rather than an actual life hazard. What do you do if winter looms large in your face, threatening you with her icy arms?

I think one of the first things to do is acknowledge the tough situation you are in and don't feel like you have to pick yourself up by your boot straps and pretend to be happy (although once in awhile that might not hurt).

Remind yourself that this is a season of life, as well as a season of the year. Sometimes winters of the soul last for years. For Christians, we look forward to the fact that winter is not forever and someday there will be an eternal summer in Christ's presence. But sometimes winter on earth feels like it will be forever.

Look for "little graces". Maybe overall your winter is going to be a slushy mess, but if you watch with expectant eyes, you will see a few sparkling masterpieces as they flutter past you into oblivion. Don't minimize those moments. I can remember when I was so ill the crazy joy a piece of hot toast cut in triangles and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar once gave me. I have no idea exactly why except maybe it was the first spark of pleasure I had felt in some time. Write down your little graces.......collected slowly over time they might just form into a beautiful snowdrift, breaking the sharpness of the wind.

Help someone else make it through winter. If you are struggling, you are probably well-equipped to help someone else who is also finding the winter walk to be difficult. Winter is always warmer when there is someone beside you. And for those of us who might not be in a winter of the soul just now, we should be all the more aware of those who are and try to brighten their path.

The cold of winter is the nursery of hope. Spring is coming, in more ways than one.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Bits and Pieces

I do believe it was a good week! Part of that I'm sure comes from one of my resolves to "relax". I enjoyed several cups of tea (well, many cups of tea but some more than others), and I really did enjoy the chocolate cayenne cupcakes a friend made! They were very amazing, with quite a bite at the end. Certainly could be addicting.

Today we went off to search the Goodwill 50% off sale and found some great things for creating with. In the afternoon we went to shoot a few pictures of Christina's latest work.

An actual picture of me!!

We needed Laura for one of the models.

On site change was executed quickly in the cold air:

And then the model was rewarded with her own bag of raisins.

And allowed to accompany the adults to Starbucks where she pretended to talk to her manager on the phone.

And tomorrow is the day of rest before another week begins.