Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday night grateful moment

Oh that all weeks could be so filled with the things you want to do, not the things you need to do... vacation weeks do seem to be stacked toward the former, don't they? This one was no exception. And given that it was a week that celebrates thankfulness, you'd think I could rummage up a bit of it? No problemo with that.

*Tonight my thoughts are especially with a friend I'm grateful to have reconnected with this past year or so, through Facebook. We were tight our first year of college and then not so much, and lost track of each other in the intervening decades... but it's been a true joy to be back in touch. She got a diagnosis just today that will take more of her time and energy in the coming weeks and months than any already busy wife and mother should have to give, but I know she'll kick butt on this illness and do what's needed to continue on with her life. I love you bunches, Jen, and I'm here, whatever you need, whenever you need it. Thanks for the fun visit this week in Portland and for accommodating my spastic ADHD shopping style (and inability to leave The Container Store without a truckload of wrapping paper!). You're a true pal.

*I'm grateful my parents came to be with us for Thanksgiving, and that my mom and I have an enjoyable time together in the kitchen. When you're working with close spaces, it's nice to get along, as the hips bump!

*I'm grateful we've had good weather here at the coast, so we could get out for walks. Nothing helps with the oh-my-did-I-eat-too-much-again feeling like an afternoon constitutional!

*I'm grateful for a lovely four years of marriage, and for a wonderful time of year to have our anniversary. Everyone should plan their anniversary around a national holiday, I say. And everyone should try and marry someone as wonderful as I did! (That last one might be more difficult. I'm speaking from experience here...)

*I'm grateful for warm fires.

*I'm grateful for pomegranate seeds, especially when my dad does the mining for them! Thanks, Pa.

*I'm grateful my brother and sister-in-law and family got back safely from vacation, and for the yummy treats they brought back too! Anything macadamia nut goes over big around here.

*I'm grateful for the season that is upon us, and for the opportunities it gives us to reach outside ourselves just a little bit more than we might the rest of the year. To think about those who could use a little cheer, warmth or smile, and remember that the symbols of the season mean so much more than the 30% off signs at whatever retail purveyor you may frequent (for me today, it was Eddie Bauer, and yes, I did get a sweater that I'm pretty grateful for too!).

*I'm grateful that I can finally put up the Christmas tree without feeling like I'm rushing the holiday, and listen to all my favorite Christmas music too.

*I'm grateful for Thanksgiving leftovers. To fill my plate on day 2 with all the same stuff as the day before--and not have been in the kitchen all day! How great is that? It was very great, indeed. Next year I'm going to see if I can get to day 2 without having to do day 1... not sure that's entirely doable, but hey, it's worth a whirl.

*I'm grateful for the little discount bookstore we frequent when we come to the coast. It is filled with recent-run books at amazing prices! We all stock up and Seth's already read 4 books this trip, so it takes the sting out of shelling out for them, just a bit. I hit biographies and cookbooks today... yee-haw! Now let the reading begin.

*Especially grateful for laughter. We watched a couple of movies over the break and I have to say that "Four Christmases" with Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon brought out the chuckles (and a few true laugh-out-loud moments) in all of us. The story might be lacking a bit, but the physical comedy makes up for it. And you'll be oh-so-thankful for YOUR family instead of any of their four, too. Truly.

A little Alison Krauss for your weekend... her music brings back happy memories for me.

Have a blessed weekend.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Pumpkin spice cake the eeeaaasy way

So I wanted an alternative to pumpkin or pecan pie this Thanksgiving. Really, only for myself. I'm picky like that--everyone else at our table would be just fine with the pies. But I've never been into pumpkin pie, and pecan pie is so rich I can only do a sliver of a slice maybe every other year or so... (Side note: I feel like my sweet tooth has seriously diminished the past year or so. Is this a sign of old age? I mean, I can still polish off a bag of carmel corn or a box of Junior Mints with popcorn at the movies every once in awhile, but when faced with a number of dessert options, I don't get nearly as excited as, say, I did in my 20s. So what's up with that? I'd say it would be a good thing for my jeans, but alas my fat tooth and my salty tooth have not diminished at all, so things are what they always are...)

OK, back to regularly scheduled programming... dessert. Usually by the time I'm done with my fixation on the Perfect Bite, and have sufficiently carved a dent in the Thanksgiving feast, dessert is something I think about an hour or two later... but still, when I get there, I want something I really want. So what was it going to be? I got quite a few suggestions from various peanut galleries, but when push came to shove, I still wanted a bit of a pumpkin fix, and seeing as how this Thanksgiving happened out of a less-outfitted kitchen than home, I wanted something I could throw together pretty easily. Yeah, that's my excuse for fiddling with a cake mix, right? Well, truth be told I'm not really a cake snob that way anyway. I get the concept of homemade cakes and all, but really? Betty figured out how to make a cake years ago, and I don't mind using her expertise to guide me along the way, not one bit.

So here's how it fell out: These little babies smelled so good, right out of the oven in the morning. They were of immediate interest to the whole household, and other than one little sliver of pumpkin and pecan pies that Pa had during the evening round of Mexican train dominoes, they were the dessert of choice for our turkey-coma crowd. The little acorn ones were especially popable.

Pumpkin spice cake
1 package spice cake
1 can pumpkin (28 oz.)
1/2 cup oil
1 package vanilla instant pudding
3 eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients at medium speed for 5 minutes. Pour into greased and floured pan (recipe calls for bundt pan, but I used one of Williams-Sonoma's mini pumpkin pans, and one of the acorn cakelet pans as well). Bake 45 minutes (check after 35 minutes): this instruction is for the bundt pan--my mini pans took 15 minutes, tops. Let cool 10 minutes in pan. Cool completely. Frost as you will!

OK, not the best frosting job I've done, but quite yummy. Very. I will haul out this cake recipe again soon.

Thursday 13: 13 advent calendars... 1 for Thanksgiving and a dozen fun ideas for Christmas

I have always wanted an advent calendar, and yet, I've never bought one, made one, been given one... what's up with that? I hadn't thought of it much this year, and then happened upon the following countdown-to-Thanksgiving idea below (#1), and it got me thinking about other ways to count down to the holidays. I didn't run across any other Thanksgiving ideas, but the Christmas ones abound once you start looking!

Here are thirteen fun ways to look forward to the holidays. Mostly homemade, but if you need to purchase, #3 and #11 can accommodate:

1. This fun Thanksgiving advent calendar came from a fun craft web site/blog, Store & Style. I am definitely putting this on the craft calendar for next year!

2. Here's a fun advent calendar from another crafty blog I found recently. I would love opening up those little presents each day!

3. Paper Source has a fun option a la gingerbread house. I imagine that would be pretty easy to put together.

4. A homemade spool advent calendar, clever!

5. The list wouldn't be complete without a craft from Martha Stewart, would it? Here's her take on a photo advent calendar. I think it would be a lot prettier once you started adding the photos as the days go by. But a fun way to mark the holidays with remembering loved ones.

6. A pretty hanging calendar from a creative craft blogger.

7. From a dad's blog about parenting, here's a fun wall advent calendar. Something you can make with your kids...

8. Here's one I think I could manage--an envelope-style advent calendar. That's just about my speed!

And here's a colorful version of the envelope approach. Very pretty!

9. From a fun Scandinavian blog, here's a fun idea with lots of room for treats: the advent cones.

10. You know how handmade is all the rage right now? This advent calendar has a lovely homespun look to it. I love it!

11. If making it from scratch is not your bag, then let Garnet Hill take care of it for you! Here's an adorable way to countdown December: little hats or little buckets!

12. I found a fun photo gallery on Flickr of advent calendars that a young husband and wife made for each other over the years. Very cute. I think the coffee cup one is my favorite, though there are some other creative ones, too. I think you could fit some sweet love notes or trinkets and treats in those cups! A Starbucks gift card wouldn't hurt, either...

13. I think this one just might be my favorite. I love color, felt, embroidery and little stockings... this one has them all!

I hope these ideas have inspired you! May your countdown to the holidays be filled with fun and a little creativity.

For more Thursday 13s, visit here. Happy TT!

And a very happy Thanksgiving to you all! May your blessings be many in the coming year.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy anniversary, husband!

If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee;
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me, ye women, if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee, give recompense.
Thy love is such I can no way repay,
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love let's so persevere
That when we live no more, we may live ever.

Anne Bradstreet

Monday, November 23, 2009

Countdown to Thanksgiving!

Oh the anticipation! Thanksgiving dinner is absolutely my favorite meal of the year. Hands down. And the fact that husband and I got married on Thanksgiving Day four years ago only adds gravy to my already happy mashed potatoes. Ah, tis true. Or as some would say, true story.
So what's on the menu this year? Well, the usual suspects, with maybe a surprise showing or two. We'll see. I like to keep a few things up my sleeve for the day of, but by and large it will look a lot like this:

*Turkey (we picked him up yesterday from Whole Foods, and he's a beaut. I have been told not to name him, but it's awfully tempting...)
*Mom's turkey loaf. Yum-o. Thanks for making and bringing, Ma.
*Mashed potatoes and gravy. Pretty standard, but heavenly. We're ricers around here, so the texture is To. Die. For.
*Roasted butternut squash
*Brussels sprouts. Going to try something new this year, which sounds absolutely amazing to me: Brussels sprouts hash with caramelized shallots.
*Green salad. We will probably customize this for each person, given that we have some people (the men that I love) who are not so into the fruity aspect of an autumn salad (apples! pears! pomegranate seeds!) and others of us who definitely are.
*Rolls. No other meal of the year needs rolls (for me). Thanksgiving dinner definitely does. How else do you sop up all the gravy?
*Cranberry sauce. Homemade, none of that gelled stuff. I almost forgot this little gem as I was writing--well, technically I DID forget it and had to come back and add it. How could I forget the item that helps make the Perfect Bite possible? Sigh.
*Pumpkin pie. For those who feel the need (not me).
*Some other dessert I haven't thought of yet... It could be cranberry in nature, it could be chocolate, it could also easily be custard-y... can't quite put my finger on it. But I'll know it when I see the recipe... Guess I better see it soon. If you have any ideas for me, please let me know! ASAP!

So after I was feeling quite pleased with myself for buying an organic, free-range, vegetarian-fed turkey yesterday, I made the mistake of reading this article in the NYTimes about the cruelty of eating animals, period... sigh. Not sure I'm with this guy on the whole completely-and-totally vegan thing, but he makes a point or two worth considering. I'll give it some more thought AFTER Thursday...

Off to make my grocery lists! Oh joy. It's the most wonderful time of the year... or very close to it!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday night grateful moment

Peace. Quiet. No wind. Friday night... ahh.

What a week it has been! Sleepless nights with gale-force winds, then a little lull of quiet before, wham, the wind came back. But, we blew out of town (thankfully!) as the storm thundered on... Here's hoping the home-front is still standing when we return!

Tonight I'm grateful for my guys, that they can spend a day happily together while I'm in meetings, doing their "guy" things (ie. computers, book stores) and just hanging.

I'm thankful for the rain.

I'm especially grateful for good friends and the great laughs, stories and the camraderie we share. And to our teensy weensy writing group, I say: We did it! Month 1 and we all wrote somethin'. Whew. Now we can move past the fear of putting it out there, and maybe someday I'll even move past the autobiographical poem. Well, maybe.

I'm grateful to be on vacation with my guys, to look out at the week ahead and know that while it will be full of this and that, we'll be away, together, oh yeah!

This week brought my Pa's birthday and reminded me how grateful I am for him. I have learned so very much from him in my life, and I have a feeling I'm not done learning yet. I am thankful for all that he's taught me relative to work ethic, and how to make good work look beautiful too; he's especially artful at that. He's my role model on goal setting and determination and grit. Happy birthday, Pa. We're glad you're coming down to celebrate a good ol' U.S. Thanksgiving with us!

I spent the day today with one of the volunteer boards I'm on--this time with a state-wide group--and it was inspiring. I'm grateful for people who give of their time and resources in such a focused and dedicated way, bringing their work and life experience to the table for the betterment of children and families. The staff also inspire me with their passion and zeal, so consistently... glad to be involved.

I'm grateful for my iPhone, and the pictures I get from Hawaii right now. I'm jealous that I'm not there, just a little, but thanks for the laughs and the texts, dear Kim. And sick as it might be, I just love being able to check my email ANYwhere, ANYtime... mostly. So I can communicate with my other lovely sister-in-law about what medications which dogs need... sad, but true. I'm grateful for her, and the care she shows to all of us. I am blessed in the sister department, tis true.

I'm thankful for community, and the warm blanket of love that I see surround those in need, in times of great pain and sorrow. We have a local family who are dealing with a special dose of sadness right now, and though I'm not personally connected, I see enough to realize that they are loved and prayed for and with during this time--unlike anything I've ever witnessed before. It's beautiful and touching, and I can't help but believe they have found through their faith a way to make the best of a really horrible situation.

I'm thankful for sleep. Those nights of gale-force wind? Not so fun. But the peaceful nights without wind are precious, and lovely, and I intend to enjoy one of them tonight, yes I do!
I'm thankful for cheese. No kidding. I really am.
I'm grateful for my health, and the health of those closest to me. I don't take it for granted.
I'm very much grateful and thankful and cognizant of the season we are entering, and the symbolism it conjures. I love the magical qualities of Thanksgiving and Christmas and the idea that things can happen during this season that wouldn't be possible at other times of year: forgiveness, reconciliation, fence-mending, falling in love... Maybe I just remember fondly this season six (yes, count 'em SIX) years ago when a certain someone came to visit me at the catering kitchen... What's possible this year? Who can say... but I'm primed and ready for a miracle!

Sleep tight, all. Hope your weekend is as lovely as I intend for mine to be!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lime mousse for a friend

I pulled out an old favorite today: Lime mousse. This is a standby from the old catering days--a bucket of this stuff in little tart shells went a long way on a dessert buffet. And it was quite popular too... especially with my co-tenent in the building where my catering kitchen was housed.

So, today, thinking of Susan and her recent birthday and various work-related challenges, I busted out the white chocolate and limes and looked up the recipe on epicurious: Strawberry-Topped Lime Mousse Tart. 'Cept I skipped the strawberries and the tart... Susan likes the fluffy lime part best! This way it's just her and her spoon!

Lime mousse
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
3/4 cup chilled whipping cream
5 ounces good-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt or Baker's), chopped
1 teaspoon grated lime peel
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons sour cream

Place lime juice in small bowl; sprinkle gelatin over. Let stand 10 minutes to soften. Bring 1/4 cup cream to simmer in medium saucepan. Reduce heat to low. Add white chocolate; stir until melted and smooth. Add gelatin mixture; stir to dissolve. Mix in peel. Chill until cold and beginning to thicken but not set, stirring often, about 45 minutes. Beat sugar, sour cream and remaining 1/2 cup cream to medium-stiff peaks in medium bowl. Fold whipped cream mixture into white chocolate mixture. Spoon into whatever bowls you'd like to serve in (this would make about 4-6 decent sized servings)--or tart shells! Chill until mousse sets, about 4 hours. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Gelatin, gellin'

I spread the mixture out in a shallow bowl to chill faster!

Lime mousse, ready for transport to its proper home. I very much enjoyed licking the bowl... I may have to bust that recipe out again soon. I am not much of a white chocolate fan most days, but it is disguised enough in this recipe that the lime can shine through.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday night grateful moment

Ah the sweet, dark bliss of Friday night. Ready for a bit of relaxing, yessiree.

This week was one of the good ones, in the Seth sense especially. Lots going on in his world, but I'm grateful for his fairly persistent cheer through good times and challenges. He got more than his fair share of "lectures" (what he calls them, I call them "Mom's wisdom, which she is happy to share") this week, on everything from friendship to good sportsmanship to finishing homework before hopping on the computer. I think it's time to start writing these down so I have a good workable script for the next few years... will save me time and energy in the long run, don't you think? But I'm grateful too that he (so far) takes these things to heart and works to do better next time. Knock. On. Wood. Pray. Daily.

Breakfast for the work gang went well Thursday morning. I am grateful for the ability to catch a few zzzzs when I was done--woke up at an ungodly hour (not when I needed to, but EARLIER!) and will probably play catch up all weekend. And, I'm grateful for the opportunity to still get to cook for a large crowd on occasion. It's fun to do. Sometimes, when you're running really close to the wire (not yesterday, but I do have memories...) it can really get the adrenaline going.

Spent the afternoon with fellow volunteers and staff members for a state-wide board I'm on, and came away grateful for the opportunity to be involved with those who choose such an overt service for others as their life's work. I know we can all help people wherever we are, whatever we're doing, and I'm all for that. But there's something significant about making the choice to do the daily, hard work of attempting to break the cycle of poverty, child abuse and neglect that really inspires me.

I'm grateful for a quiet (sort of) weekend ahead, and a great guy to spend it with.

I'm grateful that the hot tub is calling my name. It's the perfect crisp night to enjoy it.

I'm grateful for pears and brie. Together.

I'm grateful that for THE VERY FIRST TIME EVER, I said, "I'm so sorry, officer," and I didn't get a ticket. That has never happened before, and sadly, there have been many colorful lights flashing in my rearview mirror over the years.

I'm grateful that I had a chance to reconnect with a childhood friend who is headed in to some tricky neurosurgery on Monday morning. It was good to hear her voice and just briefly catch each other up on our lives and the blessings that we both have, in spite of her current health challenges. She'll be in my prayers Monday morning.

I'm grateful for sweet little toddlers that I get to spend time with and then go home and away from! I volunteered with a bunch of cherubs this past week and was struck by the variety of personalities and dispositions. I can't help but look at them and wonder what they'll be like in a decade, and will Little Miss X ever learn to use her inside voice? I hope so.

I'm grateful for laughter.

I'm grateful for sleep. Did I mention that one already? Well, it deserves a second go-around. I'm doubly grateful!!

I discovered a fun new calligrapher this week: Lisa Ridgely. That's her work at the top of this post, as well as below. I just couldn't save the October one for NEXT fall, I had to share it now! I'm grateful for people like her, who post their work to inspire the rest of us!

And here's a fun new musical gal I discovered this week. I had this song going round and round my brain quite a bit, quite happily.

Good weekend, all! May the peace and rest renew you and carry you on to another week!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Cinnamon roll coffee cake

There's a company-wide breakfast this coming week and I've been looking for a cinnamon roll or a coffee cake that I could make in advance so that I don't have to turn the ovens on at 3 a.m. to have it all hot and ready in time--you know, something I could make a wee bit in advance... When I saw this recipe for cinnamon roll coffee cake in one of my holiday baking magazines, I thought, "This could be the answer to my dreams!" And I do believe it is. I decided to make it one day (yesterday) and then warm it up the following morning (today!) and see how it fared... it performed quite nicely, and judging by the sizeable dent we made in in for breakfast, I think it's a keeper.

Cinnamon roll coffee cake
Makes one 9-inch cake, 8-10 servings

For the caramel topping
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
Pinch of table salt
1 cup chopped toasted pecans (as you can see from the picture above, I used sliced almonds I had on hand. It was yummy enough, but I think I will use pecans for the real deal this week.)

For the streusel
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. table salt

For the cake
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. table salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup lowfat vanilla yogurt
2 eggs
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350°; coat a 9-inch-round, 2-inch-deep cake pan with nonstick spray. Stir together the 3/4 cup brown sugar, cream and the pinch of salt for the caramel topping in a measuring cup. Pour caramel into the prepared pan, spreading to coat bottom of the pan. Sprinkle pecans over caramel. Process the 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup fIour, the 1/2 stick butter, cinnamon, and the 1/4 tsp. salt for the streusel in a food processor, pulsing until mixture is sandy but without clumps; set streusel aside.

Whisk the 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, and 1/2 tsp. table salt for the cake in a bowl; set dry ingredients aside, whisk together buttermilk, yogurt and eggs in a measuring cup with a pouring spout; set aside. Using a hand mixer, cream together the 1 stick butter and the 3/4 cup granulated sugar in a bowl only until combined. Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk mixture to the creamed mixture, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Blend only enough to incorporate the dry ingredients into the batter. Spread half of the batter over the caramel in the cake pan, then sprinkle with half of the streusel. Carefully spread remaining batter over streusel in cake pan and top with the remaining streusel.

Bake coffee cake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 50-60 minutes. Cool cake for 5 minutes on a rack, then run a paring knife around the sides to loosen cake. Invert cake onto a serving plate while hot. Let coffee cake cool slightly before serving.

So as I learned today, it is possible to make the cake in advance and then rewarm (I did about 20 minutes in a 250 degree oven) and proceed with then turning it out onto a plate. I also used a springform pan rather than a regular cake pan, not being sure how it would "turn out" onto the plate... I think I'm glad I did, though it's hard to know. I probably won't risk having cakes breaking all over the place in the future, and will just stick to the springform, where it's so easy to flip it and then gently pry off the pan's bottom.

The one thing I think I might add to the cake on Thursday morning--to give it the full cinnamon roll effect--is to drizzle a little cream cheese icing over the top for good measure. I'll let you know how that goes!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday night grateful moment

Hmmm. I may have brought it on myself by referencing the occasional non-sunshiney day last Friday night. These things happen… So there was a midweek bump of grumpiness that has since been rectified by a spontaneous road trip and the arrival of the lad Seth. Oh joy.

This week I am especially grateful for the space and time to recover from a sleepless night. A day of sifting through holiday recipes and magazines (and not much else) is a gift that I don’t take for granted.

I’m grateful for my Seattle sister-in-law and our check-ins on all things exercise and nutrition oriented… and even a little adult conversation every now and again… (no, not THAT kind of adult conversation, really, just grown up topics, you know).

Grateful that Seth has so many people who love him. He played in a jazz recital this week and there were lots of people there clapping just for him. Well, they clapped when other kids played too, just to be polite, of course.

This week I was reminded, as I am every week, that I am blessed in the husband department.

I have not stopped being grateful that the growing season is over, but I am already missing REAL tomatoes and REAL basil and REAL fresh fruit. I was putting together a fruit platter for a small catering this week and it was quite obvious that we’re already back to melons and grapes and… more melons and grapes. You can throw in a pale strawberry from California if you want, but I didn’t want… Be that as it may, I am still grateful to not be out harvesting daily in the garden. Sort of.

I am grateful for the time change. The mornings have been particularly lovely this week with sunshine peeking through the clouds, and it’s nice to see that all an hour earlier! On the flip side I am not so down with the darkness descending an hour earlier… but as with most things, it seems, you gotta take the flip side too. Shucks.

Grateful for sunshine. I sat with my back in the sun and positively baked as I was looking at holiday menus, refining my lists of "must makes." It was fantastic! I felt like a cat! (No licking, though. Are you relived?)

Grateful for good reads. I finished The Lovely Bones this week and was sad that it ended, I enjoyed it so thoroughly. I will probably read (listen) to it again before too long, and I will now definitely see the movie. I know it will be sad and I will have a hard time with pieces of it, but if they can capture the tone of the book and the beautiful writing, I’ll be good. I’ll be the one sobbing in the back of the theater. Just look away and ignore me. I also finished Columbine within the last week or so, and it’s a whole 'nother read… intense and sad, but not in a fantastic-imaginary way at all. So real, so hard, but very compelling to me. So now on to new reads… maybe a bit lighter? We’ll see. The stack is high… we’ll see what leaps off next.

Grateful for good friends, for support, encouragement, ideas, green gloves and coffee.

Grateful for boots. I love boots! It is SO boot weather. One caveat: I do NOT like those ankle boots with heels that people are wearing with dresses. I just don’t. Sorry, can’t help it. Carry on, and I’ll try not to stare.

Grateful for sweaters. I am such a sweater gal. No, not in that va-va-va-voom 50s kind of way, just in the “let’s wrap up and be cozy since it’s cold outside” kind of way... I’m a fine candidate for a Slanket, don’t you think. Or a Snuggie? Hard to say, so many options...

Grateful for the creative spark, in whatever form it comes. For me, it's downstairs in the (messy) basement in a just-finished embroidery project, a couple of in-the-works calligraphy projects, some half-baked applique jobs, two oh-so-close-to-done patchwork projects and a myraid of other snips and clips and threads. For my dear friend Corinne it's her weekly (sometimes thrice-weekly!) wedding flowers that thrill brides. Check out this great photographer I found this week; not only is his wedding photography great, but check out the food shots too! Holy cow, he's something.

So my friend Megan got me hooked on the new Michael Buble album this week… with the following video.(I had downloaded the songs but not even listened to the album yet!) And then I kind of clued in that he’s doing press for the album right now and he’s EVERYwhere… on Letterman singing the Top 10 list, sticking his foot in his mouth on Rachael Ray, singing on Oprah (which made his mom very happy), you name it, he’s been doing the dog and pony show. And I’ve always been a fan, but watching him this week I became not just a fan of his music, but of him—his style, his cheekiness, his Argentinian girlfriend (she’s the girl in the video), his real-ness. He IS Canadian, after all. He MUST be real. Well, believe it or not, naive me thinks he really is really real. So there.

And of course, if we're talking Michael, I had to go back to his previous albums... and this video, which I also love:

So yes, I'm grateful for Michael Buble. He makes me happy. I imagine he makes a lot of people happy... happy music!

Happy weekend, everyone. I plan to enjoy mine to the fullest. Many hugs all around.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

In need of perspective? Me too.

I had forgotten how much I like to hear Carl Sagan's voice. This video was just the shot of perspective I have been in need of this week. Carl and I may not agree on everything, but I appreciate his thoughtful way of stating his case and allowing others their beliefs as well.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sunday matinee recommend: Bright Star

Warning: This review is much more entertaining if read in a British accent. Just saying.

It was a lovely sunny Sunday here, one of those last perfect days that nudges you toward denial that winter will ever arrive. It will not come. It will not come. (Then, wham, snow flies next week. Stranger things have happened...)

Befitting such a day, I took to the theater with a girlfriend for a matinee. We saw "Bright Star," Jane Campion's take on the love affair of John Keats and Fanny Brawn. It was an extraordinarily beautiful movie, shot with all the right angles and light to make even the muddiest and muckiest scenes of England circa 1819 look romantic. And the summer scenes--picnicking and flower sniffing, catching butterflies, cavorting in the meadows... yup, romantic as can be. Quite swoonable. Also quite slow, however. I kept waiting for something to happen. But as there really wasn't much of a plot outside some drama about the couple not being an appropriate match (he's broke, she'll need to marry someone with money) until he falls ill, I had to be satisfied with the beauty of the surroundings, and some recitations of Keats' poetry. And I was satisfied, mostly.

Abbie Cornish was convincing as the lovestruck Fanny and Ben Whishaw as Keats was suitably anemic enough as to plausibly be fallen by TB. The uber-annoying and persistently plaid-clad Mr. Brown (Keats' best friend and sometime benefactor, played by Charles Schneider) provides a bit of acid to this otherwise sweet froth. However, it is never explained what on earth is compelling enough about Brown that Keats' would chose to spend any time whatsoever with him; he's really quite the pill--it's obvious that Brown wishes he had an ounce of Keats' talent, and mightily resents any attention Keats shows toward Fanny. Tiresome.

Some of the details I enjoyed were of the Brawn family's life together--Christmas dinner by the fire; the men of Hamstead Heath singing a classical composition all together, voices taking on the parts of strings; sweet little sister Toots (she stole a lot of scenes) showing off her sewing to big sister Fanny... really, just about any scene with Toots in it was fine with me. She's a delightful little actress, Edie Martin. The attention to detail throughout the film was evident, and did a lot to carry it past the somewhat superficial character development and set the picture apart from other similar Austenesque movies.

Being old and crotchety as I am (!), the rather rapturous romance was at times worthy of a chuckle. It was all a bit overwrought... I can't breathe if I'm away from you for too long... Really? I want to commit suicide when a short love letter arrives, rather than a long one... Seriously? I guess if you're aiming to be known as one of the greatest romantic poets of all time, it's best to shoot for the flowery and angst-filled end of the spectrum. And even though a few of the reviews I read claimed the movie would do nothing to pull people toward Keats' poetry, I beg to differ. There was plenty in the movie to compel toward his work, I thought.

So I have no number to assign... I'll need to think about that whole numbers and stars thing if I ever review another movie (was this even a review? Maybe, sort of.), but for now I'd say it's a lovely little Sunday afternoon film. For girls. And maybe, just maybe, the men who love them, if they're needing a few woo points...

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