Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday night grateful list

Friday night. I feel almost pre-verbal, I'm so tired. This could be quite the sketchy post...

But, before I nod off, take a look at my view as I drove up to the house this afternoon. How awesome is that sunshine? It felt really hard-won this week, what with the gray gray gray that had been our view up until mid-morning today.

I'm so grateful for my guys; it was a wonderful two-week holiday time with Seth, and now we still have Christmas to look forward to, as well. Husband is on the mend, and I'm grateful for that, for him. Sickness is no fun at all.

Being busy all day takes a toll on my evening meal creativity... After the flurry of holiday cooking last week, I was grateful to have some pretty quick meals at my fingertips this week (even if one of them meant a stop at take-and-bake pizza on the way home from work)!

We are blessed to live in a small town with many, many engaged and committed volunteers and social services professionals. I was grateful to have an opportunity to attend an event to honor a number of individuals this week, but one in particular is dear to my heart--the former community manager of our region's Children's Home Society. He was the leader when I first started volunteering with the organization seven-ish years ago, and I so appreciate his lifetime of effort on behalf of local children and families. Warmed my heart to be able to see him accept his award.

I'm grateful for happy memories. When the ornament below was hung on the tree last week, it reminded me of our honeyversary trip just two years ago, and how much we enjoyed Kauai. Good times... and with the gray this week, I was itching for a trip back there!

So so grateful for the weekend, for the prospect of rest, relaxation, naps... I think I told just about every person I saw today: I'm napping tomorrow by the fire. So no phone calls, people!

The brevity of this list makes it no less heartfelt. Perhaps I'll comb the depths of my gratitude for the many gifts of my life while by the fire tomorrow... perhaps not. Right now I will be grateful for a full night's contented sleep, and no alarm by which to wake! Wishing you the same.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thursday 13: Been gone too long, random!

I have been missing Thursday 13! My weeks are so full and my blogging time so scattered (and lacking), that having the mental space to plan ahead... well, that's on my list to acquire. I'll let you know when I find some.

Meanwhile, I thought that random might just suit this week 'o mine:
1. Sickness is everywhere. Husband, many co-workers, friends, kids... I am avoiding it (like the plague, doh!), and dosing on my Cs and other voodoo health wonders.

2. Sleep is elusive. I wish I could look less tired. However, if you tell me I look tired? Yeah, not going to win you any points. Don't say you weren't warned.

3. I love dressing for winter. Sweaters, tights, boots, scarves, mittens. Love them all. Maybe I was a teddy bear in a former life?

4. Having pumpkin spice creamer in my coffee makes me happy. (Yes, Jen. EVERY. Morning.)

5. My mom has her first smartphone and now we can text. This I love.

6. I let Chief onto the bed last night for a few minutes, and man, is he a bed hog. That won't be happening again for a long time. (I had previously thought he would be all polite and space-giving. Ha.)

7. The gray is relentless. RE.LENT.LESS. (Well, OK, we had a gloriously sunny day last Sunday. But still, since then.)

8. I was a bit stunned how soon after Thanksgiving I had to buy groceries. Apparently the family cannot subsist on leftover turkey and stuffing forever. Huh.

9. I posted this quote to Facebook this morning: "See if you can catch yourself complaining in either speech or thought, about a situation you find yourself in, what other people do or say, your surroundings, your life situation, even the weather. To complain is always nonacceptance of what is. It invariably carries an unconscious negative charge. When you complain, you make yourself a victim. Leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness." -Eckhart Tolle

10. I get that No. 7 and No. 9 are rather in opposition to each other.

11. When I read the quote again, it occurred to me that OBVIOUSLY I need to be planning a tropical vacation, because all else is madness. Am I right or what?!

12. I love plotting and planning for holiday baking. Two cookie parties on the calendar, one work catering, and then just baking for me/us/friends/family. Joy.

13. I am loving the Christmas tree. Some days I think I want to be the eccentric lady who leaves it up year round. Wouldn't that just be a hoot? Probably feel really weird around July, August... but still, what a fabulous thing to be eccentric about!

I hope you are having a great week and that wherever you are, the gray is NOT relentless. Someone somewhere has to be seeing the sun... please say that it is you!

For more Thursday 13s, go here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Midweek reminder: Pursue the authentic

Advice to Myself

Leave the dishes. Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don't patch the cup.
Don't patch anything. Don't mend. Buy safety pins.
Don't even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don't keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll's tiny shoes in pairs, don't worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic—decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don't even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don't sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we're all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don't answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in through the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don't read it, don't read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.
-Louise Erdrich

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Anniversary lovin'

There is an extra-lovely aspect to having been married at Thanksgiving: only on a very few years does the anniversary actually land again on Thanksgiving Day. So, the love stretches out, then, in either direction, as one can't help but think on the love while feasting with family, and again on the specific date (for us it's today, Nov. 24).

Dear husband's sweet roses came home with him from quick errands yesterday. Pink roses make me smile.

On our first anniversary, I gave husband this little framed calligraphy I did of our vows. The vows were longer than just this little phrase, but the words above were gleaned from a poem we found by a Frau Ava of Gottweig, and were my favorite part of the ceremony:

I am yours.
You are mine.
Of this we are certain.
You are lodged in my heart.
The small key is lost.
You must stay there forever.
-Frau Ava (circa 1160), translated by Willis Barnstone

Happy couple, seven years ago today!

More anniversary flowers, from Ma and Pa.

glassbabies were on our tables at the wedding in 2005, and grace our Thanksgiving table each year.

This morning Seth proved his teen mettle by sleeping in until past noon, and husband and I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast together and reading by the fire. The weather outside is not compelling us to leave our quiet spot, as the gray stretches out in all directions. It rained thoroughly all night, it seemed, so the sog is upon us, and with the lights of the Christmas tree and our trusty Chief alongside the sofas, it's a pretty blissful state we find ourselves in.

Seven years isn't a significant milestone (other than that silly itch thing), but every year means a great deal to us, having come to this love a little later in life. There's a joy in knowing that we found each other, that we recognized a good thing and embraced it, and that we continue to value each other and our love above all else.

Here's to another seven, dear husband, and another, and another...

Friday, November 23, 2012

Friday night grateful moment

Peaceful and quiet. That's what's going on around here this Friday night. After the bustle of the past week, a house full of dear people, we're now back down to the three of us. It was great to have people, but it's lovely to be sitting here, in the light of the Christmas tree, with my guys.

In spite of my desire to post this week--recipes! thankfulness! Christmas decorating!--I just couldn't get it together to have that happen. So, theoretically, I will share some posts in the coming days, a few pictures, maybe a recipe or two, and before you know it, we'll be in full-on Christmas baking mode. Wow. How did we get to almost-December?

But, back to my by-the-fire musings, and gratitude.

I could preface this with "Of Course!" but my gratitude for family was front and center this week. Getting to spend the holiday with my immediate family, and spending a little time with husband's as well, I was reminded of how lucky we are to have such love and support in our lives. I'm grateful for our conversations and laughter, and for the excuse to put the Christmas tree up early!

I'm very grateful that I have zero pull to participate in the Black Friday festivities. I have a shopping gene, of course, but I also have a big big anti-crowd gene, and the idea of being packed in at a big box store gives me fits of anxiety. The extent of my Black Friday were my black yoga pants, which I wore all day while lounging about and not leaving the house!

And in my not-leaving-the-house, I dug into Christmas music and enjoyed getting reacquainted with my tunes, making a few different mixes for specific purposes, and adding new tunes along the way. I'm grateful for music most days of the week, but feel that joy especially keenly over the holidays.

Also part of my homebody day: leftovers. Not that one couldn't work up an appetite while hip-checking people at Macy's for bargains, but I was grateful to graze the leftovers and create a plate filled with Perfect Bites... and I'm also still looking forward to a little pie tonight... Next-Day Leftovers are awesome! (And I'm grateful that there are plentiful leftovers, so I might be able to tuck a few meals away in the freezer for future winter afternoons when we're craving a little stuffing-turkey-mashed potato dinner.)

This month has been filled with thankfulness all over social media, and I'm generally a fan of those sentiments (surprised, aren't you?). Not every one of the posts I read over the month, or yesterday specifically, resonated with me 100%, but whatever makes we petty and self-involved humans (I'm including myself in that category) pause and reflect on the many things, little and big, we have to be grateful for; well, I'm for that. 

I'm grateful for our Christmas tree, for its glow, and for all our ornaments, with their sentimental meaning and big ribbony bows. I would put the tree up early and take it down laaaate, if it were even remotely acceptable. According to all the men in the house this week, I pushed the early boundary a bit with having it up at the same time that there are still pumpkins on the porch!

I'm grateful for two more days of downtime before the whoosh of another week is upon us.

I'm grateful for another week with Seth in the house.

I'm grateful for our fireplace.

For my friends and their dear ways. 

For Chief, and his unfailing love.

For grace, which is new. Every. Morning.

So, that last thing? It means the world to me, and I'm grateful for it, more and more as time goes on.

I hope your grateful list is especially long this week, and the coming weekend gives you ample rest to reflect on the things that matter most. What are you grateful for tonight?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday night grateful list:

Such a quick week, in many ways. And yet, I always felt a little behinder... always catching up, running, being oh-so-close to late for meetings and appointments, guessing that surely it must be Wednesday when it was only Tuesday... and by the end of today I felt a lot like this:

In between all the nuttiness there were some really lovely moments, and a gobzillion reminders of all that I have to be thankful for:

For the friends who remembered my birthday (even long past the date) with tokens of rainbows, crochet, books and owls (seeds of happiness even showed up on my desk this week!) and all the little things that make me me. I am aware of my transparancy most days, but months like October and November, I realize that maybe I should keep some of my owl/green/bunny/color freakishness to myself. (Like that will happen!)

A card with the following sentiment really made my day (it went with the rainbow tissue and sushi lunch below):

It was the rainbow 

gave thee birth, 

and left thee 

all her lovely hues. 

-W.H. Davies

I reflected a number of times this week on my husband and his rock-solid good sense and reasoning. With all he has on his plate, I couldn't be prouder of him (or more grateful for him) and the way he lives his values.

Seth is home! If I didn't have a bit of restraint, there would have been so very many exclamation points after that sentence. (Feel free to envision thusly.) Grateful for the many hugs, chats, walks, hugs, discussions, dishwasher emptying and laundry-doing, hugs and more hugs in the weeks ahead.

Thursday night I got to meet the founder of glassybaby when Lee Rhodes came to town to support The Mom's Network. Supported the cause, too, and got to purchase from Lee herself; I told her how we'd had glassybabies at our wedding seven years ago. Since the company only opened its showroom in Seattle in 2003, she was curious how I'd come to know about her in 2005... so we chatted, and I was able to express my appreciation for her company and all the light they've brought into so many lives.

Words crossed my path this week that made me pause and reflect and nod in agreement. Case in point:

"There is no circumstance, no trouble, no testing, that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose." -Alan Redpath

Somehow, I have a feeling that almost every person I know who believes, will read that and think I posted it for them. And, I did!

I am also so so grateful that my whole family is coming for the Thanksgiving holiday, and we'll get to be together and eat the best meal of the whole year, together. Did I mention the together part? Dominoes! Movies! Walks! Chats! Together! (Now I've frightened them all with my exclamation marks... don't be frightened, dear ones...)

My cousin Jill posted this on Facebook this week, and I loved it, every minute of it.


I hope this weekend that you sing and dance while the music is played. What are you grateful for this week?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Midweek reminder: Deliver me

"Deliver me from all evildoers that talk nothing but sickness and failure. Grant me the companionship of men who think success and men who work for it. Loan me associates who cheerfully face the problems of a day and try hard to overcome them. Relieve me of all cynics and critics. Give me good health and the strength to be of real service to the world, and I'll get all that's good for me, and will give what's left to those who want it." -William Feather

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Remembering: Nine years later

It wasn't until I read a Facebook post of a friend of a friend, so to speak (I know, privacy, right?!) last night about an upcoming surgery date (today), that I realized I was going to wake up this morning to an anniversary of my own--nine years since my thyroidectomy. Nov. 13, 2003.

I have some very concrete memories of that day: the blessing of having my parents come to town specially to take care of me and watch over Seth while I was overnight in the hospital; of a dear Walt Meske (the hospital chaplain had been my dean of students in college) coming and praying with me prior to surgery and my tears at his tender and loving heart (love that man!); my amazement at the anesthesia, not having ever gone completely under before (or since); of being woken every hour in the night for a vitals check (gah, how annoying); of feeling very fragile but also incredibly strong. The surgery itself came on the heels of my own "annus horribilis," and feeling like I could check this off my list in 2003 I remember as very empowering, indeed.

That particular portion of my life is wonderful to look back on, and reminds me not to take my good health for granted. It also fills me with a lot of thankfulness that such surgical procedures exist and were available to me; knowing that there are places and people for whom that is not the case is sobering indeed.

By the Monday following my Thursday surgery, I was up and at work again, doing a small catering and easing back into life. It didn't take long for the scar to diminish (good surgeon, aging neck, fabulous combo!) and having the surgery take place at the cusp of turtleneck season certainly didn't hurt.

One of the first thoughts I had upon the realization of this day and its significance is a song that a former co-worker shared with me earlier in 2003--not in regard to the thyroid issues, as that hadn't blossomed yet, but about my awful year. I listened to this album of Sara's a lot the summer/fall of 2003, and it has remained forever linked to that time in my memories. I was convinced I'd shared it here before, but my brief search this morning turned up zip, so I'll share it now.


 My thoughts and prayers today will be with my fellow Nov. 13 surgery-goers (I subsequently found out I know of another person going under the knife today), and that their recoveries are quick and complete.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday night grateful moment

What's not to love? A warm house, a cozy sweater, a steaming cup of soup... it's Friday night and I'm in heaven. This week has felt especially dark. Doh! The switch to Standard Time seems to take me a bit to catch up with, and I am hopeful that this weekend I will get not only caught up, but spring out ahead of the curve on the dark and dreary...

Meanwhile, it's Friday. Grateful for that. Fo sho.

The election is over. Extremely grateful for that. I wish for, dream of, pine for a different way for our country to approach these big decisions, but alas, divisiveness and polarization is still the way of it. I am grateful to have avoided much of the nastiness, just by paying attention to other things; but next time, I do think I'll take a total social media break for the week prior and after (at least). Remind me of that, would you?

I'm grateful for the flavors of the seasons... still eating on that squash! Had a gorgeous bowl of borscht tonight with husband. Spent some time gleaning pomegranate seeds from their pith earlier this week and enjoying them by the handful. Looking forward to many Perfect Bites for Thanksgiving dinner. Oh joy. (If you're new here, the Perfect Bite is what I call the sublime combination of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, maybe a little cranberry sauce and a bit 'o gravy, all on your fork, headed into your mouth for a piece of Thanksgiving heaven! I talk about it a lot: here and here, just for starters.)

Had birthday lunch(es) this week, and packages in the mail too... I'm grateful that the birthday celebration has stretched out so lovely over the past couple of weeks! I've gotten to enjoy tidbits and meals--glorious meals!--with many dear and loved ones.

I walked in the back door to an afternoon surprise visit from Seth. He's on a bit of an extended time at his other house before an extended time with us around Thanksgiving, and so it was a lovely surprise indeed to actually glimpse that beautiful boy and not just have to make do with texts and phone calls. We had a lovely catch up and he had a snack (of course). I'm still smiling and so so grateful for such a boy.

The East Coast is still in repair mode, and I'm grateful for them that the end is somewhat in sight (though, oh what a clean up!). I'm grateful for Corinne and I that our trip was the week that it we happened to schedule it, as Sandy actually hit land on my birthday itself.

It's been a hard week for many, as every week is. A coworker has a sister who is recovering from a catastrophic car crash, a friend's father experienced a stroke and most recently I learned of a missing son for a blog reader/Facebook friend. Sadness and hard times persist; I'm grateful that every one of the people I mentioned above has a support group of family and friends to see them through these challenges. 

This variation on the iconic I heart NYC logo seems appropriate (and some days, not just for NYC!).

Being November and all, gratitude gets a bump up on everyone's to-do list, and it's fun to see some of the daily thankful lists on Facebook and other blogs. My friend Lisa always keeps me laughing with her insights and witticisms. My favorite of her gratitude posts so far is about punching babies. Seriously. You'll want to check that out.

I think I might need one of these. You know, to keep track of the thankfulness.

I'm also grateful for all the usuals:
my Creator
my health
my man
the prospect of hours of deep, deep sleep
lazy weekend breakfasts to look forward to
naps by the fire
maybe (just maybe) watching a few snowflakes
kind and thoughtful words...
You know, MY usuals.

I hope you have some usuals in your life--things you can count on to lift your spirits when needed, and to rely on in good and bad times. What would make your "usual" list?

Happy weekend! Peace.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Candyland list

Stumbled upon this list of candies in the days post-Halloween, and it made me laugh in its specificity--especially the "burn it with fire" category.

I am mostly "meh" about candy in general (I could relate to the blogger's sentiment that he was surprised to find he was ambivalent about a number of candies), and never simply pick up a candy bar at the grocery store for kicks... it takes something like a bowl of M&Ms sitting on someone's desk, or the platter of leftover Halloween candy on a counter at work to get me picking at it as I wander by. I discovered in the weeks prior to this Halloween that there was a bag of leftover Halloween candy in the cupboard... from what year, I can't say for sure. How does that happen?

In general, my sweet tooth has greatly diminished from my younger years; if I'm going to pick up something sweet, it will probably be for something other than candy (see Sweet Things section in recipe list to the right!).

Meanwhile, here's my rundown of the same candy list I referenced above. Go ahead and judge me for my Junior Mints and Pop Rocks--I certainly judged him (Cadbury Egg Cremes? Top Shelf? As if.).

Top shelf 
Heath bar
Junior Mints
Pop Rocks
Reese's peanut butter cup
Reese's pieces

I like this
Almond Joy
Gummi bears or worms
Hershey Bar
Hershey's Kiss
Jelly beans
JuJu Bes
Oh Henry
Pay Day
Smarties (both American and Canadian versions!)
Swedish Fish
Sweet Tarts
Werther's Original
York Peppermint Patties

Not bad/Not sure if I've had 
Andes Mints
100 GRAND Bar
5th Avenue
Atomic Fireball
Baby Ruth
Chunky Singles
Circus peanuts
Clark bar
Cow Tales
Good & Plenty
Hot Tamales
Krackel chocolate bar
Mary Jane
Mike and Ike
Milky Way
Mr. Goodbar
Now and Later
Peanut Butter Kisses
Pixie Stix
Sour Patch Kids
Sugar Daddy
Symphony Bar
Take Five
Three Musketeers

If I was starving 
Blow Pops
Candy cigarettes
Fun Dip
Jolly Ranchers
Laffy Taffy
Milk Duds
Ring Pops

Burn it with fire
Cadbury creme eggs
Necco wafers
Red Vines
Tootsie Rolls/Tootsie Roll pops
Wax lips

Eat once a year, but no more (I added this category to the original list)
Candy Canes

Worst candy in existence
Candy corn

How would your list run down? At the very least, tell me your favorite candy!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Friday night grateful moment

Things I'm grateful for tonight:

Understanding. Connection. Belonging.

The gift of a new day. 

Laughter. Or at the very least, chuckling.

It's been a good week around here--a mix of fun, work, love, laughter, good food and more work. I hope yours has been fulfilling and as well!

What are you grateful for this beautiful Friday night?

Seasonal squash obsession

We had a fabulous squash harvest this year... not our largest, by any means, but definitely the most diverse. Usually we just sow a few butternut squash seeds and let the earth and sun and water do their magic (one year I counted 65 squash from two plants). This year I sowed a few seeds of many different kinds--gourds and mini pumpkins, butternut and Crown Prince. Again with the water and sun magic, and voila! Harvest!

Since harvest, roasted squash has become a part of our daily diet, quite happily. Such color! Such nutrients! I roast up one or two at the start of the week, and away we go. Sometimes I will eat a bowl fairly plain; and by "plain," I mean with butter and parmesan. But at other times, it's fun to mix it up a bit. Here are two recent variations.

Roasted squash tacos just seemed like a good idea one night. I made them up as I went along--they were amazingly simple and one of my favorite squash dishes so far this season.

Roasted squash tacos
Makes 4 tacos
4 corn tortillas
1 cup roasted squash, roughly mashed
1/2 cup sweet onion, chopped
1/2 cup peppers, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
1 cup coleslaw, lightly dressed

Sautee the sweet onion and peppers with the olive oil in a medium hot saute pan for a few minutes, stirring and tossing occasionally. When they are limp and al dente, transfer to a bowl. Warm the squash--either in the same saute pan, or the microwave, as well as the soft tortilla shells.

Assemble the tacos: shells first, roasted squash, peppers and onion mixture and coleslaw. Salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy.

Another time, the squash morphed into lovely morsels of ricotta squash gnocchi, based off a pumpkin gnocchi recipe I found on Pinterest. Heavenly!

Roasted squash gnocchi
Makes about 48 little 1-inch dumplings
2 cups roasted squash
1 cup flour
1 cup ricotta
1 cup parmesan
Salt and pepper

Put the squash, flour, ricotta and parmesan in a food processor and pulse a few times to pull all the ingredients together. Once they are roughly mixed, turn the food processor on and process for 30 seconds, until smooth.

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, then turn the burner down to a simmer. Drop the ricotta-squash mixture into the water in small spoonfuls, about a dozen at a time. Let them simmer for a couple of minutes, until all the dumplings have risen to the top. Take them out of the water with a slotted spoon, and do another batch of a dozen, until the dough has been used up.

My best treatment of the squash gnocchi was a couple of days after I'd made the dumplings:
Double squash gnocchi
Serves 1
1 cup of roasted squash
10 squash gnocchi
1 garlic clove, sauteed
1 Tbsp olive oil
8 sage leaves, minced
1/3 cup parmesan

Saute the garlic and sage leaves in the olive oil, over medium heat. Add the squash and the gnocchi and toss together with the garlic and sage. When the gnocchi and squash are heated through, add the parmesan, toss quickly and plate!

And of course, there have been a couple of variations on the squash salad a la Ina... and then there's this other salad too... I seem to have a thing for squash. And what a lovely thing it is!

Do you like squash? What's your favorite way to eat it? I am always looking for new ideas!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Blogaversary cookbook winner!

The winner of The Tucci Cookbook is: Laura! Your cookbook is on its way, neighbor friend!

Thanks for your comments, everyone. Have a great Thursday.

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