the advent of advent

My mom is pretty crafty. She once made an Advent calendar out of matchboxes. Each box was wrapped in pretty paper, and decorated to look like a house, then mounted on a stiff poster with scenery. Each little house could be slid open to reveal a slip of paper with an Advent activity written on it. We visited dogs in the shelter, made paper stars for our windows, and ate Lebkuchen with hot cocoa.

My sister is pretty crafty too. Last year she did her own Advent activities, making pretzels and Christmas cookies and donating to the food pantry. Over Thanksgiving weekend, I combed her brain for ideas.

Because this year...I want to do it too.

I am so excited about Advent this year. Since around the time I graduated high school, it's been difficult to get into the Christmas spirit. There are no children around who believe in Santa, and my December days are usually fraught with the stress of finals. When I was teaching, I put Christmas lights around my whiteboard. The kids loved it. And that's all it took for me. A few souls joining in with my enthusiasm made the season so much brighter. And so Advent begins. This will be my little way of pouring some Christmas spirit into the world, with the hopes that some of it will be returned to me.

Only one rule: no stress. I don't want to ruin the whole thing by making it another check on my to-do list.

So here it is...

  1. Do a random act of kindness
  2. Put up the Christmas decorations
  3. Visit a Christkindlmarkt
  4. Watch a Christmas movie (this one will happen more than once)
  5. Snuggle with Maus
  6. Leave a card for the postman
  7. Make an orange garland
  8. Drink eggnog with Lebkuchen
  9. Mail a few Christmas cards
  10. Make a seasonal stovetop potpurri
  11. Make Christmas cookies
  12. Take some flowers to a friend
  13. Donate to a food pantry
  14. Make a crockpot stew
  15. Clean the apartment
  16. Visit the Faneuil Hall tree
  17. Drink some Glühwein with friends
  18. Start a cozy crochet project
  19. Make homemade (non-toxic) vapor rub
  20. Get coffee with a friend
  21. Buy myself a gift
  22. Donate to a charity
  23. Wrap presents
  24. Meditate
  25. Call a relative

I might be getting ahead of myself, but I'm already excited for next year too. I just know I'll get more ideas for great activities. Any suggestions are appreciated. ;-)

Until tomorrow, enjoy a few more of my favorite winter scenes...

sources found on my pinterest


giving thanks

A few sights from the home we give thanks in...

Apple iPie. 8 delicious Giga-bites!


a slightly less traditional pumpkin pie

Traditions are sacred in my family.

Don't you dare come to our house and tell us it's silly that we still had Easter egg hunts when the youngest of us was already in high school.

Don't you dare suggest that it is wrong to expect everyone in the world to wear green on St. Patrick's Day and enjoy a vicious pinch if they don't. (The pinch is also tradition, passed down through the family...you've been warned.)

Don't you dare tell my sister not to wake me up at 6:00 a.m. on Christmas morning. Trust me, I've tried.

And on Thanksgiving, don't you dare mess with our pies.

I'm all for keeping traditions as they are, even if they're sometimes silly or exhausting or *gulp* unhealthy. They are a reminder of the past: the good and the bad, the easy and the hard, the pains and pleasures.

But pumpkin pie? That's an easy one.

Traditionally full of sugar and dairy, a few key substitutions make a pumpkin pie that is refined sugar-free, dairy-free, and except for raw honey, free of animal products. It's so similar to the traditional stuff, eating it is...well, a piece of pie.

Mini Pumpkin Pies

dough for one pie crust
12 oz. silken tofu
1 can of pumpkin (15 oz.)
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup raw honey
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp corn starch
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp cardamom
1 can full fat coconut milk

I used whole wheat flour and Earth Balance to make an otherwise traditional crust. Have this on hand first. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Mix the silken tofu in a food processor or blender until very creamy. Mix with the pumpkin, syrup, and honey until smooth. Add in the salt, starch, baking soda and spices and stir until just mixed.

Split the crust dough into 12 pieces. Press each piece into the bottom of the cups in a mini springform pan (or mini muffin pan). Fill each compartment with the pie filling. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325 degrees and bake for another 25 minutes. Allow the pies to come to room temperature, then refrigerate overnight. This part is important...it changes the flavor and the texture.

Pour the coconut milk into a large glass and refrigerate overnight as well, uncovered. The next day, the coconut fat can be scraped off the top to be used as a super healthy whipped topping!

Update: See this recipe in a recipe round-up at lifeologia. Check out the other yummy features, including some of Ella's own great creations.


off the hook!

We are woefully ill prepared to host company.

Our couch seats about three people comfortably. We don't have much entertainment outside of Apples to Apples and a Netflix account. If more than two people want to eat at our table, we have to pull out a couple of tiny stools.

But maybe the next time we squeeze four around our tiny table, these covers will make those stools more comfortable. They definitely make them prettier.

Inspired by one of my favorite bloggers of all time. These were a lesson in colors and joining and yarn gauge. But I love how much brightness they bring to the kitchen, no matter their little flaws.

Nothing quite as satisfying as finishing a project, don't you agree?


sunday light

It's a pensive Sunday around these parts. So I recommend playing this:

While pondering these:

Source: tumblr.com via Clair on Pinterest

Source: flickr.com via Clair on Pinterest

Source: reddit.com via Clair on Pinterest

Source: tokketok.com via Clair on Pinterest

Source: flickr.com via Clair on Pinterest

Source: flickr.com via Clair on Pinterest

tea time

This morning I made time for tea with a friend.

Aren't those dates reminiscent of a snowflake? (highly recommended recipe here)

And isn't my tea friend just the cutest?

She was thinking about snow today too. Here's why I love her: she is one of the most caring people I know. When she talks about snow, it goes something like this (paraphrased...I try to keep audio-taping to a minimum when I'm with friends):

I want to do something that helps the world.
I like to think of the good people do as specks,
like snowflakes.
Everyone is making their own little snowflake,
and when you put them together,
they make a big snowball.
And I just want to feel like I've added to that snowball.

You have, B.

Maus joined us too.

And she looked at my stuffed grape leaves (courtesy of B) with quite a lot of envy. Yes, Maus, those cute cigar-shaped treats were delicious.

And those little finger sandwiches were darn good too.

They're so simple, I feel like a bit of a crook posting a recipe here. I used sour cream as the base...and honestly, it's because I picked up an unlabeled container of something creamy in our foreign grocery store, knowing that it would work. Turns out it was sour cream. It was a good choice, because it captures both the richness of cream cheese, and the tang and delicacy of yogurt. But I think cream cheese or yogurt would also work well.

Creamy Cucumber Finger Sandwiches

a loaf of multi-grain bread
4 oz. sour cream
2 scallions
1 clove garlic
1 small cucumber

Chop the scallions and garlic into thin, small pieces. Mix with the sour cream and let sit overnight. The next day, slice the cucumber into very thin slices. Spread a thin layer of sour cream on two slices of bread and top with cucumber. Put the two slices together (with the cucumbers in the middle, silly), and carefully cut into finger sandwiches with a serrated knife. Repeat with the rest of the bread until you have as many sandwiches as desired; this will make a lot. If you'd like to be extra refined, cut off the crust first...but I can't stomach wasting food like that.

They're so good you'll have to lick your fingers clean.


soggy popcorn and sappy romance

I have a little addiction.

And it's not popcorn. What you are seeing here is a very pretty, failed attempt at kettle corn. It was only meant to accompany my addiction.

What I am actually addicted to is 19th century British romance.

And maybe Alan Rickman.

It started with that gateway drug, Jane Austen. Then I couldn't get enough of the Brontë sisters. I got through the books, and the movies, and still had cravings. Then I found these miniseries. 

Each one offers about 4 whopping hours of beautifully accented romance. Each one leads to more recommendations on Netflix.

There is always a heroine who is too outspoken for her time. There is always a hero, who is gruff, but so sensitive at heart. (Why can't she see it?!) There are English gardens and rolling green hills. There are bonnets, and tea, and dresses, and dances.

So after a strange and stressful weekend, this Wednesday found me in my pajama pants on the couch, munching on soggy kettle corn, and pleading with Molly to just tell Roger how she feels.

Highly recommended.