12.25.2012

happy christmas

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This year is my first year spending Christmas with J's family. I am missing my own, but enjoying the new-to-me traditions and festivities. It's a wonderful gift to be welcomed into a giant, second family.

If you're in Boston, don't forget to enjoy a last day or two of these wonderful holiday sights.

Thinking of you and yours...and of the good in the world. Happy Christmas. xoxo

12.21.2012

26. make christmas cookies

A big hug and thank you to everyone for the warm wishes on our engagement. I think the most fun part of the whole thing has been catching up with people! We are just thrilled, and are so looking forward to seeing family and friends when we go home for the holidays. I think the Christmas season is the very best time to have a new sparkle on your finger, plenty to celebrate, and a very special sort of warmth in your heart.

It's also a difficult time to find balance, I admit. This year I tried to enjoy meaningfully, instead of broadly. We decided to skip the decorations so we'd have more time to enjoy other parts of the season. And while I miss having a little tree, I do not miss having to clean up broken ornaments or worry about chewed light wires.

And it also meant I had more time to do number 26 on my list and make up some Christmas cookies...

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Ginger Chewies from J the B (originally from this book)

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Key Lime Meltaways from SK (originally from MS)

Both of the above were delectable, and they were a huge hit in the office. I recommend the ginger chewies especially...they are like thicker, softer ginger snaps.

I also tried my hands at a batch of snickerdoodles, but I think they were a little heavy on the flour. We've eaten them all up anyway, but they just weren't photoworthy enough for the blog.

Wishing you and yours happy holidays.

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12.17.2012

once upon a time

There was a prince and a princess, reigning over a kingdom inhabited by a mighty kitty.

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The prince and princess were very happy together. Day in and day out, they ruled justly, settling disputes in the land and keeping the mighty kitty tame.

Yes, they were happy.

But soon they came to realize that their kingdom was missing something. They shared a bond, but the bond was not official, and their reign had never been sealed by the royal kiss of marriage. Both prince and princess began to think of it, and mentioned it shyly to each other in the quiet times between royal duties.

One day, when the holiday season was upon them, the prince and princess decided to venture outside their kingdom to explore the beautiful wilderness beyond their reign. Wearing their warmest, they trekked into the unknown to see how beautifully the season was being celebrated beyond the boundaries of their land.

All day long, they were enchanted by lights, and greenery, and festive music.

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That evening, they arrived at a roadside inn and supped on delicious fare: steak and scotch for the prince, and fish 'n' chips and a champagne lemonade for the princess.

Stuffed full, the pair ventured back out into the cold, until they arrived at the destination they had only heard legends of, the great tree of Christmas, decked with baubles as big as the princess' head and lights glowing with the love of the season.

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The prince took the princess by the hand and led her out to the ocean beyond the tree, where fishermen's boats were strung with lights and the cold air was silent around them.

Then the prince bravely and nervously told the princess that he loved her. And he presented her with a ring. She burst into tears. On the spot, they agreed that they would be married, and become king and queen of their humble kingdom.

Then the princess gently reminded the prince that she was very cold and had to pee, and would really like to go home and have some hot cocoa. He seemed pretty relieved.

And so they did.

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I cannot tell you what a bittersweet weekend it has been.
My heart hurts for the princes and princesses who will not grow to become kings and queens.
But a wise woman reminded me that love still blossoms.
And we hope that our happiness can be a sign of ever budding love in the world...

We can never be assured of a happy ending...

But we can continue to love and to hope.

12.13.2012

14. make chex mix

In the middle of finals I am always a drama queen about missing out on the holiday season.

Whoever decided that it would be perfect timing to require 50-page papers while twinkly lights are going up in the city and people are pinning pictures of Christmas trees and snow on pinterest is cruel. I felt so left out. #FOMO

But here I am on the other side...all the more appreciative of the season around me. And my twelve days before Christmas can begin. Now is the time for carols and bad romantic Christmas movies and hot cocoa in earnest.

I'm going to be Christmas sick all over you.

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And a good way to start is with Chex Mix. We've always had Chex Mix at our house during winter, when the toasty smell makes your mouth water and there are always enough people around to finish it off quickly.

At the beginning of December, I took a break from my work, cranked up the carols, and recruited J for kitchen duty. I was so glad I did, because I relied on this stuff as a quick snack to bring to campus with me for the rest of the semester.

We used the original recipe from the box, but added spicy rice mix instead of garlic bagel bites.

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And slowly but surely, I am making my way through...

So happy to be back with you all. Promise I will catch up soon.

Happy holidays. xoxo

12.07.2012

little pleasures in busy times

You guys.

I am so ready for a break. So close...just a few more days. This holiday season is calling my name, and I am just a couple of papers away from a long winter's nap.

But don't worry. I'm still enjoying the everyday stuff too. Please tell me you are too. These are the things that have been getting me through busy days...

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Homemade vegan hot cocoa topped with rice-based whipped cream. (This whipped cream is seriously pretty amazing.)

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Enjoying the warm light of our apartment.

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Laughing at this little cat, as usual. It is getting really cold lately.

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Snacking on healthier versions of comfort food.

To make baked parsnip fries:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Slice parsnips into fries.
Shake up in a bag with olive oil, salt, pepper, and parsley flakes.
Bake until tender.
Serve with tomato sauce.

12.05.2012

11. make pancakes

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We actually did this all the way back before Thanksgiving.

Enjoyed with pure maple syrup...and some chocolate chunks in a few...hot coffee on the side...

One down, 25 to go.

12.03.2012

fresh city - review and giveaway

Update: This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to winner, Eliza!

It's finals time, you guys, and that means I've been spending all my days typing, reading, clicking, and pulling out my hair. Just over a week to go and I'm in the clear!

This is my seventh year of college final exams, and it somehow still catches me by surprise. I'm always a little stunned to remember how draining it can be, how there's so little time for anything else...exercise, tv, cooking...

So it was a wonderful surprise this year to get an email with the subject, "Can we bring you lunch?"

Um, yes please.

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Fresh City brought by salad and sandwiches and desserts last week so J and I could sample a bit of their menu. And while I consider some of their items a bit indulgent (think thick mayo and chewie blondies), all of the ingredients are incredibly fresh, and everything is full of (mostly organic) raw fruits and veggies.

And don't get me wrong...there are plenty of amazingly healthy items on their menu too, and many of them can be customized to suit your tastes.

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Fresh City provides all their nutrition information online, and you can sort based on the healthy choices you prioritize (vegetarian, gluten free, low sodium...). One of their main goals is to be able to serve the dietary needs/preferences of a very diverse group of people. Though I generally prefer independent businesses to chains, this reliable information is something I really love. (And they've got a location at Logan airport...always good to know where to get fresh food when traveling!)

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Would I spend my money on it?

For sure. While I'd probably opt for a mom-n-pop place if it were available, this would definitely be a great option with a group of people with picky preferences or if you're looking for a fast, easy, healthy meal. I'll definitely be checking it out next time I'm at the airport.

So here's where it gets awesome for you too. One of you can win a $10 gift card to Fresh City. They have locations across Massachusetts, and one each in Connecticut and New Jersey.

Each person can enter up to two times. Leave a comment for each entry. Doing each of the following will earn you an entry:

1. Visit the Fresh City website, then leave a comment on this post telling me which menu item you'd like to try.
2. Share this giveaway via twitter with a link to this post (leave a comment below).

The winner will be chosen randomly next Monday, 12/10.

Good luck! And stay fresh. ;-)

11.28.2012

yarn along - act your age!

If you can believe it, I am still (three weeks later) working my way through A Wizard of Earthsea.

But I almost always have a couple of books going at once, and I'm also satisfying my non-fictional cravings with Nancy Lesko's Act Your Age! A Cultural Construction of Adolescence.

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Recommended to me by a current professor, this book is fairly academic, but still very accessible, especially for anyone with a vested interest in understanding how we've come to understand adolescents.

Lesko posits that we have narrowly defined adolescence as "coming of age", hormone-driven, highly peer influenced, and time-oriented. She reviews the history of how our characterizations of adolescence came to be socially constructed (rather than empirically true), and how in some ways, these characterizations can be extremely limiting and even damaging.

Yep, it's pretty serious.

But its seriousness is balanced by these simple, little leg caps on our living room ottoman.

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I whipped these up over a few episodes of United States of Tara (so good), starting with a basic square. We were excited to trash our cheap old rug and get back to our wooden floor. But these caps were definitely needed to keep it safe.

And I like to imagine they're keeping the ottoman's feet warm through this shift into very cold weather...

~linking up with Ginny's yarn along~

11.26.2012

thankful

It was such a beautiful weekend to give thanks, wasn't it?

This year was a special one for me. It was my first time missing my sister for the holiday, but also my first time spending it with J. It was the first time I've ever passed on the turkey. It was the first time I went home to a place that looked a little different, with signs of Sandy's destruction popping up unexpectedly. I hope everyone found a happy place to spend the holiday, even if they couldn't be in their own homes...

I was thankful to be able to catch a train, even though they're still recovering.

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I was thankful to breathe country air and touch all the living things that my mother has so tenderly preserved for the winter.

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I was thankful to see the faces that make our house a home.

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And to see a new 106-lb. guest that made it extra snuggly for Thanksgiving.

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(hugs all day long with this bear)

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I was thankful for indulgence.

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And I was thankful to rest.

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Happy belated, all.

11.19.2012

holiday oats


When we purged our cupboards, one of the things we were left with was a single little serving of steel-cut oats, abandoned when we restocked our supply of the more convenient rolled oats.

As much as we believe in making real food, we don't believe in oatmeal that takes 20 minutes to cook. We already feel like pioneers for seasoning our own oatmeal.

But steel-cut oats are really so good. They are chewier and somehow more filling. And I have to admit, there's something satisfying about serving up a hot breakfast straight off the stove. I would just reserve them for a morning when there is time to simmer and savor...a time like the holidays.

That was the inspiration for these...the Thanksgiving cranberries, winter maple and nuts, and the warmth of a little spice...


Holiday Oats

Ingredients:
1/4 cup steel-cut oats
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 tbsp dried cranberries
2 tbsp pecans
2 tsp pure maple syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
dash of ground cloves
dash of salt

1. Heat the milk until bubbles are rising around the edges. Stir in the oats, and when bubbling again, reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, until most of the liquid is absorbed and desired thickness is reached. (Be sure to stir occasionally, especially toward the end, when the milk will tend to form a skin.)
2. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the rest of the ingredients.

11.16.2012

quack, quack!






You never really feel like a tourist in your own city.

You've got too many other things to do, your own little neighborhood to get to know, Real Life happening every day. There's no time for sightseeing.

But every once in awhile you realize, you might not know your city as well as the tourists do.

A generous friend took J and me on a duck tour last weekend. And it was so much fun. We got to see our city from another perspective and appreciate its history and architecture and landmarks. Our tour guide was hilarious...I felt like an 8 year-old when I couldn't stop hardcore laughing at his siren impressions. Residents, visitors of Boston, go on a duck tour...and ask for Bogie Sparks.

But the most fun part? The beginning of big plans. Big plans to be a tourist in a big city called Beantown. Big plans to tour monuments, visit museums, hit up the best places for food and chocolate. How is it possible that after 2 1/2 years in this place, there is so much still to see?

It's a beautiful thing. An urban playground in our backyard...and an adventure that will never end.

11.14.2012

warm kitty, soft kitty...

Little ball of fur...

Happy kitty, sleepy kitty...


Purr, purr, purr.

(Yep, she fell asleep like that.)

Wishing you a restful night.

11.12.2012

mindful moments

I am a big believer in eggs.

Someday, I'd love a backyard with a little chicken coop, where I could gather my own fresh eggs from my clucky ladies and make a cozy breakfast for little children.


Soft-boiled eggs are one of my favorite breakfast foods.

They bring me back to my childhood, when our parents would peel our eggs for us, since our unweathered little fingers couldn't handle the heat.

They bring me back to Germany and Austria, where a proper breakfast includes a soft-boiled egg, served with The Best Coffee in the World, a fresh roll, cold cuts, and jam.

And they bring me back to every adult snow day I've had, when the slow morning start inevitably carries me to a pot of boiling water, a sunny kitchen seat, and my favorite Delft egg cup.


Promise me you'll enjoy some soon. (Just be sure to buy your eggs as humane as possible.)

11.10.2012

simplified life - week 4

Well, my plan has backfired. When you have a busy week, there is just no time to purge bedrooms or meditate daily. And trying to squeeze them in is not the key to a simpler life. So while I still hope to make some progress this weekend, I'm not going too crazy over here.

I did manage to make family time this week (and call it a monthly date also...two birds, folks), when J and I had dinner out for the first time in IDon'tKnowHowLong. There's a great Thai place in a little indoor mall at Coolidge Corner. We were the only ones in the whole place, so it felt a little Twilight Zone-y, sharing this old-fashioned space with just the restaurant owners, staring at closed-up tailors, barber shops, and watch stores...


It was simple and good.

If I had to start over and do the whole simplifying thing again though, I'd make it about doing less. I think I felt that if I could just get rid of stuff, clean it all up, and take a deep breath, life would slow down. But it never does. So purging and cleaning and taking less in are all habits that we should strive to have all the time. But it's also about seeing the clutter on your desk and the mess in the kitchen and a planner full of meetings, and smiling and breathing despite it all.

So this week is more about doing a little less...

~~~

Week 4

Habits for the week:

-Don't multi-task
     Close your email, ignore interruptions, devote more than a few minutes to each task on your list. Make your time purposeful.

-Create a bedtime/risetime routine
     Just know that at a certain point in the night, you will close out the day with good habits and restful activities (teeth brushing, face washing, stretching, reading). And start your mornings consistently as well (preferably without the Internet and with some yoga).

-Take two walks
     J and I don't do this consistently, but when we do, it is one of the best feelings. We're never headed anywhere particularly beautiful or peaceful, but just holding hands, moving our bodies, and breathing some different air can reset us completely.

Tasks for the week:

-Put on candles and music
     For one evening this week, put on some of your favorite quiet music and some dim lights. Enjoy the warmth of the indoors as the seasons start to turn, and ignore XYZ to just be in the moment.

-Make time to be alone
     Here's the important thing about this time...use it to do something you love. Sitting at your desk does not count. Blogging does not count. Find time for something just for you.

-Clean two things that bother you
     Just two. Just two small things. Don't make it a big deal. I'm going to wipe down the shelf we keep our olive oil on (greasy), and clean up the shower caddy (soap scummy).

-Let it go
     Things, stress, expectations. Get a piece of paper. Write down the stuff that's on your mind...not just the things you need to do, but the pressures you put on yourself, the stuff you want, the things that just don't feel quite right. And then rip that paper up and throw it away. It's not worth holding onto.

11.07.2012

yarn along - a wizard of earthsea

Here I am, warm and bundled on my way to the voting booth yesterday:


(It is actually Tuesday when I'm writing this...funny to think that when this post fires off, the results will be in!)

I had a slightly emotional moment at the polls, when I realized that my vote really mattered. I mean, if you're not in a swing state, it's hard to get too worked up over the presidential vote. But in Massachusetts, we had some powerful issues on the ballot...a tight Senate race, euthanasia, medical marijuana...

But there are other important things to talk about too...books, yarn...and maybe even some wool roving...


I'm loving my completed hoodie. It really gives me tunnel vision (perfect for an election!), so I probably won't use it on a daily basis. But I love that it keeps my face covered for the really brutal days. And the hood can be popped back to wear just a big, chunky scarf. Love. But I'm so excited to work on some new projects!

Since I last posted, I managed to finish Rowling's book and another by John Green, The Fault in our Stars. Seriously wonderful. I cried many times. And finished it quickly.

So I'm already on to other things...


I felted that little gnome up during my rainy day off last week, and I love him so much, I've already started another! You can find the tutorial here.

A Wizard of Earthsea is a book I feel I must have read when I was younger, but the first couple of chapters are still totally foreign to me. It's reminiscent of Tolkien...magical, but serious...and the literary landscape is really beautiful. I'm looking forward to getting more deeply immersed in it. Plus, there are three more in the series. Have you read them?


Don't forget to check out others linking up with Ginny!

11.05.2012

curried pumpkin soup

I don't have very many memories of a cozy college dining hall. It's tough to find much comfort in plastic trays and fluorescent lights.

But there were some days that came close.

On those days, we'd leave class (where I almost definitely would have spent my time doing the crossword puzzle in the school paper), shiver through winter wind and snow across campus, and enter the warm dining hall, where curried pumpkin soup would be waiting for me.


If it was on the menu, I was having it. Warm, spicy, sweet...cozy and creamy.

Since then, I've made a few halfhearted attempts to recreate it, but it never quite turned out right. I gave up.


Then came Hurricane Sandy with her hidden blessings, and I rummaged around in my cupboards to see what would make a warm, cozy soup.

Pumpkin and coconut milk.


And thus, a miracle was born. I made curried pumpkin soup a la Busch dining hall.

And J proclaimed it, "Possibly the best soup I've ever had." Win.

Two of the ingredients come straight from a can and the whole recipe takes about 30 minutes. Double win.

Full of vitamins A and C, healthy coconut fat, spices with all sorts of wonderful properties...vegan. Win. Win. Win.


Curried Pumpkin Soup

Ingredients:
2 tbsp vegan butter (or olive/coconut oil)
1 sweet onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp curry powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
black pepper, to taste (we like a lot)
2 1/2 cups water + 1 large vegetable boullion cube (or 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth)
1 can pumpkin purée
2 bay leaves
1 can full-fat coconut milk

1. Melt the butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Sauté the onions until translucent. Then add the garlic, curry, cinnamon, and black pepper. Cook, stirring, for an additional minute or so on low heat.
2. Add the water, boullion, pumpkin, and bay leaves. Stir to mix, and heat on high until soup comes to a boil. Then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes.
3. Add the coconut milk, heat on high, and bring back to a boil. Then turn off the heat. (Don't worry if the coconut milk isn't smooth...the blending will take care of it.)
4. Remove the bay leaves. They'll be hard to see, but a few scoops from the bottom should bring them up. Then very carefully use an immersion blender to blend the soup until very smooth.

Wonderful served with pine nuts and homemade bread.