Wednesday, November 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~

Monday, November 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.

Thanksgiving 2012

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

Thanksgiving 2012

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

Thanksgiving 2012

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

Thanksgiving 2012

(hugs all day long with this bear)

Thanksgiving 2012

I was thankful for indulgence.

Thanksgiving 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

And I was thankful to rest.

Thanksgiving 2012

Happy belated, all.

Monday, November 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.

Friday, November 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.

Wednesday, November 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.

Monday, November 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.)

Saturday, November 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.

Wednesday, November 7, 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!

Monday, November 5, 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.

Friday, November 2, 2012

simplified life - week 3

Well, Sandy threw a big ol' wrench into my plans this week, what with cancellations, crappy errand-running weather, and a phone that was on 24/7 to stay in touch with powerless family in NJ. (It's back on...after about 60 hours without electricity!)

But...it was a good reminder...that no matter how simple or complicated life is, it is a blessing, and I have always, always, been so, so lucky. It's so sad to see my home state (and city of my heart) hurting so badly, but thankfully, there is always a way to rebuild.

Life continues. And this week, I kept trying to simplify...

There are still a few things on my to-do list, but I managed to clean out our pantries and have made a resolution to stop buying quite so much in bulk.


Much of the above has been sitting in our kitchen for more than 6 months! (We're keeping it, just planning on eating it soon!)

And as much as I hate doing it, having a made bed really does impart a sense of calm. I swear, even Maus loves it more. Since J and I sleep with different blanket sets to optimally calibrate our personal temperatures (so high maintenance), we've had to be creative.


And I am still riding the high of week 1's internet purge. I have come to realize how few meaningful emails I actually receive in a day. I'm always a little surprised when I open my inbox to no new messages.

Here's week 3 (and check out 1 and 2!).

~~~

Week 3

Habits for the week:

-Spend 15 minutes every evening tidying your home and planning for the next day
     Do a quick sweep of your lived-in areas and stash all the stuff that's out of place. If you have time, set aside your bag for the next day, already packed, and maybe even set out an outfit.
-Leave your work at work (or take it outside the home)
     This week, when you come home at night, do not allow yourself to problem-solve or check emails for work. Don't bring stuff home that you can work on. And if you work in the home (sometimes or always), try taking as much of it as possible to a different location...a coffee house or a library. Let your home space be work-free, and if that's impossible, at least keep it to one room.
-Meditate daily
     Find 5-10 minutes every day to relax. There are tons of different ways to meditate. My favorite is to sit comfortably with my eyes closed and just focus on my in- and out-breaths, acknowledging each one and trying to dismiss other thoughts. Other methods might have you clear your mind completely, or focus on one idea, like love or compassion.

Tasks for the week:

-Purge your office
     I realize this might be a huge task, but if you can find the time, clear up the clutter from your home work space. I know this is an area of hording for us, where papers, books, and office supplies tend to get heaped up and forgotten.
-Clean up your computers
     Delete unneeded files. Organize the remaining ones. Do a back-up. Run scans for viruses and mal-ware. Then run your disk cleanup and disk defragmenter applications to keep things running quickly. And a dusting on the outside wouldn't hurt either.
-Purge the bedroom
     Hopefully this one isn't too daunting, since your clothes and shoes have been taken care of. Take a look at what's left around the bedroom and how it's organized. Tidy and streamline to make your bedroom a sanctuary.
-Make time for family
     Intentionally set aside some time this week to do something special with your family...whether its husband and kids, extended family, parents, or just your SO. Let that time be just about enjoying their company.

~~~

How was your week 2?