Tuesday, November 25, 2014

So much more


Over the weekend, I started my first craft project since buying the house a year and a half ago. With all the wallpaper stripping, floor laying, painting, and re-configuring we did with the renovations, I wasn't ready to add anything to the house that wasn't necessary. It finally feels fun again to be making something.

I'm working on a crewel pillow kit that I picked up ages ago at Purl Soho. I've been adding a leaf or a flower each night before bed, which is heavenly (and at this rate I'll be working on it for months, so get ready for the big reveal in July).

A snow storm is starting to swirl around outside my kitchen window, and we're supposed to be driving out to the Berkshires as soon as Peter's done with school. My fingers are crossed for smooth sailing as we whisk ourselves across the state.

I'm reading Louisa May Alcott's An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving. In the story, the Basset family is facing a snowy New England holiday, too (among other obstacles). I think I've read half of the story for the last three thanksgivings. Will this be the year I actually finish? I hope things end well for them and that they're able to enjoy their brown bread and pies and Indian pudding. 

I hope you get to enjoy all of that, too, and so much more. Happy thanksgiving, my dears! 

P.S. I'm writing this post on my iPad, and while it knows to capitalize the p in iPad, it doesn't think thanksgiving deserves the same treatment!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Holiday pajamas for babies (and other rambles)

1, 2, 3, 4

I made the mistake not putting Lizzy in her Halloween pajamas until Halloween actually rolled around. To be fair, I was afraid she might ruin her "costume" before the main event. She's adorable, but messy.

She's going to start wearing holiday pajamas now to avoid that problem :) These are a few favorites I've got my eye on at the moment, but in reality, I'll probably hit up TJMaxx and Once Upon a Child for some cute options...in size 12-18 months because she is still a giantess.

It's way too early, I know, but I am so excited for the holiday season this year. Part of this is because I feel like I've really hit my stride in the last few weeks with working, playing with Lizzy, sleeping (knock on wood over and over and over), and just generally enjoying life together. 

I don't want to make it to sound like things were going badly before by any means. Peter and I have seriously been on cloud nine since Lizzy arrived six months ago. But going back to work was so hard for me (even though Lizzy thrived at daycare from the beginning), and I feel like it's taken this long to wrap my head around it. 

I still have waves of missing her during the week, but she's becoming so much more of a person these days - someone who is such a delight to be around - that I feel like our mornings and evenings and weekends are full of quality, fun time. She totally knows who Peter and I are now, and lights up when she sees us. She plays with toys, eats dinner, loves dancing and being tickling, and plays peek-a-boo. (I'm getting dangerously close to one of those monthly update letters that are only interesting to grandparents. Sorry!)

All this is just to say that I can't wait to decorate the house and show her all the lights and the tree and the songs and, in the evenings, when she's all cleaned up after lounging around in the bath and smells so heavenly, I'm going to zip her up into some holiday themed pajamas. 

And I'm really looking forward to it.

Friday, October 31, 2014

More than enough


On Wednesday, my family gathered together for my grandmother's funeral. She had been 90 years old, and was living on her own with her beloved cats - which were named after characters in Pride and Prejudice - until just two weeks before.

My house contains more physical representations of my grandmother than almost anyone else. She's in the handmade braided and vestimade rugs, and in the Waterford wedding gifts she bestowed upon Peter and me four years ago, and in the Christmas ornaments she gave my sister and me each year.

It's seems fitting that I see her all over the house, because more than anyone else, she reveled in all things home. She could endlessly examine a house, soaking in each detail. Every inch of her own home was decorated with things she loved. She had boxes of meticulously organized holiday decorations that came out every year, and she's the reason my mom, sister, and I have a village and a full set of carolers.

My sister and I spent lots of time with my grandparents growing up, with a few afternoons a week during the school year, and a few days each week during the summer. For lunch, she made the kinds of foods that kids love - spaghetti with lots of butter and salt, macaroni and cheese with Velveeta (and always a side of cranberry sauce, for some reason), and individual tubs of Friendly's ice cream sundaes.

She loved shopping, and was a world-class bargain hunter. She had an amazing ability to remember the exact price of all the best deals she scored - a trait I certainly inherited. She could look at a mahogany headboard and say that she bought it sixteen years ago at a tag sale on Cooley Street for $10, but she'd talked them down from $15.

She saved and saved her whole life, but she and my grandpa always made it a priority to take vacations and go out to eat occasionally. They would go to South Carolina for the winter when I was growing up, and we loved visiting their condo over February vacations.

We never did that much with them, but the days felt full. Dressing up, playing with dolls, feeding the birds, watching old movies, taking a walk around the block. Sometimes we played cards or asked the Ouiji board questions about our future husbands, but she also took naps, did crossword puzzles, and watched Meet the Press. She didn't feel that they had to entertain us, and it served us well.

Being in her orbit was more than enough.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Maple Pumpkin Pie with Brown Sugar Crust



Peter's family was in town this weekend, and since we won't all be together for Thanksgiving this year, we decided to have an early celebration. We made roasted turkey roulade, celery root and apple puree, Swiss chard gratin, and maple pumpkin pie with a brown sugar crust.

Every single recipe was a new one, and there wasn't a single clunker! Do you know how rare that is?! I'd happily add any of them to the real Thanksgiving celebration next month.

Maple Pumpkin Pie with Brown Sugar Crust
Crust adapted from Martha Stewart
Pie filling adapted from New York Times

Crust
2 tablespoons packed dark-brown sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons ice water

Filling
15 oz. can unsweetened pumpkin puree
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Amaretto
2 large eggs
½ cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a food processor, pulse brown sugar and 1/4 cup flour to combine. Add salt and remaining flour; pulse to combine. Add butter and pulse until the mixture forms pea-size clumps - this took many pulses for me. Add the lightly beaten egg yolk and water and pulse until the dough starts to come together. Wrap it up in a piece of plastic wrap and form a disk. Refrigerate about 30 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, maple syrup, and brown sugar. Add the cinnamon, ginger, salt and Amaretto. In a small bowl lightly beat the eggs and cream, then combine with the pumpkin.

Roll out the chilled pie crust and place in a 9 inch pie plate. Pour the filling into the crust and cover the pie edges loosely with foil. Bake on the lower level of the oven for 15 minutes. Turn the heat down to 350 degrees and bake for 30 to 40 more minutes, until filling has set (mine took 35 minutes).

Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Gourdious


Tomorrow morning Peter is proctoring an ACT test, and I have GRAND plans for Lizzy and me to go to Wegmans, clean the house, do laundry, and paint the TV stand in the living room. Lizzy is actually *not* that great a helper for any of these activities, if you can believe it, so we'll see what we actually accomplish :)

We're also seeing a friend for dinner, visiting with Peter's family, and hopefully squeezing in a day trip or mini-hike. It should be glorious (gourdious?).

Happy Friday to all!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Someone Else's Story



I feel extremely embarrassed to admit this, but I haven't finished a book since I went to back to work more than two months ago. Isn't that crazy?!

But this has actually happened to me before. When I first met Peter, I think I was too giddy to read anything substantial for about a month. And then in the weeks leading up to our wedding, I was...I don't know, too wound up? Too excited? Something.

This time my brain has been filled up with all sorts of emotions. And tiredness. I haven't had the mental energy to engage with someone else's story.

This wacky period of naval gazing is happily drawing to a close, though. Since I drive to work now, I picked up The Shoemaker's Wife as an audio book for my commute, and I absolute love listening to it. Instead of feeling like this is wasted time away from my baby (boo hoo), it's turned into time spent doing something I enjoy (I hesitate to bust out the insufferable "me time," but...it kind of feels like that).

I read about Absolute Beauty on Cup of Jo a while back, and it finally came in for me at the library. It's a nutty crunchy view of beauty and health and I am loving it so far. I wish I had known about it years ago when my skin was acting so terrible with allergies.

And the last one has been on my nightstand for a while, but I'm excited to start it very soon. My friend Sarah shared a link on Twitter to an interview with Amy Shearn about her grandmother's novella The Little Bastard, and I ordered it right away. There's something infinitely more satisfying - on a purely superficial level - about finishing a novella as opposed to a short story. Novellas feel like you accomplished something. Short stories feel like you killed time in a waiting room. I think they're due for a comeback.

What are you reading these days? Any good audio books to add my queue? The reader can make or break the book.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Gardens at Elm Bank










We discovered the Massachusetts Horticultural Society Gardens at Elm Bank a couple of weeks ago - absolutely stunning! It's a great place to a take a stroll. The grounds look massive in these pictures, but it's really just five or six different gardens in a fairly compact space.

On the way out, we stopped at Sunshine Farm for some produce and ice cream. Lizzy had a milk protein allergy that cleared up when she was about four months, so I'm doing my best to make up for a dairy-free summer with LOTS of awesome ice cream this fall. Hard work, but I'm rising to the challenge.


Friday, October 3, 2014

Looking, Playing, Wasting


Making: Excellent use of our new island - it makes our kitchen such a happy place to hang out in
Cooking: This perfectly autumnal mushroom lasagna
Drinking: A splash of wine nearly every night after Lizzy goes down for the night
Reading: This should say "slogging" since I've been working on this since August, but Longbourn
Wanting: Track pants, real bad
Looking: Oh so tired these days - I need an industrial strength eye cream or something :)
Playing: On my new iPad (I've become one teeny tiny percent more hip!) 
Wasting: Time searching for the perfect baby Halloween costume
Sewing: A new valance for my kitchen window (a total cheat answer because my Mom actually did the sewing for me!)
Wishing: I felt more clear headed
Enjoying: The evening routine we've worked out, which involves playing with Lizzy for a few hours when I get home, then her bath, stories, and bed, followed by dinner, a TV show, and dessert - always dessert - for Peter and me
Waiting: Until the October madness calms down in Salem before checking out this lovely looking exhibit
Liking: How settled our house is feeling these days, even as I make plans for a few more adjustments
Wondering: If we'll be able to pull off a big trip in 2015
Loving: My little clan more and more each day
Hoping: To make a batch of this in very near future
Marveling: At these awesome floating babies in Houston
Needing: To get some dates on the books with friends - we've been somewhat hermetic 
Smelling: Lizzy's head every night at 5:00 p.m.
Wearing: Ballet flats as much as possible before the endless season of boots begins
Following: The new-to-me blog Aspiring Kennedy
Noticing: How beautiful Boston looks this fall - the leaves have exploded in color in the last week
Knowing: Some Top 40 songs for the first time since college, thanks to a lingering Sirius XM subscription in our new-to-us second car (my current fave)
Thinking: That our new normal is starting to feel just that
Feeling: So excited to tag along with my sister to do some wedding dress shopping tomorrow
Bookmarking: Tons of recipes from Jamie Oliver's magazine - it's been a treasure trove of inspiration 
Opening: The windows just a smidge to get some of that delightfully crisp fall air in the house
Giggling: Over Lizzy's seemingly deep voice - it's seriously just like this when she laughs
Feeling: Lucky, lucky, lucky 


This post was inspired by Meet Me at Mikes!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Introducing Fresh Basil Travel Services!


Ten years ago this fall, I returned home from studying abroad in Italy and wrote out a dozen or so pages of detailed recommendations for every place I visited in Europe. My dad still foists that crazy (and quite outdated!) document upon anyone who even mentions Italy.

All that to say, I've long taken great pleasure in sharing bits and pieces of vacation advice with family, friends, and even a good deal of strangers.

It's been lovely to have an excuse to share travel tips with all of you on Fresh Basil over the years, and I absolutely adore fielding questions via email about visiting the Berkshires or New York or Martha's Vineyard. But I've often thought that it would be fun to formalize that arrangement a bit and offer up my obsessive vacation-related research skills to the masses.

And so, I am absolutely thrilled to announce the start of Fresh Basil Travel Services! This is basically an excuse for me to do the crazy kind of vacation prep I would do for myself for you.

I love planning where to eat and what to see and do, but I know many people do not find that kind of thing to be very exciting. In fact, it can be kind of a bummer to sift through loads of blog posts and review sites and travel forums to plan your perfect trip (or so I've heard!). If you'd like to hand off that task and just get down to enjoying your vacation, I would love to help!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Boston Date


On the last Friday of my maternity leave, Peter, Lizzy, and I went to Row 34 for lunch, and then walked around the seaport. I'm not sure I'd call it a "workingman's oyster bar" - we were next to a darling couple bemoaning the fact that Facebook was down during our first visit - but it is a delightful, delicious spot. And totally baby friendly, thanks to its large, open dining room (that's Lizzy's stroller in the foreground of the pic above). 



We went again last weekend for dinner when my parents were in town. Still delicious, still a-okay for Lizbert.

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