Friday, December 23, 2011


A little girl is singing for the faithful to come ye
Joyful and triumphant, a song she loves,
And also the partridge in a pear tree
And the golden rings and the turtle doves.
In the dark streets, red lights and green and blue
Where the faithful live, some joyful, some troubled,
Enduring the cold and also the flu,
Taking the garbage out and keeping the sidewalk shoveled.
Not much triumph going on here—and yet
There is much we do not understand.
And my hopes and fears are met
In this small singer holding onto my hand.
           Onward we go, faithfully, into the dark
           And are there angels hovering overhead? Hark.

- Gary Johnson

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Gearing up

(Photo taken inside Rolf's years ago)

I'm trying to remind myself that this is the most wonderful time of the year. Usually I don't need that reminder! But the last few days, I find myself trying to gear up for the holiday next week, instead of bubbling over with excitement. I don't like this little nagging dread, not one bit.

I think Peter's feeling it, too. (If anyone ever asked for my relationship advice - which they never do! - I would say that you can't both be feeling down at the same time. Easier said than done!). 

We are very lucky to live near both our families, but it means that we run around a lot between different houses over Christmas. I hesitate to go further, since I know many people aren't able to see all of their families over the holidays,'s a lot! Lots of time in the car, lots of chit-chat, lots of packing and re-packing. 

Anyways, enough with the grumpiness! After tomorrow, I am on vacation for ten glorious days. There will be a fancy dinner at a great looking new-to-us spot, lots of delicious wine, skiing, and to top it all off, a family wedding on New Years Day! So much to look forward to. 

I'm wishing you all a very happy, joyful, relaxing holiday. Let's gear up for this together!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

New Years Resolutions

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects." 
- Robert Heinlein

Monday, December 19, 2011

Springtime in Paris

(photo courtesy of my sister)

Fun news - we bought tickets to visit Paris in April! I've been wanting to do this trip for a long time, and I'm thrilled to pieces that we'll be going in a few short months.

Because we're both researchers (stereotypical first-born children!), Peter and I stepped into planning mode very quickly. We have books on hold, websites book marked, apartment rentals researched, and an ever-growing list of restaurants to try. If you have any can't miss items to share, I'd love to hear! Merci bien!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Stocking Gifts for Men

We have a long-standing family joke about the time my sister and I got cough syrup in our stockings. We were pretty little, and this gift was so offensive to us! Way too practical. 

Well, now that I am in charge of a stocking for Peter, I have come over to the practical side. Practicality and I are best buds! Here's how you can fill your husband's stocking with one trip to the grocery store. (Peter, dear, stop reading if you like surprises!)

Do you do a stocking for your significant other? Please tell me what you put in it! Last year, I totally dropped the ball on this, and Peter got dollar store hand warmers and a bottle of whiskey (could have been worse, actually...).

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

We linger

This photo is from a dinner we had at our house a few weeks back, but over the weekend our table looked very similar. Seeing this crazy, cluttered scene made me think of a new marker for a successful dinner with friends: many beverage glasses. I had in front of me a cup of tea, water, a glass for Amaretto, and just to the right of that, a wine glass and a Champagne flute. I look like a bit of lush, but lots of cups means happy guests, right?

During the week, Peter and I eat at our dining room table, often with a glass of wine or a drink. But it's a quick, casual affair. I try to get Peter to remember funny stories about his students, and I wow him with web stats. Afterward, lunches and coffee are made for the next day, and we settle in to read or watch a favorite show. I'm not trying to make this sound boring, because it's actually one of my favorite parts of the day, but it's just so different when friends are at our table, too.

With guests, we linger. People share sweet and tender and awkward and funny things, and we laugh and nod and rest our chins in our hands. And while that dinner party magic is happening, we go through a lot of glassware.

Friday, December 9, 2011

I once had awkwardly short bangs (+ weekend plans)

When I was about this age, my mom decided to cut my bangs herself. She sat me down on the bathroom vanity, and just as she put the scissors up to forehead to make a cut, I abruptly turned my head to the side. Eventually I ended up with even - extremely short - bangs. I don't have actual memories of this event, just photographic evidence of the damage. My mom decided to keep a scheduled appointment for professional photographs soon after (?!) so we have a slew of photos of me dressed like Raggedy Ann while sporting my short bangs. 

Moving on! 

This weekend we are seeing a few different sets of friends, and it has me all sorts of excited. For dinner one night, I think my menu will be: 
We might also see a movie or try this fun looking new spot (please ignore the admittedly questionable name). 

I hope you have a wonderful weekend! Also, if you have any awkward childhood hair stories, I would be thrilled to hear :) 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Red cabbage, apple and blue cheese salad

We have salad almost every night with dinner, and usually I continue buying romaine and red leaf lettuce all through the fall and winter. These days I find myself drawn to their cool weather friends, kale and cabbage. The least sexy leafy veg!

True, you do have to work a little harder for them to sparkle, but that's the fun thing about cooking this time of year, right? In the summer, you chop and sprinkle with salt and your job is done. But now, humble things become glorious under your direct influence. Butter, wine, bacon, cheese. Puree, saute, roast, braise. Winter dishes make you work harder, but then of course, you get more credit and personal satisfaction for those magical creations.

I made this red cabbage last night to go with mashed potatoes and mustard-y pork chops. It's a cinch to put together, and while I won't go so far as to claim that it's magical, I can almost guarantee that you'll get a compliment or two for making a humble head of cabbage taste so darn good.

Red cabbage, apple and blue cheese salad

You will need:

1 or 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tart apple, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 small head of red cabbage, cut into small strips
Splash of olive oil
Splash of vinegar
1/2 cup stock
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup stock
Handful of blue cheese crumbles

Heat a cast iron skillet on medium for a few minutes to get the pan hot. Add a splash of oil, garlic and apple pieces. Saute for 2-3 three minutes, until the apple is just starting to get soft. Add the sliced cabbage to the pan and cook for 5 minutes more. Then add the stock, a splash of vinegar and the Dijon, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until cabbage is delightfully soft. Take off the heat and sprinkle blue cheese on top.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Oh, tannenbaum


Yay, here is our first real tree in all its glory! This past weekend was a non-stop holiday fest. We went to the most wonderful Christmas concert at Boston College, a holiday market at a local school, got our tree, and made a the most delicious cassoulet (minus the ick tomatoes, obviously).

All weekend, I kept saying to Peter how pretty and festive our house looked, and how fantastic it smelled. Inside, I kept thinking how grown-up it felt to have a real live tree. I wonder why this symbolizes adulthood to me? 

On a somewhat related note, I keep dreaming that I wake up to find all the needles on the floor, and the branches totally bare. Are my tree dreams telling me I'm secretly afraid I'm failing at adulthood?!?! Deep, deep fraser fir thoughts. I might be a little too attached to my tannenbaum.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas tree skirt

I fell in love with a striped Christmas tree skirt from this darling shop, and thought I might be able to do something similar with the stacks of fabric I've collected over the years.

I presented my idea to make a circle tree skirt to Peter (resident math-doer) and he suggested I just make a square one. I reminded him that he was not really living up to his high school mathelete title, so he stepped up and did some tricky math for me to make my template. 

To make a skirt that is 50 inches across with a nine inch hole in the center (for the stand), have the bottom of your template be 9 3/4 inches, the top be 1 3/4 inches, and make it 20 1/2 inches long. You'll need 16 fabric pieces. 

I usually say that a project is so easy at this point, but I'll be honest. Sewing in a circle is surprisingly challenging! I sewed all the strips together first, then hemmed the bottom and top, and then sewed off the edges for the opening. You have to leave an opening between two of the strips and hem them (instead of sewing it into a complete circle) so that you can get it around the tree. Make sense, jelly beans?

Hope you all had a lovely weekend!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Night of nothingness

(Fake sick person Pho)

Last night I found myself flirting with the idea of getting sick. Not really ill, but you know. Just a touch of something. Enough to warrant an evening of reading and drinking tea and watching Law and Order (SVU, obviously, the most superior version).

I was trying to find a reason for my lack of pep. Why, I asked myself, did it not sound appealing to dust and clean the bathroom and then whip up a Christmas tree skirt? If you can believe it, these all usually sway me into productivity.

It was slightly disturbing that I thought I needed to catch a cold in order to have night of nothingness. I mended this insanity and gave myself a sick night (minus the germs). I cruised through a stack of New Yorkers and made the most deliciously simple Pho for dinner. It was so good, and I feel on the mend already.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Celebrating the Season, Grown-up Style

It's easy for me to feel like all the fun holiday traditions are specially designed for children, or at least adults who have children. I blame Pinterest and all the cute baby blogs I read, so I guess there's no one to blame but myself! Here's my grown-up list of fun to celebrate the season:

  • Attend a holiday show (we're going to a concert here over the weekend!).
  • Write cards for family and friends.
  • Make a giant batch of peppermint bark. This is great to have on hand to bring to get-togethers thoughout the month! And to eat yourself.
  • Watch Holiday Inn, or whatever movie screams Christmas to you :)
  • Donate a bit throughout the month to organizations you believe in (I like to give little amounts to lots of different groups, but I know others love to donate in one big bundle. Whatever works!)
  • Keep a gratitude journal for the month.
  • Make a fancy dinner and serve with only candles and Christmas tree lights on.
  • Take a really long bath and read magazines instead of wrapping presents. You're an awesome adult, you can do that super fast at the last minute!
  • Read something that gets you in the spirit (last year I read this; any suggestions for this year?).
  • Treat yourself to a bottle of bubbly, because it's December, and you get to celebrate like a grown up!

What's on your list of fun this holiday season? 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Post-Thanksgiving catch-up

I feel like I lost some of my blogging mojo after being away for a week! To ease back in, a short little list of things buzzing around in my brain: 
  • My holiday decorations are up, and we are getting a real live tree soon! Never had one before in my adult life. But I passed my little fake one on to my sister, so it is time!

  • On a somewhat related note, I set a goal to finish all my gift shopping by December 1st. I'm not going to quite make it, but I only have two more people to shop for. Pretty good, right?

  • This is yummiest winter pizza: braised red cabbage, roasted butternut squash and lots of Gruyere. You won't be sorry :)

  • We almost bought tickets to Lisbon last night! I found a good cyber Monday deal and we nearly went for it...but decided to hold out for inexpensive tickets to Paris for a bit longer.

  • Over the weekend, we finally went to DreamAway Lodge in the Berkshires. It's been on our list for years, and I wish we'd gone sooner! Such a funky, fun spot.

  • I've got a little sewing project in the works that I should be ready to show you later this week (writing it here makes me actually do it, so brain, consider it written!).
Happy Tuesday, all!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Give thanks

I'm getting ready to make pumpkin crunch (I'm going to try to take a picture so you can actually see what this glorious-ness looks like...), pack up all my stretchy clothes* and finish my hostess gifts!

I hope you all have a very happy, sweet, festive Thanksgiving holiday! And while we're basking in this glow of thankfulness, I want to thank you for visiting me here on this little blog. I love having this creative outlet to talk about books and crafts and food, and it means so much to me that you visit and we get to chat about all that awesomeness. I would still do this without any readers (and actually did for more than a year!), but you guys make it a whole lot more fun. Thank you for that.

See you next week, lovies!

*NOT for a baby, guys. To make ample room for desserts.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Hostess gifts

(1, 2, 3 + paper white bulbs)

We aren't hosting Thanksgiving this year, but we are bopping around to a few different celebrations with family later this week. In addition to pumpkin crunch, I'm going to try to get my act together and bring a little something extra for the hostess. Coasters, candles and bulbs are easy go-to gifts. My mom has a friend who always says, "You can always use more coasters!" Ha! True enough, though.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Chair reveal!

The chairs are finally done!

This project was a big undertaking involving lots of research and prep work. I didn't love the upholstery books I read. I'm sure there are other wonderful books out there, but the emphasis in these seemed to be "hand big stuff over to a professional," which seemed especially odd for a DIY book.

Instead, I relied heavily on Jenny's tutorials on her blog, and this series of you tube videos (bonus that he is a Tom Arnold look-alike!). There are thirteen chapters to that you tube series, and it's incredibly thorough.

If you're comfortable enough to sew a pillow or simple curtain, and like to figure out how things are made and work together, then you can totally do this yourself. This project doesn't involve a lot of sewing - mostly stapling and hammering, but you should feel confident working with fabric and making cuts and folds.

Just for fun, here's a side-by-side comparison so we can all remember how ugly they were:

P.S. Here are the earlier posts on this project:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thanksgiving decor

(123, 4)

I am hosting a bridal shower on Saturday for my sweet sister-in-law! It will be the first big party in our new house. I'm very excited, but the thought of having 20+ ladies in my living room has sent me into cleaning/crafting/rearranging overdrive (stay tuned for the big chair reveal coming up tomorrow!).

Anyways! I've been pinning cute ideas for her shower for weeks, and realized many of them would work equally well as Thanksgiving decor, so I thought I'd share a few of my favorites with you. You can find the full board here.

Anyone hosting Thanksgiving next week? Or taking on special crafts or decorating projects?!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

All wound up

(Courtesy of my sister)

The White

There are the moments
before snow, whole weeks before.
The rehearsals of milky November,
cloud constructions
when a warm day
lowers a drift of light
through the leafless angles
of the trees lining the streets.
Green is gone,
gold is gone.
The blue sky is
the clairvoyance of snow.
There is night
and a moon
but these facts
force the hand of the season:
from that black sky
the real and cold white
will begin to emerge.

by Patricia Hampl, from Resort

*  *  *  *  *

The leaves are nearly all on the ground here in Boston, and it feels like everything is shutting down, getting ready for a long sleep. I feel all wound up, though, and I know most of us are gearing up for the busiest time of the year.

I've seen a lot of good material on priorities and balance lately. Here are a few of my favorites, for your reading pleasure: 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Blanket for a baby boy

We got to celebrate with one my most favorite couples at a baby shower over the weekend! Pregnancy is still such a funny, mysterious thing to me. I can't wrap my mind around the fact that soon these dear friends are going to have a baby. That lives in their house, for real!

After my trial run with a baby blanket, I decided to do another one for Baby Luther. I ventured into the world of blue and orange for this one, since it's going to a baby boy! I also embroidered a little "L" in the corner for their last name. BBL is as Southern as they come, and I didn't think she'd want to turn down a monogramming opportunity.

This one has longer, thinner stripes than the first one. I also tried hand-tying the quilt with embroidery floss for the first time - you can see it a little bit in the last photo. It's a super easy way to quilt, if you're nervous about sewing on top of your work!

We threw a few board books into the mix for baby's library, too, including Spot's First Christmas, some Dr. Seuss and Let's Dance, Little Pookie, which I think is just about the best title I've ever heard. 

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend! 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Progress on the chair front

Some more progress to report on the chair front! (Are you getting sick of this project yet? I kind of am, so I wouldn't blame you!)

This week I sanded down all the exposed wood on my chairs and painted it a very pale grey (Martha Stewart's Sharkey Grey, in case you're curious). I'm obsessed with this color, and have started fantasizing about painting our bathroom this shade, too!

I also went to a fantastic fabric outlet, Freddy Farkel's in Watertown, MA, to purchase material. I love all the reviews on yelp complaining about the rude service. Old lady fabric store employees are always pretty rude, from what I can tell. Anyway, the warehouse is amazing, with a lot fun, modern prints for very good prices. In their discount aisle, I found the top fabric with grey and purple that I'll use for the chairs. It was on sale for only $7.50 a yard! I also got the grey and white one underneath to make a few pillows.

I'm sort of terrified to find myself at the fabric cutting and stapling stage, but I shall plow ahead, nerves and all. Fingers crossed!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

For now

My friend Sarah pinned this sweet image to her Cottage in the Woods board (if you're on Pinterest, you should definitely start following her! She finds the coziest, cutest stuff.)

I thought I might copy this since one wall in my guest room is like tissue paper. I tried to hang a regular, not-too-heavy painting, and the nail started slipping down minutes later. I made more holes, trying wall anchors and a strange, very long curved nail. No dice.

I collected some old photos and post cards and put them up with painters tape in a (very loose) heart shape. Not quite as cute as the inspiration image, but pretty good for now!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Relaxing by the hearth

(1; 2; 3; 4)

I've been throwing myself into all sorts of projects these last few weeks. Once I make my list and get started, it's hard for me to stop until I've reached completion. Messes and things out of order get me twitchy. It's silly - I know it is - to get bent out of shape for not sanding the legs of a chair or completing a sewing project fast enough. These things don't matter in the grand scheme (or even in the not so grand scheme!), so why do I let myself obsess? 

I don't have any fantastic insights to share (except to tell myself over and over, "Relax, cuckoo head!"). I guess this is just a little reminder to myself that it's okay to sit down by the fire with a book and some cheese, and my new, ridiculously awesome Lilly Pulitzer fireplace matches.

P.S. If you don't have a fireplace, I heartily recommend this DVD! It even includes life-like crackling sounds.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Serious camping

We took a little hike in Mount Greylock this weekend. It was so pretty inside the woods. A lot of the ground was still covered in snow, but it was warm enough to not wear a jacket!

Peter loved it so much that he has rapidly shifted from not wanting to take even short, easy hikes with me to trying to convince me that we should camp at a site that has no bathroom, shower, or access to our car. I think I'm about probably 25+ easy hikes away from making that leap.

Have you ever done serious camping? Like, hike a couple miles before you set up your tent and pretend your Thoreau?

Friday, November 4, 2011

The bird thing

(via West Elm)

I got my West Elm holiday catalog in the mail yesterday and saw these cute little owls on the cover. Lame to admit, but I was super excited because I purchased the very same owl at Home Goods a week ago (for less than half the price!). I need to get over the bird thing, but seriously - he's so cute!

We're heading up to the Berkshires this weekend for some shopping and eating and maybe even hiking! Hope you have a wonderful, extra-long-by-an-hour weekend!

Thursday, November 3, 2011


I took a bunch of upholstery books out of the library to study up. They made me more and more anxious to do this project, and not in a good way. There are so many tools the authors say you need, so many "easy" projects you're supposed to tackle first.

Last night I decided to just dive in with tools I had at home and see how it went. First I pulled off the back piece by hand (it was just attached with upholstery tacks, so it came off pretty easily). There was piping tubing trim all the way around the chair, so that came off next. I could grip it with basic pliers to do the job.

Next I made a mistake and started attacking the staples on the seat. I should have done the front back of the chair instead since the seat fabric was applied last when it was upholstered. Anyways, I just sort of did them simultaneously, using pliers and a flat head screw drivers to get under the staples.

I won't say the process was easy, but it was rewarding. It took about an hour and half. I'm super pleased that the insides are in great shape -- smooth springs, nice lining, webbing is in tact. I was nervous about what I'd find under there! Luckily, these were the only scary things that came out of the chair:

  • Straw wrapper
  • Penny circa 1997
  • Folded up frog sticker
  • Safety pin
  • Hole punch remains
I'm going to go to the fabric store this weekend and see what I find, then I'll pick out the paint. I'm going to leave the other chair in tact for now so I have a model to use when upholstering the first chair. Fingers crossed this makes it easier!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Kale salad with cashews, almonds and cranberries

If this recipe and this recipe got together and had a baby, it would have been my dinner last night. Crispy gnocchi with roasted squash, dried cranberries, with brown butter. Highly recommended!

But what I actually want to tell you about today is a raw kale salad we've been eating like crazy. I've tried a few different versions in the past, but this one is the easiest and the best (if I do say so myself!).

Kale salad with cashews, almonds and cranberries
Serves 2

You will need:
8-10 tender* kale leaves, pulled off the rib and torn into small pieces
Small handful of cashews, almonds and dried cranberries (I actually use trail mix from TJ's that includes all these)
Fresh grated Parmesan

Rinse the torn kale leaves in a colander and set aside. In the bottom of your salad bowl, make the vinaigrette. I know there are many variations, but mine is a two count of olive oil (the good stuff, not the cheapy cooking stuff), a single count of balsamic vinegar, a forkful of Dijon, a squeeze of lemon, and a generous shake of salt and pepper. Then I mix it all together with the mustard fork.

Place the kale leaves in the bowl. Now roll up your sleeves and start massaging the dressing into the leaves until they are well coated. Rough chop the trail mix (or your combo of cashews, almonds and dried cranberries) and add to the kale, then finish with lots of grated Parmesan. This salad likes to hang out and get in touch with its feelings, so let it sit for at least 20 minutes before serving.

For a slightly different, equally awesome version, add in golden raisins, thinly sliced green apple and grated cheddar.

*Make sure, before you even bring the kale home from the store, that it is very tender, and not tough like horse feed, okay?! I've made this mistake myself a few times, and end up cursing my kale.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Cozy Halloween

I can't get into scary and ghoulish, but I can do cozy! On the agenda tonight:

  • Pumpkin macaroni and cheese
  • Having a fire in the fire place
  • Begrudgingly sharing my candy stash with cute trick-or-treaters

Wishing you a very happy, candy-filled, cozy Halloween!

Friday, October 28, 2011

October snow

(via LIFE)

Last night Peter and I went out to Ashland and met my Dad for dinner. When we came out, huge snow flakes were swirling around all over! And there's more in the forecast this weekend. Mother Nature wants to remind us that we are back in New England.

This weekend, I'm having lunch with a dear girlfriend, my mother-in-law is coming for a visit, and I'm going to try to collect all my supplies for the chair project. Also - just to be festive - I'll probably have to eat a lot candy.

Hope you have a wonderful (maybe snowy!) weekend!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Big plans for ugly chairs

I brought two of these hideous chairs home earlier this week. They are sitting pretty ugly in my living room, just waiting to be shed that yellow/green/brown leather skin. I have big plans for these guys!

Since these chairs were free, I want to give myself license to play around a bit, and I'm going to try re-upholstering them myself! I've been watching this helpful series of video tutorials, and have taken a few how-to books out of the library. I'm a little nervous about ruining the chairs (and pretty upholstery fabric) but this is something I've wanted to try for a while, and this seems like a great learning opportunity.

Right now I'm trying to decide between pretty, busy patterns or something very plain. I'm going to steer clear of stripes and geometric stuff because those would be harder to match up correctly. I'll definitely keep you posted as this project progresses. If you have any brilliant tips, I'd love to hear!
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