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.
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