Tuesday, November 30, 2010

thankful, part two

"Suppose for a moment that God began taking from us the many things for which we have failed to give thanks. Which of our limbs and faculties would be left? Would I still have my hands and my mind? And what about loved ones? If God were to take from me all those persons and things for which I have not given thanks, who or what would be left of me?"

Who or what would be left of me, indeed.

It is easy to get caught up in the details of life and not notice the blessings. It is easy to wish for things you don't have. And it's easy to take for granted the things that you do. So, without wasting another moment, I am giving thanks:

for my brother, and his mad guitar skills,

for my husband, and his ability to shine at Rock Band even when his drumsticks are two whisks, swiped from the kitchen,

for every last person in this hilarious family portrait as we rocked away the afternoon on Thanksgiving day,

and for this one, who watched us quietly from the corner and took pictures of the action,

for a long family walk on a beautiful day that included a visit with two llamas. That's right, two llamas.

My cup runneth over.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving morning

There are very few days that warrant three separate blog posts just to get all the goodness in, but this Thanksgiving was one of them. Honestly, any day that begins with these cinnamon rolls is probably going to be pretty great, but this one even surpassed my high expectations.

Post-cinnamon roll, we all lounged around and checked out the Black Friday ads while watching the parade. It's not Thanksgiving without the parade, specifically the parade on NBC, as I tried to tell whoever kept changing the channel to CBS. Al Roker and I have spent many a holiday together and we're not about to stop now.

The leaves were in full-color mode and the pear trees made me feel right at home. The boys played football in the yard, which made the day feel just right. I don't necessarily want to be playing football on Thanksgiving, but I sure like it when someone else does.

So the sisters watched from the porch and occasionally caught a pass or two. I spent some time alternately marveling at the handsomeness of my husband and the grown-up-ness of my baby brother. Gosh if I don't love those two to pieces.

And, as is the norm with almost any trip we go on, there were dogs. But they're both pretty mini and not so bad, as dogs go. Lucy likes to be carried around a lot, but who can blame her? Why walk when you can ride?

Even with all the fun going on at home, I still managed to sneak out a few times- to the grocery store with Mom and out for coffee with Bren. I am super thankful for moments alone with each of my family members, as much as I love being all together.

And, if you can believe it, we haven't even made it to lunchtime yet! Tune in tomorrow for the next installment...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

deck the halls

Usually it takes zero effort for me to get into the Christmas spirit. By the time October is over, I am ready for Christmas music and the scent of pine. In fact, I usually only hold off on the decoration until after Thanksgiving as a courtesy (to who? I have no idea). But this year, the warm weather has me tricked and I am slowly dragging myself along to get ready for the holidays.

Of course, I needed to be in the spirit even earlier than usual this year, as I was hoping to get a few things ready for the shop before December is upon us. So last week I cranked up the holiday tunes and started working, ready or not.

I started with two sets of Christmas ornaments, an idea provided by my creative friend, Emily. Once I got into it, the ideas started flowing and now I'm just hoping I'll have a few spare minutes to make some more decorations before it's too late! This week is super busy with work and holiday baking, but early next week seems like the perfect time to stitch up some stuffed snowmen.

And now I just need to mention that I have posted two things in a row that have nothing to do with food (and certainly nothing to do with soup) and, as a result, I will probably need to share some pictures of cinnamon rolls tomorrow. So you've been forewarned.

Monday, November 22, 2010

field trip

Okay, so it's not quite "tomorrow" as promised, but there are no pictures of soup.

Last week, on my way back from the fabric store, I took a quick field trip to Belmont. It's right on the way and I have always wanted to stop there. And as I was driving home last Thursday, I thought to myself, as I always think to myself, "I'll bet Belmont is really cute. I wish I could stop in sometime." And then I wondered why I couldn't and then I just did it. Do you ever do that? Wish for something over and over and then realize that (usually) you can do what you want?

There are two reasons that I have always wanted to stop in Belmont. #1: the college. You can see Belmont Abbey from the interstate and it looks like an enchanted castle. And I'm not talking about Shana's version of an enchanted castle, I'm talking the real thing. It is a good thing that I didn't consider things like "college visits" a necessity in my day, because otherwise I would have ended up at a super tiny, super expensive, private school with great architecture and landscaping and then where would we be? Certainly not where we are now, so I really dodged a bullet on that one.

Anyway, this college was just as pretty up close as it is from the road. I drove around campus and admired the buildings and the trees. I checked out the students and thought about what it might be like to go to a school that fancy, with a campus coffee shop called "Holy Grounds". Clever indeed.

I hopped out of the car for a brief moment only, because I could not find legal parking anywhere. But I did get a few pictures of the buildings and one of this nice sappy tree. It took me back to my childhood when one of my favorite things to do outside was play with the sap tree in our yard. That's right- I called it the sap tree and to this day have no idea what type of tree it was. But it was great for climbing and, more importantly, making lots of nice sap. Not the super-sticky-never-comes-off-your-hands-white-Christmas-tree sap. But the shiny-golden-bubbles-up-into-beautiful-mounds sap. It's difficult to say exactly what the allure of the sap tree was, but it had me hooked.

Reason to stop in Belmont #2: downtown. There were signs advertising the "historic downtown district" and they did not disappoint. Historic it is. And super cute. With places like "Shirley's Restaurant" and "Belmont Electric Company" and lots of little shops just begging to be wandered in. I refrained from wandering on this particular day, both because I did actually have other things to be doing and because I was without my favorite wandering partner. But we will go back soon and wander, he and I. We will wander all over that cute town.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Frank's Minestrone

It has occurred to me that I write a lot about soup. It has also occurred to me that anyone who actually reads everything I post about soup, might be so interested in soup themselves as to want the recipes. I use the term "recipe" rather loosely here, because I make most soups up as I go and don't measure anything. But I will try to remember and estimate measurements when I can. So, here it is, fresh from Monday night, Frank's* Minestrone:

olive oil
8 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 small yellow onion, diced
5 celery stalks, diced
5 carrots, cut into thin circles

Saute the above ingredients until they start to get soft- probably about 30 minutes. Then add:

3 small zucchini, diced
1 can kidney beans
1 cup frozen corn
3 cups broth or stock (any kind will do)
1 large can of crushed tomatoes (40-50 oz. I think)
1 small can of tomato sauce (6 oz.)

Stir everything up and turn the heat up until it boils. After it reaches a boil, turn the heat back down to low. Add the spices (about 1 teaspoon of each):


Simmer for as long as you can. I like to do about 2 hours. Stir occasionally and add water if it looks too thick. I probably added about 3-4 cups of water during the simmering process. It just depends on how stew-like you want it to be.
30 minutes before you want to eat it, add 1 1/2 cups of dry mini shell pasta. Give the pasta time to cook and then the soup is done. I like to serve it with a nice snow cap of Parmesan cheese on top and some good bread.

I may eventually get around to posting a recipe for last week's corn chowder, but this will have to do for now. Happy soup making!

(Note: tomorrow I will have things to share that have nothing to do with soup. Pinky swear.)

*This soup is named after Frank, our pest control guy. He stops by once a year, so as you can imagine, we're pretty close. He even bought our dehumidifier. Frank happened to be here on Monday when I was making soup and was so enthusiastic about the aroma and the idea of homemade soup that I felt a little sad for him. And then he shared that he'd be eating canned soup for dinner, and I felt a lot sad for him. If the soup had been ready, I'd have sent him home with some.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

sometimes I take the furniture outside

It's true. I have the pictures to prove it. Personally, I think the furniture enjoys it. I mean, who would want to be cooped up in the house all the time? Especially in the fall.

So we go outside, the furniture and I. This past week has been a whirlwind of picture taking and item-posting, but I can finally say that everything in this house that is for sale is also in the shop. Finally.

Making it even more fun to be outside these days is our freshly pressure-washed patio and house. When the sun hits the patio just right in the morning, it's so white that I keep thinking we have snow. We also painted the front porch, so it too is rather shiny and clean. We're gearing up over here. Gearing up for winter and a new year and CHRISTMAS LIGHTS THAT WILL BE GOING UP IN ABOUT 10 DAYS. I can't wait.

After my stock-making day last week, I decided to take a picture before everything went into the freezer. It looks kind of like a class picture. Short kids in the front. And Paul Newman has on his best smile.

Today I'm enjoying the warm and dry in our cozy home. Even though we haven't seen the sun today, it still feels a lot like this picture in here- sunny. I took the picture above last week when I walked into the living room and saw the sun hitting the pillow just right. It was enchanting. It still is. Rain or sun, this house is the happiest place I know.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

fresh out of words and pictures

If you would like to see what I've been up to today, head on over to the shop. I have taken over 300 pictures in an attempt to post all the items I made for last week's craft fair. I have measured everything and written descriptions and, at times, tried to be witty. And I just decided that I cannot muster one more picture or word about any of it, so you'll have to just see it for yourself.

So please do. See the shop, that is. Then let me know what you think.

Monday, November 08, 2010

batten down the hatches

We had our first freeze this weekend, and, as a result, I find myself quickly setting things up for the winter ahead. Even with the chilly temperatures outside, the house seemed cozy and bright with the sun streaming in on our new rug. I am so thankful for winter sunlight.

Steve talked me into getting the soup bowls that I've had my eye on for the past year. In reality, he didn't have to do too much talking. I think he said "We should just buy these" and I said "Really?!? Okay!!"

Of course, we had to immediately come home, wash them, and try them out with the leftover corn chowder. I have to say- they were everything I hoped for and more. And they have handles! I don't know why that seems so important in a soup bowl, but I'm real excited to have something to hang onto while I eat soup this winter.

So obviously, now that I have these amazing bowls, we will need some more soup to go in them. The usual.

Many weeks ago, I had designated this week in my planner as "stock making week" (no, I am not joking), so this morning I took all the supplies out of the freezer and got to work. I also clipped the last of the herbs from the garden to join the party.

The house smelled delicious all day- like roasted chicken and Thanksgiving and parsley- and I am now in possession of a couple gallons of chicken, ham, and shrimp stock. All at my soup-making fingertips.

As I talked and dreamed on the phone with my bff today, we were both trying to put into words our ideal life. We talked about changes to make and things to strive for, but there is one thing that would certainly not change. In my ideal life, I will still be making soup.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

the usual

The craft fair is behind me. Here is a picture of my table. All the pictures I took turned out pretty poorly, so this one is courtesy of Shana, a fellow vendor. Shana is a consultant for thirty-one gifts and was selling all sorts of handy bags and totes.

It is nice to have the fair over and the house back in order. The next big goal is to take pictures of all the items I made for the fair that didn't sell so I can post them in the shop next week.

But there was no picture-taking today. It has been rainy and gray and fairly chilly. I'm wearing layers, and not just because it's cute. So I'm sure you could probably guess what I ended up doing this afternoon, once the errands were run.

The usual. I'm always a little jealous of people on TV and in movies who go into a place and order "the usual". It seems so cool and a little mysterious to have a "usual" and people who know about it.

Then today it hit me. I have a usual. If it is rainy or chilly, I make soup and bread. At least once a week. As often as I can get away with it.

Tonight's menu is corn chowder and biscuits. And when Steve gets home and asks what we're having for dinner, I'll probably just say "the usual".

Monday, November 01, 2010

attention Target team members

100% of the credit for this costume idea goes to my creative husband. Although I did "laminate" our badges with packing tape and hot glue pins to the back of them.

People at the party were so impressed with their authenticity- they were all sure we had borrowed them from someone at Target. All in all, the perfect costume, as it met all of my costume criteria. I had told Steve earlier in the week that I would not: wear a box, paint my face, put anything on my head. I know, I'm the Ebeneezer Scrooge of Halloween.

Saturday found us in the yard, planting 140 bulbs, and no, that was not an extra zero. One hundred forty. We went out last week for "a few more bulbs" and this is what we came home with. You know the family motto for this year: Go big or go home. We're sticking to it.

Before I could start planting the bulbs, I needed to arrange them in groups on the driveway. I like to lay it all out first and decide where everyone is going before I put any in the ground. There is nothing worse than disorganized bulb planting.

The day went about a million times smoother due to this little gem. I will never again try to plant bulbs without a bulb auger and a man who will use it. What a time saver!

Even with the handy power tool, the whole process took about three hours, so I don't even want to THINK about how long it would have taken otherwise. And in case you were thinking that I got off too easy, I did still have to dig a bit in each hole with the trowel and I do have sore arms today. So it wasn't all roses and sunsets.
Today is November and I have a special fondness for the first day of the month. Nothing like a fresh start and 30 new days staring back at you from the calendar. I love a fresh start.


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