Wednesday, December 21, 2011

12 Days of Christmas: Take a Knee

Those of you who have children in organized sports: you know the expression, "Take a Knee"?  When a player is hurt, all the other kids stop playing, go down on one knee, and wait quietly until the player gets assistance.  

That action always touches me, whenever I see it.  It's the simple consideration for someone else.  Someone in need, someone hurt.  It's the patient moment and hopeful clapping after the player gets up.  It's a bit of quiet kindness in the middle of the frenetic action.  

In the hustle and bustle of this holiday season, the playing field gets, well...crazy. Too much of everything and not enough time to deal with it all.

Today I went to jam-packed Barnes and Noble to find the new Big Nate book for my third grader.  (Shhh...don't tell him!)  I forgot my coupons and the gentleman (and I use that term loosely,) ringing me up just said "Aww...that's too bad." But there was a woman in line behind me who overheard our conversation.  She said: "I have an extra 20% off coupon.  You're welcome to it." 

That lady took a knee for me today.  Just a little knee, and just for a moment, but it was, as Raymond Carver said so beautifully, "a small, good thing."  So, may I be so bold as to suggest that sometime during the next few days, we all "Take a Knee"?

If you see someone struggling to get the door because they're laden with packages, hold it open for them.  If you see a child having a meltdown because they're being dragged to yet another store, make a funny face to make them laugh.  If your neighbors are older folks and don't get around much these days, maybe they'd like a few of the gingerbread you made?  

xo, my friends.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

12 Days of Christmas: Happy Gingerbread

What does your cookie decorating style say about you? 

Colin's Gingerbread Ninja
Avec Bellybutton

Lucas's Gingerbread Stick Figure

Rae's Gingerbread Classic

Friday, December 16, 2011

12 Days of Christmas: Storytime

Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree by Robert Barry.  

I have read this book to my boys, every single Christmas since they were born.  We have my husband's childhood copy, published in 1963.  Full of wonderful pen and ink drawings, it's all about what happens when "Mr. Willowby's Christmas tree came by special delivery.  Full and fresh and glistening green - The biggest tree he had ever seen," doesn't fit in his foyer.  The top goes to the upstairs maid, then that doesn't fit and the top goes to gardener, then to the bear family, and on and on... It makes me smile every year.

Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

"Whose woods these are, I think I know.  His house is in the village, though;" Everyone knows this poem. I think I know it by heart now, but it never ceases to delight me.  Its rhythm is like a lullaby.

My favorite line:

The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind
And downy flake.

This particular edition (c. 1978) brings to life a Santa-like character as the speaker.  The illustrations are by Susan Jeffers, and done in pencil with great delicacy.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

12 Days of Christmas: Recycled Holiday

My tiny Italian Mom-Mom, Camille, was recycling long before it was de rigeur.  She saved every box, bag, and rubber band.  She used the chicken neck and parmesan rind to make soup, put up jars of green tomatoes, used every odd piece of yarn to crochet little clothes for my dolls, drank from empty jelly jars.  I spent a lot of time with her as a child and in turn, today, I have recycled newspaper to wrap gifts, saved the teeniest bit of leftover pork chop for a makeshift cuban sandwich the next day, used old milk jugs to measure out the water for mixing glaze.

So in honor of my Mom-Mom, here are three holiday DIY ideas that cost little, ask little, but add much!

Potato print wrapping paper.  It's a classic.  Can't paint to save my life, but this craft is a no-brainer.  The kids love making these papers, and it makes a gift extra-special for Nana or Aunt Kee...  Check out the how-tos from Bloesem Kids.

Check out these simple, recycled junk mail snowflakes from  Sweet little tutorial...

From this....


The perfect use for leftover fabric or a vintage dishtowel or even a colorful concert tee from a long-ago band which shall remain nameless. (Hall and Oates, anyone? I'm not proud.)  Click to see how to make some sweet and simple fabric trees.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

12 Days of Christmas: Visions of Sugarplums

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...COOKIES!!!  Those of you who know me, know that I have been known to forgo a regular meal for pretty much ANY kind of homemade cookie.  I love to bake, and making Christmas treats is one of my favorite things to do with my kids and for my family and friends.

I have three DELISH treats that always make it into the rotation.  (And of the family recipes, Aunt Lolly's Lemon Drops, has NEVER been shared with the general public. I love that I'm typing this as if more than three people read this. :)  SO! Caution to the wind:


2 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 c butter (2 sticks)
3/4 c granulated sugar
3/4 c packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 c butterscotch morsels
3/4 c pecans

Preheat oven to 375.  Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.  Beat butter, both sugars, and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy.  Add eggs and beat well.  Gradually beat in flour mixture.  Mix in morsels and pecans.  Drop by tablespoons on ungreased cookie sheets and bake 9 minutes.

Fun Fact: With their warm, caramel-ly smell, these are freakishly addictive. Sometimes a second back-up batch needs to be made...



This recipe is totally loosey goosey, only has 3 ingredients, and no cooking experience necessary!

Nestle Tollhouse Semi-sweet Morsels (Accept no substitutes.)
Chinese noodles
Dry roasted peanuts

Place 1 cup of morsels in a microwave-safe dish.  Microwave on high for 1 minute, then stir.  Repeat until chocolate is smoothly melted.  Add in equal parts of noodles and peanuts, mix gently until coated with chocolate.  Scoop onto wax paper-lined cookie sheets by the tablespoon.  

At this time of year, instead of finagling with the contents of my fridge to make room to chill these l'il suckers, I put them outside on my covered porch for about a half hour.

Fun Fact: my boys call these Moose Poops. :)



1 c butter, room temperature
1 tsp lemon extract
2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 egg
1 c powdered sugar
2 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder

Beat together the butter, lemon extract and lemon zest until creamy.  Combine sugar, flour, salt and baking powder.  Combine butter mixture and flour mixture with electric mixture until smooth.  Cover and place in freezer for an hour.  Heat oven to 350.  Shape into 1 inch balls and place on a greased cookie sheet.  Bake for 12 minutes. Let cool.


1 c powdered sugar
1 tbs soft butter
1 tbs lemon juice

Beat all ingredients together until smooth.  Spread on cooled cookies.  Let icing harden before storing.

These are a little fussy with the chilling et al, but they are my hands-down, no holds-barred FAVORITE cookie of all time!!

Fun Fact: Aunt Lolly was a fabulously stylish flapper in her day, and had the BEST accessories in the whole wide world: beaded handbags and dresses, fur stoles, and satin shoes.  (I still have one of her tiny white beaded clutches from the 20's.)  She couldn't cook "regular" meals to save her life, but was known far and wide to be a wonderful baker.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's eco-Christmas-love: Recycled Holiday.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

12 Days of Christmas: DIY Ornaments

The 12 days of Christmas...let's gooooooo!!!!!  I don't know WHAT'S gotten into me this year.  I think I've been happily stung by the Christmas Jujubee.  Buzz, buzzzzzzzz....
Mod Snowflake Ornament
The tree is up (- a far cry from last year's five days before...)  If you look closely, you'll see we're a little heavy on the Star Wars ornament world.  Most of my ceramic ornaments make it onto someone else's tree.  :)  But we're not afraid of the holiday craft, so maybe we'll try some of these ornament DIY options:
1) Peppermint Star Ornament
1) This peppermint candy star is from, the Queen of All Crafters, Martha.  I know, I know, she irks me, too, sometimes, with her pastel-coplored eggs from her clutch of European chickens and her handspun wool blankets. (Oh, Martha.) But you can't deny it: the gal can't be beat for her fabulous DIY-ness.  This little star is both modern and a throwback at the same time: my favorite combo.  Click here to see how this little star is made.

2) Snowy Balloon Ornament
3) Modern Paper Decorations
2)Another Martha special: this snowy balloon ornament.  Click here for how to make these cuties.  

3) These simple modern paper decorations would look equally fabulous hanging in a window as they would on the tree.  Directions are courtesy of Curbly

4) Yummy Hand-painted Ornaments

4)Mmmmm...these hand-painted ornaments aren't even why do I want to bite into one? I'm often intimidated by painting, but this tutorial courtesy of the interior design blog Apartment Therapy totally seems manageable.  

Stayed tuned for more Holiday Love tomorrow...mmmm...cookies... I might even throw caution to the wind and share my Aunt Lolly's Iced Lemon Drop recipe.  But be warned, they might ruin you for all others...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Piece of Natural Magic

Film by Sophie Windsor Clive.  Music by Nomad Soul.  

It's just a little piece of natural magic....enjoy, smile, put it in your pocket.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Monday, November 21, 2011

Florence + The Orzo Salad

My nose has been to the since the beginning of October, getting ready for two holiday shows. This weekend was the biggest show I've ever done: Crafters' Marketplace in Princeton, NJ.  Other vendors (over 130 of them!) were more than kind and super-generous and I learned more from this weekend than I have in the entire year:  what shows are good, how to efficiently transport your booth, where to source shelving, how to discover all the aspects of Square, etsy tricks, etc. etc.  It was wonderful to talk with customers and share my passion for ceramics with them.  And yes, it was heady that random strangers wanted to part with their hard-earned money for one of my pieces!  It felt, as my friend Jen would say: "A-Maze-Balls."

I wanted to share the weekend's pics:

So today was my first day off in almost 2 months and it was so, so sweet!  I didn't do anything fancy - even better - I did everything decidedly unfancy.

There are now clean clothes in drawers, an empty dishwasher; we have milk, bread and eggs again.  This morning I made pumpkin bread in my son's third grade classroom, happily counted the weekend's earnings, and watched a YouTube video of Florence + The Machine on SNL from this past weekend - a joyful, transformative version of "Shake It Out" with full gospel choir and ridonk sequined dress. Watch it here: Shake It Out - and guaranteed that you're going to wanna shake it out...

For lunch, I SAT DOWN to eat grilled shrimp with Orzo Vegetable Salad ala Ina instead of scarfing down a yogurt (okay, maybe not a yogurt, maybe a handful of Fig Newtons,) standing up.  I actually listened to my sons' after-school chatter instead of pretending to listen and really making a long mental list of what I had to do.

I'm looking forward to being present for the next few days...until my next little show next week. ;)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Why Andy Valued Women Who Are Over Forty Most of All...

I've never put someone else's words on my blog, but, as a woman of a certain age, this just made me smile.  And it reminded me why, we women in particular, should all miss Andy Rooney.  Of course he knew how to properly poke fun at the universe, but he was also wicked smart, had his head screwed on straight, and was way ahead of his time. 

Andy Rooney on Women Over Forty

Andy Rooney says:

As I grow in age, I value women who are over forty most of all. Here are just a few reasons why: A woman over forty will never wake you in the middle of the night to ask, “What are you thinking?” She doesn’t care what you think.

If a woman over forty doesn’t want to watch the game, she doesn’t sit around whining about it. She does something she wants to do. And, it’s usually something more interesting.

A woman over forty knows herself well enough to be assured in who she is, what she is, what she wants and from whom. Few women past the age of forty give a hoot what you might think about her or what she’s doing.

Women over forty are dignified. They seldom have a screaming match with you at the opera or in the middle of an expensive restaurant. Of course, if you deserve it, they won’t hesitate to shoot you, if they think they can get away with it.

Older women are generous with praise, often undeserved. They know what it’s like to be unappreciated.

A woman over forty has the self-assurance to introduce you to her women friends. A younger woman with a man will often ignore even her best friend because she doesn’t trust the guy with other women. Women over forty couldn’t care less if you’re attracted to her friends because she knows her friends won’t betray her.

Women get psychic as they age. You never have to confess your sins to a woman over forty. They always know.

A woman over forty looks good wearing bright red lipstick. This is not true of younger women. Once you get past a wrinkle or two, a woman over forty is far sexier than her younger counterpart.

Older women are forthright and honest. They’ll tell you right off if you are a jerk, if you are acting like one! You don’t ever have to wonder where you stand with her.

Yes, we praise women over forty for a multitude of reasons. Unfortunately, it’s not reciprocal. For every stunning, smart, well-coiffed hot woman of forty-plus, there is a bald, paunchy relic in yellow pants making a fool of himself with some twenty-two-year-old waitress.

Ladies, I apologize.

For all those men who say, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free,” here’s an update for you. Now 80 percent of women are against marriage, why? Because women realize it’s not worth buying an entire pig, just to get a little sausage.