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