Saturday, December 31, 2011

a trip to the shore

In terms of geographic regions, the northeastern coast of the U.S. is my first love.  It's where I was born and reared (yes, 'reared' because, as my fathers says, "You 'raise' corn; you 'rear' children.").  It is where we return to year after year for vacations.  The woods and the hills and the air - it's all different and comforting.  It reminds me of home.

This year when we headed east for the holidays, we stopped in Maryland to see Grady's uncle and his family.  With unseasonably warm weather on our side, we headed out to Annapolis and then to the Eastern Shore.  Here are some things I love: old houses, brick sidewalks, ocean water.  I realize the Chesapeake isn't exactly ocean and I was even a little confused by the lack of ocean scent on the air or salt in the breeze but it feels like ocean to stand next to the water.

As a child, my imagination almost always took me not to another magical land of a fairy tale, but back in time - usually back in American history.  I would pretend to be a white settler captured by a Native American tribe, or a school teacher in a new colony, or a girl like the American Girl doll Samantha who lived in a lovely Victorian house.

Walking along streets such as these in Annapolis and seeing the beautiful, quirky old buildings sends me straight back to my childhood fantasies of living in a time gone by.  What was life like?  What was happening then?  What did they eat and drink?  How did they live daily life?  To me, places such as this are simply magical.

Along the way I caught a Grady-fish.  I was surprised but happy and he seems pretty alright with the situation as well.  We plan on going on adventures together.

Enjoy the last day of the year, friends!

Friday, December 30, 2011

the sixth day of Christmas

We're home again!  We've been off adventuring and celebrating with family for the past week and finally got to sleep in our own bed again last night.

As we look forward to the New Year, I'll likely be looking back over the past few days and savoring every moment.  I have almost 500 pictures!!!  Insanity - but that's what happens when you leave your camera for anyone to take pictures on (and apologies on some of the blurry photos ... for the above-mentioned reason).

The love.  The family.  The laughter.  It was all such joy.

In the days to come, expect a recap of handmades, views of little towns on the east coast, photos of my family and the recounting of stories.  Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2011

christmas baking

It's really coming!  Christmas will be here (and gone again) before this time next week.  I'll take this as a reminder to savor every last moment of it.  I will also be savoring every last, delicious cookie!

Late last week, Grady was in need of some basic gifts for his co-workers and so I decided that a day of baking was in order.  Above are your classic chocolate chip cookies.

Well, they are actually called "Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies" by America's Test Kitchen, the recipe for which can be found here.  I spent at least 30 minutes looking for what I thought might be the best recipe and according to many people posting on TasteSpotting, the New York Times recipe is actually the best ... but it requires a 24 hour refrigeration before baking and I didn't have that kind of time.  The recipe I chose seemed to be a good runner-up among these food bloggers.

But that's not all by way of cookie making!

A full 50% of my heritage is Norwegian - a fact I am proud of and one that my family acknowledges more than our other 50% (which happens to be German and Irish).  This is likely because my maternal grandparents are both 1st generation Americans and while their spoken Norwegian is a bit rusty by now, they are still very proud to be from that great land.  This is a fact that my family celebrates mostly at Christmas when we eat boiled cod and rice pudding (something that I'm sure will show up here later).

We also enjoy these simple cookies called krumkake.

I received a special press to make these from my grandmother for our wedding but this was the first year I actually set about using it.  My chocolate chip cookie batter made about 20 cookies ... my krumkake batter made about 60, yes, 60 cookies.

Traditionally, we eat the krumkake rolled with whipped cream and sometimes raspberries stuffed inside (although if we were good Norwegians I'm sure they'd be lingonberries).  For Grady's workplace though, the rolled ones are more fragile and make more of a mess and I couldn't send fresh whipped cream with him - so I sent mostly flat cookies.  The fun part about the flat ones is that you can appreciate the beautiful little design on them.

This is the thing about Norwegian cookies (also food, decor, and most else that is "Norwegian" with the exception of knitted garments) - they are very plain.  As a child, chocolate chip cookies were always chosen before the krumkake.  But now I find myself appreciating the simplicity a bit more.  Just butter, sugar and eggs with a pinch of cardamom.

Tomorrow we leave for our annual journey back east so I may not be in this space for the next week or so.  Perhaps a photo or two will make it to these pages over the busy days ahead though!  I hope that we will all be able to drink in the fullness and joy of this time and allow our hearts to celebrate.

O come, O come, Emmanuel.

God with us.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

dinner from a chef

After my most recent trip to the library, I came home with the usual pile of books that can be sorted into 'Food Books' and 'Baby Books.'  {Just to head-off anticipated questions, we're not trying to "start a family" right now ... although of course we are a family even without children but I think you get the meaning I'm getting at, no?}.

On the top of my 'Food Books' pile, was a little audio version of In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan.  I am probably one of the few who is very enthused with the local, clean food movement who has not read the book that preceded this one, The Omnivore's Dilemma.  While I plan to pick it up in the future, I also know plenty of the wrong that he writes about and am already convinced it's not a good thing. 

Enter: In Defense of Food.  This book was intended to be a follow-up to the Dilemma and offer some ideas of where we should go from the point of "lots of bad things are happening in the industrial food world."  Let me just say that I got this audio book simply to entertain me while I was knitting furiously and instead I listened intently and vowed multiple times during the listening to change my lifestyle and tell the whole world!  {When ideas strike me as true I get rather passionate :-)}.

I would beg you to please read this book (traveling for Christmas?  Take it with you!).  I'll try not to make it out to be the most awesome thing ever, but he draws many aspects of food and culture into his writing that I think strike at the core of what needs to change and why and he does so without sounding too much like a crazy "you must eat local, organic and not to is sinful" kind of person.  If you want to hear him give a sort of short summary of the book, watch this video.

All this to say, I became much more highly motivated to make good, real food and enjoy, even savor it!  Thankfully I had checked out another book to help in such a quest: Harvest to Heat.

The pictures are gorgeous - the stories of chefs and farmers are enchanting - the titles of the recipes make your mouth water {they are written by famous chefs, after all} - the foreword is written by Alice Waters.

My highly motivated, Saturday-morning-fresh self picked many of our meals for this week from this book - including last night's supper of "Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Braised Plums and Crumbly Blue Cheese."

Hours after commencing, we enjoyed the product of our (rather significant) labor.  A dish that could have been served  - albeit, not made by me - in some fancy locavore restaurant!    Delicious?  That wouldn't be the exact word I'd choose - an interesting taste experience - would be more like it.

More importantly, it was a meal that reminded me that it is worth it to spend hours cooking from scratch, using foods that are full of nourishment for both body and spirit.  I am by no means a gourmand, but I do enjoy putting effort into something that I can be proud of and that my little two person family can take pleasure in.

What have you been cooking these days?  Any delicious ideas to share?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

a day at home

We've been getting the sniffles around here as of late.  Earlier this week, Grady came down with a full-on cold and so he worked from home for a day.  Work-from-home days are much different than weekend-together days because the former requires that Grady focus on something other than me and our plans for the day while the latter we often spend accomplishing a task list.

Having Grady home for the day rather throws off my normal schedule (hah!  sometimes I have one of those ...) but it is a welcome interruption.  Somehow when he is in the house working I am much more motivated to be "working" beside him.

Of course my work currently entails Christmas knitting and sometimes making dinner {OK, usually making dinner!}.  Even if my loved one is sick, I still love these days side-by-side.  His presence reminds me of the peace and joy that he brings to my life and I can move through my day with more presence.  I am so thankful for this.  Can you tell that I love this man?  Well, I do!

Hoping that you and yours are enjoying some quality time together these days too.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Clam Chowdah!

We did some good eating this weekend!  This is thanks in large part to Grady, who can throw together a meal that tastes (and looks) excellent without hardly thinking about it it seems.  I'd be jealous of this skill except that I benefit so much from it.

Our plan for dinner Saturday was "fish."  Which turned into "fish soup" when we realized we had fish stock in the freezer {homemade - aka I boiled fish heads, which is kinda gross}.  Grady, seeing clams at the fish counter and upon seeing, desiring, decided that Clam Chowder was on the menu.

A can of clams (less mess, less expense, clams didn't have to fly here from the ocean) and a few flourishes later, we had ourselves one delicious bowl of chowdah.  I have gotten in touch with my New England heritage!  Haha.  Maybe a little late since I now live in the Midwest where there is no ocean but, because of my Midwestern-yet-seafood-loving husband, I feel a little bit closer to home.  Of course, I never liked seafood growing up but I do love the ocean!

Ah, yes.  I could just feel the salty wind on my face and hear the crashing waves.  I imagined us sitting together in a little cottage by the sea, cupping our delicious bowls of chowder and keeping warm from the salty, cold air outside.  Too much from a bowl of soup, you say?  Well, perhaps you're right ... or perhaps my imagination will prove a reality someday when we are much older.

It also reminds me of a book that was a childhood favorite - One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey.  A girl live on an island in Maine and goes out one day with her father and little sister on errands, including digging clams.  Many excellent things happen along the way but the last page is the girl in the back of her dad's little boat yelling, "We're going to have ... CLAM CHOWDER FOR LUNCH!"  Or at least my dad always yelled the last part.  Finally, I understand the excitement.

Post-dinner time brought a makeshift "fire," roasted almonds and cuddling on the couch.  It may be cold outside, but I don't mind if it means more candles and soup and cuddling.

Friday, December 9, 2011


Although the cold and I do not get along very well together, I still love snow!  I've been waiting for it to come to remind me that it is actually winter now and Christmas is not too far away.  Last night we got just a dusting ... but it stuck!

Yay! Hello Winter!  {Please be kind}.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Busy and Counting ...

Hello friends!

Sorry for the haphazard blogging this week.  I find myself in the same boat as many bloggers in December - SouleMama puts it very well - in that I have been up to plenty and I can't show you (almost) any.  And perhaps another picture of knitting would bore you to tears?  It's OK if you don't love it as much as I do :-)

So, running the risk of also making you tired of Christmas trees ...

... well, we decorated our tree last night.  Sadly, I'm not sure where my childhood ornaments are {maybe in the same place as the rest of our silverware - but that's another story}, but these little baubles will do for this year.  With every decoration placed and gift finished the Day is drawing closer!

Homemade hot chocolate is delicious (especially when you sneak a little half and half in there)!  Love peppermint hot chocolate?  I do but Grady doesn't ... Noel over at Tibault and Toad has a recipe that looks simply delightful.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

lighting the candles

Before this season of cold and darkness came, I was mentally preparing for it.  I am a sun-lover and a warmth lover and facing the cold is simply not my favorite thing to do.  So, I told myself that I would light more candles.  We have plenty of them around here but I always hesitate to light them because they eventually will burn out and then I'd have to buy new ones.  Silly me, the purpose of candles is to burn and give light - not to simply sit and look pretty.

These evenings (which come so soon after mornings it seems!) I light a few little tea lights on the coffee table when we light up the Christmas tree.  The warm glow of the little lights in this darkness is only enough to sit cozily on the couch by, but sometimes that is enough.

For my spirit, it is enough.

The decorations for Christmas are continuing to make their way back into our home.  These little Norwegian/Scandinavian spites are among my favorite.  They remind me that somehow my ancestors not only survived in that dark, cold place but they had celebrations and created happy little skiers like this one!

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Weekend

A little bit of this and a little bit of that...

 :: casting on for the first of my last two knitted gifts - hoping time is on my side as I am mostly making up the pattern!

:: setting up {another} bookcase.  I don't know why I have no 'after' pictures, but it's a lovely shelf that we're thankful for.

:: Grady getting in the pool.  We celebrated his middle school swim coach this weekend with a not-so-competitive swim meet.

And we got a Christmas tree!  This is the first year that we've gotten one.  Year one we had just gotten married and didn't even think of it really.  Year two we thought it wasn't worth it because we wouldn't be home for Christmas.  Year three we finally got one!  We may only have about 5 ornaments because many of mine are still with my parents (I think) but I think it looks lovely anyway.

Most importantly, the tree is real and the scent of fresh pine pervades our home.  Mmmm, yes!  This is the main reason for me wanting a tree.  It's amazing to me how just the scent changes something in my heart - it tells me more surely than anything that the beloved Christmas time is here and coming.  We will still be going back to my parents' for Christmas this year, but having our own tree {and a fireplace for potential stockings!!!} brings our home into the spirit and the season.

I'm suddenly feeling as though I should be baking many cookies and listening to carols and hosting some kind of Christmas gathering and all the many wonderful things that I did with my family growing up.  I'm sure we will still do some of those things in our own Christmases too but for now, we simply light up the tree and drink our first glass of egg nog.

Friday, December 2, 2011

{this moment}

Random power outage calls for some knitting by candle light


A Friday ritual. A single photo capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember ~ SouleMama.