Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Resolving To Be Up to Something

On Monday my brother did me the favor of asking me what I will be up to in 2009. What a nice way to put it. New Year's Resolutions don't inspire me much. Don't they just sound like things that are born on January 1 and are meant to die sometime before mid-February?  And why rely on the New Year to resolve to do something that you've either always wanted or never wanted to do?

Excited to answer my brother, I followed his lead and listed my priorities for the new year. All of these things are currently in my life, but I eagerly look forward to working towards new and exciting developments in each area.
  • Inner Peace
  • Health (Going to the dentist and the dermatoligst, taking a multivitamin, keeping up with the exercising: maybe this is where I am hiding my resolutions...)
  • My Marriage
  • Family
  • Laughing
  • Blogging! (Writing, Photographing, Crafting, Baking, Cooking, Racing, Designing)
  • Being a Sophisticated Lady
I intend to refer to this list both when I'm on a roll and when I'm in a rut. 

While thinking up this big list, I let my mind race around until it got to the Department of Wildest Dreams. One of my wildest dreams in life is to have my own platform to reach a lot of people. This is probably why I get so excited about this blog, and why I so want it to grow. But what if I had a TV show? That'd be big. Then I looked at my 2009 list and saw it all materialize: If I am on TV I will have to be a svelte, sophisticated lady, with good skin and teeth, a sharp wit, great composure, and a strong support system to get me through the tough shooting schedule. See how it all fits together? Like Magic.

So, lovely readers, what's out there for you in 2009? Or, as the late great Mary Oliver put it, "Tell me, what is is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

Happy New Year to all!


So you missed it? So you want to relive it? So Watt?!

You'll have to wait until the New Year. Photos, videos, and a play-by-play of the So Watt debut should be up by the weekend.

For now I will say that it was a rocking show, and the Brickwall was brimming! Methinks we can squeeze some more dates out of these rock-n-rollas.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Place To Be

Looking for something to do on New Year's Eve's Eve? I know you are, since most of you seem to be vacationing this week. Look no further than the Brickwall, in Asbury Park. The newly formed band So Watt will be making their debut with three (count them three!) sets of hits. 

I love to boogie-down, but the real reason for my enthusiasm is that my brother is the drummer. A drummer as a teenager (and maybe beyond? I was a wee young lass back then), he dusted off his drumsticks early in 2008, and has been working hard as of late to end the year with a bang. (Ba-dum-ching!) 

My other brother, a singer-songwriter, will be sitting in with So Watt for five songs. Some originals, some classic covers. 

I have always been quite content to dance around in appreciation of the musicality of these guys, but judging from the my enthusiasm for the new Rock Band for Wii, I may have to get it on this action. Maybe I will ask my nieces if they want to be in a band with me. We had already discussed forming a dance troupe, so I think they'll be game...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Double Happiness

Great Scot! Santa brought two plaid coats!
I must have been good this year.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Guest Blog: Hanukah

I've been wanting to say a little something about Hanukah, which started on Sunday night, but I was afraid that my post would be completely uninteresting in an encyclopedic kind of way. So asked my favorite expert, my good friend LD, to say a little something for me. Thanks, LD, for your participation, your candid wit, and most of all, your friendship. You are a gem. Happy Hanukah.


A couple of friends have been sending this ecard to me (I won’t get into that).  

I feel the need to share it...


The truth is, if I supplied a wish list for my family, I’d have said just that.


*for those of you may not be familiar with JDate, it's a popular dating site for Jews. Check it out.

Open Call for Ornaments

Turns out that people get really excited about the handcrafted ornaments on their trees. In response to my previous post about my heirloom ornaments, I have learned a lot about yours!

On Sunday my mother-in-law gave me a tour of all the handmade ornaments on her tree. It's a gorgeous tree: it looks like it should be in a magazine, with the deep red garland perfectly sweeping around the limbs, and gold accents that bring out the warm tones in all her ornaments. But the coolest thing about her tree is that even though it looks picture-perfect, it is composed almost entirely of ornaments made by herself, her sister, or her kids. 

She told me that she tried to mark life occassions big and small with needlepoint ornaments. A trip to Cape Cod, the birth of her children, a new home, etc. One of my favorite ornaments was the choo-choo train that said 5:02 -- my father-in-law's train many years ago.  That one really tickled my fancy, though I'm not nearly as excited about my 6:01. I will post some photos as soon as Santa brings me my digital camera!

And my very lovely friend Renu sent me photos of her new husband's old family ornaments. We had lunch yesterday to celebrate the holiday before we visit our families, and she admitted to me that she has a full blown case of Indian-Gone-Christmas right now. For someone who loves thoughtful gifts, beautiful wrapping paper, and festivity in general, it was bound to happen. An update this morning revealed that she was up until 1 a.m. writing Christmas Cards. Here are her new family ornaments.

The bird and pine cone were made by Renu's husband and his mother. You know my mother always says you have to have a bird in your tree for good luck. 

The mailbox was made in 1980 or 1981 by her husband's grandmother. I recognize this style from my mom's tree. A classic.

And this needlepoint stocking is very similar to the one my 
grandmother made for me! This one was made by her husband's godmother.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Take Two: Triumph!

Being unstoppable in the kitchen is good practice for being unstoppable in life.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Melting Down over Melting Cookies

Last night I was supposed to make cookies for my husband to give to various clients and friends. I have probably made these cookies, alone or with my brother, more than 100 times. They are the family recipe of all family recipes. Rice Krispies are what make them special. 

Having just read a crazy article in the Times about how important the treatment of butter is to baking,* I was careful to only use my butter when it reached room temperature, whip it for almost three minutes before adding the sugar, and keep the dough chilled until it was ready to go into the oven. I made a double batch, excited to spread the gospel of the Chocolate Chipper this holiday season.

But the cookies failed. What a terrible feeling, watching them spread farther and farther out, refusing to rise, instead bubbling in an unsavory way. I would swear that I measured everything, especially the baking soda, correctly. It is a reminder of why so many people hate baking. There is no salvaging a failed baked good, you just have to throw it out, take a deep breath, and move on.

My only consolation is that this has happened to my mother and brother (the real champion of this recipe) several times: it's not us, it's the cookies. In fact, it happened to my brother when he first tried to make them for his future in-laws, at their house (no hiding the failure). This after talking them up for an hour. He didn't blink, and threw the dough right out and started over. That's the spirit!

I didn't have it in me to do that last night. I felt too angry and powerless. I didn't even have the husband to complain to, he had already gone to bed. I am hoping to get another batch in the oven tonight. I gotta get back on the horse.

By far the worst part about this whole incident is that there are two pounds of delicious chocolate chip cookie dough in our fridge, and but I can't have any of it because of my sad, lactose rejecting body. It's too bad we don't have any kids: "Please eat all mom's useless cookie dough. She can't bear the sight of it, or the idea of throwing it out!"

Merry Christmas, and good luck to all you bakers!

*That butter article was the most emailed article over the last 24 hours. I guess it really is cookie season!

Sharing Another Poem, with Shout-out

Sometimes I read a poem and feel like it is a secret, special message for me or someone in my life. It's usually the narrator's voice that pulls me in, that makes me feel like there is a piece of myself coexisting in someone else. It sets my insides aflutter in the way few things can.
This one made me think of my sister-in-law. She really loves animals, and not because they are cute, like most people do. I think she really respects them in the way the poet describes. I could almost see her drinking tea (freshly-picked) in her kitchen, looking out the window at her big gorgeous dogs, her wild little kittens, and her horses with their tails swaying. 
She is a really wonderful person, and I miss her. Thank god for the internet.

Returning to Earth
by Jim Harrison
I'm getting very old. If I were a mutt
in dog years I'd be seven, not stray so far.
I am large. Tarpon my age are often large
but they are inescapably fish. A porpoise
my age was the King of New Guinea in 1343.
Perhaps I am the king of my dogs, cats, horses
but I have dropped any notion of explaining
to them why I read so much. To be mysterious
is a prerogative of kingship. I discovered
lately that my subjects do not live a life,
but are life itself. They do not recognize
the pain of the schizophrenia of kingship.
To them I am pretty much a fellow creature.
From The Shape of the Journey: New & Collected Poems. Copper Canyon Press.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

More on those crafty grandmothers of mine

Trimming the Christmas tree really reminds you of who you are. I realize that my urge to make ornaments in genetic. 

Exhibit A: The Felt Ice Skate by Grammy, that you've already seen.

Exhibit B: The Counted Cross Stitch Stocking, by my other grandmother. 
(These are pretty awesome, for all you needlepoint mamas out there.)

Exhibit C: The Clothespin Skier, by Grammy (There were also soldiers in this fashion).

Exhibit D: The Clothespin Reindeer, by Grammy

Exhibit E: Last but certainly not least, the Crocheted and Starched Angel, by Grammy.

Felt Ornaments

Every year I intend to make ornaments as gift add-ons: 2008 is the year I finally succeeded. Martha Stewart is a good place to go for inspiration, but I always end up paging through her magazine or clicking through the website thinking, these projects are far too exacting. Where is the Christmas joy, you know?

Felt ornaments seemed to be Martha's easiest and most rewarding project, but they required printing templates, which, in my book, is inherently lame. Yet I knew I had a bunch of felt in my crafting drawer (yes, I have a crafting drawer! 2 points for the suburbs) leftover from an aborted pillow project (I still think I can make those for far less than $200 --someone let me know if they are interested), so I decided to let my creative cider mull and wait for an idea come to me.

And then it hit me -- letters! Specifically, the initials of the recipients' family names. Low and behold, it turns out I have four B families in my life! That really made things quick and easy. I still have aspirations to make an H, and a couple other letters (maybe a D and some Ws?), but for now, I am just happy to have completed a Christmas Craft. I'm off now to sew a loop in the top so they are ready for hanging. 

And today, while trimming our tree, I was reminded that my very crafty Grammy made some felt ornaments in her day, too. I think replicating these will be something for next year. 

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sharing a Poem

I must be fully recovered from my mood, because this poem is really speaking to me today. 

Six Billion People
by Tom Chandler

And all of you so beautiful
I want to bring you home with me
to sit close on the couch.

My invitation inserted in six billion bottles,
corked with bark from the final forest
and dropped in the ocean of my longing.

We would speak the language of no words,
pass the jug of our drunken joy
at being babies growing into death.

Sometimes, I know, life is stupid, pointless,
beside the point, but here's the point —
maybe we would fall

in love, settle down together,
share the wine, the bills,
the last of the oxygen and the remote.

from Toy Firing Squad (c) Wind Publications, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Let Go or Be Dragged: Day Changers

Though I get the Daily Dharma, and I am a professional guru of inspirational quotations, sometimes I get stuck. I woke up on the wrong side of the bed and haven't quite managed to recover. I am definitely being dragged around by my mood, so I am turning my attention to a way to lose myself in the outer world so my inner world will unlock and let go.

The Daily Dharma didn't do it. The Writer's Almanac was a temporary respite: it's Emily Dickinson's birthday, and the day that William Faulkner accepted his Nobel Prize. Not Bad.

I put on some red lipstick. That goes along way. Getting closer.

My mom joined Facebook! That really had me smiling and chuckling to myself. I thought I was in the clear.

But I still feel a little funky. In the final analysis, I think I just have to grant myself this time to be however I need to be. So I'm not in control. I guess that's where the "Letting Go" part comes in. 

Ah yes, it's all starting to make sense.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Democracy in Action

Every year my mother sends out a Christmas postcard featuring a sepia-toned photo of the entire family. Usually we take the photo in Maine at Thanksgiving, while the family is together. This year, we took the photo at my first big party on Grant & Washington.

We all lined up in the kitchen and on my front stoop. Hilarity ensued. Both locations encouraged cute posing."Stand in front of your spouses! My friends get confused," cried my mother.

So we are lucky, we have an abundance of good photos. I especially love the outside one -- look at those snowflakes! It is a documentation of our first real snowfall. But I think my mom is going to choose the kitchen photo, which works well on a postcard size.

Which one would you pick? Cast your vote in my poll on the right sidebar!

The Finish Line

A quick update on my brother -- he completed the JFK Fifty in one piece, in less than ten hours. Some highlights of the adventure: 
  • The temperature at the start of the race was 19 degrees.
  • As such, all Clif Bars were frozen and inedible, and most runners had icicles hanging off some part of their hair and/or clothing.
  • The race ended at a cemetary. No comment.
Congrats to my brother and his lovely, supportive, tolerant wife.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

To the moon! Or through the woods...

President John F. Kennedy was never one to shy away from challenging the American people. He asked us what we could do for our country, and he asked us to go to the moon. In 1963 he asked Americans to challenge their physical fitness, and in doing so, inspire others to do the same.

This Saturday, for the 45th time, more than 1000 people will line up in Hagerstown, Maryland to run the JFK 50 Miler -- 50 miles on the Appalachian Trail.

One of the first people to cover the distance was the president's brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, in 17 hours. The current record for men's finishers in 5 hours and 46 minutes.

Following the race I will have a first hand account from my brother, who shares the 35th president's boldfaced disregard for what passes as impossible in this world. 

Hope the wind's at your back and the roots keep flat, brother.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hello world!

Dispatches from the corner of Grant & Washington.
More to come...