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2013 December

December Intermission

December IntermissionAlthough I seriously doubt that anyone is hanging on my every word (ha!), I wanted to let you know that I’ll be away for a little while. In a few days, we’ll be home with family for the holidays, and I really want to unplug and be present. I may pop in from time to time, but most likely I will be back in January with new photos, new ideas, new projects, and big plans for the new year. I love this time of year so much, and I just want to try doing it a little differently. I hope you all have a fantastic holiday season!! Thank you so much for reading, commenting, and making this year so special!

The Year in Travel

The Year in TravelI’ve kind of been looking forward to writing this post all year. We’ve been so incredibly fortunate to be able to travel so much this year and see so many new places together and with our families. So I just wanted to put together a little lineup of our trips. Hurray! We rang in 2013 in Nashville with Eric’s family.

The Year in TravelAnd we also spent time with my family in Memphis and got to meet this sweet girl, who is now walking and talking!

The Year in TravelI think February was the only month this year when we didn’t travel. I ran this past Eric, and he laughed and said it was because of a huge proposal he had due that month. Oh, right. In March we went up to Ventura for a little romantical getaway. We loved it.

The Year in TravelApril was a big fun month for travel. We went up to Fresno for the wedding of two dear friends…

The Year in Travelswung up to Monterey for a conference for Eric…

The Year in Traveland then went up to Berkeley for the weekend, on a whim!

The Year in TravelA few weeks later, I flew back up to the Bay area to spend a week with my parents.

The Year in TravelIn May we went to Oberlin for my college reunion, and I got to show Eric around Cleveland.

The Year in TravelIn June Eric’s mom came to see us and accompany us to Palomar and San Diego.

The Year in TravelJune also took us to Big Bear Lake for our anniversary weekend.

The Year in TravelIn July Eric’s dad came with us to Palomar and San Diego.

The Year in TravelIn August I went to meet my parents in Seattle for their vacation because I am very good at inviting myself to things.

The Year in TravelIn September we had the amazing opportunity to go to Santorini…

The Year in Traveland Athens!

The Year in TravelIn October I went up to Oakland with Hillary and the girls.

The Year in TravelIn November we took a quick trip up to Santa Barbara.

The Year in TravelAnd we got to explore Santa Fe, Los Alamos, and Albuquerque.

This week we’re heading to the farm to celebrate Christmas with Eric’s family, and stopping off for a weekend in St. Louis to see my family, so that will perfectly round out our year of travel. One of our favorite lines from Tennyson is “I am a part of all that I have met,” and that is certainly true. But all that I have met is also a part of me, and I am so grateful for that.

Cross-Stitching and Reading

Cross-Stitching and ReadingI am not actually talented enough to do both of those things at once (unless you count listening to War and Peace on my iPod as reading), but these are a few of the things I’ve been up to lately. I bought this cross-stitch sampler in January as part of a goal to try some new crafts (why yes, I am already excited about the ones I am going to try next year!) It was on sale, so I got it, even though it was by far the most ambitious cross-stitch project I’d ever even thought about trying, and there was a good chance that it might be just totally out of my league. I am really happy to say that it is going really well so far, and I won’t even mind if I don’t finish it until 2017.

I am finally reading Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall after putting it on my Kindle for our Greece trip in September. I have mixed feelings about it, but I’m trying to keep the jury out until I’ve finished it. It’s strange to read a historical novel in the present tense, but I think my main qualm so far is that the style is a bit too modern and choppy for me. I am a nineteenth-century psychological novel kind of girl, dyed in the wool. But there are some lovely turns of phrase, and I am hoping I will like it more as I go.

Cross-Stitching and ReadingThis is what the cross-stitch will look like when it is finished: an ode to two of my favorite things! What are you working on and reading lately?

Breakfast at the Ath

Breakfast at the AthThe holiday season is a really special one at the Ath, and Eric and I always try to go to their special holiday breakfast in December. It’s a rare treat to go out to breakfast on a weekday, and the spread at the Ath never disappoints.

Breakfast at the AthBreakfast is served from 7-9, and you have to make reservations. Last year, the only one we could get was at 7:30. This year, we went at 8:30. Much better!

Breakfast at the AthAnd this year I got a shot of the Nutcrackers that line the molding of one of the dining rooms. I love them!

Breakfast at the AthThe gingerbread house had some Russian elements this year, which made me smile.

Breakfast at the AthAnd, of course, the enormous and lovely Christmas tree. I love that we have this little tradition. Just for fun, here is last year. Happy holidays!

One Little Word: September

One Little WordSeptember in December! Sometimes the prompts for my One Little Word class take me a while to get together, but I am always happy to have done them. This month’s was to have someone interview you about your word. I chose Eric, since he knows me better than just about anybody. I have to say, I was totally astounded by his answers. Here is further proof that I married a man so thoughtful and wise and kind that I’ll just never plumb the depths of it. I am so grateful for him.

One Little WordThere was a simple template for this interview, which I used, but I wanted to transfer it onto some prettier paper for my album. I made a little pocket on the back of this page, though, for keeping the original interview sheet.

One Little WordI used my new corner rounder (thanks, Hillary!!) to make the edges pretty.

One Little WordI told you–he’s amazing. This was such an encouraging experience for me.

One Little WordThis was a particularly beautiful suggestion.

One Little WordIn addition to the interview, there was some space for me to respond.

One Little WordAnd these were some of my thoughts looking back and looking forward. Sorry for the cut-off–some of it is really personal! I had such a positive experience with this exercise, and I would totally recommend it to everyone. Talk to someone who you love and trust about your goals. You might be amazed at the ways in which they see you moving forward with them, ways you never noticed yourself.

A Little San Francisco Map

San Francisco PuzzleI don’t know whose idea it was, in 1979, to make cute little square-shaped puzzles of the Bay area, but I love them for it. I found this gem at the Depot for a song. I think it was fifty cents. But I have gotten far more than fifty cents’ worth of pleasure out of it!

San Francisco PuzzleI put it together last week, locking the freeways and bridges into each other one by one.

San Francisco PuzzleTa da!

San Francisco PuzzleI trimmed a piece of cardboard and glued the puzzle on to create a bit of a mount and mat. Thankfully, the pieces held together really well. I’m planning to hang it in our living room from this little black ribbon.

San Francisco PuzzleI love these little inlays. And that old school font.

San Francisco PuzzleIs there anything better than a vintage map? In puzzle form?! I don’t think so.

Jewel Tone Wooden Christmas Ornaments

Jewel Tone Christmas OrnamentsSigh, I am in love with these ornaments. Bright colors, lots of shimmer: what’s not to love?

Jewel Tone Christmas OrnamentsBut I love them even more because I bought them for nine cents in January. That’s right: nine cents.

Jewel Tone Christmas OrnamentsI got this pretty stash of acrylic inks at the Depot in October, and I thought they would be perfect for this project because they would soak into the wood nicely.

Jewel Tone Christmas OrnamentsI painted the whole surface of the ornaments, but I had plans for the higher ridges.

Jewel Tone Christmas OrnamentsI also got these pretty glimmer mists at the Depot, and I used them to give some shine to the top ridges.

Jewel Tone Christmas OrnamentsInstead of spraying the mists, I poured a little bit of each out into my paint tray. I layered it on thick, and I love how it created this antique look around the edges.

Jewel Tone Christmas OrnamentsI painted the tops with gold and silver acrylic paint. I was thinking of adding some glitter around the edges, but I ended up deciding that they looked perfect already.

Jewel Tone Christmas OrnamentsIt’s harder to see the shimmer on some of them, but if the light catches it right, it glows. I’m so glad I remembered I had these stashed away in the closet!

A Few Funnies

FunnySometimes I get so focused on the projects I’m working on that the funny little moments of everyday life somehow get passed over in my (sprawling) Picasa files. But these two are too good not to share. I asked Eric to pick up a few things from the store, and he also came home with these two things, saying, “This is what happens when I shop hungry.” I laughed. For a long time.

FunnyAnd then there was this one, which we took outside Williams-Sonoma when my dad was in town. Every year they put up these slightly menacing signs, so I thought they needed an equally menacing model to reinforce the point. I love that Eric keeps me laughing all the time.

Roasted Winter Vegetable Pasta

SquashEric and I totally ganked this recipe from Heidi’s list of vegetarian Thanksgiving ideas. She’s the one who introduced me to delicata squash, and I’m never going back: there is no easier winter squash to chop (all other behemoth squashes are handled by Eric, while I nervously hover). Anyway, this is a hearty and filling winter dish with just the right amount of garlicky tang. I didn’t garlicky was technically a word, but spellcheck isn’t correcting it, so…huzzah!

SquashYou start by roasting the squash with some shallots and garlic. Next time I think I will toss in some little potatoes too. And maybe some chopped brussels sprouts. I like to live on the edge.

KaleThe kale also gets a few minutes of roasting, to make it nice and crunchy.

Acini de pepeHeidi’s recipe calls for orzo, but I couldn’t find any at our all-purpose store, so I got these little guys: acini de pepe. The name means peppercorns, and they do like tiny pellets when uncooked. As you can see, they cook up to about the size of Israeli couscous, which would also be really good here.

SquashA garlic yogurt sauce ties the dish together, but if you don’t like garlic, I think lemon would be delicious too. This recipe is a template, in the best possible way, and I think that’s the way Heidi intended it. Make it your own, and enjoy!

Roasted Winter Vegetable Pasta
Lightly adapted from 101 Cookbooks

Serves 4-6

1 medium delicata squash, seeded & sliced 1/3-inch thick
3 shallots, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil or melted clarified butter
fine grain sea salt
4 medium cloves garlic, peel on

12 kale leaves, washed & dried well, de-stemmed & cut into 3-inch strips

1 1/2 cups / 9 ounces uncooked orzo pasta (or acini de pepe or Israeli couscous)
1/2 cup / 120 ml plain yogurt

For serving: slivered scallions, fresh oregano, toasted nuts or seeds

-Preheat the oven to 400F / 205C with racks arranged in the top and bottom thirds. Line two baking sheets with parchment. You’re going to roast the squash, shallots, and garlic on one sheet, and the kale on another.
-Prep the delicata squash, and toss it in a large bowl with the shallots, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and a big pinch of salt. Arrange in a single layer on one of the baking sheets, add the garlic and place on the bottom rack, for about 30 minutes. Spin once or twice along the way to get even roasting – let it all get deeply golden.
-After the squash is in the oven, use the same bowl to toss the kale with another splash of olive, and pinch of salt. Arrange the leaves on the other baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, or until you get a touch of browning, but the leaves are primarily still green. Set aside.
-Get the pasta water boiling, salt well, and cook the orzo pasta. Drain and use quickly (warm) OR (if you won’t be serving for a while) run under cold water, and toss with a tiny splash of olive oil.
-For the dressing, extract the roasted garlic from its peel, and mash it with a bit of the yogurt and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. Work in the rest of the yogurt, taste, and add more salt if needed.
-When you’re ready to serve, toss the orzo, and roasted vegetables with about half of the yogurt. Turn out onto a platter and sprinkle with scallions, oregano, and seeds/nuts. Serve the remaining yogurt to the side.


December 2013 Goals

December GoalsI’m keeping it pretty light and simple this month, with celebrating with family being my major goal. We’ll be meeting my parents and my little brother for a whirlwind Christmas weekend in St. Louis before heading up to the farm for Christmas and New Years. I am so excited about both of them! I really hope that at some point there will be some snow, but if not, I won’t hold that against myself. Ha! I would really like to get a bit of Project Life done before we leave, but I’m flexible about how much. If I’m feeling really ambitious, I’ll order photos for the next couple of months. That would be awesome.

How about you? Are you working on lots of projects in December? Or mostly hanging out by the fireplace with a hot chocolate? (Mmmm!) I think I’m clearly in the latter camp, as I’m still catching up from the long weekend, but I guess that’s what long weekends are for. November goals are updated here, and I’ll be back in January to report on all my adventures. (Just for fun, here are last year’s goals. Ha! Still haven’t made that recipe index!)

Update, March 2014: Now I am back to update my secret pregnant lady goals! I honestly can’t remember if I did any Project Life or not. December was really a blur, the worst of the pregnancy sickness. So that made it nice to have some distraction. We had so much fun with my family in St. Louis, and then we had a very relaxing time at the farm. It was bitterly cold the whole time we were there, but we didn’t get any snow! Well, not until the night before we left. We had a bit of a harrowing drive to the airport, but no snowball fights. I know people all over the country have had more snow than they can handle, though, so I guess it all pans out in the end. In any case, I think I’ll always feel a little sad remembering this time in my life. I was so sick every day, and that takes an emotional toll as well as a physical one. But what I see here is me trying my best, me clinging to things to look forward to, me searching for the positive things to bring me through. Me having grace with myself, me understanding the limitations of my body, me taking it easy on myself. And that is something I am proud of.

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