Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Nature Decorates

"Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories."
~An Affair to Remember

Taking down the Christmas decorations always saddens me.
As I safely tuck away the remnants of another holiday season, I pause to reflect upon the new, happy memories and the old, well worn traditions. I'm sad to see my favorite ornaments and decorations hibernate for another year, but I'm glad to know that they will emerge again, rekindling all the same feelings of excitement and childish merriment.

As I'm preparing to undecorate, I can't help but thank Mother Nature for her kindness and sympathy. It's almost as if she's helping me along this "letting go of Christmas" rut.

Maybe I'm crazy, but there's something about the apples in my neighbor's lawn that remind me of Santa hats.

Do you see it, too? (grin)

White Dishes and Vanilla Fabric

"There are no great things,
only small things with great love.
Happy are those."
-Mother Teresa

For quite some time, I've had my eye on a set of plain, bright white Martha Stewart dishes. There was something about their plainness that made them extra beautiful and I found myself convinced that they would be the perfect little addition to la casa de 403.

I'll admit that I jumped for joy, did a little dance and even squealed with delight when I found a set perched under my mama and papa's Christmas tree.
Bright white dishes- the answer to my domestic prayers.

Therefore, it seems rather strange that I detest white fabric.
White wedding dresses- no thanks.
White t-shirts- always look dirty.
White pants- too delicate.

I'll take vanilla, thank you very much.
Winter White.
Yes, I'll take all of the above.

Therefore, the other day, the very same day that I gazed in awe at my bright white, pristine dishes, I took a bright white, pristine fabric and dunked it in a bath of tea.

Much better.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Finishing Touches

"I'm the type who'd be happy not going anywhere as long as I was sure I knew exactly what was happening at the places I wasn't going to. I'm the type who'd like to sit home and watch every party that I'm invited to on a monitor in my bedroom."
~Andy Warhol

I wish you could be here now. The puppy is curled in the corner of the couch, chili simmers on the stove, Rice Krispie treats are made and candles gently flicker throughout the house.

I'm pretty content, at the moment, tucked away under a warm afghan, with my feet wrapped in a most fluffy pair of new Christmas socks.

For the most part, we've been extremely busy around here. Chad-o, in all his masculine wonder, kindly assembled my new desk. I give him major credit. Just looking at all the pieces made me dizzy. He, however, proved a different story. Without one complaint or even a hint of frustration, he put together my little desk, and made me one very happy girl.

I'm so pleased. I actually wish I had work to do, or piles of papers to check. But, since I don't, I'll allow myself to sit back, relax, sip tea and dream.

See that sturdy, wooden chair? It was a gift to my dad from my Nana, some thirty years ago, when he first opened his dental office. I love that. Sentimental value.

As for the rest of what you see here, there's plenty of more meaning. It's an ultra necessary ingredient in my decorating scheme. I enjoy when there's more than meets the eye. Think of it as a story told through stuff.

So, my darlings, welcome to my office.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

"Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Let your heart be light
From now on,
Our troubles will be out of sight."

Here's wishing you and yours a very merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

"And the angel said unto them,
Fear not: Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy
which will be to all people,
Unto you is born this day a Saviour which is Christ the Lord."
Luke 2:1

Have a most magical holiday!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sweet, Frosted Creativity

"It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty founder was a child himself."
~Charles Dickens

I'm quite certain that my 6th graders will never forget today. I won't either, as watching them create, design and problem solve proved a true joy.

Combine some empty milk cartons, an unending supply of sugary treats, a couple hundred sugar cones, a few tons of icing and a bunch of eager 11 year olds and you end up with an eventful afternoon. Trust me.

They had messy fingers, but clean work spaces.
They were full of excitement, but followed the rules.
They discussed ideas, but cooperated on final decisions.

As a teacher, I monitored but did not offer advice.
This was their day, their time to shine.

And the results?
Adorable. Clever. Interesting.

Successful Recycling

"Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients
of a truly merry Christmas."
~Peg Bracken

I've always found sincere enjoyment in wrapping packages and making them pretty. I like to think of it as part of the present- a little extra- an added bonus.

What is it about an elegant package that ignites a supreme sense of excitement? Is it the paper?Perhaps the ribbon? Maybe the nifty tie-on ornament? I know how I feel when I see my name scrawled upon the tag of a gift wrap masterpiece. I get all jittery and mind races to figure out what could hide under such a snazzy exterior.
Ohh~ the suspense!

This year, as I planned my wrapping paper artistry, I made a choice. Rather than purchase all new wrapping paper and accessorizing supplies, I decided to use up what I already had. Honestly, "making do" filled me with an intense sense of gratification and Eco-friendliness . Maybe next year I'll opt for new paper and ribbon, but this year I'm enjoying the idea of being environmentally responsible, if not a bit hodge-podge.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Childhood Christmases

"Christmas is the keeping-place for memories of our innocence."
~Joan Mills

For me, Christmastime always evokes old feelings of childhood magic. In the quiet corners of my mind I can still perfectly picture my childhood Christmases. Actually,It's almost spooky; I can see the people, hear the sounds and smell the festive cheer.

It's a bit sad that at a rather young age, Christmas- the way I remember it, has ended. I've never been keen on change.

But, I'm learning.
I'm slowly realizing that things can't stay the same forever.
I'm beginning to understand that change doesn't mark the end, but rather, the next step and a fresh start.

I do love to travel down memory lane, though.
I love to visit the place where I can smell my grandfather's glass of Pepsi and whiskey, and catch the faint, gentle scent of Oil of Olay on my grandmother's skin.

There's something ultra comforting about still hearing the deep chuckles and holiday greetings of people who've passed on. I can still picture the stomping of boots and the lines of warm hugs and firm handshakes.

But, you'll have to excuse me. Just writing this post has me sobbing, something I rarely do.

I think these thoughts, these memories and these special moments are best kept to me-- safely tucked away in the most secure nooks and crannies of my heart.

If you can, please, do me one favor this year. At some point, during your holiday celebration, take a moment when everyone else is lost in the festivities and going about their normal Christmas routine, and concentrate...concentrate really hard. Freeze the moment. Take it all in.

And, above all, make sure you never forget.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Winter Wonderland

"Sleigh bells ring. Are you listening?
In the lane, snow is glistening."

Meet Polly.

I have this strange fascination with naming random things. I've named quite a few objects in the neighborhood, and if you've been reading this blog for awhile, you've already met Terrance.

It just so happens that this morning, Polly, the perfectly shaped pine tree who calls our front yard home, sparkled under a blanket of sugary snow. I couldn't refrain from capturing her in her magical winter outfit, as she looked so happy and darling.

It's the simple things, people-- the simple things.

Holiday Greetings

"May the spirit of Christmas bring you peace,
The gladness of Christmas give you hope,
The warmth of Christmas grant you love."
~Author Unknown

I've finally finished the Christmas cards.

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

White Christmas Happiness

"I'm dreaming of a white Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know
Where the treetops glisten
and children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow."
~Irving Berlin

Last school year, I treated myself to coffee on Thursday and Friday mornings. It served as a little "congrats to me" for making it through another week of work. Although I'm not sure why, I decided that this year, coffee would fill a critical role in my daily morning routine...every morning...Monday-Friday. Yep- totally critical. And, quite possibly, totally necessary.

Therefore, I found myself pleasantly surprised yesterday morning when I went to refill and reheat my cup of high-test energy. Sitting so nicely, all decked out in a shroud of festive wonder, rested a large tin of sweet and salty deliciousness.

I'm thankful this sweet treat was perched in a public place and meant for the entire middle school staff. Otherwise, it's quite possible, that I would have stood at the counter and imbibed every last morsel.

How on Earth can one resist the temptation of M&Ms, especially when they're decked out in their yuletide garb?

Well, I'll be honest. I can't. I found the maker of this amazing concoction and requested the recipe. Today I returned to Kitchen 403, donned my apron and got to work.

This is my kind of recipe.

Kinda healthy, a little sweet, a little salty, really easy, minimal clean-up.

2 pkgs. of vanilla chips
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 pkg. mini pretzels
5 cups Cheerios
5 cups Corn Checks
2 cups Salted Peanuts (I used about 1/2 cup)
1 pound M&Ms
In a large bowl, mix the five dry ingredients and set aside.

Then, melt the vanilla chips until they are ooey-gooey .

Finally, drizzle the melted wonder over the cereal mix, carefully tossing to coat all the pieces evenly.

I'll be honest, this "White Christmas Party Mix" is highly addictive. It's the perfect grab-and-go snack for this ultra busy, hustle and bustle, holiday season.

Eat and be Merry.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Secret Santa

"It is the personal thoughtfulness, the warm human awareness, the reaching out of the self to one's fellow man, that makes giving worthy of the Christmas spirit."
~ Isabel Currier

Yesterday, Kitchen 862 was filled with activity and sweetness. I like to think that it resembled a little Christmas bake shoppe, one of magic and wonder and warmth, tucked away on a bustling street at the North Pole.

In this little sweet shoppe, my mama and I busied ourselves with making treats and goodies for our most favorite dearies. This year, we tried some new ideas and came up with a few new concoctions.

And, just so you know, these yummies earned a blue ribbon from our favorite Elf, Millie.

Next year, it's very possible that we may go corporate.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Twinkle Lights

"Christmas is most truly Christmas when we celebrate it by giving the light of love to those who need it most."
~Ruth Carter Stapleton

403's Agenda: Make steaming mugs of cocoa, top with fluffy, gooey marshmallows and bask in the glow of the twinkle lights.

Relax. Talk. Be together.

Hope yours is cozy, too.

Bells are Ringin, Children Singin'

"All is merry and bright,
Hang your stockings and say your prayers,
Cause Santa Clause comes tonight!"

Ahh...snow. Lots and lots of freshly fallen snow.

There's something about the snow that really lifts my spirits. Most people find it despicable; I however, find it comforting and cozy. Today's snow brings me extra happiness- it's the glittery kind. The kind that sparkles and shimmers in the bright winter sun.

Yesterday was the first actual snow of the season, but I was too busy trying to trick my immune system into feeling better that I didn't take any photographs. I'm making up for that today. Promise.

I managed to snap this one this morning. The tiny holly bush under a blanket of white just shouted, "Christmas." And that got me thinking about Christmas music and how much I love those silly songs.

Sparkles and Pawsteps

"Winter came down to our home one night
Quietly pirouetting in on silvery-toed slippers of snow,
And we, we were children once again."
~Bill Morgan, Jr

This morning, our little one braved the elements.

Yesterday, you see, she was a bit scared of the snow; not too sure if she trusted herself to venture out into the white, blustery abyss. I suppose being a five pound ball of fur and cuteness can present a whole set of new and daunting challenges.

Today, however, was a different story.

With her head held high and tail proudly wagging, she scooted out the door like a champ. Go Charlie, go!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

This, That and Finishing Touches

"To keep the heart unwrinkled,
to be hopeful, kindly, cheerful, reverent,
that is to triumph."

-Amos Bronson Alcott

I'm a bit under the weather. Actually, I'm trying the whole "mind over matter" routine, but so far it's only mildly working. This little germ kicked into gear on Thursday, was in full swing yesterday and has managed to completely attack my sinuses today.

More than anything I want to close my tired, burning eyes, climb under a fuzzy blanket and drift off while Little Peep snoozes on my feet. But, alas, I continue to forge ahead, refusing to give into the rest my body so desperately craves. I have an ulterior motive here. Honestly. I do.

My plan-- and there does exist some method to my madness-- is to tackle odds and ends until my body can take no more. Then, I shall give in, collapse, and sleep ultra soundly until whenever I darn well please. Genius, right? I thought so, too.

Therefore, today has been a busy one, full of soup making, piles of ironing, odds and ends, coughing spells, sniffles, and a bit of knitting. I had a few finishing touches to put on some of my little Christmas creations.

Then, out of thin air, an idea came to me.

Blocking! Did you ever hear of it?

Me either--really. Until recently, I was sadly unaware of how wonderfully necessary blocking is to the knitting world. Consider me born again.

I can't even begin to comprehend knitting without blocking. Blocking is a technique often used by knitters to reshape or resize a project. It generally involves using water or steam to coax a piece into the desired look or shape. Honestly, I was kinda afraid to try it. I pictured all of my hard work being ruined or disfigured. Thankfully, in my sickly state, I decided to give it a try.

Now I'm hooked. I heart blocking. Maybe this sickness has shown me some sort of light. Either that, or it has quite possibly warped my mind.

Probably the latter. (sniffle, sniffle, cough)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Little Reminders

"Never be afraid to sit awhile and think."
~Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun

I find that God tucks little reminders in the craziest of places.

Tonight as I was knitting and counting and slipping stitches, the rhythmic flow of moving my fingers reminded me of praying a rosary. I'm not Catholic, but for whatever reason, this small motion really had me thinking.

It also reminded me of a short story that I read with my sixth graders. Although I can't recall the title, the story tells of a time when paper and ink existed only for the most high of aristocratic peoples. Therefore, in order to record and pass along important family stories and events, knots were tied onto a series of ropes. The knots, their spacing and their locations on the rope held significant meaning, as they signaled specific details of life.


Before I knew it, I was looking at each stitch with a new appreciation. Each stitch held a memory, a thankful thought, a gentle prayer.

Needless to say, tonight's knitting took a bit longer than usual (grin).

A Work in Progress

"Our modern society is engaged in polishing and decorating the cage in which man is kept imprisoned."
~Swami Nirmalananda

I started planning this room long, long ago. Well, at any rate, it sure appears that way.

Slowly but surely, bit by bit, it's coming together.

Although my beloved desk still needs assembled and the general look requires a bit of polishing, my little office is growing into the image I've held tucked away in my creative corner-- a bit natural, a bit modern, and very clutter free.

For now, I'm just giving you this sneak peak, but be sure to come back soon. I'll be unveiling my baby piece by piece.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


The manner of giving is worth more than the gift.
~Pierre Corneille

Somewhere along the way I've lost my appetite for big, fancy things. Give me a set of knitting needles, a good book, or just a few hours all to myself and I'm quite the happy girl. Show me a box of old photos or a scrap bag of yarn and I can occupy myself for days.

As I prepare for the upcoming Christmas festivities I can't help but to let my love of simple things take over my gift giving. If I could have it my way, gift giving would once again become meaningful. I'm really big on that-- meaningful gift giving.

I'm so deeply saddened by the pre-made gift baskets at department stores and the on-line ordering of goodies such as cookies and muffins. In my opinion, that just turns gift giving into a chore, something we quickly click on and order between phone calls and dinner preparations and car-pool drop-offs.

In some ways, I wish gift giving would return to the days of old-- back when people wished and hoped and waited for something special.

So, here at 403, we're going back to basics.

I've been busy making little treats for the people I most care about. Monetarily speaking, these presents aren't much. But, they're from the heart and crafted with an abundance of TLC.

I'm not quite finished, but I have an entire drawer full of goodies and treats and little odds and ends. All fingers are crossed that I finish in time...(grin).

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tree of Thanks

"Grace isn't a little prayer you chant before receiving a meal.
It's a way to live."
~Attributed to Jacqueline Winspear

I'm really enjoying this festive Thanskgiving tree and the memories it holds.

Notice the cute little Pilgrims and Native Americans?

My crafty mama made them for my 4th grade Social Studies project. Yep, she did such a great job that I received an A+ and had "my work" displayed in a drugstore window.

I thoroughly enjoy recycling such nostalgic treasures and seeing these cute figurines perched among the branches. All these years later, I still remember her working away on their intricate outfits, while Dad watched Sunday football and I painted the cardboard background.

Ironically, she and my dad came over the other night while I was decorating and unwrapping these pieces of my past. I really enjoy when they stop over, especially when they bring me coffee and soup.

I'm thankful for landing such great parents.

And, I'm thankful for landing such a great life.

I have it good, and I'm beyond blessed.

Thanks, Life. I'll continue working hard to keep up my end of the bargain.

Weekly Bread: Gingerbread-Pumpkin

"Bread baking is one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony.
It leaves you filled with one of the world's sweetest smells.
There is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, and no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel, that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread."
~M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating

I like to think of cooking as an art.

If one really took the time to ponder the idea, it appears perfectly logical that cooking should fall into such a highly respected category. After all, one must visualize the dish, plan or sketch the recipe, gather necessary ingredients, and construct the masterpiece; while continually evaluating, monitoring, and tweaking flavor, temperature and measurements.

I dream of the day when I can whip up mouth-watering meals that not only taste delicious, but leave the house smelling warm and wonderful.

Someday. Maybe. Fingers crossed.

Until that day comes, I'll continue stalking some of my favorite cooking web-sites and putting a CK twist on the goodies that catch my eye.

For the past few weeks I've been dying to try this recipe. I have a love affair with gingersnaps, and a slightly disturbing infatuation with autumn. Therefore, as one can probably imagine, this delightful concoction had my heart racing--soaring--skipping beats.

I gave in. I could no longer resist.

Did I mention I'm also on a bit of a health kick?

Well, I am.

Farewell cup of vegetable oil and white all-purpose flour.

Hello applesauce and whole grain flour and cage-free eggs.

mmm...warm, savory, autumn goodness...

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