Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Art of Simple Goodness

"To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter... to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird's nest or a wildflower in spring - these are some of the rewards of the simple life."
 ~John Burroughs

I've made a genuine effort to eat natural foods.  Good-bye prepackaged treats, artificially sweetened and sugar free snacks.  Hello simple and wholesome and real. 


The other day I came across this wonderfully healthy, easy and metabolism boosting recipe.  "Must try," I thought to myself.  

I'd like to tell you that I'm some sort of gourmet chef and that I constantly dabble with exotic ingredients, because of course, I do not.  But we'll just pretend, ok?  wink~nudge~nudge

Sooo... if you promise to be highly impressed, I promise to share my new obsession. 

The shopping list:
1 avocado
1 slice of bread- you choose.  The crustier the better, in my opinion.
A splash of  sea-salt

Peal and smash a ripe avocado
Toast (or not) a slice of bread
Spread smashed avocado over bread
Splash with sea-salt (my personal favorite)

Red pepper flakes (Yum!- I loved this variation.)
Freshly ground pepper
A drizzle of olive-oil

I'll be lying if I said that this hasn't served as a breakfast, lunch and/or snack throughout this lovely Christmas vacation.  Talk about versatile, healthy and delicious.

And so it was Christmas.

"Christmas is not a time or a season, but a state of mind.  To cherish peace and good will, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas."
~ Calvin Coolidge

Enjoy a few moments of our Christmas celebration.
The Kaufman House, 2011

As you can see, Christmas was merry and bright.

Friday, December 23, 2011

I Blame Her

"Each day comes bearing its own gifts. Untie the ribbons."
~Ruth Ann Schabacker

I'm just going to go ahead and blame this one on my mother.  Without realizing it, she instilled in me the idea that "presentation is everything".  Trust me, I have a lifetime of holidays and birthdays and special occasions to pull from.  

I vividly remember her picking out the perfect wrapping paper and painstakingly choosing the proper ribbons and embellishments. Embellishments--pfft...most people don't go any farther than a stick-on bow.  

Ahh, but then there is my sweet, creative, artistic mother.  Her packages and presents always seemed like they should grace the floor of Santa's workshop or be overflowing from a winter wonderland display at Nordstrom.  

Seriously, we're talking amazing wrapping perfection.  

Perfectly folded corners.  Perfectly tied ribbons.  Perfectly formed bows.  
Perfect color coordination.

I remember her converting our kitchen table into gift-wrap central.  She would wrap and I would sit, watch and talk to her.  So quick and easy she made it appear.  So-- big shocker-- all of her perfection and creativity had me wanting to be just like her. 

Therefore, from a very young age, I wrapped all of my own presents, trying with my clumsy fingers to emulate her crisp folds and perfect knots.  I even purchased my own wrapping supplies in an attempt to keep up with the ever-so-high wrapping standard.

Now I'm kind of a wrapping paper, "presentation is everything" fanatic.  I'll admit that I am completely against gift bags, except for when the gift inside is all wrapped in a coordinating paper.  Sad, very sad, but true.

Also, I have this crazy philosophy about the wrapping being part of the gift.  I believe it says, "I put thought into this.  I went the extra mile to make you feel special."

Most of my wrapping has been finished for awhile now.  However, this afternoon I finished up some last minute details.  I tied the final bow and crisped the last corner.

Welcome, Christmas.  We're officially ready for you.

A Christmas Meal

On Tuesday afternoon I rushed home from school and planted myself in the kitchen, eager to cook, create and set up the perfect inviting atmosphere.  Chad-o and I were hosting a little gathering; a tiny, loving, pre-Christmas dinner party.


How about the early darkness of a December night?  I just love it.  I'll rush to plug in all of the lights, allowing the house to be lit with nothing more than the twinkle of Christmas trees and the glow of candles.  Heaven, I tell you.  Pure Heaven.

The lights were gentle and flickering, the company perfect and the food nourishing.

A simple, semi-homemade menu set the stage:  vegetable/beef soup, fresh salad, homemade bread and brownies with mocha-peppermint ice-cream.  It was warm, comforting, tender and festive.

I must admit that these Santa Clause drinking glasses are one of my favorite holiday decorations.  My mama and I found them in the back of an old, dusty antique store a few summers ago.  Jackpot.  I love wondering about where they lived before and whose holiday celebrations they accessorized.

Naturally, this delightful evening was followed by steaming hot shower and a lovely little napper on the couch.  Thank you, Chad-o, for filling the role of dishwasher and clean-upper.  

Unseasonably Warm

"And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything."
~William Shakespeare

Just a few weeks ago, when it should have been snowing and blowing, we found ourselves jumping on bicycles and hitting the trails.  A far cry from typical December weather, we decided to take advantage of a rather lovely day, bike to one of our favorite little places and indulge in some yummy food at Falls Market-  simple and wonderful goodness.

The bike trail from Confluence to Ohiopyle certainty takes on multiple personalities with each season, yet we continue to befriend her, enjoying her many quirks and idiosyncrasies.  Watching the changes from spring to summer and from autumn to winter have proven humbling, as the power and instinct of nature appears ever so evident.  The bike trail, you see, is one place where the changing seasons remain welcome and necessary.  The trail knows how very important the snow, cold and winter freeze are.  Without them, the beauty of summer isn't possible.  

While I don't do church, for various reasons, I am deeply religious and spiritual.  And this, my friends, is my most favorite church in the world.  Maybe someday I'll go inside, sit at a pew and lose myself in my thoughts.  But, for now, I'm content to stay outside and offer quiet prayers and thanksgivings.  

Soon, soon, soon (fingers crossed), snow will cover this magical landscape, acting as an insulating blanket of white to trees, saplings, rocks and plants alike. 

A Quiet Almost-Christmas Morning

"For centuries men have kept an appointment with Christmas. Christmas means fellowship, feasting, giving and receiving, a time of good cheer, home." 
 ~W.J. Ronald Tucker 

It figures that today, the first day of Christmas vacation, I would be up with the birds.  I'm like that, though.  I enjoy getting up early, especially on days that I don't have to work.  That way, you see, I can relax, sip hot coffee, watch the morning news and relish the idea that I am not accountable to a single person.  The extreme hustle and bustle of my typical work day finds itself in a forgotten corner and I'm permitted the slightly flighty and irresponsible attitude of a regular person.  

So I'm wide awake, taking in the awesome feeling of freedom, which I plan on enjoying for the next 10 days.  
Hallelujah-what a glorious gift.

I'm currently perched on the couch, having just spilled an entire cup of coffee all over me.  Nice one, huh?  But honestly I wasn't all that bothered.  On a typical morning, the kind when I am up and doing school work by 5:00 am, I would have been peeved, running around in crazy, frazzled clean-up mode.  Not today, though.    Today I pushed out my bottom lip, gently sighed, picked up an un-fazed fur child and went to the kitchen for a towel.  Thank you, Christmas Vacation, for the calm and stress-free and non-rush mornings.  I'm very much in love.

Happy Sigh.  So here I sit, surrounded by my twinkle lights and Christmas decorations and the feeling of peace.  It just doesn't get much better.  

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