I'm having a hard time being content lately. Last year about this time, I plunged into a pretty deep funk that didn't go away for several months. I'm afraid of that happening again, so I'm very aware of my moods and am trying to do what I can to ward off gloom.
Most of the time, it's just a change of attitude that does the trick.
On Saturday night, I fought a blue mood with some intense house cleaning and a date with husband.
Today, I'm coping with caffeine (only 12 oz a day is my rule) and a change of location: a bright and bustling coffee shop.
But rather than try to distract, perhaps I should embrace the cold, the gray skies, the coats. It seems like every other time of the year has a "theme" we can look forward to- flowers in April, strawberries in May, sundresses in June, picnics in July, canning and cooking in August, harvest in September, October, November. Christmas in December.
Deprivation and fitness from January-March?
No no, this is supposed to be a positive post. Ok. go.
So here we go: Things to appreciate about Winter months. January, February, March.
I started in mid November. I remember it was that early because I bought Christmas fabric from Hancock Fabric's Veteran's Day sale. I made more than 30 fabric Christmas bags. I made new wreathes. I baked a ton ton ton of cookies. I organized events for my extended family. We had two Christmas trees. I took off work one day to watch every Christmas film known to man.
This year, I knew I'd have to pare down.
We had a tree, we tried to do some activities in an advent calendar. We saw a Christmas play. I watched a Christmas movie or two.
We made some cookies. The things I thought I'd pare back on (baking cookies, crafting) ended up getting done because I enjoy doing them.
I went to Leftovers, this shop that takes crap you want to throw out and displays it as a giant supplies shop. I bought a big bag of white and red ornaments and made a wreath out of them. I made simple cards to send to people. Chris and I cut out snowflakes.
Despite the craziness that came with launching a website, a new baby in the family and being there for people going through a difficult time in their lives, I found time for the things I love. Making gingerbread houses with the fam. Creating food and gifts. Sewing. Stuff that makes me happy.
We had a wonderful Christmas. You know? I think I had the same amount of fun as last year - even though I wasn't channeling Martha every waking moment.
Christmas Eve in the grinch's workshop.
Good friend Marge makes a surprise visit.
Marge made Shannon that quilt you can kind of see next to her on the couch.
My siblings were a little annoyed on Christmas morning because Chris and I didn't get there exactly at 9 a.m. like we promised. We walked in at 9:01.
They texted me letting me know the time. You know, in case I forgot :)
I am a big fan of thrift stores. It's so great to go in and wander the aisles, just looking for something that strikes your fancy. I've seen some of the very cool things that other crafters and sewers have done with thrift store items, and it is inspiring.
So I thought I'd pass along some ideas to you! They aren't very difficult or complicated, and I doubt any would win the "most innovative" award. But, but, sometimes it takes seeing someone else do something to get the wheels in your mind churning. It takes a little inspiration for you to see that old skirt or table cloth in a new light and think: hmmm, I wonder what I could do with this?
The item: A funky skirt. When I look for thrift store clothing, I try to focus more on the fabric then the shape of the item. I loved the colors in this skirt, but wasn't immediately sure what I wanted to do with it. Alter it for a better fit?
Ultimately, I decided this fabric reminds me of summer and might make an excellent table runner. I took it apart, cutting down the seam, and removing the waistband.
I trimmed it down, hemmed the edges and put it on the dresser I have in my dining room to hold all of my antique china.
There you go! An easy way to take something nonfunctional (the skirt) and turn it into something to brighten up your space. I like also that if the mood strikes, I can use this fabric to make something else- a kiddie skirt, pot holders, whatever!
I started early in the afternoon on New Year's Eve. I was taking the cake to a friend's house and wanted to have plenty of time to get ready. I followed the directions, whipped up the cake, poured it carefully into two 8-inch round pans and watched it cook.
When I took it out, each layer was about a half an inch thick, tops. I stacked them up with icing in between and it was so pathetic. I looked at my watch. Plenty of time to find a recipe online and make another layer or two from scratch, right? right! (oh, so wrong).
So I find a fail-proof recipe on All-Recipes http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Heavenly-White-Cake/Detail.aspx
I start sifting flour. Ok I only sifted it twice. (who has time to sift three times?). Then I go to grab by four egg whites. There are only two eggs left. Crap. No time to go to the store.
"Chris, can you go borrow two eggs from our neighbor?"
"No. That's weird."
"Weird? Neighbors borrow eggs. It's not weird."
"Do you want me to go to the store?"
"No. It's fine. Whatever. I'm going to make it work."
So I use my two egg whites and hope for the best.
Surprisingly, these two cake layers turn out fluffy and about 2 inches thick each. I take out the first one and attempt to flop it on top of the other cake layers. It cracks and crumbles as I slide it on top. I smear strawberry jam over it, and use a fish spatula to slide the other layer on.
I go to ice it. Crap. Not enough icing.
Ok, time to bust out the powdered sugar and thaw some butter to make icing from scratch. Can't find the vanilla, so it's "flavored" with strawberries I thawed out in the microwave. It tastes vaguely like freezer. I dump in some red food coloring so it matches the store-bought kind. Cake is iced carefully trying to disguise the chunks that have fallen out.
It goes into the freezer, I go into the shower. We're supposed to meet our friends at 7, we leave the house 15 minutes too late for that to happen. The cake is in a glass cake stand covered by a large heavy glass dome. I don't have a cake carrier because, obviously, I don't make cake very often. As we make the drive the cake slides to one side of the dome and gets stuck to the glass. I apologize profusely when we arrive, noticing for the first time that it's the color of pepto bismal. Excellent. Our friends say we'll just call it "earthquake cake".
We eat a lovely dinner out that includes free dessert. We return to our friend's house too stuffed to even contemplate eating the pink nightmare. I end up carrying the whole thing home, intact, at 2 am.
"Don't ever let me make a cake again. If I suggest it, tell me no, make a pie instead," I tell Chris.
This morning, after breakfast, I take a tiny bite.
It actually tastes pretty good. But you know what? So does Dairy Queen Ice Cream Cake. :)
As I was planning out what will appear on my news website for work (stcharles.patch.com), I thought, "Wouldn't it be great to have a cooking column?" And then I thought about how difficult it'd be to find the right person who had the right tone who also lived in St. Charles.
Then, it occurred to me that I could write it myself. Duh.
So my first column ran Sunday. The column itself is called Adventures in the Kitchen- because cooking with me is usually an adventure. Sometimes it turns out great... but not always.
Since my last post many things have happened! I got a new job as editor of an online newspaper called StCharles.Patch.com, Chris and I went to Europe in September. I made us matching German costumes for Halloween in October.
Chris's sister Lisa had a baby in November. Luca Mateo.
In December, my site launched (yay!) We spent lots of time with family and friends. We watched my brother Alex perform in a play.
I wrote about the first snow of the season.
We made gingerbread houses. This year Chris and I replicated the Dom du Salzbourg.
I wrote about a house fire. (Turn off your space heaters!)
I taught our friend's kid to use an iPhone.
One of my new year's resolutions is to get back to blogging. I haven't stopped cooking, creating and making messes, but I did stop documenting it. For shame.
Even on New Year's Eve we were too busy to continue with our tradition (7 years running!) of cooking together. We decided to rectify that tonight by staying in and having a second New Year's Eve party, just for the two of us.
We went and saw a movie (Little Fockers). We took down the Christmas decorations. I threw together some decorations for our mantle.
And then we busted out the bubbly and made dinner.
So, on day 1 of the new year, I bring you my handsome husband's recipe for Pizza Sandwiches.
(he got it from his home ec class in 7th grade)
4 pieces white bread
4 pats butter
1 cup mozzarella cheese
8 tablespoons Ragu or tomato sauce
6-8 slices pepperoni or salami
1. Spread 2 tablespoons ragu or tomato sauce on each piece of bread.
2. Divide salami or pepperoni slices evenly between two pieces of bread.
3. Top salami or pepperoni slices with 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese.
4. Place other piece of bread on top of mozzarella cheese. You now have two sandwiches.
5. Turn on skillet to low or medium heat.
6. Place two pats of butter in skillet. Place a sandwich on top of each pat of butter.
7. Move sandwiches around to ensure proper distribution of butter.
8. Cook until they are golden brown.
9. Flip, place pat of butter under each uncooked side. Cook until golden brown.