Sunday, December 25, 2011

merry christmas to you.

Merry Christmas to you and yours. 

May your day be merry and bright. 

(Munich christmas market, 2010)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

baking day.

Baking day with mom, sister, aunt and cousin! 
I am sharing some of our recipes with you:

Dipped Pretzels


Then, we took a break from baking to make and eat
delicious Tuscan Bean soup!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Five Minute Friday: Connected

I talked to my mom on the phone today and she told me a funny story about my Dad and the outdoor Christmas lights.

He and I have put up the Christmas lights together whenever I was home. This year, even though I was home visiting, I didn't help him. He grumbled a little bit about it. Not directed at me, just at anyone who would listen. He finally got the icicles straight and plugged in, and declared that he was done.

Then, my mom told me that my sister was telling him that there weren't enough lights on the house. He grumbled about that. My mom answered, light-heartedly, "Since when have you listened to her?"

But my Dad has a big heart for his kids. Sure enough, off he went to BiMart to pick up more lights...and went back and forth from the store about five times. The garage power outlet, according to my mom's account, looks like the Griswold's. The fuse has already blown once.

"You remember that this isn't our house, right? So we can't blow it up."

Lights around the trees in the yard, wrapped along the front porch bannister, with cords running to and fro.


I think it's because his kids are coming home. With every string of lights, Dad is connecting us; connecting our memories of Christmas together, connecting our traditions that we all hold very close and dear.

The last few years have been full of big changes. I've been married for almost five years. My brother is out on his own. My baby sister is a freshman in high school, slowly spreading her wings. One by one, we're making lives of our own. And yet, Christmas is still ours. Still a sacred family time.

And in his small way, Dad is connecting us, lighting the way home.

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back to thegypsymama and invite others to join in.
3. Most important: visit, comment, encourage the person before you.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

just write: wondering about where it all goes.

I write best in the middle of the night, while lying in bed, in between feeding the girls and hushing them back to sleep. Full essays, chapters of novels, inspired all happens under the covers. And when I wake up in the morning, it's all completely gone. So this morning, I can't even piece together an idea of what profound thought came to me last night. All that remains is a feeling, a lingering scent, a cloudy reflection that I can't make sense out of. Like that favorite sock lost in the dryer.

Where does it all go? There is a small self-authored library in my brain that is locked up tight during daylight hours. This is unfortunate, because I am not about to get up out of bed when inspiration hits and do anything about it. Keeping a notebook by the bed? Is that cheesy, like a wannabe writer? Nobody would know but me, though...and you. And the husband. Although he's in the guest room due to his wrenching cough, a sound to my ears that is like fingernails on a blackboard. We all flinch when he coughs and then double, triple coughs. Echinacea and Elderberry, friends, before it's too late.

Things that seem rational and brilliant in the middle of the night seem dim and silly in the light of day. There is a verse about this somewhere, I know, in Proverbs. Must be true, then, and not just me.

So I sit with my hot drink and watch the girls nap and wonder where did it all go? Because I was going to blow your and my mind today with inspired words that had me revved up around 2:55 a.m., excited to sit down during the morning nap and pound out some truth bombs.

Locked, I tell you.

So about that bedside notebook...

linking up w/just write @ the EO. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

pinterest love.

Ah, Pinterest.

My house looks like every cupboard and drawer vomited its contents out onto my counters and floors, and there is a nice big load of laundry that needs to be folded...and a few more to-do's. And I need to go to bed. But oh well.

And I need some new inspiration, so follow me on Pinterest and I'll follow you back, and we can waste time together!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

new england clam chowder.

 "stockings" at a home community Christmas Party. 

We have a tradition of eating soup on Christmas Eve. As we've all grown older, our meal has evolved from pillsbury dough bread bowls and Campbell's canned tomato soup to sourdough bread bowls and homemade roasted tomato bisque. Last year, though, I was pregnant and in the throes of terrible nausea. We were waiting to surprise my family while opening Christmas Eve gifts, so I had to struggle through preparing the meal with my mom and keeping my gags under cover.

I remember her asking me to make a salad, and as the smell of romaine lettuce was one of the worst offenders (weird, I know!), I snuck off to the bathroom to call Andy and tell him that I was suffering and didn't think I could make it until later that night. Mom also had put me in charge of making the bisque, and I didn't check the seasoning or flavor, because we had made it for a few years and it was always delicious. Big mistake! I didn't add salt or any other seasoning. I added too much water and not enough broth. It was all I could do to stir the pot without throwing up.

We dished up the bowls and sat down together, excited for our meal and our time together. After prayer, we all took up big spoonfuls of the red fragrant liquid. The table got quiet, and we all looked around at each other.

"Ummm"...."Errrr"...."What happened?"..."This is really gross".

But I still had to keep the pregnancy a secret, so couldn't tell anyone why I had completely ruined the soup! None of us finished it, and we all left the table still hungry.

After we had told my family the news, my mom asked how I was feeling, and I said, "Terrible!" The soup fiasco was justified and explained. Now, it's a running family joke. Oh, and that was also the same day that I made pumpkin pies without any sugar. Pregnancy does weird things to your senses!

The reason for the story is that I now hope to redeem the soup disaster by making this New England Clam Chowder instead. It's hearty, rich, and filling. I did a test run for my Dad while visiting them last week, and it received two thumbs up. I can't wait to make it again.

New England Clam Chowder
(adapted from Cheeseslave)

1 can whole or 3 cans minced clams
Filtered water
5-6 slices bacon (added-nitrate free, as you'll be saving the fat)
Large onion, yellow or white
1 1/2 lb. Potatoes, sliced into coins (Russet, or I used Yukon Gold)
1/2 lb. celery, sliced (2 cups)
2 Tbsp. flour
32 oz. chicken or fish stock
1-2 cups cream (not ultra-pasteurized or UHP) depending on how creamy you'd like it.
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste


1. Fry the bacon slices over medium-high heat until crispy. Set bacon aside to drain on paper towel. Leave the bacon grease in the pot.
2. Chop the onion. Chop the clams if they are canned whole.
3. Peel and dice the potatoes, slice the celery.
4. Add the onions to the pot and fry in the bacon fat until the onions are soft.
5. Add the flour and stir until well incorporated. Add the potatoes.
6. Lower heat to medium. Add the stock. Simmer until potatoes are "al dente"
7. Crumble up the bacon and add to the pot, along with the clams and cream.
8. Salt and pepper to taste. Let sit at low for a while to thicken up; you can also mash up some of the potatoes and that will thicken it up as well.

Serve the chowder with buttered sourdough bread, or in bread bowls. 

linking to the Healthy Home Economist's Monday Mania.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

just write: christmas music

Finally, it's time for Christmas music.

We have a family tradition of waiting to listen to Christmas music until after Thanksgiving. Crazy, I know. Every year since I can remember, we bring our CD's and Christmas movies and have a holiday-fest on the 9-hour drive home from visiting relatives in southern Idaho. Until then, though, it's frowned upon.

So this morning, I have Sarah McLachlan's beautiful Wintersong album playing as the girls nap in their swings. Earlier, I plopped the girls in their bouncy seats and put them in the kitchen with me while I made breakfast, and sang along to the music. I would look at both of them and sing, and Afton would get the biggest, happiest, most heart-breaking smile on her face and start to coo softly, like she was joining in with me. It made my heart ache.

We'll be returning to Southern Oregon for the majority of December and the holidays, and I hadn't really given thought to getting a tree, or to pulling out all my decorations. Fortunately, I didn't need to, as I came home on Sunday from a visit to my parents to an amazing Christmas-tree stand-in: 2 bar stools, some bungee cord, a wine bottle and our duvet cover. He wrapped it in lights and picked out some of our ornaments, and topped it with our star. He had also put lights up on our balcony and brought out the manger scene, and bought a mini poinsettia at Trader Joe's. As we walked in the door, he made me stand in the hallway so he could turn on all the lights and surprise us. He has such an amazing heart towards his little family. It made my heart ache.

For him, I'm thankful. I'll let his disdain of the Avalon JOY album and Christmas muppet movies (but how can anyone hate the muppets?!?) slide, because without him, I wouldn't be enjoying a softly lit "tree" and the baby Christ-scene figures along with my music and coffee.


linking up with just write.
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