Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Pumpkins 2012

Part of learning to live an artful life involves tapping into a part of me, that for a short time, died.  Little things that used to bring me joy, seemed fruitless for awhile.  I lost a part of myself that I was afraid I would never get back.  But it is coming back.  Slowly, and bit by bit.

Tradition is important to me, as is family.  And I've always felt connected to the rituals of my childhood that sustained me even through rough times.  Holidays were perfect examples.  We were big into tradition: tree decorating, egg dying, and of course, pumpkin carving.

I take my pumpkin carving seriously.  Okay fine, too seriously.  I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist.  (Who me?  Never, ever.)  I am working on simplicity.  I'm getting there.  But I felt a tremendous amount of joy because for the first time, in maybe, (11 years????) all three of my sisters were in a room carving a pumpkin.  We had a few additions to our ritual.  There was an adorable baby watching in awe, and an "Uncle" Dave carving a pumpkin with Shannon.  But there was joy right along with the change.  And yes, I did think of him.  Shannon and I talked about a few of the pumpkin that Jaime had "created" over the years as he used to get into this family tradition right along beside me.  But it was okay.  I was okay.  The pictures of the final product are courtesy of my brother in law.  He is a much better photographer than I.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

Well, we made it through Hurricane Sandy.  Exactly one year to the day after the unprecedented October blizzard that buried us last year.  October 29th is going to be one of those superstitious days in my mind now.

The internet just came back, and the cable was out for several hours.  Luckily, we were all home safe and inland here in CT we weren't too bullied.  Just some wind damage, and our power flickered but never actually went out.  A few hours without facebook is nothing compared to the 7+ days without power or internet last October.  Thank goodness for perspective.

Micah baby wanted to wear his winter hat while sucking on my iPhone charger.  Here is the pic for your amusement.

Also, I made pumpkin pie yesterday in preparation.  You know, only the essentials.  ha!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Angry Baking

Today was one of those days when I felt like yelling at everyone.  Oh wait.  I did yell at some people.  Although I had a legitimate gripe, I probably overreacted when I yelled at my mother and sister.  (What, who me?  Would I ever do such a thing?  Never...)

My father was admitted to the hospital last night.  He's down to a dangerously low weight that I could not have previously fathomed.  He couldn't eat OR drink.  He's in pain, he broke out in a weird rash, and it's just generally uncomfortable for him to live and breath right now.  This is on the heels of his last week of chemo, so I suppose it's not a big surprise.  They treated him very aggressively, and his body has responded very aggressively.  So, now he's on the floor where my sister works being taken care of by her coworkers.  She convinced him to go last night, and brought Micah to visit him today hoping it would raise his spirits.

After finishing today's deadline, I wandered down to the kitchen to experiment with a little homebaked happiness.  I've decided to lean in to my interest in cooking and baking.  Part of my desire to live a recovered life entails building a comfort level with food.  Food is not the enemy.  It sustains life, and there is no reason why I cannot embrace it.  As far as I am concerned, it's all a matter of moderation.  And I've been really happy that I can bake for others.   I have so many able and willing bodies consuming my treats.  So, I can't eat it all myself anyway.

Today's recipe?  Traditional mincemeat cookies.  Don't turn up your nose until you have tried them. The perfect autumn treat in one neat little package, they are spicy and fruity.  They remind me of my mother's parents, as my grandmother baked them and my grandfather happily consumed them.  It's easy, weirdly easy.  Here is the link to the recipe.  I always use this brand: NoneSuch.  That's also tradition.  None Such Mincemeat Prize Cookies

I did reconstitute the condensed package, but I don't think you technically have to for cookies.  I did it, because I wanted the spicy flavor to penetrate the batter as well, but as I said, I think you can just crumble the mixture in to the cookie batter.  These cookies are pretty light and airy.  I do not glaze them to save calories.  You can if you want.

I also used Smart Balance Omega 3 buttery sticks.  I am trying to phase out shortening from our life, although it will be a painful transition come Thanksgiving because my Grandma Evelyn's delicious, secret, hand-me-down pie crust recipe gets its flaky awesomeness from Crisco.  But it's hydrogenated heart attack in a can.  So, the Smart Balance sticks work just fine and I am sure Grandma would have agreed and understand.  Other than my mother, she was the most practical woman I ever met.

That said, I think this calls for the three generation photo:

Evelyn, Jean and Marisa.  Three generations of New England bakers.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Our Home: A Work in Progress

So, remember a while ago when I actually said that I had a good day?  No?  haha.

Well, it was the day where I rearranged my mother's living room, or rather, I barked my opinions at them and they tolerated it, until we came up with an arrangement that suited everyone.

Now, I've shared pictures on here before of my decorating taste, so everyone knows that I like things modern.  And red.  And black.  And sometimes with an overabundance of black/white damask pattern.

Our house was built in 1910 I believe.  I hesitate to call it Craftsman, because there are also Victorian elements.  It's somewhere in the middle of the two.  Here is a refresher on the outside.  I'm not a fan of stucco, mostly because it's difficult to clean.  The grey exterior is pretty dirty and dingy, but I am pretty sure if you took a power washer to it, it would come down in chunks.  I have a feeling that repainting is the only option, and who wants to do that?  It is officially the parsonage for my stepfather's church, but we are renting it since it was vacant.

So, working on combining three households worth of furniture with three distinct styles has been no easy task.  My mother is very traditional.  My sister is in the middle of us both.  And I am very contemporary.  Well, I think that the living room is as pulled together as we are going to get now.  The only thing I hate is my white Ikea coffee table.  It is just all wrong for the space, but it's what we have for now.  I am on the lookout for something cheap, and either craftsman or mission style in that same medium oak tone as all the other woodwork.  I have to say that despite the fact that this does not represent my style at all, I am pleased with how it looks.  It's an excellent compromise, and fairly cohesive considering the mish mash of belongings.  And I won't lie: I'm excited to decorate for Christmas in such a traditional space.   Of course, the bright cherry red couch and chair are: mine.  Jen contributed the round chair, and the traditional slip-covered sofa is of course my mother's.

I love the french doors leading to the sun room.

This is the chair I work from most days.

I love the detail in the brick.  As well as the book built-ins.

The TV is too modern, and doesn't go at all, but it was what we had for now. Oh, and that rattan square basket?  That's Micah's toy box because I am mean, and encouraged us all to pick up something that wasn't child like.  Oh, but don't worry, there is usually a primary colored, bright pack and play in front of the fireplace so mean Auntie Marisa loses.  :)

I painted those gold prints myself using actual plant life from the yard.  Oh, and it was one of the first ideas I pinned from Pinterest before we even moved into this house.

Oh sad, stark Ikea table, you do not match.

This is Jen's white marble and black wood table, and I love it. I also love the picture rail in the dining room as opposed to a chair rail.  I think that's a nice architectural detail. 

And isn't the high chair tres chic?  LOL.  But I love her candle thing. We wrapped the base of it in a vine with autumn colored beads that we picked up in Michaels to add a seasonal touch.

Mom's second-hand hutch decorated with cook books, and Jen's purple margarita glasses.

This is just the coolest.  My stepfather picked this up at one of the church sales.  It was tarnished brass, so I asked him to spray paint it satin black for me.  And I think it rocks!  

The sun room painted gold and in the process of being put back together.  This is through the french doors in the living room. 

happy yellow

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Today in Pictures

Elizabeth Bennet: The more I see of the world, the less inclined I am to think well of it. 

Today is a chocolate chip cookie and Pride and Prejudice day.  What does one have to do with the other?  Tradition.

Whenever I do a million hour long P & P marathon, I always accompany it with good, old fashioned, chocolately chip goodness.  

And whenever I have a really long day of manipulating excel grids, I like to do a P & P marathon.

And someone else loved them too!  You know who?  This little cookie monster.

And here I am, in sepia, which is totally unrelated to chocolate chip cookies OR Jane Austen.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


I feel really happy today for a totally, flat out, superficial reason.  I bossed my family around today while rearranging the living room and the dining room, and now it looks up to my standards.  Finally!  And I painted the first coat of my mother's sunroom this beautiful gold color that she picked out.  And I staked out the spot in the dining room where MY Christmas tree is going to be located, and my mother's with her theme will be in the sunroom so that we can see it through the french doors.

Anyway, it made me happy to get this house set up finally and take charge of that.  I must drive my family nuts, but they love me.

I'll post a picture when the sunroom is done.  My brother in law just said, "Um, why aren't you working as an interior decorator person?"  Mostly because I have absolutely no idea how I would make a living out of something like that in backwoods CT where I live.  But it would be fun.