Wednesday, December 30, 2009

an A+ movie

It was fun to see An Education with two 16-year-olds. They're the same age as the main character, Jenny, who nearly tosses her hopes, dreams and Oxford future into the Seine when a charming yet sinister man seduces her. 'Keep your eye on the prize' is an old saying in our family. What's so abstract about it, especially to a teenager, is that the 'prize' is not a degree or a job, a sum of money, a mate or some material thing at the end of a rainbow. The prize is an authentic life. Being true to yourself. Loving and being loved. And you don't even have to go to Paris to find it.

Monday, December 28, 2009

get your comfort on

Baby, it's cold outside. How you weather it will depend on adequate preparation and positive attitude. Proper gear is of utmost importance, from top (anything sold at an Outdoor Provisions store) to bottom (Ugg boots). Breakfast is key: a steaming bowl of oatmeal dotted with butter and sprinkled with brown sugar and golden raisins. You'll need some kind of sport to bring on rosy cheeks: racquet ball, laps at the Y indoor pool, cross-country crunching through the snow. Soup for dinner that simmers all afternoon. If no fireplace, at least a cheery candle or three. And a stack of gardening books to thumb through while dreaming of spring.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

winter gifts

It's actually kind of lovely what is illuminated when tree branches are winter bare. Sweet birds of all types, their feathered nests, lots and lots of stars at night, the slivery crescent moon. Last December I found a perfect twig and made a little bird tree modeled after this beauty by Martha Stewart. It's a cheery sight all year long.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

away from the fray

A cool magazine illustration saved years ago, this one goes out to everyone who is feeling stretched like a rubber band right about now and ready to break. Take one instead: a nap, a walk, an hour with a good book. Have a tea ceremony for one. Listen to some music, play a few rounds of Monopoly or tennis or mahjong. It'll do a world o' good.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

In honor of the flurry of Winnie-the-Pooh news - original drawings by E.H. Shepard selling for an enormous sum at Sotheby's in London - a dear and calming quote from my December calendar page: " . . . and in a little while Piglet was wearing a white muffler around his neck and feeling more snowy behind the ears than he had ever felt before." Wouldn't it be wonderful if the Hundred Acre wood was really real? And nearby for exploring on a winter day like today?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Scrooge comes knocking

Ebenezer Scrooge paid a visit today. He came bearing a sizeable and unexpected household bill and a computer glitch that nearly shut down the office. He crabbed about the foggy, drizzly weather and repeated several times that Christmas is in just 11 days. He reminded me that cards hadn't been written, gifts hadn't been gotten, and that chocolate-covered pecans were a lousy lunch. I tried to ignore his knocking at first, hoping he would simply go away. Then decided to invite him in and gave him a comfortable chair near the fireplace where the (undecorated) tree gives off a gorgeous scent. We sat there in peaceful quiet for a while and I realized that he was me in a lot of ways and I was him. And we could both try a whole lot harder to be gracious and grateful. I'm hoping that tomorrow Bob Cratchit will show up instead. With Mr. Fezziwig close on his heels.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

a cuppa' calm

It's going to take several cups of peppermint blend, brewed strong, to make the most of this wintry cold day. To get certain people to middle school Math Club and a basketball game over yonder, a few gifts bought at the high school Barnes & Noble book fair, clove-studded citrus centerpieces assembled for the neighborhood supper club, an ornament or three hung on the tree. Wonderful stuff. Just wedged into too few hours.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

a page out of the holidays

For at least a decade I've written our family Christmas card, sort of a poem/stream of consciousness ode to the season. And every year I think I just can't do it again. But it's become a holiday ritual, a gauntlet I throw at myself every December. So tonight I'll sit down with a Sharpie marker, a pad and a hope that I can find the words, or that the words find me, and I'll be able to fill a snowy white page with wonder.
{Christmas glimpses: the gingerbread houses on display at the Grove Park Inn, especially the first place winner, a library scene with elves reading books . . . snow-covered rooftops in the mountains . . . red and green foil covered chocolate kisses}

Saturday, December 5, 2009

tastes like December

I don't know who created the holiday treat known as Peppermint Bark but I think there should be a holiday in their honor. It would have to fall in December, of course, preferably on a grey day like this one that carries a hint of snow. The fun thing is that you can try different variations. In addition to the classic, I'm going for dark chocolate with chopped pistachios and dried cherries this year. It will look so festive in a glass jar on the kitchen counter. And gone in a twinkling.

Peppermint Bark

6 crushed candy canes
1 (12 oz) package of chocolate chips
1 (10 oz) package of white baking chips

Line an 11 x 7 inch baking pan with foil. Do not grease. Melt chocolate chips in a 1-quart bowl in a microwave oven on high about 1 1/2 minutes, until melted and smooth when stirred. Spread evenly on foil-lined pan. Refrigerate for 5 minutes. Melt white chips in another bowl on medium power about 3 1/2 minutes or longer, until melted and smooth when stirred. Watch carefully to avoid burning. Drop blobs of melted white chocolate over the semi-sweet chocolate in pan and carefully spread. Sprinkle top with crushed candy, pressing in gently with fingertips. Refrigerate until firm. Remove from pan and cut into irregular shapes.

Friday, December 4, 2009

take a deep breath

{Breathe in: evergreen, balsam, pine and fir. Breathe out: joy!}

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

merry memories

A miraculous fireplace and a mother who knew how to stir up holiday magic. A dream job making candy canes. Decorating his first apartment with 80 miniature trees and paper roses. Every chapter in Tomie dePaola's priceless memoir of Christmases past is like a window on an Advent calendar framing a particular time, place or detail. I felt his utter joy at finding all kinds of art supplies under the tree one year and the mysterious, holiness of the Christmas eve he spent in a monastery. But the greatest thing about the book is that it will inspire you to recollect the sights and sounds and recipes and relatives that have made your own holidays memorable. Better yet, to write those memories down. Best of all? To share them with the people you love.