Saturday, November 29, 2014


Thanksgiving Day may be behind us, but we're still enjoying our long weekend at home together. The weather has been beautiful, more like mid-October than the end of November. We've spent lots of time outside, and virtually no time in stores. We cooked our traditional holiday meal together, the Bear and I, doing what we always do: he separates the turkey breast for me to roast in the oven and then he puts the rest in the backyard smoker. He also bakes bread outdoors in a Dutch oven, an old favorite of ours. Meanwhile, inside, I also make smallish amounts of all the traditional side-dishes: candied sweet potatoes, mashed red potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts, stuffing. I always make my cranberry sauce the day before, to help it thicken nicely, and bake a pie then too. This year I chose to make a pecan pie. It was not necessarily a success; the crust caved in under the weight of the custard and nuts as the pie baked, and there was a thick, hard candy shell under the crust. Delicious but hard to remove from the pie pan. It looked pretty, though; I will definitely try again.

The rest of the weekend has been spent at home, save for a quick trip out for coffee and some groceries this morning. I've done some sewing. The leftovers are gone, except for a little turkey. Tonight, we're going to make pizza for dinner. I, for one, feel turkeyed-out, and there isn't enough for another meal anyway. I'm looking forward to decorating our Christmas tree later this afternoon; we always do it on Thanksgiving weekend. I know it seems early to many people, but I enjoy having it around for the whole month of December. I love knowing it's standing in the living room during the day, and I adore sitting in the dark with the lit tree at night. I had big ideas about making an advent calendar by now, but it didn't happen. I've got a cute cardboard one instead, with tiny chocolates behind each door. The small Bears are used to this kind, and I don't think there will be any complaints.

I'm so thankful for this life. I love to be at home with my family, sharing simple, happy things that we all enjoy. I've been thinking about how I express this on my blog. I've read numerous posts out there lately, pointed posts about how blogs are changing and other social media sites are seemingly taking over. I've read what feels, to me, like complaints about the kinds of blogs that are available to read these days, in the absence of the apparently amazing ones which no longer exist. I've read comments in which people complained about blogs' content (not hard-hitting enough, I gather), decisions about monetizing, bloggers' interactions with their readers. I've seen certain kinds of blogs derided as "twee." I'm not even sure what that means. I realize that people must miss blogs that have gone away. But I think we still have a rich, varied community. I'd like to know your thoughts, readers, on this situation.

I know that blogging has changed me for the better. I choose to highlight the good things here. I choose to be happy. I am a happy person, after all, but it would be foolish to assume that everything in my life is happy. Trust me, it isn't. You would never come back if I chose to write about that stuff. I make things, and I share them. I love where I live and I'm proud of the life we've created here. I love being a mother. I don't regret not having a career. I don't complain much in real life and I won't start doing it here. If that makes my blog unappealing to some, so be it. This blog is not a business, it's not a ploy for attention or an online diary. I know what makes me feel good. I will continue to write about the good things - the positive, uplifting, soul-nourishing things I feel so fortunate to experience.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Bosque walk

Last week, the Bear and I went for a walk on the Paseo del Bosque trail, a recreation path which runs through the Rio Grande Valley State Park. The trail follows the eastern bank of the river and is meant for walking, running and cycling. Bosque, derived from Spanish, means "woods." I think fall is the best time to visit. The weather is most pleasant in the fall and the scenery is most interesting now too, I think. It was chilly, but we were bundled up. I liked being a little cold, actually. It made me walk more and seek out the sunny spots.

It was beautiful down there, in a last-gasp kind of way. Bosque vegetation is a mixture of desert shrub growth and larger trees like cottonwoods and mesquite (the trees tend to be quite tall in the Bosque because of their proximity to water). Most trees still had leaves but they were past the fall-color peak. The ground was covered in a layer of fallen cottonwood leaves. I was surprised to find a few wildflowers still blooming. Do you love the sight, as I do, of a bare tree silhouetted against the sky? I can stand and stare for a long time, and I did.

It was good to be out there together. The weather was fine and there were no children to supervise. We each took photos. We look for different things; I like my carefully-framed tree and flower shots and he likes dramatic wide-angle views. He'll scramble down a dirt face while I pick my way over established paths. We parted several times, meeting up many yards down the trail. I loved our Bosque walk. It was worth every goat head stuck in the soles of my shoes.

Monday, November 24, 2014

My birthday

Like most of my birthdays, Sunday dawned cloudy, cold and windy. Not most people's idea of a beautiful day, but I've come to expect this kind of weather on my special day and now it feels like part of the tradition - a good day to stay indoors and enjoy time with my family. We had gone out to dinner the night before, to an Italian restaurant we all like which is nice enough to reserve for birthdays and anniversaries, so it always feels a little special when we go. I had fresh linguine pasta with chicken, artichokes, olives and tomato in a white wine-balsamic vinegar sauce. It was so good, just the kind of salty-tangy flavors I really like. I saved half and will eat it for lunch today.

We saved my birthday cake for Sunday, my real birthday, and that was wonderful too. I usually have the same cake - a Berry Chantilly cake from the bakery at Whole Foods Market. It's my favorite store-bought cake ever. Oh, it's so good. If you've never tried it, hie thee to Whole Foods, post haste. You will love it.

I had lovely gifts to open on Sunday as well. In recent years, I've tended to look for my own gifts and either buy them and put them away, or send links to the Bear with strongly-worded hints. This year, there were a couple of crafty books (one embroidery, one crochet) that I wanted, as well as a vintage wind-up clock - a Westclox Baby Ben clock from the 1940's, which I found on Etsy; it had been part of a clock-repairman's estate. I also bought myself a vintage crocheted doily and enamelware candle holders and put them away too. The Bear surprised me with a couple of things I had wanted but hadn't ordered him to buy suggested yet - an umbrella swift for winding yarn and a set of Clover crochet hooks with the grippy handles. I'm really happy to have these things. He's a good egg. And handmade cards from all three of them. I especially love the GB's; she drew me lying under a blanket decorated with stars and birthday cakes. Oh, sweet Bear. The clock is my favorite gift. I'd wanted a Baby Ben for a long time but they were expensive, or broken and expensive. This one was reasonably priced, in good condition, and it works!

I also had lovely, thoughtful gifts from two blogging friends, Gillian and Leanne. Both ladies sent me pretty things - a lovely stitched strawberry brooch and chocolate from Leanne, and Cath Kidston tea towels from Gillian, along with art cards and birthday cards from each. Thank you both for thinking of me. My birthday was very happy and I thank you all, dear readers and friends, for the good wishes too.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday Happies

Hello! How was your week? I've had a busy one but I made time on several mornings, while my kids were in school, to work on the GB's Maggie Rabbit doll. I sat in a comfy chair in the living room, which is nice and sunny in the mornings, especially at this time of year. It was so pleasant to hand-stitch Maggie, listening to the radio playing low. I'm reminded again and again how important crafting is to me, and how good it feels to make things - I find it peaceful, relaxing, oh so restorative. I should be able to give Maggie to the GB for Christmas, a Girl Rabbit for a Girl Bear. I hope to share my Maggie here soon.

Though it has been a busy week, I've tried to concentrate on happy things around me, as always. I'd like to share a few today, joining in with my lovely friend Gillian.

We've been eating lots of citrus fruit lately. 'Tis the season. Aside from strawberries, which will always be my favorite, I really love oranges. We've had navel oranges, clementines and two different kinds of mandarins in the past few weeks. This one is a mandarin. I had it with my lunch one day this week. I put it on a pretty plate and it felt like a special treat.

I'm back to eating oatmeal for breakfast. I like it very milky, the same way I like my cold cereal, and my tea and coffee. I usually make my oatmeal with chopped walnuts, raisins (or dried cranberries when I have them), and a little brown sugar. I love the crunchiness and chewiness of the nuts and fruit. I don't know how people eat plain oatmeal.

I've never outgrown the joy of new paints or crayons. Isn't it wonderful? They're factory-fresh, clean and unspoiled. These are the GB's paints, not mine, but I enjoy it almost as much when my children have new art supplies.

We've been enjoying a new scientific tool/toy. The Bear's parents bought him a used telescope as an early Christmas gift. They bought it at a yard sale; it was drastically less expensive than a new one. It needed a little work (don't ask me what), but it's going now. It's really cool. We're lucky to live in a place with lots of regulations about light pollution, so you can see a lot. If we were capable of staying up late, we'd see a lot more.

I've made some more progress on the baby blanket for our friends' baby-to-be. I crocheted in the family room while we had our first fire of the season. I'd forgotten how nice it is to work on a giant granny square, since finishing my big one almost two years ago. This one will be small, maybe about 36 inches square. I'm using DK acrylic yarns in boyish but soft colors. Lots of gray (I like gray for babies, boys or girls) and golds, greens and blues. I threw in an orange shade for a little zip. I enjoyed planning the colors. I remember when I had the LB, I really liked finding things that weren't just blue. One of my favorite outfits was striped in minty greens with a little red and orange; it was unexpected and fresh.

I hope you have a good weekend. I have a special day this weekend and big plans for dinner out tomorrow night, with my Bears. I'm still choosing the place but I'm thinking Italian. I'm starting to plan my Thanksgiving preparations but still need to do some more shopping. I prefer a fresh turkey so I'm putting off that purchase as late as possible. I've been gathering ingredients for pecan pie; I haven't made one in years and I've been craving it so much lately! I'm going to use the recipe on the bottle of Karo corn syrup; it's simple but it works like a charm. I've got a huge bag of pecans so I've been thinking about doing something else with them too, maybe this or this or this (that last one is particularly mouthwatering, I think). I'm looking forward to lots of puttering in the kitchen in the coming week. Thanksgiving is my favorite. Love, love, love Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Color Collaborative: November: Leaf

I have this theory that when I was born, in the month of November, autumn leaves must have been one of the first things I saw. My parents were driving home from the hospital, maybe, with me in yesteryear's precursor to a car seat, the car bed. It could have been a ruby-red dogwood (I was born in Georgia). Or a gracious, old golden-brown oak. Maybe they'd taken me outside, to sit in autumn sunshine on the front steps of their townhouse; the complex was surrounded by oak trees and named for the mighty species itself. I'm sure I saw a tree in full autumn splendor and thought, "There. That is what a tree is supposed to look like," the image etched on my baby mind. I've watched and waited for the trees in my world to match the ones in my head ever since.

I feel differently when the trees are wearing their full autumn palette. I have a sense of relaxation and satisfaction - righteousness, even - when the world around me bursts into fiery color. To me, it's as strong a sign of the circle of life as the springtime bloom is. We can't have a splendid spring without changing, falling autumn leaves. I just learned the other day, listening to the fascinating book Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival with my children, that trees already have their new leaf buds before the old leaves fall. I think this confirms my feelings: trees need autumn and so do we.

Image from here

Most of my childhood was spent in New York, where the fall color is especially beautiful. Every year, leaf-peepers pour into the area, coming to drink in the autumn color. Some locals seemed to take it for granted, barely noticing the colors after a lifetime of them. I always looked forward to it. As a child, my bedroom faced the backyard, where there was a huge maple tree. The leaves turned bright golden yellow in fall, with red edges and veins. The whole backyard seemed to glow, and my bedroom did too. I had pink walls when I was very young, and the tree made them orange. Later, my walls were white and the whole room glowed golden. I remember lying on my bed on fall days, studying or reading, and looking up every now and then just to remind myself - that tree was real, flaming each October just outside my window. Lucky girl.

Now I live in a place where fall color is less dramatic but still exciting to me. We don't have very many maples here. Bright red and orange trees are less common, though we do have a few which go red in autumn. Yellow is the dominant color here, and I think it's just as beautiful as red. Aspens, ashes, cottonwoods and locusts all turn a brilliant yellow-gold. It happens gradually, one bough at a time. Other trees, such as sycamores and oaks, go straight to tan or brown, which can be pretty too. It's the change that I appreciate, even if the colors do not dazzle. It's the marking of time that I have come to love, the inexorable march toward a new season, a different perspective and an altered landscape.

I've been warned that I won't always enjoy this, but I'll worry about that later. For now, I'm relishing autumn, the season of my birth and the one in which I feel most sharply attuned to my environment.  I feel at ease, gratified and contented in this time of year. I was born to it, after all.


  Don't forget to visit the other Color Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts. Just click on the links below: 

Annie at Annie Cholewa 
Sandra at Cherry Heart 
What is The Color Collaborative?
All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a color related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about color in new ways.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Night light

I often spend Friday evenings alone with the GB while her brother attends his weekly guitar lesson. The Bear takes him more often than I do, which is for the best since he plays the guitar himself and can sit in on the lesson and help the LB at home. I really look forward to my Friday nights with the GB. We don't get much time alone together, especially now that she goes to school on the same schedule as her brother. I miss having her around but sometimes I'm relieved for the break too; she's my talkative child and will hold forth on many topics. She and her brother are very different; he's quieter, more contemplative. I love having a pigeon pair; I'm very thankful to have been given the chance to raise one of each.

On Friday night, we spent a good hour sitting on the couch together in the dark. She loves to be in the dark. I think she finds it easier to relax and unwind. She wants to curl up in a blanket and talk, or sing, or do some of each. She told me about her day, which was chock-full of adventure. She can find fun anywhere, this one. We stared out the window toward the mountain, searching hard for the tram cars; you can just see the lights on them, flickering a bit in the cold air. She decided to read to me and picked a children's poetry book which used to be mine. She wanted to keep the lights off so she read to me by flashlight. She read the entire book aloud. She has become an excellent reader. We talked some more when she was done and soon it was time for bed. The house was quiet after that. I made some tea and waited for the menfolk. I'd read that book, with its simple poems and monochromatic watercolor illustrations, many times before. But I'd never read it by flashlight. My girl showed me something new.
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