Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving Dinner

This was my Thanksgiving dinner. Mmm mmmm, it was a dandy.

Roast Turkey
Crescent Rolls
Glazed Carrots
Green Bean Casserole
Macaroni and Cheese
Apple-Sage Dressing and Gravy

Like most Americans, I heaped my plate with the traditional, hearty dishes that make this holiday feast one of a kind.  It's interesting to me that in the United States of America, melting pot of countless cultures, and land of infinite variety where an individual's right to choose reins supreme, we all eat pretty much the same menu on Thanksgiving Day. It's been that way for at least a century and a half.

Americans may have to agree to disagree on politics, religion, sports, and the proper way to hang a roll of toilet paper, but by gosh, we can all agree on this fine meal.

At my house, not only do we see eye-to-eye on what to eat, but we happily collaborate on the cooking. Each year brings a few slight variations in who does what, but for several hours on Thanksgiving morning, we all cluster around the kitchen counter and take turns stirring, peeling, chopping, washing, taste-testing, and getting into each other's way. It's quite a lovely bit of chaos.

And as much as I enjoy eating my Thanksgiving plate full of deliciousness, I am even more thankful for preparing it with the ones I love.

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Care for some more Thanksgiving stories?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

"T" Is For Thanksgiving

In the time-honored tradition of Thanksgiving Eve, I baked a pie tonight. Blackberry, to be specific.

As my fourth-born and I defrosted the berries, sweetened and thickened the juices, rolled out the crust, and put the whole glorious shebang together, I thought of my mother, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and all the ancients before them who busied themselves on Thanksgiving Eves through the ages to ensure there was plenty to eat on the big day.

I also mused about the legions of cooks and bakers across my country tonight who are most certainly baking their own pies tonight, in myriad flavors: 


and maybe even a Hot Fudge Peanut Butter Pie or two. Which is what my first-born made during her evening pie session. And my third-born made one as well for her Thanksgiving feast today in Vietnam.

Across time and space, unimaginable numbers of people invest their work, time, effort and expense toward a single meal in which we attempt to acknowledge and celebrate the abundant blessings in our lives.

Seems like a fine reason to bake a pie, don't you think?

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thankful For The Forest

So this is why I spent the weekend painting pine cones and hazelnuts - for my Thanksgiving table, of course.

I don't usually fuss over holiday table decor. Let's face it, the platters heaped full of gorgeous food create plenty of beauty, and when you cut right through it, all this other stuff just gets in the way.

But this year, something within me just wanted a festive woodlands-y vibe to set the mood for the meal. And while my budget for this enterprise was exactly zero, I set out to use what I already have to summon up a bit of forest charm.

^ The dishes were wedding gifts and have seen many a festive family feast. Still, those charming little wild flowers seem perfect for my natural theme, and the simple pewter bread and butter plates take the edge off the china dishes' fancy pants. 

^ My mother-in-law's silver service is a non-negotiable addition to any special event at my table. The formal design is not necessarily to my typical taste but the sentimental value is over the top, and even though I have a bit of my own silver, I like to use hers best of all. Reminds me of all the family and friends who are with us not in body but in spirit.

^ In and around and among the place settings are scattered my painted pine cones and nuts, along with a few candles and some gold leaves that I've had on hand for years, wondering exactly what I should do with them. Little did I know that someday their lacy, open texture would perfectly simulate a layer of decomposing leaves on my dining room table. 

^ Of course, no forest would be complete without a few furry creatures. I gathered up a few bunnies from around the house - this one came in from his usual place in my garden - and nabbed two more from the thrift store. 

^ While there are indeed native orchids in Pacific Northwest forests, they are not quite so showy and magnificent as the ones on my table. But still, these blossoms were already living in my kitchen, and they look just like the wild orchids I saw in Malaysian jungles. So that's close enough for me.

So there you have it - my Thanksgiving table interpreted as a forest floor with plates. This woodland scene, and the process of creating it, reminds me that our good and beautiful earth provides everything we truly need, and for that I am deeply thankful.

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Care for some more Thanksgiving stories?

Monday, November 25, 2013

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving earns high marks with me because it is a straightforward holiday:

Appreciate the food you eat, the people you eat with, the nation in which you eat, and the God who makes it all possible.

That's pretty much it. 

Ditto the decorations.

Well. Let's be honest. The traditional celebration of Thanksgiving requires no adornment whatsoever. Heaping platters of food and the shining faces round the table provide ample visual beauty.

But the simple fact is that the domestic homemaker types just can't leave well enough alone, and we insist on a certain level of frippery to help set the mood. If we play our cards right, our decor can also serve to remind us of what Thanksgiving is all about.

So I've been puttering about, these past few days, to get a Thanksgiving vibe going around my house.

^ My collection of mini pumpkins, which wore their orange proudly all through the fall, are now gleaming under a fresh coat of paint. It's some sort of shimmering champagne color - all I know is that I love the  look of those bumpy little pumpkin noggins wearing that elegant shade, and it reminds me to look deeply and see the value that lies under the surface of the more homely characters in the world.

^ I'm always a sucker for Satsuma oranges, whose cheerful November appearance in the grocery stores associates in my mind as one of the delicious tastes of late fall. While these jolly orange fellows are usually on display around my house at this time of year, this particular batch is unique because of their lingering stems and leaves. 

Somehow, these bits of green remind me of how far these fruits have traveled from their warm-weather homes, and how - just a few generations back - they were considered a rare and exquisite treat. A good reminder to me to appreciate what I have.

 ^ Hmm. Small armies of gold-dipped hazel nuts and copper-tipped pine cones. What might these have to say about giving thanks?

Well. Let's be thankful for life's small mysteries and I'll show you the full effect tomorrow.

* * * * *

Care for some more Thanksgiving stories?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Reasons 647 & 648

If I didn't have a dog, my boy, Ranger, would not be in my life.

If Ranger was not in my life, I would have no one to cajole, whine, beg, plead, and otherwise brow beat me into going for a walk every afternoon.

If I didn't have someone to cajole, whine, beg, plead and brow beat me into going for a walk every day, I most certainly would not be outside on clear and cold November afternoons when the sun is setting and the air is turning to ice.

If I were not outside on clear and cold November afternoons, such as yesterday, I would not have seen this glorious autumn sky.

In fact, I saw two beautiful versions of the heavens. First, I noticed the pale blue and deep gold sky when we were leaving the house, which then transformed into this lavender and pink rendition by the time we returned a half hour later.

And those are two excellent reasons why I'm glad I have a dog.

Saturday, November 23, 2013


The afternoon sun had already faded when I took these pictures but let's just pretend I was going for a grainy look.

On our walk today, my dog, Ranger, and I encountered - as we always do - a handful of other pooches walking with their people.

Ranger - as he always does - perked up his ears, wagged his tail, and expressed an interest in saying hello to his fellow canine. He trotted right over for a friendly howdy-do.

And sadly, the other dogs - as about nine out of ten dogs usually do - reacted with bad energy.

Some dogs snap.
Some dogs snarl.
Others lunge on their leashes, barking madly and making dramatic physical overtures. 

Their owners smile apologetically and quickly haul the dogs off.

This makes for quite an unruly scene and since we have been jumped by angry dogs in the past, I usually focus my attention on the rabble-rouser, watching for any sign of imminent danger to me or my pup.

But during such an encounter today, for some reason, I happened to pay full attention to Ranger's reaction. And this is what I saw:
As soon as the other dog started to freak out, Ranger took a step back. Obviously reading the need for caution yet ever the optimist, Ranger waited expectantly. His tail continued to wag, his eyes still sparkled with Irish charm, and he almost wriggled with delighted anticipation.  
When he realized that this doggy rendezvous was not going to happen, Ranger simply turned back to face our path, still wagging and cheerful, and continued on with his own journey.
 I think my dog is a wise and wonderful soul. And I'm lucky to have him for my BFF.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Tick Tock

Notice anything new in my kitchen?

No, not the epic eighties tile counter. That pup is an original.

In fact, most of this scene will probably look familiar to you. Same metal display board, same collection of black and white postcards, same dishes peeking out from the shelves on the right. They've all been here for quite a while. 

You're right...the two cacti are newcomers to this particular space. But they have been floating around the house for months now, so technically they are not new.

Say hi to the true new kid on the block, my freshly installed clock.

Here's the back story on how it came to live with me.

A few weeks ago, I was flipping around the internet and came upon this. A simple DIY clock with a geometric attitude, a bold punch of color, and a mid-century vibe.

Well. Those just happen to be three of my favorite things these days. 

So I made it.

Yep, it's pretty much that simple. I bought the fixings at Hobby Lobby - the clock mechanism, an upgraded set of hands, and the wood disc for the face. They did not have a suitably thick piece of wood, so I bought three thin circles and glued them together. Basically, I created my own plywood.

And I love that plywood-y texture. I'm crazy into it right now. I want to rip out my kitchen cabinets and build new ones out of nice plywood. 

But you know, this week is Thanksgiving and I've got a turkey to roast. So for now, I'll settle for a plywood clock.

I also love the look of watercolors on wood, so I opted for that treatment, rather than a more opaque paint. The resulting moody and sweet blue-green half circle sets off the sleek black hands of the clock, and makes me smile whenever I see it.

Luna, who often sleeps on the nearby counter stool, approves of this clock. He can easily glance up to see if it's time for him to wake up and be cute again.

Just kidding. He is cute all the time, even when he's sleeping. 

And so, I think, is my new clock. Any time of night or day, it's just plain cute.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Closet Dreams

I don't know about you, but I begin each and every day of my life by doing the exact same thing.

I get dressed.

Now I think it's safe to say that we all like to get our mornings off to a nice, smooth start, and as an extreme night owl, I need as much motivation and positive energy as possible.

Translation: Most days, I just want to crawl back into bed. Mobilizing myself to get dressed every morning is my Mount Everest and I have no Sherpas to drag me along.

I'm so much happier if I can pull myself together in a calm and soothing environment. Beauty and order bump up my energy level and fill me with much-needed optimism. 

So it's important to me to have an attractive, well-organized dressing area. 

Welcome to my closet. I'm lucky enough to have a generously sized walk-in. The whole room was emptied and repainted last year, from ceiling to floor, and all the shelves were refinished. It's been twelve months exactly since I put everything back with a certain sense of order.

But these days, my closet is looking just cluttery and dishelved enough that I start each morning feeling discombobulated and slightly annoyed. Let me show you what I mean.

^ These upper shelves belong to my husband. His organizational style is a cross between a museum archive and a fossil dig. Which is a nice way of saying that he likes to keep things forever and figures that if he stacks all his stuff in straight piles, it's fine. Please note his collection of stuffed frogs, a series of decade-old homemade Valentines, a few random family photos, and t-shirts dating back to the Carter administration. 

^ These lower shelves belong to me and reflect my kooky, inefficient wardrobe. I have six slips from my pre-kid corporate days, running pants circa 1985, five pairs of worn-out ski socks, and roughly 100 paint-splattered t-shirts. These are not real clothes. 

The empty bin on the lower right shelf is for yoga pants, an item that I wear daily, of which I own exactly one ancient pair.

I'll admit it. I have clothing issues. 

^ This little alcove, tucked to the right of the main closet space, is where I hang most of my everyday wardrobe. This area is a bit more functional and pretty than the last, but I still have way too many things that don't fit, and the storage boxes overhead are crammed together and hard to access.

^ In my last work-over of this space, I tucked a few favorite possessions here and there, and I love to see them every morning. They make this closet feel more like a lovely room that I'm using, rather than a closet into which I pitch stuff.

^ Back to the main area of the closet, and on your left, you'll see two hanging rods that run the full length of the wall.

The top tier holds my collection of sweatshirts and sports apparel, a handful of out-of-season goodies, and a huge collection of my favorite old suits and business blouses. 

Purchased in the eighties.

That have not fit me since the eighties.

Arg. I know that's ridiculous. I need a clothing intervention.

On the lower rod hangs my husband's entire wardrobe which runs the gamut from custom-made suits to old flannel shirts with rips in all the elbows. 

He needs a clothing intervention too.

And up top, on that shelf above the clothes, stands a row of plastic storage bins, one for each member of the family. Inside, you'll find hospital ID bracelets, first locks of hair, baptismal certificates, favorite toddler outfits, and the like. All good stuff. But those plastic bins? Their powder blue lids and clear sides add nothing to the aesthetic value of my space.

^ And speaking of things that lack aesthetic value, check out the light fixture. Granted, this trifecta of track lighting was a big step up from the dim overhead fixture that the builder installed, but I am so over these cans and their harsh search-light effect.

* * * * *

So enough is enough. Project Closet Rehab is on, and here is my work plan.

1. Purge our wardrobes of worn out and unwearable clothes. Be ruthless. 

2. Buy new clothes to fill in the ridiculous gaps. Note to self: owning two pairs of yoga paints is not excessive.

3. Keep the cloth-covered organizers; rearrange them so they aren't so crowded. Ditch the plastic.

4. Bring the entire closet from good to great by incorporating more of a room-like decor. I'll keep these elements from the existing closet:

Good and sturdy organizers in a highly useful size. The color - which in real life is a fresh spring green - will set the tone for the makeover.
These sweet flowered organizers are from the Liberty of London for Target designer collaboration back in 2010. I still love them.
My second-born bought this IKEA hanging storage unit for use in her college dorm; since she has been out of school, it no longer fits in her closet and she handed it off to me. What it lacks in ease of use it makes up for in quirky charm and I definitely want to keep it around.

5. Up the style factor with:
a. a new lighting fixture
b. a fabric-covered feature wall
c. a mirror
d. a dressing table-esque space for jewelry, fragrances, etc.
e. rugs
f. new boxes for the family memories collections
g. a small dresser to hold some of the less attractive stuff
h. a collection of family photos - especially our parents and childhood shots with our siblings
i. a chair
Here are some of my favorite inspiration photos:


And here are some of the items on my wish list:

colorful chandelier

IKEA fabric for feature wall

DIY IKEA Rast dresser

Mirror for dressing table area.

Don't worry, Thanksgiving and Christmas...I won't forget about you. But my mind is swirling with closet dreams and I can't wait to get started!