Thursday, July 17, 2014

A year... Crazy!

June has come and gone and July is whizzing by so quickly that looking at the calendar induces mild panic attacks.  Callah is firmly rooted in her summer schedule so late nights and late mornings are the norm around here.  Nick however, is off to work well before seven many mornings, so I have some time in the early hours to sip tea, peruse the paper, practice yoga, and today, update my blog.

I can't help being reflective as our one year anniversary of moving to Minnesota passed with little more than Nick and I saying, "huh, we've lived here a year. Crazy." 

In one year, we started new jobs, moved twice, bought a house and got pregnant.  It is a little crazy.  A friend asked me recently if we were happier here in the Twin Cities and it made me think.  I would say overall, yes, we are happier.  We like our jobs a lot better and we love our new home, but as the Minneapolis Star Tribune recently pointed out moving to a new place is difficult and Minnesota may be tricker than most (  It's a big job to make and hone new friendships, but we've certainly come a long way in the last 12 months.  Moving into our neighborhood in Golden Valley has been a tremendous boon to our social lives and just the fact that it's summer means neighbors stop by on bike rides and walks and wave out of open car windows.  

As we paint and prepare for the new baby's arrival in a few months, I find myself watching videos of Callah as a baby and wondering where the time has gone.  In this year, she has made tremendous growth.  I still nursed her to sleep when we moved here and now she is an independent, chatty, almost potty-trained little girl.

This summer we've taken a music class, explored the cities and been to the playground nearly every day.  Below are a few pictures of the fun we've been having.

I am looking forward to this next year in Minnesota as we welcome our new baby, get deeper into our jobs and chip away at the painting projects in our new home.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

It's Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas

I love Christmas.  Even into my 20s I would have a hard time falling asleep on Christmas Eve because I felt giddy about the holiday.  I can sleep now, but I still get excited about the season.  In the Midwest there really isn't much else to live for during the shortest days of the year.  In suburban Minneapolis, the malls and adjacent city streets really do it up right.  I am smacked in the face with Christmas cheer from every direction. Our school office is probably offending someone right now with it's blatant Christian festiveness.  I love it all!

I made a lot of my gifts this year, so I've been busy these past 6 weeks either baking, sewing or knitting.  Too busy to drop a line on my blog.  But I have been diligently photographing my merrymaking.  I have also been a teensy bit addicted to Pinterest this holiday.  Hence the craftiness.

We chopped down a tree!
Homemade banana bread in a mason jar 

Rolo chocolate chip cookies

Sock snowmen

Our tree!
 I am most proud of the banana bread in a mason jar, these were a big hit and super easy.  They are the one thing that actually turned out almost as good as the pinterest picture.

In his bid for husband of the year, Nick made my stocking for work.  We were "encouraged" to make stockings for work!

They are probably not worthy of Martha Stewart, but our gingerbread men cookies were delicious!  Callah ate more of the dough than I think is probably healthy or normal, but we had a good time. 

I think the weeks leading up to Christmas were a joyous time at our house!  I need to remember to keep the projects and the fun throughout the winter to keep our spirits up.

Merry Chritsmas to all!

Monday, October 28, 2013

The New Normal

Moving to a new state and starting new jobs has kept our family busy these past couple of months.  I don't remember much from September. I think the weather was nice. With October comes cooler days, and calmer minds. I am finally feeling like I can catch my breath at work and at home.  Callah has adjusted beautifully to her new normal.  New babysitter, new house, new situations!

Now that I don't feel so busy I want to puke all the time, I can really enjoy my weekends! We have been exploring all the Twin Cities has to offer.  

Trick-or-Treating at Como Park Zoo in St. Paul:

Apple Orchard:

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Sweater... An 8 year Retrospective

Recently my mom inspired me by finishing a needlepoint project she had started when she was pregnant with my brother, Tom. Apparently the third kid is the one that puts an end to crafting.  If you know my family at all you know that this project didn't lay in some closet for three decades. No, it traveled from Peoria, to two houses in Erie, then homes in Boise, Waukesha, Erie (again) and now Akron.

So in the spirit of tieing up loose ends, I dug out a sweater that I started knitting eight years ago. It had so many tiny little mistakes in it, plus it looked like it was going to be too small for me, so when I started knitting the neck on the wrong side, I just gave up.  At the neck! Of a sweater! I shoved it in a bag and didn't think about it for eight years.

The good news is, in the intermittent years, I have become a better knitter.  I ripped out a few rows, found my spot, picked up a few dropped stitches and within the day I had finished the sweater.

Nicholas Woods

There's a lesson in here somewhere.  I suppose what I learned is that despite initial appearances, many mistakes are not as insurmountable as you first think.  When I messed up the sweater, I couldn't figure out how to fix my mistake. I thought about dragging it to a yarn store or to someone's grandma, but instead I quit.  Which was kind of par for the course in my early 20s.  I quit several jobs, colleges and relationships before I gave them a chance to bloom.  Every time I walk into Callah's bedroom her rocking chair with it's half finished strip job is a glaring reminder of my youthful enthusiasm to bite off more than I could chew and promptly spit it out.

"The time of the sweater" was a fun time in my life. I was getting to know Nick and starting out in my career. I spent many late nights at work, followed by long conversations and copious glasses of wine with my new boyfriend.  It's no wonder that the sweater started to fade in its importance.  It was something I started when I was transitioning from living with my parents after college to finding my own space in the world.

Nicholas Woods

I'm proud of this sweater, mistakes in all, and proud of myself for pulling it out of the closet, dusting it off and making the most of it.

Nicholas Woods

Friday, October 18, 2013

Crazy For My Cozy Cowl!

This summer I stumbled across Anoka, a cute little town, which proudly proclaims itself, "Halloween Capital of the World" as you drive down the main -or the only-drag, which is Main Street.

Let's just examine that claim for one minute.  Halloween capital of the... world?!? The world? Really, Anoka?  Halloween, a holiday I actually quite enjoy mainly because it is situated at my favorite time of the year, and happens to contain within it some super fun dorky teacher activities, is not the epicenter of this story.

The real point of the story is that Anoka is also home to one of the coziest yarn shops I've been to in a long time.  It's situated off of Main Street in an old building with creaky wooden floorboards and a slightly musty, pleasant smell.  The shop sells yarn and candles so the air is perfumed with deep spicy floral and the earthy scent of yarn.  Sheperdess ( is locally owned and lovely.  And even though I can't seem to finish the neck of two sweaters, I still bought some beautiful teal wool yarn without a plan or a pattern!

But since this was summer, I perused at my leisure magazines and websites until I found the perfect project.  Behold, the link to the free pattern.

Here's came out better, but she's a professional. Mine isn't too shabby.

It's long and loopy and extra cozy.  And now I'm off to finish those sweaters, I swear!

Spooooky Cooookies -- Pumpkin Spice Sugar Cookies with Cream Cheese Frostingl

Here in Minnesota it's very vogue (and easy) to love fall.  The trees are pretty spectacular with their bright leaves, and apple orchards and pumpkin farms are around every corner.  I've been blessed with a couple of days off in payment for some long conference nights, so Callah and I set out to celebrate fall with gusto.

Our first order of business was pumpkin spice sugar cookies with cream cheese frosting.  The base of the cookies is a staple from my grandmother's cook book, Company at the Parsonage, and I added a 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin pie seasoning to the dough.

1 cup sugar with
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons cold water
1 beaten egg

Mix well.  

2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
few grains of salt
 * 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie seasoning (optional)

Add dry ingredients to wet, mixing slowly.  Roll very thin on a lightly floured board. Cut with spooktacular cookie cutters dipped in flour.  Place on lightly greased cookie sheet. 

Bake at 400 degrees for 6-8 minutes.  

For the frosting, I used about 6 oz of whipped cream cheese and about 2 cups of powdered sugar, a splash of milk and a 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie seasoning.

The overall effect was some lightly seasoned fall cookies with just the right amount of extra spice.  

To round out our days, we've been taking long walks with our sweaters on and sipping hot coffee at Starbucks (or milk) and enjoying their fireplace.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Quiche, Julia, and Me

A few years ago Nick gave me "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" for my birthday.  Many pleasant afternoons have been spent pouring through it over a cup of tea, but not a single recipe had come to fruition, until yesterday. I've been a little intimidated by the over 1,000 pages of recipes, terms and technique.

I had my heart set on a summer quiche, so I consulted Ms. Child and decided I was thoroughly capable of this dish, something that is considered a light "luncheon"meal took me the better part of a day, but that's another story.  The instructions for the crust alone are over 8 pages, so I will give you a brief overview here.  However, I suggest you read through her directions to get  a thorough understanding of making pie crust!

First I made the pastry dough or "páte briseě" as we call it in France.

2 cups flour (I sifted)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter
4 TB chilled shortening

Scant half cup of iced water

Mix the dry ingredients in a food processor, add butter and pulse until it resembles pea-sized crumbs.

Add the iced water and blend with hands. Julia is a bit particular about exactly how to finish up the dough.  Consult her book for exact directions.

I rolled it out and pushed half the dough into an 8-inch cake pan.  Again, this is not quite right according to Julia (she's very demanding of her ingredients and tools) but I did my best with what I had.  She suggests sending away for pans and such by mail order, FYI.

Once you have it rolled out, put some dry beans or a weight in and cook at 400˚ for about 10 minutes or until very lightly browned.

I have made a few quiches before, but mostly I've just sort of thrown eggs and milk into a pre-made pie crust and hoped for the best.  Yesterday I scrupulously followed the recipe.

6-8 slices bacon, simmered and chopped
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups half and half
1/2 tsp salt
pinch of pepper
pinch of nutmeg

I also added some leeks.

Pour into prepared par-baked pie shell and bake for an additional 25-30 minutes or until top puffs up.

Puff up little quiche! Puff!!

When Nick got home from work yesterday I had a chilled glass of white wine ready, a quiche in the oven and the table set.  I would have felt like the quintessential 50's housewife if only I had showered in the last couple of days and Callah was wearing more than a diaper and marker stains.

Ah well. I think my next quilting project is going to be an over the top frilly apron so I can look the part!

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