October (Robert Frost)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

O hushed October morning mild, 
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall; 
Tomorrow's wind, if it be wild, 
Should waste them all. 
The crows above the forest call; 
Tomorrow they may form and go. 
O hushed October morning mild, 
Begin the hours of this day slow. 
Make the day seem to us less brief. 
Hearts not averse to being beguiled, 
Beguile us in the way you know. 
Release one leaf at break of day; 
At noon release another leaf; 
One from our trees, one far away. 
Retard the sun with gentle mist; 
Enchant the land with amethyst
Slow, slow!

Hosting Sunday Supper

Monday, October 29, 2012

Last night we entertained our first dinner guests in our new home. After it was all over I was reminded of the first time we hosted Sunday supper as a newly married couple. We had a family of five over (two adults and three young children). Eeek! While I made a menu that I thought the kids would enjoy (turkey sliders with all the fixins' and fries) it was such an ordeal in our small kitchen that I thought we might never host again. Fortunately, if I've learned anything from my chef crush, Ina, it's this: keep it simple. 

I started preparations for Sunday supper on Friday. I found the perfect blue mason jar at a local antique shop then bought a few stocks of baby's-breath to give the jar new life. Simple. Next I created a geometric table runner with brown kraft paper and white acrylic paint. Also very simple. Then I set the table. Getting those details out of the way made preparing the menu that much easier. 

Saturday night I whipped up a pumpkin cheesecake that could sit in the fridge overnight, because that's the beauty of easy desserts. Sunday, after church, I assembled a roast pork butt with apricots and apples. (Tip: I don't eat meat often, but when I do I want it to taste good. That means selecting a bone-in meat cut rather than a boneless option, because that's how the meat stays moist and falls off the bone. Now you know.) The recipe was simple and cooked in a covered pot for 2.5 hours. Finally, I made a batch of roasted Brussels sprouts with red chili flakes and a squeeze of lemon juice added right before serving. 

While I had fun with all the preparations and the meal turned out perfectly it was tough getting to know our guests. There were several moments during the evening where I just wanted to teleport my friends into our kitchen. People that I had a history with. Friends that knew my stories and I knew theirs. Friends that simply shared that ease of familiarity. Our evening was another reminder that I'm still adjusting. Trying on my new life and doing my best to give it my all. 

Music Monday: The Stray Birds

The song Dream In Blue from the Stray Birds' debut album features a banjo and bass. 
Which, in my mind, is just about all you really need to make fine sounding music. 

I've only listened to this song a few times and already I'm taken with it. 

For a free download check out this article. 

Friday Favorites: Travel Tips

Friday, October 26, 2012

In wisdom gathered over time I have found that every experience is a form of exploration. 
Ansel Adams

I live with perpetual wanderlust. Travel gets under my skin and it's hard to resist the Siren's call. Whether I'm throwing together an overnight bag or loading up a 30 lb backpack, I've discovered that taking familiar travel items with me makes the entire experience more enjoyable. 

Here are a few of my favorite things to pack when heading off on a new adventure.  

1. Camera and extra batteries. Duh. Who doesn't want to capture images of foreign vistas? Snapshots of faraway architecture, food, and faces is half the fun of reliving those experiences once they are over. I generally travel with two cameras just to be safe. 

2. Earplugs. After my airplane injury last year I never, no never travel without earplugs. In fact, my doctor said that because of significant pressure changes during flight wearing earplugs the entire time is really the smartest way to go. So throw in a package of wax earplugs, like these, and be glad you're a savvy traveler. 

3. Snacks. Traveling hungry gets old fast. Granola bars or trail mix is a winning way to fend off grouchy hunger moments. I'm also a fan of carrying edamame, raw nuts, string cheese, and fruit snacks along the way.

4. Non-wrinkle dress. (I guess this doesn't apply to the gentlemen, sorry guys.) But seriously ladies, you NEED to have one of these when you travel. I suggest a neutral color that you can pair with various layers and scarfs. Who knows, you may even end up swimming in the Mediterranean in your versatile smock. (Check out Athleta for some classy and comfortable options.)

5. Knife and spoon. In my day-to-day life I carry a spoon in my purse at all times. It comes in handy more often than you'd imagine. This summer I added a four-inch picnic knife to my travel bag. Having a sharp utensil for divvying up crisp apples and cheese at an impromptu picnic is a travel essential. 

6. Thank you cards. Sometimes it's just nice to leave your host(ess) a little note. Guaranteed they'll appreciate the gesture.  

7. Foldable bag. I simply can't live without these. My little orange bag lives permanently in my purse. When I travel I simply transfer it to my carry on bag. Besides, having an extra tote to bring travel goodies home in is sure handy. 

8. Umbrella. Boston is one of my favorite cities, but I can't tell you how many times I've been caught unawares without an umbrella in that town. Now I simply leave an umbrella in my travel suitcase.  

9. Cashmere cardigan. Oh yes, I just upped the travel ante. Recently I invested in a nice piece of clothing that I could wrap myself in during air travel. Generally speaking I freeze the first half of a flight and then finally settle into a comfortable temperature. Funny how taking care of the basics can make such a difference. 

10. Water bottle. We all know breathing circulated air saps the moisture right out of you. I make a conscious effort to stay hydrated, both when flying and when traipsing about a new city. Trust me, dehydration is not fun for anyone. Rather than spending money on plastic bottles I just carry a bottle with me. 

11. First Aid Kit. No, not the music group, although I did mention them recently, I'm talking sunscreen, aspirin, and band aids. Smart travels know not to leave home without them. 

12. Loaded iDevice and a good book. Sometimes you just have to entertain yourself. 

Anything I missed? What are some of your favorite things to take with you when traveling?  

Words: Wisdom

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Preserve, then, the freedom of your mind in education and in religion [and politics], and be unafraid to express your thoughts and to insist upon your right to examine every proposition. We are not so much concerned with whether your thoughts are orthodox or heterodox as we are that you shall have thoughts.

                                                                                                                  Hugh B. Brown 

Original address available here.

Our Post-it Project

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Great Wall of Post-Its
Early in our dating life, on our first New Year's Eve trip in fact, I decided it would be clever to create a Post-it board of all the things we wanted to accomplish in the coming year. (This only happened because I was fairly hopeful about the prospects of spending time together on a regular basis. Fortunately, my hunch was right.)

Creating a Post-it board is not an original idea. So no points there. You probably already have Post-it notes covering your cubicle and stuffed into the bottom of your purse. Right? Making an annual Post-it board, however, is ten times more AWESOME. What does it entail? I'm glad you asked. We both write up ideas (usually 10-12 per person) and then take turns sharing. Neither of us have vetoed ideas in the past, but I suppose that could happen. Also, our board isn't hard-and-fast. If we have to amend something that's okay. (This year, for instance, we didn't get to one place in DC before moving. No big deal.) 

Since then, our Post-it board has become an annual tradition. And we all know how big I am on traditions. Plus having colorful visual reminders of places to visit and new hobbies to try is a happy incentive. Once tasks are complete we move them to the left side of the board, keeping the right side for things we have yet to accomplish. One of my favorite Post-it notes from January 2012 was one GH wrote. He suggested we each read a book the other one selected. I choose The Book Thief for him and he selected Assassin's Apprentice for me. I finished the book this past weekend. What I liked best about this exchange was being introduced to a genre of fiction I wouldn't otherwise have picked on my own. Trying something new, even mixing up your reading selections, is mentally refreshing. Who knows, I might even read the rest of the trilogy. 

Image found here.

Music Monday: Rufus Wainwright

Monday, October 22, 2012

I don't know what it is about this song that gets under my skin. Maybe it's the title. Maybe it's the acknowledgement of universal addictions/cravings/vices. Maybe I just like Rufus Wainwright's voice. Sometimes identifying why you like a song is like trying to describe the taste of salt. This song isn't new, but thanks to one fantastic autumn music swap I've been enjoying it for the last several weeks.

Ps. According to GH this combination use to be his favorite evening ritual. These days he's swapped out the cigarettes for cheerios.  

A Weekend Outing

Sunday, October 21, 2012

One of the benefits of living in a new place is the opportunity to explore. Where every encounter becomes a first. Yesterday morning GH and I headed off to our neighboring state of Illinois. The one hour drive took us over bridges and through small towns as we paralleled the Mighty Mississippi and eventually met up with the Illinois river, reaching Pere Marquette State Park just as the Visitor Center was opening. 
A little history about the park from their website: 

When Europeans began to explore the Illinois country, most of the Native Americans they met were members of the Illini tribe. The first of these explorers, in 1673, was a group led by Louis Joliet, a cartographer, and Pere (Father) Jacques Marquette, a french Jesuit missionary. Marquette and Joliet, accompanied by French voyageurs, paddled down the Mississippi River in search of a passage to the Pacific Ocean. On the Mississippi Bluffs, they encountered something which has become a local legend: "we saw . . two painted monsters which at first made us afraid and upon which the boldest savages dare not long rest their eyes." They learned that the creature was part bird, with the face of a man, scales like a fish, horns like a deer, a long black tail. The creature was called Piasa. A representation of the Piasa Bird is still maintained in paint on the bluffs about twenty miles from the park. 

Learning from the Native Americans that the Mississippi River emptied into the Gulf of Mexico, Marquette and Joliet turned back, returning by way of the Illinois River and stopping near what is now Pere Marquette State Park. A large stone cross east of the park entrance commemorates their historic landing here. 

Generations later, local civic groups sought to preserve this land by the river as a state park. They raised money and were successful in persuading the state to match their funds for the purchase of the land in 1931. The newly created state park was to be called Piasa Bluffs. By popular demand, it was soon renamed Pere Marquette State Park in honor of the adventurous French missionary.

After hiking and soaking in the colors of the rich autumn canopy we made an executive decision, declaring Pere Marquette our new favorite spot. A place we'd be returning to often. 

But wait, it gets better! On the drive back through Grafton, population 672 and home to winter nesting bald eagles, I saw a gathering of teepees and smoke, which meant we had to stop! To my delight we'd discovered a bona fide Rendezvous. Never experienced a Rendezvous before? It's basically a lot of people dressed in period clothing (think pre-1840, mountain men, and lots of animal skins), outdoor cooking, and trading posts (where one can find anything from canvas to marbles to skillets). Immediately I was taken back to my Festival of the American West days. Where, growing up, my parents entered annual dutch oven contests and later, in college, I wore period clothing and volunteered as a historical interpreter one summer. 

 And that's what I call a perfect weekend outing. 

All images by me. 

Friday Favorites: Musical Theatre

Friday, October 19, 2012

Let's be frank, shall we? I love musicals. LOVE. Them. 

This love affair, or shall we say obsession, defines much of my identity. I attribute my affinity for musicals to two formative experiences. First, when I was eight-years-old, my parents took my sister and I to the musical Annie. We got all dressed up, had dinner on the town, and paraded down to the Capital Theater like septuagenarian season ticket holders. It was magic. After that I watched Annie every single week and started informing people I was adopted. Second, by some mystical power, I uncovered (or stole) a Barbara Streisand cassette tape (which likely belonged to my dad), around the same time. And since we all know Babs* is the gateway drug, I was hooked. I listened to The Broadway Album every night before I went to bed. I memorized every word and stanza. I belted tunes to my attentive imaginary audience. I was the underage diva long before it was cool. 

Funny thing is I can't remember anyone in my family ever watching musicals. They just weren't interested. But I watched. And I listened. Truthfully I couldn't help myself. I was addicted. In third grade, back when arts education was still taught in elementary schools, we learned the words and melody to the song Camelot.  For years I believed that halcyon place existed. Then, in seventh grade, I enrolled in a theater class. After that it was all over. We dissected My Fair Lady, memorizing extensive passages, and practicing ad-libbing. (Anyone that lived with me during this phase of my adolescence can testify  I might have obnoxiously sung theater songs ad nauseam. Just maybe.) Then came college.

As an eager freshman I enrolled in a musical theater class taught by a local legend. We learned about songwriters Victor Herbert and George M. Cohan (also known as the original Yankee Doodle Dandy boy) who pioneered the musical theater style; how musicals became less operatic and more mainstream (made possible by the controversial premiere of Show Boat in 1927); the rise of Broadway's revival in the 50s courtesy of Rodgers and Hammerstein's brilliance; how the infamous director/producer Harold Prince, who has more money than God, kept the theater scene alive; why Steven Sondheim, a modern genius, whose work dominated the stage during the 70s, 80s and early 90s, continues to be one of the most prolific artists to date. I spent long hours in the campus library watching VHS tapes of the musicals we studied. Some were filmed stage versions, most were movie adaptations and this was were my taste for musicals really solidified. Long before Wicked made show tunes pop-u-lar I was a dedicated aficionado.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, I offer you, in no particular order, a sampling of some of my most cherished songs from the sparkling world of musical theatre.

1. Fiddler on the Roof by Harnick and Bock. 
Favorite song**: Tevye's Dream 
A  poor Jewish family with five daughters adapts to changing religious and cultural traditions. Originally written in an attempt to show the true Jewish experience. 

2. Gypsy by Styne and Sondheim.
Favorite song: Some People
A zealous stage mother pulls out all the stops to get her two daughters into the limelight. Her plan backfires, however, when the youngest daughter turns her routine into a colorful striptease.  
(The Rosalind Russell version is my favorite.)
3. Into The Woods by Sondheim and Lapine. 
Favorite song: Agony
A hodge-podge of classic fairy tales mashed into one morally complex story. Featuring Sondheim's polyphony at its best.

4. The Sound of Music by Rodgers and Hammerstein II. 
Favorite song: Climb Ev'ry Mountain
Are we even friends if you haven't seen this movie? Bonus points for watching it with other tourists in an Austrian hostel. 

5. Sweeney Todd by Sondheim and Wheeler. 
Favorite song: A Little Priest
A demon barber with a twenty-year grudge collaborates with the doughty pie maker, Mrs. Lovett (originally played by Angela Lansbury), make up this dark musical thriller. Bonus points for premiering the year I was born. 

6. The Secret Garden by Norman and Simon. 
Favorite song: Lily's Eyes
A misshapen grief-stricken father and his crippled boy are brought together again by one  inquisitive little girl. Set, where else, but a secret garden. 

7. Yentl by Legrand and Bergman. 
Favorite song: A Piece of Sky
In an age where the world of study belonged only to men one woman disguises herself to pursue knowledge, learning about life and love along the way.
Film Clip 

8. My Fair Lady by Learner and Loewe.
Favorite song: On the Street Where You Live
A common flower girl is transformed by a refined gentleman linguist. 
Film Clip

*Regardless of how you feel about musicals or Ms. Streisand Yentl will change your life. Try it and see.  
**Choosing a favorite song is like choosing a favorite child. Impossible. 

Homemade: Applesauce

Thursday, October 18, 2012

One of the things I loved most about growing up was eating. Okay, I still love that. What I really enjoyed though was family meal time. Each evening we'd gathered around our oval oak dining table and have dinner together. It wasn't fancy food, just a simple meal. Rarely was it peaceful and it was usually over before it had even begun. But looking back I feel like those moments were some of the best times. A time to connect with other members of my family. A time to set aside chores, homework, and other tasks to just be together. Once we were eating my mom would usually ask us What's one good thing that happened to you today? We'd roll our eyes and then rack our brain for something positive to share. 

Raising five kids and feeding a large family was no small task. For that reason mom's meal rotation was fairly consistent: tuna casserole, lasagna, broccoli and chicken casserole, spaghetti, and several varieties of hearty soup. Occasionally, on a Sunday, we'd have something different. Since my dad loved pork chops we'd sometimes relish a weekend treat. On such occasions, despite my protests, I'd usually be cajoled into making applesauce. (Dad thought it was such a perfect pairing. I can still remember the squirt of yellow mustard he'd dip his chop into before finishing it off with a hearty dollop of tangy applesauce.) And so I'd dig out the metal peeler and start in on half a dozen apples, all the while thinking this seems like sooo much work and maybe, to my ten-year-old self, it was. 

Last month, before the epic move out west, I went apple picking. From my harvest I decided to make a GIANT vat of applesauce, mainly to see if I could still remember my made-up recipe from long ago. Well, guess what? Making applesauce still takes a lot of work. But in the end it's worth it. 

(makes 4-6 1 pint jars)

1-4 dozen apples
medium to large pot
cinnamon stick

Peel, core, and eighth the apples. Set apples to simmer in a pot with 1/2 c -1 c. water. Once they start getting soft (5-10 minutes) start mashing down the  apples with a wire masher. Continue doing this every 5 to 10 minutes or so. Add cinnamon stick,  1-3 T. of cinnamon,  1/2-1 c. honey (depending on desired sweetness), 1/2-1 tsp ground ginger and 1/2 tsp nutmeg.

The trick to making applesauce is tasting along the way. The process isn't complicated, it just takes a balance of finding the right combination of sweet and spice. Once the apples are soft and mashed and the cinnamon stick has been removed the applesauce is ready.

Store in glass jars in the refrigerator for up to two weeks or can them in a hot water bath to your heart's content. 

Note: I prefer chunky applesauce but if you like a fine consistency just pulverize the entire batch in a blender or food processor.

Nine to Five

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The nice thing about having six consecutive weeks of vacation (or unemployment if you want to get technical) is six weeks of vacation. Six glorious weeks. Days filled with lounging, eating, museum hopping, Instagramming, visiting family, and writing. Days that make you want to pursue dreams of opening up a pop-up restaurant and writing a novel in the Italian countryside. Sadly, those days have a habit of evaporating before the sun rises. 

Now that I'm back to working full time I'm faced with the reality of six months with no vacation. Sad face. I guess when you consider the sagging economy and for-reals-unemployment and underemployment my situation is hardly one to bemoan. Yeah, yeah, yeah. (Don't get me started on the fact that I no longer have 22 holidays a year. What, you mean everyone doesn't celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception?) But I digress. 

Back to my job. When it became a reality that we would be moving I applied to various academic institutions. I had the qualifications and felt confident I'd find something in no time. Except no time turned into a long time. I revamped my cover letter and checked job boards like a crazy lady. Nothing. Finally, I turned to the Internets and had a Midwest colleague post something on Facebook. One poster suggested I check a web site I had not previously been aware of. The pickings were slim, but the position that stood out the most to me I didn't feel qualified for. Then I thought what have I got to lose?  I had one day to apply before the closing deadline and that's just what I did. 

Fast forward a few weeks and we were in MO looking for a place to live. Somehow the stars aligned and I was able to secure a job interview the same week. It went well and I felt good about it. But then I started to panic. When they called the next day to offer me the position I was shocked. I mean I'd never worked in public libraries and here they were offering me a solid management position. I didn't argue and quickly accepted. 

I've been at my job for one week and holy toledo batman my brain is full! Learning names and policies, institutional cultures and communities takes fierce mental energy. It's good, but the adjustment phase takes time. I imagine my gray matter simply forgot all the other jobs where I've gone through a similar process. Oh that slippery memory wiring.  

After one week these are the things I like best about my new job:  
  • DVDs Galore— Seriously. I am going to have to start watching movies every. single. night. of the week. I'd forgotten what a vast collection of popular television series and blockbuster hits public libraries carry. We even have a Redbox type dispenser in the lobby for checking out the most recent "hot picks." 
  • Light— Our building was renovated just two years ago and the natural light sources are abundant. I love that the stacks are bright and the public spaces are inviting.The main stairwell skylight in just one other architectural highlight. 
  • Location—  My work is right across the street from a Harvest Market. It is open every day until Christmas. Which means I've already picked up apples, mums, cider, and a giant pumpkin. Please stop me from buying a hay bale and those decorative corn husks. (Also I am within walking distance to a Post Office, Walgreens, and two bakeries.)
  • People— The people I work with are lovely folks, unless of course you start talking politics or women's issues but I know better than that. By and large everyone has been so helpful in answering my questions. That also goes for the patrons. Gentlewoman Kate warned me that Midwest people were nice and she was right. Oddly I'm still adjusting to that, but it is such a welcome reprieve from my previous life.
Hopefully this is the beginning of a highly rewarding and intellectually fulfilling job. 

Homeless Man to Me

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I read auras of body language and I can see they haven't quite broken you in yet. 
You're still smiling.

This after less than one week at my new job. Read my aura again in a month, good sir; right now I can't stop grinning.

Film Review: Shoot the Piano Player

Monday, October 15, 2012

What do you get when you cross French New Wave with film noir? Shoot the Piano Player, a French film by Francois Truffaut. I picked this comedic thriller up from our DVD collection last weekend and was instantly taken with the cinematic style. If you've never ventured into foreign films before what are you waiting for? Rest assured this is the perfect introduction. 

First off, this film has gangsters. What more do you need? Apparently, halfway through the filming, Mr Truffaut decided he didn't really care for gangsters, being that they are dirty thugs and all, and decided to amp up his comedic style to compensate for the shady characters (one with a cap and the other with a hat). Although the editing is disjointed at times the voice-overs are pure gold. I was particularly drawn to the plot, which includes: a criminal eluding the law, a gifted pianist with a pseudonym and hidden past, a bizarre bar ballad, a waitress and her love interest, and trench coats. The film presents an engaging story line which combines to make this movie an unexpected classic,* even if you've never heard of it.

*According to IMDB this film was a hit with the critics, but boomed at the box office. Go figure. I suppose that's the subjectivity of art. 

Music Monday: Stella Stagecoach

I love the idea of creating music inspired by daily living. Finding moments that are best manifest through melody. It has been said that every city has its own smell. I imagine every city also has its own soundtrack— a reflection of the daily buzz and people that operate under a similar sky. Brothers, Mathew and Tim Morgan, create their music inspired by their travels abroad. Charming, right? Their sound is lonely and romantic all at once. I've listened to the song Everything You Say on repeat this past week. It has me reminiscing past adventures and planning future international getaways. You can listen and purchase their music here


Weekend in Pictures

Sunday, October 14, 2012

All images are unedited and taken with Harold (my iPhone). 

I Am Not a Robot

Friday, October 12, 2012

Let's just clear the air. In case any of you were curious, the fact is: I am not a robot. I have no mobility issues, no metal parts, and my voice is not automated. If there were an exam featuring only word identification I would fail. BIG time. And as much as I adore reading your lovely blogs and engaging with my own comments I really detest having to prove my humanness by spelling out indiscernible letter/number combinations. 

That's all. 

Friday Favorites: Children's Books


Recently it seems like everyone has decided to have a baby, which is kind of a happy thing. I've already celebrated the arrival of four little ones, three from family members and one from a close college friend. Next year, two of my siblings just announced happy little bundles AND two of my oldest friends will be having their second. That makes for a total of eight babies in the space of 10 months! That said, I figured a review of my favorite children's books (which make great gifts and encourage early literacy) was called for.

All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan. This lovely book is a delightful tale of a little boy, Eli, who learns about all the special places beloved by both his parents and grandparents. The illustrations are stunning and the book recounts how children connect to nature.

The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog! (or anything) by Mo Willems. The gender neutral characters have a wide reaching audience and the humorous stories are engaging for both kids and adults. You simply can't go wrong with this author.

I Ain't Gonna Paint No More! by Karen Beaumont. This book recounts the artistic wanderings of one little boy. It is a rainbow of rhymes and a kaleidoscope of colorful illustrations, perfect for any child. (Adults may need to reinforce proper crafting rules, but otherwise a pure delight.)

Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse or Julius, Baby of the World by Kevin Henkes. What is about anthropomorphic mice that make stories so engaging? Lilly, with her red boots and little quips, captures your heart from page one. Plus we all love alliteration, right?

The Olivia series by Ian Falconer. This spunky little pig takes the world by storm in all kinds of adventures. The gray, black, white, and red illustrations also create a nice minimalist effect. Great for kids of all ages.

This, of course, is not an exhaustive list. There are many wonderful stories to share with children. Some of them just happen to come in book format.

Anything special you'd add to this list?

Homemade: Oatmeal Bread

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

As the temperature continues to plummet I'm drawn to my old comforts, wrapping myself in the familiarity of recipes stained from years of use.  Yesterday, back in our new kitchen for the first time with a stocked fridge, I spent the day baking. Old fashioned knead-by-hand bread baking to be exact. And while my repertoire is small there is something magical about combining simple ingredients (yeast, salt, flour, water), waiting some time, then producing such a wholesome outcome. This particular recipe has been my staple for the last 15 years. I think it was my mother's and I remember making it on a weekly basis in college. It is foolproof and 100% delicious. 

Oatmeal Bread
(makes two loaves)

2 c. boiling water
1 c. old fashioned oats
1/2 c. white flour
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 T. salt
2 T. unsalted butter

Mix, stir and cool slightly. 

In a separate bowl dissolve 1 T. (or packet) of fresh yeast in 1 c. warm water. (I add a little white sugar to help it foam and then stir it all together.) Meanwhile, measure out 5-5 1/2 c. flour. (I use half wheat and half white flour.) Once you've combined the yeast mixture into the oats mixture, simply add the flour a little at a time and mix together with a wooden spoon. Let rise for one hour in a warm place. Punch down and knead dough with additional flour if necessary. Then split the dough and form it into two loaves. Let the loaves rise for an additional hour in greased and floured bread pans. Bake at 350° for 40-45 min. 

Ps. Bread is best used in the first couple days. Otherwise, you'll just have to make a lot of fancy french toast. 

Words: Wisdom

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

If I had influence with the good fairy, I would ask
that her gift to each child be a sense of wonder so indestructible
that it would last throughout life. 

                                                                          —Rachel Carlson

Music Monday: David Wax Museum

Monday, October 8, 2012

This week's song is brought to you by Missouri native, David Wax and his Museum. It is a fusion of Mexican folk and roots rock. The group, once hailed as the best band you might not knowspeaks to my Hispanic heritage and rouses my soul. 

Do yourself a favor and have a listen. 

Friday Favorites: {Guest Post by Luci}

Friday, October 5, 2012

Luci is a mother, wife, and friend with artistic aspirations trying to live and love deliberately. In her husband's words, "kinda crazy but funny." She blogs at People, punctuation, and things that are green.

Favorite makeup tip
This is a toss-up between using eyeliner and darkening my eyebrows. If I had to choose, though, I’d go with the eyebrows. I have light-colored, thin hair, and from far away (or in pictures) it looks like my eyebrows don’t even exist. Darkening them makes such a difference in the balance of my face and gives me a more pleasant expression. Best advice my mom ever gave me. (I know there might be fancier ways to do it, but a simple Cover Girl pencil works for me.)

Favorite party game
Wackee Six! (Or Nertz, if you’re totally old school.) Seriously, click on the link if you want to know all the specifics of how to play, but basically each player tries to get rid of all their cards—using piles in the middle—at the same time all the other players try to get rid of all their cards, and there are no turns! It all happens simultaneously and there are piles all over the table and it gets pretty intense. This is a game I’m not very good at, honestly, but it’s so crazy and frenzied. I love it.

Favorite take-over meal
Chicken enchiladas. Almost everyone likes them. They’re totally easy. And you can pack a lot of yummy nutrition into a single pan. Genius!

Favorite pregnancy must-haves
(I only have one child so far, a two-year-old, but I remember these making a big difference, so I like to pass on the info.)

Lemonhead candies. Definitely helped with the nausea. Bite them a tiny bit to let out the sour flavor, and then suck ‘em just like cough drops.

Prenatal Vinyasa Yoga with Jennifer Wolfe helped with backache, joint pain, sleep, and overall well-being. Yoga itself has changed my life, and it made perfect sense to continue that relationship into pregnancy.
Favorite songs right now
Sad: Secrets for Sale by Roman Funerals
I don’t know what this song is actually about, but to me it’s about human frailty and how we so often wish and try and want to be better than we are, but it’s just not possible. We’re mean, we’re selfish, and we forget the needs of those around us. It’s so hard to see other people—really see them—as people.
To dance to: Jai Ho (You are my Destiny) by The Pussycat Dolls 
A good friend introduced me to Zumba classes at the gym this year, and I love it! I’ve never been a super awesome dancer, but it is a great way to work out. Our instructor used this song a lot and it was one of my favorite routines. I can’t hear it start and not want to move.
To sing: The Mamas and the Papas, especially Twelve Thirty and California Dreamin’
Beautiful parts and harmonies. So fun to sing.
Favorite drink
Grape soda. I have a friend who says this reveals my ghetto-influenced high school years, and maybe it does. I just love the flavor . . . so delicious.

Favorite joke right now
Knock knock.
Who’s there?
Two who?
To whom.
Favorite books
Children’s: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault
I remember loving this book as a child, and now my son loves it when I read it to him. My favorite part is when he repeats the “Oh no!”
Adolescent: The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
I read this book for the first time in junior high, and it was too tragic for me to even handle at that age. I’ve reread it a number of times, and the helplessness of some of the characters still hits me with the same force it did back then.
Recent: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
I wrote a whole post about this book and I could write more. It’s truly a masterpiece. Equally amazing is Robinson’s Housekeeping.
Favorite pamper-me-indulgence
Getting a haircut. I love everything about it. The shampoo and yummy massage, shedding all that extra weight, and the new-haircut confident feeling that stays with you for a whole week. One of my absolute favorite things.
Favorite color
Green. Always green. I don’t know why, but it just speaks to my soul. Nothing makes me happier.

Settling In

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

It's been nearly two weeks since we landed in our new Midwest home. Two weeks, wow! One of those weeks was spent living in a hotel (which sounds exotic until you actually do it). Currently, we are in the process of settling into our own place. Settling. Doesn't that connote such a level of permanence and finality? Since this is a phase of discovery, being anything other than transient is difficult to imagine right now. However, I can't help thinking what it might be like to become attached to this corner of the world. Falling for its pace and simplicity. 

On one of my outings last week I met a woman who had recently opened a pie shop. She told me how she had also relocated from DC for her husband's job many years ago. Then, with the wisdom of age, she specifically mentioned how St. Louis was such an easy place to live and how she was certain I'd come to adore it. 

Today we unpacked our last box. What a relief. While we still have little details to add, I can't help think how this move, with all its emotional heartache, has been one of the easiest moves of my entire life. Why? Two words: professional movers. Also, I've had the luxury of being unemployed during this transition. This has made life one thousand times easier. In addition, I've relished acquainting myself to my new surroundings by scouting out free museums, driving through different neighborhoods, perusing local thrift shops, and eating.*

Finally, our place is starting to feel like a real home. 

Red door appropriately matches kitchen accents.  

Vintage charm. 

White kitchen and natural light. 

Pretty storage solutions. 
Thrift store abstracts. 
Double sinks. 
 *Ps. Rest assured I've already found some of the BEST restaurants in St. Louis. Read more about my food adventures here

Music Monday: First Aid Kit

Monday, October 1, 2012

These Swedish sisters are folksy and mellow all at once. It didn't surprise me when I read that they use to do backup for Fleet Foxes, another group I'd commend to your listening ears.

So much I know that things just don't grow if you don't bless them with your patience.

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