Archive for December, 2011

New Year’s Resolutions 2012 —MAV

Friday, December 30th, 2011

A few of my New Year’s resolutions:

* More friends/family time. 2011 seemed to be a c r a z y-busy year for everyone I know. It seems, however, as the year ends that everyone wants to slow their roll. And they/we mean it! I want to do my part by organizing simple kid-friendly gatherings at our place: Sunday Suppers (some of you may remember I used to have a shared meal with my friends/family every few Sundays), Dance Parties (two hours, at some point on an early weekend evening, to do nothing but listen to records and dance) and Wine Time (a 4–6 p.m. glass of wine with a little snack on any given weeknight).

* Waste less; use less. It’s becoming more and more clear to me how much I waste and how little adjustments can make a big difference. I want to be more mindful about letting food go bad before I use it, creating excess trash and purchasing things I don’t need or won’t absolutely use in regular rotation.

* Up with cookbook cooking. I am lucky enough to have a wonderful cookbook collection but I find more and more I am too lazy to really use it! This coming year I would like to cook at least one recipe from every single cookbook I own and share those recipes here with you. I am also happy that this resolution will help me eat more meals at home and that sounds lovely to me as well.

* Visit Portland, Oregon. SCB: See you in March! This resolution I promise to do and I simply can’t wait.

* Be more compassionate with myself. In 2011 I said out loud for the first time, “I guess I actually am human.” A simple thing to say but for me a very hard thing to accept. I’ve always thought of myself as the kind of person who can do anything, everything and even a little bit more all at the same time. It’s just not possible nor should it be. In 2012 I want to be kind to myself accepting that I am not perfect, I never will be perfect and that this enlightened and inspired reality is actually what life is all about.

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This photograph is from the summer in Brooklyn. Oh beautiful summer dappled light … see you again in several months!

Happy, happy new year to each and every one of you! We will be back here on January 13, 2012.

—MAV

New Year’s Resolutions 2012 —SCB

Friday, December 30th, 2011

A few New Year’s resolutions:

* Shake up my morning routine. Instead of heading straight for the coffee press, I am going to try to do some yoga first thing. Just ten or fifteen minutes to start, and we’ll see where that takes me.

* Master making a proper poached egg. Love poached eggs. Have never tried to make one. Better yet, make a poached egg for MAV when she comes to visit this year.

* Organize all the drawers in my house. I have drawers that I just don’t open anymore! That’s silly. Time for a big clean-out. Who knows what I’ll find?

* Wear lipstick. I don’t really wear make-up and am not one to be particularly concerned about my looks, but I thought I might try to find the right lipstick this year.

* More crazy dance parties with my kids. Before they become self-conscious teenagers.

::

The photo above is one from this summer. Missing that intense light!

Happiest New Year to you all! See you in 2012.

—SCB

Happy Holidays 2011 —MAV

Sunday, December 25th, 2011

Wherever you are, whatever you are celebrating I hope you are cozy and warm. I can hardly believe it is just about the end of 2011. Not too quick though! We’ll be here next week with our resolutions as usual. Happy days to all!

—MAV

Soft Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies/ Jam Boats —MAV

Sunday, December 18th, 2011

I’m writing this dispatch from the inside of my parents cozy home. It’s nice to be back in the Midwest for these early holiday days. It has been my new tradition in these last few years to come to see my family here for the days *before* Christmas. That way I get the best of both worlds … I really love this new way of doing things.

One thing I’ve been noticing is that our worlds/homes are not all that different. My new traditions are extensions of the ones I learned from my family over the years. I love my Mom’s small snow globe collection some of which play music and some do not. The one above is like a blizzard. It’s amazing! I have a few snow globes of my own as well and have been thinking it might be a nice collection to grow a little as these years go on.

Recognize this Santa above? My parents have one on their tree! Mine is from my Grandma A’s ornament collection. I am remembering, I think, that I gave one to Grandma A. and one to my parents years and years ago. I love knowing that we both have this jolly fellow in our homes for the holidays.

My mom has quite a Santa collection. Just before I left to come here my sister-in-law said to me that she would fancy starting her own Santa collection. Shhhh … don’t tell … I’m going to help her get that tradition going this coming Christmas Eve.

I’ve been doing a lot of cooking and baking while I’ve been visiting (above I’m working on Boeuf Bourguignon; it was delicious). Food is huge tradition in my family. We used to come back from our Christmas Eve celebration, get out all of the leftovers and sit around Grandma & Grandpa A.’s kitchen table talking the night to death. Who said what. Who wore what. What were our favorite dishes. What didn’t we like at all. We laughed and laughed. All the while eating, eating, eating. At Grandma & Grandpa V.’s on Christmas Day we always started with a shrimp cocktail alongside a very simple display of cheese (the soft orange cheese ball with nuts on the outside) and crackers and by the end of the evening the men gathered in the kitchen sitting around eating Lupini and drinking bits of this or that. I remember from a young age not liking that I wasn’t invited into the kitchen so when I got older I just busted right in there. Some traditions are made to be broken!

There were always a lot of different varieties of cookies on Grandma A.’s sweet table. Some were homemade and others bought from Italian bakeries around Detroit. I’ve been working on finding my own favorites. Of course there are the regulars which will never go away — My Mom’s Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies + Aunt Polly’s Italian Chocolate Cookies + Grandma V.’s Pizelles. These are recipes I will make every single year and in fact they will grace my own sweet table this coming Christmas Day. But I want a few recipes of my own … ones I can pass on to family and friends as “MAV’s Blah Blah Cookie”.

I tested these two cookies at Thanksgiving this year and they were big hits! I am still working on the recipes and the techniques but I’m fairly sure at this point that I am going to bring these into my holiday rotation. Let me know what you think!

Soft Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies
adapted from Martha Stewart
makes 2-1/2 dozen

1-1/2 C flour
1-1/2 t ginger
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t cloves
1/4 t nutmeg
1-1/2 T unsweetened cocoa
1/4 lb butter, room temp
1/2 C dark brown sugar
1/2 C unsulfured molasses
1 t baking soda
1-1/2 t boiling water
9 ounces good chocolate, chopped into 1/4-inch chunks
(or you can use chocolate chips)

Sift together flour, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and cocoa; set aside. Beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add molasses and beat until combined. In a small bowl dissolve baking soda in boiling water. Beat half flour mixture into butter mixture. Beat baking soda mixture in and then the remaining flour mixture. Mix in chocolate with wooden spoon. Tun dough out onto plastic wrap and wrap up tight. Refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours but overnight is best. When ready preheat oven to 325ºF/170ºC and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Take dough out of plastic wrap and pull chunks off making round 1-inch balls with your hands. Place them on the baking sheet 3 in a row (so you’ll get about 12 on one baking sheet). Put baking sheets back in fridge for at least 20 minutes. Remove one sheet and use your palm or the bottom of a glass (with water on it) to flatten out the dough balls so they are about 1/2 inch thick. Bake for 12–15 minutes rotating the sheet half-way through. Remove, let cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Repeat baking with second baking sheet. Store cookies in airtight container.

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Jam Boats
adapted from Martha Stewart
makes 2 dozen

1/4 lb butter, room temp
1/2 C natural sugar
1 egg yolk
2 t pure vanilla extract
1-1/4 C flour
1/4 t salt
3/4 C whole raw almonds coursely chopped
1 egg white, lightly beaten
your favorite jam

Preheat oven to 325º/170ºC. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk and vanilla, beat well. Whisk together flour and salt and add to butter mixture, beating on low until well-combined. Use your hands to bring dough together if need be; it should be soft and moist but come together in a nice big ball. Pull pieces of the dough off to form tight 1-inch balls in your hands. Roll those balls in the egg white and then the almonds (gently press almonds into dough if need be) placing them on the baking sheet spacing them about 12 to one sheet. Using your thumb, make a small indention into the center of the ball. You might use your other hand/fingers to sort of hold the dough ball together around the edges. Bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven and press down the centers with your thumb again (be careful because they are hot!). Rotate sheets and bake for another 10–12 minutes or until slightly golden brown. Remove from oven, let cool on wire rack slightly, and then add jam into the centers. Repeat the same with your other baking sheet. Store cookies in an airtight container.

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I’m off now to enjoy these last days with my family here before heading home. I am not letting it pass me by how lucky I am to be here celebrating the season with the people I love. I truly am a lucky girl. And I am wishing you a lot of holiday love and cheer in your own traditions in the coming weeks. Isn’t this such a magical season? Let’s enjoy it.

—MAV

Holiday Gift Wrapping —SCB

Sunday, December 18th, 2011

I do love to wrap a package. I can’t always give handmade gifts, but I try to put a little thought and creativity into my gift wrapping (conversely, when I give handmade, I often offer it up in a pile of crumpled tissue because I finished it just minutes before I’m due to hand it over). Some holiday years, I have one color palette and style of wrapping for all my gifts, but this year I have been tailoring the packaging to the recipients.

Some of the ideas with which I have been playing:

I covered some sunprint paper with cuttings from our Christmas tree and exposed it to a few minutes of winter sun. Paper snowflakes and doilies make beautiful holiday sunprints as well. This blue paper would be great for Hanukkah gifts!

A simple brown paper bag with a twig and yarn wreath. I first made little wreathes like this when I was working on Interwoven. To make one, take a pliable twig and strip it of leaves except for the very end. Gently twist into a circle and secure and cover the overlap by winding yarn tightly.

This stack is for someone who likes neon pink. The cord is mason’s twine (find it at your hardware store). The paper is kraft that I painted with simple dots and lines with a metallic gold paint and some gold tissue.

Pom-poms! Another great use for leftover Quince & Co. yarn. You can buy a pom-pom maker at a craft or fabric store. A great topper.

Happy holiday wrapping!

—SCB

Holiday Gift Guide 2011 —MAV

Sunday, December 18th, 2011

Fa La La La La … La La La La.

We decked our halls this week and I am very pleased to say that I’m really in the holiday spirit! My intention for these next weeks is going to be focused around … heartfelt enjoyment of family and friends, slowly savoring the last days of 2011, cooking and baking and drinking and eating as much as I possibly can, gift-giving and last but not least dolling out more hugs and kisses than my Grandma A. used to give. Boy was she a kisser! I really enjoy how the holidays beseech us to give love. I’m taking full advantage! So hey … meet me under the mistletoe, eh? Heehee.

For gift-giving I put together a few lists below of my favorite things … I hope you’ll enjoy it!

GIVE
a little something they will savor …

+ A Maison Bouche Chocolate Bar (My favorite is here.)
+ Fran’s Salted Caramels
+ A Bag Of Four Barrel Coffee
+ A Jug Of Maine Maple Syrup
+ The Spice House Baker’s Gift Box

GIVE
a little something they will truly use …

+ A Fog Linen Dish Towel
+ Weleda Lip Balm
+ A Baggu Bag
+ A Stripe & Field Card Set
+ Avena Heal-All Salve
+ A White Forest Pottery Mug
+ Boscia Hand Cream

GIVE
a little 3191 …

+ A Subscription To 3191 Quarterly
+ The 3191 Grocery Tote Bag
+ The Quince & Co. Interwoven Gift Pack
+ 3191 Quarterly: Issue No. 5

PLEASE NOTE:
Our shop closes for the year on December 11, 2011 at 8pm EST.
Subscriptions close for good and our shipping department will
not open again until January 5, 2012.

GIVE
a little something made by you …

+ My Mom’s Sugar Cookies (In a large glass jar with ribbon around, perhaps?)
+ A Scarf (Maybe choose your friend’s favorite colors for the fabric?)
+ A Kitchen Scrubbie (With a tea towel, perhaps?)
+ Stephanie’s Granola (You might thrift around for a special bowl to give alongside?)
+ A Small Beach (In a jar with a note of where you found the treasures, perhaps?)
+ Scratch Bakery’s Apple Cake (Maybe side-by-side with the Baker’s Notes set?)
+ Grandma V.’s Italian Pizzelles (Packaged in parchment paper and twine, perhaps?)
+
An Inspiration Sketchbook (Use your tear-sheets to fill up the first 10 pages for your friend?)
+
Sweet & Crunchy Nut Clusters (Maybe with a subscription to Whole Living?)

Happy hall-decking, pals. Visit us here all month for more good cheer!

—MAV

Holiday Gift Guide 2011 —SCB

Friday, December 9th, 2011

This week as I snapped a photo of my table top, I remembered a photo I took exactly five years before and posted to Flickr (we still always have walnuts on our December table). It was that photo, along with one she had taken of her own table on the same day, that gave MAV the idea to propose that we collaborate on a project documenting our mornings, and A Year of Mornings was born. We have been collaborating in one form or another non-stop ever since. I am so proud of all that we have been able to share, and I love that the simple and earnest spirit of that very first idea is still alive today.

Happy Collabiversary, MAV! I am so excited for what lies ahead.

Things I’d love to give and receive this holiday season:

A Holiday Shimmer scarf.

I use my Baggus for everything. My current fave is the one I received from the Wiksten shop.

A white ash basket from Schoolhouse Electric’s new home collection.

A bottle of The Abyss for a cold winter’s night.

All about animals (with stunning illustrations by my sister!)

One of my favorite books of the last year.

For a little baker.

Beautifully simple napkins.

A handsome wallet.

Fun socks.

What I truly love to do at the holiday time is make—decorations, goodies and gifts. I finally had some time to play around this week and have had some successes and some failures. I worked out a simple hanging plant holder with several variations (you’ll find full directions in the next issue of 3191 Quarterly), but my grapefruit gummy candies did not make the gift-giving cut, oh well.

Gifts to make:

A wooden spoon and homemade spoon oil.

Simple cloth napkins using the fringe technique.

Fire starters for the fireplace (wrap each starter in newspaper and tie with twine).

A big tin of honey caramel corn.

Mason jar to-go cups and a set of fun paper straws.

Just a note: Our shop closes for the year on December 11th. When we re-open in January, 3191 Quarterly will only be offered as single issues. I’d hate for folks to miss out on the great subscription price. We have so many wonderful things planned for the upcoming issues!

Cheers!

—SCB

Up With Totes —MAV

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

Up with totes!

Nah. This is not a new movement but regardless it has been on my mind a lot lately. I want to write to you today about how much I love totes and how important they are in this world of waste that we’re living in.

Sit for a moment. Think about how many bags you get each day (especially during this busy holiday season).

Take any given day — you run to the store and there’s 2 bags right there. You run to get a bottle of wine and there’s 1 bag right there. And maybe you need a gift for a friend and there’s 1 bag right there. That’s 4 bags all in one day!

Tuck 2 totes in your purse/carryall and 2 totes in your car (or your bike basket) and that number turns to 0.

Up with totes!

Here are some of my favorite totes right now … On top: my old Bean tote. I have had this bag for 7 years. It’s only getting better. I use it for long weekends away, farmers market trips and my cat Scotch likes to sit inside when it’s lingering on the floor after it has been unloaded. Love this tote!

This Nigel Peake is new in my rotation. I’ve been folding this one up in my purse. It’s on the small size but is very sturdy so it makes a perfect day-to-day tote for little but hefty jobs. Lately I’ve been bringing my digital camera along swaddled up in this baby. I got it on a recent trip to London at the very best bookshop — Magma Books. I love this tote!

This is the newest of all of my totes and it’s one I made myself (get yours here)! Well, I didn’t sew it but I did do the dying and drawing. I love how the process has made it feel really wonderfully worked in. This is going to be the kind of tote I use when I want to walk out and about in town but don’t want to bring a big purse. It’s perfect to fit a newspaper, a wallet, sunglasses, a phone and maybe a notebook and still leave room for anything else small you might want to pick up. There are only 40 of these babies in existence … another reason why I love this tote!

I got this tote in London as well at a shop called Goodhood. Best little shop with the nicest people working there! And I thought it totally rocked that when you made a purchase you got a cloth tote instead of a paper or plastic bag. That just makes good sense! This is one of those very light totes that folds up super small and tucks into the pocket of your carryall. You won’t even know it’s there until you need it. Love this tote!

And yeah, I’m totally partial but I love our new 3191 tote. This is the perfect grocery tote! It doesn’t go over your shoulder and that’s what I like about it. It’s the kind of tote you carry down at your side and there is something really nice about that. I have two of these (lucky me) and I am using one for exercise bits and bobs (fits a yoga mat nicely with it sort of popping out the side/top) and one for grocery trips.

I’ll say it again — up with totes! Let’s grow our tote collections and cut down on waste, shall we? Up with totes!

—MAV

New 3191 Tote —SCB

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

We have been enjoying our new 3191 totes around these parts. I gave my daughter one in the blue and pink colorway and kept an all blue for myself. The illustration by Christopher David Ryan makes me smile every time, thanks CDR. It’s a great, sturdy canvas tote that stands on its own when filled, and we’ve found lots of uses for ours.

To the market. (It’s that time of year when I crave grapefruit. I am cooking up something special with these beauties for Issue No. 6 of 3191Q).

The library. Strong enough to hold even my family’s library haul.

Basketball practice.

Around town. It fits perfectly in my bike baskets.

Our tote is available in our holiday shop along with 3191 Quarterly gift subscriptions and single issues. Grab yours before our shop closes for the season on December 11!

—SCB