December 31, 2011

The Happiness Project and 2012

For many of you, including me, this book is s-oooo 2011.  On top of that, I rarely recommend a book whose author gets on my nerves, and who is one of the more irritatingly, over-the-top self promoters out there.

Still, if you want a break from your normal heavily intellectual material, and need a good New Year kick in the pants, I highly recommend this.  It is clever, practical, wise, amusing, and yes...will make you think about your own degree of happiness, and your investment in it in a novel way.  She is a master communicator in getting across her message.

Color Girl gave me one for my birthday last year and I am re-reading it this week whilst comparing notes with L'il Sis who received one for Christmas.  Double-double-double the fun.  Just a little recommendation for the New Year 2012 (EGADS!).


December 30, 2011

Holiday Fatigue and Bargain Bulbs

As much as I love Christmas...and I a certain point, and usually before the season's climax, I get a bad case of holiday fatigue.  The greenery is well past its prime, the decorations are not quite as festive... instead they seem cluttery and dusty and excessive.

Likewise, the sweets and treats and indulgences (even the kids at home) just get to be too much.  

Thanks goodness the new year, with its nascent promise of a fresh start and a cleansed palate caps off the holidays.  Because, to put it indelicately, I'm pretty much sick of it all right now.

With a few important exceptions, of course. 

Namely all of the paperwhite and amaryllis bulbs I potted up for winter color that are just now beginning to bloom.

They are ever so cooperative, blooming just in time to replace the fading greens and berries.

And unlike all of that other holiday festooning, I can't get enough of these seasonal blooms; in fact, I just bought more bulbs to pot up as the first round of them begins to fade.

A trip to Home Depot to get some light bulbs resulted in some bargain flower bulbs as well...all of them 50% off, no less.  Your local nurseries might have them on sale as well. Check them carefully though.  If they don't look fresh and firm to the touch, pass them by.

Oh!  And their rosemary was on sale too...I got these beauties for under $3.00 each.  Some bargains can be passed up.  And then some...well, it would just be criminal to pass them by.

December 27, 2011

Christmas Series

Let's face it.  Christmas can be disruptive, and sometimes down-right inconvenient.  It messes with our heads, our bellies, our schedules.  Both the before and the after of it.

A couple of weeks before Christmas, L'il Sis was talking to our 87-year-old father about this and that, Christmas being one of them. Where, my dad wanted to know, was he spending Christmas? She explained to him the plans for the big day, the where and the when and the whos and the whats of it. 

A bit later in the conversation, he inquired for the second time about his Christmas plans and where he was going to be.  She patiently and with great enunciation (in deference to his poor hearing), once again explained that he and my mother would be spending Christmas Day at my brother Tom's house and then again went over which members of our large and spread out family would be there to celebrate with him.

A moment later, he asked again.  L'il Sis sweetly acknowledged how confusing it might be for him, to which he (with some exasperation at her inability to grasp the obvious) pronounced:

"But Christmas is...a-a-a...a series!"

the obviousness of which she could not deny.  Christmas, indeed, she thought, is not just a day. Or a spirit, or even a season for that matter.  It is, he quite rightly pointed out, an on-going series of things...of people...and special food, and decorations and music and gifts and traffic and disappointments and delights and, yes,

it was SO much more than a pat, inadequate answer

as to what one Sunday's activities and whereabouts could imply. 

So, my darlings, here's to hoping that  your Christmas series was, and continues to be, a lovely one to cherish for a long time to come.

December 20, 2011

How to: Sugared Fruit

In my last KFOR segment I demonstrated how to whip up a quick centerpiece of sugared fruit.  If you missed the segment, here's a VERY simple and quick how-to.  The results are sophisticated and can be rustic or elegant, depending on the aesthetic you're going for.

Purchase a large variety of fruit, depending on your color scheme, preferences and size of arrangement.  I would encourage you, though, to sugar grapes or something that spills out and over the edge...such a lovely effect.

You can buy superfine sugar, but I usually just make my own by whirring regular granular sugar in my tiny Cuisinart.  Don't go too overboard'll end up with powdered sugar and lose the luminescent quality of the sugar that catches the light so beautifully.

Then, just whisk up some egg white and 'paint' it on the fruit.  (I like these washable plastic brushes that you can throw in the dishwasher.)

Then, my dears, just sprinkle away over the surface of the fruit.  Sometimes I like to cover the entire piece of fruit and even the seasonal greenery..which simply MUST be included to make the whole composition sing.
Other times, I like just a dusting on the surface to catch the light and simulate just a dusting of snow.

Martha used a heavy hand here, very thickly covering the fruit and leaves.  I especially love the kumquats and tiny lady apples, delicate little fruits that look especially dainty when glistening, but, alas, are also very hard to find. I am ecstatic whenever I find them.  Tiny seckel pears are a treasure as well.

(Photo compliments of MSL Omnimedia)

Beautiful ruby and garnet colors sugar magnificently...try pomegranates and cranberries, red pears and tiny currant grapes. Or all citrus is heavenly if pastel tones are your colors of choice.

Clip some magnolia leaves, or cedar fronds, holly or euonymous branches.  Greenery with a reflective quality is especially magical.
Or try some seeded eucalyptus or lemon leaves from your florist.

Place some at the base of a blooming amaryllis, or be extremely grand and do a whole five tiered cakes stand of these jewels...dripping from the edges...catching the candlelight.  I've done this many times myself and the result is really breathtaking. 

Plan on the arrangement lasting about a week.  Sprinkle with more sugar if necessary.  I wouldn't recommend eating it, as it
has aged egg whites as an ingredient, but do compost the fruit when it gets tired looking.
So much drama for so little effort.  Do try it yourself.  You won't regret it.

December 19, 2011

Seasonal Affective Ditziness

It's hard to think clearly during the holiday season. 

What with all the 


and wrapping

and baking.

It's easy to feel a little overwhelmed, a little forgetful; yes, a little ditzy.  

I was talking to a friend the other day while huffing and puffing on our respective elliptical runners.  I confessed to having lost something that I was ever-so-sure I had tucked away in my purse, but I also admitted that I had been especially spacey of late, and we went through the list of causes and, well... excuses.  

You know, the usual suspects:  holiday mania, menopause brain, vitamin B deficiency (LC told me about that one...), sugar excess-ivity...husbands.

I blamed this particular incident on a deluge of junk mail and catalogs that I am always in too much of a hurry to recycle.

That, I told her, was my final answer, and I'm sticking to it. Consider it, I told her grandly,  my 'excuse du jour'.   I told her she could have one too...her very own

Excuse du jour.  

"How kind!"  she exclaimed.  "Don't mention it",  I responded generously.

Then I thought  "why be stingy?"  So all of you may have one as well. Your very own "Excuse du jour"  for this holiday season.

Consider it a little gift from me to you.  A virtual stocking stuffer if you will.

Don't ever say I didn't give you anything.  :)

December 8, 2011

Sugared Fruit Centerpiece Segment on News Channel 4

I'll be showing you how to create a beautiful centerpiece made of sugared fruit today on NewsChannel 4 this afternoon at 4:30. Join us!

Christmas Banners and Shopping Local

It's hard not to be a kid at Christmas time.  The sad longing we adults feel as we try unsuccessfully to recapture the magic and naivete and expectation that only the marvelous ability to be duped (and see the world  again in 1950's black and white) can produce. We listen to the music, we smell the smells, we look at the lights, we channel Bing.  Still, we are left unfulfilled, unsated, unable to get "in the Christmas spirit".

But every now and then, usually when we least expect it, something happens to jettison us back (albeit only for a flash) to our childhood.  We smell again the fresh aroma of plastic from our new dollie's head, we experience the rapture of getting a really good gift in our classroom gift exchange, and we savor the memory of a time when we, indeed, really enjoyed eating a candy cane.

And believe it or not (if you still have the capacity to believe in Christmas magic), I had such a moment on Tuesday, December 6, 2011, St. Nicklaus' Day, my birthday.  

After a divine, chatty, almost giddy, lunch with Color Girl, I "did Western".  Those who live in my neck of the woods know exactly what I'm talking about. I visited many of the charming little shops and destinations that line Western Avenue just outside my neighborhood.  You know, those enticing little places you pass every day but seldom have the time to frequent.

I ended up at my favorite florist, A Date with Iris, which ever so happily, lies just up the street from me.

I went in, looked around the wacky, wonderful Suesse-esque world they have created for the holidays, 

and then

there it was

that magical, mystical WHOOSH back into time and Christmas space

hanging from the ceiling, in all of its nostalgic, retro, It's a Wonderful Life  kind of glory.

A MERRY CHRISTMAS banner that put me in a Christmas mood that I have not experienced in quite a while.

I imagined it welcoming my college boys home for the holidays with warmth and cheer and just the right amount of festivity.

For just $20 and after a discussion with the girls over the relative merits of the green vs. red selection, this felt beauty was mine...

and is now festooning my entryway in anticipation of my boys' homecoming.

Magic! And a chorus of Christy Minstrel carols filled the air.

I am now imagining it as a perfect hostess gift, classroom decoration, or care package enclosure for a college kid.  Or maybe, just maybe, a little bit of the past you buy for yourself on your birthday.

(Take my advice, shop local, support your neighborhood businesses and treat yourself to one of these banners. I think they have a few left :)!