The brook would lose its song if we removed the rocks.
—Wallace Stegner

This was Today's Daily Thought from Real Simple, I thought it was worth sharing. I can't wait for spring days warm enough for creek walking...


What a beautiful day*

photo by pat, delicious funfetti cookies by julia.

There are five minutes left of my 28th birthday. A Wednesday birthday (and Ash Wednesday at that) is never as fun-filled as a weekend birthday, but today was very sweet. There was a nice lunch with my co-workers, a birthday ├ęclair the size of my head, funny voicemails and serenades, cute phone calls, nice emails, a couple of fun packages, and a plethora of Facebook greetings. My Girl Scout troop sang an enthusiastic round of Happy Birthday, Julia baked funfetti cookies (if you like funfetti cake you need to try these cookies), Patrick picked up sushi, and Lost was extra awesome. I felt loved, and there's no better way to start off another year in the life.

*"Just like the day before, we waited together/Goddamn what a beautiful day" -Ash Wednesday, the Kamikaze Hearts

I'd like to buy a Vowell

We have tickets to see Sarah Vowell at the Calvin on Friday! Can't wait!


New Recipe Week, the recap

It is so easy to get lazy about food. If we don't plan, we eat a lot of pasta and take out, and then feel bad about it (well, I do anyway). So last week I did the thing I plan to do every weekend, but rarely get to: I planned the week's meals and I shopped based on the menus. And last week, we ate better than we have in a long time.

Over the course of the week, we made four new-to-us recipes. Nothing too fancy, just some new combinations. Our Week in Recipes went like this:

Sunday- zesty roasted chicken and potatoes (recipe from the Betty Crocker Cookbook) and steamed broccoli with garlic oil (from the January/February Everyday Food)

Monday- lemony shrimp with white beans and cous cous (February Real Simple). Here's what it looked like (this was one of my favorites of the week):

Photo by Patrick. Forgive us for having red wine with seafood, that's what was open.

Tuesday- crispy chicken (February Real Simple) and sauteed spinach with red onion (Giada De Laurentiis' Everyday Pasta)

Wednesday- we ditched our planned meal of orecchiette with roasted broccoli and walnuts (February Real Simple) in favor of making pizza with Julia and Seth.

Thursday- Our weekly trivia night, so we scheduled leftover night. Despite planing this, we still have a bunch of tasty leftovers-- great for lunches and dinners during this busy week.

Friday- baked pastina and chicken casserole (Everyday Pasta). I'm a sucker for anything involving pastina, a staple of my childhood diet.

Saturday- taco and game night at a friends' house (ok, technically this wasn't part of New Recipe Week, but it rounded out our week of home-cooked meals nicely!)

My favorite of the new recipes was Monday's lemony shrimp with cous cous, followed closely by the baked pastina. Tasty tasty. This week was a bit heavy on the chicken recipes, but we had some to use up, and in addition to trying new recipes, I wanted to make use of things we had. I also planned some ingredient overlap to save a little cash.

When things got busy and crazy last summer (moving, family stuff, wedding), deliberately planned meals went out the window. We're finally getting back on track. It's overly ambitious for us to make four new recipes every week, but I hope that last week jump-started us on more consistent meal-planning and healthier dinners. The Extended Adolescence Meal Plan is out. It's time to take a little more control over this part of life.


Happy birthdays

This weekend brings the birthdays of two of my best friends. For the past seven years, we've celebrated our birthdays together with some other friends in late February or early/mid March. This year, because one of us just started a new job and another is in an intense nursing program (not to mention working at a health clinic in Haiti at the moment), we're putting off the annual Birthday Weekend celebration until the summer. Our past Birthday Weekends have involved walking around various northeast cities (and forests) shivering and doing our best to stay warm with laughter and lots of eating. While I always love the winter celebrations, I'm looking forward to a Birthday Weekend in the sun this year! I'm hoping it involves a dock, summery beverages, swimming, and the traditional heaps of food.

I'll be thinking of you two lovely women this weekend, as well as the rest of you who have been a part of our celebrations. Here's to another grand year of adventures, stories, lessons, celebrations, and laughter. xoxo.


morning music

I just remembered that Blitzen Trapper is playing Pearl Street next Wednesday (my birthday!). When I first saw them on the schedule I thought about getting tickets, but since I forgot until just now it seems unlikely that our plans for that night will include the show. I do like this band and this video though-- if you have four minutes, use them to enjoy the prettiness of the sound and the images:


Blurb book of wedding photos, end result

So back in December I asked for photo book making recommendations-- maybe you remember. The idea was that, for Christmas, I was going to put together a book of our wedding photos for our parents to hold them over until we received the (much higher end) photo books from our photographers. I received some good information and links, and decided to go with Blurb.

You may also remember the intense frustration I ran into while compiling the books. I don't think the problems I ran into were Blurb's fault. In retrospect, I should have done a few things differently:
  • Uh, like, start sooner. Apparently I will never learn.
  • Alternatively, I could have accepted that I wasn't going to finish by Christmas and waited to receive the DVDs of fully-edited high res photos from our photographers. The discs arrived in the mail just as I was finishing the books, too late.
  • Since I was downloading the giant files from the online gallery of our photos, just getting the photos took forever. For-ev-er.
  • Had I started earlier, it would have been less frustrating when it took eons for my less-than-speedy computer to deal with those giant files. It took many many minutes just to place each photo. Argh.
  • The slooooowness of the process led to me working on this project into the wee hours of the morning a few days in a row. I was so tired by the end that I made silly mistakes-- underestimating the bleed (re: chopping tops of heads off), leaving space between photos where there shouldn't have been space, etc.
  • Again, starting earlier would have made the not-so-speedy-delivery less aggravating. It was about 10 days between ordering and delivery, which is not so bad really, but it's not the quickness I'm used to. We gave Pat's parents their book when they were out to visit on New Years' day and just gave my parents theirs when we were at their house a couple weeks ago.
  • Lastly, this project should not have been my first photo book. Again, better laid plans-- I should have done a practice run with a smaller, less time-sensitive (and consuming) book.

I honestly don't blame Blurb for the slowness-- it was mostly my computer, and partially the size of the files. Had I started earlier (or accepted that it wasn't going to be ready by Christmas), many of the problems I ran into either wouldn't have happened or wouldn't have been as frustrating.

So, the good parts. I love how the book came out. The print quality is good, the paper quality is lovely (I upgraded to the premium paper), and everyone who's seen it has gushed over it. I made three 80-page books, each one is hardcover with a dust jacket, and made with the premium paper. They came to about $42 each. This is a bargain for such a gorgeous book. I was happy with Blurb's layout software-- while not entirely customizable, it offered enough options for me. There were a few things that were a bit limiting, but overall it was fine for what I was doing.

Another nice thing about putting together our own book was being able to incorporate some guest photos in addition to the pro photos. I put together a page using our friends' photos from our rehearsal and rehearsal dinner and used a few guest photos from the reception as well.

I'm looking forward to doing a book of our honeymoon photos and working on some books as a way of finally organizing the thousands upon thousands of photos we've taken over the years-- and hopefully keeping it up in the future. I love the idea of having a bookshelf full of our photobooks, neatly organized by year or adventure or occasion, ready to be flipped through at any time. Having the captured moments on Flickr is nice, but having them in a book in one's hand is even nicer.


Hearts to you

My plan was to crochet oodles of these hearts and send them to everyone I know (seriously, I love Valentine's Day!). Right... I made 3 1/2 before I ran out of yarn and time, and there are more then 3 1/2 people I was hoping to shower with hearts. For now, I'll share the photo instead.

Happy day!


I like Valentine's Day, alright?

There's a lot of bah-hum-bugging about Valentine's Day going around. When I've asked my attached friends about their Valentine's plans, nearly all of them have said "eh, Valentine's Day is dumb, we don't do anything"-- or something with that jist. You know what I mean. I don't get it.

I appreciated this post at LittleBrownPen about a meaningful Valentine's Day on a sparse budget ($20, to be exact). To me, this is the point of Valentine's Day-- a little reminder to just take some time to enjoy one another. It's a good thing to do at this point in the winter. I'll admit, my last solo February was in 1997, so maybe I'm not sensitive enough to the pains of being single on 2/14. But for those who are in a relationship, I don't understand. I'm not talking about blowing big bucks on a hideous Valentine-themed diamond-encrusted piece of jewelry. But what's so bad about getting out the crayons and drawing a heart for your beloved? Or carving out some extra time to spend together? Take an average Saturday and find a little extra romance in the melting snow, it's good for you.

My husband and I spend a lot of time together-- I think we're very good at showing our appreciation and love for one another. That doesn't mean we can't find something to enjoy on a holiday that is all about L-O-V-E. Especially when it's gray outside, when the hubster is bogged down with homework, and we've just had a crazy week. Ok fine, maybe Hallmark invented it (although National Geographic begs to differ), but still. I don't see the perks of kicking St. Valentine in the shins-- is there something to prove that I'm missing?

Tomorrow, our first married Valentine's Day, we'll make breakfast (cinnamon raisin french toast, freshly ground coffee, grapefruit). That Valentine of mine will spend a few hours working at his desk, I'll go to yoga class. In the afternoon our plan is to check out some exhibits at a contemporary photography museum in the area followed by dinner, local beer, and conversation at a brew pub we've been meaning to try since we moved out here. Just us. Nothing fancy, but a little something different than a normal Saturday. A reason to slow down.

Why not kick the cynicism and enjoy one another tomorrow? Have a good conversation. Laugh a lot. Find a little romance in the every day. Cut a heart out of construction paper and give it to a cute boy or a pretty girl. I promise, Hallmark won't get a dime.


Aunt Min

This is the photo of my maternal grandparents on their wedding day in the early 1920s. The little flower girl on the far right is my great aunt Minnie. Aunt Minnie (real name Carmella, called Minnie always) passed away on Thursday at the age of 95. She was living on her own and cooking for herself and her family (including making her own sauce every Sunday) up until a week before she died. Her sister, my grandmother, died 11 years ago just a few weeks shy of her 95th birthday. The photo on the left is Aunt Min in September at our wedding-- looking good for 95, eh? I only hope these women passed those genes along to the rest of us!

We're heading out of town this afternoon for the wake and funeral and general family togetherness, back here tomorrow.


Buying the farm (share)

It snowed again today, all day. I really do love snow, but this winter has been a bit much. I guess I should have splurged and bought those snow shoes this year.

Last week, in the midst of all the ice and cold, I convinced myself that spring will come eventually and signed us up for a farm share. Mountain View Farm is just around the corner from us, and from June through October we'll be making a weekly visit to the farm to pick up our just-picked veggies. We'll also be able to pick our own herbs, beans, berries, flowers, and peas. We'll even be able to use the farm for walks and picnics. Since we'll be getting tons of vegetables each week we're sharing our share (ha) with a couple friends.

The ideas in the book The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan have really influenced the way I think about food. With the farm share, we'll be eating food that is grown so very locally, in a sustainable way. It's not always easy to eat local and sustainably grown food, but at least for the summer and fall the farm share is a great solution.

Eating food grown and raised right here is heavily promoted around these parts. The area CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture) is highly visible-- their 'Be a Local Hero' bumper stickers are plastered all over Valley cars. Agriculture is a big part of the lifestyle and economy in this part of New England, and there is a sense of responsibility to keeping it that way.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms are getting more popular, and farm shares are even available in urban areas. To find a CSA farm in your area, check out Local Harvest. It's good for you and good for your community.

Photo by Flickr user Asmey145.


warm legs

My dear friend Emily knit me these leg warmers and delivered them on Sunday. I haven't owned a pair of these since dance classes as a little girl-- I'm loving them.

Here's Em last weekend, working on the leg warmers while Calvin catches a snooze.

Top photo by me, bottom photo by Patrick.