Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Decking the halls...

Have you caught the spirit?
To falala or not to falala…that was the question.  I debated…tree or no tree. 
I grew up with garland down the banister…faux candlesticks glowing in every window and the living room turned into a wonderland of merry. 
I wanted to…but I didn’t.  And then…I heard my neighbors laughing and I saw the flicker of lights.  She was looping a string around the banister on the deck as he wrangled the tree inside.
Maybe I did…maybe I really did want to deck the halls?
I wanted to sit each night and get lost in my lights...the glitter…that soft glow.  I wanted to catch the spirit. 
So, I got a tree.  I had so much fun…listening to music…a glass of wine in hand...decorating every branch.  My little Christmas was coming to life.
It wasn’t much of an investment if you consider all the joy I’ve gotten and can only imagine what it will continue to bring.
You know I love all things vintage and Lucinda loaned me her amazing collection of antique ornaments.  She even had a vintage topper.   I love it.  It’s beautiful…well…it’s beautiful to me. 
I’ve always believed in the magic of Christmas…and with a little holiday cheer…here comes the spirit… 
The vintage gold topper.

I only used a couple of ornaments...

 I think they are so beautiful...
So...I couldn't help it...I used them all...

I used a scarf for the tree skirt...

Tada!



Monday, November 28, 2011

Gobble...gobble...gone.

My email account got hacked just like our Thanksgiving turkey.  I’ve been unable to get my mail…download pictures or have access to anything for days.  Thankfully, I think I’ve finally gotten it resolved and I’m back in business.
Thanksgiving is officially over and we begin the countdown to Christmas.  We can check Black Friday off the list.  I did not partake, did you?  I am sure the Christmas carols are in full rotation at all retailers and we are just waiting on the snow to fly.  I think it’s on the radar here for Saturday with full intentions of sticking…this is exciting! 
I love this time of year.  I really think it’s because there are three holidays back to back so you feel like you have this joyous momentum that keeps going.  So much to be thankful for, excited about and let’s face it…I am always so hopeful for the New Year. 
I left the office at 3:00pm on Wednesday and at the time; I looked forward to what seemed like endless days off.  Now as I sit here I am thinking….seriously, it’s Monday?  Jeesh…how do I slow down time? 
It didn’t all fly by.  In fact, I can’t remember the last time I stayed in my pj’s til noon (maybe longer), curled up on the couch and watched movies in the middle of the afternoon, decorated my Christmas tree (I’ll share those photos on Tuesday), cleaned out the bathroom cabinets and organized the garage…seriously, I did that…spent time with my family and saw a lot of old high school friends. 
I feel rested...organized...happy...thankful...and ready for Christmas!
Here are some photos I wanted to share.
I spent Thanksgiving at my sister Lucinda and my brother-in-law Matt's house.  I loved the simple, elegant table she set!
I loved the place cards - so creative and I love her handwriting!

Lucinda is famous in our house for this cream cheese, beef and chive spread...it's to die for.

She also loves to try new things and this endive with some sort of pecan goo and blue cheese crumbles was a hit.  Always thoughtful, she made half with no blue cheese for me! 

Love the color!
My nephew Tony is a Ninja with knives and sliced up the turkey.  A chef by trade, coupled with an artist background he creates a wonderful creative flare to his plate presentations.  Keep an eye out for an upcoming blog where I feature his fruit/veggie...animal/plant turned art. It's K E W L!

Pecan souffle - wow!  Sausage stuffing...amazing!

We had traditional homemade mashed potatoes which I had two helpings of.  However, the real winner was the California mashers...seriously, I loved them!  The orange stuff is a fat-free, gluten-free squash soup and although all those keys words make it hard to believe...it was delicous.
My brother-in-law brought out the champagne!  Bubbles go with everything in my opinion!  Cheers!
You may or may not be suprised to find out that pecan pie is my new favorite!  I've always kind of liked it...but now...I LOVE it.  That gooey sweet pecan center...man, my mouth is watering.  We also had pumpkin pie and I brought a strawberry rhubarb...cause,although it's not a traditional pie to have at Thanksgiving...it is my favorite.  I will humbly admit I only brought half of a pie.  I KNOW -- who brings HALF of a pie to dinner?  In my defense, my thought process was that with so many other desserts to choose from I was positive my brother-in-law and I would be the only ones eating it.  Uh...it was a terrible thought.  Next year, you can count on one thing.  I'm bringing not one..but two halves of strawberry rhubarb pie. 
L to R: Me, Lucinda, Tony and my niece Ashley. Family!

This is Tony concentrating on a little project Lucinda had us doing.  She had notecards for each of us and we passed them around and had to write a little something about each person.  You know, why you think they are awesome.  Although I heard Matt mutter...this is the Thanksgiving from Hell (he is a constant jokester)...it really makes your heart burst when you can read...and in my case...reread...special messages from people you care about.
My sister deserves a standing ovation for pulling off another fabulous holiday celebration of togetherness, thankfulness and delicious-ness.  I’m still working through my food coma.  I sure hope you enjoyed your holiday as much as I did.

      

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Give a little...get a lot!

Rick Reilly wrote a column for Sports Illustrated awhile back and it helped launch a campaign called Nothing but Nets.  I had contributed when it launched five years ago and I received an email the other day talking about the Horn of Africa and the devastation there.  I was reminded how lucky I am and how important it is to give to others.
I thought I’d share.
The next three paragraphs were the most important words Reilly felt he ever wrote.
We need nets.  Not hoop nets, soccer nets or lacrosse nets.
Not New Jersey Nets or dot-nets or clarinets.
Mosquito nets.

See, nearly 3,000 kids die every day in Africa from malaria.  And according to the World Health Organization, transmission of the disease would be reduced by 60% with the use of mosquito nets and prompt treatment for the infected.

We gotta get these nets…
You need about $10, all told, to get them shipped and installed…
10 bucks means a kid might get to live.

Wow.  His column made a difference.  It launched the grassroots movement that has sent over 6 million nets to 25 African countries saving millions of lives.  It is incredible and so simple.

I could go on and expand on what he said and rattle of the FAQs I learned when I went to the website but, I want you to go read it.  www.nothingbutnets.net

Once you get there…click on the word GIVE.  I know you have $10.

The web page did say this:

LEARN.  Malaria kills.  Nets save lives.

ACT.  Spread the buzz.

GIVE. Send a net. Save a life.

We all have so many blessings.  So much to be thankful for.  We do have all we want…all we really need and so much more.

If you can, please donate $10 today.  It will help protect a family.  You will help save a life. 



Friday, November 18, 2011

D E S S E R T S

Did you realize ‘stressed’ written back words spells, D E S S E R T S?  That makes me smile.  Probably because I love desserts. I’m not stressed although this time of year brings it on.  You don’t even ask for it…it’s just there…other people’s crazy rubs off.  You know, all the stores are chaotic…people budging in line…ramming your cart cause there isn’t any room…just inconsiderate and everything takes like a million times longer than ‘normal.’
I just wanted to share what I read somewhere else that made me smile this morning...which promted other things that had me smiling... 
Pam, the barista at Starbucks must have seen me walk in and my usual cup of happiness was waiting for me by the time I got to the counter...no waiting!  It made me feel special…it did, sounds lame, but she remembered…and remembering what people like is nice. 
I also smiled because today is Friday!  It really is the most satisfying day of the week, isn’t it?  Saturdays are typically simple…easy-going and laid back. Sometimes they can tend to lean towards the…well, for me anyway…the, oh my gosh…I have to get all this stuff finished I can’t accomplish during the week feeling.  Go see this…do that…extra long gym time…linger places…suddenly…it’s over and Sunday arrives.  Then Monday is just lurking around Sunday…getting in the way of relaxing.  I get anxious and fret it away gearing up for the week. 
I’ll tell you what though…today, I’m going to be smiling at 4:00pm when I head to my car.  A gratifying feeling worth crackin a grin for to put this week behind me and know I’ll enjoy my evening and feel like I have my whole life ahead of me…even if it is only two dayz…Saturdee and Sundee.  Here I come…smiling. 
I'm also smiling because my dear friend Paloma told me she is having a BOY!!!  CONGRATULATIONS!!!  I'm so excited!

Paloma and I on the beach in Half Moon Bay.  I love her...the beach...the ocean...definitely, all reasons to smile.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Dragonfly Designz

Last time I saw a dragonfly and really thought about it was on a white water rafting trip to West Virginia.  The guide warned us to leave it alone if one landed on our person.  He was serious about not shooing it away.  He said it meant good luck and safety on the river.  Honestly, why would you swat it away, they are so beautiful and harmless.  Shortly after he said that, one found its way on my leg.  I looked down…the transparent wings filed with color…so intriguing, and apparently, each one unique.
A few months after the river trip, I met a friend at a restaurant/café that combines an eatery with a gift shop; B on the River.  You must know that all of the artists featured there, are local.  I love that.  I saw my high school art teacher’s crafts and a few other people I knew.  In fact, just as I was about to abandon my look-see because lunch was ready, a necklace caught my eye.  Kewl, I thought.  This is so my style.  I looked at the artist and I couldn’t help but smile…it was designed and made by my friend Leanne.  Somehow, I loved it that much more.  My friend made this and she had named her collection, Dragonfly Designs.  How ironic.
Dragonflies have a lot of symbolism and I was interested in Leanne’s jewelry for a number of reasons, so I asked her to tell me more.
As I read about dragonflies…I could picture their ease of flight across the water that day rafting.  The dragonfly symbolizes change and change in the perspective of self realization and the understanding of the deeper meaning of life.   Showing power and poise the dragonfly is able to move in all six directions.  Wow.   Dragonflies only flap their wings 30 times per minute; it appears with the upmost simplicity and an effortless grace.  They, focus on living in the moment as they only have the ability to fly for a few short months.  Doing all they need to accomplish in that amount of time exemplifies an elegance and effectiveness of living in the moment and life to the fullest.
I knew Leanne in high school and although we had lost touch over the years, I remember things about her reflective of a dragonfly. 
I recall a strong sense of self, determination, maturity and living life to the fullest.
She likes their delicate wings and pure beauty.
I have a deep appreciation for people who create, continue to learn and do things that inspire them.  Well, I also have a need for an endless talk of all things pretty. 
Honestly, she has been posting her designs on Face book and I wanted you all to see her amazing collection of meaningful, hand-crafted designs I can’t help but gush about.
I love the industrial, simple, indie vibe her collection gives off.  She describes Dragonfly Designs as timeless, simple and fun. 
Self-taught and in business for four years, Leanne gets creative while listening to Glee (Omg, that is so her…a self-proclaimed Gleek!) in a garage turned workroom.  Her designs are reflective of a free spirit and are filed with meaning.  Most importantly, they are all hand-crafted and not made by a manufacturer.  I couldn’t support that thought more.  The buy local, made in the USA mantra comes to mind. 
Her collection started with a vision from a magazine.  A gift she wanted her husband to buy her for Christmas...she took a closer look and decided to make it herself.  Leanne is mother to Nathan and Grant and has since made countless necklaces for friend's just like this.  What a wonderful gift for someone who has just had a baby!
Inspiration comes from all kinds of places.  In the arms of angels was made for a friend whose sister had just passed.  What a touching, kind and thoughtful gesture at a time of loss.  Placed close to the heart, forever.

A couple of birds.  My favorite.  So simple.  So delicate.  I love these.

Leanne and her husband Dan own a metal etching company where she has started to create these tags to add to a necklace. This is one of my favorites. I love the turquoise, the bird, the peace sign and a simple initial.

Leanne just added a men's line.  I personally love this for myself.  I thought about putting my dad's birthday and including a personal note etched on the back with one of his favorite sayings. 


I can imagine myself layering on pieces from her collection and gifting these treasures to my friend’s. 
A dragonfly, a good friend, her jewelry and my blog.  All things change...grow and evolve.  I love how my high school friend has come to be and followed her dreams.  
If you are in Elkhart you can find Dragonfly Designs at Fix Salon and B on the River.  Leanne is also on ETSY!  www.dragonflydesignslmb.etsy.com and on her blog www.dragonflydesignsbylealea.blogspot.com.  If you have any questions about her work or would like to make a purchase directly, she may be reached at Leanne.brekke@gmail.com.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A little culture on a Saturday afternoon

Das Dutchman Essenhaus…a pleasant little surprise in Northern Indiana’s Amish Country.  A quick jaunt from Elkhart, my sister and I decided to do something different and have a home cooked meal and ditz through the shops. 
As we pulled up, I remembered coming here with my mom.  What a beautiful setting.   
We ate in the café but the dining room definitely looks like a place to share a ‘family-style’ meal together.  My favorite part of the trip was the bakery.  Seriously, the oven-fresh…made-from-scratch breads, cakes, muffins, rolls, cookies, etc.  It all looked so…tempting.  The woman behind the counter said they make over 30 varieties of pies.  Wow.  Unfortunately, strawberry rhubarb is out of season.  Guess I’m going to bring the traditional pumpkin pie to dinner next Thursday. 
Starred on the menu was this creamed chicken served over a fresh baked biscuit.  Delicous!
Lucinda ordered the beef and homemade noodles.

Strawberry Rhubarb jelly!! 
Looks amazing!

I love the little burlap sack and design.
I wished I could have tried all of these.

As we drove through Middlebury, I wondered what the difference between Amish and Mennonite was? Do you know?  Let me tell you what I found out.
They definitely have common historical roots.  They both basically stress that they should live out their beliefs in daily life.  While the groups agree on basic Christian doctrine, their differences come in interpreting how those practices should be lived out.
Wikipedia defines the Amish as a group of Christian church fellowships that form a subgroup of the Mennonite Churches.   The Amish are known for simple living, plain dress and reluctance to adopt many conveniences of modern technology.  
Specifically, the rules of the church must be observed by every member.  These rules cover most aspects of day-to-day living and include prohibitions or limitations on the use of power-line electricity, telephones, automobiles, as well as regulations on clothing.  Many Amish church members may not buy insurance or accept government assistance such as social security.  They also will not perform any type of military service.  Members may be shunned if they do not conform.  Amish groups, as you may notice, seek to maintain a degree of separation from the non-Amish world.  They place a heavy emphasis on church and family relationships.  They typically operate a one-room school and discontinue formal education at grade eight.  They value rural life, manual labor and humility.  I also read that some other common practices among the Amish include: untrimmed beards….hooks and eyes in place of buttons on outer garments on men’s clothing, horse and buggy transportation, horse-drawn implements for farming, no electricity in homes and plain dress patterns for women.
Mennonites also believe in simple living but express that simplicity in a spirit of stewardship and awareness of the needs of others rather than completely separating from society as the Amish have continued to do.
We drove by a large Amish farm where there were two lines of laundry put out to dry.  I loved how it was waving in the wind.   There was a young man out tending to the horses so I asked if he would mind if I took a few pictures of it.  He said he didn’t but then hid behind the horse so he wouldn’t be photographed. It isn't against their religion to be photographed however, it is against their religion to pose for a picture. 
KEWL



It was an interesting afternoon which provoked some thought and wonder. I am thoroughly impressed with their way of life and continuous courage to live outside the norm.



Friday, November 11, 2011

11.11.11 - that looks KEWL

According to the dictionary, Superstition is an irrational belief arising from ignorance or fear.
Hmmm...I don’t like the word ignorance or the word fear.  How about the simple fact that there doesn't seem to be any rational basis to the claim?
Are you superstitious?  It is kind of weird how you tend to believe things even if you don’t understand why.
On the calendar today it reads 11.11.11.  The scuttlebutt is that something good is supposed to happen.  It just makes me want to make a wish!  Like when you look at the clock and it says 11:11.  It’s like a bad habit.  I can honestly say whenever I catch it...I make a wish.  11:11...12:34...2:22 and so on.  If I miss it by a minute...I wish anyway.  Cheesy, I know. 
Has anyone ever measured the outcome of a wish?  How many come true?  Or is it like a prayer or a hope you’ve tossed out there...you just wait and wonder?
This numerology is in fact a rare occurrence ...we won’t see this again for another century. KEWL.
Maybe today there will be some sort of mystical convergence?  Maybe there is some deeper meaning...or some greater truth behind it?  I don’t know what it is and I can say that nothing extra special has happened to me today...so far. 
Although I do believe in magic...and 11-11-11 does seem sort of magical.
Where today we are making wishes...on Friday the 13th we are cringing...hoping all the bad luck skips us. 
I read that today, people are actually scheduling things...as if it’s the luckiest day of the century. Maybe it is?
Have you heard of this one? Never take a broom along when you move. Throw it out and buy a new one. Lucky for me, I’ve never moved a broom.

If a black cat walks towards you, it brings good fortune, but if it walks away, it takes the good luck with it. I have a black cat so I wonder how this works.

You should never start a trip on Friday or you will meet misfortune.  I’ll start a trip on any day of the week.

How are you treating today...any different?  I say make a wish...all day long... 
My beautiful black beauty...Bella Fox.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Unwrapping the holidayz

Two weeks exactly until we all feast with our family and friends…eat like piggies…get all fat and happy...  stuff our faces and then lay around in turkey comas.  Nice. I can’t wait. 
I love Thanksgiving.  It feels like one of those simple holidays.  Everyone’s in the kitchen…sippin on cocktails…laughing…talking…and five hours later the big bird gets set on the table and we all gather around it.  Diving in and going around sharing what we are thankful for. 
Who’s idea was this and why?  They got it right...no gifts…just sharing and being together. 
We all know the basics; the Mayflower, the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth, etc , etc.  But, you know me, I went sailing the web to find the real story and dig up some interesting details maybe you didn't know.
After perusing…I’d give equal credit to the Pilgrims and the Native Americans for celebrating their harvests and creating a day now known in history as Thanksgiving.  It seemed like it was a rough start for the Pilgrims landing the Mayflower and settling down.  I read that they would not have survived if not for the Indians.  They showed them how to farm, manage the crops and reap a bountiful harvest.  Apparently, their festival originally lasted three days!  KEWL, I did not know that.
I’m not so sure their round table was decorated with all the fanfare we use or that their meal was quite as elaborate as what we are used to.  We create a menu of what we like to eat…they created a menu on what they had to eat.  Big difference. 
Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, potatoes, pie.  It is what has developed as common denominators on what to dish out on the third Thursday every November.  I have shared many a Thanksgiving with different friends and it’s interesting to see what they have on their menu.  Everyone adds their own flare or dish that means something to their family.  Ah, traditions.  They are comforting. 
My favorite part of the meal, aside from the sweet potatoes smothered in marshmallows, and I’m sure this comes as no surprise, is dessert.  Pumpkin pie…pecan…apple…mmmm…I can taste them now.  I may bring strawberry rhubarb pie to my host this year just to stir things up.  I may even make it myself. 
At the heart of all of this feasting and being thankful..most of us find ourselves having ‘gone home.’  This year, those two words imply a lot of emotional content…for me anyway.
Here we go...unwrapping the holidayz...I'm looking forward to it!

Monday, November 7, 2011

I find myself still California dreamin...

I couldn’t believe it was already Tuesday morning.  We packed up our things, enjoyed our breakfast on China and made our way into the city. 
Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge is always a highlight when visiting the city, especially since it is considered one of the most internationally recognized symbols in the United States.  The bridge links the city of San Francisco to Marin County and may very well be one of the most photographed bridges…anywhere.

View coming from Marin to San Francisco
We drove through The Presidio and our first stop was Chrissy Field.  It is a perfect place to get stellar views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and The Marin Headlands.

I love this one!

The three of us!

One of my favorite places in San Francisco has to be the Palace of Fine Arts. I would consider it a wonder of the world right along with The Golden Gate Bridge.    It’s like a Roman ruin nestled in the Marina District.

The Palace of Fine Arts

Look closely and you are able to see the weeping women atop the collonade. So KEWL!

We stayed in a quirky, colorful hotel not far from my old stomping grounds, the Hotel Del Sol.  Walking distance to everything we needed. 

I had been waiting to meet Danny, Megan’s perfect four month old!  I wish I could have held him all afternoon.  He barely made a peep as we passed him around and caught up on life.

Me with Little D!

We ended the day with dinner at Betlenut, one of my favorite spots in the Marina offering contemporary Asian cuisine.  Megan and Erin joined us along with Paloma, who drove all the way from Half Moon Bay. 
Megan, Mel, Vee and Katie

Paloma, Megan and I right before Paloma told us she was almost four months pregnant!! So happy for my beautiful friend!

Bottom row L to R: Katie, Vee and Erin
Top Row L to R: Paloma, Mel and Megan

Never enough time….but ever so grateful to my friends for sharing their evening with us and celebrating my dad and our friendship. 
The old adage rings true…I left my heart in San Francisco.  I love that place.  I love my friends. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Votre Sante

Wine tasting is great…but the real fun is a behind the scenes tour.  I’m sure you’ve wondered if they are really stomping those grapes? 
We were lucky enough to receive a private tour of Mauritson Vineyards by an Elkhart native, Mary Spillane.  She owns the popular restaurants in Elkhart and South Bend, The Vine.  Not only is she knowledgeable about the wines but she is hilarious.  She gave us the scoop on the winery while continuing to pour us tastings of her favorites. 


With our wine glasses in tow…we moved on to the back of the house!  Our dad would have absolutely loved this.  Mary rattled off things like the fermentation is typically open-top, punchdowns are made by hand…the native yeasts employed…uh…sounds good, Mary…but tastes even better. 
They are checking for any grapes that might have fungus on them and pulling them out.  Clay, in bright yellow, is the owner. 
This is where they asked us to remove our shoes, jump in and start stomping...jus kiddin'
Mary letting us sample the fermeting wine. 
Katie and I engrossed in Mary's conversation.
As we were getting the tour, I couldn’t help but get a little teary.  My dad spent countless hours in our basement making his own label of wines, Chateau Ramey.  I know he would have loved being with us today.
A big thank you to Mary for taking the time to introduce us to Mauritson wines…definitely a new favorite. 
Mary and Katie. 
Mary recommended we go to Kokomo winery being that a couple of Purdue grads started it.  We had so much fun and grabbed some wine, hats and tee-shirts to support our Indiana roots.    
Kokomo Winery - http://www.kokomowines.com/
Cheers!
I had to take the girls through Healdsburg...it has the cutest town. We quickly went by a bubbles tasting and then headed back to St. Helena to cruise through Erin Martin’s shop.  Uh-MAZING.  I have decided to dedicate an entire blog post to her shop…I couldn’t stop snapping pictures. 
A snap shot of Erin Martin's shop...more to come later.
Finally, dinner at Market on Main St. where we brought in a couple of bottles we bought on our tour. 
As my dad would say, “A Votre Sante!”  It means, to your health in French. 
Another wonderful day.