Monday, December 27, 2010

A white boxing day

While I'm sad to have missed NYC's latest blizzard, we did get a few inches at my parent's house in South Carolina. It started as we sat down to Christmas dinner, and continued through the traditional viewing of The Muppet Christmas Carol and was still lightly falling the next morning.


{holly, snow-covered}

{the backyard}

{trudy, hip deep}

Snow in South Carolina, who knew?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Joy to the world

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them,

“Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.

For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

Luke 2:8-14

Friday, December 24, 2010

A merry little Christmas

Zooey, Conan and M. Ward. A merry little Christmas, indeed.

(PS - "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" was originally written for one of my favorite movies, Meet Me In St. Louis. Judy Garland's character sings it to her little sister as they spend their last Christmas at home in St. Louis before moving to New York. I love how Tootie cries through the whole song, nervous that Santa won't be able to find them in New York. Imagine how much harder she would have been crying if the song were sung with the darker lyrics songwriter Hugh Martin originally penned: "Have yourself a merry little Christmas, it may be your last...faithful friends who were dear to us, will be near to us no more.")

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy golden days of yore

The Library of Congress has a Flickr feed, did you know that? It's easy to spend a lot of time clicking through the photos, wondering who the people in photographs are, what their lives were like, and what those places look like now. I love the Christmas photos, especially from New York.

Xmas tree in Madison Sq. Park, N.Y.C. (LOC)
{christmas tree in madison square park, between 1910-1915}

[Christmas trees and wreaths in store window display] (LOC)
{christmas window display, 1941 or 1942}

Xmas shoppers (LOC)
{so many hats! christmas shoppers, between 1910-1915}

Load of Xmas trees, N.Y. (LOC)
{christmas trees in a horse-drawn cart, 1910}

[Boy beside store window display of Christmas ornaments] (LOC)
{christmas window display, 1941 or 1941}

This last little boy reminds me of the kid in A Christmas Story. He's probably asking for a Red Ryder BB gun.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Handmade gifts

Getting a package with a handwritten address label is a treat anytime of the year, but even better at Christmas when you know there's bound to be a treat inside.

{homemade vanilla, spiced nuts}

My cousin Sandy sent homemade vanilla (something like this, I'd guess) with festive jingle bells rattling around in the package and my good friend Laura sent yummy spicy-sweet nuts that are being munched on as I type and watch White Christmas. Who doesn't love getting goodies in the mail? Such thoughtful friends.

Friday, December 17, 2010

12 Days of Christmas: Day 12

A 12 Days of Christmas recap.

Picnik collage
Picnik collage
Picnik collage
Picnik collage

And the final present. On the twelfth day of Christmas, my roommate gave to me...




a lovely floral apron and potholder. I've always wanted to collect aprons, but practicality holds me back (where would I keep all of them?) and I never buy them for myself. But I'll happily let other people feed my addiction. Thanks, Kaylie!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

12 Days of Christmas: Day 11

Today's stocking stuffers didn't exactly fit in the stockings, so we awoke to presents under the tree. Which is a really great way to start the day.

{good morning, presents}

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my roommate gave to me...



a bag! That I love, love, love. I've been on the lookout for a new purse for awhile. The one I've been using is cute but annoyingly non-functional, and I really prefer things that are pretty and functional (difficult, I know). Thanks, Megan!

12 Days of Christmas: Day 10 (late)

{one for megan, one for kaylie}

It's my turn again! This is the first day that they each got something different, not just a variation of the same gift. So I'll introduce them separately. On the tenth day of Christmas, Kaylie received from me...

{matches, flower thingie}

A pin/hairpiece (it can be worn either way) from Anthropologie, and a set of New York matches with a cool old New York map on the box. I think matches that length are for pipes. Kaylie doesn't smoke a pipe, but I suggest that she takes it up now that she has the matches for it.

On the tenth day of Christmas, Megan received from me...

{a beautiful book}

One of my all time favorite books (and we know how I feel about favorites), My Life In France by Julia Child (and her nephew, Alex Prud'Homme). The "Julia" scenes in the movie Julie & Julia (the only ones worth watching, really) are based on this book. I've been talking about it to Megan forever, and I know she's going to love reading it.

{julia and paul, being awesome}

Finding this book was the serendipitous moment I alluded to yesterday. The hardcover editions are a little pricer than the cost of a stocking stuffer, so I knew I wanted to find one used. I figured I'd poke around at The Strand and hope they had it. Then, the weekend before Thanksgiving, I was browsing one of the booksellers on Bedford Ave. in Williamsburg. I mentioned to my friend that I was looking for the book, and no sooner had the words left my mouth than a woman stepped aside and a copy of My Life in France was sitting on top of the stack (I think a ray of sunshine shown down from the heavens, but I can't be sure). I snatched it up immediately, and it's been waiting in my closet ever since.

I love when you find just what you're looking for.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pumpkin pie marshmallows

Making marshmallows is pretty much the most magical thing you can do in the kitchen. The behind-the-scenes part isn't all that exciting (hot sugar, softened gelatin, and some quality time with the hand mixer) but the result never fails to shock people who have come to believe that marshmallows are one of those things, like AstroTurf or Velveeta, that can only be made in a factory by women wearing hairnets.

{yes, it's messy}

One of the best things about homemade marshmallows is that they're a blank canvas, just waiting to be given color—the soft pink of strawberries, green with dots of lime zest, or pale orange, flecked with cinnamon and dusted with graham cracker crumbs.

The idea of a pumpkin pie marshmallow has been floating around in my head for awhile (truth be told, I have a Google doc filled with marshmallow flavors I want to try out) and for some reason, midnight on night three of my candy making madness seemed as good a time as any to try it out. It didn't set up as quickly as the other batch of marshmallows I had made that night, so it didn't make it into the candy boxes (a girl can only stay awake so long). So, these fluffy clouds of pumpkin are a gift for locals only. Sorry long distance friends. You'll just have to come visit.

{pumpkin pie marshmallows, ready to be given}

Pumpkin Pie Marshmallows
recipe adapted from this one by Molly Wizenberg

- Non-stick cooking spray
- 1 cup water, divided
- 3 envelopes unflavored gelatin 
- 2 cups sugar
- 2/3 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons pumpkin puree
- 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons nutmeg
- 5 graham crackers, crushed
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
* special equipment: a candy thermometer

Line a 9x9 square baking pan with foil (I use this size because I like my marshmallows to be big squares, but you get fewer this way. Use a 13x9 pan for more, smaller marshmallows). Coat foil lightly with nonstick spray. 

Pour 1/2 cup cold water into bowl of heavy-duty mixer fitted with whisk attachment (I don't have one of these, but I imagine it'd make things easier. I use a hand mixer). Sprinkle gelatin over water. Let stand until gelatin softens and absorbs water, at least 15 minutes.

Combine 2 cups sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup cold water in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves, brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush. Attach candy thermometer to side of pan. Increase heat and bring syrup to boil. Boil, without stirring, until syrup reaches 240°F, about 8 minutes. While the sugar mixture is boiling, measure your pumpkin and spices, you'll want them handy in a minute.

With the mixer running at low speed, slowly pour hot syrup into gelatin mixture in thin stream down the side of the bowl (avoid pouring syrup onto whisk, as it may splash). Gradually increase speed to high. After 4 minutes of mixing (the mixture will be thicker and turning white) add the pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla with the mixer still running. Beat until mixture is very thick and stiff, about 10 more minutes. 

Scrape marshmallow mixture into prepared pan. Smooth top with wet spatula. Let stand uncovered at room temperature until firm, about 4 hours.

Combine the crushed graham crackers and powdered sugar. Sprinkle some on a cutting board. Once cool and firm, turn the marshmallow slab out onto the prepared board. Cut into squares, then coat with the rest of the graham cracker mixture, making sure to cover all sides of the marshmallows so they won't stick together.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lost in translation

This list of untranslatable words that swiss miss posted is great. It's so interesting to think about how language and culture informs our view of the world. For a lot of these words, verbose Americans would string together a few sentences to express what other languages have specific words to describe.

I love that mamihlapinatapei is a word for a look. It's “the wordless, yet meaningful look shared by two people who both desire to initiate something but are both reluctant to start.”

Do you think the people in these cultures experience what these words are describe more often than the rest of us, in order to need a word to describe it? I wonder if there are any English words that would be difficult to translate into another language.

image via weheartit.

12 Days of Christmas: Day 9

I always think that 12 days of gift-giving sounds like a long time (in a good way) but we're already nearly done! After today we each have one more turn. I'm excited about my turn tomorrow, I had a very serendipitous moment with one of my gifts. More tomorrow.

On the ninth day of Christmas, my roommate gave to me...

{nail polish, clever cotton balls}

{tomboy no more, buy me a cameo}

two bottles of nail polish, cleverly cushioned with some cotton balls. I think I'll be using those cotton balls to remove It Looks Like Rain Dear (I like it, but it feels more New Years than two-weeks-before-Christmas) and replace it with Tomboy No More or Buy Me A Cameo. Thanks, Kaylie!

Paper packages tied up with string

When I was a kid, my mom collected Christmas tins. Collected maybe isn't the best word for it, because she basically just acquired them in order to give them away again, filled with fudge and other treats. My version of her tradition is a bit more involved, but the idea of giving away a box of sugar-y goodies is still the same.

{candy, ready for giving}

I usually devote an entire day to the candy-making, and another day to the candy-cutting, packaging, and wrapping. This year, candy weekend fell on a very busy weekend (and my candy thermometer broke!) so the candy-making was squished into pockets of time over three days and the box-making portion was from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. on a school night. oops. Even when the process is a bit harried, making candy boxes is one of my favorite Christmas traditions.

This year I made:

- peanut butter fudge
- chocolate fudge (with and without walnuts)
- aunt bill's brown candy (or praline fudge, if you're fancy)
- salted caramels
- peppermint marshmallows
- pumpkin pie marshmallows*

Add a jar of homemade apple butter (made and canned back in October) and my gift-giving is nearly taken care of.

{homemade apple butter}

*not pictured, recipe coming soon here.

Monday, December 13, 2010

12 Days of Christmas: Day 8

This weekend was packed with Christmas cheer. Friday night was spent flitting between stores in SoHo doing a little Christmas shopping. New Yorkers: notice I said flitting, not pushing and shoving. SoHo stores are miraculously deserted at 9 p.m. on a Friday night, just fyi. Shopping was followed by making candy boxes while watching Jude Law do his best Mr. Napkinhead.

{lights, chelsea, dusk}

Saturday started with a quick breakfast gathering at our apartment before heading out to go Christmas caroling with some kiddos from the neighborhood. Feliz Navidad was the biggest hit, followed closely by Jingle Bells, Batman Smells (which was more of an improv performance on the part of a few pre-teen boys than part of the caroling). That night roommate Kaylie and I went to see our friend Penny sing her little heart out in a lovely Christmas choir concert. To top off the Christmas-y weekend, we strolled through some lights at Columbia, got a milkshake at the Seinfeld diner (not Christmas-y, but still worth mentioning), and darted through traffic to hear the organ at St. John the Divine, only to be kicked out - not exactly the Christmas spirit, Mr. Security Guard.

Anyway, let the Christmas continue with the eighth day of Christmas! On the eighth day of Christmas, my roommate gave to me...

{the eighth day of christmas, wrapped like christmas crackers}

{fancy pens that look like pencils}

pretty pens, to make my scribbles about cat food and frozen fish a little bit prettier. Well, the experience of the writing. I don't know that a pen will improve the content of my work. Thanks, Megan!

12 Days of Christmas: Days 6 & 7

The 12 Days of Christmas do not rest just because it's the weekend. So, starting with Saturday. On the sixth day of Christmas, my roommate gave to me...

pretty earrings! It's hard to tell in the photo, but they're just a little bit smaller than a quarter. I love big earrings, so these are perfect. Thanks, Kaylie!

The seventh day of Christmas was my turn to give a gift to my roommates. I've had the packaging in my closet since September, so I was excited to finally get to use it.

Inside the cone was a bag of the most addictive candy ever and beneath that they each got fancy bobby pins (that are apparently very hard to photograph, I've been trying for two days. Photos soon).

Friday, December 10, 2010

12 Days of Christmas: Day 5

On the fifth day of Christmas, my roommate gave to me...

A much-needed and much-appreciated new key chain. My current keychain was a fugly pink pig-sheep thing that I got for free, so I made the switch immediately. I think she read my mind, I had been planning to get one of these simple Marc Jacobs key chains when I make the yearly pilgrimage to the Marc Jacobs accessory store in the West Village (there's pretty much always a line to get in...oh, New York) for trinket shopping. Thanks, Megan!

Oh, and isn't it appropriate that it's gold? Fiiive gooolden riings!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

12 Days of Christmas: Day 4

On the fourth day of Christmas, it's my turn to give a gift to my roommates (side note: I can't stand when "gift" is used as a verb). I was wrapping long after the sun went down, so excuse the photo. The twine is from IKEA, of all places, as are the tiny ornaments.

                                                                                  {the fourth day of Christmas, wrapped}

Anyway. On the fourth day of Christmas my roommates received from me...

                                                                                                   {coasters, ready for giving}

Handmade wooden doily coasters. They're from the uncommon shop on etsy, and they were kind enough to create a custom listing for these (they usually sell them in sets of 5, I asked for 6 and for the round and square ones to be packaged together). Etsy is so great.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

12 Days of Christmas: Day 3

{from kaylie, about to be opened}

On the third day of Christmas, my roommate gave to me...

{scarf, morning light}

A pretty scarf! I know I just said this about bracelets, but I don't think it's possible to have too many scarves. Case in point: I recently bought some wall hooks from Target, and I'm planning to put them on the wall of my closet behind my clothes to store my scarf overflow.

Thanks, Kaylie!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Winter salad

This could just as easily be called a fall salad, but since Jack Frost has been doing much more than nipping at my nose this week, I'm going to go ahead and say winter. Even if it's still two weeks away.


This is loosely based on a salad I had at R+D Kitchen in Santa Monica awhile ago. All I remember was the  combination of warm butternut squash, creamy goat cheese, and cilantro. I'd never think to combine squash and cilantro on my own, but the cilantro really brightens everything. And who couldn't use a bit of brightness when it's getting dark at 3 p.m.? With the addition of some almonds, red onions and spinach, it's become my favorite salad this winter. 

I mean fall.

Butternut Squash Salad With Cilantro
This salad is more of an assembly of ingredients than a recipe, so I haven't really included quantities. Just make according to your taste and how many people you're feeding. 

- butternut squash, cubed (either baked at 350 for about 30-40 minutes or roasted at 425 for
25-30 minutes)
- cilantro, chopped
- goat cheese
- red onion, sliced into thin slivers (and briefly dunked in ice water, if raw onion is too potent for you)
- almonds (I use sliced almonds, but marcona almonds would be even better)
- lemon juice (fresh. squeezed from a lemon. put down the bottle)
- olive oil
- salt & pepper

Toss spinach in lemon juice and lay out on serving platter or plate. Scatter butternut squash (warm out of the oven is best, but cold tastes just fine), almonds, onions, cilantro and bits of goat cheese over the spinach. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

*When I take this to work, I bring a lemon wedge to dress the salad later in the day instead of having things get all soggy.

12 Days of Christmas: Day 2

{from megan, wrapped}

On the second day of Christmas, my roommate gave to me...

{bracelet, waiting}

A lovely bracelet by Noir (that she found at a sample sale, because she is one smart cookie). So cute! In my opinion, you can never have enough bracelets. Thanks, Megan!

Monday, December 6, 2010

12 Days of Christmas: Day 1


We have a little tradition in my apartment. Well, we borrowed it from our friend and former roommate Amy (who moved away from our lovely apartment to get married, where I hear you do not get to do 12 Days of Christmas in favor of buying fancy grown-up things for your apartment) who did it with her family growing up. 

For the 12 days leading up to when the first of us leaves to go home for Christmas, we get a small present in our stocking each day. We rotate, so each roommate ends up giving four presents each. It's such a fun, Christmas-y way to start the day. And when it's over, Christmas is almost here! Plus, my roommates are really good gift-givers.

{stocking, stuffed}

Today is our first day of stocking stuffers, and I'm up first. I only snapped a quick photo on my way out the door but this morning's present was Songs for Christmas by Sufjan Stevens and a $5 bill earmarked for the best banana muffin in the city, at our a place in our hood. 

I'll be blogging each of the 12 days of Christmas for the next...well, 12 days. So stay tuned.

12 days graphic by my lovely and talented friend Tracey.
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