Saturday, November 28, 2009

Standing firm against the Christmas Tide

Unless we make Christmas 
an occasion to share our blessings, 
all the snow in Alaska won't make it 'white'." 
-- Bing Crosby

I hope the fact that I'm standing firm that doesn't make me sound Scroogey. Far from it -- this year, I'm very excited about Christmas. And I can't wait to put up Mr. and Mrs. Saint Nicholas, not to mention Chef Santa. That's him below -- at $5.00, he was another Tresori Tuesday candidate -- and his red, white and black apparel fits in perfectly with my  red and black kitchen.

So, despite the fact that I'm looking forward to Christmas, I want to take this Thanksgiving weekend, and let it be Thanksgiving. It seems that everyone who has decorations up at this time of year gets tired of them before New Year arrives, and I just want to treasure the thankful time for what it is. My goal is to take down all the fall decorations by Sunday, and then I'll get my loot of Yuletime treasures out in the weeks to come.

I also want to say that I've decided that fall decorations are probably the best seasonal decorating investment. I had mine up in early September (primarily because I was so sick of the muggy August weather), and, with a little subsidiary dip into and then out of Halloween-themed items, I've had pumpkins and leaves and acorns and turkeys out through this week. That's almost three full months of autumnal accessories! My favorite acquisitions this year were the half price white pumpkin on my dining table, which I snatched in the after-Halloween sale, and the fabulous and very realistic fall garlands that I found everywhere from A.C. Moore to Christmas Tree Shops. I've got three new Rubbermaid containers to pack everything up, so I'll post this as a dare to myself. Let's see what happens by Sunday night! Because, after all:
It is Christmas in the heart 
that puts Christmas in the air."
~ W. T. Ellis

Sunday, November 22, 2009

In our gratitude


Though he was ill and in pain,
in disobedience to the instruction he
would have received if he had asked,
the old man got up from his bed,
dressed, and went to the barn.
The bare branches of winter had emerged
through the last leaf-colors of fall,
the loveliest of all, browns and yellows
delicate and nameless in the gray light
and the sifting rain. He put feed
in the troughs for eighteen ewe lambs,
sent the dog for them, and she
brought them. They came eager
to their feed, and he who felt
their hunger was by their feeding
eased. From no place in the time
of present places, within no boundary
nameable in human thought,
they had gathered once again,
the shepherd, his sheep, and his dog
with all the known and the unknown
round about to the heavens' limit.
Was this his stubbornness or bravado?
No. Only an ordinary act
of profoundest intimacy in a day
that might have been better. Still
the world persisted in its beauty,
he in his gratitude, and for this
he had most earnestly prayed.

"XI." by Wendell Berry, from Leavings

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tresori Tuesday (Tuesday treasures)

So, my sister, Susan hates me. She says I find the best bargains.

Hee. I do. We all love the St. Vincent de Paul resale shop, where both our parents have volunteered for some years,  where Mom gathers up wonderful finds for all of. And whenever someone comments on my Talbot's ensemble or a great jacket we found there, I tell them it came from "Santa Vincenzo de Paolo."

But I haunt St. Vinny's myself whenever possible, and, believe me, the bargains there are amazing (Talbots skirts -- with the tags still on!).  I also check in at the St. Joan of Arc Catholic church's shop near where I work and an occasional "rogue" resale shops. And if I see a estate sale on my way to work on Friday mornings, oh, what a lovely start to the weekend.

So, I'm inaugurating Tresori Tuesday. At first, I thought I'd post on Sundays, after yard sales on Saturday, and call it "Show Off Sunday," but, geez, Susan's already mad enough (and I also missed Sunday and want to post this...). So, I'll start with my favorite finds from the last few months.

Ecco i miei tesori! (Here are my treasures!)

I found this 18-inch tall ceramic St. Nicholas at the St. Vincent's Christmas sale on Saturday. When I reached the cashier, she told me she thought he had a matching figure in the linen room. I rushed back, and sure enough, there was. And it was Mrs. Claus!  Not many people know this, but I love Mrs. Claus; I want to be her someday! I have a special affinity to her, because Mrs. Claus is fun and loving, but she doesn't have children either, but she's still jolly and nice and motherly. I hope I have some of that in me, too...
So I was thrilled to find this loving couple!

(Okay, just to digress over the Mrs. Claus not having any little Clauses, that's my guess, because you never hear anyone talking about Santa Junior inheriting the business, or Susie Claus running off with one of the elves, right?)

Mr. Santa was $5.00, because his lantern lights up. See?

And here's Mrs. Claus. She was a bargain at only $4.00. Can you stand it?

Aren't they the sweetest couple? I love how she's a bit shorter, and how he's lighting the way to the mailbox.

And, just one more bargain. I know, this is really starting to sound show-offy, but please bear with me. Here's what I found in the St. Vincent's "boutique," the area behind the garage with the slightly pricier "junque" -- all well worth it, as you'll see.

Ready? Look!

These are little pewter club chairs.And that's not a fountain behind them, it's the candle on my coffee table. Aren't they fabulous? I found them on-line for $39.00 at Pottery Barn...but I got them at Santa Vincenzo's for a mere $10.00! Here's another shot with my specs and postage stamp container  in front so you can see how little they are.

 I'm thinking they need a little throw pillow or maybe a miniature afghan to cozy them up. I love these guys -- but I can't believe someone would actually pay $39.00 for them.

Okay, by this point, Sue's probably steaming, so I'll save my other treasures for another time.

And, yes, of course I'm kidding -- Sue's a dear, and she cheers me on in finding my bargains (heck, she and the children even benefit from some of them)! But, here she is, my beautiful Appelonia of a baby sister, with her husband Mike and my godchild, Luciano (Mirabella was asleep in the stroller):

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Mouth-watering, ruby-red poetry!

Each day, I get a letter from the estimable and friendly Garrison Keillor, the delightful host of National Public Radio's "Prairie Home Companion." You know, the fictional town in Minnesota where "all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average."

Mr. Keillor writes a blog called The Writer's Almanac, with poetry and short bios on people of letters. It's very accessible and down to earth -- no fancy/schmancy high falutin' literary snobbery at all -- just the sheer enjoyment of the glory of words (and, truly, would we expect anything less from the man who plays Guy Noir?).

So, while I'm sure that MY letter is also received by a number of others, it's amazing how often Garrison seems to hit on something that strikes close to how I've been feeling, so I like to think he's writing to me. And, since I've been thinking of cranberries all week, this poem seems especially appropriate today. Here on Cape Cod, I pass a dozen or so bogs each day just on my way to work.  I think most of them have been harvested by now -- I'll try to include a pic of the beautiful wet bog harvests sometime soon -- but, in lieu of that, here is the most gloriously beautiful recipe you'll ever see or hear. (If you don't go to The Writer's Almanac to hear it, make sure you read it out loud...)

Cranberry-Orange Relish

A pound of ripe cranberries, for two days
macerate in a dark rum, then do not
treat them gently, but bruise,
mash, pulp, squash
with a wooden pestle
to an abundance of juices, in fact
until the juices seem on the verge

of overswelling the bowl, then drop in
two fistsful, maybe three, of fine-
chopped orange with rind, two golden
blobs of it, and crush
it in, and then add sugar, no thin
sprinkling, but a cupful dumped
and awakened with a wooden spoon

to a thick suffusion, drench of sourness, bite of color,
then for two days let conjoin
the lonely taste of cranberry,
the joyous orange, the rum, in some
warm corner of the kitchen, until
the bowl faintly becomes
audible, a scarce wash of sound, a tiny
bubbling, and then
in a glass bowl set it out
and let it be eaten last, to offset
gravied breast and thigh
of the heavy fowl, liverish
stuffing, the effete
potato, lethargy of pumpkins

gone leaden in their crusts, let it be eaten
so that our hearts may be together overrun
with comparable sweetnesses,
tart gratitudes, until finally,
dawdling and groaning, we bear them
to the various hungerings
of our beds, lightened
of their desolations.

"Cranberry-Orange Relish" by John Engels, from Sinking Creek. © The Lyons Press, 1998. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

You can see other selections from The Writer's Almanac, and hear the poem read here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Picture your food...

I need a new camera, and while my dream camera is not in my budget at this time, I am planning an interim upgrade. Any advice?

In the meantime, I was poking through the Boston Globe Online, and found, "Eating with your eyes," a fascinating film short on styling food for photos. There's a nice shot of a table with the lighting hanging over the plate of food being photographed, and killer conversation from the food editor and stylist:

"My eye just goes to the tomato."

"Is the emphasis on the eggs or on the salad?"

"I did a lasagna once, and it just wasn't speaking to me."

The foodies also share some trade secrets that we bloggers can use, too. They use matchbooks to lift the plate up, move a fork back and forth for the best angle, and admit to adding a touch of olive oil for shine and for bread, crumbs to make it look realistic.

Fun to watch, so if you like to take pictures of your food, go watch "Eating with your eyes."


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Around and around

I have not been a faithful blogger lately, but I'm resolved to start posting consistently again.
I do feel I have contributed in a small way to something that I think is very important, though. I was in Buffalo to visit my cousins a few weeks ago, and I helped my cousin Beth set up her blog. It's called Around Beth's World.

Beth has physical challenges, and while it might be true that those challenges have shaped her perspective in many ways, Beth's way of looking at this world we all live in is uniquely her own. The status updates and comments she posts on our family Facebook pages have given me a great deal of pause and inspiration over the past year. She has touched me so deeply a number of times, and I couldn't help but develop a profound conviction that there were others who needed to be reached in the same way. It's good to have someone to remind us that hail stones are magic and that autumn leaves are dancers.

Here's something I copied from a sign in Beth's craftroom:

Live each day 
as if it were 
the beginning 
of something wonderful.

Please add Beth's blog to your reading list -- and Beth, thank you for your generosity in sharing your world, and reminding us of its power and joy!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Dad is better!

My dad had two major surgeries at the wonderful Massachusetts General, but he's very happy to be back on Cape Cod. He's at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Cape Cod and the Islands, and has a very busy schedule, with physical therapy and other activities at least four times a day. I went to see him after work on Friday, and had to wait until he got back from physical therapy, then his occupational therapist was there within moments to take him off to their next session.

On other news, my darling "special kitty," Mouchie had to leave us earlier this week. She was my darling little Funny Face for 16 years, and her brother Maddie and I miss her very much. Wanda and Carol at Cape Cod Cat Hospital were extraordinary and so caring. With Dr. Wanda, I feel confident that I made the right choice, but I'm grieving for my little pal.