Sunday, December 29, 2013

Merry Christmas to All!

It's been a flurry of Christmas activities around here (see what I did there?) and it's been lovely. Endless days of family and friends and random adventures downtown and not random trips to NYC.



The best part?



Three more days!



Unfortunately, I haven't taken too many pictures of all the fun, but I'll be back to share the delicious treats I've been making and the ponderous thoughts I've been thinking as I get back to a normal schedule.


Until then, stay warm, and happiest of holidays to you!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Winter Break: A Play

This is what happens, every year.



Self to Body: C'mon, you're almost there! One more week 'til break! You can sleep then, and have lots of time to do fun things! Only five more days of setting your alarm!



Body to Self: We...can...do...this...



Self to Body: Two more mornings. We can do this.



Body to Self: Two more, you say? Hmm...



Self to Body: Woohoo, we made it! It's the last day before break!



Body to Germs: Go and do your worst!



Germs: Attack!!



Self to Body: Yikes, I'm sneezing a lot today.



Body to Self: Too late, suckah!!!



And thus I spend EVERY.SINGLE.BREAK sick. Every single hard earned break, I come down with something just nasty enough to knock me down for a couple days, those precious days which I have planned to rest or enjoy or do something fun (you know, like host a bunch of friends for a Christmas shindig...)



It really feels like my body conspires to keep me going through all the drudgery, all the work, all the times when I could just take a sick day. Then as soon as I have actual free time, I relax.



And that's my mistake. The relaxing.



My body reads it like a cue to allow the germs a takeover. And I inevitably recover just in time to go back to work.



End scene.



Saturday, December 21, 2013

Baking Wish-List

One of my awesome lead teachers gave me an adorable apron as a Christmas gift, and I cannot wait to wear it an get my holiday bake on. 



We throw a Christmas party every year, and this year it's going to be a small gathering of just a few close friends, so this is the perfect opportunity to break out my sweet tooth. My baking list includes: 



I am seriously psyched to do some serious baking. It's so relaxing...plus you get cookies! 



Are you doing any baking this holiday? Any awesome recipes? 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Venite, Domini Mi

I love the idea of Advent, of celebrating not only the birth of Christ but also the process of awaiting his arrival. Recognizing the cry of John the Baptist, preparing the way for the One who is going to change everything.



Some things need so badly to be changed.



Perhaps that's why this beautiful post resonated so deeply with me; our joy is proceeded by bitter suffering, by hard questions, and by resounding sadness. When we embrace those things, our joy is so much fuller and more lasting.



It is an incredible joy to celebrate the arrival of Christ incarnate, God on earth, sharing in our hardships. The season of Advent, of active waiting, only serves to enrich that fulfillment.



Do you celebrate Advent?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Catching Up

I'm afraid to start typing and hear the echoes of an empty web space...



Echo...



Echo....



Man, do I even remember how to import photos?



Geez.



Well, here goes nothing.



Sister and I spent Thanksgiving with our mom and brother in South Bend, Indiana. We had a really nice time and enjoyed making delicious food with the family. Brother was even a little happy to see us.






Mama's puppy boy Finnegan.


We visited Notre Dame (first time for me, it was a beautiful campus).





And did some Christmas shopping/art museum strolling. It was good.



Upon our return, we had to get our Christmas trees! Can you believe it's almost Christmas? The holidays are so scrunched together this year (Thanksgivnukkah, anyone?) I didn't feel nearly as bad starting my Christmas shopping early.





'Cause, dude. I love me some Christmas.








Also, drumroll please...





For the very first *real* snowfall of the year!!





It was juuuust enough for a 2-hour delay at school, which was lovely. (Not so lovely was the hour-long drive from church to the in-law's for Sunday dinner, which usually takes 25 minutes, alas.)



I'm trying to wrap my head around other Christmasy activities, such as baking, other household decorating, and wrapping presents. What my brain has fully embraced is the 12 day winter break, almost two full luxurious weeks of no school, generously provided by Christmas-on-a-Wednesday.



Oh yes. It will be amazing.



For anyone who may still be out there (hellooo, hellooo, hellooo) what will/have your holidays looked like?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

These Words

In the last few days of October, I impulsively decided to begin writing again.



Not writing here...writing stories, writing things for me to enjoy and not really to share, just for the sake of writing. 



I signed up for one of those write-a-novel-in-a-month things, because I thought it'd be nice to write in a sort of community. Kind of like the blogging community, but with more accountability. 



This, my friends, was a silly thing to do. 



In the last three weeks I've written down some words, and enjoyed it. It's fun to create and process and do something just-because. I'm nowhere near reaching my goal, and I'm ok with it, but something interesting has happened. 



In making writing a Task instead of a Hobby, I've become paralyzed. My words get stuck at my fingertips, my ideas don't flesh out the way I hoped, and I feel pressurepressurepressure. Which is totally the opposite of the point. 



My words have stopped coming easily, taking pictures for this blog has felt like work, and I'm just tired. Tired of trying to create something out of nothing. 



I'm not planning on stopping, because writing is still a Good for me, and it's not something I've come to dislike. I'm just crawling along at a snail's pace, which feels about appropriate considering my energy levels. (How am I more tired this year than last year when I had so much more to do?)



Words have always been my treasure, and for the first time in a long time they feel like harsh masters. I'm going to take my cue from that and slow down, ease back, and try to feel my way through this process instead of fighting tooth and nail to keep up with some imaginary deadlines and accounts. 



What do you do when you feel stuck? Most often I power through, because it's a necessity. But in this, is taking a break the right choice? 



Saturday, November 16, 2013

Onto the Baby Phase

NOT FOR ME. NOT YET.



Ahem.



Tomorrow I'm helping a couple friends throw a baby shower for another friend--the lovely Kelly, who is the first one in our little "inner circle" to have a baby.



To say I'm excited is to put it mildly.



While I'm not ready for babies myself, of course I love them, and I'm thrilled to have a little cutie to snuggle and play with and watch grow up (and then hand her back to her mama...let's be realistic!). Kelly is going to be an awesome mama and it'll be wonderful to celebrate her new phase together.



I'm hoping to take plenty of pictures to share with you, and I have a couple other posts boiling just under the surface. It's been a crazy busy week, so I can't promise much except maybe some clean laundry by tomorrow night.



I hope.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Finding Some Air

I got to go outside for recess today (which doesn't always happen because of timing and life of an aide).



It was glorious outside. A last few rays of warm sunshine on my back and gorgeous fall leaves.



Tonight I came home, put on my hoodie, and curled up on the couch. I haven't moved since, except to make a quick tomato soup and some cheesy toast.



It's not that I've been so busy, I don't have a good excuse. I'm just spending time thinking of things besides this blog lately. I'm not giving up, nor am I trying to justify. But there are readers out there (right? You haven't left?) and I didn't want to disappear.


There will be more posts, and there will be pictures and recipes and weekend recaps. But maybe a little slower.



In the meantime, I'll be snuggling with my dog, hanging out with my sister, walking in the last days of fall, eating cheesy toast and ignoring my to-do list. Some air will be nice.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Punkin Time(lord)!

Can you believe, in the nearly five years I've lived in this apartment, I've never carved a pumpkin here?



Me neither.



Sister decided it was time for that streak to end. Just in time for a Who-y Halloween.


Yes, she's also a gladiator. Woman of many talents. 



We sketched out our designs and began to carve. 









Little dog was very interested in the proceedings-especially nibbling on the discard pile. 




I opted for a happy-dappy smile, since I'm taking this to a friend's house for Halloween night. We're passing out candy together, and this will likely be the only decor present so I wanted it to be kid-friendly. 






Sister, on the other hand, went the Awesome route. 


Yep, it's a TARDIS. A Whovian Halloween!

All lit up!


Bring on the trick-or-treaters!! 



Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Accio Fun!

Did you know that people actually play Quidditch?



(You know...the magical sporting event from Harry Potter, played with four balls, seven players, on broomsticks?)



Yep, it's an actual collegiate sport played by several real schools. And every fall, Chestnut Hill College hosts the Brotherly Love Quidditch Tournament.



On top of that, just in case you weren't sure that magic was real, Chestnut Hill transforms itself into the wizarding village of Hogsmeade. There's costumed children (and adults...), performers, events, and the shops give themselves Harry Potter style nicknames for the weekend.



Naturally, I was psyched to spend my Saturday there with Sister.



There are our "magical faces." That was my prompt. 



We stopped by the sweetshop and bought a delightful pumpkin cupcake with cream cheese frosting (they were out of butterbeer cupcakes, so sad). 





The bakery is actually called Cake, when it's not Harry Potter weekend. 



We walked the whole avenue at least twice. 








Finally, we jumped the Knight Bus (or...school bus...) and took a ride down to the college to watch a Quidditch match. 








The Snitch has been spotted! (The guy in yellow). 



So (obviously) the players don't actually fly on their broomsticks, but when in play they run with them in between their legs. When they get hit with a Bludger (which is essentially a kickball) they are "out" until they sprint back and tag their goalposts. The Quaffle is tossed around, just like in the books, and thrown through the hoops to score points. The Snitch can run around the whole campus, and he's got a tennis ball in a sock tucked into his waistband, which the Seeker tries to get (like in flag football). 



There was one particularly violent Snitch who actually wounded the Penn State Seeker quite badly. Guess even in the real world Quidditch is a dangerous game. 






After the game, we finally found one place that was still selling butterbeer! I know there are a million versions out there, but this was a cider-based concoction with caramel flavoring. Sooo warm and tasty. 




Cheers! 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

On Heaven

"...I should want a guarantee that you are taking me to a place where I shall find a wider sphere of usefulness--and scope for the talent God has given me--and an atmosphere of free inquiry..."
"No," said the other. "I can promise you none of these things. No sphere of usefulness: you are not needed there at all. No scope for your talents: only forgiveness for having perverted them. No atmosphere of inquiry, for I will bring you to the land not of questions but of answers, and you shall see the face of God." 


-C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce



One of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite authors, and a little reflection for your (and my!) weekend. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Perfect Fall Weekend

After a couple days of dreary, gray, rainy weather, the sun broke through to give us some glorious fall days. Happily, they were just in time for my mom to visit!





She had a wedding to attend, but I got to spend time with her and Sister on Saturday morning (farmer' market and Elcy's cafe, yes please) and Sunday afternoon. We ate pumpkin French toast and went apply picking. It was our pre-Oktoberfest apple picking event, and it couldn't have been nicer.



Good friends,











Delicious apples,








And family.





Yes, that's my mom. Are you surprised? 



Add in a weekend bonfire,





And a glowing dog,





And it's pretty much a perfect weekend.







Saturday, October 12, 2013

Culinary Wish List

I've had a rough couple of weeks lately, and I've been slacking off on the delicious recipes (and blogging) as a result. But no more! The rain has gone, the sun is out, and I went to Trader Joe's with my mom today, so I'm feeling full of inspiration and excitement.



Since my mom is here, I made an enormous pot of Pioneer Woman's knockoff Zuppa Toscana (it was absolutely delicious--creamy and brothy and flavorful).


PW's picture, not mine. None of the photos shown are mine. 



I have some canned pumpkin to make goodies like these.


Pumpkin Spice Cake with Honey Frosting



Pumpkin Snickerdoodles



I'm also hoping to use some of that pumpkin to make risotto--I'll post the recipe if/when that happens!



We go apple picking tomorrow, so some Jewish apple cake will be in my future, possibly along with some of these guys:


Crockpot Apple Butter

Brown Sugar Apple Muffins


Of course, some of the apples/apple products (you know, like...pies...and crisps...) will be saved for our 5th Annual Oktoberfest. We always have tons of delicious fall foods there.



In other news, my mom is in town! She's been here for less than 24 hours and it's already so wonderful. It'd been a long time since she visited, and man was I ready. She even gets to come apple picking with us, which will be awesome.



Have you tried any new recipes lately? Anything awesome you're itching to make?



Saturday, October 5, 2013

Wait, I Thought It Was October...

Where did my fall weather go?! How is one supposed to bake things with apple and pumpkin when it looks like this outside?






I guess I'll just have to enjoy the sunshine in shorts again, and relish the last few days of iced coffee.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Blue Box

"It's bigger on the inside!"



Despite his general bemusement at my Who-obsession, look what my totally awesome husband brought home for me from his business trip:





My very own TARDIS, which conveniently doubles as a nightlight. 




Yep, I'm a lucky gal. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Butternut Squash Pasta

Fall has officially arrived in Philly--the leaves are changing, nights are crispy chilly, and the farmer's market is full of squash, pumpkins, and apples. I'm in heaven.



So when Jessica from How Sweet Eats linked to this recipe for a butternut squash macaroni and cheese, I was psyched. I'd just received a free (local and organic) butternut squash from my friend Melissa, who had gotten the veg in her CSA box but was leaving for vacation and couldn't use it.



She informed me that I had been "voted the friend most likely to put it to good use" (by her), so I decided to make her proud.


Or something.



And guys? This recipe was intense. I spent probably an hour or so in the kitchen, and it was a good amount of hands-on work. But it was totally worth it.



I skipped the panko crumbs on top, but this pasta bake was heavenly. The butternut squash was so creamy and slightly sweet, and the gooey cheddar was just...delicious. The chorizo wasn't particularly spicy, but it was good for texture and just to have some meat (so it could count as a real meal in my house).



So, if you find some butternut squash and have a little extra time to spend in the kitchen on a cool fall evening, try this one out! It was totally worth the time and effort.





Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Roasted Veggie Soup

Sooo, you remember how I was so excited about my roasted veggie plan?



Yeah, after eating heaping helpings of roasted veggies five times in four days...I was kind of over them. Not in a permanent way, just in a I'm-so-not-taking-these-for-lunch-tomorrow way.



But how could I waste all that deliciousness? Those roasted veggies needed some new life, my friends.



Enter....soup!



I love soup. I love pretty much any kind of soup, but I especially love good, hearty soups that fill you up and warm your soul. A good chicken noodle soup is nice, but nothing is quite like a rich potato or broccoli cheddar soup.



Mmm. Those might need to happen soon.



Anyways, I grabbed what was left of my sad little roasted veggies,





Heated up some broth,





Warmed the veggies in the broth,





And blended! Add some half-and-half for creaminess, and some of these guys for a little kick.






Voila. Roasted veggies get a five minute makeover.






And for the record, I had a big bowl of this with a hunk of challah bread, and it was delish. I only blended for maybe 10 seconds tops, since I'm a nut about texture and can't handle super smooth pureed soups after more than few bites (even that tomato soup I made had some chunks left in it).



I'd like to call this a fall chowder, but really I'm not sure what makes a chowder a chowder. Any helpful cooks out there?