Heading Out

We are headed to Florida tomorrow for a quick vacation! We have very simple plans...lots of R&R, dine out, see the pink hotel, walk on the beach, and swim with the manatees. At least I think I'm doing that last one. Truth be told, I have a dreadful fear of alligators. I don't like heights. And I don't like alligators. Part of me is giving myself permission to chicken out...even at the last moment. And the other part of me is giving myself one of those pep talks about confronting your fears and doing hard things.

I read these tips tonight:

"The Florida Wildlife Commission offered these tips for reducing the likelihood of a gator attack:

- Never feed an alligator. It's illegal and causes alligators to overcome their natural wariness and learn to associate people with food.

- Keep your distance if you see one. Alligators may look lethargic but can move quickly.

- Swim only in designated swimming areas during daylight hours. Alligators are most active between dusk and dawn.

- Keep pets away from the water (at least 10 feet from the water's edge)."

And I may have just read all those recommendations to everyone else. Just so everyone is thinking about this. I think I'll be watching alligators constantly. Wish me luck!

12 Ways to Cozy Your Winter


One of the main reasons that winter is my favorite season is its coziness. I love to feel cozy and it brings me so much joy to make my family and anyone who comes to our home feel cozy too. It's a harsh world out there at times, and if there's one place people should feel wrapped in love, it's home. 

- 12 Ways to Cozy Your Winter -

1. Candles. And more candles...lit every night.

2. Down throw pillows.

3. Hot chocolate, preferably with a shot of caramel syrup and a dollop of very loosely whipped cream.

4. Duvets in every bedroom.

5. Canisters of homemade biscotti by the coffee maker.

6. All the overhead lighting on dimmer switches with the brightness dimmed at sunset.

7. Throw blankets at the ready to chase away chills. We have a big basket of them in the family room, plus they are folded and draped over couches and chairs. 

8. Seasonal, warming meals.

9. Tea time nearly every day at four o'clock.

10. A roaring fire.

11. The bathroom well-stocked with essentials for lengthy bathroom soaks.

12. Cookies freshly baked out of the oven when everyone comes home.

January Contemplations


Every January, on my personal Facebook page, I change my header image to something that looks like this one. In fact, this is the current one. When I posted it, I commented, "Sliding out of Christmas and through January. If you need me, I'll be here...reading and contemplating life."

Another year, it was this image.


Hubby queried, "Why are you using that picture? She looks dead."

I replied, "She's not dead. It's me. In January. Just resting."

He studied it again and pronounced, "She looks dead."

Sigh.

I feel like I run pretty much flat-out from February through December, with ever increasing speed as the year moves on. But January is my month. My birthday is in January. It snows. It's cold. After the busyness and indulgences of December, it's nice to quiet oneself and practice saying "no". But mostly, my body and soul crave the rest and restoration that happens by contemplating life for a whole, long, lingering month.

But January is rapidly coming to a close, and we're traveling (bam!) on February 1st. So tonight, during a long soak in the tub, I contemplated my contemplations. My mind has most been occupied with the following thoughts:

- last year's gratitude journal -
I kept a gratitude journal every single day of 2018.
It was an interesting exercise in being more cognizant of my blessings
and grateful to Him from whom they come.
It is intriguing to me that some of the things I was
most grateful for were predictable:
God
family
friends
health
And other things surprised me in how often they appeared...almost daily:
beauty
creativity
inspiration
the inspiration of strangers

- business changes - 
This has been at the forefront of all my thoughts this month.
Contemplating big, BIG changes.
Confronting all the questions: how, when, how soon, can I, am I brave enough?
Reading and studying and thinking yet more.
Gathering all my books and plan to spend the plane rides in active thought.

- Marie Kondo -
Quite frankly, I haven't even time to go there, because she lost me
at the 30 books bit. Slightly amused that this is a new craze, since it seems
to me that William Morris, back in the 19th century, said, 
"Have nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful,
or believe to be beautiful." See. Nothing new under the sun.
It also seems to be embraced by people who haven't lived 
long enough to need to go buy again something they got rid of in a
fit of cleaning.
Not that we all can't declutter from time to time, BUT...30 books? Done.

- podcasts -
A little late to the game of discovering them, but better late than never.
Excellent company during lunch alone or while sewing.
I'm particularly enjoying those by Josephine Brooks on mentoring
and inspiring people with a side hustle.

- intention/intentional -
Those are certainly popular words these days.
But what DO they mean?
I'm starting to feel that they are used by people to validate a
complete lack of action,
so long as there was deep and meaningful thought.
Meanwhile, people who are actually intentional are out there
getting the job done.  

- and in no particular order -
dog training, theological bravery, moral courage, Virginia Woolf, epsom salts, gluten, vintage ski attire, winter sunsets, the future of history, gardening structure, how fascinating the expression of the human mind and how unique to each individual, British pubs, gold velvet ribbon, cheese fondue, color (always color!), small town connections, aging, the new season of Victoria, the Isle of Skye, the government shutdown, and ramen.

What about you? Do you find that January is a time to reflect? What's been on your mind this month?

Winter Wonderland Walking with the Pups

We've been dogsitting this week! (You can actually follow this dog on Instagram @newenglandpoppy.) We took Carson and Poppy out for a walk along the rail trail in our town, which is one of our favorite winter destinations. It's a long, straight trail occupying the miles that used to be taken up by railroad track. It's perfect for dog walking in the winter, especially when the road are muddy and salty and walking the dog on them would require bathing a dog afterwards. The rail trail has pristine snow and the blissful solitude of the woods.




I walked Poppy, which was a relief as she is perfectly behaved. Our wild child, on the other hand, is a relentless puller on the leash. We've tried a harness. We're trying a Gentle Leader. And still, he pulls. If you have any tips, please do pass them on! 


But we enjoyed their antics, the fresh air, and the soft, crunching of the snow beneath our feet. Poppy enjoyed sticks. Look how happy she is!




Frost

Frost on our window this morning.
“For winter was coming. The days were shorter, and frost crawled up the window panes at night.
Soon the snow would come. Then the log house would be almost buried in snowdrifts,
and the lake and the stream would freeze.” 

― Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Little House Collection

Comfort Food Cooking on a Snowy Day

Yesterday, we got about a foot of fresh snow. It was so lovely to finally see a thick blanket of snow over the landscape. 


A cozy day, spent mostly indoors except for the small amount I time I tromped around the backyard (and snapped the above photo), seemed like the perfect time to crack open my  Marte Marie Forsberg cookbook and try one of her tempting, comfort food recipes. If you don't follow her on Instagram, I highly recommend you do! Such a gorgeous account!


I made her recipe for Roasted Potatoes, which are truly a cut above, because they are roasted in duck fat. (You can obtain duck fat from Whole Foods.) Deliciously crispy on the outside and warm and fluffy on the inside. Superb!


Rounding out the meal was: baked chicken with smoked whiskey salt, pepper, and summer savory, asparagus, and hard pear cider.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

The BIG STORM is moving in, so it's the perfect weekend for tucking inside and enjoying warming soups! This one has been a favorite of our family's through rainstorms and snowstorms for years. I clipped the recipe from the newspaper decades ago, but have tweaked it over time. Periodically, I try out a new recipe, but I always come back to this one. It's a keeper. 


Chicken Tortilla Soup

2 T. olive oil
1-lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 medium onions, cut in half and thinly sliced
2 stalks of celery, trimmed and diced
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
6 cups chicken broth or stock
1 c. water
1 (28-oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 (7 oz.) can mild, diced green chilies
2 (11 oz.) cans corn
2 t. ground cumin
2 t. chili powder
salt and pepper
tortilla chips, shredded cheese to garnish

Heat oil in a stock pot over medium heat. Add chicken breasts and cook through. Remove from pot.

Add onions and celery to hot pot; cook, stirring frequently until onions start to turn golden brown. Add garlic; cook 1 minute.

While vegetables are cooking, roughly shred cooked chicken.

When vegetables are finished, add chicken, chicken broth, water, both tomatoes, chilies, corn, cumin, and chili powder. Bring to a boil. Reduce temperature to simmer and simmer for 45 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Garnish with tortilla chips and shredded cheese.

Serves 6-8.

Presidents' Day is Coming


Presidents' Day is one month from today, and if you've been waiting for George Washington Costumes to be restocked in the shop, you are in luck! Just in time for all those upcoming school programs! Click here to view it.

We're All in this Together


There's a giant snow storm coming this weekend! Personally, I'm thrilled! You know me...winter is my favorite season. The last I heard, the forecasters were predicting 12-20" for our neck of the woods.

The conversations in town were heartwarming today. People were swapping their plans to keep busy at home during the storm. People had plans for the best case (electricity on) and back-up plans (electricity off). Everyone is thinking about the essentials: salt for the driveways and gas for the generators. People were grocery shopping and stocking up, so they can stay off the streets during the worst of it. There's a bit of a buzz of excitement in the air mixed with a calmness that comes from having weathered many storms before. And there's the pleasant common bond we all feel when we're on the brink of a storm. We're all in this together.

Birthday Weekend

My birthday was this last weekend. I must confess that I love it when my birthday falls on or near the weekend, because I feel indulgently justified in stretching it into three days of fun. Please tell me I'm not the only one who does that? 

When Colette asked me what I wanted for breakfast on my birthday, the answer was an almost immediate, "I want what I had at Le Pain Quotidien in London." That sounds like it might be complicated, but it's really just a simple breakfast parfait of yogurt, fruit, and granola. Bliss!


In the evening, the rest of the family came over for a dinner of homemade lasagna, presents, a video chat with Max and Rose, and brownies.  

Then the next morning, we got an early start and headed north to the Mount Washington Hotel.

I have three "happy places": home, Nantucket, and the Mount Washington Hotel. I feel completely at home in each of those places...so relaxed! I love the stately grandeur of the Mount Washington contrasted with the rugged grandeur of the mountains surrounding it.





Breakfast is my favorite meal to eat out, and the Mount Washington Hotel has an incredible breakfast buffet! I feasted on: berry muffin, fruit smoothie, fresh fruit, bacon, blueberry sausage (yum!), omelette, tea, orange juice, and more. All scrumptious!




We did a bit of shopping at the Garnet Hill Outlet before leaving the north country. (Yes, such a thing exists!)

Sunday was a restful day following church. And the Sunday night return of "Victoria", watched with a cup of hot chocolate in hand, was the perfect ending to a great weekend!

Sabbath Rest


But I trust in your unfailing love;
My heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord's praise,
for He has been good to me.

- Psalm 13:5-6

My Helper

Someone likes to help me with my workouts. So helpful. 


And in case you're wondering, or you need some fresh exercise inspiration for the start of a new year, I do Barre3 online (three times a week). I did it all last year, until a knee injury sidetracked me for a few months. But I LOVE it and am so thrilled to be back at it this year! Furry helper is not included in their program.

Sabbath Rest


Blessed are those whose ways are blameless,
who walk according to the law of the Lord.
Blessed are those who keep His statutes
and seek Him with all their heart...

- Psalm 119:1-2

Simple Meal Ideas

Let's face it. There's a whole lot of cooking that happens in December. Between our Christmas party, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, a New Year's Eve Party, and all the meals in between, I feel like there's little else I've done but plan, cook, and serve food for almost a month now. And I'm actually just a bit more than weary. Weary to the point of wondering, "Why do we need to eat again?" I'm making a mental note to make make and freeze some meals next October or November and pop them into the freezer for this first week of January, when I'm weary of thinking of food. But in the absence of those meals this year, I've been planning some super simple meals. Here's what we've been eating, if you're looking for some simple meal ideas too:

- chicken noodle soup, crackers and cheese (lots of leftover cheese and crackers from parties)

- omelettes (using up leftover ham and more cheese) and toast

- BLT's, french fries

- stuffed potatoes (more ham and cheese leftovers, and using bacon leftover from the making BLT's) and salads

- grilled cheese sandwiches and clementines

- charcuterie board with leftover dabs of this and that (salami, crackers, cheese, olives, dried fruit, nuts)

- chicken quesadillas served with salsa and guacamole, and served with salads

There! There's a whole week of meal planning done for you right there. Glad to be of help. The struggle is real.
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