Daily Affirmation

The best things in life are free.
The second best are very expensive.
- Coco Chanel

Friday, October 30, 2009

Make Pies Not War

Very crazy day today - at work it's our Quarter End. A last mad dash to collect all PO's and possible revenue in the hectic effort to make plan. It's been a day of phone calls, spreadsheet reading, projecting, and desperate hoping. In the spirit of comradery, my boss offered to go get Olga and I the lunch our our choice. Good thing too - here is what was facing us in the kitchen:
Nothing like a choice between a healthy little green apple and chocolate or yellow cupcakes... He brought us lovely salads from Panera - brought us back to life, I tell you!

Today is also the day before Halloween, and we like to dress up a little bit. We are a sales office for a global company, so we don't get too silly, and we definately wanted to be comfortable today with all of the concentrating and work we had to do, so we compromised on dressing up like our clinical specialists who implant and check the pacemakers and defibrillators, and we wore comfy, comfy scrubs. All I can say is this: if you see us coming, hide your patients!
L had a bake sale at his work today. It's a yearly event to support a chosen charity. L has never participated before, but he was inspired by the pocket pies in the previous post, and wanted to make them. I took this to mean that he wanted to make them. I was wrong. He wanted me to make them. I'm ashamed to say that I behaved very badly last night while making them. I was tired, and my ankle was sore (because I'd worn heels that day) and the hour was getting later and later, and I was finding that not all prepared pie crusts doughs are the same. The dough I'd used the first time I tried it was Pillsbury (strongly recommend it - don't use anything else unless you're an expert pie maker, which I'm not), and the choice last night was from Trader Joe's. It was delicious crust, but soooooo hard to work with. I would cut the shape out, and the dough would shrink, and I was having a very hard time making it fit in the mold. I said many bad words, and was mean to L because he was just standing there looking helpless.
Then I started remembering all of the times that L had come to my rescue when he was probably tired, and helped me with some little project that needed his graphic arts skills. Too many times to mention, I might add. I repented. And so I calmed down and took a deep breath, and tried to sweetly say "Shall we make some more?" And so we did, and they were cute (most of them) and very delicious (we ate one of the ugly ones). Then, this morning I made myself late for work, and went down and packed all of his little pies into Halloween cellophane bags, put tags on them that read "Apple Cranberry Pocket Pies", and packed them into a cute little jack o'lantern basket for him to tote to work. And guess what? They all sold in less than 15 minutes!! L was so proud, and I was happy that I'd helped him, but sad that I'd been a little mean about it. We're supposed to make little bite sized pumpkin pies this weekend as a trial run. We can use the remaining Trader Joe's dough, and I will be nice. I promise.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Pie in Each Hand...

L was gone all weekend visiting Andrew in Utah, so in between headaches (yes, I had a raging headache both Friday night AND Sunday - what is wrong with me??) I baked little pocket pies. I first saw the *equipment* (if you want to call it that) in a Williams Sonoma catalog, and thought it looked fun. Basically it's a plastic dough cutter and crust crimper all in one handy tool. For good measure, I also got the recipe for their Apple Cranberry Pie off of the website.
Who can quickly shop in Williams Sonoma?? Not me. (The dishes, the specialty sauces and mixes, the bakeware!) Before I was done, I had the Pocket Pie mold, a bottle of Pumpkin Spice Latte Syrup (for milk steamers and to pour on ice cream!), and was almost out-loud restraining myself from buying the Gingerbread Man set of mugs, spoons, and dessert plates. (Picturing the grandkiddies sipping hot chocolate out of them on Christmas Eve! Adorable!!) Normally I take L in there with me, and he's the watchdog. Soooo much harder being good when I'm alone.
I had to beat it out of the mall quickly, because I was meeting son Scott for a late lunch. We had Mexican food and tall Diet Cokes, and we laughed and talked and had a great time. I always have fun with Scott. After our lunch I was all set to go over to a friend's house and watch the Angel/Yankee game. I was so proud of myself for having something to do that night, and that's when Scott told me that the game had been rained out in New York. What the.....???

My sails deflated, I took myself home, and decided it was time to bake my little pocket pies. I peeled, cored, chopped and cooked those apples and added the gorgeous red cranberries that had been cooked down to a jelly. A little cinnamon, nutmeg, butter and vanilla later, it was the most delicious pie filling I've had in awhile. (Or maybe I'd just cooked up an appetite.)
I didn't take pictures of my own pies, but really - they turned out just like the Williams Sonoma pictures. Cute and delicious! (They have a pumpkin shape I'd like to try with pumpkin filling.)

But really - what am I going to do with 14 pocket pies, besides put myself in a sugar stupor? I'm going to give them away, that's what. I gave some away to my parents, some to my niece and newphew, and packed some up for VT.
I will definately make these again. Easy, delicious, and impossibly cute - you can't ask for more than that. And don't worry, L... I saved you some.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

BOO



See how cute our white pumpkins are? I love walking up to the house and seeing them. That's it. No big post. The pink flowers don't really say "Spooky" but what can you do? Maybe a little dry ice in the fountain on Halloween will help. Booyah!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Projects Both Arty and Human

The weekend went waaay too fast. So enjoyable, so fun, and so ordinary. The yellow armoire is finished and just waiting on some new door pulls. I could take a picture of it in the garage, but I think I'll wait until it's installed in the living room in all it's glory. Because its glorious. I love it. L stained my new table top, and it's a delicious deep berry red. Next weekend I'll antique it with black while L is in Utah visiting Andrew.
I spent probably an hour in a craft store just going up and down the aisles. I had a mental list, and that list grew at an alarming rate. My final purchase: 3 large white (plastic) pumpkins (60% off!), a wooden haunted house to paint, some "accessories" for the haunted house, a new little Halloween spooky thing for the front porch (50% off!) and paint for Ronna's Halloween platter. I was sorely tempted by bags of eyeball chocolates, and Peeps in the shape of bats, pumpkins, and ghosts, but I left them behind.
L and I had seen some white pumpkins in one of our favorite stores lettered in spooky print to spell out "Beware" or "Boo." They were very expensive, and I was very sad about that. So that's what I did with our 3 new pumpkins. L found a font called "Burton's Nightmare" that was perfect to trace on each pumpkin for a very spooky looking B-O-O. They look darling on the porch.
The rest of the afternoon, in between loads of wash, was spent working on Halloween fun. I just dove in and did all kinds of things, and before I knew it, darkness had fallen, L had finished his projects, and we realized we were hungry.
I'm starting to paint again! I'm starting to get my creative mojo going! I don't know where it went, and it had been gone for awhile. But it's back. I'm having fun, and I'm looking forward to each new project. I'm scaring myself a little bit, because I remember that feeling of being so inspired to start something, and yet a little afraid that ability had not caught up with creative genius. Yeah, well, sometimes that happens, but not often enough to discourage me. There is almost nothing so enjoyable as an afternoon spent being creative, no matter what your medium.
Next weekend will be a good time to be busy with it all. L will be away with Andrew. I'm not going this time, as it's a more serious father and son sort of visit. A kind of lets get our priorities straight sort of visit. Andrew is getting better. He's outgrowing his program, and is ready for friendships with people who are not mentally challenged. People who can help him stretch and grow, and heal. Unfortunately, he sometimes doesn't choose friends wisely, and this is the case now. But fortunately, he's also made some friends in higher places, like one amazing girl who's a student at BYU. For whatever reason, she's made Andrew her project. She tells him he needs to go to church, and she comes to get him to make sure he does. She tells him he'll feel better about himself if he goes. (And he did call us to tell us he'd gone to ALL THREE HOURS - that's big stuff for him right now.) She took him to the opera for one of her class assignments. (I would have loved to have witnessed that one!) She has been his guardian angel, as it were, and L and I are deeply grateful for her kindness. She is aware of his condition, but it hasn't stopped her from being a very good friend to him. See? There are some lovely people in the world. Angels on earth. And I'm quite sure they're put in our path to keep us from harm. So L is going to Utah next weekend to talk to Andrew about not settling for friends who bring us down, but to instead choose friends that edify and uplift. L didn't have a chance to be a full time dad when this young man was growing up. But it's a beautiful thing to see how much he's grown in his role of father when his son has needed him most.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Finishing Touches


I thought I'd share this Seattle panorama that L shot from our hotel room on our last night there. He took 3 different shots and then pieced them together for a panoramic view of the city lights. You can see the Space Needle way off in the distance. It was a gorgeous night, and a beautiful city.
Actually, I don't have anything much to go on about. Sure, we had our little rainstorm (all of LA was on STORMWATCH) but yesterday was 80+ degrees, and today its in the 90's. It's nuts. Two days ago I was wearing sweaters and boots, and today it's short sleeves and sandals. I was lucky enough to get my new soft top installed on the car before it started raining - that could have been bad. But everything is all snug and dry, and its nice going into fall knowing that I'm prepared for what little weather LA conjures up.
The weekend will be spent finishing projects. I've completed the painting on the yellow cabinet. L needs to beat up the remaining door and make it look old to match the rest of it. Then - we can varnish and attach the door handles and INSTALL in the living room. It was a good feeling to finish the painting on it last weekend.
We've also got another project going: my project table that will go in my project room/playroom. (The room is mostly for me and my projects, but when the grandkiddies are here, it will double as their playroom and movie room.) The base is built, stained black, varnished, and put together. The tabletop is all built, but needs to be stained, and I'm not quite satisfied with the stain color. So Saturday I'll be playing with two different stains to get just the right color. I'd like it to have a touch of red in it - so I'll be mixing some "Cabernet" stain into the other one. Then, finish it super high gloss - L thinks I'm nuts, but I have a vision! (Actually, I have a pair of red patent leather sandals that have a high gloss red/antiqued black base and heel. They're sort of my inspiration here - although maybe not so much red. Just wait - you'll see. It will be what you call an "accent piece.") He's built such a pretty table that I can't wait to get it finished. I have some Halloween painting to do, and thenI can get around to the Christmas projects! (And yes, Katie - your dresser, too...) It's been good to get back to painting - frustrating at times because I'm so out of practice, but I'm having such fun with it! When we have some completed furniture, I'll post some pictures. I think everything has turned out (so far) really well, and the good therapy provided during the hours of painting and woodworking have been priceless. I've always - since childhood - enjoyed working on a project of one kind or another - very soothing and satisfying to the soul. And when Mama's happy, everyone's happy.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Trick or Treat...

When the weather turns chilly, does anyone else get the urge to cook and bake? (My house is so cold today - maybe that's why I want to turn on the oven!) But besides that, I find my thoughts wandering to Thanksgiving, and how to cook the turkey this year, what kind of stuffing, and if I bake a goodie, who can I share it with? (Seriously, I made chocolate cake last night, and it just keeps calling to me. I need to donate it to someone, and quickly!) I have some lemons in the fridge from a friend's tree, and all I can think about is lemon bars. Has anyone else made the lemon bars on Bakerella's site? They're the best I've ever made.
Well, you see where I am right now. The weather has turned cool, and rain is threatening. Because of that, I couldn't ignore the rip in my car's soft top anymore, so it's in the shop, and I'm working from home today. (I use the term "working" loosely.) I AM working, but intermittently, in between loads of laundry and thoughts of baking. And really - days in the actual office where the work is non-stop are rare. Thank goodness for that. Most days have a portion of time where there isn't much to do, so if I'm lucky enough to be home I can do other things too.

We got the Halloween paraphernalia out this weekend. The skeleton pirate is hung, the skull fence is installed, the spooky arch is wired up with lights. And inside, there's a bowlful of skulls, a glass filled with eyeballs, a couple of jack o'lanterns, and all manner of spooky decor. There are still treats to be bought - maybe tonight after we pick up the car and it's new top. Then all that will be missing are the grandkiddies to have fun with. That will have to be done from afar, and I'm trying to hatch some fun ideas to remind them that Mema is excited for Halloween too. What special traditions do you have with your grandkids (or with your grandma?) I've always had a grandma and mom close by, so I'm having a hard time coming up with fun things to do when distance is a factor.

No matter what you do, I hope you're all enjoying entering the most exciting season (from almost anyone's point of view) of the year. It's just one holiday with related family fun after another. This year, our family continues to stretch far and wide. We have Scott here (although his heart is in Florida), Andrew in Utah, Rex & Ronna & kids in Denver, Tim in NYC, and Katie & Zach & Mia (and almost Baby Girl) in Puerto Rico. Not to mention all of the parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and (the crowning jewel) my grandmother.

Wow - I'd better get busy. My holiday madness will be largely done on a long distance scale, so I'll have to do some careful planning - not my strong suit. (My strong suit? Last minute craziness, usually. Why do the best ideas always come to me in the 11th hour??) I just need to take one holiday at a time, and right now its Halloween. I will enjoy the crisp air, jack o'lanterns, and pumpkin patches. And some apple pie or cobbler baking never hurt anyone, either.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Meandering Through Seattle

We're home from Seattle, and right back into the thick of things. Why is it that the second you're back, it's like you never left - or even worse, because everything has piled up! I'm trying to relive the fun we had as I'm sitting at my desk at work today, trying to plow through piles of tasks and requests (and do a little catch-up blogging.) It helps relieve the stress a little bit. Because we did have fun - a lot of fun. It wasn't so much that we were on the go constantly - although we were. We saw beautiful coastline, thick dark forests, with ferns lushly growing everywhere, and berry bushes (blackberries?) springing up like weeds in every random spot imaginable.

It was more the adventure of seeing new sights, and tasting new foods with good friends, with my one true companion by my side. That's living, my friends. Whether we were hiking along the Puget Sound, wandering through a farmer's market, or cooking dinner to the sounds of Fleetwood Mac, every day was beautiful, and rich in memories.







I found that the area between Olympia and Seattle has a penchant for wierd signage, and funkiness that I found completely charming. You just wouldn't see things like this in my neck of the woods.



Pity really, as it was very entertaining.

But the food - oh, the food!! Seafood in fresh abundance, huge farmer's markets wherever we went, including the huge one on Pike in Seattle. Fresh fish, creamy buttery chowders, and the freshest fruits and vegetables - we spent hours browsing and buying. We were visiting my friend Marion, and her friend Joe. We all love to cook, and cook we did. One night LaMar whipped up his famous stuffed chicken, there was a salad with a medallion of broiled goat's cheese on top of each serving, Marion made her special fresh green beans, and for dessert I found the sweetest peaches ever and made a cobbler. We laughed, and cooked, and ate, and laughed some more. It was kind of like The Big Chill, only everyone was happy.
Marion and Joe took us on a mini hike (for them) along the Puget Sound and up into the forest. It was beautiful. I didn't last too long (not used the the uneven terrain, and my ankle started hurting) but it was wonderful to just walk and talk with my dear friend. The boys were walking behind discussing their sons and past Scouting days. The air was brisk, and everything everywhere was green.
One day, L and I took off for Aberdeen and the coast. The beach we ended up at allowed you to actually drive right onto the sand and up to the water's edge. There were bits of crab claws and shells scattered around, leftovers from the seagulls' meals. We drove along the coast road, taking random roads here and there, and found some beautiful photo ops along the way. We met up with Marion and Joe for dinner again that night, and they had a treat for us: they'd gone back to the farmer's market and brought home fresh clams. A short while later, we had fresh clams, steamed with onion and lemon and served with melted butter. LaMar made his now-famous (in our family) Halloween Soup. With good sourdough bread, a salad, and leftover peach cobbler, we had another feast! I love fresh clams...
On our last full day there, we spent it in Seattle with Marion. We took the "Duck Tour," which gave us a quick 1 1/2 hour tour of the city. There is so much to see, it was hard to take it all in. I loved the idea of living on one of the islands adjacent to Seattle, and taking the ferry back and forth. Probably a lot of work, but it's a romantic notion. We walked up and down, and finally ended up at the Pike Marketplace, where, again, we saw so much beautiful food. At one booth, they had fruit pasta and - get ready - CHOCOLATE pasta. Two of my favorite things all in the same noodle. I brought back four different bottles of vinegars (fig and blackberry!) and oils (truffle and chardonnay garlic). I'm excited to have the time to actually cook something wonderful with them! Maybe this weekend?

We stayed at the W Hotel the last night, and we had a clear shot of the Space Needle from the 21st floor - breathtaking! I can't wait to go back - although we never saw a drop of rain, and I was told that I hadn't really seen the "real" Seattle. (We saw a T-Shirt at the Pike Marketplace that read: Seattle Rain Festival: January 1 - December 31") I guess we got lucky, since our time there was short, but I really do want to go back. Mostly to see Marion - I miss talking to her, and her funny outlook on things. She is so comfortable to be around - it's relaxing to be with a friend who knows you so well that there's no point in being anyone but yourself. Those friends don't come around every day, you know. At least not in my life.

So there you have it - a whirlwind trip. A lot of fun packed into 2 travel days and 3 short vacation days. I try to keep the memories in mind as I once again struggle through work days followed by quick dinners and exercise routines, followed by (if I'm lucky) a good TV show or a book, and bed. Good friends, family, weekends, and getaways make the grind bearable!

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