Monday, November 30, 2009

Slow Start & A Recap

It was a slow start this morning. A very slow start. After five days away from work, my brain was immediately infuriated as the alarm clock began to ring at 5 am. But, onwards and upwards, as they say.

I got a really sweet email from a lovely woman, and in so many words she said, "Hey! What was on the Thanksgiving menu?!"

So before we move on to all things Christmas, I'll list it out for you.

And as my sister said, "Hey, if you pre-plan to be a glutton the week before Thanksgiving, and then you ARE a glutton ON Thanksgiving, is that a double sin?"

I have no answer for that. All I know is that my tights are cutting off the circulation in my legs and next week is diet central.


Turkey a'la Matt (stuffed with rosemary, butter, lemon and oranges)
Basil Mashed Potatoes
Green Bean Casserole
Sweet Potatoes
Squash Casserole
Cucumber Salad
Boiled Custard
Pumpkin Pie
Raspberry Pie

Friday, November 27, 2009

Tree Day & A Craft Redemption

We're putting up the tree today. We've designated the whole day to all things Christmas. Miracle on 34th Street is playing in the background, Matt is doing his darnedest to untangle the twinkle lights from last year, and I'm relishing in a craft redemption.

As you'll recall, my last foray into crafting turned sour. Flew south. Went belly up. But TODAY, I managed to master these Martha Stewart paper trees. Ok, maybe master is a strong word since half an inch of wooden stake was left showing at the top and I had to fill it with those white bows.

But I'm still claiming this a craft redemption since I didn't lose any finger prints, I don't have glitter in my eye, and the trees do resemble, well, trees. So it's a good day, even if we cant untangle all the twinkle lights and have to buy new ones.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Table, Pine Cones Galore

The table is set. The candles are lit. The pies are ready. The whole house smells like turkey and Mabel's eyes are unnaturally wide as she paces in front of the stove like a caged panther. All in all, things are going well.

I'll be honest. I had some seriously grand table plans this year. New china, new linens, huge ornate center piece. So what happened? I'm not sure. Maybe a little bit of Matt's laid back cool rubbed off on me, because I found myself shrugging and using what I already had.

And as far as that ornate centerpiece goes, I decided it was better for people to talk to each other across the table than peer around a sky scraper made of pears and pine cones. Although, the pear/pine cone sky scraper would have been pretty.

I FORGOT to put the place cards on the table before I started snapping, wouldn't you know it. But they're here and ready to go. I ended up using a 1960's Danish style tablecloth, a few branches pulled from a tree outside as a centerpiece, pine cones from our neighbors yard, and some simple candles. It might not be as impressive as my original plans, but it was so much easier.
We're also getting to use Matt's grandmother's silver for the first time. I'm pretty excited about that. Plus, I had no choice because we mysteriously only have 6 forks in our everyday silverware. But Mabel and Matt have NO idea how that happened.

And last night when I should have been doing something constructive, I opted to glue some burlap around these little candle holders and watch Harry Potter. No one can say I don't have my priorities in order.

So this is it. Our simple Thanksgiving table. No china, no goblets, no sculpted centerpieces. Just tree branches, tea lights and pine cones galore.
Happy Thanksgiving lovely ladies. See you on the flip side.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pre-Game Line Up

It's an early start to the day here at Mabel's House. The sky outside is pale and cold, the kitchen smells like bacon and pie. The cat clock is tick tocking.
An expectant pre-holiday air is hanging over the house.

We've got our recipes lined up. Pie crusts are made.
We've got dry toast for the dressing.
Soon we'll begin cooking to the sounds of ESPN in the background. Or maybe Trains, Planes and Automobiles (if I get my way).

But more importantly, we've got pine cones and white twinkle lights. You know I HAD to throw a tiny bit of Christmas in the mix.
And now to deal with the 18 pound turkey in the fridge. Wish us luck.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Easy Picture Place Cards

Two posts in one day!? I know, I'm shocked too.

I batted around some complicated place card ideas this week, everything from glittered pine cones to calligraphy strips tied to pears. But in the end, like I so often do, I drummed my fingers on the table and thought, "Hmmmm... but what can I do that requires little to no effort at all?"

And so I did this. Picture place cards. Childhood picture place cards to be exact, because in my mind a holiday isn't official until someone gets embarrassed. And nothing says embarrassment like childhood pics.

Simply scan in a photo, crop it however you want, adjust the color settings to black and white, and use whatever computer program you have to add the text (Microsoft Paint is pretty simple). Print them out on white card stock, cut and fold over. See? Nothing to it.

Because nothing says happy holidays like a picture of your little sister pooping in her diaper.
*Don't forget to check out Kimba's DIY day here.

Very Good

I found this little box of recipes in a small-town antique shop several years ago. It was shoved in a dusty corner shelf marked $5. And while I'm not much of a cook, I flipped it open and knew immediately I had to buy it.

I had to buy it because, well, it spoke to me. I saw the yellowed paper and wobbly handwriting and a lump formed in my throat. This was an item that meant a lot to someone long gone. It meant a lot to a lady from another era. A lady that spent hours organizing and writing and labeling her prized recipes.

And while my idea of baking is a box of Betty Crocker cake mix, I bought it anyway. I bought it because in my mind, this little box of recipes didn't deserve to sit forgotten in a dusty corner.

Inside I found hundreds of recipes. It was like stepping back in time; recipes for coffee cakes, home made ice creams, and at least forty different ways to make a cheesecake.

Obviously, this was a woman after my own heart.

And in addition to the recipes, there were magazine clippings from the early 1960's. Check out this BHG holiday decorating tip... which recommends spraying glue directly on a LIGHT BULB and sprinkling it with glitter. To put on a Christmas tree. Wow. It's a miracle every home in America didn't burn down, but, I digress.

The older recipes were more yellowed, the hand writing from a younger, more fluid woman's hand.

And as time passed and the paper recipe cards grew whiter, more recent, the handwriting became wobbly, unsure, unsteady.

But what I loved the most were her little notes on these cards.

"Princess Di's favorite cheesecake"

"Took to ladies at the club, they loved it"

and my favorite...

"Very Good"

The passage of time is obvious to us all, and while it's easy to look at this collection of recipe cards and feel sad, I think we can see it a little differently.

Because while this was a woman from an entirely different era, an era where women wore heels and did lunch at the club, we still have a lot in common with her. When you think about it, her little recipe and magazine clippings collection is just an example in miniature of what bloggers do every day.

Within these recipes, and in all of our blogs, we catch glimpses of women who love their homes, love to cook, love to write. We see women who love Christmas projects and go to Bunco and yes... even care about which type of cheesecake Princess Di preferred. We see life lived, activities fulfilled, and when we're lucky, good food recipes.

And while life cannot be reduced to a collection of recipes or a blog, they are evidence of what has gone before, and what is happening now. They are a common thread running through time. Our lives, this woman's life, are all about the 'very goods' we scrawl in the corner when we make our recipe notes, or write on our blogs. Because just like this woman from an era long gone, being a woman and living life is, at it's core, very good.

Monday, November 23, 2009

An Impending Holiday, Washing My Face With Hand Soap, Killing My House Plants

The week before a major holiday can only be described as chaotic, and that's if you're being kind. If you're not being kind, it could be described as the kind of situation that transforms procrastinators into list makers, laid back folks into testy 'these towels aren't going to fold themselves' yellers.

My dear, sweet, laid back husband is an example of this. Any other time of the year, he lounges on the couch, smiles sweetly and says, "Ehhh, we've got all the time in the world" while I run through the house with a dust mop, hair like Weird Al and a slight twitch in my left eye. But not this week. He raked the yard like the Energizer Bunny on speed, pre-cooked onions for the stuffing, and even helped me polish the silver.

I, on the other hand, awoke this morning so addled that I accidentally washed my face with cherry almond hand soap (my skin is now dry enough to crack if I smile too wide). I also yelped when I remembered my houseplants outside who thankfully didn't freeze to death last night. And as I dragged them inside, treating my neighbors to a glimpse of me in my grandma slippers and sweat pants... I realized that some things will fall through the cracks.

Some things will be forgotten. Like scrubbing the shower curtain, or putting the stack of Halloween decorations in the guest room back in the attic. It probably won't be the kind of holiday I'd feel comfortable inviting Martha Stewart too.

But there is a flip side to all this pre-holiday bumper car buggies in the supermarket, and that's the expectation of a change in pace. A change in schedule. A change in our outlooks.

I usually begin most Monday mornings with a deep sigh, a wistful gaze at the coffee pot and the thought, "I hope I make it this week" running through my head like the French distress signal that plays over and over again on Lost.

But today I'm smiling. It's a short week, decaffeinated coffee isn't so bad, and soon it will be time for a vacation. Time for a change. Time for family, food, and Macy's Thanksgiving parade on tv. It makes all the leaf raking and towel folding worth it, especially since this is the very first holiday we've ever had at our house as a married couple.

So happy pre-holiday week. Let's all take a deep breath and stop giving ourselves paper cuts as we frantically search for an easy pie recipe in our cookbooks. Who needs Martha and perfectly clean homes? It's the beginning of one of the most cheerful seasons of the year, and frankly, I welcome the change.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Forget Spring, It's Fall Cleaning

Why does everyone talk about spring cleaning? Shouldn't it be fall cleaning? After all, it's the beginning of early darkness, movies on the couch, and snow. Isn't THIS the time we're supposed to clean our houses? When we're going to be stuck in them for months on end? It makes sense to me.

We're enacting some fall cleaning around here. Mostly because in less than a week it will be Thanksgiving and the house will be full of family members who might yell, "Gross Liz... there's a dust bunny in the corner with Cheetos wrapped in the center." To which I would reply, "Not so fast... that's dessert."

Anyway, we're cleaning. And clearing out closets full of things we'll never use, like old letter jackets. There are some people that cling to high school. Apparently, judging by the look of disdain written on Matt's face, he isn't one of them. Wish us luck.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Talkers vs. Non-Talkers

I am a talker.
Matt is a non-talker.

Things can get stressful.

Me: "Hey! Guess what? I found this vintage turquoise phone and GUESS WHAT?"

Matt: "Hmmmm."

Me: "It was only $5!"

Matt: "Cool."

Me: "Of course they cut the wires off the back. But can you believe it? These things are usually $40! Can you believe it?"

Matt: "Cool."

Me, frowning: "No. Really. Can you believe it? Do you know how long I've wanted one of these?"

Matt: "That's good baby."

Me, hands on hips: "You know... you're hard to talk to."

Matt, taken aback, "What are you talking about?"

Me: "Well, I'm trying to tell you how excited I am about this phone and all you can say is 'cool'."

Matt, officially confused, "What else is there to say?"

Me, huffy: "Forget it. Just forget it."

Matt: "Oh well, excuse me. Let me try this again. Wow Liz. That's the most monumentally fantastic phone I've ever laid eyes on."

Me, pursed lips: "Funny. Really funny."

Matt (now on a roll), clasps his hands together: "Is that OK? I can do better... I CANNOT believe you found it so cheap! You practically stole that from them, I think I might jump up and down with GLEE."

Me: struggling to maintain my scowl and not laugh.

Matt: " I can ONLY DREAM of finding such a fantastic antique store score one day myself. I prefer the cotton candy pink phones, will you keep an eye out for one of those? I could put it in my office!"

Me, laughing, shouting, stomping from the room: "SHUT UP MATT."

See what I mean? Talkers vs. Non-talkers.

It's a mine field.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I Can Learn A Lot From Mabel

After my recent skirmish with disappointment and gloominess, I decided to take note of Mabel's life plan. We can all learn a lot from her when it comes to simple steps. Basically, it all comes down to four things.

1. Rest

Mabel is the queen of resting. Note her relaxed posture, her entire body weight squishing down on the red throw pillow beneath her portly figure. Note her unconcerned attitude, her resting head. Mabel is not thinking about bills or cars or concerns. She is thinking:

"Gosh, whatever they're cooking in that kitchen sure smells good. Wait a minute, let me readjust myself so I can be more comfortable and smash this throw pillow into complete oblivion. There, that's much better. I wonder if they'd give me some of that food..."

2. Be Alert

Nothing gets by this dog. Not a squirrel in the front yard. Not a mail man. Not a runner. And when I hissed her name to get her to look at the camera, "Mabel!" her little head jerked upright in a mere nanosecond. Why? Because she's alert, and obviously thinking:

"What!? Are we going walking? Are you going to give me some of that food I'm smelling? Do we get to go in the car? Can I kill a squirrel? What? What? What?"

3. Play

She runs. She jumps. But by far the most annoying thing Mabel does is assault me with her toys, namely Big Mean Kitty. That's what we call this poor deflated, tooth torn stuffed animal. Mabel never stops playing. She also never stops slamming her toys into the side of my leg like so....

I have bruises from this activity. Some bruises are in the shape of harder toy edges. Some bruises are actually the shape of Mabel's nose as she skids across the living room at 20 miles an hour and slams into my calf muscle. Either way, Mabel plays. It rains, she plays. The sun comes out, she plays. Two in the morning and perched on the end of our bed, she still plays.

4. Hope

Hope never dies in this house, mostly because Mabel is one big giant gut. She eats, sleeps, breathes and thinks with her stomach. When Matt cooks, she's right underfoot, haunting the oven, growling, "Give me some food, give me some food, GIVE ME SOME FOOD THIS DOG FOOD YOU PUT IN MY BOWL IS AWFUL."

Nevertheless, I admire her never-say-die spirit. I admire the fact that despite going days, weeks, sometimes a month without getting table food, she still hopes. She's still shows up in the kitchen. She's still begging. THAT'S hope.

Never mind the fact that she sleeps (possibly) 15 hours a day, she still appreciates her beauty sleep. Never mind the fact that she has never killed a squirrel or a mail man, she's still alert. Never mind the fact that I yell at her every time she skids sideways into my leg with a toy, she's still determined to play. And never mind the fact that we never give her the good smelling steak or mashed potatoes she dreams about, she still begs. She still hopes.

So in summation, thank you ladies. Thank you for your kind encouragement, your prayers, and your comments that always make my day. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to spend my day being like Mabel. Resting, still alert, still hoping, and most importantly, sniffing through the fridge in search of good food.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

On a Happier Note: Some Inspiration & More Childhood Humiliation

Kelli posted about a decor project here... and what a sweetheart she is for lifting my spirits on a day like today! Thanks Kelli.

And since nothing on this earth makes me laugh like our old childhood pictures, here's a shot of Rebecca in her finest attire.
In the front yard.
Pants-less in front of the neighbors.
I feel better already.

Happy In My Shoes: November Purple

The morning sky puts on a beautiful show the closer we get to winter. There's nothing more peaceful that standing outside with Mabel and watching the dark purple sky turn lavender, then periwinkle, until the sun peaks over the roof of the house.

I stand still and breathe the cold air in and out while the geese call down by the lake. There are no cars, no honking horns. There is no stress, no commute, just me in my pajamas in the half light while Mabel skips happily across the yard and the sun stretches across the horizon.

I'm struggling to be at peace with life right now. There are some things I'll air happily on this blog, and others that are a little too raw, too personal, too cry-baby-ish. This is one of them. But I will say this: I've been dealing with a square peg/round hole scenario.

I don't deal with disappointment very well. My initial reaction is to lie on the ground and kick, peek open one eye to see who's watching, and kick some more. It's not a peaceful reaction. It's not a pretty one either. And lately, I've spent a lot of time kicking.

But while I may be struggling to grasp the concept of peace, these morning moments help. They help me remember what I believe. Because I believe that my life, however it plays out, is part of a plan. A plan that God will give me the ability to be at peace with, no matter the end result. No matter the disappointments. No matter the square pegs.

And while it's easy to forget this amidst bumper to bumper traffic, it's clearly revealed every morning in the quiet cold, under the purple November sky.

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Monday, November 16, 2009

Why I Don't Craft

I decided to be adventurous this weekend. I decided to venture into Michael's and actually buy crafty stuff. There were big plans afoot.

Until everything went awry. Like it always does when I attempt to use glue or glitter or scissors or tape.
See? I told you I was craft-challenged.

Just don't ask.

On the upside, you know those fabulous Mistletoe and Pine scented Yankee candles that can almost smell like a real tree? Well, Michael's has these guys on sale for $3.99, and I cannot tell the difference between the two smells.
I think I'll stick to spray paint and candles from now on and leave the glitter to the professionals.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Good Cause

Think of how quickly we all spend $10. A magazine and a cup of coffee. Take-out lunch. A pair of cheap earrings. THIS is an opportunity to make the next $10 count for something really, really important.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Giving Up Caffeine, Heaven Help Matt

Do you ever just feel overwhelmingly cranky?
Uncontrollably sour?
I do.

The little, mostly ignored, voice of reason is whispering in the back of my head, "There's no reason to assault the Starbucks worker for talking on her cell phone. She has a life too and you'll get your decaf coffee eventually. Plus, they'll call the police and it will be unpleasant for everybody."

And ahhhh... so quickly we've ventured to the central part of my crankiness.
The decaffeinated coffee part.

For reasons I wont bore you with, I'm off caffeine.
And Diet Coke.
Probably forever.
It's not going well.

The headaches.
The dizziness.
The uncontrollable urge to reach across the counter, yank the cell phone from that teenage Starbucks worker's hand, chunk it across the lobby and yell, "You can talk to Lamont after work, it's not important if he loves you or not. NOW TAKE MY ORDER!"

The decaffeinated milk of human kindness has momentarily dried up here at Mabel's House. Heaven help Poor Matt.

PS. Know what helps a bad mood? Waking up and finding that Apartment Therapy not only actually read my house submission, but they posted pictures too! Now I feel a smidge jerky about my irritable behavior. I will be in a better mood now, I will be in a better mood now, I will...