Friday, November 28, 2008

giving thanks

As most of you know, we weren't able to travel home for Thanksgiving this year. Though we really missed spending the day with you, our loved ones, we had a fun time preparing dinner for two -- tiny roast turkey with thyme, cranberry-pinotage chutney, spicy roasted root vegetables, and Brussels sprouts with bacon; watching the parade (on TV this year); playing Christmas music for the first time in 2008 (I just can't help it!); and then visiting some friends for dessert.

At this time of thanksgiving, I want to pass along this message from our Waukesha chiropractor, Dr. Jason Lauer. I'm resolving to remember these things year round:
  • If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than a million that will not survive this week.
  • If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation, you are ahead of 500 million people in the world.
  • If you can attend a religious meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death, you are more blessed than 3 billion people in the world.
  • If you have a refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead, and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of the world.
  • If you have money in the bank or in your wallet and spare change in a dish someplace you are among the top 8% of the world's wealthy.
  • If you hold up your head with a smile on your face and are thankful, you are blessed because the majority can, but most do not.
  • If you can hold someone's hand, hug him or her, or even touch him or her on the shoulder, you are blessed because you can offer God's healing touch.
  • If you can read this message, you just received a double blessing in that someone was thinking of you and furthermore, you are more blessed than 2 billion people in the world who cannot read at all.
  • Refocus your energy on the good that happens every day. Refocus on the people you love. Focus on those that love you. Remove your focus from the things you can do nothing about.

I'm so thankful that all of you are a part of my life -- I am truly blessed. Be well.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

cookies for cookies' sake

A few weeks ago, my friend Caitlin brought some cookies she'd made to work. They were fantastic, and she was nice enough to give me the recipe. They're called Caramel Creme Sandwich Cookies, and though the process of making sandwich cookies sounds rather lengthy, I thought I'd give them a shot. (They turned out to be quite time-consuming...maybe a once-a-year project at most!)

I am a complete novice at making cut-out cookies,
so while Ian wasn't taking pictures, he was walking me through the steps.

I only had to re-roll three times
before it didn't wrap itself around my rolling pin.

Besides the fact that they're completely delicious,
I had four other reasons to bake these cookies:
a squirrel, an acorn, and a couple of leaves
(we bought about 84 seasonal cookie cutters last weekend).

My dough bore an uncanny resemblance to Great Britain. How appropriate (or ironic, take your pick), given my smashing apron. In case you were wondering, this is the Royal Stewart tartan...proudly worn by my great and formidable clan on my granddad's side.

Need cookie-cutting lessons? I am now an expert.

When recipes command me to "allow to cool before frosting," I automatically get antsy. Here, it was a breeze because they're so thin.

Ian got the job with the most glamour:
rolling the edges in sugar after I'd slathered on some icing.

The cookies turned out just as tasty as Caitlin's, although I think hers looked somewhat better (hers were just round, so they looked more uniform). I wouldn't recommend using any oddly shaped cookie cutters -- the rounder the better. The acorn-shaped cookies were definitely the easiest to assemble.

caramel creme sandwich cookies
makes a few dozen depending on your cookie cutter and how much dough you eat

(for the cookies)

3/4 cup brown sugar (pack it in!)
1 cup butter
1 egg yolk
2 cups all-purpose flour
(for the icing)
2 Tbl. butter
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
4 to 5 tsp. milk
Colored sugar for decorating

(for the cookies)

1) Heat oven to 325 F.
2) Beat brown sugar and butter until light and fluffy; add egg yolk. When it's well mixed, add the flour. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
3) Roll out the dough on a floured surface and and cut it into uniform shapes.
4) Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet lined with parchment paper for 10 to 14 minutes until golden. Cool completely.
(for the icing)
1) While the cookies are cooling, brown the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir often. Look for little brown specks in the melted butter. Remove from heat.
2) Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Stir in milk one teaspoon at a time until mixture has reached your desired consistency.
3) When the cookies have cooled, assemble the sandwiches.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

feeling a little more grown up

When did you start feeling like a real adult? I still don't (at least consistently). I've hit all these milestones: turning 18, starting college, turning 21, moving into my own apartment, graduating from college, buying a car, working in the "real world," getting engaged, getting married, moving half-way across the country without knowing a soul except for Ian and Eric McMiller...without ever experiencing an A-ha! I have reached maturity! moment. Ian feels the same way -- even friends who are in their thirties with kids have shared similar musings. I'm kind of embarrassed about it.

Today, however, I think we got a little bit closer. But first, some backstory: It's been a long road, which happened to start on my 24th birthday when Ian gave me a wonderful vintage rose print. It has lived in four different apartments, because we always had the intention of framing it, but we needed to find something to complement it. A Christmas or two later, Ian gave me a set of vintage flower notecards -- and we realized that they were what we'd been waiting for (they have only resided in three apartments).

That brings us to last weekend, when we finally took the prints to the very nice little framing shop nearby. The owner helped us pick out mats and some fantastic brown-black barnwood frames. On Thursday night, we got a call. The prints were ready! So we picked them up today when we had time to hang them together. On the way home, Ian said rather proudly, "Wow, I feel really mature." So did I. So did I. (For about five minutes.)

Here's one of the smaller prints.
It's a drawing of Ixia or African corn lily (the other is of narcissus).

Ladies and gentlemen, you are witnessing a rare occasion:
Mr. Let's Just Eyeball It is measuring.

We're both so pleased with how they turned out.
They look great with the toile bedding we bought for our most recent anniversary.

Now, don't go pitying Ian because his toile and flowery bedroom is feminine. He picked out everything. Didn't he do a nice job? (Trust me, it looks even better in person.)

Alright...I need to go find something to hit the ceiling with (or go into another room). My upstairs neighbor has been playing Frère Jacques on his new electric guitar for about an hour and I can't take it any more. Maybe I'll feel fully mature when we buy our own house...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

bucking tradition

Ian and I have a beloved Sunday routine. We wake up and turn on Sunday Morning. I make coffee while Ian makes breakfast. Then we get ready for church, go to worship, walk home, eat a quick lunch while we're making our grocery list, and then go to the store. Then we do some laundry and make a big, experimental dinner. Today we didn't do that.

It started out the same, but after church, Ian mentioned that he'd had a craving for food from one of our favorite hamburger joints, the Shake Shack (for those of you who've been to the Madison Square one, they've just opened a new location on the Upper West Side -- dangerous!). So we went. After a fantastic lunch, we wandered across the street to check out an event I'd never seen: a flea market.

Wow! What an interesting, weird collection of stuff! Ian and I braved the cold, windy weather to browse through antiques, arts and crafts, jewelry, books, military memorabilia, seashells, furniture, fur coats, statues, signs, boots...the whole gamut. This one happened to be a green flea market, so there was food too. I'm very excited to go back when it's a little bit warmer. (I have to visit the mirror I'm saving up for.) If you ever want to go flea-marketing, I'm definitely game.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

west harlem piers park

Yay! We have a new park! Originally scheduled to open last spring, it has been in the works for quite awhile. But the fences have finally been taken down, so Ian and I went to look around this afternoon -- perhaps one of the last warm days of the year.

The views from West Harlem Piers Park are especially gorgeous right now, with the colors in full brilliance across the Hudson in Edgewater, New Jersey, and the majestic George Washington Bridge is to the north (at night, it's covered in twinkling lights). I love the landscaping here, too. It incorporates a great combination of industrial and rustic shoreline influences to tie in the nearby tressels and the natural feel of the Hudson using metal, sand, timbers, concrete, and a variety of native plants.

I can tell this will be a highly valued spot in our neighborhood. Already, people are fishing from the piers and riding their bikes here, and I'm looking forward to watching sailboats come and go as soon as the docks are complete. So add this one to your must-do list when you come to visit.

Oh! Good news! Ian's restaurant got a great review from The New York Times. Even though it has only been public since Wednesday, the number of guests has been climbing steadily. So yay! (Another spot to add to your must-do list if you haven't already!)

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to watch Cities of the Underworld. Yeah!

PS Did you notice the new haircut?

Monday, November 3, 2008

ho hum

Has this time change made anyone else feel weird? Jet-lagged perhaps? I have barely been able to keep my eyes open for the last two days, and if I'm gonna stay up til goodness-knows-when tomorrow night watching the election results come in, something's gotta happen stat!

This weekend, tons of cool stuff was happening in New York City. Halloween is a really big deal here. And the New York City Marathon was yesterday afternoon. Plus, a new park opened in our neighborhood. And we had nothing to do with any of it. So, sorry -- no photos this time.

There's not much to report from the Big Apple. Unlike Wisconsin and Illinois, New York doesn't have early voting (yet). I'm not sure what my workload looks like for tomorrow (some days I get home after 9), so I'm going to vote at 6 a.m. Our polling place is in Harlem, and it'll be interesting to see what the climate is like there. Ian is scheduled to work the breakfast and lunch shifts, so we get to have our own little election party. I'm relieved -- I didn't want to have to watch the results come in all alone.

Is anyone else nervous about what will happen on Wednesday? I think there are groups on both sides who could get violent if their guy doesn't win. I wonder how many Americans will call in sick.

Regardless, thanks to all of you who have been keeping in touch! We love hearing about your travels to Germany, Mexico, Paris, Napa, Ireland, and everywhere in between, plus all that's happening on the home front too. What interesting lives you all lead!