Archive for the ‘holidays’ Category

What was 2010?

I know I’m not the only one out there who can’t believe that 2010 has passed and we are entering into a whole new year.  There is a sort of melancholy about the end of the year.  Of course December 31 and January 1 are just two more days on the calendar, however, they do provide time and space to reflect a little on life.  This time around, I just kept asking myself “what was 2010?”.  In recent years, I’ve graduated from college, finished a post-grad volunteer program, moved back to New York, finished a graduate program…in other words, I’ve hit some very clear cut milestones on this path of mine.  But 2010 was a little different, I’m settled in my same city, same apartment, same job.  So when I posed the question to myself, “what was 2010?”, I meant what have I accomplished, what have I done, how have I grown?  I decided to look through my calendar, my blog, my pictures and here is what I found (roughly in chronological order):

I went to Vermont with friends.  It was snowy and cold but starkly beautiful and a wonderful change from the city.

I traveled to visit my dear friend Carin who lives in Cincinnati.  She is a kindred spirit, one of those rare souls I am so fortunate to have in my life. We toured the city, played with her dogs and ate chili dogs!

I made a bag of plastic bags.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Alas, it is still not totally finished!

I went to Boston to visit friends and the after school program I worked for.  Lilacs (my favorite!) were in full bloom at the arboretum.

I made this beautiful soup, Springtime Minestrone, that I forgot to blog about!  Really it is lovely and I intend to make it this spring so hopefully I will share it then.

I took this beautiful picture of tulips somewhere but now I cannot remember where–maybe in Boston but maybe at the Botanical Garden here in New York.

I climbed Mount Washington with my Dad.  We had so much fun!  What an incredible challenge.

I grew an abundant garden with my garden partner Tiffany.  It was such a hot summer but we had success in a lot of our plants, especially the cucumbers!

Book club turned one year old!  We are still going strong despite the fact that I haven’t written much about our meetings.  What a great group of women.

Dublin the boxer puppy arrived in our lives!  My sister’s pup is a sweetheart who frequently gets into trouble but quickly gets out of punishment because of her spirit and good looks.

I went to Maine.

I went more than once.  I believe you can have many homes and this is one of mine.  Heaven.

I went to Chicago for work.  I toured the city and ate lots of nice dinners and enjoyed my own company.

We had roaches.  We took action.  We won!  (For now at least.)

I discovered that there are still wild, untouched places on the island of Manhattan.

I concocted an ambitious and crazy plan to travel around Europe.  I did it (with my travel buddy).  I went to Romania.  I got to know more types of trains and stations than I knew existed.  I went to Amsterdam and fell head over heels, I just plain cheated on my other love, New York.  I spent time in Germany with my best friend and coveted the pretzels, beer, and pace of life.

I said goodbye to Heather: roommate, travel buddy, confidant and true friend.

I ran a 10k race and signed up to run the 1/2 marathon in March.  Crazy but crazy for a good cause.

I spent countless wonderful days with my family.  Festive holidays, simple quiet days, always good days, always love.

I enjoyed Christmas in New York.  Sometimes it’s a stressful time to live here but if you play your cards right, it can be the most amazing.

2010 was many many more moments, meals, memories than this page can contain.  But these are the highlights.  Perhaps the end of the year is a time for melancholic nostalgia, however, it is also the perfect time to cultivate gratitude for all the was, all that is, and all that (with any luck) is to be.  Here is a nice reminder about gratitude:

Mindfulness of gratitude leads to a direct experience of being connected to life – to the realization that there is a larger context in which your personal story is unfolding.

Happy New Year!  Here’s to 2011.


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Definition of WONDERMENT

1: a cause of or occasion for wonder
2: astonishment, surprise
3: curiosity about something

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved the days leading up to Christmas and New Year’s Eve.  When I was small, although I enjoyed December because it promised presents and cookies and staying up late, I mostly loved this season because the air seemed heavy with mystery and magic and wonder.

The reality of the adult December is often the whirlwind of holiday shopping, the onslaught of corporate messages reducing the holiday to dollar signs, the stress of pleasing friends and relatives, the overeating of treats, etc, etc, etc!  All of this can slowly drain December of any trace childlike wonderment.

So what are you doing this month to take back December?  A while ago, I decided that the specter of “The Holiday Season” would only overshadow the beauty of this month if I allowed it!  Though many of us cannot shirk the responsibilities of present buying or cookie baking, we can all take a bit of time to slow down, turn inward, and perform a little self-care.  When was the last time you took a deep breath and felt a sense of wonder about life?  Now is the time!

Here are some things that are helping me maintain a sense of wonder through this entire month, I hope they inspire you:


Nourish yourself, body and soul

I just wrote this post on Circle of Food about my love for soup-making this time of year.  Now is the time to make sure you are eating healthfully.  Holiday shopping and low blood sugar do not mix!  I am a big fan of Christmas cookies and treats, but at mealtime I like to fill my belly with hot soups.  It not only fuels my body but it seems to nourish my mind and soul!  Enjoy the lentil soup recipe I wrote about–it freezes really well so you can make a double batch and have the rest on hand for later.


Spend time with friends, but take the stress out of the equation

My roommates and I threw a Hanukkah party.  Although we did prepare quite a spread of food, we asked friends to provide the drinks.  This took some of the stress out of it.  We had a wonderful time and enjoyed the company of great people.

Here are Danielle and Caitlin preparing latkes!

Latkes are time intensive, but well worth it!

Mmm, cupcakes!  Danielle brought out her battery operated menorah–nicknamed Manny the menorah 🙂  She also said the prayers over real candles in her other menorah.

Here we are with friends from our building who just had a baby!

Take time to meditate in the company of candles or the lights from a Christmas tree

For many years of apartment living, I have had a teeny tiny fake tree.  The other morning, I was passing the bodega on our corner and I smelled the beautiful scent of freshly cut trees.  There were several for sale, just waiting for a loving home.  I decided then and there that I would buy one and put it up in our apartment.

Why postpone happiness?  A simple thing like a real tree has brought me so much joy in the short time I’ve had it up.  I was a little worried that I didn’t have many ornaments, but I soon discovered that there were several decorations around the house I could hang on the tree.  For instance, I had some Tibetan prayer flags and some angels that are hanging on my wall and I am using those as ornaments.  Though they aren’t traditional looking, they are beautiful nonetheless.  I also cut out some stars from cardboard and covered them in tinfoil and hung those on the tree.

Isn’t it a beautiful little tree?  I’m trying to spend at least five minutes in the quiet with the twinkly lights every day from now until January.  If you do the same, I guarantee you will find some December serenity.  I like to use that time to cultivate gratitude for all the good things going on in life.

Relive or recreate some of your favorite December childhood memories

The other night, I went to see New York City Ballet’s Nutcracker.  The crowded theater was packed with smiling faces.  Although many of those faces belonged to lucky children, there were countless adults of all ages who wanted to relive (or experience for the first time) a classic holiday experience.  Here we are outside the theater:

And inside the theater:

I’ve also been trying to enjoy as many Christmas movies as possible!



Wherever you are, I hope something here has inspired you to take a little time today to cultivate December wonderment.



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How was your Thanksgiving?  Mine was great.  I saw a lot of family and I hung out and read and relaxed.  Oh and of course I cooked and baked (and ate, and ate).



What I love best about holidays  (and cooking, and life in general) are the quiet, simple moments that surround the chaos, the chatter, the movement.  I love the small things that frame the main event.  These are the times when I can look around, inhale, exhale, and savor.  I find that these small things we might overlook end up being the very memories we depend on later in times of trouble and stress.

Here is what I was grateful for throughout the holiday weekend (and continue to cherish everyday).


Cutting garlic into thin slices to brown up for green beans.


The moment right before my apple crostata went into the oven.  Acknowledging the hours and hours that stretched before me, charged with anticipation of the first taste.





Nothing is more beautiful than cooking in my mother’s kitchen, the kitchen that nourished me body and soul as I grew, the kitchen in which I learned to love food and lovely act of making it.



P.S. Are you interested in the apple crostata?  A Martha Stewart recipe of course!  Not as difficult as it may look, the crust has cheddar cheese in it which creates a divine contrast to the sweet apples.  Check it out, let me know what you think.

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Here I am in wordpress format!  For a while now I’ve been thinking about switching to wordpress.  I like the look a lot more than blogger.  We’ll see how this experiment goes….in the meantime, I also will be doing a guest blogger spot on Circle of Food.  Check it out!

Have you seen the City Critic article in the NY Times today?  All about picking out and slaughtering your own turkey.  I don’t know if I could do the actual killing part, but I think it’s really important to be connected to your food–this is one of the reasons I try not to eat meat since I think we are so cut off from any knowledge of how the animal was raised and killed.

For a long time, it was really hard for me to give up the Thanksgiving turkey although I had stopped eating meat for a while.   However, the more I learned about the way Thanksgiving turkeys are raised and killed, the less I wanted to eat of it.  For the past several years now, I’ve opted to stay away from the turkey.  The other side dishes are kind of a different story.  Last year I still had gravy; what are mashed potatoes without gravy?!?  This year, I am going to make vegetarian gravy.  I’ve got a few recipes to choose from, right now I’m leaning toward the NPR recipe.  I’ll let you know how it turns out!

From NPR: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=97137098

Note: The gravy thickens up quite a bit, so keep some warm water or vegetable broth on hand to thin it out before serving, and for leftovers.

Makes 2 cups.

1/2 cup olive oil

1/3 cup chopped onion or shallots

5 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

4 tablespoons light soy sauce

2 cups vegetable broth

1/2 teaspoon dried sage

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour and soy sauce to form a smooth paste. Gradually whisk in the broth.

Season with sage, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring constantly, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until thickened.

From Martha Stewart: Vegetarian Mushroom Gravy – Martha Stewart Recipes

Makes 3 1/2 cups

1 portobello mushroom
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms
4 cups organic mushroom or vegetable stock
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Marsala wine (optional)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon thyme leaves

  1. Remove stems from portobello, shiitake, and cremini mushrooms. Place stems and mushroom stock in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer for 30 minutes. Strain; set aside.
  2. Finely chop portobello cap, and set aside. Thinly slice shiitake and cremini. Place 3 tablespoons butter in a large saute pan over medium heat; add shallots, and cook until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add chopped and sliced mushrooms, and cook until mushrooms are soft and browned, and all liquid has evaporated. Add Marsala, if using, and cook, stirring to loosen any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat, and set aside.
  3. Place the remaining tablespoon butter and flour in a medium saucepan over medium heat; cook until browned and fully combined, 2 to 3 minutes. Slowly whisk in the enriched stock; bring to a boil, whisking until thickened. Add the reserved mushroom mixture and thyme, and stir to combine. Serve hot.

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