Saturday, December 31, 2011

don't let the door hit you on the way out

It's the last day of 2011!

2011 is not a year on which I will look back with undiluted pleasure. 
100 points to anybody that can identify the source of that (paraphrased) quote!

So, no undiluted pleasure but no undiluted despair either.  There were many sweet moments, lots of laughs and memorable experiences.  Undoubtedly there were lessons learned, or at least lessons that will be learned when I mature enough to figure out what they were.

Normally I view the new year as a time for reflection but I don't really want to look back on this year.  I'd rather look forward.  It's a time to begin new projects, redefine goals, clear out the cobwebs and figure out what's out there for me.  As my best friend from high school recently said - Resolution #1 of many: Take action to make 2012 memorable for GOOD things. Enough with the mundane and negative!

There are lots of good things on the horizon - Laurapalooza 2012 is coming up in July and it's not going to plan itself.  I imagine it's going to take up a good deal of my time (and the time of everyone else on the Board and committees) between now and July.  Then there's the do-over that T and I want for our 25th anniversary even if we end up with several small celebrations in different parts of the country to make sure we get to celebrate with everybody that we love.  Having several small parties and multiple new dresses *will* be a hardship for me, of course, but it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make for my friends. ;-)
And most important, I want to take some time to try to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.  I feel like the answer is shimmering out there in front of me but I just can't quite seem to catch hold of it yet.  Maybe I'll try a few different things this year, maybe I'll make some false starts.  That's ok, I just want to put some quality time into the search.
One project I plan to start tomorrow is to take a picture each day and post it with a short description of why it's a part of my story that day.  I'm sure some days will be more prosaic than others but that's kind of how life goes, isn't it?
So let's enjoy each moment of the last day of 2011...and then let's kick it in the butt as it's going out the door!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Pithy saying # 1

I was shopping in town yesterday and dropped by the hat store which is run by this lovely couple although the wife is...hmm, how shall I put this....slightly intense.  I must admit I kind of prefer it when only the husband is working, the wife scares me a little although I really do like her.

They were both working yesterday, and I found the most darling little hat as a late Christmas present to me, and when I took the hat up to the counter the wife exclaimed over its cuteness and then took my hands in hers and said something like "let's vow right now that next year will be the best one ever."  Yeah, ok, the hat WAS cute but I don't think it's going to change my life.  But then she said something that got me thinking - "It's not enough just to make a vow, I'm a firm believer that change only happens when we act on our vow.  We've got to MAKE next year the best one ever."

I feel like 2011 happened to me, I just laid down and let it run over me without doing anything to stop it.  I want things to change but I haven't been acting to make it happen, I've just been waiting for stuff to happen to me.  That's got to change, I feel like I wasted a whole year, like I put things in motion in January and then dropped the ball.

So today I picked up a month's worth of accumulated mail and there was one of those catalogs that they send out at Christmas time with all sorts of plaques with pithy sayings.  A few of them spoke to me, things I want to keep in mind next year so that I don't waste another 365 days.  Here's one for today:

I cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from passing over my head but I can keep them from building a nest in my hair.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

 To you and all your family
Your neighbors and your friends
May all your days be happy
With a joy that never ends
May peace and love surround you
At Christmastime and all the whole year through

It says so in my Christmas card to you

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Golden hugs

Guess what we did last week?

We VISITED puppies.

Or, at least, that was the intention.  Well no, the intention was to visit dogs.  We'd been missing the feeling of petting and hugging a big, golden dog.  Luckily we know a great breeder that was nice enough to tell us that we could come out and pet dogs to our hearts content...and that's what we did.

It was very satisfying to pet a bunch of happy dogs.  They were so excited to see us but so well behaved that we never heard a bark the entire time we were there. Just a bunch of wriggling golden bodies with the occasional kiss.

And, of course, there were puppies although we didn't really get to play with them because they were too little.  Golden retriever puppies have got to be one of the cutest things on Earth and you can't help but want to take one home.

So we went home and really thought about putting our name in for one of the upcoming litters.  Really thought long and hard.  It was oh so tempting.

But in the end we knew we weren't ready yet.  The minute we admitted that to each other, we knew it was the right decision...for now.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

What would Laura bake?

In keeping with yesterday's theme, I decided to do a little baking today.  Rather than jump right into sourdough starter or salt rising bread, I went with a tried and true favorite - gingerbread.

Laura's gingerbread recipe is a perfect example of something that is a more closely linked to adult Laura rather than Little House Laura.  Laura became well-known for her gingerbread when the favorite recipe was included in the Laura Ingalls Wilder issue of The Horn Book in 1953.  I've made the recipe many times and it really is delicious gingerbread, more like a cake than a cookie.

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup molasses

2 teaspoons baking soda
mixed into 1 cup boiling water

3 cups flour
1 teaspoon each:
ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 beaten eggs

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Grease a 9x9 baking pan
2.  Blend the sugar and the shortening and mix in the molasses
3.  Add the baking soda to the boiling water and mix well
4.  Combine the flour and the spices.  Combine the sugar-molasses mixture with the flour mixture and the baking soda-water liquid.  Lastly, add the eggs.  Mix ingredients well and pour into prepared pan.
5.  Bake for 30-45 minutes or until toothpick  inserted in the center of the gingerbread comes out clean.

I've learned from painful experience that it's really important not to skip the toothpick tester thingy.  Trust me.

If all goes well, you should end up with something like this

Laura suggested that raisins and/or candied fruit could be added and that chocolate frosting "adds to the goodness" but I prefer my gingerbread pure, untouched by these extras.

Rose Wilder Lane, Laura's daughter, wrote about a time when she made the gingerbread as a pre-teen but used cayenne pepper by mistake, instead of ginger.  I actually think a little cayenne pepper might add an interesting side note...maybe next time.

Friday, December 2, 2011

What Would Laura Eat...for Christmas

I've been feeling rather domestic lately and quite Little House-y, which is actually kind of unusual for me.  As much as I enjoy learning about Laura Ingalls Wilder - reading her books and researching her real life - I am most interested in the grown up Laura that lived in the 20th century, more than the 19th century pioneer girl.  I have little interest in dressing up in a prairie dress and sunbonnet or learning traditional 19th century cooking techniques and crafts.  I went through that pioneer phase in my teens and rarely feel the need to revisit.

Christmas time is different.  Christmas just seems right for Little House traditions and so tonight I've surrounded myself with my Little House and Laura cookbooks, trying to plan the perfect Christmas menu.

I'm intrigued by the recipes for Roasted Stuffed Goose and Stewed Jackrabbit and Dumplings but I think I should probably start with something a bit less frontier.  Now, we'll be traveling on Christmas day but I'm thinking about oyster soup for Christmas eve dinner, which is also a family tradition from my childhood although I didn't like oysters back then.

I also want to try molded cranberry jelly, Swedish crackers, dried apple and raisin pie and fried apples 'n onions.  I might even have another whack at sourdough starter for bread and biscuits.  I tried it as a teenager with rather disappointing (and smelly) results.  Time to try again!

Of course, my Little House-ness only goes so far; no wood burning stoves or campfires for me.  I intend to indulge my inner Laura with modern appliances.  Let's not go crazy or anything.  And no, I'm still not wearing a sunbonnet.

Have you been admiring my cookbook?  It's an original edition from  1979 and one of my prized possessions.  I was lucky enough to meet the author a few years ago and she was surprised to see such a vintage edition.  Apparently it has had a different cover for, oh about 20 years now.

Anybody have other Little House Christmas menu suggestions for me?  How about Pot Roast of Ox?  Oh, I know - Blackbird Pie!