Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Resolve

I can not believe 2010 is over.  It seems like it went by in a flash.  I have had more than a few major life changes this year, which is to be expected I suppose given that it is the last year of my 20's.  New baby. New book. New blog.

As each New Year approaches we all have the opportunity to set intentions for the year ahead.  Intentions to change for the better.  Many people poo poo New Year's resolutions, but for me they are essential small term goals that if met will only make me better off.

I may not stay the course all year to meet my resolutions, but like any great procrastinator I usually try to pull it together at the end.  Last year one of my and Chef's major resolutions was to loose weight.  I think this is a resolution that many of us make every year.  This year we actually made a life change in September and made it happen.  I have lost all my baby weight since The Sprout's birth in March, and then some...totaling 50 lbs, and Chef has lost 40 lbs and is still dropping.  We set our minds to it, stayed the course with the occasional holiday binge, but managed to keep our resolve.
One of the key ways to follow through on a resolution is to create a path or a system to stay on track.  This may sound crazy, but for us, the simple act of weighing ourselves everyday...even on days after we had been naughty, was enough to create a lifestyle of mindful weight loss.  It is hard to loose weight if you do not monitor how much you weigh!  This little realization has changed our lives so much for the better.  It takes 5 seconds once a day to do, a small change in our daily routines resulting in a big time life change.

Now that my physical well being is on the right track, I think this year I will focus on my mental health.  Recently, I have created a new life skill for myself that allows me the freedom to have a good day even when all aspects of the day point to hell.  When I feel stressed to the max, I simply stop what I am doing, take 10 deep breaths and say "It is never too late to start the day over.  I am letting go and beginning this day again."  Sometimes I have to do this five minutes into my morning, or sometimes at 9 pm at night, doesn't matter when... this mantra works. There is something about approaching life with a clean slate, existentialist as it may sound, that makes for happier living.  Carefree, so to speak.

We are having Hoppin' John for dinner tomorrow night...tonight I think a bubbly bottle of Veuve Cliquot gifted to us this holiday season will do just right.

Happy New of luck to you and your loved ones in 2011...and thank you so much for being here every week.  Cheers!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Two pounds of tuna. 7 whole trout. 20 fillets of wahoo...and a sumatra in an orange tree!   We are swimming in fresh caught fish and citrus this holiday week thanks to dear friends and fishermen.  One of the definite perks of coastal living.  It is a lifestyle I far too often take for granted.

For example, I write this post sitting in a T-shirt on a porch in 70 degree weather in late December. Jealous?  Don't be.  There is something to be said about a roaring fire on a white Christmas.  Oh, but I am grateful.    

Grateful is a such a humble word that is easily said, but how often to do we truly feel grateful?  It is so easy to get wrapped up in what we can't afford during the holidays.  So easy to take for granted all that we have.  It seems this time of year people complain about being stressed, and for what reason?  What is the reason for the season?  

The winter solstice.  Which this year coincided with a full lunar eclipse...the first time in over 300 years.   It is the day of the year when there is the least amount of sunlight, and darkness reigns.  The original pagan holiday that celebrated the solstice was called The Day of the Unconquered Sun.   After the solstice, the sun returns and days once again grow longer. The winter solstice occured on December 25th on the Roman calendar adopted by Julius Ceasar, but by today's calendar, which is a little shorter, the solstice is usually on December 21st.

The Bible never specifies the actual date of Jesus's birth, and it was orginally celebrated on many different days by various sects of Christians, but most honored Jesus's birthday on January 6th, Three Kings Day.  It was moved to the 25th of December sometime in between 350 and 360 AD in order to reign in the Sun worshipers under the rule of the Christian empire.  

Some of the other gods throughout history that share the 25th as a birthday include:  Mithras (who celebrated a virgin birth on this day long before Jesus), Bacchus, Adonis, Krishna, Indra, and Osiris...just to name a few.  The winter solstice is a popular birthday amongst deities.  The gifts under the Christmas tree, mistletoe, and yule log...anything evergreen...were honored on December 25th originally to celebrate the death and resurrection of the God Osiris, also known as Nimrod. 

The winter solstice has always been celebrated throughout the millenia by feast and fire, and Christmas is no different.  Whether it be the Sun God, or the Son of God people have celebrated December 25th to show their gratitude for the perseverance of light through darkness.

This year my younger brother will be joining us for the holiday.  It is the first time I will have seen him since his return from Afganistan in September, and for that I am deeply grateful.  I can't wait to toast a big fat glass of Bordeaux to him and then sink my teeth into a perfectly cooked standing rib roast.

I think I am going to start a new tradition this holiday.  I am going to light a candle in honor of gratitude, to shed a little light on the true meaning of the holiday.  Like ancient people, we need to celebrate light more...sunlight, the light within us...heck I am grateful as hell for electricity!  We take so much for granted as Americans, and we all should take a moment this holiday and remember not what we want for Christmas, but what we already have.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What would Jesus do?

This is the culmination of an entire year of pickles.  15 jars to be exact. As we finished each jar of half sours I cleaned and stowed the jar away for the sole purpose of refilling it with some sort of delectable for the holidays.  I love glass jars.  There is just something so authentic about them don't you think?  Tupperware just doesn't hold the same feeling of substance.

Every year we give edibles for the holidays.  This is a simple gift, relatively inexpensive, and folks seem to really enjoy them.  Roasted tomatoes, chocolate truffles, homemade ice cream sundae fixings, are some of the yummy treats of years past.  Food, good food, is a gift I venture to say all people enjoy.

Speaking of good food, check out this spread....

Now that is a full spread if there ever was such a thing.  Lil' Bit, The Sprout, Gan Gan and I went to have tea with Santa at a particularly swanky resort here on the island.  The incredible feast of little petifores, mini sandwiches, scones, chocolates, and desserts galore was a low calorie dieters nightmare, but a dream come true for my toddler.  

It was the girls' first time sitting on Santa's lap for a picture, and they both kept it together pretty well.  The Sprout almost lost it, but the photographer started to jump and frolic about throwing toys in the air.  The sight of a grown man in a suit hopping and shrieking shocked her into a half smile for the photo.

As we waited for Santa and Mrs. Claus to read A Night Before Christmas I looked out over the feast of gorgeous handcrafted delicacies and I thought to myself...what are they going to do with all of this beautiful food now that the guests are done.  I asked a member of the staff and she said with head lowered "We have to throw it away.  Company policy.  Sometimes we can take a little "to go" box home."

The woman was obviously ashamed to admit it.  Having come from a small country in Central America, I can only imagine how she felt as she dumped all that food into the garbage every weekend from Thanksgiving until Christmas.  It is a terrible waste, but the real tragedy is that it was such beautiful food.  Food that when you sit in front of it you feel as if you are in the presence of something special, a piece of art.  Food that leaves you awestruck because it is specifically crafted to be absolutely splendid in every sense of the word.  Food that changes your perception about food.

It says a lot about a culture that throws away huge quantities of food in order to protect certain private interests, while millions of its own people are suffering food insecurity.  It is blows the mind.  Just thinking about all those little petifores piled up in a black garbage bag is sickening.  

I wonder if they would let me come with my pickle jars and fill them to the brim.  They would probably have me arrested.  They would drag me out of the resort in handcuffs in true Christmas form.  I am not a Christian, but I do believe the teachings of Jesus to be about generosity, charity, and peace.  Over the next few weeks as we gear up to celebrate his birth story we should really take a hard look at our own culture and ourselves and think about what we can do to better emulate his life's work.  

Really, what would Jesus do?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

No Walls For The Small Giveaway

Today is the day!  My kid's book is so close to becoming an Amazon Best Seller!  It has been unbelievable all the support....I am so blessed it is overwhelming.  We are doing a big push to put us over the top, and I need your help!

We all have a kid in our lives that could use a good book right...or maybe know someone with a kid? And we are all scrambling to get our shopping done over the next few why not kill two birds with one stone?

If you purchase a copy of No Walls For The Small ($12.99) today, December 9th, at you will be given $300 worth of coupons!  The giveaway is designed to provide a little something for everyone.  Some of the gifts available from the partnering shops include:

  • Artisan wooden house wares
  • Eco-friendly kids stuff and knitwear
  • Fabulous, and affordable abstract paintings
  • Gorgeous handcrafted jewelry and metalwork

Not a bad deal right?  The best thing about this event is that 5% of the profits from the sale of the book will go to the Fresh Air Fund, an not-for-profit organization dedicated to giving inner city kids a chance to spend their summers outdoors.

You can check out what is going on here:
It is so easy, no hassle at all.  Just click on the link.

This is a word of mouth giveaway!  Do you know some one, friends or family that may be interested in this event?  Pass this email announcement along to everyone you know...or just folks with kids and maybe by some small miracle we will make the Amazon Best Seller List today!  If you have a Facebook page, or are a Tweeter...please spread the word! 

Thanks so much and Happy Holidays!


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dragonfly Woodwrights

Tomorrow is a big day for me.  My partner in rhyme, Ryan Ford and I launch our No Walls For The Small Amazon Bestseller Giveaway.  Neither one of us have ever done anything like this before, but so far so good. The idea is that if buy our book ($12.99) from tomorrow you will get a variety of shop coupons valuing up to $300!  Go to our website and in 3 easy steps you will have a killer kid's book, lots of freebies from some great artists, and all the while donating to a kid's charity. 

Anywho, if it was not for this giveaway I never would have had the pleasure of working with a woman who is a carpenter, boat builder, mother, and underwater shark photographer.  A real renaissance woman if you ask me.  The cutting board pictured above is just a little sample from her shop Dragonfly Woodwrights.  May I introduce Margery Bradshaw, a Queen of all trades.

1.  How did you get into carpentry? What inspired you to start Dragonfly Woodwrights?
The easy answer is I blame it on my mother.  She was always doing something artistic from ceramics, toll painting, stain glass, wood working, etc. We would do it all at the kitchen table. We would stay up all night making art. She ran the Wood Shop at the Newport Naval Base, Newport, RI.  I went to the University's of Rhode Island from 1993-1996 for Art, and got my BFA in Photography. In 2004 I was working for United Airlines at TF Green Airport here in RI. I wan unhappy and needed a change. So I applied and was accepted into the International Yacht Restoration School in Newport, RI. And I was hooked on wood again. I started building boats. 
Then last January 2010 I was laid off from boat building and started an after school woodworking program at my youngest son's, Xavier,  school, Quest Montessori School in Exeter, RI. We built a 21 foot strip kayak. I made some cutting boards for the school raffle and they were well received and some of the parents started asking where they could buy them.  Dragonfly WoodWrights was born.

The name Dragonfly comes from my oldest son, Zackarie, we watched the movie Dragonfly which is about a mother and child's connection, since then he always gives me gifts of Dragonfly's so the the name was very easy to come up with. My boys are my inspiration.

2.  Wood comes from living things.  Is there anything you have learned from working with a medium that has a life of its own?
Yes, that even after its been cut down and turned in to a form of art it still moves. What I mean is the wood will move as the weather changes, it will "cup" or "wrop" as the weather changes. Its fun to watch.

3.  Aside from your gorgeous housewares on your site, you are also a wooden boat builder.  As a woman you are a pioneer in that field.  What has your journey been like carving your path in a male dominated field?
Its been wonderful. I've worked in a few shops were I've been the only women. You have to have thick skin at times and remember your in a man's world, but for the most part everyone has been amazing. I've been able to come up with some unique solutions to problems that the guys never thought of.

4.  What advice do you have for people who are purchasing a piece of woodwork?  What characteristics make for good quality craftsmanship?  Or should I say craftswomanship?
If possible look at it, feel it. You can tell a lot of the quality by the way it feels. If a board is laminated together and you can feel were each piece starts and ends, I would stay away from that board. But if you run your hand over it and it feels like one board, you know its of the highest quality.  Creativity and determination make for amazing craftwomenship. You need to be able to see what a piece can look like while its still in the rough.

5.  You have two sons, one of which is an Army serviceman and just returned home from Iraq.  What is his favorite dish that you cook?  Could you share the recipe with us?
My Auntie Pattie Klienfelter's Homemade Mac and Cheese
  1 box of large shells
  1 1lb of white Land O Lakes American Cheese
  2 Cups of Whole Milk
  2 Table spoons of corn starch
  1 cup of water
1.  Cook the shells as normal and set aside
2.  Cut the cheese in to small squares
3.  In a large pot pour 2 cups of whole milk and warm over a medium heat.  
4.  Stir continuously while adding the squares of cheese.  
5. Once all the cheese is melted, take the two table spoons of corn starch and add them to the 1 cup of water, stir until full mixed then add to the milk and cheese sauce. 
6.  Stir until it boils and thickens up. Then remove from the heat and pour over the shells. Cover with foil and put in the oven on 400 degrees. 
Zackarie likes when there is a nice brown crust on the top!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Hanukkah, Peace

There is no rest for the holiday weary.  Not that I am holiday weary yet, it just seems that since Hanukkah is early this year, started yesterday actually, that there is little breathing room between the last feast day and the next.   Not that I am complaining, who doesn't like to feast?

Someone on a low calorie diet that is who, namely Chef and I.  We are both loosing weight like mad, but it makes the holiday season somewhat torturous.  We indulge when indulgence is due, take last Thursday for example.  But Hanukkah is an 8 day holiday, and what is traditionally eaten?  Fried Food.

You know the story.  Jerusalem was taken by the Syrians, the Jewish holy temple with it, back in 168 B.C.E.  The temple was dedicated to the worship of Zeus, and in his honor they often sacrificed pigs.  The Jews began to resist the invaders.  The resistance began in the village of Modin, where the Syrian High Priest forced the Jewish community to eat pig, which was against their religion because pig was seen as filthy.  One young man , Mattahis refused and fled to the mountains where the Jewish resistance movement grew.  They revolted, came down from the mountains and took back their temple.  In an effort to purify it they lit the menorah, which had a teeny tiny bit of oil.   Back in those days it took 8 days of candle light to purify a space, and the little bit of oil lasted just that long.

The oil was considered a miracle, hence the fried food which surrounds the holiday.  What better way to celebrate oil than to fry dough or potatoes in? Potato latkes are hands down my favorite holiday food, cranberry sauce a close second.  I just had a revelation...latkes and cranberry relish. Sounds like Heaven, if you believe in that sort of thing.

The other 7 nights of Hanukkah we will honor oil and peace with a little drizzle of olive oil over a salad or chicken for the grill.  Olive oil. Olive branch.  Dieting or not, I think we could all do with a little more olive oil in our lives, and peace for that matter. 

We live in a nation that is at war.  2 wars.  Peace is something that should be on everyone's mind this holiday season, don't you think?