Monday, November 30, 2009

The Kick-Off

While no doubt there have been many folks watching football this past weekend (ugh, Bears), this is about kicking off the Christmas Season (yea, Christmas!). We walked ourselves silly on Saturday, but it was so much fun to visit the packed downtown locations of Daley Plaza and Lincoln Park Zoo it was well worth it.
It was a first to go to the Christkindlemarket at the Daley Plaza. Bonnie Hunt was just there this past Wednesday for the official tree-lighting celebration and the installment of the first-ever single tree since 1955 - previously the large tree was composed of many trees posing as one tree. Thank you, Weivoda Family from Palos Hills, for donating this lovely 55 ft. tree!
Daley Plaza had a bazillion people walking around sipping "beverages" from little green ceramic boot mugs. I kinda wanted one, but wasn't in the mood to wait in a long, long line to get it!
Michigan Avenue was our next destination. I liked all the huge urn plantings with boughs and branches. Can you believe this was the only picture taken on our stroll down the avenue? Probably saved my camera by withholding pictures...again this area was packed with people!
The afternoon turns into evening. We stopped for pizza at Rocco's in Lincoln Park - yes we walked to Lincoln Park from Michigan Ave. (This restaurant was a great find - we'll be coming back here!) Never have we gone to this event before ... we got all excited to think about bringing our grand-daughter next year for the company of all those other stroller strollers!
Whew! What a day to kick-off the holiday season! (And, thank you Chicago weather that was so mild for this time of year.)
And what a way to kick-off calorie burning by walking around eight miles as we figured...we celebrated by eating ice cream once back at the City Nest, promptly followed by going to bed shortly after 9:00 PM.
It is a most-wonderful-time-of-year, don't you think?

Friday, November 27, 2009

True Hospitality

It's just a fact that sometimes we'll be without our kids for the holidays. When we were invited to join in a Thanksgiving gathering by relatives of relatives, we jumped at the opportunity. And it was just delightful! Thanks, C family for taking us in as two of your own. You kissed us as we entered the lodge at Camp Duncan (the family is so large that it wouldn't fit in anyone's house) and then asked who we were. You shared all that delicious food with us (three turkeys), and treated us to your Italian twist on any meal with pasta, stuffed ravioli, Italian meatballs, "gravy" and parmesan cheese. We savored Aunt Thelma's pies (hearing how she made 16 of them this year) as we sat around the table talking like we had always known you. For your true hospitality we are very thankful!
Part of the kitchen crew: Laura, Mark and Jim
The patriarch of the group (soon 80 years old) pointing out when he was a camp counselor at Camp Duncan as a "buff" 15 year old.
The stone fireplace in the lodge.
The food line-up. The pasta offerings are closest in the picture.
Wes with his sister, Renee, and her dog Fido. There were two dogs attending this Thanksgiving feast!
Four of the seven C siblings...three were unable to come.

Here we are with one of the youngest Thanksgiving atendees - our nephew Jackson. You might remember him as the ring-bearer in John and Kari's recent wedding.

Wherever you were and whomever you were with, I hope yours was a Thanksgiving to remember and savor as well.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Quilt We Made Together (But You Didn't Know It)

(This is the story about how the quilt came together and was presented to the expectant Mother at her shower this past weekend.)
There once was a mother who loved to quilt. She welcomed her daughter into the world in 1986 with open arms and a blue and yellow quilt. The little quilt squares were very simple, and were held together by stitched hearts representing all the love she had for this daughter. Time passed. The daughter was a happy girl with a love of life. She hadn’t wanted much to be taken away from her reading by learning to stitch like her mother. However, one June and July she took a sewing class in summer school and found out that stitching could be rather fun. Her mother was very excited and opened her scrap basket to share with her daughter! The daughter stitched together 25 2” little squares into a larger 5 X 5 square. She experimented with different patterns – a checkerboard pattern of alternating light and dark fabrics,
a mostly red and green swirl,
a square with bright colors that looked like jewels,
and a square of diagonal color stripes.
Four five-inch squares completed. And then she was done. No more stitching. Ever. Still more time passed and the daughter grew up into a lovely young woman who liked math. She went to college, married a wonderful man and became a math teacher herself. Meanwhile, the mother quilter tucked away those four precious squares her daughter had stitched all those years ago…with a secret plan of turning them into a quilt for her daughter when she became a mother herself. And finally, the time came when the news was happily revealed that indeed, a grand-daughter was on the way!
The four little 5 X 5 squares were turned into the centers of stars, for surely the heavens were rejoicing about the daughter becoming a mother herself. The future grandmother remembered a special dress her daughter wore as Christmas was celebrated in 1991 – the year a beloved father and grandfather went to heaven himself. She would use the color teal – like the dress worn at the family Christmas gathering as a special remembrance of a dear, dear man loved and missed by all. And the other strong colors in the quilt would be raspberry to represent the love this daughter had of picking raspberries on the Golden Lake road, and a brilliant yellow to represent the sunshine this daughter has brought to her mother these past 27 years. And, of course, the quilt would have to have lots of quilted hearts - 45 to be exact! Finally, the expectant grandmother needed to put her own touch on the borders of this quilt as she pondered exactly what name the granddaughter would choose to call her…would it be Grandma? Oma? Gram? YaYa? Mormor? G-Ma? Little one, my very own granddaughter, I can’t wait to meet you! The little square on the back of the quilt will have your chosen named stitched in a heart.. I love you so much already, dear one! And, that's the story of our quilt made together. Time is passing. And you are growing! Both of you!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"Just Ducky" (Copycat Challenge #2)

On to the next project in my challenge to blog/create my way through the book Blanket Statement by Vicki Haniger. This time I chose the sweet little Darling Duckling on pages 62 and 63. What a relaxing thing it was to blanket stitch my way through this little quacker! And a green quacker at that! Vicki's directions are clear and easy to follow. I made the duck as suggested with no reduction in size.
However, I did reduce the size to make this duck for a baby greeting card...something like 62% reduction. I fed the card through my printer first with the words inside,
"Welcome to the world, Little One" and then glued the duck shape to the front of the card after using the blanket stitch around him, too. The duck bill is the same oval pattern as used in the 3D duck above; I just did a little gathering stitch in the middle to add dimension to the card duck.
Gotta say this is waaaay getting me into the becoming-a-Grandma frame of mind!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Thankful Thursday

Over at Simplicity in the Suburbs, my friend Samara has suggested a blog post of 5 things I'm thankful for right now this week and publish a list here on this personal blog. Well, here goes: 1. I am truly thankful for my job at the library. We've just wrapped up our 6 week storytime session and I have been delighted to make many new little two year old friends! (And their parents/care-givers.) I always say I have the "best seat in the house" as I sit on my chair and read stories, show flannelboard pieces while telling a story, sing songs and dance weekly with a crowd who knows how to spin, clap, bounce and tap like no other. 2. I am thankful for hope and anticipation. We're all watching with wonder how A's belly is expanding with an active inhabitant! I love her already. 3. I am thankful for electronic devices that let me keep in touch near and far with the people I love. This week I have "connected" with ones in NYC, Maine, Texas, Michigan, Colorado, Minnesota, and Illinois. 4. I am thankful for our new possibilities of excitement and adventure as part-time city dwellers. Can I mention here that being a "neighbor" of my sister after all these years of living at least an hour away from each other is a lovely side benefit? 5. I am thankful for the season of autumn. Not only do we get an eyefull of colors, but we get a daily surprise of weather temperatures, treats of apple pie and cider, pumpkins inside and outside of the house, and the ability to burn candles earlier in the evening for that magical glow of coziness. The list could go on and on. So many reasons and blessings I could just about bust open at times. And, psssst - pass it on!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Two Requested Fika Recipes

Cut-out cookies and Chocolate Balls really flew off the platters at our recent Halloween Fika. Hence the recipes are making a requested appearance here on this blog. Both recipes are certainly appropriate for serving at NON Halloween gatherings as well!

CUT-OUT COOKIES (From the Naperville Covenant Church little cookies and bars cookbook recipe by Gail B.)

2 sticks soft butter

2 1/2 c. flour

1 c. confectioners sugar

1 T. milk

1 t. vanilla

Directions: Cream butter. Add flour and sugar alternately. Add milk. Add vanilla. Mix well.

Roll out dough in batches about the size of your fist clenched. Use cookie cutters to make shapes. Place on ungreased baking sheet and bake 9 - 12 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool. Decorate with your choice of frosting. This is a no-fail recipe with ingredients you most likely have on hand already. Yum! Anne requests these every year!!

CHOCOLATE BALLS (Translated by Anne from a Swedish cookbook! IKEA has good measuring cups for the metric system)

100 gr. butter (room temperature)

150 ml granulated sugar

1 msk (or 1 T.) vanilla sugar (conf. sugar is a decent substitute)

3 msk (or 3 T.) cocoa powder

500 ml oats

2-3 msk (2-3 T. water)

DIRECTIONS: Combine first the butter and sugar. Add all the other ingredients. Form into balls. Coat with topping of (pick one) pearl sugar (shown in the picture above), flaked coconut

or granulated sugar. Refrigerate - no baking.

As you'll probably notice, there's a whole lot of butter in these recipes. Like Julia Child said,

"There's nothing like butter!" Of course, moderation is always the way to go....right?