a little goes a long way

Happy almost-New Year, dear readers.  And isn’t it always the case that we pile too many projects into this little month of December and tire ourselves out completely?  Of course, dreams always loom large in my mind of a totally handmade Christmas.  I see visions of myself with constant and various sheets of cookies in the oven, a dozen different decorative projects ongoing, and everyone’s gifts made specifically with that person in mind.  Oh, and all of it beautifully photographed too.  As if this little month had more hours in it, and less of the day-to-day to do…and do.  ha!

So, it’s true, we buckled and went the more convenient route with some things this year — a cash donation to a group gift, a bite-size boost to the economy in a few different stores, and one lonely set of lights amidst our half-packed apartment to mark it holiday time.  Not exactly the quaint and homey set of DIY holi-days that I envision when I think about setting the scene for some really poignant and special memories for my little one during celebration seasons.

And yet, you know what?  A little really does go a long way.  I did get some making and baking done this year.

Baskets of blueberry muffins were a simple new tradition for the classic pastry-lovers among us this year, and a welcomed treat for our special young visitors on Christmas Eve.  After a few failed attempts, I mastered the chocoloate-dipped macaroon which my own brother, a fabulous chef, dubbed, “some of my very best work.”   I don’t take these compliments lightly.  (Bake them for 17 minutes, not 25!)   And these little dried fruit/nut balls made a fun gift (and a great snack.)

Most fun of all was the set of juggling balls with a matching tote from Oliver + S patterns that I made for Orlis.  What started as this:

quickly and easily became this:

and with a little last-minute help from my hand-sewing-extraordinaire-for-a-mother who also happened to have a lot of stuffing rice on hand at her house, became this:

…and then this on Christmas morning — in the hands of this little rascal who didn’t want to put any clothes on:

And seeing him paw those juggling balls and turn them over and study them in that adorable way that babies do with every foreign object, and dump them out of the bag and them stuff them all back in again 20 times in a row.  But not once did he attempt to juggle them. And as I watched this (blueberry muffin-in-mouth), and relished the experience of making and baking…and giving, and realized that just because it’s December, we don’t have to juggle a million things.  We could just do one or two.  And cherish the experience.



sweet new year

One of the things I appreciate about having grown up in a [loose, sometimes hodge-podge] religious tradition is it gives me fodder for re-claiming, re-arranging, and altogether re-doing things.  That is,  a stepping-off place.  My Jewish partner’s similarly loose, sometimes hodge-podge religious upbringing adds even more holidays to re-consider.

Since having some Jewish influence in my life, I’ve been particularly attracted to the holiday Rosh Hashanah, both for its somewhat universal applications (it being the Jewish New Year — I mean, who doesn’t like an excuse to make a couple of resolutions?) and for its general positive attitude:  a bit of a feast, few rules, some wine, apples, honey, wishing others a sweet new year — what’s not to like?

So, during this week every year I like to buy a box of matzo-meal.  Clearly this company has not changed it’s logo in at least 1000 years and I consider that the means for some good cooking.


Now, let’s be frank.  With all due respect, the mazto-ball soup that one might purchase in a deli is often, well, pretty bland.  Maybe its supposed to be that way for some biblical reason or another, but in our house, we like to give it a little pizzazz.

I start with Mark Bittman’s recipe from How to Cook Everything, but do a little adding.  Mostly in the way of salt and pepper, my friends — how much more kosher can you get than adding a little extra salt?  Some extra salt and pepper and onion to the matzomeal, a bit more to the broth, and I really chunk it up with lots of carrots and celery.  Plus, I cook 5 chicken legs in my broth, and when they are cooked through, I pull them out and cut the meat off the bone and into little pieces, and put it back in.  It gives the soup a lot more flavor.

I’m telling you, there are few things more delicious than a bowl of this soup.  Just like [someone's] Grandma used to make….sort of.   And when you are 1, you get to eat it deconstructed.  So, Happy New Year.   My Jewish New Year’s resolution is going to be to make this soup more than once a year!  What’s yours?


What Are We Going to Do — Stop Growing?

2010 here we come

are you ready?

In the last week or so, I’ve interacted with numerous individuals who claim they “don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions.”  Care to set yourself up for failure? they say.  Starting something new for the New Year is so cliche, they say.  Resolutions are bullshit, they say.  Well, I say, thank you for igniting my sense of rebellion!

Okay, okay, I see what they mean, these resolution grinches.  “Resolutions” — spontaneously deciding you’ll do something habitually or behave in a different way forevermore — can be total BS…particularly when they aren’t rooted in a deeper understanding of ourselves, or when we don’t take measures to actually hold ourselves accountable for the changes we’d like to make.  Point taken.  Seemingly arbitrary goals such as, “I’m gonna try to eat healthier in 2010″ or “Maybe I’ll sell some of my artwork this year,” lack specificity, timeline, measurability, and commitment and therefore, do raise my eyebrows in suspicion and doubt.   In fact, in most cases, they probably do set us up for failure.

Moreover, what’s truly missing from a laundry list of resolutions that sound ambiguous (“I’ll read the classics this year”; “I’ll call my mom more often”) is a sense of relevance:

What is really important about this action/habit/new behavior?

What’s it for?

What will be different about my life when I commit to making this change?

Setting our Grinch hats aside for a moment, let’s consider this: we can’t stop growing and changing. New behaviors — even tiny ones — that result from an internal shift are enormously impactful.  And, focused intentions set the stage for new behaviors.  When we make the effort to set an intention or commit to an action that is specific, measureable, time-bound, and relevant to what we value, there’s no greater gift we can give ourselves.

It’s a new year…a new decade…clean slate!  I figure, it is a pretty nice time to turn over a [snow-covered] leaf or two…get going on a fresh project…restart and old, great habit…take a risk on something exciting.  Why not take a look at the year that’s past and see what there is to celebrate, mourn, or just plain acknowledge?  What have you learned?  What’s important to you now?  What do you really value these days?  And, what’s moving in you to start anew?

ready, set, go!

ready, set, go!


Start a New Action on January 1st and Do It for 30 Days.

2 weeks ago, when I posted the final Radical Idea for managing your time — to get in the habit of things — I revealed that if you do something for 30 days, you’ll always do it.   My friends, January 1 is the day to start a 30-day challenge. Choose something in your life that you’d like to become a habit – OR – just give yourself a juicy challenge and see if you can do it.  Then, make yourself a simple chart, or even easier, mark it off in your daily planner with a check-mark or a small note.  You’ve got a day and 1/2 to decide –  what will it be?