Upcycled Junk Mail Christmas Tree Ornament — Upcycle Magazine

I found something to do with the endless supply of holiday catalogs!

recycled-ornament-med

Upcycled Junk Mail Christmas Tree Ornament — Upcycle Magazine.

This website is going to consume a lot of my time…

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Angel Watching Overhead: Unbreakable JOY of Baby’s First Christmas Ornament

World's most fragile Christmas ornament.

World’s most fragile Christmas ornament.

This is my baby’s first Christmas ornament. Somewhere along the lines my mother added the date in sharpie. While I am glad to have this, it has always stressed me out.

It is thin glass with a foil-y white paint and the traditional silver cap covering the sharp glass top. I have always lived in fear of breaking it. More specifically dropping it and smashing it into a million little shards that you can never quite clean up.

This is why I have taken such care in picking the baby’s first Christmas ornament for my niece, Laura.

You see, for a long time before Lola, her mom and my bff, was able to conceive Laura, we prayed for her—a lot. I never had any doubt that Laura would come, but it took a long time and a lot of patience and Lola could not hurry it. My super achiever friend who goes out and get what she wants had to be patient and wait, because there was no other choice.

Sistine Angel Babies

Sistine Angel Babies

One December, when Lola and I were in Vatican City (I know, lucky ducks) and walking through the Sistine Chapel, I saw this relief and it stopped me in my tracks. And one of the moments I remember praying about Laura with Lola was right there. I told her that those were her angel babies and from then until now, before she was a cell, before she had a name, before she was in the world, Laura was known as the angel baby.

And while I know they would have loved each other the same, no matter how they came together, having to wait and wonder and hope for their family has resulted in an endless amazement between the three of them. It is beautiful. They seem stunned by their good fortune; and grateful. So grateful.

So this Christmas as Lola and her husband celebrate their first Christmas through the eyes of their own child, I want this angel to hang on their tree and watch over them.

Baby's First Indestructible Christmas Ornament

Baby’s First Indestructible Christmas Ornament

And as Laura bounces (and man does that little one bounce!), and laughs, and a plays with boxes and paper in lieu of her toys, I don’t want them to give the ornament angel a thought. And if Laura reaches up and yanks this little angel off the tree to see how she tastes, or if someday she throws it in a backpack to take to school, or in a box to bring to her first first apartment I don’t want her to worry.

I want them all focus all of their attention on the wonder and awe of the season and begin to create the traditions and memories of a lifetime under the watch of an angel and with all the love of me, her Zia.

PS–don’t read this post to her. I want her to be surprised 🙂

Thanksgiving Memories Across the Pond

Amalfi on a rainy day!

Amalfi on a rainy day! That’s me on the right and my BFF, Lola on the left.

Thanksgiving has always been a time to create new traditions for me. I grew up in a very large extended family–and while I love my family, as an adult I took the first chance to excuse myself from the chaos and follow a more contemplative, relaxed, and, as long as I am being honest, quieter road.

For a while, before boyfriends, husbands, and babies, my best friend and I hopped across the pond and explored Europe. Thanksgiving is a great time to go to Europe–rates are low and its off season for London and Rome. If you are on a budget, this is a way to make the dream of going to Europe come true for a lot less money. The memories we made were worth every cent we spent. On Thanksgiving we always celebrated with a great dinner and good wine. I don’t think we were too obnoxious, but we were always happy to tell the people around us it was American Thanksgiving.

Look at the excitement of those faces! And we are on a bus to Pompeii here.

Look at the excitement of those faces! And we are on a bus to Pompeii here.

This is an excerpt from my journal at the time. It still makes me smile…and want to plan another trip:

Time in Sorrento: Hours

Gelato eaten: Who cares. Did I mention I was in Sorrento?

When we drove out of Naples and into the rocky cliffs to Sorrento. We checked into the Hotel Michaelangelo (not Buonarotti, they were all very quick to point out, another one). I took a bath in the most fantastic coral marble bathtub. After all that talk about Roman Baths in Pompei, I was thrilled to have a chance to splash around.

I thought about leaving this story out, but I have to share it.

We had dinner in the hotel. It was Thanksgiving! We decided two things–1. We were getting dressed up and 2. We were drinking three bottles of wine. When we walked in to the well appointed dining room and were seated I noticed a commotion in the corner. When I looked over, several members of the wait staff and the men from the kitchen had dashed to the door and were more or less drooling on the travertine tile. I couldn‘ t help but grin at them but them I immediately looked away. I distinctly heard a Mamma Mia (they actually say that?). Even when they are lusting after the

new girls in town, they are still calling for their mothers 😉 Anything Lola tells you about the rest of this evening is likely to be untrue. She was making things up about me kissing a hot Italian waiter. All lies. He kissed me.

Early the next morning, we were up and ready to catch a hydrofoil to Capri. Through an act of divine intervention, our day in Capri turned into a private, escorted tour to Amalfi in a Mercedes instead.

We headed up and down and around the cliffs, through the three towns of Sorrento and around the coast. From the single lane road we could see Capri and the other islands in the Bay of Naples being beaten with waves. We pressed on, stopping to take some pictures, buy some pottery and nearly give in to car sickness (seems to me our driver would speed up, hit a curve, slam on the breaks and repeat). We went through Positano and Salerno and ended up in heaven.

Amalfi is the most beautiful place on earth. The drive is not for the faint hearted, the destination is remote and to say it is paradise would be to insult it. I couldn’t get out of the car fast enough.

Three steps from the small port, there is a rail, stone steps and a pebble and black lava sand beach. I stood at that rail unable to form words. There in front of me swelling and crashing and emphatically waving hello was the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean Sea.

When I could pull myself away, Lola and I went back to the square and took it all in. They were putting up Christmas lights around the town’s patron saint, Andrew. His feast was the next day. We wandered into a chocolate shop (mmmm. Ginger), and wandered into the winding back alley streets. We stopped to buy a present for our favorite new baby and started talking to the shop owner, Maria. Maria has two unmarried sons in their thirties. She is 62 and would like to be a Nonna. Wink. Nudge. By the end of our chat, I think I found an apartment to rent in Amalfi. So, I am going to use it. More on that when I get home.

Before we headed out, I went back to the seaside view and it had improved. There beside me, out of nowhere was an olive skinned man the Hollywood could not have cast any better. He started talking (va bene) about two men on the beach by the waves and so on 😉 When I started to leave he made the pleading gesture and asked: Where are you going bella? And you wonder why American woman leave and never come back. Lola got a beautiful picture of an enormous wave smashing into the coast. I asked our guide about a stone structure on the very, very top of the mountain and she told me it belonged to the town hermit. The town hermit! That is awesome. She also told me the townspeople used to bring food up to him every week. This made me think; perhaps he didn’t intend to be a hermit. Maybe he just did not want to have to walk down the mountain every week and lug back groceries 🙂

The ride back to the hotel, which we nicknamed the Georges V, was harrowing. We made it one piece. I spent the rest of the evening savoring Amalfi…and when Lola took a nap, I mapped out my return strategy. If (and by if, I mean when) I am ever missing, don’t worry. You will find me somewhere between Sorrento and Amalfi.

Ciao for Now…

Sigh. Those were some good days of being unhurried.

Friends we met on the road!

Friends we met on the road!

Looking over Positano.

Looking over Positano.

Baking Someone Happy

Ready to be filled with goodness.

Ready to be filled with goodness.

Today is a really special day and to celebrate I had the time to do something I haven’t done in a LONG time; bake! I used to make wedding cakes, shower cupcakes, pies, cookies, the works. I even had a room in my house reserved for just this purpose. But work, among other things, ended that years ago.

But this week I am back! I spent time whipping, mixing and, truth be told, licking the beater of my Kitchen-aid Stand Mixer as I made the perfect wedding cupcakes with love for my friends who are tying the knot in Baltimore this weekend. I spent time in the cake supply aisle picking out the perfect frosting tip and considering every sparkle, sprinkle, coloring and topper. It was WONDERFUL.  

I also bought disposable pastry bags, because, you know what? Regardless of how unhurried I am, time scrubbing out the small end of a pastry bag is precious time wasted!

If my house were on fire I would grab family photos and my Kitchen-Aid.

If my house were on fire I would grab family photos and my Kitchen-Aid.

I hope you can take some time to relax and bake, and because this is the season of giving, I am about to divulge a cupcake recipe that I have taken years to perfect. Consider it  a wedding present.

Wedding Worthy Vanilla Cupcakes
Makes a dozen and a half cupcakes
Preheat oven to 375. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden.

Ingredients:   butter, sugar, eggs, really good vanilla extract, baking powder, salt, flour, milk.

How to Make it Happen:

  • Preheat oven.
  • Beat 1-1/2 sticks of butter at medium speed until smooth.
  • Add 1-1/2 cups of sugar and beat well.
  • Then Add 2 eggs, 2 tsps of vanilla, 2 1/2 tsps of baking powder and a 1/2 tsp of salt and mix until combined.
  • Add in 2 1/2 cups of flour a 1/2 a cup at a time until incorporated
  • Finally add 1-1/4 cups of milk and beat until it smooth and creamy.
  • Use an ice cream scoop to get into individual baking cups (about 2/3 full).

These really are dense, moist, and delicious. I will let you know how they go over on the big day.

A little sparkle makes everything taste better.

A little sparkle makes everything taste better.

I also found some other recipes that I am going to add to my list to try… and a one controversy that I didn’t even know existed: American cupcake vs. English Fairy Cake. I am thinking there is room for both on the dessert table of life 😉

Cash Drawer Bells, Cash Drawer Bells. Its Christmas Time in Your Twenties!

Before this season, I spent a bunch of Christmas seasons spent behind the cash wrap of a store in the Shops of the Charleston Place Hotel. Together with a legion of people who make the season bright for shoppers and diners, we worked, worked, worked. We smiled until our cheeks hurt and shared the features and benefits of every beautiful bauble and delicious bite ever to appear in a Christmas ad. We stood in aprons and starched shirts until our we ached all the way down to our toes. Sustained by the bites of food from the Charleston Grille–and the sloshy, icy sound of the martini shakers that marked the end of the day! And when I look back I can’t help but smile and miss the good old days because of all of the moments those seasons held.

The magic wasn’t in the work, it was in the people and the place. The sweet, frankincense smell of Crabtree and Evelyn’s Noel candle. The perfect sip of Godiva dark hot chocolate as we stepped out of the decked halls of the hotel and on to King Street and the crisp Charleston air. Back then, the street would be closed off so a winter wonderland could be built in the very middle of town. A big tree with lights and packages and ornaments, the clip clop of horse and carriage rides, Santa and his friends would wander through making everything merry and bright. I often miss the camaraderie of those days. We were, for the most part, broke kids figuring out our way in the world and working hard to pay our rent in the mean time. Exchanging cookies with friends, singing carols down the street in the middle of the night made the whole world look bright. Today’s plan is to write a hand written note to all of the people who share those memories with me. We are now all across the country and it is high time for us to reminisce again!

If you want to get into this moment, here is what you need:

-This song by Billie Holiday http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hs4AUuZ9TKk

-A cup of Godiva Dark Chocolate http://bit.ly/1eMoSV7

– Good friends to reminisce with

You may not get snow, but you will get beautiful homes and boats glowing with christmas lights!

You may not get snow, but you will get beautiful homes and boats glowing with christmas lights!

The whole city gets in the spirit.

The whole city gets in the spirit.

You can also plan your own trip to Charleston. It is one of the most wonderful places in the world to spend your Christmas:

http://hiddencharleston.com/holiday-round-up/

Movie in the Middle of the Day!

A movie in the middle of the day sounds like just the thing for an unhurried Christmas! Check out this showing of To Kill a Mockingbird at the Alamo Drafthouse DC Area. 1:05 on Monday, November 18th and they will make me warm cookies and cocoa while I watch. Cozy!

Let’s see who I can get to play hooky with me.

PS- if you miss it, it shows again on November 24th at 7:00 pm.

Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time

This year I find myself in a great spot. I have left behind the 9-5 in favor of a consulting career. And while that can take up as much time or more than a traditional work situation, it also allows for something incredible: extended time off to really live the life you dream of when you are stuck in your office. I am a lucky, lucky girl. So to thank the universe for this amazing gift, I started a blog so everyone can share in the fun of savoring this Christmas season the way we all want to. I hope you will come along for the sleigh ride.

Are you planning something special this season? Tackling a Pinterest project? Taking a trip? Volunteering to spread some help and cheer? Let me know about it so I can join in the fun!