Quiet Mornings

I secretly love gray, rainy mornings. A darkened, drippy day automatically slows me down and I ease my way through my morning routine. I sit a little longer in my cozy living room, my sweet dog at my feet, and quietly enjoy my coffee. I curl up and indulge in starting a new book or reading the paper before I address any of my work obligations for the day. I let new messages sit unanswered in my email inbox. I send all phone calls straight to voicemail. I give myself the freedom to be quiet and still and soothed by the sound of rain pinging against the windows.

I am looking forward to the sunny forecast this weekend, though. Rainy days mean my garden has exploded with weeds, and the late start to spring has set back our patio-building plans. I am excited to have a nice weekend at home to knock out some of these outdoor tasks and really take advantage of our outdoor space. The fall was all about setting up the new house. We didn’t get much of a chance to enjoy our yard before winter hit and you had to drag me out of the house kicking and screaming. Now that the house is comfy, organized and basically finished for the time being (minus a few pictures that we still need to hang), ’tis the season for outdoor projects. I look forward to sharing our progress soon.

Have a great weekend!

~C.

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Snow Days

I have a very strange relationship with snow. I feel that I should like it more than I do. I don’t remember seeing snow, real snow, until I was 12 years old. I am sure that I played in the snow as a small child. My family lived in New York and Illinois until the time I was 5 and it is impossible that it never snowed once in that time, in those locations. But my earliest weather memories are so fully tied to tornadoes, to the wail of the siren and sitting down in the basement for what felt like hours but surely couldn’t have been, while my mom went up and down the stairs to get more toys, grab food, check on the darkening sky. The excitement, terror and confusion of riding out a tornado simply eclipses all other weather memories, and thus there was no room in my developing brain to store away the feeling of my very first snowfall.

I was 5 when we moved to south Texas and apart from a few small flurries that would shut down the entire town, cancel school and once actually made a friend of mine suggest that we try sledding down what would best be described as a rain-soaked, mud hill, there was never much in the way of what anyone who has ever dealt with snow would refer to as snow.

When I was 12, we moved to Michigan and I finally got what I had been waiting to see my whole life. Snow. Real snow. The first winter was mild and we only got a few inches here and there, and we thought, ha, this is great! Michigan winters aren’t as bad as everyone says! The next year, we had mounds of plowed snow at the bottom of our driveway that towered over my head, and it was probably the end of June before you could pull into the parking lot of a strip mall and not spot a pile of snow off in some far corner.

It was fun at first. It stayed fun when it was Thanksgiving or Christmas and outside was a beautiful blanket of freshly fallen, undisturbed snow. It was less fun when it was the middle of April and I’d wake up on the morning of my birthday to see flakes drifting down past my window. It was fun when they canceled school for the day in high school, which was rare, but glorious when it happened. It was less fun when they never, not once, no matter how many inches we got and however many more were on their way, canceled school in college and I always ended up with the one professor who lived in walking distance to campus and expected us all to be there for morning lecture. A 9AM class on a freezing cold February morning after months of gray days and months more to come, where you have to trudge through snow that comes up to your hips in some places and completely soaks through your pants so that you spend the rest of the day wet and shivering and as miserable as the cold, cruel, dirt-spattered snow world that surrounds you? That’s not so much fun.

Our third winter after moving to Baltimore was the now somewhat infamous Snowmageddon storm. The city was basically shut down for over a week. D couldn’t make it into work because the plows didn’t make it through our neighborhood until about 5 days after the snow stopped falling. It felt like the entire city had been frozen in place and while it was fun for a day or two, after a week or more of being trapped, you really just want to get on with your life. I imagine it’s how most people in the Northeast have been feeling. Snow is fun if you’ve gone 12 years without seeing it fall, less so if you’ve barely gone 12 hours.

Today was a snow day for most of Baltimore. I can tell through Facebook and Instagram that my friends are very excited by the first real snowfall we’ve had this winter. But I find that it is always the anticipation of snow, rather than the reality of it that excites me most. Perhaps it’s because I control my own schedule, so I can take a day off anytime I really need, and don’t have to rely on the weather to gift me a much-needed reprieve from work. I think, though, it’s more about having grown up with the desire for snow that would never come, immediately followed by the experience of a winter that never seemed to end.

Last night when the snow started falling, I thought, “oh yay. This is lovely.” After shoveling the road this morning (the city is not responsible for plowing the streets in our new neighborhood), and spending too much time crouched into a squat while I pick small chunks of ice and muddy snow out of the hair that lines my dog’s belly, I would say I’ve had my fill. This snow is welcome to melt now. No more is welcome to fall. I’d be fine if winter ended tomorrow and spring began to poke its way through the thawing ground. We all got our snow day (some of us, more snow days than we bargained for). Can we agree it’s time to move on?

Come on crocuses. I will be on the lookout for you.

~C.

One Pot Pasta Dinner

It’s a new year, and I’m still trying to adjust.

I don’t tend to make resolutions because I find that January, right in the thick of winter with still so far to go until spring, is the absolute worse time of year to resolve to do anything. You start out so optimistic and enthusiastic that this year, things will be different, but then the polar vortex suddenly reappears and you endure a string of cold, gray, miserable days, and the toes of all your shoes and cuffs of all your pants get covered in salt and you just throw your hands up in the air and say screw it, who cares if this year is just as crappy as the last one?

What I mean to say is that winter beats the resolve right out of me, and I prefer not to fail at things before I’ve been given a proper chance to succeed. Instead, I like to pick one goal for the year. An attainable, measurable thing that I can do, not a lifestyle or personality change that must be both reached and then maintained. One thing, and I have all year to accomplish it. Something that takes some work, but is manageable. Last year, it was to run a full marathon. I did that in December; it was hard, but rewarding. This year, I want to have a piece of writing published. Essay, article, story, poem. Any piece of writing in any publication that is not a personal blog. That’s it. I can do that.

My only other intention for the year is to simply slow down a bit. Last year came and went in such a flash that I still can’t fully wrap my head around the fact that it is over and I’m already 13 days into a new year. I worked a lot, too much and too hard. I beat myself up physically, from both work and marathon training. We bought a house. We tried (and failed) to sell a house. We moved, and moving is the worst. I slept terribly. I worried constantly. I stressed myself out way too often.

This year, I’m giving myself permission to just sit back and relax a little more often. I’m taking an hour each morning to sit on the couch with a cup of coffee and a book and delay responding to emails or answering phone calls. Nearly everything in life can wait an hour. I’m trying to do things more when I want to, because I want to, and less out of an obligation to myself, to an imagined other, to some confused sense of timeliness. On my days off, I am no longer looking back at my day and admonishing myself for doing nothing. I read. I cleaned up the house. I took the dog for a long walk. These are somethings. These are not nothings. I will not judge myself for how I choose to spend my time. It is my time. I can do whatever I want with it, and this year I will.

Aiding in my effort to take more time to relax and restore, is the One Pot cookbook my mother-in-law gave me as a holiday gift. Though we upgraded in overall space and comfort with the move to a new house last fall, we downgraded in terms of kitchen modernity, and find ourselves living without a dishwasher for the first time since college. Washing dishes is a pain in the butt and a huge time suck, so cutting out any extra pots, pans, bowls and other items from the nightly dish load is definitely a big positive for me. So far, I found most of the recipes we have made from this cookbook to be simple, relatively quick, and really quite delicious. The following Linguine with Tomato and Basil may be my favorite for both how incredibly easy it is to make and how wonderful it tastes.


Linguine With Tomato and Basil

What You’ll Need:

  • 12 ounces linguine
  • 12 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 online, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (it was pretty spicy, would recommend only 1/4 tsp)
  • 2 sprigs basil, plus torn leaves for garnish
  • 2 tbsp EVOO, plus more for serving
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 1/2 cups of water
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving

What You’ll Do:

  • In a large sauté pam, combine pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, basil, oil, 2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and the water.
  • Bring to boil over high heat.
  • Cook, stirring frequently with tongs until pasta is al dente and water has nearly evaporated, about 9 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper and garnish with torn basil
  • Serve with oil and cheese if desired.

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Before & After: Bedroom

I had forgotten how long it takes to feel settled again after moving to a new house. In college, moving pretty much every year, I got really good at packing up whatever belonged to me in a shared house and getting it unpacked and settled in a new place with a 24 hour turn around. But in the (over 7–yikes!) years since then, D and I have accumulated a lot more stuff. We did a big purge before moving out of the old house, but even still it has been a long, slow process figuring out where each piece of furniture should go, how best to store off-season items, what needs to be done to make each room feel comfortable and complete. It’s been a little over a month since we moved and I’m happy to say that, despite one room still full of boxes, we are feeling settled and cozy and happy with the decision to move. It was a long month, though.

The first thing we did after getting the keys to the house was rip up the old, stained, nasty carpet that was covering all the floors upstairs. We crossed our fingers and pleaded with the universe that the floor beneath would be old, but ultimately lovely hardwood that we could refinish. It was not to be.

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Paint splattered plastic faux-wood was not ideal. We tossed the mattress down on top of it and spent two weeks sleeping on the couch or in the empty, barren bedroom. The walls, like the floor, were also stained and dirty and nothing gets on my nerves quite as much as beige paint, so the whole room required a good makeover.

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We are still waiting on delivery of a handmade shelf that will hang above the bed, but otherwise our bedroom transformation is complete. We painted a soft blue on the walls to brighten up the space, and installed carpet over the nasty floors.

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The room is so comfortable now, and very restful. It’s nice and bright on a sunny day. There’s a great big tree outside one window and I love waking up to the sound of birds in the tree and the breeze rustling the branches.

But my favorite part of the room, of the whole house really, are the deep window sills.

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I can fill them with books and framed photos and other small items and still leave plenty of room for the cat to stretch out and enjoy a little bird watching.

D and I will be hosting Thanksgiving dinner for the first time ever this year, and my goal is to have everything unpacked and set up before that. Thankfully, we are well on our way.

~C.

 

 

 

Quinoa Salad With Maple Vinaigrette

Our neighborhood had a potluck gathering last night. It was so nice to have an opportunity to meet all of our new neighbors and relax on a beautiful early fall evening, chatting and drinking and getting to know everyone. All of the people we met were wonderfully kind and interesting and we felt instantly welcomed into the neighborhood. It was a great night.

Since I was working yesterday and D was busy running errands all day (we still have a lot of settling in work to do!) we didn’t have a lot of time to fix something for the potluck. Needing something quick, but good for sharing, I found this Quinoa Salad. Tossed with pears, baby spinach, and chickpeas in a maple vinaigrette dressing and topped with pecans, it was full of fall flavors. Hearty, but still light, it was a perfect side salad. I’m sure I’ll be making this again in the months to come and I’m thinking it will pair really well with chicken in an apricot or cranberry sauce.

After a very long, busy week of work last week, I am excited to take the day off today. There are a lot of house-related things that I need to get done, but I am very tempted to spend the day on the couch, just relaxing and recouping. In the next few weeks I’ll be launching a new line of designs for my jewelry store, so perhaps I’ll spend the day getting a few more pieces ready for sale. Here’s a sneak peek of what I’ve been working on!

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~C.

Rainy Day

It’s a dreary, rainy morning and I want nothing more than to stay home all day.

We moved last weekend and are slowly getting settled in our new place. It’s an old stone house with a great, big tree right outside the living room window. I feel so cozy sitting here, drinking coffee and listening to the rain fall. I don’t want to go into work today. I don’t want to deal with slick roads. Don’t want to dodge puddles and still end up with the cuff of my pants soaked through.

I want to sit on my couch all day with a hot mug of one of these teas and a good book.

Or drape a warm, cozy blanket across my lap and watch a classic black and white movie.

Speaking of movies, today seems like a good day to binge watch some trailers and decide what’s on my must-see list for this fall.

Or maybe I would just spend all day sleeping, curled up alongside this guy:

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What are your favorite things to do on a rainy fall day?

 

~C.