11–20 of 293 entries from the year: December 2008

Why, Hello Kitty

December 18th

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When I was little, I had this awesome mint green Hello Kitty sticker book. The pages were slick so you could add stickers and then later put them on other pages, or your notebooks, little brother, etc. I loved that thing and would regularly use it to add a bit of flare to penpal envelopes. I should have known then that I’d have a somewhat ridiculous life-long passion for correspondence.

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When Tiffany sent me this idea for her daughter Rory, I knew it was just a matter of time until I passed on the joy of a good, old fashioned sticker book. Last night I whipped two of these up — one for little Rory and one for sweet Persephone. Cheap, easy holiday gifts. I can’t wait to make these for my own kids one day!

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Anyone want a tutorial? These take about 25 minutes to sew and are a great way to share that odd collection of stickers you may have hanging around.

~K

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Hit and a Miss

December 17th

You know those days when absolutely nothing seems to fall in your favor? Yeah.

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Two trays of chocolate chip cookies that flopped. I think it was a bad mix.

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Brownies with a fudge swirl that apparently were pretty sticky too.

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And lemon bread that I didn’t let cool long enough. Holy Moses, there was some bad baking happening around here tonight. Thankfully, there was a bit of good too:

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A little brown, but edible lemon muffins.

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Fat-free pumpkin brownies for my new trainers.

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Good ole’ full fat brownies that came out okay, plus a dozen peanut butter cookies and two dozen cranberry cinnamon cookies. I am certain I still have enough to make my cookie platters to deliver Friday.

Next time, more patience and PAM.

~K

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Where are those 5 Golden Rings Already?

December 17th

Things are still a wee bit chaotic at chez moi. I’m working a ton trying to meet an end-of-the-year challenge grant and also trying to prepare for the holidays. The grant has me more frenzied than the holiday, but both have created a crazy monster. I am running on fumes, but thankfully the end is in sight. This weekend I’m taking some time to teach a cooking class to a few high school and college-age girls and not stressing about the post office, checking account balances, wrapping paper or how I’m going to get a sled’s worth of gifts to Colorado.

Really. I’m not thinking about these. I’m not. I’m not. I’m not!

Okay. Maybe a bit.

I’m also thinking about how happy I am to have completed the following in the last 48 hours:

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Scarf knit from Bunny Print Italian Merino — Tahki Stacy Charles

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Several more jars of nutty granola for stocking stuffers

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Transforming canisters into cookie containers to hand out later this week

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The one problem with this batch was too much chocolate. I realize some may not think this is a problem, but the recipients will have to either heat up the jar or hack at the seeds to  enjoy the sweet, salty deliciousness.

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I stole Finny’s label idea and bought some of these Martha tags for my final Jars of Renewal projects. While this is a step down for her, it is a huge leap up for me. I usually make my tags with a felt tip pen and whatever I can stick to a jar. These are much nicer; good work Martie!

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I’ve created a slew of jarred goods for my holiday baskets. I didn’t realize what a variety I had until I went through my pantry and pulled things out to be labeled. This has been a fun project. I’m looking forward to baking a bit this weekend before distributing the goodies.

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And finally, a quick sneak peak into some of my favorite things from 2008 that I’m gifting this year…

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And a partridge in a pear treeeeeee!

~K

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Mazel Tov!

December 15th

Dradle Dradle Dradle!

Hanukkah!

First night -- a few days early

Kolberg: Best wine in the world. Love this Malbec

My very favorite wine in the world: Bolivian Malbec.

Trash can full of skins...

shredded potatoes, flour, onion and eggs

heating up

Sizzling

pushing them down

Sizzling

in the pan the go

Making Latkes with the Wrights

Flipping the cakes

Go potato!

Flipping

Frying

Latkes!

Sour cream and apple sauce

What’s Yiddish for delicious? Because this gentile thoroughly enjoyed learning how to make latkes with the Wrights last night. Such a fun gathering of friends, great food, and of course with Adam (Salty Senor) — football.

The only downside of leaning over bubbling pans of frying food is you go home smelling like a McDonald’s employee. I woke up this morning, after having showered, and still felt like I smelled fried potatoes. It was coming from my laundry basket. Anyone else totally repulsed at smelling like food? I hate the stale coffee scent that sticks to your clothing in coffee shops too, which is why I keep a teeny bottle of Febreeze in my car. You laugh, but at least I admit to my neurotic behavior.

~Kelli, a Goya Berryer

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Holy Christmas, Batman

December 14th

Read, Set, Wrap!

Cute Christmas Topper

Does this look like it took 5 hours?

Cutest Christmas tree ever

Shopping done. Presents wrapped. I’ve got two more small gifts to sew and 1.5 gifts to finish knitting. Oh, and about a dozen loaves of bread to bake, but really? I’m feeling pretty good. Exhausted, but good. Phew.

~K

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A Caroling We Went

December 12th

Last 2008 Community Dinner

BEFORE: And the commotion begins. I took on a bit too much for this dinner; from beginning to end, it took about six hours to prepare and clean up afterward.

Last 2008 Community Dinner

Last 2008 Community Dinner

Last 2008 Community Dinner

Aztec squash soup

Aztec squash soup

Turkey chile

Turkey chile

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Buttermilk biscuits

Last 2008 Community Dinner

Last 2008 Community Dinner

Carbs o’ plenty

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AFTER: phew.

Last night’s communiy dinner menu included: crockpot turkey chile, aztec squash soup, buttermilk biscuits, cornbread, carrot cake, brownies, homemade hot chocolate with candy canes and marshmallows and a partridge in a pear tree. The prep for this dinner took quite a bit of time, but it was well worth it. There was plenty of food, lots of cheer and even a dozen friends who stuck around to go caroling afterward. We walked through the neighborhood singing a variety of tunes completely off key and completely enjoying ourselves. We agreed the night was well worth embarrassing ourselves when we came to a house where an older gentleman opened the door and his wife, bald from what we guessed was cancer treatment, cheered us on.

Last 2008 Community Dinner

Last 2008 Community Dinner

Last 2008 Community Dinner

Last 2008 Community Dinner

We spread a bit of cheer and walked off those calories in the process. I had a lot of fun and am really thankful for my friends. I realized last night as we tromped through the street that I have some incredible people in my life, willing to do the ridiculous to make me happy.

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The New Tri: Eat, Sleep, Read?

December 11th

Remember when I competed in triathlons? Yeah. I barely do too. I am not sure what took away my competitive spirit, but it very well may have been too many races this Spring. I haven’t done a thing competitively since May and I’m not really in need of another race t-shirt or bib. I’ve just been sticking to my normal exercise routine of swimming occasionally, biking and running. I love the spin class at my YMCA and I’ve been trying to lift weights here and there.

Little did I realize I was really not lifting weights, so much as pretending to. How do I know this? Well, my fingers are pretty much the only thing I can use this week that don’t ache. About a month ago, I got a lead (via Twitter no less) that a local gym-owner was interested in hiring a ghost writer to help with a fitness book. With a complete lack of being able to control my priority or responsibility list, I jumped at the opportunity. H and I have been meeting regularly since.

He is exactly what you’d imagine. He’s a former professional bodybuilder, literally built like the Hulk and yet very kind. His gym is for women only and his speciality is making women feel really, really good about their accomplishments by having trainers regularly compliment you on the smallest of improvements. How do I know this? Because I fenagled training as part of my payment and am now on week two of torture.

And sheer torture it is. Three times a week I go to his gym to be bullied into an hour’s worth of weights. I swear to you, I have never been this sore. Not after a marathon. Not after a 1/2 Ironman. Not after hiking through the African bush for a couple days. I’ve woken up in screaming pain in the night this week because I rolled over and some muscle cramped in the process.

But, you know what? I feel pretty darn good. Another part of this training is to keep a food journal this week to show them my normal eating habits. Having to write down every morsel for a stranger to judge has made me really take a closer look at what is going in my body. I’m being much more mindful of my diet and in combination with the new torturous routine, I’m seeing a new me.

To be honest, I’ve always had this athletic chip on my shoulder. My dad, a natural athlete, has never had a problem maintaining his physique. He’s fit and as a result has always looked considerably younger than he is. My brother, also a natural, can look at a new sport from afar, jump in half-assed and be pretty good at it from the get-go. Me? I am more like my mom. I have to work really, really hard at something to make it stick. But I have a fierce determination that my brother doesn’t. He’s the sprinter. I run distance. While he could probably still beat me silly at a 100m sprint, he’d be done. I could keep going for another 5 miles or so.

My point is that I’ve never felt like I could be the athlete. (It is really ridiculous to feel this way, I recognize. I’ve been swimming regularly (minus 5 months in Cameroon sans pool) steadily since I was 4 or so.)  It is fun to surprise yourself, to change habits, to see yourself in a new way. And if this all happens right before you slide into your red dress before the lengthy list of holiday parties? Even better.

Have you ever surprised yourself with a new way of living? What did you do? How did it make you feel?

Cheers,

Kelli

P.S. There is a considerable lack of photos this week because I’m working on holiday projects. This will change pronto! Tonight — community dinner with gobs of food porn opportunities.

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Dear Santa

December 9th

Dear Santa,

Hi there! How’s it going up on the North Pole? Are you busting out the swimming suit yet with your glaciers melting? I am really sorry about that. I’ve cut back on my oil consumption dramatically this year and promise to be living as green as possible. Also, I voted out that moron whose policies have only made our environment that much worse. I am sorry, truly. I hope your vista doesn’t include views of oil rigs, thugs beating baby seals or polar bears floating alone on dismal icebergs.

Wow. I really just bummed you out, didn’t I? Let’s get back to the holiday spirit — shall we? What would you like me to bake for you this year? I was thinking ginger snaps. They are a family favorite. Or maybe you’d like some of that Portuguese Sweet Bread I’ve recently mastered? I’m giving loaves of this out as holiday gifts. (Don’t tell anyone.) I’ll be sure to leave carrots out for the reindeer. Too bad my little garden isn’t quite ready to produce the necessary produce. Next year. Maybe I’ll even can a few for you to take back to the Mrs.

So, Santa, let me cut to the chase. The economy is rather cranky and my family has decided in lieu of junk we really don’t need, we are going to keep our holiday gifts to a meager $25 and put anything additional toward charity. I’ve got my mom, dad and brother covered easily. My little extra is going toward UMOM in Phoenix and to help keep food banks going in Arizona and Texas.

I do have a few wishes — most of which fall under the $25 limit. If you can squeeze these into the sleigh, I’d appreciate it. I promise I’ve been mostly good, if you over look my republican bashing and complete and total jealousy of Jolie-Pitt clan. I’d love a family that diverse, and who are we kidding — even with the goofy mustache Mr. Pitt is dreamy. (Although I’m seriously starting to think he and Clooney have a bet going for who can wear a mustache longer. Fellas, neither of you are winning. I promise.)

Other than a slice of Brad and world peace, here’s what I’d like:

– Uniball Vision Needle Micro pens. Several, not necessarily a full box.

Envelopes. I always seem to run out of pretty envelopes. I need a variety of sizes too. You know how much I love to send letters.

– Books. I’d love a copy of Seams to Me (Santa heard me! Thank you Flo!) and certainly some Bittman to spice up the kitchen. There are about three dozen others too, if you have the room. I nearly doubled my goal this year of reading 40 books, so I promise they won’t go to waste. I also promise to pass them on when I’m done.

– Chairs. I don’t have enough for community dinners. People have to rotate and sit on the floor and while it definitely keeps things humble and homey, it also leaves me embarrassed. Nothing fancy, but two or three more of these to match the one I have would be really great.

New plates. I know, simple white. But I read in one of my cooking magazines how food appears more enticing on white plates and I think there is something to that.

– And if you decide to go crazy, these shoes have been calling my name. I think I may actually buy a pair pre-holidays, so maybe you should save your elves to work on this instead. Also, you really can’t go wrong with Athleta. One day, when I’m a published author and all my charities are well-funded and my entire family is out of debt and happily doing well, my closet will be filled with these beautiful clothes.

Thanks again Santa for all of your goodwill. If you want to ditch all of my materialistic desires for extra space for others, I’m okay with that too. Just make it food for Zimbabwe, jackets for kids in North Korea or a burkha for Paris Hilton. Thanks Big Guy!

~K

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Tinsle

December 9th

I’ve got Christmas fever this year and it is the worst case I’ve had since childhood. My home is decorated, I’m wearing sweaters (a sign of Christmas in Arizona), my Pandora station is set to “Classical Christmas” and my cards are long since in the mail. It is pretty ridiculous how much I love the holidays and tradition.

Super secret Christmas sewing project

That said, I can’t show what I’ve been working on because it would ruin the surprise. Let’s just say I’ve been very busy sewing and soon hope to be wrapping. Community dinner is set for Thursday and I’m dragging everyone out afterward to go caroling through the neighborhood. I haven’t done that in ages and figured it would be a fun way to publicly humilate myself, so why not invite friends along? Someone is bringing schnapps for the hot cocoa. We’ll have a little liquid courage to help with “These Three Kings.”

Nudu in process

Nudu basket

When sewing gets frustrating, I’ve been knitting away on the latest nudu cap. It is nearly complete and should go in the mail later this week. Just in time too because I’ve got two beanies and a scarf I need to knit in the next two weeks. Nothing like a deadline to keep a girl focused.

Hope your holiday prep is also going well!

Fa la la,

Kelli

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Jars of Renewal: Spicy Tomato Chutney

December 8th

Jars of Renewal: Spicy Tomato Chutney

Jars of Renewal: Spicy Tomato Chutney

Jars of Renewal: Spicy Tomato Chutney

Jars of Renewal: Spicy Tomato Chutney

Jars of Renewal: Spicy Tomato Chutney

Jars of Renewal: Spicy Tomato Chutney

Jars of Renewal: Spicy Tomato Chutney

Jars of Renewal: Spicy Tomato Chutney

A month or so ago, Colleen sent me a sweet package including a jar of her spicy tomato chutney {recipe here!}. She said in her note that this was good on “just about everything.” I am a pretty basic girl when it comes to condiments. I like spicy mustard, balsamic vinegar, salsa, and a bit of pepper. I rarely need anything more — unless it is the occasional dip into the crunchy peanut butter for a bagel.

Once I opened the jar, I quickly realized I was going to need more of this stuff and I was going to need it soon! It was rich, spicy, tangy and just as she said — good as a dip with vegetables, great as a spread on a whole wheat tortilla and turkey wrap, yummy on quinoa, and delicious as a spread with grilled chicken. I was in love.

Colleen shared her recipe and yesterday I managed to get a bit of cooking accomplished. Using a canning book Finny sent me for my birthday, I used a few more of those Jars of Renewal recycled jars and voila — seven more small gifts for the holidays.

Considering both of my forays into canning have been solo adventures, I’m not certain I’m doing everything just right. Also, I really should have read the recipe better because malt vinegar and normal old vinegar aren’t the same. It is still yummy, but it is different than what Colleen sent me. Next time, I’ll follow her words to the t.

I highly recommend this simple and sassy recipe. I plan to partner these with freshly baked loaves of bread and a great bottle of red wine for a few Christmas gifts. I am also quite pleased at the number of jars I’ve repurposed with this little Jars of Renewal project. Yahoo!

If you are looking for other great frugal (yet truly fabulous) ideas for Christmas, check out my other friend Colleen’s great project.

Cheers,

K

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