Saturday, December 31, 2011

TV Dinner

I'm not a big fan of having the television on while we eat. With few exceptions, it hardly ever happens in this house. When it does, those exceptions most likely revolve around certain sporting events, such as when the Huskies played in the Alamo Bowl last Thursday evening right around dinner time. Because I wanted to be able to sit down to watch with the rest of the family......I looked for something easy to make that could be prepared earlier in the day. The older boys are only home for a few more mostly healthy and homemade just made ME feel good. We ended up with Minestrone Soup, Whole Grain Bread, lots of Grated Parmesan.

I also made Pumpkin Gingersnap Ice Cream for dessert. It was my brother's contribution to Christmas dinner, and was a huge hit with everyone present. Along with pumpkin, crushed gingersnaps and spices, it has a couple tablespoons of Bourbon added in. Yum........

The soup recipe is from one of the cookbooks I use most often, Simply Classic. I love it and except for being free and easy with the amounts and kinds of vegetables added, and adjusting the seasonings at the end, I make few other adaptations of my own. Everyone here likes a bit of a kick, so I finished it with a few splashes of Tabasco Sauce.

More Than Minestrone
adapted from Simply Classic
Serves 6

5-7 slices of bacon, cut into bite sized pieces
1 onion, chopped
2 or more celery stalks, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
3 cloves, minced garlic
1 28 oz can, Italian tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped parsley
6 cups chicken stock
1 10 oz can each of kidney, garbanzo and cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp each of dried basil and oregano
1 1/2 cups small shell pasta
Salt, pepper and Tabasco

-Cook bacon in heavy pot until crisp. Add onion and celery then cook for 5 minutes more or until soft.
-Add carrot and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes.
-Add tomatoes, parsley, basil, oregano and stock. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. **When making ahead, this is where I turn off the heat, put the lid on the pot and finish right before we eat.
-Add beans. Stir and heat until warmed with the soup.
-Add pasta. Cook for about 8 minutes or until al dente.

A couple of notes:
~I use thick cut nitrite-free bacon and spend a couple extra minutes cutting a lot of the fat off before chopping and cooking it (kitchen scissors work well). If more fat is needed when sauteing the vegetables, I add olive oil. Traditional minestrone doesn't have meat in it....but I love the added flavor of the bacon here.
~I'm also a little loose with the veggies called for and will add an extra carrot or stalk of celery if I want to use them up......or whatever else happens to be in the fridge.
~Chop whole canned tomatoes with kitchen scissors before adding.
~Whole wheat pasta shells hold up better than traditional, and according to me, have a better flavor and bite.
~A tsp or so of pesto swirled into each bowl right before serving is nice.
~This soup freezes well. If you want to freeze it, add pasta shells after it has been thawed and brought to a simmer. Cook for 8 more minutes.

Wishing You A Very Happy and Healthy New Year......Be safe out there tonight!

XO, Margaret

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

About Giving and Receiving

Giving and receiving gifts, to me, is not about quantity or expense.  It is about time and thoughtfulness and appreciation. It is about looking for and finding.  About saying 'it makes me very happy to know that you have this'.

More than one special person let me know, "I had a lot of fun picking out your gift this year." This sentiment was a gift in and of itself ......knowing that someone enjoyed the process! Hearing it reminded me once again how much I, too, enjoy the giving. The connections that deepen with each choice made, wrapped and presented.

I appreciate that my parents know that ice cream and chocolate in pretty dishes makes us happy.  The cookbook, the finished novel, the homemade wine, the box of handpicked micro brews, the indoor garden planted in a dish that were presented to us. The cards that hold photographs and stories and sentiments. The gifts of homemade candy, jam or snacks left at our door. The thoughtfulness of something chosen to make a portion of each day easier......sweeter. Something that helps to get me where I want to go. That says 'join in' or 'this made me think of you.'

At this time of year, I'm so very thankful for the people in my life. The ones that bring warmth or comfort or a sense of excitement through the door, in the mail, over the Internet or on the phone. Those that understand what I might want, need or dream about. I'm thankful for those willing to share some of themselves and what they dream about.  Those I'm just getting to know and who make the effort in return.

As the New Year approaches, wishing you a wonderful week ahead!

With warmth and appreciation,


Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Collection Of Christmas Card Wishes and Greetings...To You

Merry Christmas. Season's Greetings. Happy Holidays.

Wishing You The Best Holiday Ever! Enjoy The Magic. Look For Joy In All You Do. Delight In The Joys Of The Season. May Your Home Be Filled With Peace And Happiness. Merry and Bright. May Beautiful Moments and Happy Memories Surround You.

Wishing You Peace, Love and Happiness. Holiday Wonder. A Blessed Christmas. A Peaceful Holiday Season. Noel. Love And Laughter. Peace. 

May The Beauty Of The Season Fill Your Heart. I Hope You Are Well Blessed.

May Your New Year Find You Blessed With Adventure and People You Love! Merry Everything, Happy Always. Jolly. Joy. Peace On Earth.

Wishing You The Warm Familiar Welcome Home Of Christmas; The True Gifts Of Christmas: Peace, Joy and Love

Merriest Christmas Wishes. Warm Holiday Wishes. Winter Wishes. Best Wishes For A Joyous Holiday.

Sending You Every Happiness. Love To You All. Have A Blessed Christmas Season.

XOXO  Love, Margaret

Merry Christmas And A Very Happy New Year!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It's That Week Of The Season


It's that week of the season where my 'to do' list is filled with 'have nots'.
As in, I have not yet:

Finished baking all of the Christmas cookies I had planned to.
Put together a platter of said cookies for Marc to bring in to his office.
Addressed the last of the Christmas cards.
Written a letter to enclose with the cards.
Finished two of the hats I want to make.
Picked up the remainder of the stocking stuffers on my list.
Wrapped the last three gifts.
Planned Christmas breakfast.
Planned Christmas Eve dinner.
Planned Christmas dinner.
Delivered a gift to my friend and her daughter.
Found gifts for the pets.
Shopped at Costco for the final time
Vacuumed this week.

So, this is what I plan to do today:

Take a much needed nap.
Enjoy the tree and our decorations.
Go to dinner with Marc and the boys, after which we will see the Nutcracker.
Celebrate our wedding anniversary.
Forget about baking until the week after Christmas.
Catch up with Joey, Peter (and Lewis, the dog) who are now home.
Prepare for Patrick to come home.
Mail cards without an enclosed letter.
Cross whatever is not absolutely necessary off my list. (The pets won't have a clue if they don't get a treat Christmas morning and I'm pretty sure the stockings will do.)

Christmastime is too special to become stressed out. There are four days left....... I plan to enjoy them. I hope that you do to.

Wishing you some meaningful days ahead. XO


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Part Of What Makes The Season Merry

There are certain things I watch or listen to in December that, to me, make it Christmas. They give me a chance to slow down and take a deep breath in an otherwise busy season. To get lost in something other than the gift, Christmas cookie or Christmas card list. When I was growing up it was A Charlie Brown Christmas or Rudolph. These days, here is what I enjoy no particular order. I'm hoping that the following list either gives you a couple of new ideas or helps you to recall a few great memories.

1. It's A Wonderful Life - either the colorized version or black and white. It doesn't matter. Believe it or not, the first time I watched this movie was with Marc in our hotel room right after our wedding, as we sat propped up by pillows, eating room service roast beef sandwiches and chips.

2.White Christmas - I remember watching this for the first time with my sister, Michele, one Christmas when we were young....and then singing the number "Sisters" for days after. Love a good musical!

3. A Christmas Carol. For years we saw a live performance of this every season at the Act Theatre in Seattle. It was also what Marc and I saw on our second date. He planned it.....and it could possibly be the reason we fell in love. Although he might say that he fell in love with me because I suggested that we go to a Sonics game on our first date!

4.When Harry Met Sally - A classic

5. Miracle On 34th Street - again, either the old version or the new. I love them both.

6. Love Actually - I watched this the other day while finishing up some presents. Turns out it is one of my sister's 'go to' holiday movies as well. So many things about it are so sweet. Hugh Grant is funny and charming, and I love how the story wraps up in the end. 

7. The Holiday - Jack Black is my favorite in this one.

8. Elf - OK......Will Ferrell's goofiness is perfect in this movie. Goofy...but not too much so. And really...... so funny to imagine how confusing it would be to a North Pole elf if he/she ended up in New York City at Christmastime!

9. The Nutcracker - A live performance or any of the music. We're headed to see Pacific Northwest Ballet's performance of it with a couple of our boys next week. I'm not sure they've ever seen it, but they've agreed to go with us. I think they will like it more than they think they will.

10. Handel's Messiah - I first attended the full performance of this at Meaney Hall on the UW campus 30 years ago. Before that I had only listened to bits and pieces, the most recognizable of course, being the Hallelujah Chorus. If you've never listened all the way through...I would recommend a live performance. It's long but will keep your attention and leave you feeling so wonderfully refreshed when it's over.  If you've not been before, look for a performance that supplies the audience with a copy of the words. I'd also recommend reading a bit about the history of this piece beforehand. It will make it so much more meaningful.

On that note, Hope You Have A Wonderful Weekend!



This Friendly Village Desk Calendar 
I can still place orders in time for Christmas gifts if you're interested!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dressed For Christmas

Marc and I were engaged in March. At that point he was a medical student and because of the fact that his breaks fell in either July or December, we had a choice of those two months in which to plan our wedding. July seemed too soon, but December was just right. Besides, I remembered what the church I attended had looked like at Christmas during previous years......lovely, all dressed up for the holidays.

St. Mark's was large and old, and at that time looked somewhat unfinished both inside and out......which it was. Construction on what was meant to be a grand Episcopal Cathedral began in 1928, but due to the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed, the building was never finished in the style intended. The cement interior walls were tall and plain and water-stained. And rather than magnificent and ornate spires reaching toward the heavens as planned, it was finished as a simple box with a cross placed on top.

I love that cathedral and it's interesting history. Throughout the years it has been know for it's beautiful music,  pipe organ and prominent place overlooking the freeway from Capital Hill in Seattle. But back then, what I loved was how I felt when I went inside. As with many things, it's beauty was in the unfinished details and in the community that called it home. 

When I walked down the aisle on that foggy Saturday evening before Christmas, I was surrounded by family and friends and the collective beauty of all of our unfinished details. I walked on my dad's arm wearing a dress designed by my mom and I, and one that she had expertly sewn. I carried a bouquet of red roses, ivy and small Christmas balls designed and made by one of my sisters. Another sister watched her two young daughters walk down the aisle as flower girls, while another yet, stood beside me. My brother read.

White candles, pots of red poinsettias and one very large pine tree graced the space near the altar. I've often thought about the church members who most likely donated seasonal flowers and greenery in order to beautify their church for the holidays. We were so fortunate to have had it present at our Christmastime wedding. At the time we were young and on a budget, and may not have considered those things as much as we should have. We no longer live in the city and so no longer attend that church. Recently however, the church I do attend asked for donations for pots of poinsettias to surround the altar for the holidays. I wrote out a check......and silently thanked those who had helped to dress up St Mark's in December 26 years ago.

Wishing you some wonderful days as you prepare for Christmas!



PS. Today is my 100th post!!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

This Time Of Year

This time of year......

Busy.  Fun.  Exhausting.  Joyful.

Earlier in the week Marc strung lights around the outside of our house and onto some of the landscaping in front. He placed the lit wire moose (my favorite holiday item) in between two of the ancient maples in back. Last night we got our tree. This weekend we will finish decorating and look forward to the boys arrival one by one.

This past Sunday we met up with some family for a lovely holiday brunch at Volterra. The rest of them sipped Peach Thyme Bellinis, while I sipped coffee. I know the breakfast cocktails would have just made me sleepy, but I did take a taste before my order of chestnut pancakes came to the table, and they were delicious.

Afterward, we took a walk through the Ballard Farmer's Market, one of the few local outdoor markets that I know of that operate at this time of year. We wandered in and out of the interesting and eclectic mix of shops in Ballard. Noted a few gift ideas. Picked up a few things.  There were carolers under a gazebo where the streets meet up. The passing shoppers were chatty and festive. A friend commented that it seemed like a scene out of a Christmas movie.

This week I will bake and put the finishes touches on gifts that I'm making. I'll wrap and pack boxes and ship. I will hope to finish up the shopping I still have left to do and plan to figure out a Christmas card, photo and letter.

I'll visit with friends. Exchange cookies. Hand deliver a few gifts. Hopefully make time to watch It's A Wonderful Life. Light Advent candles, take a deep breath and try to remember what this time of year is all about. It's the Christmas season and I can't escape the work and busy-ness...nor would I want to. But I also want to be sure to appropriately reflect. To remember to pay attention to why we do all that we do to celebrate.

 (A note: The ornaments pictured above can be found in Souvenir on Ballard Avenue. They are handmade, unique and exquisitely beautiful. Any photograph could not do them justice! The photographs were taken inside of the shop with the owner's permission.)

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!

XO Margaret

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Looking Ahead...Enjoying Now

Happy December!

I've been working hard for the past couple of weeks putting together a calendar for 2012. This project has been a lot of fun, but as with most things......a bit more involved than I thought it would be. I have to say that I really learned a lot and am pleased with the finished product. Although I may spoil a couple of surprises here by publishing this post, I'm kind of proud of the end result.

Originally, this calendar was to be my gift to family and friends...and then my friend Jennifer suggested that I open a shop at and offer it for sale. So with her help, I did and I've posted a link in the right hand margin of this blog. If you click on the photo of the calendar under the words My Shop, or on 'this friendly village' right below that, you'll get there.

If you are interested in purchasing one, it would make a nice gift, either by itself or packaged together with a (separately purchased or handmade) display item. I would recommend placing each month's card in a frame or on an easel, or attaching it to your refrigerator with a magnet.

A little info:
Each month is professionally printed on a 5X7 heavy duty glossy card and is paired together with one of my favorite photographs, all of which have been used on this website at some point throughout the past year. The set comes packaged inside a sturdy plastic see-through sleeve for a years worth of safe keeping. $20 plus tax and shipping. Local friends, let me know and we can avoid the shipping charges.

You also might want to check out Jennifer's designs at Pink Lily Press. She is very talented and her stationary and paper products are just beautiful.

Growing up we often made and received handmade or individually designed gifts. Truthfully...those are some of the ones that I remember most fondly. In the spirit of the season, you might want to check out this piece: Look, I Made Christmas! It's a fun one about the joy of making and giving gifts made by you!

Here's wishing you some joyful pre-holiday days!



Friday, December 2, 2011

Who Would You Choose?

At some point a few years ago, I wondered: If I could have dinner, one at a time, with any three people (currently living), who would they be? Dinner, because it means a couple hours of conversation. Because ones choice of restaurant or food says something about them.  I would go armed with questions, but hope for more of a chat than an informational interview. In the end, I would want to come away with an understanding of the inherent traits that make this person tick. With a mental picture of the circumstances that allowed or encouraged them to do what they've done so far in their lives. I would want to know how they feel about their experiences and accomplishments, and aside from what they've written, filmed or recorded, what they are like as a person. I imagine I would allow enough time to pass between dinners in order to think about what each one had to say. To absorb the details, meaning and results of how they have spent their life.

My list has continued to change throughout the years,......which, I guess is the fun of it for me. The writer, actor, comedian and musician, Steve Martin, pretty consistently makes the cut. I find him intelligent and funny, and possessing an interesting range of talent. I am currently reading his novel,  An Object Of Beauty .

Tom Brokaw has been on it for quite awhile, too. I've been fortunate to have heard him speak twice this past year. The first time was in May as the commencement speaker at The University of Montana. I was so moved by this speech, that when I saw he would be speaking at Benaroya Hall for Seattle Arts and Lectures, we made plans to attend that a couple nights ago, as well. He didn't disappoint. As we listened to the editor of the Seattle Times interview him, I kept thinking it was hard to believe that one person had experienced so many historical events up close. My favorite anecdote was when he shared the serendipity of being in Germany when the Berlin wall came down. I am also currently reading his new book, The Time Of Our Lives. Perhaps I'll agree with what he says and thinks.......perhaps I won't. But I know that I respect the experiences that likely back up what he wrote.

As far as the third person on this list......I'm not so sure. I'm kind of picky, and so still thinking about this one.

If you could share a dinner with any three living people....who would they be?


***On a Holiday note:  I've put together a Calendar for 2012 . Each month is professionally printed on a loose 5 X 7 glossy card (not quite as heavy as a post card), along with one of my photographs. I designed it so that each month could be easily displayed in a frame, on an easel or stuck to the refridgerator with a magnet.

It will be available via an shop within the next couple of days. I meant to have it ready to go by today......but due to technical difficulty (I had to get help setting it up!) it was delayed. If you're interested, please check back. I'll post a link here soon so you can take a look at a sample and get more details.***

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!


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