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December 2009

Party On, Dudes

Here we are, poised and ready to begin a new decade.  Time Magazine recently called the 00s the "Decade from Hell."  It was, most certainly, a decade full of change.  But it does seem to have gone by really quickly.  Doesn't it seem like only yesterday that Y2K was a worry?  That we had faith in our election process?  That planes didn't crash into buildings?  That real estate was a good investment?  Remember when this song was. . . ahead of its time?

I don't get too bogged down by time boundaries, but I do think it's fun to welcome the new year.  Wanna see?  Here's a (thankfully) grainy old photo of Tom and I.  Partying like it was . . . 1979 . . . in the streets of San Francisco.  (I'm really loving the lumberjack look there, Tom!).

Party like its 1979 

Well, things will be a bit quieter for Tom and I this New Year's Eve.  That I can guarantee.  But, I can also say that. . .

Getting lit 

copyright Anne Taintor

We made sure to have an answer to my most pressing question (the one in the far right upper corner of my refrigerator). . .

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by taking advantage of this. . .

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Thanks, Tom!

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And, honey. . . no worries.  There will be plenty of your favorite beverages too!

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It's not every year that you turn over a whole new decade!

So. . . party likes it's 2009!  Dudes, party on!

In My Own Backyard

It's bleak in my backyard right now.  Grey. Blustery. Cold. Snowy.  But there's a bit of a party going on all the same.

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The bird feeders are full, and the eatin' is good!

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The fat, greedy squirrel (Jenny's nemesis!) is crashing this party.

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If you like to feed the birds in your backyard, you might want to consider participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count coming up February 12-15.  It's easy and kind of fun -- with all reporting done online. 

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It's a sure way to brighten a bleak landscape!

Good Eats

Remember this?  

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Earlier this month I decided to focus my Christmas food-planning on the holiday meal highlighted in the December issue of Cooking Light magazine.  Oh, there was plenty of warm-up food. . . before the big meal.

Tom and Erin baked cookies.

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We had plenty of treats and goodies from friends and family -- including a giant treat basket from the fabulous Zingerman's Bakehouse in Ann Arbor.  (Sadly, no photos.  Demolished too quickly by a family of Sweet Tooths.)

And on Christmas morning, we ate our traditional baked French toast breakfast.

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But then. . . my real cooking adventure began! 

Now, I like to cook.  A lot.  But I don't typically take on an entire menu of new dishes . . . all for one meal.  I usually try to plan meals that come together without a lot of stress at the end, and that don't involve every single pan in the house.  So this. .  . was something of a stretch for me.  Everything needed to be cooked at the same time!  Nothing was a do-ahead dish! 

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I didn't actually re-create the entire menu from the magazine.  There was just too much food for one meal!  After a careful study, I chose to make the brined pork loin (with a brown sugar-bourbon glaze), the wine-soaked beans and mushrooms, the onions and apples with bacon, and the Yukon gold mashed potatoes with horseradish butter.  Oh, and German chocolate mousse for dessert (which I did make the day before).

It was fun.  It was wild.  It was tasty.  Really tasty.  I didn't get many photos, though, because it was just happening too fast.

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Everything tasted great -- and, since I was following a professional menu plan, the dishes all complimented each other. . . perfectly.  I scrambled like a mad-woman for a good 45 minutes, and I made a total mess of my kitchen, but it was adventurous and fun and tasty.  I'll definitely try this again!

And Tom -- bless him -- cleaned up my mess!  (After he ate. . . of course!)

Straight from the Heart

I got some really special gifts this year for Christmas.  Handmade goodies.

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My Dad made these totally cool bookends for me.

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They're so very clever!

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My sister and her husband joined forces to make me something extra-special, too.

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My brother-in-law made the stunning - and clever - frame, and my sister created a cross-stitch souvenir of our London vacation.

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And my friend Sandie, who also happens to be a ceramic artist, made this gorgeous dish for me.

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It's just lovely!

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I love handmade gifts.  They come. . . straight from the heart!

Winter Interest

In garden design, the goal is to create a garden that looks great in all seasons.  In the winter. . . here in Michigan. . . you need to consider "winter interest" -- and create a garden that will bring joy -- even in the snow.

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Seedheads and grasses look magical when they capture and hold a little snow.

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Back in the fall, when I cleaned up my garden for the season, I intentionally left some of the plants and grasses as they were.  For the snow.

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The snow makes a wonderful contrast on the bark of trees and highlights the bare branches that would otherwise disappear into the background.

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The snow helps a bleak winter landscape look . . . lovely!

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(Snow has such magical properties that it can even bring "winter interest" to  a rusty old mildewed hockey net!)

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I'm enjoying the snow today. . . because the weather forecast says rain is on the way.  Yes, rain for Christmas.  I try not to pay too much attention to weather forecasts -- because weather does . . . whatever it does.  But I really don't like rain on top of snow.  And I really don't like rain at Christmas.  Sigh.  That's Michigan for you!  We get a lot of weather here. 

And, speaking of Michigan, here's a special holiday greeting for you!

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Enjoy this last push before The Big Day!

O Christmas Tree

In my efforts to reclaim Christmas this year, I considered skipping the Christmas tree.  It takes a lot of effort and futzy-work to set up, decorate, and then undo the whole thing when the celebrating is over.  I think I could enjoy a happy Christmas without the tree.  I really do.  But my family intervened.  They offered to be more involved and to help me "do" the tree.  And so.  Here it is.

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And now that it's up in our living room, I'm glad it's there.  Because from it's top. . .

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(. . . what?  Doesn't every Victorian Santa tree topper carry a Spidey?) . . . to it's bottom. . .

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(a hand-embroidered tree skirt I made in 1983). . . the tree so perfectly reflects my family.  You can tell so much about us when you look at the ornaments on the tree.

We're Swedish. . .

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and Irish. . .

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We fish. .

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and sing. . .

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and play hockey. . .

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and garden. . .

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and knit!

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The tree has a sense of history, too.  Ornaments from my own childhood. . .

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and from our early-married-living-on-the-cheap years. . .

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and from our kids' childhoods.

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Our tree honors our pets, too.  From our first cat - the beloved Jelly (now THAT was Some Cat!). . .

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to our current furry pal, Jenny.

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Now that it's up, I can't imagine reclaiming Christmas without it!  The lights, the symbols, the memories.

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Ring Out Those Solstice Bells

Happy Solstice!  It's time to celebrate the longest night of the year:

With music. . .

And light . . .

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And cocoa. . .


Celebrate the season.

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Celebrate the light!


And now for something completely different. . .

This is totally off-topic, but Just Dang Impressive.  Brian had his wisdom teeth extracted on Friday.  He is as miserable as might be expected, but improving rapidly.  Anyway. . . check out his teeth!!!

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He asked for them. . . and is hoping his biology teacher will give him extra credit. . . Always thinking, that kid of mine!