Wednesday, April 29, 2009

blog baby!

Launching a new blog with RJR--some of the same themes as what you would find here at dwell.urban, but stretched across two states and expanded to include a stronger sustainability focus. You can find us both here at Wonder & the Wooden Post. Please join us in this new adventure!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

new year, new beginnings...

I began dwell.urban in 2005 on another site called sharenicely. However, the daily joy of posting and linking and sharing did not become a regular habit here on blogspot until this time last year. At the time I felt I needed this space. Now, I think I need a fresh perspective and a plan for the new year. And so today, on the celebration of Epiphany, I am posting my last item here. I have not decided yet if I am planning to craft a new space, but if I do, I will be sure to say when and where.

In parting, here is a poem by theologian Walter Brueggemann that captures the old and the new, the darkness and the light, the desire to meet each new day with courage, and the sincere hope that we can be refreshed, redeemed, made new.


On Epiphany day,
we are still the people walking.
We are still people in the dark,
and the darkness looms large around us,
beset as we are by fear,
loss —
a dozen alienations that we cannot manage.

We are — we could be — people of your light.
So we pray for the light of your glorious presence
as we wait for your appearing;
we pray for the light of your wondrous grace
as we exhaust our coping capacity;
we pray for your gift of newness that
will override our weariness;
we pray that we may see and know and hear and trust
in your good rule.

That we may have energy, courage, and freedom to enact
your rule through the demands of this day.
We submit our day to you and to your rule, with deep joy and high hope.

Walter Brueggemann (b. 1933)
Prayers for a Privileged People (Nashville: Abingdon, 2008), p. 16

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

wishing you joy and peace this Christmas

James Lesesne Wells (1902) "The Flight Into Egypt," Oil on canvas 1930

May each of us welcome the stranger this season, open our hearts and our homes to those, like the Holy Family, who have journeyed so far and yet still need a place to sleep. May those fleeing oppression find our land hospitable and safe. Visit the Justice for Immigrants Campaign.

May you know the joy of the newborn child, the hope of a mother's love, and the peace that comes with a year put to rest and a new day ready to dawn. Visit Feminists for Life.

Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), The Adoration of the Magi, 1503 woodcut

May you find yourself overflowing with the generosity of family and friends. May you find ways to share your abundance with those in need. Visit Catholic Charities USA.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! See you in 2009.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

currently loving

- my twinkling tree
- cinnamon scented pine cones
- coffee with bourbon
- new radio sending forth carols all through winter baking
- wool hats
- the crazy short hair cut I just got, which looks even better with wool hats than my previous tangle of long curls
- homemade Christmas
- watching falling snow
- shoveling snow
- walking through the snow
- snow days
- Soup Thursdays at work
- new library card that brought me books and DVDs and magazines
- anything with sea salt
- knitting with wintry grey wool
- old and new carols by Sixpence None the Richer and Over the Rhine
- "White Winter Hymnal" by Fleet Foxes
- making jewelry while watching new library DVDs
- reading aloud
- Fitzgerald's Jazz Age Stories read aloud--part of what inspired the new haircut
- indulgent low brow holiday film clips on YouTube, such as this scene from Love Actually
- planning for New Year's Eve
- spending quiet evenings in, rather than out chasing the cheer

Monday, December 22, 2008

reducing the mania

Every year at this time I am knee deep in flour, tossing about sticks of butter, and running to the store for another missing ingredient. Not this year. Rather than choosing six or seven kinds of food based gift items, I narrowed it down to two. Yep. Two things to make, taste, give, and share. Seems stingy. But it has increased my sanity. Also reducing the mania, taking remaining vacation and personal days from work. Normally I am the sort of person who prides herself on how few days of work I miss. Yet, as I have begun to strive for a more seamless, sustainable life, I realize how much more you need to be home to accomplish it.

For example, want to grow your own vegetables and then harvest and put up for the winter? Need a few extra hours each day in the garden. Want to make more of your own clothes, replace paper products with cloth that needs to be laundered, bake your own whole wheat bread or pizza crust, or simply eat fewer meals out? You need to be more connected to your base of operations. It is that simple.

Yet is it? With all of our demands for time and the pressures of life, it can be incredibly easy to let those important things go. I do it often. Then suffer for it. Less connectedness, more frantic searching for meaning. More meals eaten on the run, of food that I don't even want in my body, fewer minutes spent in prayer, and missed opportunities to truly engage with those around me.

Back to the Christmas two gifting foods are vanilla-caramel popcorn with sea salt and cranberry-pistachio biscotti. The former is an adaptation of a Martha recipe. Her original recipe had almonds and entirely too much caramel to popcorn. I increased the vanilla, removed the nuts, and replaced regular salt for thicker, chunkier sea salt that provides a sharp earthy contrast to the sweet and smooth taste of vanilla scented caramel. Here is how I make it:

Vanilla Caramel Popcorn with Sea Salt
Makes about 25 cups

* 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
* 3 cups corn kernels (3/4 C for each batch of popcorn)
* 4 tablespoons canola oil (one for each batch of popcorn)
* 2 cups packed light-brown sugar
* 1/2 cup light corn syrup
* 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
* 3/4 teaspoon thick sea salt - more to taste in the last round of baking
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda


1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Butter 2 rimmed baking sheets; set aside. Place corn kernels and oil in a large pot over medium-high heat; cover. Once kernels begin to pop, shake pot frequently; when popping slows to about 3 seconds between pops, remove from heat; uncover. Transfer to a large bowl. Add almonds; toss.

2. Cook sugar, butter, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring, until it reaches 255 degrees.

3. Remove from heat. Stir in extracts, salt, and baking soda. Pour over popcorn mixture; toss to coat. Divide between prepared sheets. Bake, stirring occasionally, 1 hour 20 minutes. In last round of baking sprinkle additional salt onto popcorn. Popcorn can be stored in airtight containers up to 1 week.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

on transitions and craftivism

This week one of my colleagues left our firm. I am excited for her new adventure, it will be a grand one of the most centering kind. She is choosing the unknown over the known and a path free of mainstream expectations. This is a woman whose parting gift to me was a copy of Knitting for Good, the new release from Betsy Greer. How often does someone at your job "get" you that well?

Greer's world of art + craft = craftivism is an amazing one. And the book is published by Shambhala, the outfit that brought us The Creative Family by Amanda Soule of SouleMama and I Love Dirt by Jennifer Ward. These books are standouts om my bookshelf, they are joyfully gifted to each friend who brings forth a new baby into this crazy world. The texts are small, perfect to hold in one hand with a warm cup of coffee in the other. Knitting for Good is the same. Add to that list that A is a friend of Greer's from their UK days and you can imagine how excited I am to tap into this movement.

I spent part of my snow day on Friday to devour the text. Used my last personal day before the end of the year. A year that has been one of considerable change, transition, and adventure. Best wishes A on your new year! May you find everything you hope for.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

magical movie classic

Last night we went to see It's a Wonderful Life at the Palace Theatre in downtown Albany. This splendid venue was the perfect location to welcome in the Christmas week with a solid American classic. As RJR often points out, many Catholic values are woven into the tale. We started the evening out by meeting up with friends at the newly opened Brown Derby located directly across the street from the Palace. Much like the film, this restaurant and bar epitomizes the Golden Age of Hollywood when dressing up meant a hat and tails not Juicy Couture sweats and a Tiffany heart pendant with Uggs. I had determined this was a worthy event to debut my new holiday dress, a vintage 50s black dress from 272 Vintage Fashions in Troy.

The dress has a more auspicious occasion planned. RJR, K, and I are headed to see My Morning Jacket at Madison Square Garden on New Year's Eve and the attire is vintage black tie. The preferred garb is Victorian I think, but try finding anything of that period in my size and you will be in for a hunt. Several attempts before I finally settled on the dress and not the look. My plan for that night is to pull together an ensemble with up do worthy of Joan Holloway from Mad Men. More to follow on that event and the associated preparation. The brother has already been looking for a top hat and cane, while the boyfriend successfully located a vintage black suit. Cannot wait for that night.

Anyway, Friday we were slammed with a massive snow storm so I ended up in riding boots and a long wool skirt that kept me much warmer than the shorter, hipper dress I had planned. And now on to the rest of my baking and making and wrapping of gifts with Bedford Falls' rendition of "Auld Lang Syne" still echoing in my mind.