Monday, December 31, 2012

My cup runneth over ...

I'm spending this afternoon sitting on my couch, watching old Sex and the City reruns, reading the latest Country Living, and drinking a little wine. Tonight, we'll watch the ball drop, and my oldest daughter will drool all over the teenage heartthrobs on New Year's Rockin' Eve (or whatever it's called these days) while the little one takes off all of her clothes and pees on the floor. This is my kind of New Year's Eve these days.

In honor of this day, and it's aura of new possibility, of the opportunity to make yourself over again into the person you would like to be (even if you only stick with those resolutions until February), one of my favorite film scenes of all time.


Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.  Now, Mr. Martini, how about some wine!

Here's hoping you stick with us in the new year!! ~Alice

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Friday, December 21, 2012

Little Twists (or the Best Cookies Ever)...

Today, my sister-in-law and I are holding our annual Cookie Bake (we are down one sister-in-law this year - she's sick, but we will still kick some cookie arse).

When I was a kid, there was nothing I loved more than my grandmother's apricot rolls: the dough had a tang, the apricot preserves were so sweet. I could eat a million of them. Last week, our neighbors invited us over for a Hanukkah dinner, and the hostess made these delicious cookies that reminded me so much of my grandmother's. I am going to try to make them today (I really hate to bake, actually, even though I love to cook; I think it's the unwieldy mess that comes with baking). These cookies are worth all the fuss.

Via Spoonful. According to the site, "Rugelach (the word is Yiddish for "little twists") is a
popular Hanukkah pastry that's perfect for any holiday brunch.
Get your kids in on the preparation -- they'll love rolling out the
claylike dough and spreading the goopy, fruity filling."

From Epicurious.com

Ingredients

Dough:
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 6 ounces chilled cream cheese, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Filling:
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 12 tablespoons cherry preserves
  • 8 tablespoons dried tart cherries
  • 8 tablespoons miniature semisweet chocolate chips
  • 8 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts
Topping:
  • 1/3 cup (about) whipping cream

Preparation

For dough:
Blend first 3 ingredients in processor. Add butter and cream cheese and cut in using on/off turns until dough begins to clump together. Gather dough into ball. Divide dough into 4 equal pieces; flatten into disks. Wrap each in plastic and refrigerate 2 hours. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated. Let soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out.)

For filling:
Line large baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix sugar and cinnamon in small bowl. Roll out 1 dough disk on floured surface to 9-inch round. Spread 3 tablespoons cherry preserves over dough, leaving 1-inch border. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons dried cherries, then 2 tablespoons chocolate chips, 2 tablespoons cinnamon sugar and 2 tablespoons walnuts. Press filling firmly to adhere to dough.

Cut dough round into 8 equal wedges. Starting at wide end of each wedge, roll up tightly. Arrange cookies, tip side down, on prepared baking sheet, spacing 1 1/2 inches apart and bending slightly to form crescents. Repeat 3 more times with remaining dough disks, preserves, dried cherries, chocolate chips, cinnamon sugar and walnuts. Place baking sheet in freezer 30 minutes.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Brush cookies lightly with whipping cream. Bake frozen cookies until golden brown, about 40 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks and cool completely. (Can be made ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week or freeze up to 1 month.)

Bake your little hearts out. ~Alice


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Two poems ...

The Peanut and I are off to shop today. Jiggety jig. For you, two short poems.

Snow Drifts

When the weather turns white, I write.
Winter is a time for words.
Snowflakes fall, letter by letter,
Piling themselves into thick drafts.
The mind snowed in for another season.

The Labyrinth

In the Snow Queen's castle,
I rearrange words
in geometrical patterns.
Forever a fingertip away from
The fully realized phrase.

Happy Thursday! ~Alice

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Scrooged ..

Last night, while in the midst of my ironing project (I've decided to iron everything in my closet that needs to be ironed before the second semester begins; crazy, maybe, but think how nice it will be to just pull out a shirt and a skirt in the morning and throw it on!!), I switched on A Christmas Carol, the one with George C. Scott. This movie has always been a favorite of mine during the holiday season (others include National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Scrooged, It's a Wonderful Life, The Nightmare before Christmas, and, of course, A Christmas Story).

I actually appreciate this great tale by Dickens in all of its forms: the ghost motifs, the flashbacks, the Grim Reaper (Why is the Ghost of Christmas Future the Reaper, by the way? An odd choice, since it seems so, well, morbid). In honor of the great tale, a few of my favorite scenes from the various versions:

"Old Marley was dead as a doornail." But apparently not dead enough.

"Look Frank, it's a toaster!"

"Heatwave! This is my island in the sun." That one still makes me laugh, 
probably the only part in the movie worth watching though;). 

And, of course, the book itself. Always worth another read this time of year.

via
Happy vegging;)!! ~Alice

Monday, December 17, 2012

Please don't take my sunshine away ....

Last night, when I was sitting in the living room reading after a long day of "talking to Santa" (aka shopping until my feet felt like they were going to fall off), loooooong after the Peanut (our youngest) should have been asleep, I heard her singing in her room. I went upstairs and found her in her bed, singing "You are my cupcake, my only cupcake ..."

She was singing along to this little book by Joyce Wan.



I bought this book for the Peanut last year at Christmas-time, and when we read it, she insists that I read it to her, oh, at least five times. And when I say read, I mean sing, because I sing it along to the tune of "You are my sunshine": "You are my sunshine, my sticky little gumdrop, my mushy little sweet pea, my oven-baked cutie-piiiiiiieeeee..." You get the idea. She even yelled at my mother-in-law when she was about one-and-a-half for singing it the wrong way. That's what I love about the Peanut. She's a woman who knows what she wants.

My favorite illustration.
Perhaps I love this book so much because my mother used to sing to me the real version of this tune:

You are my sunshine, 
My only sunshine,
You make me happy
When skies are gray,
You'll never know dear
how much I love you,
Please don't take my sunshine away.

The other night, dear,
While I lay sleeping,
I dreamt I held you in my arms,
When I awoke dear, I was mistaken,
And I hung my head down and cried ...

I've been singing this song under my breath a lot today. One of my greatest fears since my children bloomed into this world is that their little lights might be put out by some set of circumstances beyond my control. I do whatever I can to protect them. I don't let them play outside when I'm not out there with them. I hold their hands in the parking lot. I make them wear their seatbelts. I put covers on all of the outlets. I've taught them not to talk to strangers. Despite all of that, there could be that one moment when they wake up inside of someone else's bad dream. Everything I have done to bring them safely into this world and to shield them from all the bad in it could be gone just like that. Poof.

Sometimes, it seems to me that trying to protect your kids from the world outside is like pulling the blanket over your face at night when you're afraid there are monsters under your bed. What good is that blanket going to do?

All I can do tonight is offer up this little song like the prayer that it is. Rest in peace, little souls. Rest in peace. And for the rest of us, let's read to our peanuts. We are very lucky to have them. ~Alice

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A poem...

I have no words. Instead, a poem by Robert Herrick that has always haunted me, a poem about a life taken too soon.

Here a pretty baby lies 
Sung asleep with lullabies:
Pray be silent and not stir
Th' easy earth that covers her. 

My heart is heavy. Prayers for the grieving parents and their precious children. ~Alice

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Finally ... (American Horror Review)

Hot damn. The women on American Horror may finally be getting some guts (I was going to write "growing a pair," but that seemed very un-feminist of me). Granted, they are still being stolen by aliens, incarcerated, drugged, and, on the whole, disempowered (my tongue is firmly in cheek at this moment), but that doesn't seem like it will continue much longer without some retaliation from the ladies. And that chick in the black veil just may be the scariest of them all.

Hot damn. Things are going to change around here. I'll be looking forward to January 2. Won't you? ~Alice

PS: "The Coat Hanger" as cliff-hanger?  Well played, writers. Well played.

Bring it on, Judy.
via



Wednesday, December 12, 2012

These are a few of my favorite things...

Everyone has a wish-list this time of year. Here's mine.

The Mirror Branch Side Table from Target: $79.99
This cheeky winking owlet from Anthropologie (A Real Hoot Canister): $68
A print of our favorite children's books from IdealBookshelf (Prices range, pretty inexpensive though).
A morbid sweater or two (or four). 
Philip Pullman's new versions of the age-old Grimm tales (reviewed here by Seth Lerer). 
Oh, yeah, and I'd take one of these. I mean, if you're buying...

"Flight from the Forest" Limited Edition Giclee
(Created by artist Regina Alphonso using watercolor and digital media)  $125-300
Happy shopping;)! ~Alice

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Ghosts of Christmases Past ...

For me, of late, Christmas is a season of memories. I yearn for the Christmases of my yesteryear. Christmas Eves spent gathered around a huge table in my uncle's basement (the only place we could all fit), this table laden with wine, spirits, good food (fried sauerkraut balls and mushroom soup are good, I swear). Christmas nights tucked away in the back bedroom of my grandfather's rickety, rambling old house, listening to my eldest cousin provide a full report of Santa's movements around the house's perimeter. Staying at my grandfather's the entire week between Christmas and New Year's, even though we lived less than 10 miles away, playing Uno and eating Dutch apple pie, maneuvering the figurines in the ghost town under my grandfather's tree. 

via

Vignettes of these times flip through my mind like the pages of an old photo album, filled with snapshots whose edges have yellowed with time. Some of the most treasured people in them have died. Some divorced. Some stopped talking to one another. Many of us married into new families with their own traditions. As a result of all of this, I feel very divorced from my past. And any attempt to recreate that past in my own present results in a rather flimsy simulacrum, a plasticized recreation of an exquisite, antique glass ornament. 

I hope my children's Christmases are as precious to them as mine were when I was their age. I hope they relish listening to mom and dad bicker about getting to Grandma's house a half hour late. I hope they hear the shouts of their cousins' laughter, their uncles' stories about doing really stupid things when they, as adults, turn their ears toward the past. Part of becoming an adult is realizing that things never stay the same and treasuring those memories lost.      

When I think of Christmases past, I often recall my mom reading from this lovely book, The Night before Christmas, illustrated by Gyo Fujikawa. 

via
One of my most treasured books, it looks out over my Christmases past and future. You must share it with your children. It will color their imaginations forever more. 

via
And to all a good night (or afternoon, whatever;)). ~Alice


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Arabian Coffee...

I took my daughter to see The Nutcracker last night. Two things I wanted to share:

The stunning ceiling at the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh.

My favorite segment of the ballet, the Arabian Coffee dance.
Adieu. ~Alice

Friday, December 7, 2012

Are you there God? It's me, Alice ...

God knows I am not the most religious girl on the block. But the good, old-fashioned Catholic girl who lives in the back corner of my brain sometimes likes a good, old-fashioned prayer.

So, after a very long and very trying day, some lines that my mom once kept posted on her fridge. She would read them every day during really bad times (and our family has had its share). They got her through.
 
Amen to that. ~Alice

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Psycho-Santa ("Qu'est-ce que c'est ?") [AHS Review] ...

First things first, the beginning of last night's American Horror episode so terrified me that I considered taking down all of my Christmas decorations and deleting every single one of my online profiles (if you watched, you know why). Old men dressed up as Santa already made me a little nervous (see yesterday's blog post); AHS's psycho-Santa has ruined them forever.

On to my point. I realize the horror genre is not built on sunshine and rainbows. I'm not delusional. I just want some revenge here. A little swift vengeance. A few sinners in the hands of an angry God would be great. Where is God in Briarcliff? If the Devil is inside its walls, then God must also exist in the show's paradigm. Evil cannot always prevail.

I was reading an interview with Ryan Murphy this morning about last night's episode. Here's what he had to say:
I think many people have remarked about “Can we just have some hope this season? Can we just have some happiness?” Well you’re not gonna get it in the next two. But I think in the last four there’s a lot of optimism and a lot of revenge. 
All I can say is that in January this show had better bring it, and these female characters had better get some, well, "Christmas ornaments." I'm tired of all of the women either being possessed, killed, victimized, brutalized, or maimed. Enough is enough. ~A slightly pissed-off Alice

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

For all those people who have a terrible picture of themselves with Santa...

Today's blog is technically a redirect. It was so funny, I had to share. Enjoy!! ~Alice

From the blog, ScaryMommy, I give you "25 of the Saddest Santa Pictures Ever."

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Christmas for the Books ...

An old, dear friend of mine posted this photo to my wall, suggesting that I give it a whirl.

Via
Oh, how I love this tree; let me count the ways. Traditional Christmas lights straight out of my childhood; books twisted and turned at different angles; a whimsical approach on an old classic. I'll be constructing my own book-tree this weekend (let's see how long it takes before the two-year-old deconstructs it - her first essay in deconstruction hehehe). Pictures to come.

PS I am finally finishing The Happiness Project. Things I have learned: I am an "underbuying," over-critical, selfish woman - basically a shrew;). Ah, well. Cheers to my own brand of happiness. Seriously, though, a worthwhile read, if for nothing more than some personal insight.

Until next time. ~Alice

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Magic of Oz ...

On one of my regular trips to the local Goodwill (I am obsessed with bargain hunting/loving things that other people have discarded - it's a sickness), I picked up this book. I have since been infatuated with the cover art, done by John R. Neill.

Everything about this cover delights me - the font, the color scheme, the terrified monkey, Dorothy's shift.

Trying to think of a spot for these monkeys on one of my walls. Stay tuned.
Neill, known as the "Royal Illustrator of Oz," designed beautiful images that capture the clean, straight-edged, yet whimsical design aesthetic I so love about books from this period (this Scholastic edition is copyrighted 1919, though a much later paperback reproduction).


I haven't read the Oz books in a very long time, but I am thinking of picking them back up over the Winter break.  I especially want to get and watch again the film Return to Oz, which I remember so terrifying me in my childhood that I slept with my mother for a month (oy, those Wheelers).  Look for a future post.



I hope you all are "quite content and pass[ing] your days in innocent enjoyment." Yeah, not so much;). ~Alice