Saturday, January 31, 2009

Grace in Small Things: issue 20

  1. A cozy little restaurant
  2. The comfort of old stomping grounds
  3. Cathedrals that make the heart soar
  4. Shelter from the cold
  5. An unexpectedly entertaining movie

Friday, January 30, 2009

Grace in Small Things: Issue 19

  1. The number 19.
  2. Pizza-and-beer Fridays.
  3. Unfettered weekend time.
  4. A nice, tight stack of manila folders.
  5. A meeting where high praise was gratefully showered upon us.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Grace: Issue 18

  1. The end of a snow storm.
  2. A freshly shoveled driveway.
  3. Purple alpaca wool.
  4. Big, dorky faux-fur lined boots from Target ($19.99!).
  5. Stash Earl Gray with Bergamot.

And also? Waking up to Abba's "Take a Chance on Me" when the alarm goes off on a snowy day.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Playing with Fire, Day 2

On our second day of Lampwork Beads class, our instructor (the creative and unflinchingly patient Louise Mehaffey) was setting us up for the reveal -- the moment we'd see the beads we'd created the night before, having left them in the kiln overnight to anneal.

Louise had sorted our beads by each person's signature bead color -- for every "real" bead you created, you finished the mandrel with a mini bead in your signature color to mark your work. Mine was green by virtue of where I happened to sit in class. (This was a total accident -- but a happy one since green's my favorite color!)

As she distributed our piles, I was shocked to see about 20 beads had made it through the kiln!

Granted, many were misshapen -- for every halfway round bead I made, there's one that's listing to the side like the Tower of Pisa -- or with odd color combos (yeah, uh, I meant to do that!).

Seeing how the beads turned out was like receiving a bunch of really tiny presents.

That's because partway through making a bead, when the piece you're working on has turned orange from the intense heat and you can't remember what color you'd just applied, sometimes it was a crap shoot in terms of how it would look.

But, getting the hang of melting sticks of glass via torch, winding the molten glass to drip in a controlled manner around a little metal stick, was harder -- yet more exhilarating -- than I'd expected.

And then there's the fact that so many beads end up not making it out of the kiln intact -- we newbies tend to heat our beads way too hot and which can result in all kinds of weird effects in the glass.

Or, if you don't get the bead into the kiln while it's still hot it can crack in the kiln or soon thereafter.

That first day, it became apparent there are a ton of things to think about when doing lampwork.
You basically have to tap into the part of your being that is ambidextrous, because you end up doing different tasks with both hands at the same time.

On Day 2, I made a few favorites over and over, for practice. And in the end, I just may be able to make something from them! (This is just a prototype.)

Although I don't think I'll be rushing out to buy a kiln or a torch anytime soon, I definitely think I'll be renting some studio time sometime soon.

This was just too much fun to not try again!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Playing with Fire, Part I

Day One of my lampworked bead class is over, and it was exhilarating, exhausting and a big-fat creative kick in the pants.

Because if there's one thing I've learned today, other how not to get burned on a 900-degree torch (this from someone with big fear-of-fire issues who hates to even turn on a propane grill), all while the process zings tiny shards of glass everywhere, it's that learning gives me a real jolt!

So much so that I came home and babbled for nearly an hour to Mr Spandrel about the way things are done and how fun it was to give it a whirl.

Although there's still another whole day to go, who knows if this will take hold as a new hobby. But one thing's for sure, it's reminded me of something important:

Sign up for as many classes for interesting things as I can, and keep those creative fires stoked.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Grace: Issue 17

  1. Lost is back on.
  2. I experienced the kindness of strangers today.
  3. Finished a bugger of a project at work (with a few more inspiring projects on the horizon).
  4. Hence, I finally got to leave work before it was dark out.
  5. My lampworked bead class is this weekend. Yay!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Grace: Issue 16

  1. Taking a break.
  2. Taking a snooze.
  3. Taking your time.
  4. Taking it easy.
  5. Taking the scenic route.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Grace: Issue 16

  1. Like-minded friends.
  2. Old connections.
  3. Kindred spirits.
  4. Acquaintances.
  5. Mentors.

It's a New Day in America

He accepts this job at a time when there is no dearth of challenges. Between an economy in crisis and a foreign war that seems never-ending, and untold other landmines awaiting his evaluation, Barack Obama's presidency promises to be an uphill climb.

Expectations projected upon him seem to grow by the minute.

But unlike any other candidate I've ever witnessed in my lifetime, the new leader of the United States of America seems intelligent. Thoughtful. Calm and resolute. And at the same time grounded by a strong heart that values his family above all else.

I love that this country made its voice heard. That we elected this man.

And I am hopeful that President Obama can achieve what he sets out to do.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Grace in Small Things: Issue 15

  1. An unexpected workout via snow shoveling.
  2. Inspiration to bake chocolate chip cookies as the snow fell.
  3. Baked cod with tomatoes, garlic and thyme.
  4. Junior Mints.
  5. Test-driving a couple of guitars, including this one.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Grace in Small Things: Issue 14

  1. The presidential inauguration is on the horizon.
  2. The snowfall was just a dusting.
  3. The temperature is no longer intolerable.
  4. The outing on Monday with my sister's family is shaping up.
  5. The movie last night was very entertaining (although the ending wasn't my favorite).

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Parallel parking in a tight space on the street, just steps away from my haircut in Center City, finding as I get out that there's two full hours already paid on the meter.

Life is good!

Chandler Browne, You Made My Day!

From the New York Times: All of these suggestions for President-Elect Obama are sweet, thoughtful and entirely in keeping with their demographic.

But I really like young Chicagoan Chandler Browne's 10-step program for the president.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Grace: Issue 13

  1. Being on the weekend side of a workaday Friday.
  2. Putting aside a bear of a project for a few hours - only to find I am able to complete myriad other projects during that break (YAY!).
  3. Smiling at my husband and feeling - like a connective thread - that invisible thing that makes him smile back.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Grace: Issue 12

  1. Azaleas

  2. Magnolias

  3. Rhododendron

  4. Hydrangea

  5. Hostas

Grace: Issue 11

  1. A World of Butterflies by Kjell Sandved to redirect one's mind to more tropical climes
  2. Real Simple's comfort food issue - perfect accompaniment for burrowing under the covers on a wintery night
  3. Pink highlighter pens
  4. Invitation to a surprise bridal shower (I adore happy surprises!)
  5. "Another Train," sung in tight harmony by The Poozies.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Grace: Issue 10

  1. While driving to work one morning this week, a car horn beeped beside me -- it was my sister!
  2. I have a dinner with a friend I haven't seen in a while scheduled for Friday.
  3. Just spoke with my Mom today; all is well with everyone.
  4. I have a day off coming soon, and will likely spend at least some of it with another friend, catching up and hearing about her recent vacation.
  5. All my cookie-induced post-Christmas weight seems to be gone.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Grace: Issue 9

Grace to be found in winter:
  1. Homemade vegetable sausage soup
  2. Down coats
  3. Our bedroom is always the warmest place in the house
  4. Crocheting projects that warm your lap as you create
  5. Spring is just a matter of time.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Not what I expected

part 1
On the ground on the sidewalk leading into work?
Swimming goggles.

Part 2
Man walking his bicycle down a suburban street, balancing something on the seat...
As he strides by, I see that it's a hamster in a cage from the pet store.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Grace: Issue 8

  1. A husband who does laundry.
  2. A partly sunny, albeit cold, Sunday.
  3. Coffee that kicks just as it's needed.
  4. Dvorak's Slavonic Dance.
  5. Social commentary aside, the animation skills it took to produce Wall-E.

Glass Bead Making

In a few weeks, I am taking steps forward on my commitment to leading a more creative life: I will take a weekend-long class on glass bead making. And I can't wait!

The class will be led by Louise Mehaffey, one of the bead artists whose work I've admired for a long time. Her creative genius has been featured in all the bead magazines, and she's recently published a book on creating glass beads.

The class will be small, just 8 students.

If I find some time, I will read up a little on the subject so it's not completely foreign to me.

Because I work with words all day long, that approach is part of who I am. I like knowing the language of a project before I learn something entirely new. That way, I can focus more on paying attention to and learning the process involved.

So stay tuned next month for pictures of my progress - who knows? I may have discovered a new obsession.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Grace: Issue 7

  1. Mark Bittman. I like his easy-breezy approach to food and the way he writes about it.
  2. Apple's 3G network, which is saving my sanity while we await a replacement router that got zapped in a rainstorm yesterday.
  3. Teeny tiny iPhone keyboard that either lets me type what I'm thinking, or provides a funny substitute (see "otgar" instead of "other"). Wonder what otgar really means?
  4. The realization that I tend to get along very well with others who also happen to wear Skagen watches.
  5. The last of the Christmas fudge my neighbor bestowed on us.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Grace in Small Things: Issue 6

I promise, this won't be all I write about from now on. But since January 1, I've been so busy I can't even stop to think. But for now here we go:

  1. Making unexpected connections with like-minded people.
  2. Experiencing an "a-ha!" moment.
  3. Realizing I really did manage to do more with friends in 2008.
  4. Getting off the phone with a friend who is so utterly calm, just five minutes of conversation with her managed to lower my blood pressure during an especially hectic day.
  5. The act of making tea.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Grace in Small Things: Issue 5

  1. Waking up to "You Only Get What You Give," a favorite old song by the New Radicals, soon after the alarm went off this morning.
  2. Crocheting a scarf out of forgotten yarn I unearthed from my junk room.
  3. Knowing a cobbler who fixes up boots like new.
  4. Cinnamon buns from the bakery around the corner.
  5. The anticipation of a new electric toothbrush during its first 12-hour charge.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Grace in Small Things: Issue 4

1. Hot soup on cold days.
2. Basil leaves -- an unexpected whiff of summer in January.
3. Having my sister live nearby.
4. Cozy sweaters.
5. Bagels and lox on a lazy Sunday morning, the sun streaming through the windows.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Grace in Small Things: Issue 3

  1. Pre-bedtime Sudoku, a soothing salve for my disorderly brain.
  2. Crisp, fresh sheets.
  3. Lambswool-lined slippers.
  4. Soft, colorful pajamas.
  5. That ultra-refreshing moment - and sense of achievement, after many fitful nights - upon waking from a deep sleep.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Grace: Issue 2

1. Sun breaking through the clouds after a snow squall
2. Beating a deadline
3. Finding a brand-new Moleskine in the bottom of an old handbag
4. An unexpectedly good candid snapshot of my niece and nephew
5. Cookies.

Full of Grace: Issue 1

During 2009, to pre-empt any insta-negativity that creeps into my thoughts, I am going to participate in this. Because there is always grace to be found in the small things.

So... hello. And welcome to the first issue. Among the small things I am grateful for:

1. Being unexpectedly impressed by Vanity Fair's Tina Fey profile.
2. My husband's sense of humor and perspective.
3. Laughing with my sister.
4. Finally seeing the wood of my desk, instead of paper piles.
5. Kashi Heart-to-Heart Cereal.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Brunch at Norma's

This trip to New York was mainly to visit with my friend from college, who married a wonderful man from a foreign country, where they returned to live. She was back in the U.S. on holiday and I was thrilled she had a day to spend roaming the city with me.

Although she's very happy with her husband, her adopted homeland doesn't know from brunch.

In the weeks leading up to the visit, we planned on brunching at Sarabeth's, purveyor of lovely jams and over-the-top omelets. I'd never been there for brunch, but heard good things.

Unfortunately, they take no reservations. And the legendary wait for a Sarabeth's brunch on a Saturday when the city is filled with tourists can take an hour or more. At first, we figured it would be time well-spent, whiling away the hour as we caught up on each other's lives.

But in the days leading up to that Saturday, it was clear the weather was not going to cooperate. Who wanted to wait outside in 20-degree temps with wind and potentially sleet?

Not me.

So I browsed and spotted a reservation at Norma's in Le Parker Meridien hotel. Perfect!

We arrived breathless and starving, having first tried the main entrance, only to find that it was closed for two days! So we had to unexpectedly scurry around the entire block to get in another door.

Luckily, our table was still safe - this despite dire warnings in the reservation confirmation email that if we were more than 10 minutes behind schedule, they'd charge my credit card a cancellation fee of 50 bucks and turn the seats over to the huddled walk-ins waiting to eat.

My friend ordered the Artychoked Benedict -- poached eggs over artichoke hearts with a truffled sauce. On a day when we were struggling against the wind and sleet to get around, the richness was a welcome comfort.

At the same time, my Very Berry Brioche French Toast arrived... topped with a fuchsia-colored orchid blossom.

Two thick slices of tender brioche French toast smothered in syrupy stewed berries -- strawberries, blueberries and the like. While it did not arrive hot, it did remain delicious, and it looked exactly like the snap I found later on their website:

And the decadently priced, $9 bottomless glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice - AKA Sunshine in a Pilsner?

If, like me, you enjoy orange juice, it was totally, justifiably worth the expense. Felt like a Vitamin C jolt and tasted like the perfect combo of tangerine and super-sweet oranges, with just enough pulp for authenticity.

Looking back at that Norma's visit, I realize that was the start of the holiday season for me - a holiday season full of chocolates and homemade butter cookies that I ate by the dozen. A holiday season that officially ends tonight.

Happy New Year to all: I wish you a fun, happy and healthy 2009, spent with people you enjoy.