28 November 2011

Thanksgiving Recap

Well, it was back-to-reality-day today, the Monday after Thanksgiving.  I was lucky enough to have a four-day weekend; The Tim had only Thanksgiving itself, so we made sure (as always) to enjoy it as much as possible.

This year we had one of the most beautiful days weather-wise that I can ever remember.  Sunny, and cool but not cold.  Just perfect for the cozy holiday that I think Thanksgiving is.

In the mid-afternoon, we took a walk along the river trail.  There were other people out and about, but not so many that it was crowded.

Philadelphia has an awesome Mural Arts Program.  There are examples of their work in every part of the city, and I think it is one of the things the city has going for it over other places.  Next summer, there will be a new mural, right along the river trail:


It was such an enjoyable walk, in the sunshine, and so quiet compared to any usual day.  The sun was doing a rippling reflection on the Chestnut Street Bridge, which I wasn't quite able to catch with my digital camera and lame skills:

But you can kinda get the idea ...

We walked to where the path breaks away to go up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art:

(side view)

We sat on a bench, watching the Schuylkill River go by for a few minutes, and then headed back home,

where we got serious about fixing dinner

Everyone was hungry!

We all enjoyed our dinner, then cleaned up and had some tea and pumpkin pie later in the evening.  Another wonderful Thanksgiving day!

On Friday morning, The Tim had to be at work early.  I got up and decided to go shopping - for myself!  One of the nice things about being in Center City Philadelphia is that it doesn't get as crowded on Black Friday as the malls do ('cause you know, people would have to be outside - the horror!), and any crowds there are never seem to be in force until after lunchtime.  I left the house at 9:00, and was home by 11:00, having had some success.  The rest of the day I worked on some projects.  That evening, we had tickets to see "Billy Elliott" at the Academy of Music (one of The Tim's BD gifts).  It was wonderful, though at the performance we attended, Billy was played by an Asian boy, so it was somewhat disconcerting at times.  Saturday was spent watching a movie with The Tim before he left for work late in the afternoon, then I paid some bills and worked more on some of my projects.  Sunday, I was at Rosie's** in the afternoon, and then we just relaxed last night when I got home.  (The Tim got home earlier in the afternoon, so he was ahead of me on the relaxing part ...)  It truly felt like a nice, long, leisurely weekend.

Until I got to work this a.m. - but isn't that always the case???

I sincerely hope that you had a nice holiday as well, and were able to relax at least some of the time.

Oh, and those projects I mentioned?  Some were actual knitting - and I'll show them to you soon.

Hope the week goes well now for all of us!

**If you are in the area, please join us for our holiday project to help some other knitters.

25 November 2011

Rules of Thanksgiving

I hope you all had a good Thanksgiving.  Ours was especially nice, and the weather was even cool and sunny,  so that we were able to take an afternoon walk along the river.  A nice relaxing day and evening, too much food, and just the right amount of leftovers.  Win!

I did make several observations, and decided that all would benefit from reading about them.  Because, you know, I'm such a deep thinker and all ... (and, in my Bridget-centric world that exists only in my head, I really think that I should be in charge of most holiday things).  

1.  One of the reason I am a fan of Nordstrom's is their philosophy for decorating the store for the holiday season.  Yes, the various departments have the merchandise that is especially designated for Christmas/holiday shoppers, but the store itself does not put out their decorations or play any Christmas music until after Thanksgiving.  This is the way it should be, and if I were in charge of things, this is the way it would be.  So there.  (Now granted I can't afford a lot of stuff at Nordstrom's but I always try to buy a lipstick or tights or something like that there to show my support.  And as you can see, it has apparently worked - they are still in business!)

2.  Since I have been a little girl, we have always watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade (or as we referred to it, the "Macy's Day parade").  My mother told me that the only time before Christmas Eve that the REAL Santa was around was to ride in the float in the parade.  (This made perfect sense to me, BTW.) Alas, this tradition is in danger of being discontinued, for the following reasons:  a) I find it highly annoying to watch people I don't know and/or not lip-synch songs, b) the ONLY ones who should escort Santa for his appearance should be the Rockettes, and c) Mrs. Santa has no business being on the float.  I love Mrs. Santa, but she needs to stay put to be sure that things are going well at the North Pole.  I just don't think she should be part of the parade.  (And lest you feel I am anti-Mrs. Claus, I am a feminist, and want her to be able to do her thing - not just be Santa's wife.  I enjoy going places with The Tim, but there are some things that are all his to do.)

3.  Since we moved to Philadelphia, we have gone a few times to the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day parade which is lots of fun.  However, it's been ruined because: a) now that the channel sponsoring it and broadcasting it is an ABC station, the whole thing is a Disney commercial, and b) even worse, not only does Mrs. Claus regularly appear on the float with Santa, but they are both waving American flags.  This is WRONG because Santa does not favor or represent any specific country.  Ever.

4.  The Dallas Cowboys should never appear in a Thanksgiving Day game.  If they somehow mistakenly do, they should be soundly trounced by the other team, regardless of what team that may be.

5.  No store should ever open on Thanksgiving, or at 12 midnight on the day after.  Thanksgiving should always be Thanksgiving, and no one needs any of the stuff they open early to sell that badly.  If stores really feel it is necessary, it should be the administrative managers who work, since they are the ones making the decision.

6.  Yes, I am aware that when the Europeans arrived, it all started to go downhill quickly for the Native Americans.  But Thanksgiving is not the time to say to someone, "I hope you enjoy the day that commemorates the genocide of an entire people."  Anyone who says something like that to me is immediately dead to me forever.

And now, you have the Rules of Thanksgiving according to Bridget.  You're welcome.  ;-)

24 November 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

We can only be said to be alive in those moments
when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. 
 ~Thornton Wilder

20 November 2011

Holiday Preparation Post #3 - Blue Cheese Pecan Icebox Crackers

I think it's time for another recipe.  I got this one from the Martha Stewart show that used to be on in the afternoons.  Now don't go gettin' yer knickers in a twist - I am neither a Martha groupie nor a Martha hater.  I enjoy watching her holiday-themed shows, since there are things I like, such as this recipe.

These are truly yummy, particularly if you are a blue cheese lover like me ...

Blue Cheese Pecan Icebox  Crackers
(recipe and image below from found here)


3/4 c. (2 oz.) pecan halves*
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
4 T. chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 oz. blue cheese (such as Danish blue), crumbled
  • Heat over to 375 degrees.  Place pecan halves  on rimmed baking sheet, and bake until fragrant, about 3-5 minutes.  Let cool.  Transfer to the bowl of a food processor, and pulse until finely ground.   Transfer to a small bowl, and set aside.
  • Combine flour and pecans in the bowl of a food processor; pulse briefly to combine.  Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles a coarse meal.  Add cheese, and process until dough comes together and is well combined.
  • Transfer dough to a work surface, and form into a 2-inch wide log.  Wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 24 hours.
  • Heat oven to 325.  Slice chilled log into 1/4 inch slices.  Transfer slices to a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake immediately, rotating once, until crackers are golden brown and firm in the center, 25 to 35 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Crackers may be made a day ahead and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.

*I have used pecans as well as walnuts, and they are yummy either way!

Although this is not a quickie recipe, it's still pretty straightforward, and the results are really worth it.  Let me know if you give this a try!


18 November 2011

Some Things I Love

Most of all, though

Happy Birthday, sweetie!

15 November 2011

Holiday Preparation Post #2 - Knitivity

First, let me say right off the bat that I hope you will not think that I am pushing the Christmas season in this post.  That is not my intention, because believe me, I am someone who STRONGLY disapproves of pushing any holiday before its time.  I even considered waiting until the beginning of December to write this post, but decided to do it now, because as the post title implies, I wanted to share things that may help you prepare.  Which - as far as knitting and gifts are concerned - is something I try to do in advance when at all possible.

OK, disclaimer over.

About a month ago, The Tim came home from work looking quite pleased with himself.  He said, "I was gonna wait to get this, but knew that there was no doubt you'd want it, and wanted you to be able to use it with plenty of time if you wanted to do anything for this year."

He then proceeded to pull this out of his messenger bag:

As the kids say, OMG!  Knitivity : Create Your Own Christmas Scene, by Fiona Goble - the cover alone is awesome, as far as I'm concerned.  I knew that even if I never ever even thought of knitting anything in it, I'd enjoy just looking at it, and seeing how things were constructed.

Published this year by Andrews McMeel, this is actually a very attractive book, printed on heavy, glossy paper with nicely photographed illustrations.  The beginning discusses the idea behind the book, and Goble mentions that this is a book for beginners as well as veteran knitters.  She points out that the projects are small and quick, and making them can help a beginner learn techniques (casting off purlwise, for example) that they will use again and again as knitters.

"There are no fancy patterns or 'scary' cables.  If you can cast on, knit, purl, increase, decrease, and bind off, then you won't have any problems knitting the entire Knitivity cast." (p. 6)

The next sections talk about tools you'll need, how to choose yarns, some basic techniques illustration, and a list of abbreviations used in the book.  Goble also suggests that it is a good project for knitting groups, since they can work on a single project but each person can knit something different.

Now if you have read this far, and a) just don't care, and/or b) are offended, feel free to just stop and come back another time.  I do not find the idea of knitting a Nativity scene upsetting or insulting at all, but I can understand that people have differing views on things like this.

I for one, love Nativity scenes.  Growing up, we had a set that went under the tree each year, and I remember spending a lot of time rearranging the pieces (usually the people got moved out so the animals could be inside the stable; sometimes the Baby Jesus received special dispensation from me and was allowed to stay inside with the animals, but no one else could); one year, we lost the little piece that was the Virgin Mary, and I had no problem with Joseph and a donkey being primary caretakers.  (I'm pretty sure the rest of the family was just glad that such activity kept me out of their hair.)

Anyway, this book contains patterns for the entire group pictured on the cover.  So if you dive in and want to do it all at once, you can.  You can also (as Goble points out) do bits and pieces when you are so inclined.  And if you are like me, you may only ever knit the little animals.  (The Tim: "All I ask is that someday you'll knit a donkey and a sheep for me.")

So what do we have here?

Well, there's the basic family grouping, inside the stable with a couple of the animals (please note: I couldn't get the dark shadow covering most of Joseph out of the image - the book has it nice and clear though).

There's a shepherd, as you would expect; you can of course make several by knitting them wearing different color robes, etc.

And let's not forget the Three Wise Men:

(Who, for the record, do not arrive until January 6, and therefore, do not immediately appear in the scenario.  In our house for instance, they make their way across the bookshelves next to the Christmas tree as their journey.)

You can even knit yourself an Angel of the Lord!

Now, I can hear a lot of you saying that this is just a cheesy, useless book and a waste of money.  Don't buy it then.  But if you think you would enjoy it, or know someone who might, it is a lovely as well as a certain smile-inducing gift.  It is nicely done, well-written, and really quite enjoyable to read and look through.  Retail cost is $16.99 ($19.99 in Canada), but it is available online for as little as $9.79.

If your holiday preparations could include knitting some or all of these characters, or if you know someone for whom Knitivity would be a perfect gift, I say go for it.   For a person like me who loves Christmastime and relies on patterns for most of the things I knit, it's really a fun book to have.

11 November 2011


Happy Veterans Day!

We often take for granted the very things
that most deserve our gratitude.  

~Cynthia Ozick

09 November 2011

October Book Report

I'm so glad that you enjoyed the recipe from the previous post.  A few people wrote to me saying they were going to try it, though they might have to leave out/substitute some of the ingredients.  I think that's one of the best things about the recipe - it really is as much of a guideline as anything else.  Let me know if you try it and whether or not you liked it!

I took a look at the books I read in October, and apparently I was on a mystery-reading kick.  That happens to me a lot - I'll get going on a bunch of books and only later realize they were all the same genre.  Go figure.

Anyhoo, here's what I read last month - have you read any of these?

Maisie Dobbs, by Jacqueline Winspear.  I've been wanting to read this book for a while, as several people I know really like it, and the series of Maisie Dobbs books.  I had an audiobook version, but gave up on it, since the particular recording I had wasn't broken into chapters - and since I usually listen during lunchtimes, it was hard to keep the story flowing.

The story takes place after World War I, and Maisie Dobbs, a former war nurse and woman who has worked her way up through humble beginnings, starts her own business, as a "psychologist and investigator," having been mentored by someone with an impeccable reputation.  Her first case is a man who thinks his wife is cheating on him, and the story turns out to be much more benign than that.  It leads Maisie into an investigation of a place called "The Retreat" which is a home for severely wounded WWI soldiers to live out their lives away from public viewing of their wounds/injuries.

Maisie is a really interesting person, with an interesting background and character.  Her backstory is as interesting as the current story, and the case she investigates.   The other characters are well-written and the story effective.

I cannot wait to read more books in this series!

Killer in High Heels, by Jemma Halliday.  This was a 99-cent download for the Nook.  I thought, what the heck, I'll try it, as I have been known to enjoy a light mystery on occasion.  Well, I didn't even finish it.  It's just stupid and annoying, and I even feel like it was a waste of 99 cents.

Live and learn.

Thereby Hangs a Tail, by Spencer Quinn.  This is the second installment of the Chet and Bernie series, and in this book, Bernie is hired by a Countess who has entered her dog in the Balmoral Dog Show, the most prestigious show in the dog show world.  The countess, Adelina, received an anonymous message in the mail, showing a picture of her dog, Princess, with an X over it.  Princess is a top show dog, and Adelina is worried that someone will try and hurt the dog  before the show gets underway.  Suspects abound, from a rival champion dog owner, to the trainer, and even the Count.  It's up to Chet (a loyal dog of indeterminate breed) and Bernie to set things straight.

I enjoyed the overall story, but one of the things that amuses me most about this series is Chet's narration.  He loves Bernie, but like any family member, recognizes his flaws.  But I also enjoy his sometimes stream-of-consciousness thoughts that go nowhere.  It's like talking to a person who keeps saying "Oh, remind me later to tell you about _____" but later never comes, and only afterwards do you realize you never heard any of the stories.

I also like that for the most part, these stories have levels of complication, and that Quinn manages to keep everything and everyone straight, so that you never feel like you are empty-handed by the time you get to the end.

I already have the third book downloaded onto my Nook, so it probably won't be long until I spend some more time with this intrepid detective duo.

The Forgotten Waltz,by Anne Enright.  I really wanted to like this book.  I had read her previous book "The Gathering" and thought it was pretty great.  But the main reason I finished this book was to get to the end, to see how a couple of the secondary characters fared.

The narrator, Gina is telling the tale of her affair with Sean Vallely.  Both are married, and he has a young daughter.  The story threads along and inserted are facts or small stories about their families, but mostly it is Gina talking about their affair.  The one thing I will say is that the book is written in a manner that is probably true for infatuated people - whatever they say, think, or do, is somehow related to the subject of their infatuation.

I know people have affairs; I don't live in a cave somewhere.  I just didn't enjoy reading this book, because it seemed that the entire reason it was written was to provide the reader with a sympathetic view of the narrator, and her life and how it was changed.  It seemed like one big excuse.  Gina didn't seem all that sorry that her marriage had ended, or that Sean's family was broken.  She just wanted to tell us how wonderful the affair was.  At a point when she decides to/tries to end it, I think we are supposed to feel sorry for her, but I just didn't.

The book is well-written, and there are some passages with absolutely wonderful, descriptive language.  The main characters were just not two people that seemed likable or worthy of any consideration, as far as I was concerned.

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman.  I've had this book for a few months, and decided that around Halloween would be a good time to read it.  I was intrigued after several people mentioned to me that they had liked it, including my husband who listened to an audio version read by the author.

As  a toddler, Nobody Owens' (nicknamed Bod) parents  and sister were viciously murdered.  He was spared when he wandered out of an open door, and made his way up the hill to the local graveyard.  There, the inhabitants took him under their wing, to protect him from the murderer.  The book tells the story of Bod, his life growing up in the graveyard, and eventually we learn why his family was killed.

I really, really liked this book.  The very beginning was gruesome but still drew me in to the story.  I found the story fascinating, and Gaiman does a wonderful job creating and introducing us to the cast of characters.  I particularly liked the insertion of epitaphs when first introducing someone, and I loved it when Bod would speak to one of the cemetery inhabitants according to the time period where they had lived and died.

Though it takes place in a graveyard for the most part, this book is not a sad story.  Bod's predicament and circumstances are tragic, but you get the feeling that he has a pretty great life.  It's creepy towards the end when the murderer returns to try and finally kill Bod, but written well enough to be readable without being scary (I am easily spooked by things).

This is a book that I am really happy that I had the chance to read.  If you haven't read it, I would definitely recommend that you give it a try.

A Catered Halloween, by Isis Crawford.  Anyone who knows me, knows that one of my favorite things to do is to read a book that is seasonally appropriate, particularly during the fall/winter holidays.  So when I saw that this book was available for my Nook Color, I decided to download it.  I'd read "A Catered Thanksgiving," and though it's not great literature, enjoyed it a lot, so I thought I'd try another of Isis Crawford's mysteries featuring Libby and Bernie Simmons.

In this installment, the sisters are asked to provide the food for a new attraction in town, a haunted house.  It's in a building that was formerly the Peabody School, a successful private school until a couple of students died mysteriously.  As the new owner is showing them through the haunted house prior to opening night, they discover the dismembered head of a well-known community member who had attended the school and was always suspected of one of the students' deaths.

This was fun to read at Halloween time - ghosts, sounds, twists and turns.  The conversations between the two sisters is always fun to read, and the story is told well-enough to make you want to see how it all ends.

My only problem with these books is that, because the sisters own a cafe called A Little Taste of Heaven, there is a lot of discussion and description of food - it makes me so hungry!  However, there are always a few recipes at the end, so if I just have to know what some of the dishes taste like, I can try them on my own.  This is not, however, much consolation when reading at 9:00 in the evening ...

As of October, I've read two more books than I did in 2010.  So now I can't wait to see what I have read by the end of the year.  For whatever reason, it always makes me happy to know I've stayed at a level or read more - and it's completely my own issue, 'cause it's not like I'm getting graded on it!

06 November 2011

Holiday Preparation Post #1 - Feta Salsa

Hello there! I managed to survive last week at work, and if I'm lucky, there won't be another one like that for a while - or if I'm really lucky, Ever.

As you can see from the title, I'm making good on my promise to post some things that might help you with the upcoming holidays.  Even if you don't have a hundred people join you for Thanksgiving, or throw elaborate parties during the holiday season, most of us do things beyond our normal routine.  (Yes, even here at Chez Ravell'd Sleave, we have been known to invite people to our house, or visit others.)

I don't know about you, but I like to try new recipes.  A few years back, we'd been invited to a Christmastime get-together, and it gave me the chance to try a recipe that I knew we would like, whether or not anyone else did.  It was a huge hit, and I've made it a few times since with similar results.  One of the best things about this recipe is that it's not just really yummy, but also very simple!

Feta Salsa
(Source:  Smitten Kitchen)

"Definitely consider this recipe as more of a guideline.  It works as is but is infinitely flexible should you want to use different herbs or add capers or skip something or other.  Also, if your store has more than one type of feta, I love trying all of them - some of our favorites are the Bulgarian and the French ones, but the everyday sturdy stuff works just fine, too."

Here are the ingredients that you will need:

1/2 pound feta cheese
2/3 cup sundried tomatoes in oil
1/2 cup of pitted Kalamata olives
2 tablespoons fresh dill
3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley
2 scallions
1/4 cup olive oil

Crumble the feta into a bowl.  Chop the tomatoes, olives, dill, and parsley, and thinly slice the scallions.  Add everything to the bowl with the feta.  Gently mix the ingredients and drizzle with the olive oil. 

I usually add grape tomatoes, sliced in half, since we usually have those, and once I added pine nuts, and they worked really well, too.  Needless to say, if you don't have/want fresh herbs, you can use dried (but the fresh do give it a better taste), particularly if you are putting it in the fridge for a while so that the flavors can blend.

In my opinion, this is particularly good on fresh French or Italian bread slices, but crackers work just as well.  (It's also good if you want to sample it by just scooping some onto a spoon.  Just saying.)

On top of which, it's quite festive-looking!  Here's a picture to tempt you:


02 November 2011

Coming Soon to a Blog Post Near You ...

You may recall that in my last post, I mentioned some things I was going to share with you that were related to the holidays.  Well, I just wanted to say that I am still planning to do that, but this week at work has turned out to be really crazy busy, so you may not hear from me again until the weekend.

And for anyone interested in any of the magazines listed in my last post, feel free to get in touch if you are interested.  I will definitely get back to you, just not right away.

In the meantime, here is a picture that will hopefully make it worth stopping by today.

"Well hello, ladies."

Editorial disclaimer: Jetsam did not mean to be discriminatory in the above statement to any gentlemen who might be enjoying the photo as well - he was just making a joke.