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Archive for the ‘christmas cheer!’ Category

… attended my first cookie swap. And have successfully eaten more cookies in the past two days than I have over the past two years.

… played my first game of Cards Against Humanity. It was vulgar and I liked it.

… successfully dodged the bullet of having to dig my car out of twelve inches of snow. Apparently the garage down the street is free nights and weekends soooooo into the garage it went.

… made the most epic “cheesy” broccoli soup.

… cooked a “meaty” chili in the Crockpot, baked up a bunch of veggies with wild rice for lunches this week, devoured a hearty dish of homemade mushroom stroganoff, annnnnd finished a pan of buffalo chickpea dip with a spoon. Hey, we ran out of chips/pretzels/chex mix.

… watched the entire 15th season of The Biggest Loser. Can I just say these two things? Number one: where did the nutrition aspect of the show disappear to? It’s now just sponsor after sponsor of processed, unhealthy junk. Number two: the season finale is Tuesday and there are like ten people left- how is this going to happen in an hour?! And when by the way did it switch to 43 minutes? They spend so much time on the scale, I wish it was spent in the kitchen instead. End rant.

… also had the pleasure of watching Planes, Trains and Automobiles with the beau. I didn’t love it very much because it was a Thanksgiving film and I’m in the Christmas kind of mood. Sooooo the beau will now have to sit through Prancer; a favorite of mine.

… drank out of my new Santa mugs that my sister gave me. She’s the best. And speaking of her, she ran a half-marathon on Saturday (yes, in the snow and freezing cold) and PR’d by six minutes! Holy smokes! The crazy must be in our blood.

… got the sh*t scared out of me Saturday night. Story time: this is our first winter in the new apartment. Apparently we have a guy that shovels for us. Apparently he shovels your porch off at 1:30am (p.s… I’m on the third floor). Imagine waking up to the sound of someone on your back porch (that’s off your bedroom btw) that late. Thankfully it was pretty bright out because of the snowfall so I could easily figure it out fast enough and watch him climb back down the fire escape.

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One morning while walking back from brunch, we noticed how chilly it had become over the previous week. I then thought that I should put out extra feed for the birds to enjoy; I did after all have to winterize the porch. And then the idea of a vegan alternative to suet came to mind.

While understanding that most birds in the ‘hood are indeed omnivores, I’d prefer not to purchase any products made of animals and bring them into our living environment. I quickly turned to the Internet for a recipe and took to the kitchen early yesterday morning. It was the chilliest day yet!

Veggie “Suet” Blocks Makes four blocks

  • 2 cups of veggie shortening
  • just over a cup of bird seed
  • about half a cup of peanut butter (it’s all I had in the cupboard)

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Melt the veggie shortening over a low heat to prevent it from burning. Once completely melted, turn off the heat and stir in the peanut butter. Then stir in the seeds. Pour into a mold (I used an aluminum pan) and cool until solid- I put the pan out on the back porch and it only took about thirty minutes to harden. Cut and put into feeder; I had a leftover suet cage from last winter. Hang and watch the birds gobble it up!

Oh, and you can keep the leftovers in the freezer until the next time you need to refill.

This was a softer recipe and next time I think I’ll try adding a little chickpea flour to firm it up more- but it did hold it’s shape well. I love having birds around and jump out of bed in the morning when I hear them in the (glass) feeder. I’ve only seen one blue jay this year and he was gorgeous! Don’t get me wrong, the little chickadees are darling but I’d love to have mister blue come to visit again this winter. Here’s to lending a helping hand and enjoying every bit of nature, even while living in the city.

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simple Christmas.

chalkboard

fireplace

giving tree

kitty gift

mug

It’s almost embarrassing to admit that these are the only photographs that I have of the holiday in my apartment and at my parents’ place. But in my defense I can say that I wasn’t glued to my cell phone the entire day- just for about five minutes to wish some of my closest friends a Merry Christmas.

The beau and I drove up on Christmas Eve to spend the night at my parents; my sister and her boyfriend drove up later that night to join us. It was great waking up and rolling out of bed like we use to. As a family we decided to keep our holiday very simple, each of us received three gifts total. One gift from each family member. I can tell you this- I prefer it! Shopping was easy and there was no pressure. We bought items that we absolutely, positively knew that person wanted or needed, or surprised them with something we knew they’d love.

To follow along the lines of keeping things simple, the beau and I agreed on getting each other three gifts within a specific budget. A want, a need and a surprise. We only exchanged our want gifts in front of my family and then waited until the evening to open the rest- and I’m glad we did! It kept things low-key and I could really appreciate what was given to me, rather than be distracted by others in the room. I loved it and fell asleep with a smile on my face.

kitty waiting

This morning was easy not having to scramble to find room for all my gifts; everything already fits right in! I did venture out onto the fire escape to hang kitty’s bird feeder that Santa left him and now we’re both laying here patiently waiting. I’ve managed to give away all of my shifts this vacation despite needing the cash to have a real vacation from all work- completely forgetting about tonight’s random Wednesday shift that I never have. Hopefully someone will pick it up for me so that I can have dinner and open my stocking with the beau’s family.

And then be snowed in! I love a good, heavy snowfall and would be over the moon if I woke up with shoveling to attend to. Can you tell I’m loving my vacation? I’d shovel, come in to warm up and cook with my fresh veggies! Oh do I have a story to share about my vegetarian Christmas! I’d also write that while watching the snow fall. But for now, I’m off to the bank and the hair salon to chop off the length that I’ve managed to accumulate over the past year. ‘Tis the season!

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What the Troy Music Academy has to offer downtown Troy and your gift recipients this holiday season is one of a kind.

And it’s not just because of what they offer, it’s also because who’s offering the services. When I first met Lori Friday and Kenny Hohman a year ago, I thought it was too good to be true. You’ve probably met people along the way and think, “can they really be that nice, provide great services and be genuine while doing so?” These two really are all of the above. When they stop to chat with you, whether it be on the street or in shop, they both listen to you; which is what I think threw me off in the beginning because it can be hard to find people who listen to every word you share. They are great!

Now take that wonderful image and imagine learning to play that musical instrument you’ve always wanted to learn. Or being greeted by them when dropping off your son or daughter for their lesson. You name it and the Troy Music Academy has someone on staff to teach it. Guitar, bass, drums, piano, voice, ukulele, woodwinds, banjo, mandolin, and strings lessons are offered along with some group lessons that are switched up every couple of months. This past fall was beginner vocals and rock and funk drums; doesn’t that sound like a great evening out each week with your friend/lover?!

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I personally have never taken lessons at the Troy Music Academy but have thought about taking piano lessons… I just don’t have enough cash to buy a piano or rent a keyboard… but the day will come! The beau’s niece took the Kindermusik class with Casey and is just the cutest little thing tapping along to the songs she still remembers. These classes are great because not only does it introduce the kiddos to new music and sometimes little instruments, it gets them socializing with new kids and creates a sense of community- not only for the kids but the parents. Can you tell I attended Kindermusik classes with the kiddos when they were young? We all loved it!

What’s wonderful about it is that there is no commitment to fear; you can sign up for individual classes and if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. You aren’t forced to continue lessons or to buy a whole month’s worth- which is great for parents if the kids loose interest. But I doubt that would happen with these guys; they are very in tune with each person that walks in and realize that everyone learns at a different pace, sometimes in a different way. Each Troy Night Out the Academy gives the students the opportunity to show others what they’ve learned during a little show right there in the studio; let’s just say there are smiles all around!

You can learn about each instructor’s history and experience here (there’s a lot of credit to be given!) and I ask this: did you know that February 25th has been declared Super400 Day in Troy, NY??? Well, it is- because of this duo (and their drummer of course)! Stop in at 9 Third Street to see the studio and the lesson rooms or check out their website here. Their services would be a gift that keeps on giving and is a wonderful experience rather than an item that might be overlooked a month from now. You’re very welcome.

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Today is the 21st of December and I’m on the 9th day of Christmas in Troy… no big deal. I’m getting it done for all you last minute shoppers/planners/eater-outers. Yes, I said it, eater-outers.

outside ss

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Sweet Sue’s is semi new to the neighborhood (this past summer Sue opened up shop) but her treats aren’t new to the area. Sue has had and continues to sell at the weekly Farmer’s Market here in downtown Troy and it finally got to the point that she was just so darn busy! Something you’ll never hear a business owner complain about… So, she opened up shop down on Riverstreet near the bead shop and hair salon. Great choice. That end of Riverstreet has a lot more parking available for easy access to her shop and is growing with more shops (Some Girls Boutique just relocated at this end of the street).

cupcakes2

cupcakes

truffles!

candy apples

Back to Sweet Sue’s. This is the place to indulge. She’s got cupcakes. She’s got bark. She’s got cakes to order, cakes to go. She’s got truffles, candy apples, mini pies… and now has a soup of the day. I had no clue that she had a soup until I walked in to take a couple shots. Makes perfect sense: enjoy a warm bowl of soup in house on the comfy couch, indulge in a sweet after. Everything is made in house and sometimes you can stand there and watch treats come right out of the oven.

comfy space

kitchen

I have ordered and suggested this place to my coworkers on various occasions, and they’ve all loved it! Personally, not being a carrot cake fan, I like hers. And those truffles that I could die for over at the confectionary, well you guessed it, she makes them. Her packaged sweets would make the perfect stocking stuffers or hostess gift if you’re looking for something to bring along with that bottle of wine. Cannot forget the wine!

Hurry in to 203 Riverstreet to pick up your goods and while you’re at it, pick something up for yourself. You’re worth it.

 

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currently.

tree!

Watching: Sometimes, when the beau and I start a great season of something on Netflix (Sons of Anarchy for example), we “aren’t allowed” to go further without the other person; just out of common courtesy. Well, I have a hard time not doing that. So instead, I’ll start watching a really lame series that has a million episodes so that I’m never tempted to watch the other. Recently, that has been Say Yes to the Dress. I don’t know what I’ve gotten sucked in? I mean, it’s the same thing over and over and over again and yet I can’t click away. Other than that, we haven’t been watching much of anything; both of us being extremely busy this time of the year. I’d love to watch some classics: Rudolph, Frosty, ELF!, Love Actually… and it came about yesterday while on the subway that the beau has never seen Ghost… this Redbox will be my go-to this vacation.

Thinking about: Well, this one is conflicting. I’m thinking about all that needs to be done for the holiday (ie shopping) and then last Friday’s happenings, well, happened. And although I don’t have a television to watch the updates as they are happening, I have been flooded by information on social media sites. And I think it’s a little much. Yes, what happened was HORRIBLE. Yes, I think changes need to be made (not getting into any politics here people) but I also think that the way the media deals with situations such as this needs to also change. I am not a mother. I can not even imagine what it feels like to lose a child. But I was a nanny. I am a sister. I am a daughter. I work in education. We all have family and have lost someone that we love. To be bombarded by this constant coverage must be overwhelming. I will be lighting a candle tomorrow between 3-8pm to honor the life of Dawn L. Hochsprung, who was a doctoral candidate in Sage’s Educational Leadership program and the Sandy Hook Elementary School principal. We are all connected, somehow, and I think it’s important to stop for a moment and honor, thank and appreciate every single person that surrounds our daily lives.

Listening to: Christmas on Pandora! I’ve got some cleaning, organizing and decorating to do around this apartment and just a lot of errands and will be tuning in the holidays as much as possible. The beau and I have started this little ritual of having a mini 90’s dance party as we get ready in the morning (sorry neighbors). Me being on vacation has kind of halted this. I miss it and will be making an effort to get up at a decent hour to make this happen.

Excited about: Having the time to catch-up on life. I’ve never been so excited to do my laundry, cook!, write, and shop with one week left before Christmas. I’m going to head out early and get it all done in one day. It’s simple this year with my family; we are only buying 1 gift for each other. That means, with only four people in my family, I will receive three gifts. Not huge, expensive gifts. Three gifts that we really want or need in our lives… and I couldn’t be more excited. I’m truly appreciating the smaller things in life and experiences, rather than the number of “things” in my apartment. It should be a simple and easy day… once I figure out what I’m getting everyone.

Reading: Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl. Ruth was the food critic for the New York Times (I think for a decade) and tells her stories behind some of her favorite, and famous, reviews. I’m about half way through and love it. For every restaurant that she writes about, she chooses a new disguise so that they can’t recognize her and give her better treatment/food. It’s a fun read and with just having been in the city yesterday, it was almost as if I got to be a part of the book and what she describes…if that makes any sense at all?

It was a wonderful day in the city with the beau and we walked for miles! Just soaking it all in, eating some delicious vegan meals, and being tourists while visiting the tree and other must-see landmarks this time of the year. The city also reminds me of how much I love Troy/the capital district… I am not made for the hustle and bustle!

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Christmas memories.

Last Sunday while at work (the yogurt shop), I had the Christmas music channel on; blasting actually. It was a fairly slow day and when the shop was empty, I was singing at the top of my lungs. And then, one song came on and it almost brought me to tears. Brenda Lee’s Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.

Picture this: young me (with a short bowl cut hair-do), bopping around, Christmas decorations in hand. My sister and I both having a sugar high after consuming at least one serving of hot chocolate, in our matching Santa shaped mugs. My mom would let us decorate the tree and our home, just the way we wanted, while this record played in the background. I loved with all my heart the night my mom would let us stay up late to decorate. She’d also let us choose one string of lights to hang in our bedrooms, but only for the month of December… not a single day later. I never understood why until the following year came and I’d be just as excited.

Fast forward to now: this is the first year that as a family we haven’t picked out our tree together and decorated it. And I must admit, that a little piece of me is missing this holiday season. The beau and I have opted out of having a tree in our apartment, another first for me. We’re both broke and don’t want to put it up now if it’s just going to come down in a couple of  days. Instead, we are going to hang a couple of ornaments on the giving tree and light that up each evening as we would a tree.

It’s funny what memories a song could bring back to life, especially during the holidays. I believed, and far longer than most children and I have my mom to thank. I don’t look back and question why she lied to me during those years of having a wild imagination, I think ahead and how I can’t wait to one day do the same for my child. Those memories are what I love looking back on now that the excitement of having all those gifts under the tree has subsided.

Tomorrow the beau and I are making a trip down to NYC to see the all that the city has to offer this time of the year. This is something I’ve never done before and actually have begged to do in the past. When the beau suggested it months ago out of the blue, I almost cried right then and there for being so happy that we’re both valuing experiences over things. We’re beginning to make our own memories this holiday season.

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