Martha Thinks

Monday, December 24, 2012

Simple Cheer

Christmas is hard, it feels like a chore sometimes.  The opposite of the way it should feel.  It's so focused on the 48 hours between December 24-25 and the gathering and baking and shopping and waiting and's always a goal for me to try and slow it down. 

I felt that it didn't happen this year, that I just got caught up with work and stuff and didn't spend much time in church and just whoosh was missing the holiday spirit!  Sometimes my camera has to remind me that this is not true.  I had a casual cookie night with my friends Jenny and Pam.

Jenny is not a baker but this night she learned how to make mint swirl cookies.
Definitely some holiday spirit there.

And we got the tree a little later than usual, December 22nd, but that's ok, right?  It's here!
And the brothers worked on it together.

And to make room for the tree, the kitchen table got moved perpendicular to the kitchen island making for tight quarters but in fact, I must recognize how handy it is as a gift wrapping station!  And seeing my 11 year old's wobbly wrapped gift and seeing him try to peel the sticky off the bow...fills my heart right up.

And finally and most precious are these bears.  I found a terrific deal on cyber-Monday on Build-a-Bear's.  I bought a bunch of them for Toys-for-Tots.  Then I went to the terrific site and found a woman who handknits bear England.  They arrived today, Christmas Eve.  She apologized for the delay, coffee was spilled on some sweaters and she would rush to replace them with the promise that the rest of the sweaters would be shipped quickly.  In another lesson to have patience and accept what you cannot change, they did not arrive in time for Toys-for-Tots giveaway this year. 

However, it has inspired me to not just focus on the 48 hours in December, but to give these bears out to those in need all year long and to try and keep Christmas in my heart...even in June.
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Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Magic of Slipcovers

I slipcover everything.  Or rather I hire this wonderful, artistic man to do it for me.  He is a wonder with fabric.  I think once I got the hang of 3 sons and the mess and the spills and knowing that I wanted a more casual house both in temperment (yes, you can eat on the couch) and in style - I realized being able to wash "the couch" was more fiscally conservative than replacing it all the time!

Not saying that I have not paid as much for fabric as a new piece of furniture would cost.  But the truth is I rarely buy a new piece of furniture.  I am a craigslister.  There, I said it.  I get the items for nearly free or a  fraction of what they would cost.  I am very picky and this is the only "fabric" item I have purchased because I know there are plenty of warnings about yucky bugs, etc.  But this came from a very clean home and then I had it cleaned.  I could not have even purchased the ottoman for what I paid for the set.

Then I took myself to Zimmans Fabric in Lynn and tried to keep it together mentally...
(if you have ever been to Zimmans, you know what I mean.  More enticing, beautiful, printed, embroidered, silk, linen, velvet and cotton fabric than you can wrap your brain around)
 staring at my notebook and getting help from the wonderful Tatiana who directed me to the solid gray linens.  I found this pretty blue/gray patterned fabric for the top of the ottoman and the pillows.  That is the other thing about slipcovers.  You are your own designer and you can get exactly what you want.

This rattan chair - eh - doesn't really "go" with the rest of the room, perhaps, but it has lots of sentimental value and I paid LOTS of money for it 10 years ago.  (w-a-y more than what it's sitting next to!)  I had the space in my luxurious new bedroom and we had enough fabric, so those cushions (formerly blue and white) were also slipcovered.  A little pillow, a little throw, a little wine, a little snow, a good movie.
See you in March.
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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Holidays Windows

Take that out Macy's...I have seen lovely windows that just might compete with yours.   Newburyport has two official shopping nights, last week on December 7th and this week on December 14th. 

All of the shops had fun things to eat and drink.

The weather was drizzly but that did not stop the crowd.  Some of my favorite stores were so crowded that it was elbow to elbow!  Good for vendors.

Whether by nudging from the Chamber of Commerce or a healthy spirit of competition, one window outdid the next.  They were all so layered that it was a treat to take a minute and check out each one.

Red and white, classic Christmas.

Perhaps the most favored store on State St. by me and all I know.  Flukes and Finds.  Fun treasures and furniture, vintage and repurposed, I don't think I have ever walked out of there with nothing in hand.

A pink tree glows through the Flukes & Finds window.  Now I want a pink tree.

And a beautifully decorated clocktower stands magestic always but glows especially bright this Christmas.
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Monday, December 3, 2012

Paper Bag Method

Did you ever try this?  So simple I wish I had known it would work years ago.  I just put about 1/2 cup of (unpopped) popcorn in a bowl with 1/2 teaspoon of oil and some sea salt.  Give it a swirl and dump into a brown paper lunchbag.  Fold the top over a couple of times.  The tricky part is to know exactly when to take it out and that will vary according to your microwave.  Best bet is not to wait until the popping is over.

By the know on that Bravo show "The Actor's Studio" when at the end the question is asked "which sound or noise do you like the most?"  I always think of popcorn popping.  Just love it.. 
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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

How YOU Doin' ?

It's underway, isn't it?  The tsunami of Christmas.  I think it's good that even if you are not in the mood right away there is enough energy generated by stores, commercials, the annual high school band holiday concert to carry you along until you click in.  And I'll just say it...I am deeply comforted by the Hallmark Channel.  I don't care that you can tell that "New York" is really Toronto or that the snow is sometimes on top of late summer green bushes rather than the more stick-like bushes of New England in December.  Or that there are only a couple of stories...widowers who swear off Christmas until they find that special one, or modern day versions of Scrooge where people find the true worth of their life.  I love them all.  

So on this chilly day I am stretching and preparing and getting my baking rhythm going.  Before jumping in to the Better Homes and Gardens "Cookies for Christmas" annual favorites like Amaretto Apricot Chews, Scandanavian Almond Bars or the most requested Cappuccino Flats....I started off with the simple chocolate chip.  Nothing to be ashamed of.  A little basic, but gotta get in the grove.  

The gifting bags are starting to pile up, giving me a sense of security that I'll be pretty much done with shopping early this year.  And I wish the same for you.
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Friday, November 16, 2012

The Irony of Life

Not lost on me...while we are washing sheets and woodwork getting ready for the Thankgiving arrival of the college princes, Brady and Carter, to come home after 4 months...we are realizing that some things must go. 

The bookcase, painted for Ronan's nursery 11 years ago, in a baby yellow is no longer needed for space or color.  But turning it around bang! zap! like an arrow to the heart! an inscription from Ronan's brothers then 6 and 7 years old to their not-yet-born brother.  These are the trials of life!  Forget mortgages and heating bills.  This is the stuff that when it's time to get rid of...feels like you are ripping your heart out.  Right now my brother is taking it to put his tools in.  Gives me a little comfort to know it's staying in the family. 

and what about the Garnet Hill dinosaur sheets that seemed wildly overpriced?  What about them is they are the finest sheets I've ever owned and have been on beds for 10 years.  What am I supposed to do with them?  I am whining, I know.  It's one of the things about motherhood that isn't so great.  It's one of the things about therapy that is ; )   Teaching you how to let go.  Whoosh it is the hardest concept I have ever had to learn.
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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

don't know nothin' about - One Direction!

Although I do have a child in this age group, he's a boy, and therefore runs from anything that girls like.  And from what I understand, girls REALLY like this band, One Direction, and when I asked my son about them all I heard was "oh, Mom,!"

So this morning on the Today show I could sit back and look at the scene rather objectively.  They said people (well, girls and their parents, let's be honest) had been camped out for days, even in the rain.  They said it was the biggest crowd for any concert they've ever had.  All of those hopeful, sweet pre-teen faces in the crowd just hoping to catch the eye of the cute boys on stage and imagining going on tour with them and buying a lovely English manor and raising springer spaniels...
oh SNAP, that is my daydream (with Phil "how can I just let you walk away" Collins) .

And yes, the boys are totally cute.  They all have pretty faces and look sharp in their blazers and white tennies.  Being British makes them exotic to the young girls, I am sure.  But I just have to give major props to the loving parents who decided to commit to an effort so monumental that I am sure the story of what it took to get there, how long they had to wait, where they stayed and how the concert was will be told at Thanksgiving dinners for years to come. 
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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Saturday Morning Idyll

Does it fit into my schedule?  Not really.  Would more get done around the house if I didn't take the class?  Probably.  Does it make me very happy and therefore worthwhile?  Yes!  I am winding down an 8 week watercolor class at the Newburyport Art Association every Saturday morning.  The teacher is wonderful, the class is small and not to be too cliche about it...but it really is a delight!

This village by the sea is my favorite place.  We used to live closer and I'd be here two or three times a week just breathing in the salty air.  Nothing like it.

My class is another two blocks on the left heading towards Plum Island.

The Art Association is here and the classes are taken right in the gallery, surrounded by old, lovely brick walls and rotating art exhibits.  If you can't get inspired here, hang up ye olde paintbrush!

The old iron gates guard the most beautiful Unitarian Church. 
As many times as I've walked these streets I always think of those that came before.

If you were, say, a private investigator trying to track me down, I might as well have lime green paint on the bottom of my shoes because from class I head directly here to Greta's Great Grains.

All items made there, smell is out of this world, fresh coffee and truly, honestly, really, no-lie, the most delicate, fluffy and perfect almond croissant I've ever had.

Heading out of town on Scotland Road, I always stop at Colby Farmstand for organic chocolate milk, fresh eggs and cinnamon bread from a local bakery. 

It's the country life for me.

Oh yes, and the artwork.  Ha ha.  Appears to be almost an afterthought!  Not really, though I am truly as inspired by the town and the bricks and the water as I am by my wonderful teacher, Beverly Mitchell.
It is of no use to paint watercolor on cheap paper she has taught me.  Yet, I forgot my "good" stuff at home.  Although my classmates offered some of theirs,  I didn't want to take from their stash (a pad of good Arches brand paper can cost $40.00) so I set out to cut up my so-so paper and make pretty holiday tags out of them. 

I finished this up last week.  The photo on the left is a tear sheet from a decorating magazine and my watercolor likeness is on the right.  Oh yes, it took me hours and hours.  Not as simple as it looks, but wouldn't trade one of those hours away.  Dirty laundry will wait.  Now what shall I paint next week?  Hmm.
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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Can We Paint Donuts?

I have heard this for weeks!  Ok, I said.  Today, we paint donuts! and cakes! and cupcakes!

Maybe because they were eager to get to work, but it was also the "quietest" class so far.  Heads down, right to work with their pencils creating their sweet painted drawings. 

This student had originally just had her cake plain pink with a white background.  I encouraged her to fill the page with color and so she certainly did!

This student is a natural artist who needed no direction with her addition of fun sprinkles, cherry and strawberry on her cupcake.

I think this was their favorite class so far.

My wonderful assistant, Kasey.  She is calm, cool and collected and I could not teach without her. 
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