Saving Winter

As the calendar turned to February, Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy issued a “challenge” to share what is saving us this winter – big or small things that are helping to pull us through what can be a dark season in many ways for some.

Snow returns...
Snow returns…

Knock on the wood of my end table as I type this, winter really hasn’t been too bad this year. Yes, there was “that one” weekend of the blizzard and about 24″ of snow. And another bit of snow is doing it’s thing today and into tomorrow. Compared to some recent winters, I don’t feel I’m in as dire straights of needing spring to emerge; however, at this point in winter it makes sense to take a couple of moments to reflect on what are the things “saving” me this winter. Beyond my staples (coffee & tea in pottery mugs, candles, the fireplace) and January currents, these are a few of my winter lifesavers.

A cozy new addition to the bedside
A cozy new addition to the bedside

A new bedside rug – Mom knit this heart from the softest cushion of yarn. Stepping on it as I get in & out of bed each day is a wonderful bit of love from home.

Ahava Mineral Hand Cream – this is a “spark joy” item for us all – over the summer, Rebecca & Mom & I agreed that this was our favorite hand lotion & that we wouldn’t buy cheaper lotions anymore that left us dissatisfied. There is a bit of magic as a dab of this thick and rich lotion is absorbed into your hands – they really do feel better right away. Yes, it’s more expensive than most hand lotions; however, the 20% coupons from Ulta are frequently used to add to the stash.

Coloring fun
Coloring fun

Time spent coloring – As I previously mentioned, coloring books and fine tips Sharpies from under the Christmas tree are being put to use. The bright colors of my pictures definitely provide a pop of cheer. I keep these right by my chair in the living room and find I’m often reaching for them while watching TV.

A gorgeous sunset descending into Philly after a great family getaway!
A gorgeous sunset descending into Philly after a great family getaway!

Winter travel plans – Even as the calendar turned to 2016, I already had 3 fun trips on the calendar for February and March. Florida with the family to start February. Ending February with the WI family. A long overdue trip to see my Texas girlies in early March. No matter the weather at the locations, these trips are sunshine on the calendar pages.

As the days continue to lengthen and winter continues to march on, what are the items that are saving the your life? 


Currently…January 2016

Ah JANUARY…the month of…new calendars and new possibilities…days getting longer bit by bit…the mix of warmer than normal days and colder than normal days…a weekend with an epic snowstorm/blizzard…lots of sunny days…in the midst of it all, these are the things that filled my January days…

Simple Mantel

Reading…several books beyond my QuickLit roundup…a fascinating book about books for soldiers in WWII…a sweet read of a women reclaiming her life through her passion for baking…a fun Holmesian “origin” story about Sherlock’s brother, Mycroft…ensuring that each day ends with a bit of reading before turning out the light…

Watching…the return of Downton Abbey…the Sherlock Holmes New Year’s Day special was great…time spent on the Amazon Prime stream included Mozart in the Jungle and the Johnny Worricker trilogy… series…enjoying the return of Agent Carter…impressed with Mercy Street…

New dishcloths for new dish soap...
New dishcloths for new dish soap…

Crafting…the Christmas gift re-knit is off the needles & blocked – to be hand delivered to Dad next weekend…if it’s January, it means that simple dishcloth knitting is happening…contemplating returning to my Scoreboard KAL cowl…

Listening…enjoying the Rend Collective on heavy rotation…

Browsing…starting to share my web finds in another series

A fave store finally comes to PA!
A fave store finally comes to PA!

Shopping…braving the crowds on the grand opening weekend to check out the new Cost Plus World Market that opened “up the road” from me – I couldn’t believe that there were none in PA when I moved here…the store was so crowded that I didn’t get to explore everything & I got in line for the checkout at the back of the store…but I’m very happy to have this store once again…

More fun in the kitchen...
More fun in the kitchen…

Cooking…lots! Menu planning was very helpful in ensuring plenty of tasty & healthy meals were coming from my kitchen and very little food waste was happening…other tasty dishes this month included Butter Chicken over Cauli-Rice…Spaghetti Squash Pizza Casserole…Cowboy Grub from the THM cookbook…creating a quick Mexican Hot Chocolate Mousse…

A fave new iced tea
A fave new iced tea

Sipping…plenty of hot coffee on cold days…the Door County blueberry infusion “tea” in my Libre tea tumbler everyday at work…this Black Cherry Berry Zinger with a touch of sweet & poured over ice tastes like the best of cherry kool-aid…

Coloring book fun to end an intense week!
Coloring book fun to end an intense week!

Coloring…coloring books and a big pack of fine tip Sharpies that were under the Christmas tree are being put to use…

Blogging…this month marks the 10th anniversary since I started blogging here – so much is being written about how the blogging landscape has shifted in that time…I blogged more this month that I have in a while and I’m enjoying it – even if it’s not widely read…in true Amy Artisan fashion, the month was an eclectic mix

Looking Ahead…the shortest month is filling up…travel is booked for a long weekend in Florida with the family…for a long weekend in Wisconsin…and March fun travel plans are also taking shape…

Linking up with Leigh‘s monthly What I’m Into round-up. What are you into these days?  

Click and Read v02

Continuing my new “series” of sharing links and other spots of interest from around the web…this could be called the blizzard edition as many of these clicks were explored as the snow piled up…

A fun bookworm forecast for the snowy weekend...
A fun bookworm forecast for the snowy weekend…

A pre-blizzard reminder of the Danish concept of hygge – roughly translated as “that cozy feeling.” This was a goal when I hunkered down and enjoyed the excuse for a snow day.

A blizzard prayer from a friend’s wife in DC.

The case for doing nothing when a blizzard descends.

How can you not smile at the sight of the National Zoo pandas in the snow?

A bit of background on the Tasty videos that are inundating our Facebook timelines. The real question is how many people make these recipes? (And at what level of success?)

A good “3 basics points” about the THM plan that I’m undertaking.

Tissue alert – this sportswriter’s story of how his family handled the still birth of a baby near Christmas and the community of faith that carried them through it will bring out the emotions in you. What an amazing testimony! (And the video of “It Is Well” embedded in the article is worth the watch, too.)

A great story about Speech from Arrested Development & his journey from “Tennessee” to the arts school that he runs in the ‘Ville. (Fun side note: when I was doing some temp work during a college break, I had a gig at his production company office cataloging fan mail.)

What links & likes have you perused on the interwebs recently?

Hunkered Down

Just a week ago, the local meteorologists started to mention that a weekend storm might be on the horizon with the potential to be big. As the week progressed, it became evident that we were going to be in for a definite snow storm of substance. News outlets and municipal officials began to warn everyone to be prepared…grocery stores were busy & shelves were emptying – both for the french toast trifecta (bread, milk, eggs) & other things (when I picked up a few needed items on Thursday, my grocery store had experienced a run on ground beef & ground turkey). Winter storm watches were posted…then upgraded to warnings…then converted to blizzard watches…then converted to blizzard warnings. Roads were brined. On Friday the forecast indicated that the snow would arrive earlier in the evening than originally thought and collectively the area came home from school and work and prepared to hunker down and wait out this storm.

As the week progressed, I was looking forward to the snow day. I checked my ready kit (really must finish up the draft I have on that)…on Wednesday evening I made a broad menu plan for the week & a small list of groceries to pick up on Thursday…I made sure the car had a full tank of gas (even with no plans to drive during the storm)…I charged my Kindle full for hours and hours of reading…and I declared that Saturday would be a fun snow day – housework could wait till Sunday.

Manny the patio manatee, early in the storm...
Manny the patio manatee, early in the storm…quickly he wasn’t helpful in charting the snow progress

Friday evening, the snow started to fall. As I went to bed, I wondered what the views would be when I awoke in the morning.

Saturday morning, I was awakened early (5:30!) by the sound of the maintenance crew plowing – a little after 6:00 I got out of bed and started my snow day. The french press was “fired up” and tasty coffee filled a favorite mug. The fireplace was turned on. The blinds were opened on the patio doors. I snapped a few pictures to chart storm progress and settled in for the day.

Morning View
Morning Views – patio door – front courtyard – couch

I had plenty of books (in paper and on Kindle) and started to read. I kept the local news coverage on TV, mostly on mute. Some favorite tunes rotated through my wireless speaker. Several crafting options sat untouched as I just read. Every so often, I’d look out the patio door and the front door and capture continued snow progress. At lunchtime, I heated up some soup. Mid afternoon, the snow definitely increased a bit & the local weather was showing my area fully in a band of snow that was “stuck” & bringing lots of snow each hour. More pictures were captured.

I had a bit of cooking planned for the snow day. For supper, I tried out a new to me pizza crust recipe from THM and made a tasty thin crust pizza with herbed tomato sauce, spinach, turkey pepperoni, baby bellas & 4 cheese blend. I think the suggested parchment paper would have made the crust crispier – but it was a good meal that I will make again.

Snow Day Cake

As a sweet treat for the week ahead (& since I had zucchini that needed to be used up) I decided to make the Chocolate Zucchini Cake from the THM cookbook. I added a bit of cinnamon to the cake batter & cobbled together a Mocha Cream Cheese Frosting inspired by a couple of THM recipes.

Evening entertainment included “finally” watching something from my DVR and FaceTime with the WI family (including a tour of the snow). The chocolate cake was a tasty way to end the evening. As the evening wound down and I headed to bed, the snow was tapering off and moving away.

Evening views - patio door - front courtyard - couch
Evening views – patio door – front courtyard – couch

Sunday dawned bright and dry. The sky was brilliant blue. The sun was blinding. The powdery snow sparkled like diamonds. Mid morning I bundled up to head outside & see what I needed to do to clear around my car – thankfully the maintenance crew was moving the snow from behind the cars in the carport as well as helping dig out other cars. The sidewalks were plowed and salted so I walked around a bit.

Sunday scenes
Sunday scenes

After my low key Saturday, Sunday was filled with some housework and some food prep for the week ahead. By the time the sun set in the late afternoon, the snow on the patio had diminished a bit.

This morning, all schools in the area were closed and the roads were cleared and deserted on the short drive to work. I was definitely in the minority of folks in the office today. Throughout today, the maintenance crew has continued to deal with the snow piles here – currently I hear the “beep…beep…beep” of the bobcats and front loaders scooping up snow and moving it to lawn areas.

In all my years of living in snow zones, this was the largest single event snowfall that I’ve been in and I was so thankful that I was able to enjoy it from behind the patio door and in front of the fireplace.

If you were in the path of this storm, what did your “hunker down” weekend look like? What are your favorite things about a snow day?

What’s the Plan?

As I completed previous rounds of the Whole30, one of the things that made it successful was weekly meal planning. Knowing specific meals and plans for the week ensured that “Oh, I’ll pick up something or order in” wasn’t on the radar when it came time for dinner. As 2015 was drawing to a close and I was starting to think of my one word for 2016 and things I wanted to accomplish in the new year, I made the mental note to incorporate meal planning into my routine.

Writing out the meal plan for the week ahead...
Writing out the meal plan for the week ahead…

On Christmas morning, as we opened our stockings before breakfast I was thrilled to see a fun “weekly sticky notepad” included in the goodies. Then & there I decided that notepad would become my weekly meal plan.

As the new year started, Rebecca partnered with me to plan the weeks using the Trim Healthy Mama (aka THM) plan. (Side bar…I think the program/method name is horrible & I cringe when I say it) As we figured out the first week, the first note was populated and then posted on the glass door of my china cabinet in the kitchen for easy access.

A few of the tasty results of my meal planning, so far...
A few of the tasty results of my meal planning, so far…

Among the tasty things on the menu plans so far this month:

Roasted Green Beans – A quick “invention” early in the month. Fresh green beans are tossed with olive oil, salt & pepper & then roasted at 425 for about 10 minutes. A sprinkling of Parmesan cheese is optional. These are cooked and yet still crisp – so they are great for eating with my fingers (a la french fries). Homemade garlic basil aioli is a great sauce with them. Leftovers (if there are any) are great chopped & added to a salad.

A tasty and satisfying Shepherd’s Pie with mashed cauliflower to top it. Excellent to pack for lunch.

Egg Cups – A great reason to use my fun new muffin cups – I put some crumbled bacon & shredded cheese in the bottom of each before filling with well beaten eggs. A quick 20 minute bake and I’ve got breakfast for the week.

A pretty simple and oh so tasty sweet treat this week is a batch of Black Raspberry Cheese Danishes using this recipe.

From the THM Cookbook, all sorts of fun discoveries so far: Egg Roll in a Bowl, Chicken Jalapeno Popper Soup, Chia Pudding and assorted smoothies and sippers.

As I look at the blank sheets of this simple notepad, I look forward to seeing what fun recipe discoveries will be in the my plans.

What is your meal plan approach? What kitchen goals do you have for this new year?