home for the holidays III [photo post]

One of Hanna's presents this year -- a gift from friend Diana -- was a Death Star tea ball (complete with attached tie fighter at the end of the chain!) ... 

... which goes delightfully in this Doctor Who tea mug -- though Hanna was concerned that the mixing of two such potent fandoms might cause the universe to end!

We've had a lot of breakfasts that look like this in the past week; there was something pleasing about the way everything was laid out in sets on this particular board, so I snapped a photo.

The cats have definitely been pleased to have us around as Big Soft Warm Things upon which to sleep; sometimes it can be difficult to get a book in edgewise so that we may make headway on the year's reading!

Or blogging ...

And of course, no matter how much reading and writing and tidying we do, there are always piles of books and periodicals left to consult when time and inclination allows.

It's a good thing we have lots of tea, coffee, and sweets to consume while we're being all intellectually (or at least texually!) inclined.

Welcome to the final day of 2012. It was rather a momentous year for us; I know for some of you as well, in varying mixes of positive-to-stressful (and at times positively stressful!). Let us hope for a creative and renewing 2013!


corey hill, after the snow [photo post]

We had a proper snowfall in Boston last night for the first time in a couple of years (!), and with temperatures predicted to remain in the twenties this coming week hopefully winter is here to stay ... at least into the New Year.

While Hanna was doing yoga this afternoon, I walked out (and up) Corey Hill. Corey Hill in Brookline is one of the neighborhoods the abuts our section of Allston, and one about which I have serious real estate envy.

I mean, the downside about Corey Hill is that, well, it's a hill. So living on it would be akin to living anywhere  in San Francisco: you'd get your cardio walking to and from work every day, no problem -- whether you wanted to or not. But the upside is that they have lots of brilliant little turn-of-the-twentieth-century houses, most of which are still in pretty decent repair, and many of which have been converted into multi-unit dwellings.

I've always had a thing for photographing flights of stairs, and the Corey Hill neighborhood definitely provides ample opportunity.

Even before I moved to Boston, I liked wandering around neighborhoods that weren't my own to engage in "what if..." imaginings about the life one would have living there, or the home-making possibilities of the houses therein.

(For example, what's with the pink door below the stair?)

At the summit of Corey Hill is a public park which lends itself to sledding (the man in the black coat was a supervising adult waiting for his sprongs to return from the latest run). In July, this is a favored spot for watching Boston's city fireworks.

In addition to adorable brick cottages, there's this imposing art deco structure near the summit park, and also a few truly outstanding Victorians (I assume vestiges of the original settlements).

One of the cool things about snow is the way it makes you see color in a whole new way. Like the greens and yellows behind the row of icicles on this recessed garage...

...and the turquoise on this second-floor balcony.

While I suppose the "house" below might be a little too tiny for us, I'd like to imagine that some day -- if we stay in Boston -- our little household of two humans and two cats might be able to afford a home of our own in a neighborhood not entirely unlike this one.


mutual christmas gift: a trip to the montague book mill [photos]

This year, Hanna and I decided that our joint gift for one another was going to be a trip to the Montague Book Mill in Montague, Massachusetts ("books you don't need in a place you can't find").

We set out this morning along MA-2, under snow-grey skies, and about two hours of NPR later arrived at the Mill. It was so lovely to have snow! As Hanna says: "A proper winter!"

We decided right away that this was definitely a bookstore we could fall in love with! All they needed was a woodstove and a bookstore cat or two (too bad they don't allow people to take up permanent residence...)

(I'm a sucker for exposed beams and wood flooring, what can I say?)

From the second floor, you could hear and see the rushing waters of Millers River outside.

The re-purposed riverside mill building is actually a complex of businesses, including not only the bookshop, but also a cafe, the Lady Killgrew, used record and CD store, and artists' showroom.

After browsing and selecting our book purchases* we got a delicious lunch at the Killgrew, consisting of peanut-ginger udon salad, a brie and marinated apple panini, maple milk (an "intrinsically delicious" food) and ginger cupcake.

(I seem to like taking photographs over Hanna's shoulder)

While we were eating, the snow began to fall in beautiful fluffy flakes over the river.

... and on our way back out to the parking area, we stopped at the artists' shop and bought these beautiful recycled wood inlaid star ornaments for our future Christmas tree. They're supposed to be "friendship" stars, but we figure they can be for a pair of wives just as well.

*Thanks to my grandparents Ross for the gift money that funded our book buying spree! For those interested, we bought:

Middletown: A Study in Modern American Culture by Robert S. Lynd and Helen Merrell Lynd (Harcourt, 1929).

Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation by Nancy F. Cott (Harvard U.P., 2000)

The Tassajara Recipe Book: Favorites of the Guest Season by Edward Espe Brown (Shambhala Press, 1985)

Albion's Fatal Tree: Crime and Society in Eighteenth-Century England by Douglas Hay et. al. (Pantheon, 1975)

The Unknown Mayhew by Eileen Yeo and E.P. Thompson (Schocken, 1971)

A Social History of Madness: The World Through the Eyes of the Insane by Roy Porter (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1987)

Perfecting the World: The Life and Times of Dr. Thomas Hodgkin, 1798-1866 by Amalie M. Kass and Edward H. Kass (Harcourt, 1988).


christmas in allston [thank you all!]

We started Christmas Day morning with the two packages we suspected from their shape were coffee mugs -- and we were right! Thank you, Brian and Renee. We were playing Scrabble just last night; now we have appropriately nerdy mugs for hot cocoa when we hold a rematch :)

The cats were initially disinterested in present-unwrapping (Teazle is even cleaning her toes!). But soon, both were in on the action. Gerry was particularly interested in helping Hanna upwrap presents from Janet and Mark:

And Teazle's new favorite toy (of this half hour) was a bow from Diana and Collin:

We put out the runner from Grandma Cook, made by master weavers in Sweden who serve the Swedish royal family!

I particularly enjoy the leaping pig!

We had to keep these little guys up high away from Teazle's explorations...

And I'll leave it there as we head out on this cloudy Boxing Day to the thinking cup for a few hours of reading and lattes. I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas Day and is looking forward to a relaxing as we head into the final days of 2012 and the dawn of 2013.


holiday cheer [random acts of kindness]

This morning, as we finished unwrapping our presents from far and wide (photos tomorrow!), little miss Teazle decided to expand on her exploration of our potted plants to use them as a platform from which to spring to the top of our television set.

the TV is to the left of these shelves
Our television set was inherited from friends and weighs a ton; for three years it's been sitting precariously on a pine shelf scavenged from the junk heap. Left to its own devices, it's safe enough but with a kitten scrambling about on top it was starting to sway noticeably. And after three successive scruffings and time-outs in the bathroom, after which Teazle simply returned to pick up where she'd left off, it was clear a solution was needed that would not result in our coming home after work one day to find a squashed cat, a shattered television screen, and a giant hole in the floor.

Yesterday, on our afternoon walk, we'd happened upon a lovely little cupboard out on side of the street for pick-up. We poked and prodded it and stood around discussing what to do with it -- but could think of nothing. So we decided to leave it for someone else to take away and walked on.

Suddenly, around 10:00 this morning, we really wished we'd snagged it.

So I said, "I'll go out for my walk and see if it's still there."

"You won't be able to carry it home alone!" Hanna said.

"Oh, I'll figure something out -- if it's still there," I said. I assumed it would be gone -- stuff usually doesn't last fifteen minutes in this neighborhood.

But lo, it was there! So I started hauling it the mile or so back, about half a block at a time, carrying it awkwardly braced against alternating hips.

It was going to take awhile.

Maybe, I thought, someone driving by will stop and offer me a lift, or someone walking in the same direction will offer to help.

I likely wouldn't have accepted an offer from an unknown driver -- but an extra pair of hands would have been nice.

About halfway home, I was starting to feel ominous twinges in my back and arms. But I didn't want to abandon the cupboard to go back and get Hanna for fear it would disappear before we could return. So I kept going, one leg at a time.

I passed by a woman taking a smoking break outside her house.

"What a great find!" She said, by way of greeting.

"Yes!" I agreed. "Now it's just a matter of getting it home!"

"Do you live far from here?" She asked, "Would a dolley help?"

"Actually ... yes," I said, "a dolley would be super helpful!" Usually I demur offers of assistance, but it seemed really stupid to do so in this instance. Particularly since she'd offered it without knowing me from Eve.

So with the help of the dolley, I got the rest of the way in under ten minutes. Hanna and I put together a bag of cookies for the kind stranger and I hauled the cart back again before we set up the television on its new, more stable, cabinet.

Not that this appears to have deterred Teazle from her kitty parkour one bit!

She's determined to get across to Hanna's home altar on the far left bookshelf ...

... and she has now figured out how to watch movies from a front-row perspective!


eating our way through the holidays [recipes]

One of the really nice things about an extended at-home vacation is that Hanna and I can eat on our own schedule, which for both of us is more along the brunch-at-ten-late-lunch-at-four-cocoa-before-bed than breakfast at seven, lunch at noon, and dinner at six.

Hanna's parents gave us Rose Elliot's New Complete Vegetarian for Christmas and we've made some lovely and simple recipes from it, like the oatcakes and most recently vegetarian toad-in-a-hole. Toad-in-a-Hole is basically a baked pancake with sausage in, and very simple to make! Elliot's version is as follows:

1. Heat oven to 450 Fahrenheit.

2. Brown vegetarian sausages (we used the Field Roast apple & sage, but any kind would work!) in 1/4 cup of oil (we used olive, but any nut or vegetable oil would work) in a cast iron skillet, remove from the pan and set aside. Leave the remaining oil in the pan for later use.

3. In a mixing bowl or blender, combine:

1 cup white flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
150ml milk
150ml water

Beat until smooth and put in a pitcher (I used a Pyrex measure) or leave in blender for easy pouring.

4. Put skillet with oil into heated oven and let warm until the oil is very hot and just starting to smoke.

5. Pull out the oven rack and pour the batter directly into the pre-heated skillet. Drop the sausages into the pan, distributed as evenly as possible, and close the oven door as quick as you can.

6. Bake for approximately 25 minutes (don't open the door to peek!). Check after 25 minutes and once the top of the pancake is golden brown remove from the oven and serve immediately.

It was just the sort of meal we needed prior to going out on a brisk walk yesterday afternoon to the Chestnut Hill Reservoir and back.

This morning, Christmas Eve, we're having coffee and cinnamon buns while listening to the MPBN broadcast of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King's College, Cambridge. The buns are inspired by our favorite recipe of Joy the Baker's, her sugar and spice yeast rolls. But this time I did make a few changes that Hanna and I agreed were

  • I substituted half whole wheat flour for the 2 1/2 cups white flour in the recipe
  • I swapped the amounts of cinnamon and cardamom in the dough, since Hanna and I love cardamom
  • Instead of the citrus zest I put in a tablespoon of cocoa powder
  • I also added two teaspoons of cocoa powder to the filling
  • And instead of butter I used coconut oil in both the dough and filling
In other news, we're forecast to have a couple of inches of snow overnight and into the morning hours of Christmas Day, so hopefully Hanna will have the white Christmas she's yearning for!

Merry Christmas, one and all!

Cross-posted at Lyn's Friends Feast.


home for the holidays II [photo post]

My family often complains I don't share enough pictures on this blog, the better for them to get a sense of how we live here in Boston. So I thought over the holidays I'd try to make up for lost time (with a little help from the cats).

This week, Christmas parcels arrived from Michigan, Kentucky, Texas, Oregon, and California with presents for the humans; Teazle and Gerry enjoyed the boxes.

We had to clear a top shelf of the bookcase off for presents, out of reach of curious kittens. We had so many gifts that some have spilled onto the lower shelves (and a few more have arrived since!).

On Friday, I left work early to pick up our December CSA farm share in the pouring rain. When I got home, we had to lay all the veggies out to dry before storage.

Teazle was, as usual, super helpful in the task of vegetable organization. She kept insisting turnips should be kept on the floor.

I seem to have taken a lot of pictures of Teazle in the last couple of days. Possibly because she is ever-present investigating our activities. Here she is watching Hanna prepare lunch from the vantage point of an empty box in our kitchen.

I thought the light coming in the kitchen window made this a rather lovely still life. We just re-potted the plant after Teazle had dug it up multiple times on the windowsill in the living room. It's been relocated to the kitcen for safe-keeping.

While we were crocheting this afternoon, we decided to let Teazle play with our stuffed mouse from IKEA, which she is convinced is a real threat to life and limb. She kills the zombie mouse repeatedly, and carries it around in her mouth growling, particularly when you try to pry it from her jaws.

Above, she's guarding it between her front paws ...

... here she is wrestling with it across the living room floor ... 

... carrying it off by it's (broken) neck ...

... killing it again ...

... and finally getting bored by the whole endeavor (although only momentarily; the mouse came back to life and had to be killed again moments after I snapped this one).

All this ruckus sometimes exhausts Gerry, even if all she's doing is watch!