Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Pink Farewell to January

looking around my home today i was struck by little pink details.
anenomes. tulips. flowered pillowcases. a heart hanging on the bedpost that plays a lullaby when you pull the string.
i was given that pink heart as a gift when I was pregnant with our angel baby.
i was supposed to hold it to my belly so our baby could hear the sweet melody.
our baby is gone, but that pink heart remains.
pink like rosy baby cheeks.
pink like the soft spotted belly and raspberry paws of a puppy.
like the blushing dawn of a new morning.
and i knew...i am ready for new beginnings.
goodbye january!
i loved the new friends i found in january.
i loved baking up batches of chocolate comfort.
i loved long hours working on photographs, learning a new art.
but you were cold, january.
i am ready now.
ready for a pink february.
so glad you are all joining me.

xoxo country girl

Saturday, January 30, 2010

about them milk bottles...

quite a few of you mentioned loving the idea of 'brown glass bottles of organic milk wrapped in newspaper waiting at my door every thursday' when it was mentioned in my 'simple things' list.
one of you even remarked: "where do you live?!"
i had to smile a that one.
every thursday, there are two green crates waiting at my door.
one holds six bottles of raw organic milk, fresh from the udder some might say.

as soon as i bring that milk inside i open a bottle and pour a glass.
the first glass always has a bit of thick cream and foam on top.
how does it taste?
like pure delicous liquid health.

in the second crate there are fresh organic fruits and vegetables.
and every sixth week a big bottle of eco-friendly dishsoap.
it's always fun to see what they've brought me.
this thursday there was a rosy mango. score.
no, it wasn't grown in austria.
but it was grown organically. and i think once in a while a treat from far away is ok.
i know the taste of mango in the heart of winter gives me a little ray of sunshine.

there are services like this available all around the world, just go online and check it out.
hopefully you will find a local farm or two who offer delivery service to your area.
i would put 'weekly organic delivery' and the name of your area in the search engine and see what comes up. my girlfriend who lives in brooklyn ny told me about this, so if you live in the city there's still hope!

last fall the farm which grows my food held a harvest fair.
it was so great to see where my vegetables and fruits come from.
there were apple trees everywhere and chickens running free.
long rows of tented gardens, tomato plants with red and golden jewels hanging in clusters.
pink and green chard; lettuce heads with their green ruffles; bright orange pumpkins piled high.
the smell of good soil and hay.

do yourself a big favor and find out if you can get local organic goods delivered to your home.
it's such an enrichment.
it introduced me to things like fennel bulbs and sweet parsnips; celeriac and turnips.

look at that, january is almost over!
it's amazing how this community makes every season beautiful with loving comments and brilliant photography; handmade finds and inspiring ideas.
i know february will be GREAT with all of you here with me.

xoxo country girl

Friday, January 29, 2010

my thoughts on the 'good' old days

There is a blog I have been following for some time now; I like the way the blogger decorates for the different seasons and find her house to be very beautiful. But since reading her latest post, my head has been a whirlwind. Something wasn't sitting right with me, and I was turning her words around and around in my head, trying to figure out why.

Let me explain: in her latest post she described being sick in bed and turning on the television. She described being horrified with what was on tv, and went on to say that she wishes things would go back to the way they were, back to the 'good old days;' she went on to list the things that were so much better back then, such as 'being proper.' And while I understood what she meant, every fiber of my being felt like what she was saying was wrong.

Here's why: The 'good old days' were only good for some people. 

You all know that I am a homemaker; my husband works, I stay home and clean, cook, take care of the bills, buy flowers, walk the dog, paint, and write. I love old-fashioned things, vintage finds, old movies, old photographs, old books, old stories...I love baking and crafting, and before my husband comes home I apply mascara and spritz on some perfume. By any accounts, I'm an 'old-fashioned gal.'

But let me tell you something: I live this way because it's my choice. And I appreciate knowing that if I chose to live differently, I could.

I happened to fall in love with a white man. But I appreciate knowing I could just have easily have fallen in love with a woman of a different race, and could still live a happy, prosperous life without being an outcast. 

I appreciate that I can vote; that I could have bi-racial children without worrying about them not being accepted by their peers; I appreciate that a man who happens to be black is president; that a woman wasn't far behind in the presidential race...and I find it shameful that people who are benefiting from the hard work and bravery of their ancestors complain about trivial things. An ex-boyfriend of mine who I am still in contact with told me that when Obama was elected, his father cried, and said he wished his parents and grandparents were alive to witness this day which they fought for and dreamed of. 

We live in a time of choice; we can choose to turn off the television if we don't like what's on. We can choose what our children watch and read. We can choose to raise our children to be creative, intelligent, wonder-filled, compassionate human beings even though there is trash on television and violent movies and video games. We have a choice.

I don't think a person who is gay, a person who is black, a person who has a child with a disability, a person who is jewish, a person who loves a person of another race or religion, a person who lives as a transsexual or transvestite, would want to go back to the 'good old days.' I don't think my Jewish grandfather, who escape the nazis in Austria by fleeing to Switzerland, would think of those times as 'the good old days.' 

I am happy living right now. I am grateful for the struggles and hard work many courageous people endured for me to be able to have the choices I have. 

Living in this time of choice is an absolute luxury. We need to remember that. We need to recognize our great fortune. We need to understand that, yes, there is charm to an old-fashioned Christmas, and yes, men dressed like gentlemen, and yes, they sure did make pretty things back then. But those are things we can incorporate into our lives if we choose. 

Those are my thoughts.....what are yours?

For Real Chocolate Lovers: Black Tie Cookies

If you love chocolate, these are cookies for you.
A soft, chewey, brownie-like cookie with chunks of dark and white chocolate.
These are quite elegant, and their deep brown with black and white spots looks lovely with pink.
In other words, perfect for packing up in tissue paper and tying with pink ribbon for a valentine's day gift.
I like to use chocolate chunks instead of chips, and I substituted 1/4 of the butter with solid organic coconut oil, which gave them a slight coconutty aroma.
If you don't like white chocolate, consider replacing it with toasted, chopped hazelnuts.
These are so delicious. 
I make them when I need 'chocolate comfort.'
Caution: be sure to freeze some and give some away if you are in danger of cookie snarffing.  

makes about 4 dozen 
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup softened butter
3 eggs 
2 tsp vanilla extract
6 oz semi sweet chocolate chips
6 oz white chocolate chips

preheat oven to 325°

Combine first 4 ingredients.
Using an electric mixer, cream together butter and both sugars until fluffy, then add the eggs and vanilla and beat til smooth.
Mix wet and dry until JUST combined.
Fold in the chocolate chips/chunks until JUST combined.
Drop by the tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheets, about 2 inches apart.
Bake 12, and allow to cool on pan before transferring to a cool, flat surface (they will appear soft and gooey when you take them out of the oven but will keep cooking while they rest on the baking sheet.)
Store in an airtight container at room temperature or freeze....or give to deserving chocoholics.

Hope these find their way into your cookie jar.

It's a cold snowy Friday...I'm off to the farmer's market for organic goods and banter with the old farmer who always tells me what a smart and pretty girl I am and slips a free apple into my bag.
It's the small simple things.

xoxo country girl

TODAY, ONE YEAR AGO: only in winter, in the country...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

snow days


a blue sky + snow = BLISS.
this walk was so quiet.
when i stopped moving to take a picture it was just the sound of the freezing trickling creek, a crow, and kiki's paws in the snow. i threw my pocketfull of oats under brambles and in deep footprints for the birds and the deer. i blinked at the sunlight. my nose was frozen but my feet were warm. i had my pajama pants on underneath my jeans. that's a little secret my husband taught me. stuff the pajama pants into your socks so they won't ride up while you put on your jeans. winter aint half bad since i learned that little trick.
i like to see blackberries in january. i like how they hang on, shriveled but determined, and remind me of summer, when the fields were green, not white.
and heading home, there it was: a tiny bird's nest, long deserted.
who built it? a sparrow? a coal tit?
how long did it take?
it's sitting now, that intricate brown grassy miracle, among my other tiny treasures. 
and i thought, while i carefully took it down from a low branch, that this must be a token of appreciation from the birds who are eating the grains i toss by the creek bed. the birds who live out here, on icy boughs and in dark tree cubbies;
brave, patient, hopeful. 
we can learn so much from birds.

xo country girl

i hear you like chocolate. 
you'll love the black tie cookie recipe i made.
i'll share it with you tomorrow.

p.p.s. thank you, everyone, for sharing in the beauty of simple things was an absolute joy to read all the kind notes you left me!

TODAY, ONE YEAR AGO: more magical snow! 

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

simple things

the old clock that doesn't work, but looks so pretty with roses beside it
how small my hand is in my husband's
cuddling with kiki in the morning
trees, in every season
a perfect, ripe, fragrant, rosy mango

a little cup with stars on it
fresh bedding
a full pantry
long family naps on sundays
deep breaths

white pumpkins and a wooden chicken on the windowsil
strong legs and obliging feet which carry me
eyes that see
deer and rabbit tracks in the snow

brown glass bottles of organic milk wrapped in newspaper waiting at my door every thursday

a pocket full of oats to throw for birds on walks
stones and clouds shaped like hearts
kneading bread
autumn in new england

a parcel in the mail with my name on it
louis armstrong
warm soapy water
the humble scent of geraniums
my husband telling me "good job" and "i'm proud of you"

visit soul aperture to read her simple things, and see links to other bloggers who are sharing their simple things today. and please, post your simple things, too. for every 'simple things' post, christina will donate $1 to a good cause in tragedy-struck haiti.

one more simple thing i love and appreciate....
this community.

xo country girl

TODAY, ONE YEAR AGO: ...they make our lives whole 

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Battered, Dirty Quarter...and more...

Here, a few favorite excerpts from Barbara Webster's 1965 book, 'Creatures and Contentments: Ruminations on Living in the Country' 

On Birds:
Still unexplained is the coin we found one morning in the bird feeder. Was it meant to be a tip? Has anyone else every been tipped by the birds? A battered, dirty quarter, it looked as though it had been passed around from beak to beak.
What are we coming to when birds feel it is not enough to sing for their supper?

On Winter
The leafless branches of the trees make a delicate network against the sunset sky. On bare hill the pink crest of bunch grass waves in the wind.
The landscape has its winter look. It will not alter during the long months ahead, excpet for those almost imperceptible signs only the confirmed country dweller knows-the reddening of the bramble vines in January, the change in the light, come February, the bright-blue skies of March, the faint swelling of the buds. Those buds which have been on the trees since early fall are the promise, through all the winter cold, that spring will come again.

On Her Childhood Kitchen:
The kitchen of my childhood I look back on with tenderness and nostalgia. The worn paint scrubbed clean, giving it a shining cheerful air, such as used things have; the polished black stove, the ceiling-high cupboards, the kitchen table covered with oilcloth, the spacious pantry...

On Old-Fashioned Cooking:
"Do you remember the purely heavenly scent of fresh bread, just come from the oven?" she asked. "And those big old thirty-pound country hams, put back after they were baked, to 'beautify,' with just enough firm pink fat left on in which to place a fanciful arabesque of cloves?"
She mentioned, too, the odor of almost done wild-plum jam, and gingerbread, made with sorghum molasses and thick sour cream, sewn with currants and raisins and black-walnut meats. Even before she got to country-cured bacon, broiled over a sassafras-wood fire, I had begun to drool, and she really didn't need to say anything about the fragrance of freshly ground coffee, Mocha and Java, of course, early in the morning. But she forgot pumpkin cornbread, with its indescribable surprise flavor, I thought, my mind now starting in that direction. And Grandmother Sherwood's grape pickle, made with whole bunches of Concord grapes, which looked so handsome in a milk-white dish, served along with meats.

On the Ancient Beech Tree Overlooking the Barn:
High on the steep hill behind our house there stands a huge, ancient beech tree, gray and wrikled as an old elephant. Under its spreading branches I never fail to find a harvest of down wood. I makeup my bundle, and then sit for a moment on a seat made by the massive roots of the tree, which flow about its base in curious shapes, and form on the other side a hollow always full of rain water, where the sheep come to drink. And I look down at our barn nestled into the hill far below, and beyond, at the meadow brook, worming its silvery way through the narrow green valley, cupped by the opposite round hills.

How I adore her writing!!!
I've shared bits of another book of hers; read that post by clicking here .

If you know of other authors who write like this about their lives in the countryside, please let me know.

xoxo country girl

TODAY, ONE YEAR AGO: Hot Milk Sponge Cake 

7 things you probably didn't know about me

My sweet friend Katrina at Kat's Cradle generously gave me the 'Kreativ Blogger' award. When you receive this award, you must share 7 things which your readers do not yet know about you, and then pass the award on to 7 other bloggers. 
Well, alot of you know alot about me...but there's always more. So, here are some parts of me, and my life, that you probably didn't know:

1. If I have plans to go somewhere or see someone, but on that day don't feel like leaving the house or seeing anyone, I'll stay home. I used to go places and see people even when I felt poorly or would have rather been alone, but at some point I learned to listen to my inner voice, especially when it came to parties or events. I just feel that life is too short to constantly feel obligated, or be somewhere you don't want to be. Now I only go places and see people when I really want to. And my friends have come to understand this. On the other hand, when someone is sick or heartbroken, I am always there. 

2. I used to be a professional singer/songwriter. The songwriting part was great, but being a singer was hard on me; the pressure I put on myself to look a certain way eventually drove me to anorexia athletica . I also took diet pills for 9 years and didn't touch white rice, pasta, bread, or sugar for almost 2 years. I liked what I saw in the mirror but my life revolved around how I looked, and that wasn't the person I wanted to be. The minute I decided to give up professional singing, it felt as though a huge weight had been dropped from my shoulders. I weigh 30 pounds more now, and although I don't look as good in a bathing suit anymore...I'm much happier. Now I eat what I love and move when it feels good. One day I'll have to share old photos of that time with all of you! Pretty funny to look back....

3. The first movie I remember seeing was Never Ending Story; the first book I read that made me love reading was Hounds of the Morrigan; and the first album I ever bought was Aretha Franklin.

4. I dream of being a mother, and have an intense longing to meet my children. We lost our first baby in November, and are both too shaken up to start trying again. I don't know how long it will take until we feel ready. It was one of the hardest things I have ever gone through.

5. I have had many jobs and started working when I was 16, but being around people all day is very difficult for me. Every job I have had ended because I eventually got depressed and couldn't stand the thought of seeing people and talking to people all day. The moment my husband told me I could quit my job and stay home was one of the happiest of my life. I finally have time for all the things I love to do and have all day to be by myself before he comes home. I don't know why I am so lucky. I hope I never have to work again.

6. There have been a few incidences where my psychic abilities have frightened or surprised me. It's not something I can force. It just happens sometimes. I like to think of it as heightened intuition.

7. If someone were to ask my who I think the sexiest man alive is, besides my husband, I would have to say the president of the United States. He is, in my opinion, the perfect man. Intelligent, handsome, compassionate, well-spoken, well-dressed, amazing smile, great sense of humor....the list goes on. So I guess I have to admit to a celebrity crush!

And now to pass the torch!

I'd like to give this Kreativ Blogger award to:

Kary at My Farmhouse Kitchen 
Morwenna at Bluebells & Butterflies 
Blaire at B-Mused 
Abbie at Farmer's Daughter 
Ashley Maureen at the chic line 
Courtney at Scattering Lupines 
Heather at A Day in the Country 

Thank you, Katrina! 
I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about me.

country girl

Monday, January 25, 2010

beauty marks for shabby-chic lovers

to view the rest of the growing collection of country girl's free beauty marks, click here 


xoxo country girl

chai mallow latte!

I have a new addiction:
Chai Mallow Latte.
A crazy little idea I had yesterday while preparing my usual chai latte....Plop a few marshmallows on top!
And there it good!
The perfect warming hot toddy to cheer you up on a cold winter day.
Follow these simple steps:

put some brown sugar in a tall glass
::i like muscovado::

add your favorite chai tea bag

add hot, foamy, steamy milk


drizzle an espresso


plop three marshamallows on top
::i rolled mine in cinnammon sugar::


Sunday, January 24, 2010

little treasures from around the world ::1::

Blaire from b.mused said something on her recent post about this tiny nature table project which I loved, because it was everything I hoped for:
"Being that we’re covered in snow here in Massachusetts, I thought I’d have to get creative to find beauty. But I found that when I was looking for it, I didn’t have to look very far."
Here is what she, and other wonderful bloggers, have found for their first Tiny Treasures nature tables:

from blaire at b.mused in massachusettes

from kary at my farmhouse kitchen in california

from johanna at birds on a wire in canada

from katrina at kat's cradle in canada

Here are a few nature collections I found on the web. Aren't they pretty, and inspiring?

courtesy of the crafty crow

courtesy of maya made in upstate new york

Today on our morning walk we found rabbit tracks in the snow, and long thin trails of deer prints. I love following these; crossing the vast white field, ending in the black water of the creek, circling bits of green in a spot of thaw. I see them in my mind's eye, quiet, watchful, looking for food, making it through cold, deep, lonely all of us, in our own way. 
I am glad Christina at soul aperture has invited all of us to her third 'simple things' blog event, inspired by her observation that it seems alot of us are having a difficult time right now.
I myself feel as I often do in the deep of winter, a somewhat confusing mixture of reflective, worried, hopeful, wondering, creative, isolated, homely...
Last night I asked my husband, what will this year bring? Will it be kind to us? Will it be a so-called 'good year'? But who can really say? At this thought, a voice told me loud and clear:
"Just take it day by day."
Day by day, my friends. That's how we're takin' it.
I am so glad we have each other to share those days with.

Hope to see your tiny treasures soon, a piece of your home, a collection of humble beauty.

Wrapping you all in a warm embrace,
xo country girl

TODAY, ONE YEAR AGO: all seasons are beautiful.... 

Saturday, January 23, 2010

therapeutic pictures

I think we all could use a little green, growth, and sunshine in our lives right now, even if it's just through memories and photographs. These are pictures I took last spring. Take a moment to enjoy them; I swear you will be able to feel a ray of sunlight touch your face.

xo country girl

Friday, January 22, 2010

latest beauty marks...from me to you xo

hope you enjoy these!
they're free for the takin'.

to see the rest of the growing collection of Country Girl's Beauty Marks, click here .


Thursday, January 21, 2010

the one where i did

This is the fragrant, fluffy picture of victory.

I love how you all hopped on board the boat of facing needless fears. I can't tell you how beneficial it was to name the fear, have everybody see it in it's ugliness, and then strap on an apron and go full force ahead, knowing that if I didn't, I'd look like quite the hypocritical loser. It really pushed me into action.
For my first bread adventure ever, I chose a recipe from my new Cook's Country cookbook called Fluffy Dinner Rolls. The recipe, which included honey and milk, sounded delicious, and I had all the ingredients on hand. It was once I started that I realized this recipe had about a jizillion steps. No matter; I was going to do this, and try with all my might to do it right.
My favorite part about making these was kneading the dough. I don't have a stand mixer yet, so there was lots of hand-kneading to do. 15 minutes of it. And it was pure heaven. Warm dough of the most tantalizing consistancy, heavy with the scent of honey, butter, and yeast. Yes, I thought....This is GOOD.
Long story short, these turned out beautifully. (thank goodness)
And I'm ready for more.

I am so ridiculously proud of myself.

Here's to showing those fears who's boss.

love you all...

xo country girl

p.s. let me know if you'd like the recipe.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

the one where i think i can't

Winter gets me thinking. And I was thinking about my fears. How some of them are based on nothing palpable, not even experience. There are certain things I have, at some point, decided I cannot do, without ever having tried them.
One of those things is making bread. I am scared of making bread. Well, scared of failing at making bread. I read somewhere, in some cookbook, that making a great loaf of bread is an art, and that very few people have mastered it. And since then I knew I wasn't up for the job. Rising, punching down, turning out, all scares me. But then I got to thinking, "What if I had decided I couldn't blog? Couldn't paint? Couldn't raise a dog? Couldn't move to a foreign country and learn German? Couldn't possibly fall in love?" Those thoughts scared me even more than baking bread. 
So I'm going to do it. I bought my yeast packets (those things terrify me...the ability to make dough double in size...); now I just have to pick out a recipe, tie on an apron, and hope my hands don't shake. And accept that my first loaf may be a failure.
What have you decided you can't do, with no good reason why? I think 2010 should be a year where we face at least one of those things and give them a try.

One thing I know I can do, and love to do, is be in nature. (But you all knew that!) Today I collected another nice handfull of treasures, inspired by contrasting form and colors.
I especially love the mossy twigs, and the withered hard blackberries, remnants of summer past. And how about that bright green fern. What a sight for sore eyes in a vast field of white; bending, wet, in a crack of thawing snow. Green is so precious this time of year.

country girl

TODAY, ONE YEAR AGO: America Has A New President 

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

chewy coconut cookies

Maybe you're thinking that I'm on a mission to crush all those New Year's resolutions you made, what with the Coffee Crunch Bar recipe and now these. And you're right....because I want you to make a new one, the one I made: EAT THE THINGS THAT MAKE YOU HAPPY. You don't have to eat truck loads of those things. But I'm here to tell you that if baking up a batch of cookies makes you feel happy then you know what? Life is too short to constantly resist those urges. I like the quote I read somewhere: Think of all those women on the Titanic, waving away the dessert cart.
Don't be one of those women.
Here's a favorite part of mine from a charming book called Swell: A Girl's Guide to the Good Life :

"The most appealing girl in the room isn't the sallow-cheeked coat-hanger picking at her salad. It's the bonne vivante who knows the right oysters to order before dinner, how they distill single malt scotch, and how to say yes to dessert."

Isn't that so true?
So, without further ado, here it is; my recipe for the chewiest, most irresistable coconut cookies. 
You definitely won't be able to eat just one...or two....or three......

Chewy Coconut Cookies

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups flaked unsweetened coconut (or grated fresh coconut like I used)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C.)

Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
In a medium bowl, cream the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla until light and fluffy. Gradually blend in the flour mixture, then mix in the coconut. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart. Careful as they will spread a bit.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until lightly toasted. Let them cool for about a minute on the hot sheet before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.

*note: delicious additions to these are chopped macadamia nuts or white chocolate chunks

Hope these find their way into your cookie jar soon...
Love, xoxo
country girl

TODAY, ONE YEAR AGO: the woods would be very silent... 

two new beauty marks

Find more of Country Girl's Beauty Marks here .


p.s. the right edges of these may appear cut off here because of their size, but they won't be when you copy them onto your sidebar.

xo country girl


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