Notes from C: February

I'm blogging from Rochester, Minn. this morning from a cozy table in Dunn Bros Coffee. I am so glad I discovered this place because it is different from all other establishments of this chain, and quite a treat. I talked with the owner the other day, and it turns out she owns both the coffee shop and the neighboring cafe, with one kitchen located in the back of Dunn Bros. This means she offers up many of the breakfast menu items from her cafe in the coffee shop as well, such as omelets, breakfast sandwiches, and creamy oatmeal - from scratch, not what you'll typically find in a coffee shop. Add a blueberry scone? I don't mind if I do!

-As I'm sure you've noticed by now with all of my recent posts about cold weather, skijoring, and luminary making: I am a child of winter. Sure I love those sunny summer days, but I thrive in the colder months when we all turn inward, in our houses, thoughts, and actions. I noted in my little traveling notebook earlier in January how the color of the sky on my way home from work reminds me of this time of intention and introspection. As I drive across the Mendota Bridge with the city scape of both Minneapolis and St. Paul laid before me, and airplanes buzzing to their hive across the river, the sky presses down, heavy with pigment, and wraps around our corner of the universe like a blanket. In the Waldorf School, where I attended from K-8 grade, students are introduced to watercolor painting in the early grades with just one color: blue. My teacher would always demonstrate a painting before we took our turn, and I can still see his paint brush releasing a cloud of blue into his water pail, those inky tendrils exploring the water until they transformed it into an opaque blue. Gradually, as we got older, we incorporated secondary colors, like yellow and red, which yield green and purple. I don't know the guiding principles behind this practice, but I can imagine that we start with blue for many of the same reasons I love the darkening sky in winter: it has a grounding, calming nature. Although winter will always have my heart, now that it's the end of February I am starting to get ready for spring, longer days and a little less excess clothing ... just have to get a few more cross-country runs in first to last me until next year!

Cross-country skiing adventures in Rochester, Minn at Quarry Hill Nature Center.

-The Academy Awards are on tonight, and as I sit in the coffee shop this morning, I've already overheard a few conversations on the topic. Have you seen all of the best picture nominees on your list? As everyone in my book club knows, I like stories that make me think (symbolism and philosophical questions without answers are my jam). When it comes to movies, I realized recently that I especially enjoy flicks that not only make me think but also remind me of my place in the universe. After all, I like to think about the stars and could spend hours watching Planet Earth. Beasts of the Southern Wild is high up on my list for that very reason. Besides the fact that it's a poignant story set in a unique location and told completely from a child's perspective, one of the themes speaks to the fact that everything in life fits together and if we offset it, the universe will break; everything is interconnected. As Hushpuppy (the 6-year-old star of the show - she's up for an Oscar!) says, "I see that I'm a little beast of a big, big universe." If you haven't seen it, rent it now (it's available at Redbox). Life of Pi is another amazing film that gives you that "little beast in a big universe" feel, quite literally. Boy lost at sea in a lifeboat with a tiger. Need I say more? Although it is definitely not a kid's film like the PG rating suggests! Rather slow and thoughtful start and most of it will go over a kid's head, except for the scary parts. The ending will really make you think about religion, truth vs. fiction, and the purpose of stories in our lives (another topic I'm a sucker for) ... but I don't want to spoil it for anyone. Just see it and then we can talk, k?

-Meet my newest indulgence: Trader Joe's Cookie Butter. Found right next to the peanut butter, it's pure gold in a jar. And if you couldn't guess from the name, it tastes like crushed cookies. Perfect on waffles, fruit, ice cream ... of if you're in our house, your finger. Yea, our first jar didn't last too long with regular finger swipes throughout the week.

-Evan and I explored the Terra Cotta Warrior exhibit with some friends at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. If you haven't had a chance to see them, mark it on your to-do list (I think the exhibit tours the country) because looking at the ancient sculptures makes you aware of the "big picture,"and I found it calming, reassuring, yet mentally stimulating. In 210-209 BC the first Emperor of China was buried in a tomb with 7,000 hand-crafted terracotta warriors (and a couple hundred horses, chariots, etc) to ensure his protection in the afterlife. Although the sheer magnitude of this project is mindblowing (and they haven't even uncovered all of the tombs yet!), what really gets me is that every single sculpture is unique. From the detail on the clothing to the hair styles and facial expressions, every one is different. The audio tour pointed out that the artists likely found their inspiration in the faces of their neighbors and family. So in a way, these warriors are more than a fantasy army for the emperor -- they represent real people from the past and their faces tell a true story. Think about it. The fabric of all of these ancient lives are here in the present day. But of course that can be said about any piece of art. Don't all artists incorporate bits of their lives and stories inspired from those around them into their work? Ah yes, here I go again reveling in the interconnectedness of the world and the never-ending "story." Somebody stop me!

-Here's a quick little shot of my work calendar the other day.
This one made me laugh. At least Evan's discarded clothes I so often grumble about aren't of the fruit-peel variety ; )

-One more winter scene coming at ya: Smoke stacks puff clouds into the air like cotton candy as the setting sun sends streaks of pink across the sky.

Sunsets in winter are always more brilliant than during warmer months, and I'm not sure if this is a scientifically proven fact or if it's just the contrast against the stark landscape that makes the sky appear that much more intense. But I like the effect, especially when you throw a smokestack into the mix, because it's "breath" has a more prominent presence in the winter and catches the light from the sunset. Hence my mental image of cotton candy clouds. I like to pretend there are dragons underground who are employed as cotton-candy makers (or cloud makers?) ... or perhaps they are chained down there against their will, forced to pollute the earth until some young hero sets out on a quest to set them free. But I digress ... (I have a fondness for children's literature, if you can't tell)

Now that the Academy Awards are now halfway over (finished this post after returning home tonight) I better hurry up and hit Publish before they announce best picture!

Here's the story behind Notes from C here.

Read past Notes from C here.

Cookie Butter photo from here. Terracotta Warriors photo from here. All other's are my own.

DIY Valentine's Day Wreath

If you were browsing Pinterest in the weeks before Christmas you likely came across a red-and-white pinwheel-shaped wreath. And if you're anything like me, you were so inspired to make this creation that you pinned it twice, once on your Christmas board and again on your DIY craft board, just to make sure you actually made. this. one. thing. But alas, the holidays passed me by and my front door remained without pin-striped cheer.

Until a few weeks ago when my sisters were in town for a bridal shower and we were hanging out in the dining room all cozy-like with the snow falling, when we decided to get a little crafty. I had the $5 box of paper straws from Bed Bath and Beyond and a hot glue gun at the ready, and figured it would make the perfect door decor for Kirsten's shower and could then double for Valentine's Day.

I love cheap projects, and this one does not fail. The straws cost just $5 and I already had everything else on hand, including the hot glue gun and sticks.

First draw a circle on a sturdy piece of cardboard the size you want the opening. If you have a protractor this is a cinch! Then draw a slightly larger circle (my second radius is about 3 inches longer than the first). Cut it out with an exacto knife, using a safe surface. I thought I'd need to make the wreath extra sturdy, hence the double cardboard in the photo, but I only ended up using one of those circles.

Begin gluing down the straws with just a drop of glue. Space them evenly apart and start with the 12:00, 6:00, 3:00 and 9:00, then move on to fill in the gaps in between, always placing the new straw halfway between its neighboring straws.

I made sure the straws poked into the middle circle just a bit to cover up the edge of the cardboard as much as possible. If I were to do this project again I'd consider painting the cardboard red to camouflage it against the straws. 

Once you've filled the wreath with as many straws as you can fit placed all the way to the edge of the cardboard, start a second row that is inched back just a bit. I found that if I kind of slid the new straw into place, I could nudge it up just a little more. The straws are flexible so they can squeeze together quite tightly. Nevertheless, this step was by no means perfect and I definitely have areas of my wreath that aren't perfectly symmetrical.

Starting to get dizzy yet?

Sarah was busy working on a wedding card for a friend

Now finish up with one final ring of straws. As you can see, these are placed about two inches back from the first two rows.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm not sure what I think of the finished product. It looks pretty much like the one on Pinterest, but because of it's size or the contrast against the blue door, it looks pretty ominous to me!

Watch out for the Pierson house, they've been marked!

Not gonna lie, it's kind of scary approaching the house at night. Hard not to look at that red eye pulling you in!

I hung the wreath by threading fishing line through one of the straws and attaching it to one of those window suction cup hooks.

How have you been sprucing up the front door this winter? Anything as scary as ours?

Perhaps Love ...

Despite the fact that I normally roll my eyes at cliches, I couldn't help but deck the house with this quote for Valentine's Day. I know I know, love isn't all a person needs. But isn't it fascinating how everyone is on this quest to find love (in many forms), yet we can never quite pin it down? It's a universal feeling yet so personal and unique in each and every relationship.

For V-day last year I made a little board where E and I can post notes to each other. You simply fill a frame with a piece of paper that says "I love you because ..." and then you can write with erasable marker on the glass, changing the message daily, monthly, whenever. Of course I'm usually the one to put my gift to use, but every once in a while Evan will partake. "I love you because ... you keep me organized and tidy" has popped up on more than one occasion, haha. Although this is a fun little game, the truth is I don't think I can honestly fill in the blank because there is an element of mystery to why someone loves someone else, and I like to keep it that way.

E's morning message to me!

As a true Pearson girl I naturally know all of John Denver's rocky-mountain-high songs. But he also sang a lesser-known tune with Placido Damingo (another of my dad's favorites!) called Perhaps Love. I've heard it so many times I never really paused to listen to the words until last weekend when my dad performed the song at a school event. I like how this song points to the fact that we don't know what love is and that everyone has a different definition. Perhaps it's this or perhaps it's like that metaphor, and some say this and some say that ... but in the end we tie that love to a person and that becomes our definition. Give it a read (or a listen!):

Perhaps Love
Perhaps love is like a resting place, a shelter from the storm
it exists to give you comfort, it is there to keep you warm
and in those times of trouble, when you are most alone, the memory of love will bring you home.

Perhaps love is like a window, perhaps an open door
it invites you to come closer, it want to show you more
and even if you lose yourself and don't know what to do, the memory of love will see you through.

Oh, love to some is like a cloud, to some as strong as steel
for some a way of living, for some a way to feel
and some say love is holding on and some say letting go,
some say love is everything, and some say they don't know.

Perhaps love is like the ocean, full of conflict, full of pain,
Like a fire when its cold outside or thunder when it rains
If I should live forever and all my dreams come true
My memories of love will be of you.

And some say love is holding on and some say letting go,
Some say love is everything and some say they don't know.

Perhaps love is like the ocean, full of conflict, full of change,
Like a fire when its cold outside or thunder when it rains,
If I should live forever and all my dreams come true
My memories of love will be of you.

Watch and listen to my dad sing this song here! (download the video or audio-only file.) The woman he sings with is my mom's coworker at the school, and my mom is the one on the piano!

On Minnesota Public Radio this morning they did a story about online dating. I have mixed feelings about the world of online dating, because even though I think it's a great tool in this modern day world (where it's increasingly hard to meet people naturally), I can't ignore the fact that if I had used an online dating service I never would have ended up with Evan. Although we share similar life goals we are opposites in many ways. But I'm so thankful I'm with someone who ruffles my feathers a bit. We have to work on our relationship daily, which in the end makes us stronger. Go read the story (or listen!) and see if you can find my comment down the page (hint: there's a little picture icon of me). They read my comment on air!

My Valentine : )
I'm off to orchestra rehearsal tonight so not much of a special night for me. But I think we have some raspberry chocolate gelato we're going to crack into later!

Happy Valentine's Day!

V-Day 2011 and a tasty recipe
V-Day 2009

Ice-Ice-Baby: DIY Ice Luminaries

This is the perfect craft for anyone living in a cold climate. Great for a little front-step festivity for your dinner parties or just because. If the weather turns warm and they melt it's not a big deal since they are {practically) free!

Collect some biodegradable items to decorate your luminary. We like to use cranberries because they are bright, festive, easy to glue, and cheap! We grabbed this bag after T-day for about a dollar and threw it in the freezer until the weather was consistently below freezing. You can also use thinly sliced lemons or oranges, pine cones, greenery, etc.

You'll need a luminary mold. You could try doing this in a regular gallon pail but it'll probably work better with one of these nifty molds.

Use a hot glue gun to attach your decorations to the inside of the mold (after your ice sculpture melts outside you'll want to try pick up the glue bits in consideration of mother nature). If using thinly sliced lemon or orange, it works best to dry off the rind a bit and only attach glue to the rind - otherwise they tend not to stick very well. Play around with different patterns, or you can try filling the mold just a few inches, tossing in some decorations (without glue) and freezing just that amount before filling the rest up with water. This will create a layer right at the top of the luminary and you won't have to worry about picking up glue bits from the snow later!

Once everything is firmly in place, fill the mold/bucket with water and freeze for 12 hours. We put our mold in our deep freezer since there's lots of room in there and we know it'll freeze properly, but if it's really cold outside you could try just setting it on the back steps. Make sure you don't exceed 12 hours by too much otherwise you'll end up with a solid block of ice. Since water freezes from the outside first, the goal is to get a nice thick layer around the outside but to let the middle remain fluid.

Now use something thin - like a long, metal icing spatula - to slice down around your mold, making sure you separate all decorations from the mold.

Flip it upside down (which you'll soon realize is actually right-side up) and pull up on the mold. If this is difficult, run some hot water over the top. We do this step in the bathtub.

As you can see, there is a thin layer of ice across the opening. Break this (brrr) with your fist, and poor the water out.

Now wrap that baby up in a bath towel and place him on your front steps!

Don't forget the candle!

These luminaries were made by Evan's mom for Christmas a few years ago. She's the one who got us going on the luminaries and bought us our mold.

Now go make some ice and don't forget to exercise your vocal chords to the tune of Ice-Ice-Baby ... you know you wanna!

Winter Love

As if you needed a reminder, right?

Are you guys donning your winter garb and doing the eskimo like me these days? 

You know what they say: "there's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing."

I'm a fan of winter weather. It adds a little adventure to our everyday lives (digging out the car, anyone?) and it makes me feel alive. Really, what a cool time of year. Most everything is dead or hibernating, the world is stripped to the bare essentials, yet we continue to walk about. We're an army of penguins determined to make it through. Even though the landscape is barren, it's quite the dramatic playing field.

Take this shot my sister texted me the other day from Alaska, for instance:

That haze you see is a common term in Alaska. It's called "ice fog." Makes you think twice before complaining about single digits, doesn't it?

Wanna know the trick to surviving the long, cold frigid winter? Apparently Alaskans like to fight away the winter blues by ... well ... 

Not sure if that's a testament to their sense of adventure or a sign the darkness is getting to them, but I was thoroughly impressed when my sister sent me that picture. On the coldest night of the year, the citizens of Alaska head to the outdoors (sans sauna) in their finest summer apparel and document this feat, usually in front of the University temperature sign. Such drama simply from being cold, and a great reminder to the lower 48 that sometimes the best way to endure winter is to embrace it.

Winter in Minnesota is quite balmy in comparison, but we try and find reasons to get outside and have fun. Here we are walking across Lake of the Isles last weekend after watching the Skijoring Loppet. Think dogs and cross-country skiing! If you watch the video (not mine) the race starts right around 1 minute. And I think at 3:24 you actually see my mom and her white hat!

I know many people are counting down the days until backyard bbqs and busy days in the garden (or at the beach!), but I am trying to savor these last weeks of the hibernation season.  I'll leave you with a few final "winter love" snapshots.

Ice skating in Central Park, NYC

Watching the snow pile up

DIY ice luminary (tutorial to come!)

May you all be staying warm and cheerful this winter's night!

Here are some more posts about winter:
Cross-Country Skiing adventures here
Slideshow from our snowy trip to Wolf Ridge here
White Christmas here
Snow Play in Jersey here
Waiting for the thaw here

Wedding Shower Fun

Come on in!

This past weekend my sisters and I threw a shower for our oldest sister, Kirsten. See the blushing bride, above? Well, in reality it took a whole army to pull this thing off, from my sister out east and the other who flew in from Alaska, to my mom and aunt who stayed for the weekend. But we had fun planning, crafting and cooking away in preparation for the day (oh hey, that rhymed). 

Trader Joe's has the best bouquets for just a few dollars, and Kirsten made the tissue paper pompom herself -- tutorial to come!

Orange Juice Mimosas hit the spot. And notice the coasters? Christmas gift from my crafty little sister, Sarah!


We hit up the Whole Foods bakery for these mini treats (the cannoli and fruit tarts were my personal favorites). And we whipped up some banana sour cream cupcakes because what's a bridal shower without cupcakes? (Super simple recipe found here - we substituted plain greek yogurt for the sour cream)

My mom and her sister accidently dressed alike! Of course it helped that their mom had just sent us all matching scarves. Here they are with their "uniforms" making magic in the kitchen.

I found this tacky, glittery heart in the Valentine's Day section of Joanne's for a few buckaroos and simply sprayed the back of it with a can of blackboad spray paint. It doesn't work as well as a regular chalkboard, but it gets the job done. I might replace the wire with a cute ribbon at some point.

And there were games, naturally. By the end of the party Kirsten and Scott had a mason jar full of cute date-night ideas. 

We also played a 20-Questions game where guests had to guess the famous couple taped to their back, ie: Hermione and Ron, Kate and William, Mary and Joseph. 

Over Christmas my sisters and I interviewed Scott (the groom-to-be) via iChat to capture his response to questions like "what is Kirsten's favorite color, who initiated the first kiss," etc along with his answer to the same questions. We then played the video at the shower and Kirsten provided her answers and guesses. We kept tally and I believe they ended up tied, a good omen for their marriage.

It was so cozy with the snow falling outside. We may have pretended we were at Downton Abbey with our little tea party ; )

We painted some cheap wood letters (from Joanne's) and strung them up to a ribbon to display the upcoming wedding date! (Mom on the left, aunt Sarah on the right). Ignore the painter's tape around the window ... as always, we are finishing up a house project.

The Pearson girls, minus Karrin

I thought it would be fun since so many of Kirsten's friends and family live far away and were unable to attend the shower, to gather recipes from everyone and create a cute recipe binder. I don't know how "cute" it ended up since Sarah and I were throwing it together last minute, but Kirst now has over 50 awesome recipes. Thanks everyone! 

In other new:
I finally got around to making the paper-straw wreath that I've been seeing all over Pinterest (see the first photo in this post for a close-up of my rendition). Really easy craft (tutorial to come) but I'm not sure I love the results. From the curb it looks like our house has been marked, by the plague or aliens or something supernatural. "Don't go in there" it screams to me. Haha. I wonder what the neighbors think? Not sure how long it'll stay up ...

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