December 29, 2009

In the Candy Store

I’m like a kid in a candy store this week, or just a grownup getting to stay home until after the first of the year, hanging out in my jammies, drinking hot chocolate, and getting some long neglected house projects out of the way.

There have been several phone calls back and forth with a local homeless shelter regarding the donation of the bed in my spare room. Once it goes to a family in need I’ll have that room clear to transform it into what I’ve been wanting for years – a writing/art room. A studio. A room of one's own. Then I’ll have no excuse to avoid writing, and my creative messes will be limited to one room instead of spread around the rest of the house.

This post is being written on my new toy; my husband gave me a new laptop for Christmas. I’ve wanted one for years, and now that I’ll have a room just for me it’s the perfect gift at the perfect time. Yep, I’m like a kid in a candy store. And it’s only going to get better.

December 21, 2009


I’m sitting here at the computer wrapped in a blanket with a hot cup of tea in front of me. It’s cold and gloomy outside, and not so much better inside. Until I moved into this house I’d spent a good portion of my adult life heating with wood. Sometimes it was my only heat source. While I’d gotten tired of hauling wood – and making sure I had a good supply in before the first cold days – I’ve never fallen out of love with a good, roaring fire. Forced air heat doesn’t compare. There’s nothing to cozy up to and you can’t warm your toes on a heating vent in the ceiling. It doesn’t even look warm.

There are all sorts of reasons not to have wood fire; it’s bad for the environment, you have to cut down trees for fuel, it’s messy and time-consuming. But right now, honestly, I don’t care. I miss a fire. It’s really the only way I know to make a house toasty warm and welcoming during the dark winter days.

And here we are at the Winter Solstice - the shortest day of the year, the longest night, the day the light begins its return. I like to do a little ritual every year at this time to welcome warmth back to the world, inviting the light into my home. It makes me appreciate the winter more and keeps me aware that spring will come, no matter how dark and cold it is until then.

Until then I’ll light lots of candles and drink cup after cup of tea.

December 13, 2009


I like ordinary things. Plain, everyday things that have been lived with for a long time. New has little appeal for me, instead it’s the scratched piece, or the one with a dent I like. The well-loved, but not threadbare thing I, or someone else, have owned for years. There’s a sense of continuity that makes me feel at home.

When I look around my house I see the couch my husband brought from his first marriage (it’s in ridiculously good condition) and the china hutch I brought from mine, a cupboard my husband made using old glass doors I found at a garage sale, a desk I bought at an estate sale 27 years ago. And little things: cloth napkins that get softer with each washing, a small clock I can hear tick-tocking from the other side of the house, mixing bowls I’ve collected from thrift stores and garage sales, the afghan I crocheted while healing from my first heartbreak a lifetime ago.

They’re all ordinary things, simple belongings that remind me that I’m making a home to live in for a long time. They’re part of my future now, as well as my history.

What ordinary thing makes you feel cozy in your home? Does it have a story?

December 7, 2009

To Warm the Cockles of Your Heart

Last night’s dinner was pure California winter comfort food, a big bowl of Cioppino to drive away the damp chill. I try to make it at least once when crab is in season, mostly because it’s a shame to not take advantage of the ocean’s bounty.

The first time I ever had cioppino, in fact, the first I’d ever heard of it, was in my early twenties. My first clue it was a messy dish was the bib the waiter tied around my neck before he set my meal in front of me. I haven’t eaten cioppino in public since. It’s a meal to be shared at home with people who won’t mind that you’ve got sauce on your hands and who expect you to mop up the last few bites with a hunk of sourdough bread.

This is my tried and true recipe. It’s open to adjustment and is always a little different depending on how spicy I want it to be, whether I use tomatoes with herbs already added, and what seafood looks good at the store.

Cioppino Sauce

2 – 4 shallots, finely chopped
2 – 4 garlic cloves, minced
Red wine (1 cup)
2 cans crushed tomatoes
1 bottle clam juice
Fresh parsley, finely chopped (1/2 bunch)
Thyme, Oregano, Red pepper flakes (to taste)

Sauté shallots and garlic in olive oil. Add red wine & reduce. Add crushed tomatoes, clam juice, parsley, thyme, oregano,  red pepper fllakes, and simmer. (I simmered mine for almost two hours, partially covered.) Add seafood.

I used Dungeness crab, scallops, shrimp, mussels, and clams, adding them the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Light candles, pour good red wine, and dig in.

December 2, 2009

Getting Crafty

The living moment is everything. - D.H. Lawrence

The heart of a sweet life is in saucy friendship.