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Eclecticisms: December 2010

Friday, December 31, 2010

New Years Dinner

Happy New Years, all! I'll be back early next year (maybe even as early as tomorrow) with a few new delicious recipes! This year, I'm opting to stay in and make dinner for my family. I'm trying a few new things, and can't wait to share them with you! (Fingers crossed that everything turns out!)


Broccoli and Cheese Dip
Vin Glogg (traditional to New Years)

Salad (Dad is making)
Mashed organic potatoes
Artichoke and Portabello Lasanga with homemade Bechamel Sauce

Vasilopita (St. Basil's Day Cake... traditional to New Years)
Peppermint Candy Cane Truffles

Needless to say, I've spent quite a bit of time in the kitchen today and last night, but it will definitely be worth it.

Happy New Years! Have fun and be safe!

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tickled Tuesday - Closing 2010

Today I am super "tickled"... I reached 1000 blog views last night!!! Thank you SO much to everyone who reads, follows, and/or supports my blog in ANY way. I am truly, truly grateful for the opportunity to share my experiences and ideas in a creative and shareable (is that even a word?) format. YOU GUYS ARE THE BEST!

This is a picture of me, circa 1984, during my "cheesy smile" phase. It's definitely what I looked like when I saw how many followers and blog views I had last night! (Check out that sweet piano I'm rocking out on.)

I'm debating on spending my New Years at home, working on either a new recipe or a craft so I can ring in 2011 with a new blog. I'm determined to really focus on it this year, and to start incorporating giveaways, along with my own shop, BEadECLECTIC. First I need to build up more inventory though- so that won't be too immediate.

On to Tickled Tuesday! This week is just a quick quote from an amazing woman, Ruth Gordon. I'm reading her biography right now, Ruth Gordon - An Open Book, and it's interesting, funny and inspirational. I definitely recommend you check it out!

Never give up. And never, under any circumstances, face the facts.
-Ruth Gordon

Happy New Year! *muwah*


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Holiday Cards and Ornaments

I originally had planned to make this blog a tutorial on card making techniques, but I was so pressed for time to make these that I just whipped them out as fast as possible and kept them super simple, using paper scraps, stamps, markers, inks, ribbon, eyelets and paint. Here's the cards I made this year (not for everyone, unfortunately).

If you'd like to see a basic card tutorial, let me know and I'll speed that blog up!

That's my handsome dog, Footloose, in his way too small santa costume.

And... a few of my ornaments, most of which are super old and belonged to Marge.

This last ornament is one I made last year with tissue paper, an image and some fibers.

Unless I really get on the ball with making truffles AND blogging (unlikely) this will be my last blog before Christmas. (No Tickled Tuesday this week!) Have a great holiday, everyone!

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Gingerbread Cookies

I'm a little disappointed with myself not having baked more for the Holidays, but I did manage to make some gingerbread cookies and sugar cookies this past Sunday. I'll probably try out some peppermint truffles on Thursday (day off- yay!) so I guess three things isn't all that bad. These gingerbread cookies turned out pretty good, and I'll definitely be making them again.

I got this recipe out of The New Baking Book (which I got for $6.98 at a used book store... score!).


1/2 Cup shortening
1/2 Cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger (I used freshly ground, which has the best flavor!)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 Cup molasses
1 Egg
1 Tbs vinegar
2 1/2 Cups all purpose flour
Powdered Sugar Icing (Recipe below)

In your mixer, beat shortening on medium to high for 30 seconds.

Add sugar, baking powder, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon and cloves. Beat until completely combined, scraping the sides of the bowl periodically.

(Did I mention I got an awesome new camera as an early X-mas present? Well, I DID!)

Beat in molasses, eggs and vinegar until combined.

Check out Derrick's mean one-handed egg crackin skills! I wasn't sure what to think when I saw the recipe call for vinegar. I looked it up a bit online and saw suggestions that it's used to either cut the acidity or sweetness. Whether that's the case or not, I can't say. I can say, I wouldn't bother trying to make them without it.

Gradually beat in all of the flour. The dough will end up thick and a bit crumbly.

Divide dough in half and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 3 hours. (Chilling the dough will make it easy to work with later. Don't rush and skip this step!)

After the dough has been chilling for awhile, you can prepare the icing. Don't do it too early, or it will start to harden.

Powdered Sugar Icing (AKA the easiest thing you will ever make!)

1 Cup sifted powdered sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
3 Tbs milk (amount is approximate, add 1 Tbs at a time until the consistency is perfect)

Sift the sugar, add the vanilla and add the milk 1 Tbs at a time, until it drizzles. That's it! I split it into two batches and added food coloring, to make the cookies more festive.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the gingerbread to 1/8", one half of the batch at a time. Use cookie cutters to cut our your cookies and place them onto greased cookie sheets. Using a thin metal spatula to pick them up helps to ensure you won't rip the dough. (A couple of my snowmen were headless.)

Bake each batch for 5-6 minutes. Cool on the pan for one minute and then transfer onto wire racks to cool completely. Once cooled, drizzle the icing onto your cookies. Allow them to sit a good hour or more, so the icing hardens. It was late and I rushed that step, which made the cookies stick together. Still- delish!

One day I'll get crazy and do some fancy decorating. Until then, these will have to do.

Happy Holidays everyone!

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Documenting and My Walk Home

I want to remember. Have you ever looked at an item in your home, or the home you grew up in (if you're lucky enough to be able to still visit that place) and thought, "I've never really noticed that before"? It's a similar sensation when you catch a scent or a song that bring you back to a place, only you're not quite sure where.

I once sat next to a woman on the train who smelled of something... a perfume, a lotion.... I have no idea what it was, and like a crazy person I sat sniffing in as deeply as I possibly could without being noticed, to try and place this scent. I debated on asking her what perfume she wore. I didn't. I'll always feel a bit bad about that.

Marge used to make clothes for my dolls, scarves, hat and mittens for my brothers and I, and all other kinds of goodies for us. They always had a warm, comforting scent. Her scent. When Marge died and we had to clean out her home, we came across piles and piles of notes, cards, diaries, journals. She kept everything, and dated it all. We have her window fan manual from the 80's (dated). We have her journals, telling us when she painted the upstairs metal bed frame (dated in the 1940's... and it still looks great). We have her bible with lots of notes; book marked and dog eared pages (dated). We have her diary in which she confided to herself that she was afraid and lonely. Dated.

If she hadn't left all this behind, so much of her past would either remain a mystery or be falsely assumed. She documented, and in a way, that will always keep her alive. She will always be a part of my life. Because of this, when I think of it, I know I need to document.

Unlike some, routine is something that comforts me. I enjoy spontaneity now and then, but when it comes down to it, I truly am a home body. I like knowing where I am and being close to the people I love.


My walk home from the Metra is not one I normally enjoy, mainly because at that point of my day I just want to finally be home and in my pajamas (which I practically live in, if I'm not out and about). Today, I seemed to have a heightened sense of sight, sound and smell. Everything seemed to greet me as if saying, "You're almost there". Part of why I don't take chances in life or do things that I would love to (focus on my jewelry business, give 100% to my blog, find the means to travel, sit down and read some fucking non-fiction.... god I just can't focus on so much of it and I get so frustrated!) is because I don't have those senses of security to guide me along; To hug me along the way and remind me that I'm OK. It’s new territory.

My train ride home differs from day to day. Once I get to Ogilvie, the cars are often packed but sometimes, when you're lucky, there's quite a bit of room left. Everyone is different. Some people I recognize, but many I don't. I don't pay too much attention to those around me in situations like these. For all I know, I've sat next to the same person 75 times and will never recognize their face. Some are dressed nicely, some are casual, some are drinking beer, some are eating a snack, some are reading and some are on their fancy phones or laptops. When the squeak of the train and the pull on your body to your right signals you've arrived at your station, it's time to get off.


Most times, I'm greeted with the smell of steak. It reminds me of fancy parties at steak houses, or my Dad grilling. Good memories, but wouldn't ya know it... I'm a vegetarian. About half a block later and there they are... warm, homemade tortillas. There's nothing like the smell of a warm tortilla when you're starving (sometimes the case, not usually).


Now past the area with bars and restaurants, my commute seems extra cold this time of year. Traffic is blowing cold winds off the snow and slush lined streets and everyone is in a hurry. Much of the personality is lost. I pass a CPD (Chicago Park District) field house that Marge attended Grammar school at, before they built the neighborhood grammar school. She told me long ago that she remembers the day they collected their things and walked the 6 or so blocks to the new, much larger, building. It was an exciting day. This field house now hosts various activities and events; from what I gather they are all geared around children. I could Google it and find out, but I'd almost rather stay guessing. I took a class there as a child that taught you test taking skills. The classes were incredibly boring and I spent a lot of my time looking at the woman teaching it. She had a wooden arm with a metal hook on the end. I'd never before seen anything like that in person and I was entranced. I felt a strong pity for her. I'm sure she got along fine... I should have just concentrated on the lessons. (Ah- standardized tests. I am not a fan, but this isn't a rant so I'll leave it at that.)


After the field house is the corner where I often see a little old man who stands at roughly 5'2", smoking his cheap cigar before he goes home. (He also does this in the morning while waiting for his bus.) He is small in his dark trench coat and black shiny loafers, content looking, but he doesn't seem to want to speak to anyone. I wonder if he has anyone at home. Maybe his wife won't let him smoke in the house. Maybe she is long gone and he still smokes outside out of habit. Again, sometimes it's better to just hypothesize and move on.


Next, the corner store. Great deals on produce, but I hate walking past due to the smell of plastic bags and rotisserie chicken (again, vegetarian). It grosses me out so my pace generally quickens around this time. When I was a kid, that store had a water fountain at the back. Drinking from it absolutely made my day. If only drinking from a public water fountain still did it for me. It's probably healthier that isn't the case though.


Around the corner and I'm a couple houses down from Eddie. He is in his mid to late 40's and lives in a brown bungalow, renting the second floor with his brother. He told me his father lives in FL, but visited them for Thanksgiving. Eddie has some sort of mental handicap, though I'm not sure which it is. Interacting with him makes me feel whole. I can't really describe it, but he lacks the cynicism of people who don't have his "handicap". I genuinely surprised him when I started stopping to talk with him in the morning. He tells me about his dog, his favorite team The Cubs, airplanes and trains. He once told me, "I like you Valerie. Do you like me?" "Of course", I replied, "Of course I like you Eddie". When I see him now, I am greeted with a hug and it makes me day. Screw that.... it makes me week.

Now that it's cold out, I probably won't see Eddie for some time, as he only waits outside for his bus in the warm weather. I gave him my business card to give to his brother so we could work out a time we could walk our dogs together, but he never called. Eddie asked me once about it, but I don't have his brother's information. He probably isn't comfortable with it and in a way I don't blame him. I'm just sad that I won't see him for awhile.

Just past Eddie's home, across the street is a small curb that runs along the parking area for an apartment building that I used to walk along as a kid, pretending I was a tightrope walker. Just past, that are footprints embedded in the cement. I would put my feet in and follow them before I got to my curb when walking uptown to buy candy. I've done it once or twice as an adult, just to re-live it. After all, they won't be there forever.


The last block is filled with homes of neighbors that I could get into, but won't. (I just realized this sentence implies I could break into their houses. Not the case, but it’s funny enough to not bother revising.) I will say that many of them I've known since I was a child, many I reconnected with when I moved back as an adult, and many are total strangers to me. Still- there is a sense of community that I enjoy.

Once home, I get to see my dog Footloose and my cat BoJangles which ends my journey. Although I repeat this walk every day, it seemed more alive this evening (or maybe it was me that seemed more alive?) and I knew that it won't last forever. (Sometimes I have an 'Oh crap, I forgot it was garbage pickup day" before I go into the house. That's always... fun.)


If there's one thing Marge's death taught me, is the importance of writing it down. Thank you Marge, for that valuable lesson. I miss you each day.

*I'd love to hear other people's "documentations". What's some process you'd never know you missed? What plays an invisible role of who you are or where you came from?


Happy Festivus!

Festivus for the restofus!

Here's our family photo that my Mom will be sending out. Foose has his hat string dangling in front of his face (he ate it in half) but it still turned out pretty good!

(That's a photo of Marge in the background. She's still with us in spirit!

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

2010 (Blog Hoppity Hop)

2010 has been a weird year for me. I've definitely been on an emotional rollercoaster and dealing with some issues that have held me down on several occasions. I felt defeated and I let it take over for awhile, but I'm back on track and doing well.

My friend Juliea posted this blog hop and I'm taking part to help share a bit about myself and see how many of you do the same!

Copy the questions below and answer them on your blog. Don't forget to also copy and paste the code for the Thumbnail Blog Roll below, too, so others can join in!

What was the most exciting, heart-stirring thing that happened in your life and/or business this year?
Honestly, blogging. I finally found a way to combine writing and art in a format that I'd never used and it really allows me to express myself like I haven't in a long time. Knowing people are reading it really makes me feel amazing and gives me a sort of deadline. I know if I stop baking or creating, I stop posting and you stop reading. That is NOT something I want to happen and it's a driving force that I really need and appreciate.

•What was your biggest learning?
There wasn't anything in particular that happened to spark this, but I've learned to better live in the moment, but at the same time let it pass. Holding on to hurtful things has always been a problem of mine. I have a thick skin for the most part, but certain things... they just get to me and I can't shake them. Someone might be rude to me and say something hateful (even if it's just someone on the street or train) and I'll just re-live it over and over and over, until I make myself sick. This is NOT a healthy way to live life, and I think I'm finally coming to terms with that.
•How did you stretch yourself?
I made to-do lists and set deadlines. I didn't meet my goals 100%, but I stuck to the plan and creatively grew more this year then I have in awhile.

Now take a deeper look at 2010. Ask yourself the following questions to help spotlight your successes and uncover nuggets of learning:

Look back at the goals you set out for 2010. Which ones were you most proud of accomplishing? Which goals were easier to meet than you thought? Which ones were more challenging? Why?
A lot of these are job related, and since I have co-workers reading, I'm going to skimp on this answer to avoid getting me and my big mouth into trouble. :) I was about to say that I hadn't really set any goals for myself, but I realy did. I promised myself to blog regularly. I did. I needed to do home repairs and ended up stripping VERY old wallpaper and repainting a room. I now have a bedroom that is calming and I absolutely love it. I painted my front porch. I started recycling more. I cleaned out closets. I tried new things and met new people. Which one of these am I most proud of? All of them really; Even the trivial ones. The most challenging was meeting new friends. Some of you know that I suffer from depression and anxiety, which sometimes becomes very debilitating. In the past, I'd turned to unhealthy ways to get past this, but those were not good choices (nor did they work) and I gave that solution up long ago. I'm healing more and more each day, though I do hit ruts from time to time, sometimes often. Getting out there and being open, meeting others, being happy... these are things that sometimes come so natural to me that it makes it all the harder when they don't. This is why it was the most difficult, and yet probably the most rewarding. (Isn't that usually the case though?)

How did you honor your values?
I continued to stay true to my vegetarianism and learned more recipes and shared them with others. I did the Farm Sanctuary Walk to fight factory farming. I grew a whole new awareness of my impact on the earth and started to recycle more than ever. I didn't get back into leafleting for animal rights, but plan to look into it for 2011.

•What did you enjoy doing that you want to do more of?
Visiting friends (near and far!), blogging, yoga (which I FINALLY started doing regularly again!), reading (again... finally back to regularly picking up a book and not taking 4 months to finish!) and trying tons of new recipes. Also- playing piano. I'm mostly self-taught and not good by far, but it's a wonderful creative outlet and a ton of fun.

•What do you need to stop doing or let go of?
Being so hot and cold. I either procrastate or move on full steam ahead until I'm sleep deprived and cranky. I have a typical addictive personality though, so that one will take a LOT of work.

•What new opportunities are available for 2011 and beyond?
School. That's more of an "and beyond" goal though. I'd love to go back for my Masters in something other than boring old business. I'd also like to build up my blog base and really focus on making it a sort of 2nd full-time job. •In the remaining weeks of the year, is there anything else you want to do to help you put a pretty bow on 2010?
Get through the holidays with a genuine smile. Thanksgiving was hard, and I'm determined to make the little we have left of 2010 great.

•What is one thing that stands between you and your goals?
Depression and money, which sometimes (ok, often) go hand in hand. I have so many ideas but often have absolutely no way to afford things I really crave (maybe even need). If I could focus on getting financially in order (god- how do I do that, especially now?!) I know several doors would open.

•My Question: What is something/someone you have let go of in the past few years that you're comitting to bring back into your life?

Below - Submit a thumbnail image and a link to your blog/website. Copy the code available and post it on your blog post.

I love you guys!


Tickled Tuesday- Happy Holidays!

Can you believe that Christmas is NEXT WEEK?! I hate that once you're an adult it creeps up on you, and once you meet all your buying, sending, giving, etc. deadlines, you barely have time to stop and savor the moment. I miss the days when you had the 2 week break from school (the break alone is sorely missed) to anticipate, relax and enjoy the season. Snow didn't mean a longer commute, freezing your ass off or shoveling until your arms were about to fall off. Snow meant sledding or staying in, cozy under a blanket with a book, movie, video games, whatever you chose to do. How can we get that back? The days of easing into the holiday seem to be over, but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy it.

Here is a video my friend Juliea made of my brother's fiancee and I. You can make your own, but our faces are so perfect, I'd like to see one funnier!

Hilarious Elf Video

Happy Tuesday!

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Monday, December 6, 2010

Tickled Tuesday

Today's TT is brought to you by the funniest show of all time, 3rd Rock From the Sun. No matter how upset, angry, unhappy, etc. I am, this show can ALWAYS make me laugh.



Christmas Crafting- Pinecone Men

There are so many things I love about this time of year. The cheer, the smell of my Christmas tree, baking, eating(!), giving presents (even more so than receiving, though that's always good too, of course), snow (depending on my plans for the day), family gatherings, holiday music and last but not least, crafting.

This weekend I had my Mom and Grandma over for three generations of crafting. We made little Christmas men out of very basic craft supplies including pipe cleaners, pinecones, acorns, wooden beads, markers and nylon.

Here's the "How-to" on the first guy I made, along with some pictures of all the guys we made, together!

Nylon ( I used a pair of red ones that were nice and thick)
Styrofoam ball
Thread (preferrably a color to match your nylon)
Felt (Color of choice)
Hot glue (or any strong and fast-drying glue)
Sequins, markers, etc. GET CREATIVE!

Start by cutting enough nylon to wrap the styrofoam ball in. This will be the body of your character.

Gather the opening into a tight ball (pinch the nylon closed) and sew as closly to the styrofoam as possible. Trim as much excess as you can without cutting your thread.

Using the felt, cut a thin piece for the scarf. Use the scissors to make cuts on each end for fringe. Draw a face onto the acorn. (Watch out if you are using acorns you've gathered, as many have small bugs inside. Check them before you bring them in the house!)

Bend a piece of pipe cleaner to make a set of legs. The length you need will vary depending on the size of your other components. It's always best to start with extra, as you can trim off any excess.

Glue on the scarf and nestle the head inside of it. (You can reverse this process. Depending on how much bulk of the nylon is left, it might be easier to glue the head on first and then wrap the scarf around.) Cut two pieces of pipe cleaner to desired length for the arms. These can be stuck right into the ball but you may use glue to make it extra secure, if you need/want to. Glue on the legs so he doesn't roll around.

Isn't he cute?

Here are others we made.The larger guys are replicas my Mom and I made last year of a Christmas Elf we found that Marge had made many, many years ago. Hers is still the best, but ours are pretty darn cute. I had mine out because Footloose ate his head last year and I had to recreate it.

Our messy table!

I hope some of you try to make these! They're versatile, cheap, fun, cute and good for ANY age.

Happy Holidays!

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