Archive for the ‘Celebrating’ Category

Gluten-free cupcakes

It’s true.

Gluten-free Dreams Cake/Cupcake Mix

This cake/cupcake mix is from Cherrybrook Kitchen’s “Gluten Free Dreams” line, and we found it at Nugget Market. Besides being gluten-free, it’s “peanut-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and nut-free.” It also contains no brown rice, fruit juice, or soy, which means that I can actually eat it. It’s a miracle mix.

I baked and decorated the cupcakes and took them to a holiday gathering to see what people would think. The consensus was this: “great flavor but dry.” Or according to one particularly vocal person, “It’s not just dry; it’s like it sucks the moisture out of your tongue.”

But one must take into account that this is coming from people who have no food restrictions, people who can eat any kind of dessert they choose. For me, who hasn’t eaten cake in several years, it was indeed a gluten-free dream.

Two cupcakes for breakfast, please!

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Turns out, we live in a very outgoing neighborhood. Since we moved here six months ago, we’ve had the pleasure of attending neighborhood potlucks on the Fourth of July, Labor Day, and Halloween. In this holiday season, we’ve received a homemade hot cocoa mix, two plates of cookies, peanut brittle, and the songs of adorable little carolers.

In the spirit of the holiday season and of this neighborhood, my husband and I decided to make simmering potpourri packets to share with our neighbors. A few years ago, a friend gave us one of these, and I thought it was such a clever idea. Sometimes you need a gift that’s more than a card but less than an “actual” gift, if you know what I mean. These potpourri packets fit that category perfectly. This year, I’m totally copying my friend’s idea. Now you can too. 🙂


Ingredients for each packet:

1 fresh orange, as flawless as possible

2-3 cinnamon sticks

2-3 star anise

1 whole nutmeg

1 T. whole cloves

1 T. whole allspice

Here’s how we put together our packets. First, we assembled our supplies, which included all the ingredients above, as well as cellophane gift bags with twist ties, ribbon, miniature ornaments (a 9-pack on sale for $1.24 at JoAnn!), and printable labels (adhesive mailing labels work well).

We printed the following instructions on the labels:

Holiday Simmering Potpourri

Slice the orange. Add the orange slices and as many of the spices as you wish to boiling water in a saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered. This potpourri can be left simmering for hours at a time, but be sure to add water as needed. Please do not leave unattended. Enjoy!

Before stuffing the gift bags, we trimmed the labels to size and attached them to the front of the gift bags. Then we placed an orange and the appropriate amount of spices in each bag and sealed the aroma inside with a twist-tie. Finally, we strung a miniature ornament on a piece of ribbon and attached it to the bag.

(We also decided to also include a holiday photo-card, but this is totally optional. To do this, we simply punched a hole in the photo and strung it through the same piece of ribbon, making sure that the photo and the ornament were on opposite sides of the gift bag.)

Here we are, ready to deliver a bit of holiday cheer to the neighbors:


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Oh. My. I have just discovered Squishables. Have you seen these? “They’re giant, round, fuzzy, stuffed animals,” says the web site. “Hug them.” Oh, yes, I want to. Especially the Squishable sheep:



And while I’m at it, here are some other cute or unusual gift ideas:

For the poet or the inventor whose best ideas are always scribbled on the back of a napkin: The Napkin Notebook

Napkin Notebook


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To relish beauty and Mother Earth, all year-long:

2008 “Birds and Blooms” Calendar from PaPaYa!


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For the budding artist and book lover:

Linnea in Monet’s Garden

Linnea in Monet's Garden

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To create inspiring spaces for the home:

Custom Decorative Lettering

Decorative Lettering


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For the dreamer:

Limited edition print of Mati Rose Mcdonough’s “Believe” painting




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To proclaim your love for your tech-support guy:

“I Love My Geek” T-shirt

I Love My Geek T-shirt


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To warm the tummy and soul:

Snowman mugs with frother from Williams-Sonoma

Snowman Mugs


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For the gardener-cook:

A quartet of fresh herbs


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There isn’t much time for anything right now, but here are a couple of gems from Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space, which I finished reading recently:


All important words, all the words marked for grandeur by a poet, are keys to the universe, to the dual universe of the Cosmos and the depths of the human spirit.

The great function of poetry is to give us back the situations of our dreams. The house we were born in is more than an embodiment of home, it is also an embodiment of dreams. Each of its nooks and corners was a resting-place for daydreaming…. The house, the bedroom, the garret in which we were alone, furnished the framework for an interminable dream, one that poetry alone, through the creation of a poetic work, could succeed in achieving completely…. It is on the plane of the daydream and not on that of facts that childhood remains alive and poetically useful within us. Through this permanent childhood, we maintain the poetry of the past. To inhabit oneirically the house we were born in means more than to inhabit it in memory; it means living in this house that is gone, the way we used to dream in it.

In the forward, John R. Silgoe writes, “Ostensibly modest in compass, an inquiry focused on the house, its interior places, and its outdoor context, The Poetics of Space resonates deeply, vibrating at the edges of imagination, exploring the recesses of the psyche, the hallways of the mind. In the house Bachelard discovers a metaphor of humanness.”

I’ll admit that I found Bachelard somewhat challenging. He’s unapologetically abstract and long-winded, but at the same time, The Poetics of Space is undeniably dreamy and even a bit magical. In the days since I finished reading it, I’ve found myself pondering the spaces I know and remember and discovering entire rooms of imaginative meaning and possibility. If you’re looking for a book to tickle your imagination and are willing to read slowly and thoughtfully, as Bachelard requires, I recommend it.

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Meanwhile, in the space we call home (where the rest of us are quite busy, I might add), this is the scene:

Sprawled about

Christmas tree & a sleepy fuzzy

On a chilly night

It’s as though the cats have decided to semi-hibernate through the winter, and I do not blame them. I want to grab a book, curl up in a blanket, and join them.

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It’s looking that way.

At Thanksgiving, the hills along I-5 to Southern California were gray and woolly:
On the road

After the festivities, my mom packed us a lunch of homemade sushi, freshly-picked persimmons, and steamed sweet potatoes for our journey home. Still, it was a long road trip:
On the road

Back at home, the Christmas gift from my parents is giving juicy gifts of its own:

We decorated our Christmas tree and hung a mistletoe ball in the arched doorway:
2007 Christmas Tree

This year we didn’t make it to the Christmas Shoppe at Lake Tahoe, but we managed to find an ornament to represent this year:
2007 Ornament

Everything is dazzling this season. Lights and bows decorating the roof lines. Glittery ornaments and little girl dresses in velvet and taffeta. The sweet aroma of apple cider and peppermint. Kitties growing long fur coats. Everything is dazzling, and yet it’s so easy to become stressed out, isn’t it? There’s so much, too much, of everything. I keep counting Christmas letters to write, gifts to wrap and mail, days and hours that never add up to enough…. Yesterday, my husband brought home a bouquet of tulips for me:

Today, they’re reminding me of something. “Slow down,” they’re saying, I think. “Take time to just be.”

Are you staying calm this holiday season? How do you do it?

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