Goodbye, 2012

I hope everyone had a truly lovely holiday season. My family was in from out of town and we spent a lot of time hanging out in our house and visiting my sister’s place (she also lives in town). In the month of December, I have attended 3 family parties, a friend party and a work party (3 of which have taken place in the past 9 days), and we’re having friends over for New Years Eve tonight. The holiday season is so busy and lovely! I’d have some pretty pictures to show you (I made an awesome dessert I was pretty nervous about for Christmas Eve, I have pictures of our decorations and the table from Christmas Eve dinner, plus some wrap-up on the presents I made for a big number of friends and family), but I managed to misplace my camera at my sister’s house and it hasn’t surfaced yet. High five, right?

In the meantime, I thought it’d be fun to look back at a few things we did in 2012, what was weirdly popular on the blog, and what we’re looking forward to next year.

In 2012

You would be forgiven for thinking this turned into a food blog this year, since I ended up posting so many recipes, but I really think of food as an extension of making a house into a home. Some favorites were: spicy soda crackers, arugula walnut pesto (we made this for Christmas Eve dinner), our crowd-pleasing empanadas and of course my family Christmas cookies. My grandma sampled one of my gumdrop cookies and told me that I am now the keeper of the gumdrop cookies, as she is done making them. (But she still busted out her sugar cookies. Grandma’s sugar cookies are magic.)

We slowed down a lot on building and redecorating because we had our minds on some other things, but looking back, I’m surprised at what we did actually accomplish this year. We put in a laundry room, added a TV to the kitchen, hired someone to re-lay our brick walk for us, and did some landscaping.

We also enjoyed some lovely trips and celebrations in 2012. We partied with our nephew who got the all-clear from some pretty serious health stuff thanks to St Judes as well as my dad who celebrated his 65th birthday with a surprise party at our house! We explored Kelley’s Island with my sister during a family vacation to Lakeside. Tim and I also had an awesome hike on Mt Rainier after a long drive across the country.

On the blog

The most popular post on Little Bronze Lion in 2012 has been the inspiration round-up of Prairie-style stained glass. I can understand that, I would have loved to run across a single source when I was looking for all of those pictures! The second most popular post is for spicy soda crackers, which doesn’t surprise me, as everyone who tries them wants that recipe! (A picture from that post even ended up on Pinterest, which amuses me endlessly.) The third most popular post was my review of my experience with Nicole’s Classes. That post got linked from their Twitter and Facebook pages, so that accounted for a lot of hits. When I was trying to decide whether to spend the money, I did a few searches, looking for people’s reviews of their experiences, so I was pretty pumped to share my thoughts.

In 2013

Of course, we don’t know for sure what we’ll tackle next year, but we have some thoughts. Our first project is almost definitely going to be the stairway and front bedroom, since the plaster is falling off the walls in some spots. We’ll be pulling up carpet, drywalling, building in closets, and adding (and replacing) windows. We know it’s going to make a big visual impact and it’s going to be very exciting.

When we redo the windows, we’re likely going to replace the siding on those faces of the house. The stuff we have now is vinyl and in terrible shape and we’re looking to upgrade to something that’s both sturdier and more attractive. It’s probably going to mean time on the porch roof, which I get nervous about at first, but hopefully by the end of the summer, I’ll be scampering around like a monkey.

I’d also like to get a garden started in the back yard this year. We grew a lot of lettuce and tomatoes and herbs at our apartment and I miss having fresh things outside our door. We might also re-seed the back yard (some of the grass seed Tim put down in the bare spots took before winter hit, but it’s still pretty sparse back there).

Our next major building/renovating/decorating project inside the house will probably be the dining room or living room. Neither of them need major work to the walls, but the floors will probably require some attention. It’ll be nice to take on what would basically be a decorating project. I do not look forward to the search for a new couch, but I’m pretty eager to have a new couch. (I like ours well enough and love how long it is, but something more grown-up would be excellent.) At that time, we can probably also address our media storage needs. I love the idea of a wall of books and we need smart solutions for CDs and DVDs, but we haven’t thought about any of it too seriously yet.

Anyway, 2012 has been a fine year for us and we look forward to even more progress in 2013. From our family to yours, have a happy new year!

Baking without losing your mind

Hi there. How is this holiday season treating you? Are you overwhelmed? Did you bite off more than you can chew? Boy, do I hear you. I am the queen of “well, sure I can probably add 6 more things to my plate” and I usually end up in a state of constant low-level stress, which results in me getting massively sick either just before or just after family parties. I often ring in the new year with a cold.

This year, I’m trying to map things out a bit better. I have a planner in which I actually wrote down major activities I hoped to accomplish each evening. I’m actually staying on top of things, much to my own amazement, and feeling like I can tackle all of the things that I intended to get to by the time my parents and sister arrive on Sunday. What? Awesome. One of the things I have plotted out is baking, and I thought I would share a few tips with you. These are not your “add the dry ingredients in 3 parts” sorts of tips. These are “here is how to strategize several different beloved cookie recipes across the space of a week without getting excessively dramatic” sorts of tips.

I mean, I’m not revealing ground-shattering things here, just how I bake things without going nuts. Read on.

Around here

We had a busy weekend, full of…a lot of randomness. Nothing of note, and yet a few things to share.

Our king winter hawthorn tree seems to be doing well. The leaves are beginning to change color (at least, I’m banking on that being an Autumn-thing and not a we-accidentally-killed-the-tree-during-planting-thing) and the berries seem to have gotten even redder. I am hoping that the holly bushes get berry-ful pretty quickly, too. Tim and I have started to notice holly bushes, tall grasses, and berry trees like crazy in our neighborhood while walking.

As an early birthday present, I took a cooking “class” (it was really more of a demonstration) at the North Market as part of their School of Cooking, from Chef Magdiale Wolmark of Till Dynamic Fare (formerly of Dragonfly and On the Fly, two of our favorite restaurants). It was great, as well as delicious, and I left armed with recipes for a few Dragonfly favorites, butternut squash spread and vegan mac and cheese sauce. I had to try recreating the spread right away, and it involved garlic oil. Rather than reach for the bottle garlic oil we have in our well-organized cabinet, I opted to try and make my own garlic confit. That lovely jelly jar full of cooked garlic and delicious oil is now hanging out in the fridge, and I look forward to smooshing a clove of garlic on a piece of bread and savoring every bite.

Tim continues his habit of purchasing random household supplies that secretly delight me. He’s fighting the tail end of a cold and had to pick up tissues in the store last week. I hadn’t realized for a few days that the box in the downstairs bathroom is lovely and stripey. And I am crazy for stripes. When I finally spotted it, I mentioned it to him that evening and he grinned that I was so amused. That, my friends, is love.

Anyway, I am nursing some cowbell-related blisters I developed while cheering for the Columbus marathon yesterday, and I am about to dive into baking for an upcoming family trip. Just wanted to drop in and share some things of amusement! Hope your weekend was great!

Cheering for a marathon

As you may have gleaned from previous mentions (or if you know us in real life, obviously) Tim has participated in some big running events in the past. While there are not any half or full marathons in the immediate future for him, fall brings one of my favorite times: marathon season. The Columbus marathon is this Sunday, take advantage of what is forecasted to be a lovely day, and get your cheer on!

Over the past several years, I have learned some things about cheering for races and marathons. First and foremost, I have learned that I love the heck out of it! I was basically the furthest thing from a cheerleader in high school, though I did once mix acrylic paint with hand lotion to paint my face for a giant soccer game our girls’ team was in (which the Internet is now telling me is a no-no, hmmm). Additionally, while running cross-country in high school, I distinctly remember wanting to punch people in the face who were standing on the sidelines, all “you can do it!” when I felt like I was dying a particularly slow death out on the course. (Right, I have issues, noted.) However, I was also the girl who would be trotting along at the back of the pack (I was not good at cross-country, by any means), and any time I came up on someone who was walking, I’d encourage them to start running again. My coach hated this, but I felt like we were all slogging through this insanity together, regardless of teams. I am supremely uncompetitive. I believe in everyone doing their best (not that you can’t be competitive and still want people to excell), and this comes out in me in spades when there are hundreds of runners trotting past me.

Not to brag, but I’ve been told that I’m awesome at cheering for marathons. Let me share some tips and tricks with you!

Keep en eye out for people in bonkers costumes, as well as the people you actually know! (Credit: Julie)

1) Plan out your approach ahead of time.

Lots of stuff inside, but warning, it’s a loooong post!

Birthday Time

I still can’t believe that I’ve been lucky enough to find someone in my life who pushes me to do my best, loves me for who I am, and makes my life better all the time. Happiest of birthdays to my dear husband, Tim, who makes me laugh with delightful frequency!

He is (not) a hipster, and I love him. (No, seriously, this photo was staged. That owl mug is my parents’ and he was growing a mustache for Movember. He is a totally normal person!)

Mount Rainier

Man, has it been a busy week for you? I am supremely glad it’s Friday evening. Let’s go ahead and just look at some lovely pictures, okay?

Tim and I had cause to be in Washington state this week and while we were there, Tim wanted to go to Mount Rainier. I am almost always game for a hike and had brought my Keens (that I bought specifically for hiking and then didn’t get to do much of it since purchasing them in April). What I failed to consider was how I had spent the last few weeks with practically no physical activity. I mean, I do this from time to time, launch myself into something that’s going to ask a lot of my body without really thinking through whether my current fitness level supports it. It’s how I found myself biking the equivalent of a marathon during a Market to Market ride a few years ago, despite having been basically a lump in the months prior. The real solution to this recurring problem would be to maintain some semblance of fitness, so I don’t spend the days following an escapade lurching around as if I’ve been assembled from parts and animated by lightning. Okay, noted.

But back to Mount Rainier. I knew it was going to be tough, but I was a bit concerned that five minutes in I was puffing like a steam engine while hundreds of tourists capered about on the paths with seemingly no problems between the slope and the altitude. This was not our normal state park random hike with a few hills thrown in for funsies. That being said, I was game as long as we took it slow. With many, many stops for brief rests, I followed Tim up the side of the mountain, well past the paved paths and people with small children. With his encouragement, we ended up hiking one of the “strenuous” trails for about 4.5 miles, with an elevation change of 1400 ft. It was pretty marvelous. I’d do it again, in a heartbeat, though I’d make sure to have a little more activity under my belt in the lead-up to the hike. Also, I’m making a mental note to do some training before the next time we visit Mel in Colorado and go back to the Great Sand Dunes.

And now, pictures!

We honestly had the best weather for this trip!

Look at the pretty mountain pictures inside!