Monday, November 30, 2009

I heart holidays with friends

For Thanksgiving i went to my friend Lynn's house. She and i met in Brownies when i was 7 and she was 8. Needless to say, we know each other well. I love a lot of things about going to her house. Not only do i get to visit a life completely foreign to my own (married, big house, 2 kids, 2 dogs), but i love that her home is a perfect mixture of well put-together elegance and stuff her kids made. Like these door decorations, hand drawn (and apparently startled) turkeys share equal billing with a lovely metal piece that i'm sure cost more than my furniture. You know those friends you have that don't treat you like a guest? The ones where you just get your own drink? I love those friends. Lynn and her husband Shawn are definitely friends like that. Soon after i arrived i went to the fridge to get a drink - and found shelves of pies. Love it! Lynn made a whole turkey and an extra breast. She uses the baking bags and man, oh, man did those birds turn a gorgeous golden brown Do ya like how her outfit coordinates with dinner? And how about those kitchen pitch forks she's using to transfer the bird? I have absolutely NO use for them whatsoever, but i love them so much that i want a pair. Know what else i love? Someone else carving the turkeys; i do it at Christmas and i do not love it. Shawn does not kid around about really cleaning the meat from the bones. He decimated these. And the thing i love most of all about spending Thanksgiving with one of my oldest friends is that it felt like i was with family even when my own family is so far away from me.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I am thankful

I am thankful for my life, joyful in its entirety. I am thankful for the good, balanced by the bad. I am thankful for the sun and the rain. I am thankful for my family. I am thankful for my friends. I am thankful for my gifts and my challenges. I am thankful for you. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The system works

Guess who earned her 150th gold star during yoga this morning. Guess who has already made an appointment with her massage therapist for next week. Guess who is supremely pleased at the moment. You gotta try the positive reinforcement system, people. I am more organized, more healthy, eating better, spending less money, indulging in a guilt-free session of massage and have never been happier about mopping my floor.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


A few years ago Rachel turned me on to the sushi buffet at Niko in Ellicott City. For $12 you get Miso soup, hot and cold side dishes and all the sushi you can eat. It really is a ridiculous deal. Here is Francie, home from Belgium and enjoying the sushi bounty mmmmmm... Wasabi...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

It might be love

My new boyfriend's name is George... At the house we had a huge George Forman grill. When i downsized to the apartment, it went somewhere - who knows where at this point. I was in Ollie's Discount Store (like Big Lots, for my mid-western friend) when i spotted this wee little version. It was cute as a button. It was on sale. It can cook one burger at a time. It has a bun warmer. Look at that picture again. The word you are thinking right now... that word is adorable.

Friday, November 20, 2009

I ain't afraid of no asparagus

The formerly worrisome veggie spears have been conquered. Here they are lightly drizzled with olive oil and a sprinkling of garam masala (did i spell that right?) ready to be baked. And here they are post cooking, ready to be consumed. Oh yes, they were yummy I served them with some sweet-n-spicy rice, beans and corn and a grilled turkey burger topped with a generous dollop of Sint Maarten Old Man Gourmet Creole Chipotle Hot Sauce of the Caribbean Islands (which is not only tasty, but should win an award for the longest condiment name ever). The ensemble was quite pleasing.

1000 Awesome Things

Perhaps you've been hanging here in the Nikiverse for years. Perhaps then you might recall that long, long ago i was making a list of Niki's Reason's to Smile over at Lists of Bests. Every so often i reread the list when i need some perking up, but i haven't added to it in a while. I bring this up because last week TM Amy left a post-it on my desk that simply said (you should see our picture on there any day now) and i finally got around to looking at the website last night (while waiting for the horrendous traffic to thin out a bit before venturing home). Wow. Do you know what i love? Unbridled optimism. Enthusiasm in the face of daunting odds. Telling the naysayers of the world to bite it. This site is like my list only a jillion times bigger and better.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

golden autumn leaves make me smile

Wearing a uniform most of the time i am awake makes the days i can wear real clothes special.
Some days the outfit just comes together on its own, like yesterday.
I knew i was going to wear a black dress with a sweater.
The pink sweater i wanted is MIA (really, i can't find the darn thing; its not in the closet and its not in the dirty clothes - what the heck?) but the purple cashmere was clean and on the top of the pile.
Purple and black are my favorite colors so we were already on a good path.
 I have a new-ish vintage crystal necklace that i have yet to wear, so it went on.
My hair was pinned into double loop and i decided on gold Trifari leaves to highlight the gold spacers on the necklace.
I inherited them from a great aunt and really like them, but rarely wear them since they are rather plain. [plus they have a weird closure so they are tough to get placed in my hair and even harder to get out]
As i was finishing getting ready the necklace kept getting covered by the sweater.
 I tried it buttoned, unbuttoned, and half-buttoned to no avail.
I changed to a gold and purple crystal necklace, but it had the same problem.
 I dumped the necklace idea and decided to go with a brooch instead.
There is a great black one... nope, too heavy.
There is a great purple and pink one... nope, wrong style to go with the cardigan.
There is a nice purple floral one... nope, it is silver and i am not completely redoing my hair so the gold doesn't clash. 
I found a vintage gold leaf pin for $5 that almost perfectly matches the earrings years ago and have never had a chance to wear them together. 

Since it is a single leaf instead of a classic brooch shape i wasn't sold on how it would play on the side of the sweater.
 Instead, given the classic cut of the cardigan and the vintage shape of the pin i thought i would go totally 50's by using it as a sweater guard.

On the way out I realized i didn't have any earrings on. 
Don't I own single gold leaf earrings? 
 Yes, yes i do. 
I love it when a plan comes together; especially when there wasn't much of a plan to begin with.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hey asparagus - Bite Me!

Oh yes, people, i have indeed finally cooked and eaten asparagus in my own home!
You might recall that over the summer asparagus was my culinary nemesis.
But no more.

I bought some Monday night and am going to have it with roasted chicken tonite or tomorrow, but this morning i was feeling frisky and decided that asparagus needed to be cooked immediately.
For breakfast. I chopped 2 spears cooked them with garlic in some olive oil until they were just a little tender, added some salsa, and let the whole pan cook down a bit.
Then i scrambled in some eggs.
The dish could not be categorized as attractive per se (orange eggs seldom are) but it was tasty!
  I sliced up some gala apples and sprinkled them with cinnamon-sugar
 (i realize that was not a great choice to enhance the attractiveness of the meal) bringing a great crunchy sweet juxtaposition to the softer spicy eggs.
 Most importantly, asparagus no longer has the upper hand in the kitchen.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


There was a brief break in the weather that felt like October around here.
After days of wind and rain and grey it was lovely.
I'm sure we will pay for it come February, but it was nice to see a last flare of autumn before winter settles in.
Sitting outside eating lunch made me consider how how perceptions are influenced by as many external forces as internal.
A 60 degree day in August would be met with sweaters, but in November people weren't even wearing coats.
Last month when we were in Ohio for my nephew's wedding i overheard my brother describing the foliage to his wife back home. They live in Virginia Beach where there are 4 distinct seasons, but few trees to mark the passage of summer to winter. He couldn't get over how beautiful it was out in the country, no matter where you looked.

He said Even the dead corn is beautiful here

When we talked about it later he insisted that the corn was a different shade of gold in Ohio than it was in Virginia.
 Though i think that might be true I can't help but wonder today if maybe he was just seeing the same thing in a different way because of the different setting and the festive mood of the day.

I wonder if we can will ourselves to see something different in our every day lives. 
(do you see the rainbow in that picture?

I wonder if simply wanting to see things
means that we can.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Life altering crepe

Of course i knew savory crepes existed, i'd just never tried one.
I like my crepes full of sweet cream and on fire.
Saturday night my friend Ron and I went to La Madeleine to celebrate his birthday.
It is a little chain (Texas, Louisiana, Georgia and here) cafe that does provincial French-inspired food.
I decided i wanted to try something different so i ordered the Beef Crepe Maison.
Sacre bleu! 
I think I am in love.
I am pretty sure that i announced that i wanted to do something completely inappropriate with that crepe during dinner. I can't stop thinking about it: beef, potatoes, mushrooms, onions, and broccoli in a cheddar cheese sauce in, on and around a perfectly cooked crepe.
 I want one right now.
Paired with a petite spinach and strawberry salad it was magnificent.
You must try this.
Go now.


I am at a loss for words (as is TM Elise).

The giant golden Buddha on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere is so astonishing that apparently people stop to visit it all the time, as evidenced by this sign:

Friday, November 13, 2009

Put a lid on it

I did a show in Martinsburg, WV and saw this awesome mosaic of Van Gogh's self-portrait on the side of an art gallery.
When we got to our venue (the library) there was another similar mosaic on the wall outside of the meeting room.
The mosaic artist had done a community project with the kids at the library about everyday art.
 And what was their mosaic medium?
Recycled plastic caps of all sizes and shapes! How cool is that?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


It is interesting to me what things contribute to our sense of identity.
There are the obvious, mostly unchangeable things like race, gender, age and nationality.
Then there are the fundamental, but constantly evolving things like faith, education, social awareness and morals.
But then there are the funny bits of life that stick to us like how we like our coffee, what stores we frequent, what is our current haircut and what do we wear. I kinda like that things of cosmic importance mix with trivia to form our own awareness of ourselves. Obviously one is more crucial than the other, but i like that there is a balance.
I bring this up because different people have commented on my new briefcase recently.
 This is the old briefcase.
It was an integral part of my identity for almost a decade.
 I bought it at a National PTA Conference that was being held in Baltimore; fTM Karen and i were working in the exhibit hall and we both bought these awesome bags. They had inflatable air bladders on the strap and along the back for lumbar support.
  I loved that bag.
 Everyday it went to work loaded down with my purse, my camera bag, my emergency overnight kit, my first aid kit, duct tape, writing utensils and paper, playing cards, my water bottle, my book, current projects, work folders, an umbrella, spare gloves, a winter hat, my goggles, back-up goggles, a brush, various hair implements and a toy Bruce the Shark from Finding Nemo with light-up eyes.
 For a while the team referred to it as "The Bag of Bags" because of all of the separate bags it held and then it was "The Boulder Bag" because it felt like it was full of rocks.
Time and use have taken their toll.

But i couldn't imagine going to work without my bag.
I mean, it is my work bag - how could i work without it?
Anyhoo, last year for Christmas i asked my dad to find me a new briefcase.
 I gave him very specific perimeters and he managed to do pretty well.
It's lovely - no question about that.
I just... well,... it's not my bag.
It sat in my dining room for 10 months.
I just couldn't bring myself to switch over. Finally, my briefcase was losing structural integrity so i made the switch. It still feels weird. When i go to and from work i look for the old bag. I don't know which pocket contains what. It has been an adjustment and the comments about the new bag over the last few days has really solidified my opinion that my old briefcase really was a piece of my identity.
There has been a silver lining in all of this, though.
There was no place to safely store my goggles in the new bag so i was forced to make a case for them
 My sewing skills are suspect and my seam doesn't really line up, but i like the pattern and i am proud of the crafty details.

Yes Rea, that is jute.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I'm NOT old (but i might be tired)

Finally, finally, finally finished editting, resizing, uploading, blogging and ordering pictures from the wedding.
That took a hot minute; stupid cold/flu/virus thing that kicked my butt this week.
This is the first chance i've had to really look at some of these pictures and it just struck me : at some point I must have gotten old.
Honestly, i don't feel very old.
I know that i'm lived a lot of life, but internally i just don't feel old. I feel more mature, more centered, more secure, less scattered, but certainly not old.
Yet somehow my nephews -whose births i remember like it was last year- look like this
What the heck?
When did this happen?
Matt is MARRIED?
David owns his own successful welding company?
When did they become grown-ups?
I taught them to tie their shoes, for goodness sakes.
If they are grown-ups, what does that make me?


Nobody can make you laugh or cry like they can.
Nobody else still calls you pet names from when you were three.
Nobody brings up embarrassing stories quite like them.
Nobody else remembers how you cried about your 4th grade crush.
Nobody knows where the skeletons are buried outside of them.
Nobody else understands the family you come from.
Nobody shares your fears about your aging parents except them.
Nobody else is bound by blood to come when you call.
Kris, David, Niki
We could not be more different, if we tried; but as we get older, i come more and more to realize that the bond we share is undeniable.

Wedding redux, part 2

I already posted pictures of the decorations and such, but here are a few reception photos from Matt and Kelly's wedding. [note: it was reeeeeeeally dark in the hall in a cool, moody way so some of the pics are questionable - sorry]
The arch that drove multiple groomsmen to drink while putting it together came out gre
at. Here is Kris and her SO Larry entering with the flowergirl, Emma

and the happy couple
It may be grainy, but you can see their smiles during their first dance to I Thought I Loved You Then
Kris managed to not cry during her dance with her baby.
The cake was 4 tiers, alternating white and chocolate with a wonderful boiled sugar icing in cream with chocolate fondant accents
They both intended to be nice during the cake feeding, but Kelly anticipated Matt making a move and did a preemptive icing strike
With the white on black and the expression on his face,
doesn't Matt look like a 40's mobster getting ready
to call in a hit on someone?
You know that party is getting well underway when grandmas are dancing
and bridesmaids are doing kegstands
Finally, all the setup and stress is over and everyone can just relax.
Kris and Larry
me with the boys

Wedding redux

Work and illness (mine and others') has kept me from my appointed blogging rounds.
To get it out of the queue i'm going to post some wedding and reception pictures with minimal commentary.
So here is my nephew, Matt, marrying his sweetheart, Kelly,
2 weeks ago in rural Ohio.

Kris realizes about 10 minutes before the wedding that all of the groomsman have done their french cuffs wrong; as she redid Matt's i loved that he called out to his boys We blew it. Come get your cuffs changed.

and after.
My sister, Kris, with her sons and new daughter-in-law

My nickname for the groom has been Monkey-head for years; no one can even remember why anymore. But look at this picture and tell me that the name doesn't fit his impish ways:
Not even married an hour and already he's holding her stuff while she goes to the ladies' room.
Leaving the ceremony amid bubbles,
this is my favorite picture of the afternoon because it is candid and genuine.