Archive for August, 2011

Celebrating a Birthday and a Friendship with a Plate of Goodness

August 30, 2011

For my birthday earlier this summer, a dear friend made me cookies. It was a wonderful gift and not one I had received in years – I’m usually the baker, not the one being baked for! The funny thing is, they were Cowboy Cookies from one of my favorite cookbooks, Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts. I make these cookies a lot, but mine always end up crispy hard within about two hours of coming out of the oven (a genetic thing I inherited from my mother); hers were of the melt-in-the-mouth variety…delicious. This past week, I had the chance to return the favor when she had a birthday. However, I also changed it up a bit.

So let me back up to that point between my birthday and my friend’s. In July, I was visiting my aunt in St. Charles, Illinois and popped into one of my favorite shops, Stonehouse on Cedar. It carries an ever-changing collection of antiques and handmade items, most of which fall into the category of beautiful and useful. On the clearance shelf was a butter-yellow plate, and with cookie crumbs virtually still in the corners of my mouth, a lightbulb went off and a “big idea” was born: For my friend’s birthday, I would give her baked goods on the plate and I would tell her we were starting a new tradition. Next year for my birthday, she would fill the plate with something delicious and return it to me; I would then pass the plate back to her for her birthday a few months later. (This does not sound like good etiquette here – telling her what to give me for my birthday – but it was fine in person.)

While I had planned to bake my friend cookies, I had been telling her about a wonderful gluten free bakery in a nearby town and decided to introduce her to it (she is on a gluten free diet). I took the plate over to Sweet Ali’s Gluten Free Bakery in Hinsdale, Illinois and picked out a sampler of cookies; the accommodating salespeople made it look “birthday like” by wrapping it all up with cellophane and a bow.

My friend loved the idea but suggested that whoever has the plate can choose when to pass it back – we could be celebrating a birthday or some other event, commemorating a holiday, or providing a lift when the other person could use it. I love how this idea has unfolded and each of us has added to it!

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Portable Inspiration Board

August 16, 2011

This is the time of year when school just can’t start soon enough – the house is a mess as we have all lapsed into a summer routine (or lack thereof); the kids are getting on one another’s nerves; and every suggestion is met with “Do we have to?,” “I don’t want to go there!,” or “It’s so hot, I don’t want to go outside.” In other words, there is a lot of whining going on – and I hate to say it, but I have been doing my fair share these last few days. I am anxious to get busy on client work and other projects without umpteen interruptions.

One thing I have been trying to get to for about four weeks now is this post on a portable inspiration board and since a bit of time opened up (my son is at a friend’s house swimming and my daughter and her friend are looking for ghosts in our house – not likely I told them, but do watch out for the giant dust bunnies, pile of books to be donated to the library, heap of outgrown clothes to pass along to kids of friends and relatives, and all sorts of other obstacles)…here we go.

When we go on vacation, I always take a sketchpad and numerous pictures I’ve clipped from magazines that inspire me on some level. Invariably, the clippings fall out or begin to blow around (because I have to take them all to the beach or wherever I am sitting to sketch). As I carried deconstructed cereal boxes to the recycling bin several days before we left, I had an aha moment and decided to save a few. I simply cut the larger cereal box panels down to a size that could tuck into my sketch book and secured the pictures onto the cardboard panels with tape. Nothing scattered and I actually got to sketch rather than chase pictures. When we returned, some pictures stayed and others went into the recycling bin – along with the cardboard backing.

With vacation behind us for this year, I think I will take a few of these portable inspiration boards with me next time I’m able to steal away to the backyard and sketch – assuming I can get past the dust bunnies!

Happy sketching!