Monday, December 19, 2016

Christmas Stocking Tradition

This post is a part of the Virtual Advent Tour, sponsored by Sprite Writes. Please visit her site to check out the list of other Christmas traditions from bloggers around the world.

Totoro Family Stockings:

Have you ever experienced a time when you innocently started something rather simple that over time mushroomed into something much bigger than you ever envisioned? Such is the plight of Totoro Christmas stockings.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Gratitude

Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgiving,
turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings
~ William Arthur Ward

For more inspirational photos this week, please visit Wordless WednesdayImage-in-ing, and Through my Lens.


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Totoro Family Recipes: Eggnog Streusel Muffins

I'm convinced holiday elves are responsible for transforming grocery stores from Halloween headquarters to Winter Wonderlands in the wee hours of November 1st. Warm fall colors are now festive reds and greens; candy corn gives way to ribbon candy; and delicious eggnog is now front-and-center on the dairy shelves.

I realize not all are fans of this holiday drink. Truth be told, I only indulge in  a glass each year. But I do enjoy the flavor and enjoy adding a bit to baked goods and morning coffee.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Hope

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul - 
and sings the tunes without the words - and never stops at all.
~ Emily Dickinson

For more inspirational photos this week, please visit Wordless WednesdayImage-in-ing, and Through my Lens.


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Friendly Ghosts

While retail stores decorate for Christmas,
I want to savor fall just a while longer.

For more inspirational photos this week, please visit Wordless WednesdayImage-in-ing, and Through my Lens.


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Boston: Then and Now

When I visited the gift shop of the Museum of Fine Arts, I could not resist purchasing Old Boston: A Book of Postcards. In reality, it is more a collection of photographs taken around the turn of the 20th century.

I'm fascinated by time, and the concept that the more things change the more they remain the same.

This is particularly true in cities such as Boston which have a rich history spanning centuries. The landmark monuments are frozen in time amidst the glass and chrome skyscrapers of the modern era.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Totoro Family Recipes: Sugar Cookie Cut-Outs

For as long as I can remember, I have loved the idea of decorated sugar cookies: the variety of shapes, the colorful icing, and the whimsical decorative elements.

And every year since the kids were old enough to help me in the kitchen, circa 1992, I have made a batch of holiday cookies. I've tried a variety of recipes (although the one in this cookbook is the current favorite), watched numerous YouTube tutorials, and performed LOTS of culinary experiments. Somehow... my cookies never quite measure up to the gorgeous creations on the Food Network Channel.

My cookies don't measure up BUT... my girls create masterpieces.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Decaying Beauty

Autumn wins you best by this: its mute appeal to sympathy for its decay
~ Robert Browning

For more inspirational photos this week, please visit Wordless WednesdayImage-in-ing, and Through my Lens.


Make Way for Ducklings

Make Way for Ducklings
by: Robert McCloskey
published by: The Viking Press
copyright: 1941

I'm not sure how I missed reading this delightful picture book when my children were young, but my grandchildren will be well-acquainted with its charm.

It is a sweet story of two ducks, Mr. and Mrs. Mallard, who are searching for a place to live and raise their expected brood of ducklings: "But every time Mr. Mallard saw what looked like a nice place, Mrs. Mallard said it was no good. There were sure to be foxes in the woods or turtles in the water, and she was not going to raise a family where there might be foxes or turtles."

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Reflections on 2016 Readathon

Yesterday I participated in Dewey's 24-hour Readathon for the first time since 2010.

It was a last minute decision. Less than 24 hours before the official start time, I reviewed my Saturday agenda and realized I was free most of the day. I've talked for months about reading more fiction, but fail to follow through. This seemed the perfect opportunity to jump-start a new reading routine.

I originally selected eight possible books, a combination of Halloween and Christmas, short stories and full-length novels. Obviously I was in the mood for thematic literature, just uncertain as to which holiday.

I set my alarm for 6:00am, but indulged myself another ninety minutes sleep. I began reading at 8:15 ... about an hour after the official start time. I decided to begin with a collection of Victorian Ghost Stories and focused on that genre for the entire day.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Reflecting...

The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.
~ Pablo Picasso

For more inspirational photos this week, please visit Wordless WednesdayImage-in-ing, and Through my Lens.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Old North Church X 6

THE Old North Church
It is no surprise that I fell in love with Boston.

Now that I've been home for a couple of weeks, I've had a chance to process and analyze this love-affair, and I think I have determined its source. Boston perfectly embodies the convenience of a metropolitan city while maintaining small town charm. In addition, its prominent role in American history adds to the appeal.

My husband was able to join me for the last few days of the visit, and we enjoyed exploring the Harbor, the green spaces, and the North End. His bucket list items, however, were to see Paul Revere's House and the Old North Church.

I guess he was really excited to see the Old North Church because anytime we passed a historical  building (and there were many), Geoff would ask if that was the Old North Church. It became comical after a while and by the end of the trip, we counted six of them all over Boston.

I thought it might be fun to share these rare finds with you.


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Totoro Family Recipes: Graddy Pralines

Dad's handwritten recipe
My dad was not a chef. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of times I remember him showcasing any culinary expertise: carving the Thanksgiving turkey; carving the Christmas Prime Rib; cranking homemade ice cream on the 4th of July; turning the marinated chicken quarters on the Weber Grill; and making a double batch of pecan pralines in December.

I don't know where the recipe originated or even why it was special to Dad, but about a week before Christmas he would begin his annual candy-making ritual.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Totoro Family Recipes: Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies


Several years ago I decided to add variety to our traditional Christmas cookie platter.

I originally found this on All-Recipes. However, I wanted to make it more festive for the holidays, so I changed a little here and there, to the point that this could almost be considered a Totoro original.

This recipe makes a LOT of cookies - between 60-65! I often make the entire recipe and freeze half  OR... I half the recipe.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Open Door

Follow your bliss, and the universe will open doors
where there were only walls.
    ~Joseph Campbell

For more inspirational photos this week, please visit Wordless WednesdayImage-in-ing, and Through my Lens.


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Boston and NYC: Final Week

Upper East Side brownstones
I am writing this post from my familiar spot on the couch at home.

Yes, my month-long holiday has come to an end, but what a glorious month I experienced!

My husband joined me for the final week in Boston, and then we spent three days in New York City before heading home.

I still believe vacationing for a month is the perfect way to travel. I was able to see all the sights I wanted to see while not running myself ragged. And I left still wanting to stay a bit a longer. That is far better than overstaying my welcome.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Totoro Family Recipes: M&M Cookies

If I had to choose one recipe to fully represent our family kitchen... it would be M&M cookies.

I fondly remember helping my mother decorate the tops of these colorful morsels.

I relished the opportunity to share this tradition with my eldest when she was old enough to participate (I think the first attempt was when she was about 18 months old).

And we now have three generations of Totoro women making these traditional cookies for the holidays.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Boston Sunset

Every ending is a beginning. We just don't know it at the time.
~ Mitch Albom


For more inspirational photos this week, please visit Wordless Wednesday, Image-in-ing, and Through my Lens.


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Boston: Week 4

Inside Boston Atheneum - looking out
on the Granary Graveyard
I think the best part of traveling a month at a time (besides the fact that I don't have to cram each day with constant activity) is I have the opportunity to re-visit favorite places and take time to photograph the memories I wish to bring home.

I did that a lot this week. I spent an afternoon wandering the streets of the North End, significant for its role in the American Revolution as well as preserving authentic Italian pastries and pastas.

I took advantage of the gorgeous weather and walked from the top of Newberry street to the Boston Commons, enjoying the elegant neighborhoods and plentiful parks along the way.

But I also made time for a couple of new experiences, like being an extra in a movie which happened to be shot in the most exclusive library in town.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Boston: Week 3

Visited my son on set... very exciting!
Another week in Boston, and I'm still loving this city.

I've decided traveling for a solid month is a great way to see the world. One month allows plenty of time to see the sights without running myself ragged.

I maintain my regular morning routine and typically leave the apartment by 10:00am (after commuter traffic). I focus on one event per day so as not to overload my senses. And I usually return home mid-afternoon to relax while uploading and editing the daily photos. Evenings are up for grabs: either a nice dinner out, or a low-key evening on the couch.

If the weather doesn't cooperate, I don't have to brave the elements. I use those days to stay inside, catch up on laundry, and do a bit of writing. It's nice to have an occasional everyday in the midst of a travel adventure - and not worry about wasting valuable time.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Totoro Family Recipes: Pinwheel Cookies

The Joy of Cookies
by Sharon Tyler Herbst

My husband is a self-professed "boring" eater. The plainer the better.

Therefore, it is no surprise that his favorite holiday cookie is the Pinwheel: a simple sugar cookie / chocolate cookie dough rolled together to present a colorful, plain cookie.

Of course, such a simple cookie requires the finest ingredients. Creamy butter, pure vanilla, and dutch cocoa.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Sailing the Charles River

Who is the happier man:
He who has braved the storm of life and lived? ... or
He who has stayed securely on the shore and merely existed?

~ Hunter S. Thompson

For more inspirational photos this week, please visit: Wordless WednesdayImage-in-ingand Through My Lens


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Boston: Week 2

Massachusetts State House
from Boston Commons
The first week in Boston I set out to prove I could still live in the city. The second week I convinced myself I could.

Of course it helps that this city has a small town vibe, which means it is easy to navigate and I can walk nearly anywhere I want to go. For places that are a bit too far to walk, the mass transit system is comfortable, reliable, and convenient. In fact, I am now a proud owner of a CharlieCard and feel like native.

I could easily wax on and on about this city (and perhaps I will in future posts), but for today, here are the highlights of this past week:


Saturday, September 10, 2016

Totoro Family Recipes: Cranberry Orange Muffins

I must admit, I am more a fan of cranberry for the holidays than any other members of the Totoro family.

I really like this particular recipe book because it gives a basic muffin mix that can be used in a variety of different ways - savory as well as sweet.

The quick mix recipe yields enough for several batches of muffins, but it can keep up to two months in the refrigerator. A perfect on-hand starter for unexpected holiday company.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Labor Day

Stop a minute, right where you are... Tell that imperious voice in your head to be still.
~ Barbara Kingsolver


For more inspirational photos this week, please visit: Wordless WednesdayImage-in-ing, and Through My Lens

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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Boston: First Impressions

View from my bedroom - watching Hermine in the distance
I made it safely to my home-away from-home for the next 23 days, and I must confess - it is glorious!

We are staying in a penthouse apartment (I've always wanted to say that...) in Cambridge. Not only are the views spectacular, but the location is perfect.

I am a five minute walk to the T (Boston's public transportation system), which takes me anywhere I desire to go.

But Boston is a very walkable city, and I find myself walking more often than not. So far, I'm averaging about 15,000 steps a day!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Totoro Family Recipes: Pumpkin Nut Muffins

Last week I posted my quintessential fall recipe, Fresh Apple Cake, even though we are still in the dog days of summer. Perhaps I owe a bit of an explanation...

When I first started posting Totoro Family Recipes, the primary reason was to document family favorites for the next generation. I have a Pinterest board to collect them all for easy access.

Most of these family favorites center around the fall holidays, from October 1st through December 31st. I calculated the recipes I wanted I share and the number of weeks until the New Year.  And I realized... in order to share them all, I had to start mid-August!

Be prepared for Christmas cookie recipes sometime before Thanksgiving :)

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Everything has beauty...

Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.
~ Confucius

For more inspirational photos this week, please visit: Wordless WednesdayImage-in-ing, and Through My Lens


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

American Snapshots: An Anonymous Art


This is the final weekend of the Nelson-Atkins Museum exhibition: American Snapshot: An Anonymous Art from the Peter J. Cohen Gift.

From the museum's website:
Amateur snapshots are the “folk art” of photography. Snapshots represent a world we instinctively know, while reminding us of the special—and often peculiar—nature of camera vision. 
These simple images embody a spirit of affection, curiosity and play. They reflect the familiar rhythms of everyday life—the events and motifs lovingly recorded generation after generation. They also represent a rich tradition of pictorial invention—a result, variously, of intention, mistake and chance. Tilted horizons, awkward intrusions and oddly cropped or off-center subjects are common in snapshots, as are the effects of blur, faulty focus and double exposure. 
Now, at the end of photography’s analog era, artists and collectors are studying these works with new respect as a key aspect of modern visual culture.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Weekend Review: August 28, 2016


School in full swing - stormy weather all week - September on the horizon. I'd say fall is in the air, and I am more than ready!

Reading:
Another good reading week.

So far the idea of keeping a mystery on the nightstand and going to bed before I'm too sleepy is a good recipe for maintaining an active reading schedule. 

I finished the second Booktown mystery, Bookmarked for Death, and enjoyed it as much as the first. I still like the tense relationship between the protagonist, a mystery bookstore owner, and her sister; I like the fictional town that appeals to all bibliophiles (real and imagined); and I enjoy the suspense of the murder mystery.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Totoro Family Recipes: Fresh Apple Cake

According to the note on Mom's hand-written card, this recipe came from my great-aunt Helen. I'm not sure where she obtained it.

This cake is the ultimate flavor of fall. It is the essence of spice, apples, harvest, and cool weather.

I remember Mom would send me a care package each first semester I was in college. The only contents I remember was a full bundt cake - and I hoarded it! If I shared a slice with you... I considered you a very special friend.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Backyard Bottles

Art thrives on a difference of opinion.
My treasure is your junk sort of thing.  Life would be dull if we all agreed.

Robert Genn

For more inspirational photos this week, please visit: Wordless Wednesday or Image-in-ing


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tourist vs Traveler

Recently I researched the definition of these two terms.  According to dictionary.com....
Tourist is a person who travels for pleasure, usually sightseeing and staying in hotels.
Traveler is a person who travels especially habitually

At first blush, there does not seem to be much of a difference except the tourist is associated more with sightseeing (seeing places and/or objects of interest) - and the traveler seems to travel to foreign lands on a more frequent basis.

According to these definitions, I could be classified as both.  I enjoy seeing places of interest and staying in hotels ... and I like to travel as often as finances allow (which will hopefully be more habitual now that I am retired).

So I researched a bit further.  A Google query indicated several in the travel industry do not consider these terms synonymous, and they are quick to offer their opinion.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Week in Review: August 21, 2016


This week my granddaughter started kindergarten. She obviously takes after her Olly when she declared after the first day: Why we can't go to school everyday, even through spring break?! 

Reading:

I finished The Quilter's Apprentice, the first book in the Elm Street Quilters series. While it's not a cozy mystery, it is a cozy story, and I enjoyed meeting the members of the The Tangled Web Quilters, as well as the protagonist, Sarah McClure and her employer, Mrs. Compson, a tough old broad on the outside with a kind wounded heart on the inside.

I'm a quilter wannabe, so I found references to different quilt patterns interesting, but sometimes written in too much detail to hold my interest. I did enjoy reading about their quilting time, however. These sessions provide opportunity to connect with others in an intimate way. Family stories are shared and friends listen with empathetic ears. There is also a spirit of camaraderie that I don't see often. "Many hands make light work" is evident when everyone comes together to help assemble Sarah's surprise anniversary quilt.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Totoro Family Recipes: Fudge Brownie Pie

Today is National Chocolate Pecan Pie Day.

When I first discovered such a holiday... I immediately remembered a Chocolate Nut Pie my mom used to make. It was never considered a family favorite - so I'm not sure my children ever tasted it - but I remember the novelty of eating a circular brownie and thought I might share the recipe.

However, I wasn't quite sure where to find it. I knew Mom frequently used River Road Recipe cookbooks, so I began there. No luck.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Backyard Statue

We should all do what, in the long run, gives us joy,
even if it is only picking grapes or sorting the laundry.

~ E. B. White

For more inspirational photos this week, please visit: Wordless WednesdayImage-in-ing, and Through My Lens


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

I Simply MUST Travel

My French "sister" and me
circa 1977
Since the age of eight, I have had a desire to travel.  That was the year I began French lessons, and I remember visiting my parents' friends whose son had just returned from his junior year abroad.  Looking at his pictures and postcards of Paris, I vowed that one day I would have the same experience.

In high school that dream came true. I participated in a three-week trip abroad where I stayed with a French family in Arcachon, France. This only whet my appetite, however. I desired to visit other European countries and experience them as a native:  living in the local neighborhoods, eating the customary cuisine, and speaking their language.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Week in Review: August 14, 2016


For many here in the Midwest, the first day of school is quickly approaching. Normally I would be caught up in excited anticipation, but this year, I fully embrace retirement.

On a somewhat related note... Did I hear McDonald's will start offering Pumpkin Spice lattes at the end of the month?! As much as I long for cooler temperatures, I'm not quite ready for fall. How about you?

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Totoro Family Recipes: Pasta Salad

This recipe means summer in the Totoro household. And it is the only salad recipe my young children would request.

The kids loved the combination of pasta, pepperoni, and mozzarella.

I was thrilled they ate a few vegetables, such as carrots and broccoli.

And the colorful dish is as much a feast for the eyes as for the tummy.

When all three kids lived at home, the recipe made enough to feed hungry teenagers and provide a few leftovers. Now that we are empty-nesters, I need to remember to cut the recipe in half. Otherwise, we would eat pasta salad for a week!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Backyard Angel

An inheritance from Mom's vast angel collection
For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go
~ Psalm 91:11 (TLB)

For more inspirational photos this week, please visit: Wordless WednesdayImage-in-ing, and Through My Lens


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

How to Write an Essay Others Want to Read

This will be the final post in my How to Journal series.

The last few posts focused on leaving a legacy ... using journaling notes, old photographs, and memorabilia to craft family stories that preserve our values and milestone moments for future generations.

The two most common complaints I hear from those who want to develop a journaling routine are:
  1. I don't know what to write
  2. I don't know how to write

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Week in Review: August 7, 2016


Last weekend we experienced sweltering heat and triple digit temperatures. Today, it is raining and 70 degrees. Ah... the bi-polar weather of the Midwest. I'm not complaining though. Either way, I can stay indoors to read, write, and catch up on the Summer Olympics.

Reading:
I did manage to finish Lorraine Barrett's book, A Crafty Killing, this week.

I must confess, my expectations for this book were too unrealistic. I wanted to fall in love with this upstate New York village as much as Stoneham, New Hampshire - the fictional setting in her Booktown mystery series. I wanted each reading session to transport me on a literary vacation, where I could wander through the shops and chat with the proprietors. And where I would count down the hours until I could return again.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Totoro Family Recipes: Oriental Cabbage Slaw

I'm sure every cook has a recipe for Oriental Cole Slaw in their repertoire. Each one is slightly different, however. Some are heavy on the oil and light on the vinegar. Some use 1/4 cup of sugar (or more) while others just a couple of tablespoons.

This is the only recipe we used, however. It appeared in our church cookbook from the mid 1990s, and we've enjoyed it as a tasty summer side dish ever since.

As I recall, the adults enjoyed the recipe more than the kids, but now that the children are grown up, perhaps their tastes have changed.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Backyard Planter

The steps of good men are directed by the Lord.  He delights in each step they take.
(Psalm 37:23 - TLB)


For more inspirational photos this week, please visit: Wordless Wednesday, Image-in-ing, and Through My Lens


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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Travel Journaling

This post is the final one in my How to Journal series from another blog. I thought it was a suitable transition post, as My Cozy Book Nook is now my primary blog.

Last week I shared my Travel Bucket List - one that I'm sure will change and grow over time.

Today  I will discuss how I document my travels ... and how these same techniques can also be used to document my life journey.

I owe much of this content to Dave Fox, author of Globejotting: How to Write Extraordinary Travel Journals, a book I highly recommend! I refer to this resource at least once a year, and each time I find a new nugget to incorporate in my own journaling routine.

In essence, Dave suggests there are four different stages of travel journaling:

  • Pre-Journaling: when you journal your plans for the trip, your expectations and anticipations.
  • In the Moment: when you journal while on the trip, speed journaling a few minutes at a time. 
  • Post-Journaling: when you journal after the trip, reviewing the notes from above, and crafting meaningful entries
  • Re-Journaing: when you journal several months or even years later, revisiting these essays and discovering meaningful themes or lessons learned.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Sunday Salon: July 31, 2016


How is it that tomorrow is August 1st?!
Does anyone else feel as though time is on the express train?

Reading:
I maintained a decent reading schedule this week.

I managed to finish the Jessica Fletcher mystery, Manhattans and Murder, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I'm sure it helped to have the old 80s re-runs playing in my head as I read along, but ultimately I thought this was a well-written whodunit. I truly escaped into the holiday season of New York City, and I enjoyed the Cabot Cove characters.

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