Sunday, December 30, 2012

One Year of Marriage

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark 
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks 
Within his bending sickle's compass come: 
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, 
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
   If this be error and upon me proved,
   I never writ, nor no man ever loved. 

-Shakespeare's Sonnet 116

I love you, S, more than ever.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Happy Birthday Mom!

It's tough having a day-after-Christmas birthday, so we've always tried to make my Mom's birthday extra fun for her. I'm not with my Mom today but I'm hoping the song (below) will bring a smile to her face! There is something about this song that I just think is so sweet. It's doesn't align with my usual taste in music but whenever I listen to it, it touches me.

 Happy Birthday Mom! I love you.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

May your day be filled with the people you love most in the world, many blessings,  and much joy. Have a beautiful Christmas!

(Here's how I tied up my cards in a bow.)

(Recognize the chalkboard in our card?)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas Eve, and hello from Napa Valley! I thought I'd share some photos before we head off to breakfast in the wine cellar of our B&B (the breakfasts have been one of the highlights of our trip--so scrumptious). This area is so incredibly beautiful and we are having the time of our lives! 

A beautiful hilltop home, or possibly it's a winery

This lake appeared as we were driving through the mountains on Saturday

My handsome husband

The Culinary Institute of America, where we attended a fantastic cooking demo

Rows and rows of grapevines

And more...

The hills and vineyards from the perspective of Castello di Amorosa

A quick iPhone shot of me at the cooking demo

The views are breathtaking!

       We've been loving the fireplace in our room--it's keeping us toasty in this chilly weather!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Headed West

My parents' house, all lit up for Christmas--we will miss being there this year!
 Photo by Noah Zinsmeister

Tonight, we are driving to Atlanta to stay with a good friend, and first thing in the morning we will be at the airport, at the start of our belated honeymoon/Christmas trip/one-year anniversary celebration! I won't be blogging very regularly over the next few weeks, but I will be popping in occasionally.

I hope that all of you dear readers have a joyful, love-filled, beautiful, and happy Christmastime.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Cookbook Giveaway Winner!

Today I'm announcing the winner of the Finger Lakes Feast cookbook giveaway! The lucky winner is.....

Felicia Klots!

Felicia was a roommate of mine in New York City, where we shared an absolutely tiny (but adorable) apartment for a few months. Our kitchen was also our dining room which was also our living room which was also our piano room (so it goes with life in New York). But we both embraced it--often I would come home on a Friday to find the kitchen smelling heavenly and Felicia busy making dishes for the traditional Jewish Shabbos dinner, with every inch of counter space filled with some ingredient she was using. I remember once she made cold salmon with a special dill sauce that was incredibly delicious! I know she will put our cookbook to good use. Congratulations, Felicia!

Thank you so very much to everyone who visited this post and entered the giveaway. All of the comments were so thoughtful and kind and supportive. If you find yourself feeling especially bummed that you weren't the lucky winner, I would shamelessly direct you to our Amazon page. And if you're interested, I would be more than happy to sign your copy, too! Just email me, or leave a comment, and we can find a way to do that.

Thanks again to everybody who participated--I wish I could send you all a cookbook!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

One Day Left in Cookbook Giveaway!

If you haven't already, I'd like to remind you to enter the giveaway to win a free copy of Finger Lakes Feast, which I co-authored with my father and photographer brother. It's not too late! I will choose the winner from the pool of commenters on Sunday night and announce the winner on Monday.

As an additional bonus, my dad and brother have agreed to sign the giveaway copy as well! Finger Lakes Feast was a true collaboration--none of us could have produced this book on our own--so it's only fitting that we all sign the giveaway copy.

You can enter the giveaway by visiting this post and leaving a comment. Thanks so much--and good luck!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Cookbook Giveaway

Today I'm following in the footsteps of many other bloggers and celebrating this season of giving. I will be giving away one signed copy of the cookbook I authored with my father and photographer brother, Finger Lakes Feast!

Finger Lakes Feast is not just a cookbook. It's full of gorgeous photographs....

Lots of wonderful essays and quirky fun facts on food and local history and agriculture...

Do you know how many miles a honeybee has to fly to gather enough nectar for a single pound of honey?

55,000 miles.
The equivalent of circling the earth more than twice.

And of course, it is full of delicious and colorful recipes...

Rustic Apple Spice Cake
Cilantro Shrimp Risotto
Capron Street Buttermilk Pancakes
Black Beans and Coconut Rice with Mango Salsa
Creole Sausage on Jack Cornbread
French Chocolate Pudding
Raspberry Red-Wine Sorbet
and so many more. 

Local author and NPR contributor, Amy Dickinson, writes that, "Finger Lakes Feast unlocks the delicious mystery and quirky history behind our local foods and flavors. Now everyone will learn what we locals know: our wines and foods are the perfect expression of the beautiful region they come from. They are simple, hardy, and full of life and flavor."

To win a free copy of our book please leave a comment at the end of the post. I will pick a winner randomly from the pool of comments on Sunday night and announce the winner on Monday.

Good luck and thank you for your support!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Chichicatz Jewelry

A few days ago, one of my old roommates from New York sent me a text message and encouraged me to check out her newly-launched line of jewelry, Chichicatz. Of course I did right away, and I think the pieces are just lovely. The most beautiful element, to me, is that Nina runs Chichicatz with her mother, and all of their jewelry is made by hand. I love that they've created a mother-daughter business together and I know their little jewelry boutique will thrive!

Their pieces are quite unique and all of them are customizable. I've seen the rose quartz and rose gold ring at the top in person and it's stunning. 

I urge you to visit Chichicatz online and check out their various collections. This is a perfect time of year to buy jewelry for loved ones, and you can feel oh so good about supporting a mother-daughter business!

p.s. I think my favorite piece is the horizontal cross necklace, pictured above. What's yours?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Crowley Hall

My dad took this photo of me during my last couple weeks as a student at Notre Dame. (I graduated a semester early, in December. South Bend, Indiana is a chilly town, but not chilly enough to wear a scarf in May!) I'm standing in front of the Crowley Hall of Music, which, though not the prettiest building on campus, was and is by far my favorite.

In my three and a half years in college I spent more hours in this building than in any other on campus, aside from my dorm. Quite often, I would start my day in Crowley in the early morning and I would end my day there in the afternoon. I didn't often practice at night--my fingers have never worked very well in the evening--so evenings were my time to write papers and do reading and complete the schoolwork part of my two majors. But during the day, most of my work happened in the old, cramped, beloved rooms of Crowley Hall.

First, I typically had at least one or two classes a day in one of the classrooms on the first floor. I learned about Monteverdi and early opera and the Italian Medici family; I learned about Schumann's Year of Song--in 1840, the same year he married his wife Clara, these art songs practically poured from his pen. I learned about Verdi's operas that were inspired by Shakespeare's plays, and I learned about the fury that Stravinsky's Rite of Spring evoked in its first audience (they were terrified and upset by the pagan dancing and the clashing harmonies). I learned about Beethoven's heart-breaking letter to his brothers, written when he realized he was going deaf, and his lament, "How could I admit an infirmity in the one sense which ought to be more perfect in me than others, a sense which I once possessed in the highest perfection..."

These classes were fantastic, and I enjoyed almost every single one. But the most important work happened not on the first floor but on the second floor, where I spent hours and hours (and hours) in the practice rooms preparing for lessons and performances and recitals and competitions. The practice rooms were not at all fancy--nothing like my graduate school's hallway full of practice rooms that you swiped into with a key card, each one with a new Steinway waiting inside. Crowley had only three practice rooms with grand pianos in them and the rest had barely playable uprights. Of course, we often wished that ND would invest in some better instruments for us, but all of us loved those rooms nonetheless. I learned and memorized and polished thousands of notes on those pianos, and I knew each one's little quirks and flaws. They weren't perfect, but I did grow to be fond of them--all of us did. And in a way, practicing on sub-par pianos made performing on the lovely concert grand pianos in the performing arts center even more of a treat.

Every week, I had an hour-long lesson with my private piano teacher. Of all of the components of my music degree--classes, performances, practicing, exams--these lessons were the heart and soul. When I was deciding where to go to college, I set up a lesson with each of the piano instructors at the schools I applied to. Choosing a teacher to study with for my four years of college was one of my top priorities. After falling in love with Notre Dame during the campus tour, I prayed that I would also love the teacher I was meeting that afternoon. I did--and in my years studying with him I learned and grew as a musician as a result of our weekly lessons in ways I never imagined.

Crowley Hall holds so many personal, warm memories too. I remember the first time I played for my best guy "friend," who is now my husband. I remember giving a few beginner's lessons to my friend Joe, who wanted to learn something about playing the piano. I remember practicing four-hand music with my fellow piano major, Liz, and laughing until our faces hurt. I remember feeling panicked a few weeks before my senior recital, running into my voice major friend Angela who let me vent a little, and her saying "Kate, you'll be fine. You always play well." It was simple, but it was the reassurance I needed.

When I graduated I couldn't bring myself to turn in my Crowley keys, which opened the main building and each of the practice rooms. I think I gave up 25 dollars worth of key deposits in choosing to keep them but I don't mind. Those keys, for me, unlocked knowledge, growth, excellence, beauty, and passion--maybe it was sentimental, but turning them in just didn't seem right.

Here I am visiting the student center, which is right next door to Crowley. 
I could never stay away from the Starbucks inside--my coffee breaks kept me going!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Dream Christmas Mantle

I don't have a mantle or a fireplace to decorate for the Christmas season, but I love the idea of having a mantle to dress up for this special and cozy holiday. So I dreamed up an imaginary mantle and collected some pretty images to go along with it! If I had a mantle (maybe next year?) this is how I would garnish it.

Mary and Jesus / I think this is a stunning image of Mary and baby Jesus, and of course, a beautiful reminder of the most important part of Christmas. I would love to hang this directly above my Christmas mantle.

Vase of Red Berries / I would put these red berries in two vases, one on either end of the mantle for a gorgeous pop of color.

Simple and Pretty Pinecone Garland / I think I could make something like this myself. I love how rustic and natural it looks.

Cedar Greenery / These cedar greens would look perfect tucked in between the pinecones.

Silver Bird Ornaments / I would clip these pretty, delicate birds to the greens. Aren't they precious?

Ivory Pillar Candles / It's not Christmas without candles! I love the varying heights of these pillar candles. And of course, they must be ivory!

Angel Pillar Candle Holder / I think this candle holder is so dramatic. It's another lovely reminder of the real meaning of Christmas.

Do you have a mantle? How is it decorated for this joyful and beautiful holiday?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Cozy, Healthy Steel-Cut Oats

Have you ever tried steel cut oats for breakfast? Not to be mistaken with traditional oatmeal, steel cut oats have a chewier texture and nuttier flavor, and they are the least processed variety of oat cereal. I starting eating them in grad school. I would wake up at 6 am everyday to get ready and catch my train, and I typically did not return home until 8 pm. So eating a nutritious and filling breakfast and packing a healthy lunch were top priorities--especially on the days I was performing. Like athletes, pianists need to eat a good balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat to provide the energy and fuel necessary to perform well.

Steel cut oats are an excellent source of protein, fiber and of course, whole grains too, and it is much less mushy than regular oatmeal (I was always averse to regular oatmeal because of that!). They do take a tad longer to cook, but if you're just making a single portion it shouldn't take more than 10-15 minutes on the stove. And it's such a warming, cozy breakfast for chilly mornings!

I typically eat mine with a little bit of brown sugar (though I'm looking for an alternative, for the sake of my teeth) and cream, for extra protein and fat (if your goal is low-fat, you could use skim milk). I've also been tossing in a spoonful of flax seed, which are high in omega-3 fat, for additional healthfulness.

If you've only had traditional rolled oats for breakfast I urge you to give these a try--especially on the mornings when you need a little extra heartiness to keep you warm and energized!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Make Your Marriage LAST

The priest who married us gave a beautiful, thoughtful homily that my husband and I will always remember. So many of our guests also remarked on how meaningful a homily it was, which gave me great joy. This is the part of the wedding that is sort of left up to chance--you can only hope that the message given by the priest is one that inspires the bride and the groom and that touches those in the audience. We were so blessed that our priest's homily did just that.

What I loved is that our priest's message contained little nuggets of wisdom, intended to make a difference in the lives of the young bride and young groom sitting before him. His message wasn't highfalutin or intellectual, and it wasn't overly sentimental or nostalgic. It was grounded in the reality that marriage is beautiful, but that it's also very difficult. It was based in an understanding that what we were embarking on would quite possibly be the most rewarding and the most trying journey of our lives. It was intended to inspire us to never give up, to make our marriage last forever.

He gave us a simple and memorable acronym to hold on to: LAST. In order for our marriage to last we need to Listen, Apologize, Support, and Touch. And how true this is. If we can't listen deeply and carefully to our spouse, we will miss so much of what is on their hearts and minds. If we can't humble ourselves by apologizing, we will never learn the beauty of forgiveness and letting go of grudges. If we don't support each other, who will support us? And if we don't touch and show affection, we may forget that we are loved and slowly grow apart.  

But if we do strive to do each of these things, our marriage will flourish, it will grow in love, and it will be strong, stronger than whatever tries to come between us.

Our dear priest also cited a passage from one of Thornton Wilder's plays. I don't have a transcript of the homily and so I'm relying on my memory and a google search, but I believe this is the quote he used, which is from Wilder's play, The Skin of Our Teeth:

I didn't marry you because you were perfect. I didn't even marry you because I loved you. I married you because you gave me a promise. That promise made up for your faults. And the promise I gave you made up for mine. Two imperfect people got married and it was the promise that made the marriage. And when our children were growing up, it wasn't a house that protected them; and it wasn't our love that protected them--it was that promise.

This is such a powerful message and one that I'm so glad our priest gave us on our wedding day. It is so rare in this age of fleeting commitment and high divorce statistics to be told that the vows you take on your wedding day must always come first. That promise will hold you together, our priest was telling us. In the best times and the worst times, it will hold you together.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Femininity To Be Admired

I had to really think about whether or not I should blog about what I'm about to blog about, and I think you'll see why in a minute. But I decided that there's something meaningful I'd like to say, and so at the risk of seeming starstruck, here's my topic: Kate Middleton is expecting a baby!

I really am not someone who follows celebrities closely, and I tend to think that celebrity gossip is often quite silly. But from what I've seen, read, and heard of Kate Middleton, I've come to believe that she is very much worthy of admiration. Her version of femininity is one I subscribe to and value very much, and one I think the world could use more of. She dresses with modesty and taste, she appears always to be poised and composed, and she has a natural grace and dignity and elegance about her. From the looks she gives him, it appears that she adores her husband and cherishes their marriage, and her beauty is natural and classic and simple.

And I think it's such wonderful news that she is now going to be a young mother. I think it is rare to find a public person who inspires and provides a positive example (hopefully that doesn't sound too cynical!) and I do find Kate Middleton inspiring. As a woman who values marriage and motherhood, who is both stylish and modest, who is naturally lovely, and who exudes a feminine grace.

And--she also married a helicopter pilot.

What do you think? Are you inspired by Kate Middleton? Do you like her version of femininity?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Belated Honeymoon

I am so excited! My husband and I began making our Christmas plans over the weekend, which also happen to be belated honeymoon plans and one-year anniversary plans. Can you guess where we're going?

Napa Valley and San Francisco!

We couldn't be happier. You see, we've been trying to go on our honeymoon for a year, ever since our wedding, after which we took a lovely mini honeymoon in New York and excitedly awaited an opportunity to take a longer vacation together. Originally our plans were to go to Rome, but life (aka. The Army) had other plans for us. After trying to make a European trip happen for months and having no luck, we decided that going on our honeymoon and spending time together was more important than holding out for a vacation abroad. So we embraced the spontaneity that is sometimes required in military life and decided to take our honeymoon here in the USA! And as my mother-in-law pointed out, Napa Valley is as close to Italy as is possible while staying in the States. Indeed.

We are staying in a cozy B&B/Inn in Napa Valley for one week and then driving down to San Francisco to explore the city for five days. One of my best friends from college just bought her first home in the marina area in San Francisco and she has graciously offered to let us stay with her for a few nights, and I found a gorgeous hotel that we'll stay in (at winter/government rates!) for our anniversary and New Years Eve. 

We have plans to eat incredible food the whole 12 days, visit several wineries, attend a cooking demonstration at the Culinary Institute of America, hopefully attend a Christmas concert, and spend a lot of time walking and exploring and sleeping in and just chatting together. We are looking forward to finding a beautiful church to attend on Christmas Eve and are very excited that our room has a fireplace in it, to make Christmas morning extra cozy. My husband has been to the San Francisco area before and he wants to take me to see the Redwoods--he said he wants to watch my eyes as we drive up to the forest. I hope to see some museums and art galleries when we're in the city, too. 

There's so much to do, and SO much to celebrate! The one piece we will miss this Christmas is seeing both of our families, but they have been so understanding and are just as excited as we are that we're finally taking our honeymoon. We hope to see them early in 2013.

Now--do any of you have recommendations for us? Restaurants, your favorite wineries, things to do in the Bay Area? If you're from California or have visited, we'd appreciate any and all suggestions. We leave in two and a half weeks!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Framing Wedding Photos

It's been almost one year since our wedding and I haven't done too much in the way of framing any of our wedding photos. It's not that I'm interested in a whole gallery of our wedding photos, or that I need to frame a bunch of them. But we do happen to have some absolutely iconic photographs--taken by my brother and by our hired photographer--that are incredible photos in and of themselves and bring back the most wonderful feelings of our wedding day. So as we approach our anniversary I'm planning to frame two or three of these and give them to my husband as gifts (I'll have to tell him not to read this post!).

I was inspired by the lovely antique look of the photo of the bride that is pictured above, combined with a white mat, and placed casually on a nightstand surrounded by books. Here is my version of this look:

I found this rustic frame at TJMaxx and I printed the photo with an "antique" coloring, which is a little bit warmer than black and white. I love the way it turned out and I hope my husband does too! The next photo I frame will be one with my husband in the incredible cathedral we said our vows in. My dad once remarked that we could print a poster-sized photo of one of those cathedral shots--they're that good, and the church that grand and dramatic. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wise Words

This scrap of paper is something my mom found while cleaning and going through old things, and she photographed it for me because she thought they were wise words and that I would find them helpful and meaningful. Wasn't that so thoughtful of her? To make it even more perfect, the church I used to go to in New York, two doors down from my building, was named after St. Francis de Sales. Here are his wise words:

Uneasiness arises from an inordinate desire to be freed of some evil or from the suffering we are undergoing; or it results from the desire for some benefit we want too eagerly. In either case, anxiety only aggravates the situation. So when you are seized by some desire to be freed from an evil or to acquire something you think is good, in the very first place put yourself in a calm and tranquil mood; tone down your judgment and your will, and then with gentleness quietly await the outcome of your desires.

-St. Francis de Sales

Moms know just what their daughters need, don't they?

p.s. A big happy birthday to my older brother today!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

She Said Yes

Courtney and me at my reception

Last week, the first of my close college friends got engaged! In fact, she is the first one of my close friends in general to get married and I'm thrilled and so happy for her.

Courtney was one of the very first friends I made at Notre Dame. We happened to be in three classes together freshman year, and after recognizing each other over and over that first week we began to meet regularly for coffee. Over peppermint mochas and pumpkin spice lattes (our college town's perpetual cold and snowy weather begs for these cozy drinks) we got to know each other really well, and helped each other through so many new emotions and new experiences. Those deep talks morphed into one of the best friendships I've ever had.

Courtney's engagement is especially exciting for me because she and I have been gabbing about getting married since we were 18. So many of those long talks in the Starbucks on campus revolved around the men in our lives, dresses and engagement rings, future husbands, homes, and love. On a few occasions, we huddled together around one of our laptops and gazed at diamond rings online, and probably scared a few of the college boys around us. As a wedding gift, Courtney gave us a set of mugs and attached the sweetest note. She said she realized that my husband and I have the chance to have our own coffee dates, just like the ones she and I used to have all the time, each and every morning for the rest of our lives. It was such a beautiful way for her to tell me how much our talks meant to her and to encourage my husband and me to carry on the tradition.  

Courtney was one of my bridesmaids and the night before my wedding, she stayed in the guest room in my parents' house. When we got back from the rehearsal dinner and I said goodnight to my parents and brothers, Courtney and I sat on the bed together and became teary-eyed as we talked and laughed and reminisced, remembering all the hopes and dreams we had shared so openly with each other through the years, and in awe that one of us was on the brink of that long-awaited and much talked-over day. Now, it's Courtney's turn, and I pray that her wedding day and her marriage are as happy and perfect as she has always dreamed they would be. 

Congratulations, Courtney!

Here she is right before the wedding, listening carefully to something I'm saying and looking like a very dutiful (not to mention beautiful) bridesmaid.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I Am Thankful

This year has been full of blessings. When I think about all that has happened since last Thanksgiving it astonishes me! Before my husband and I head out of town I thought I would take a second to give thanks.

My wedding day, my husband, my marriage--far and away, the best part of this last year and the thing I'm most thankful for.

This blog. And all of my lovely new blog friends and readers. It's been so rewarding and this is only the beginning!

My husband's graduation from flight school. I'm so proud of him.

My in-laws--I love that my family grew when I got married. My mother-in-law will drive hours to attend her daughter-in-law's recital, or to be with her son on his birthday (and these are just two examples).

My Masters Degree, which I received in May, and my fantastic teacher who encouraged, challenged, pushed, and nurtured me and transformed my playing.

My parents, who are beginning a new adventure as empty-nesters and are having loads of fun with it (think: houseboat!). They are the best parents in the world (in my humble opinion) and I'm so grateful to have them as examples to look up to as I begin a family of my own.

My little brother starting his freshman year at Columbia, and loving every minute so far.

My older brother beginning a new job in Dallas, and loving every minute so far.

Our cookbook getting published!

In the past few months, I've finally figured out how to perfectly roast a chicken. Definitely something to be happy about. Sometime, I'll share my tips.

Zumba! (Yes, it does require brightly-colored sneakers, thank you very much!) It's a workout I look forward to and it truly makes me happy. I'm thankful to have a gym that offers an abundance of classes with a great instructor at military prices.

Reconnecting with a few old friends unexpectedly. It's been such a blessing.

Our first home. While not exactly in the part of the country we'd planned to start out in, this is more than we've ever had, and I'm thankful.

Getting to know the South. We've explored Atlanta (a bunch), New Orleans, and will soon be in Houston. The list of states my husband and I have been in together is growing steadily (yes, we actually do keep a list!).

All of the gorgeous pieces my parents have given us as a result of their downsizing and move to D.C. It's all still in storage now, but boy do we have big plans for everything!
Having a washer and dryer in my home. I do not miss hiking to the laundromat through the streets of New York.

A successful last recital as a student!

And finally, I'm thankful for my faith, and for God's grace, which is the glue that holds me together.

What are you thankful for? 

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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