Friday, December 2, 2011


We've decked the halls with silver beads and wire trees in hopes of a little bit of retail activity. I filled the CD basket with tons of Holiday music from Bing Crosby crooning a "White Christmas" to Alvin and the Chipmunks warbling through their "Hula Hoop" Christmas song.
We painted birch limbs to go in our outside urns and wrapped them in tiny white lights. We scrubbed the floors and dusted the shelves. We worked like a dozen little elves making everything bright and festive. Our only goof so far has been our gift boxes. Who knew they'd take six weeks to order, but we'll do our best to find something to wrap a gift in.
We brought out our Christmas stockings and hung them on the walls. We're still hoping Santa will bring us that bio-ethanol fueled ventless fireplace with its own mantle, we're going to need a fire to get us through the winter.
We've got Christmas ornaments by the dozens, candles and candlesticks, soaps and bath supplies for both men and women,
beautiful perfume bottles, coffee table books, and art to hang on your walls. We've got throws to wrap up in when the weather gets really frigid and hand-blown glass from around the world. The store is set and so are we, we hope to see all of you for this our first Pleasant Living Christmas.
"We can hardly stand the wait
Please Christmas don't be late"
Alvin and the Chipmunks

When I was a kid the Christmas countdown began right after the Thanksgiving dishes had been cleared and my dad had woke up from his nap. We'd all gather in the living room, the kids sitting on the floor, my sisters seated in their tip-and-rocks. My dad would fiddle with the knobs on the RCA Victor TV going back and forth between the two UHF stations and the one VHF station until he found the channel broadcasting "Miracle on 34th Street".  This movie may be the seed most responsible for my love of retail. From the first moment when Kris taps his cane against the window of that small shop where the shopkeeper is trying to arrange Santa's sleigh and his eight tiny reindeer display I knew I could do a better job at merchandising.
Then there was all the drama and pathos of Kris speaking Dutch to the little girl whose adoptive parents had just brought her back from Rotterdam. Their singing duet of "Sinter Claes" had me crying like a baby and the tears kept coming until the end when Natalie Wood made Uncle Fred stop in front of that perfect house with the swing out back. Maybe the pursuit of things isn't everything but I have a lot of wonderful memories wrapped up in finding my first two-wheeler next to the tree or being able to give a VHS players to each of my siblings after that first year I'd moved to New York when I thought I was rich. My favorite CD is the one my daughter gave me and I'll never let go of the gold cufflinks Rick gave me that I keep tucked away in the drawer on my bedside table. Some gifts nay be worth thousands, some may have a value of only a few pennies, it's not the cost of the gift that matters, it's the memory it leaves that counts.

Go Home, a vendor with terrific vintage inspired home furnishings, giftware and accessories is sponsoring a contest on trends for 2012 and we're one of the 20 finalists. Please go to:
and vote for Pleasant Living.

I love to cook and consider myself a fairly decent one; I even went to culinary school and considered cooking as a career. That was many years ago; now my skills are a bit rusty and my knowledge a little faded and somewhat old school (I couldn't whip up a foam if you put a gun to my head). I now find myself having to refer to recipes something I never had to do before. I used to read cookbooks like novels and I was able to put all the recipes to memory. Now things have changed.
Since we moved to Madison I have reborn my love for cooking, found the change in lifestyle has given me time to start cooking again, not to mention the joy I've discovered in unpacking all my skillets and mixing bowls.  Here in the Midwest I shop with certain meals in mind and buy for multiple ones.  We even have a chest freezer in the laundry room I've stocked with whole organic chickens, salmon steaks and curly seasoned French fries.  However, there are times the planned meals are used up and I find I have to rely on my antiquated skills and knowledge and whatever I can find in the cupboard, frig or freezer. Here's where ingenuity takes over and sometimes something great unfolds from a pile of leftovers and ingredients on the verge of being food for the garbage disposal. Here's what I came up with this week
SHRIMP AND RICE ...It's very nice!
We always keep a bag of shrimp in the freezer and a container of rice in the pantry.  So I usually have the prime ingredients.  The rest is up to you and what you've got.
Today I had onions, celery, a bit of leftover red bell pepper, some frozen tomatoes my sister-in-law gave me a year ago, a handful of arugula that was about to go bad and some parsley. From  the spice cupboard, besides salt & pepper, I added a tablespoon of paprika and a teaspoon of chipotle chili powder.
Start by sautéing diced onions, celery and pepper in about two to three tablespoons of olive oil.   Just as the vegetables are turning soft add 2 cups of rice, the spices and stir for a couple of minutes without letting the rice brown. Now add the (thawed) tomatoes roughly chopped, 4 cups of water, and a teaspoon of salt. Bring this to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. Now add the shrimp and chopped parsley, stir and cover for another 5 minutes. If you have a lemon squeeze it now and adjust the salt and pepper.
Dinner's ready.


Christmas Tree in Living Room, Levitown, L.I., 1963
Diane Arbus, photographer
Represented by Alan Koppel Gallery, Chicago

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