Sine we spend so much time in front of a screen all day, it only makes sense to use all the customization options to reflect our moods and personalities, just as we do in our homes. Now that winter is officially here, I’ve updated a few themes and backgrounds to shake things up a bit. Also, living here in San Francisco, I miss the snow like crazy, so having some real winter to peek at makes me happy.

59_colinthompson_bluewillow_500-white2After the jump, details on updating a Mac screensaver and desktop with Flickr, iGoogle and Gmail themes, and other ways to winterize your tech.

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It just so happens that I’m changing my living situation in the next few weeks, and it’s starting with a complete bedroom makeover. I’m going to have a much smaller bedroom space, so I’m going to have to be very selective about what goes in there. My goal is to select foundation pieces that serve as a blank slate for all seasons, meaning I can easily swap out a few items to change things up and keep it interesting throughout the year. I haven’t decided exactly how I’m going to arrange the furniture, but I think the only pieces I’ll keep will be my bed (obviously), a night stand, bookshelf, and dresser. As of now the only piece I’ve decided on for sure is the bed, everything else is up for debate. I’d like to keep my existing night stand, which has a shelf for my printer and a file drawer below. I’m getting moving my desk out of the bedroom, but I’d like to keep a small workspace in there.

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Yuzu

Yuzu

The winter solstice is officially tomorrow, but a lot of the stories and festivals run roughly from Dec. 20 to Dec. 23 when the sun appears to rise in the same position every day, rather than move slightly north or south. The solstice marks the shortest days of the year. While we in the U.S. don’t have many “official” solstice traditions, we tend to mix old and new traditions into the season:

Seattle has an annual Winter Solstice Fire Festival with fire and dance performances that looks awesome. 

In Tokyo, people celebrate by bathing with yuzu, a small citrus fruit. 

At Stonehenge, when the sun is the brightest, it shines through a passageway and illuminates an engraving on the wall called the Triple Spiral, drawn to celebrate the arrival of the sun. Great party if you’re a druid. 

According to Norse tradition, the summer god is killed by an arrow made of mistletoe. Loki, the god of evil, made an arrow out of mistletoe and gave it to Hoder, the god of winter. It was he who killed Balder, the sun god. Frigga, Balder’s, mother restored him and cried tears of joy that turned into berries on the mistletoe branch. She was so happy she kissed everyone who passed under the tree.

For my part, I’m just excited that for the next six months we get to enjoy a bit more sunlight every day.

Reading this story in the NY Times about Mark Bittman’s small city kitchen made me really happy. Way to show those suburbanites up! I use an 11 x 9 Epicurean cutting board on my miniscule counters, and they work just fine for me. Not saying I wouldn’t rather have a gigantic kitchen with tons of space, but it seems that too many people believe that can’t make great food in a tiny kitchen, so they invest thousands on gourmet appliances that never get put to use. ‘Tis a real shame. 

So Your Kitchen is Tiny. So What?

Last night I tried out this recipe from Real Simple. Risotto can sound scary, but this recipe is super easy to follow, making it a nice way to step into the world of gooey rice. I added carrots and used two types of sweet potatoes for variety, but otherwise I followed the steps to a T and it came out really well. The stirring is demanding, so make sure you have all your ingredients prepped and ready to go in the pot before you even put the oil on. 

from RealSimple.com

from RealSimple.com

TheKitchn.com has a similar recipe for risotto with squash and sage. While I choose sweet potatoes over squash and day, I love love love the idea of serving this in a hollowed out squash. Not only will your guests be blown away with your cooking (risotto easily impresses and unique serving takes it to a new level), but it will help control portion sizes. It’s easy to get greedy with these dishes and the meal will lay like a rock in your stomach.

 

Risotto served in squash

Risotto served in squash

I was in Anthropologie today and saw these candles on sale for $7.95 each. I plan on going back to pick up a few. Fair warning- the scents are pretty powerful, but for a large, open space, they’ll be quite nice. 

Available in three: mulled wine, hot buttered rum, balsam fir (pictured)

 

Balsam Fir

Balsam Fir

I saw a post recently on Simply Stated about Christmas music taking over this time of year. While I do enjoy holiday music more than I probably should (Wonderful Christmastime and Last Christmas are on top, with Dominick the Donkey close behind), I got to thinking about what makes music appropriate for the seasons. The problem with Christmas music is that after the New Year it hardly seems appropriate, but we have a loooong way to go before spring comes around. I think I’ll put together a winter playlist to get through those months.

In the meantime, while we still have a few weeks of autumn left, I started thinking about good fall music. While summer owns lazy, drawn out, folksy music, and winter seems to have a lock on crooners even after the holidays, autumn is harder to pin down. 

After some digging, however, I found really in-depth playlists on iTunes. Some of it’s a bit literal, even kinda hokey — Frank Sinatra’s “Autumn in New York” doesn’t really mesh well with “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” by the White Stripes. But a few of the songs are dead on, either through theme or tone.

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I picked through their selections and added my own to come up with this playlist, which will definitely be on my iPod over the weeks to come:

1. Pink Moon – Nick Drake

2. Nightswimming — R.E.M.

3. Who Knows Where the Time Goes? — Fairport Convention

4. Autumn Sweater – Yo La Tengo

5. Lonelily – Damien Rice

6. Harvest – Neil Young

7. Naked As We Came – Iron & Wine

8. Pale September – Fiona Apple

9. The Past and Pending – The Shins

10. September – Ryan Adams & The Cardinals

11. Changes – David Bowie

12. Harvest Moon — Neil Young

13. Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season) — The Byrds

14. Sideways – Citizen Cope

15. The Little Acorn – Fruit Bats

16. Wish I Could – Norah Jones

After putting this together, I realize that autumn does have a distinct sound. It’s sort of mellow, low tempo, and very introspective. It seems like this is the time of year we get a bit down about summer being over and another year quickly disappearing behind us. It can be sad, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I chose “Wish I Could” as the last song, because any time I start navel gazing, I have to find a way out of it with something hopeful I can work toward.

And, well, even if my Autumn 08 playlist is a downer, at least it’s not Christmas music.