December 27, 2011

And a Happy New Year

Did you all have a Merry Christmas? We certainly did!

Full of silliness and family and food and fun and Farkle (have you played it? It's addictive!) and late night and too much traveling.

Presents we didn't want (aren't there always?) and those we did, and more importantly, memories made with family.

My parents and Carl's mom are coming to us for New Year's, and then that will be the end of an exhausting and rewarding holiday season. Whew!

Next year, family? You get to come to us.

Ho ho ho.

December 22, 2011


Taking a break from Christmas baking to read a few chapter in Betsy-Tacy, one of my very favorite stories (and series) ever. Thrilled to be introducing such beloved friends to my girls now.

On a related note, if I ever suggest homemade baked goods for Christmas presents again, you all have my permission to come hit me with something solid until I come to my senses. I am sick to death of my kitchen and everything in it, and last night I dumped the boiling pasta water without putting the pasta in, and put the peas on the stove without adding water ... my brain, she is fried.

As were the peas.

December 20, 2011

Christmas Cookies

I was fretting just a little about not being able to find Grandma's recipe. With her passing this year, it was really important to me to use the recipe I always remembered using with Sister and Grandma and the younger aunts and uncles.

I glumly resigned myself to not having it, and asked on FB if people had favorite recipes from their families they wanted to pass along. Within minutes, one of my dad's cousins had found their family's version of the recipe, almost identical to Grandma's, and shared it. I almost cried, I was so happy.

It didn't take long after that for the fun to really begin.

And of course, the reward at the end of all their hard work.

Spurred on by the cousin's sharing on FB, my youngest aunt, the one who inherited Grandma's recipe box, went through her files, founds the original recipe - OUR original recipe, took a picture, and posted it on my wall. By the end of the day, Sister, two aunts, and two uncles all announced they were getting ready to make the family Christmas cookies.

And that? Makes this plate so much more important to me than just the sugar high. Carrying on the family tradition, keeping those ties that bind firmly in place even in my own little family.

Thank you so much, Dad's cousin Marilyn.

December 19, 2011


About this time every year, we gather to celebrate the winter solstice with family and friends. It's one of my favorite holiday traditions.

On the longest night of the year, we gather under the dark sky to celebrate light.

Sometimes our fate resembles a fruit tree in winter. Who would think that those branches would turn green again and blossom, but we hope it, we know it.
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

December 14, 2011

Winter morning

I love waking up to a baby full of smiles...

And to a sky making all sorts of beautiful things happen outside my window.

Spring and summer mornings have warmth and birdsong and light. But these winter mornings bring the snuggles like whoa.

December 13, 2011

Birthday, Belated

I've realized that I never posted details about Joy's fourth birthday party ... over a month ago. Bad blogging mamma!

So, even though it's late, and we're all now in the throes of holiday prep, I thought it time to share. It was, after all, the first "real" birthday party I've done as a parent ... everything up til now has simply been the birthday kid's favorite food, presents, and as much family as we can get around. This was our first party with a theme and everything.

 The timing was crazy - two days before my grandmother's funeral, and right after all the busyness and sadness attending her last days, but we were all determined to still make Joy's party memorable and fun. I soon found out that my mother and sister's ideas of what makes for a memorable party were a lot more elaborate than mine ... but it all looked beautiful when they were done decorating.

Old sheets, white lights, gold beads, and felt flowers, butterflies, and hearts that Sister and I cut out while staying up way too late and watching figure skating and Dancing with the Stars - because that's what sisters do, y'know.

More sheets and white lights, a garland made from the aforementioned felt cutouts, and a table decorated with all the teacups we could find. (Also, my dad in butterfly wings, because he is Awesome.)

Lavender shortbread decorated with edible gold hearts. Mom and Sister did the decorating, I did the food. We also had honey cupcakes, cut veggies, and a cheesecake for Brother-in-Law, who was a good sport to also wear butterfly wings and let his niece consider this a shared party with him, since his birthday was just a week earlier.

Joy was so surprised to walk in after a few hours out having a midmorning snack and bookstore-browsing with Papa and see Oma and Grandpa's house transformed into a fairy wonderland and all of us wearing wings. She almost started crying just from the surprise of it all, but a quick escape into Mamma's arms, followed by her Very Own wings, skirt, and headband, along with the promise of getting to open some presents, and she was good.

After the presents, we had a lovely tea party (lavender tea and lemon-rose tea - both the girls loved them, even without any honey), during which Sister tried her best to put out everyone's eyes with her gigantic wings

(they looked smaller in the package! she kept wailing, as everyone tried to dodge every time she turned around), and then it was time for the pièce de résistance.

Oma and Grandpa, acting on information received, gave Joy a tricycle for her birthday. Thrills abounded. Grace wanted her turn, naturally, which led to the inevitable conclusion that there will be two tricycles in this household come May, when Gracie turns three. Joy rose it all over the house (hurrah for unfinished wood floors!), and once we got home and got her a helmet (I am kind of a crazy lady when it comes to bicycle safety HELMETS AT ALL TIMES NO EXCEPTIONS (I even yell out the car window at bicyclists who aren't wearing helmets to "wear a helmet, PUNK!")) she took it outside. She pushes much better backward than forward, but she's getting better with the forward motion, too. Once she gets another half inch on those little legs of hers, she'll do even better.

The only problem, as I told my sister afterward, was that I think we set the bar too high. How are we going to top this next year? And what will we do for Gracie's party?

She already had a few ideas. As long as I can keep her as my party planner, I think we'll be safe.

December 12, 2011

Fa la la la la

Here's what's bringing me joy today...

We made this Christmas wreath, Lulu and I. (OK, James helped--and Lulu's input was small, I must admit.) It's not perfect, but I find myself making excuses to go outside so that I can look at it and smell its spicy scent.

What's making you smile on this chilly Monday?

December 8, 2011

Fighting the Frump: Coffee Shop Edition

Today, I get to go out and have coffee with a friend, sans children. After working crazy hours to get a project done last week, Carl's been able to be home all this week, so when my friend sent me a note on FB and said, hey, want to get together on Thursday, and oh, should we go out or stay in, I said GO OUT.

And then I immediately started thinking about what to wear.

Any winter outfit for me automatically starts with my boots, and I can't find any pictures that show them. I have two pair of tall boots, one black (that are awesome), and one brown (that are not quite awesome, but still pretty terrific. When I want to look good, and more important, feel like I look good, I wear the boots.

So if I'm going to wear boots, I am going to wear skinny jeans, so I can pull the boots over them and show them off better. And if I'm going to wear skinny jeans, I better wear something on top that comes down to or past my hips. Because hips, I haz them, and while they were very useful when it came time to give birth, they don't always look the loveliest in skinny jeans.

Which leads me to ...

The long open cardigan. My new BFF, next to my boots.

photo courtesy of banana republic

I have two LOCs, one in white and one in purple. I want one in black or grey, one in brown, and one in either red or yellow or orange - something bright and unexpected that I could wear with my neutral-colored t-shirts and not blend into the background (something I do all too well on my own, without my clothes helping).

I love that I can throw these on over any ordinary outfit and - voila! warmth and style. Or I can wear them with a dressy outfit to add a touch of flair. My mom's a big fan of boyfriend cardigans (and she looks good in them), but I like the flowiness of the LOC.

They are multi-seasonal, too - wear them over long sleeves, and they are great in fall and winter, over short sleeves and they are perfect for spring or even cool summer days.

In short, they are awesome.

So, the coffee shop outfit today? Brown boots, skinny jeans, teal shirt, white LOC, and my own weird eclectic mix of jewelry - brown tigers eye earrings my sister made, gold dove necklace I've had since I was about twelve, the ubiquitous copper cuff, and copper twisted bangle that I made back when my sister was first starting out in the silversmithing (and other metals) business and I thought it might be fun to try my hand at a piece of jewelry, too. The soldering job is terrible, but it's still a fun statement item.

Oh, and I even straightened my hair. It looks nice, but it's tickling my neck more than ever and reminding me rather urgently that I am far overdue for having it all chopped off.

photo courtesy of my husband. I was supposed to be smiling - not sure why it looks more like a sneer.

What's your go-to item(s) in your wardrobe that help you make any outfit a good one?

December 7, 2011

Parallel play

Baby A. is the son of J.D.'s oldest friend, Patrick, and his wife, Jamie, both of whom have become my friends. I don't like them because they are J.D.'s friends and because I have to--I like them for themselves, because I want to.

Baby A. is four months older than Lulu. I actually got my positive pregnancy test the day of Jamie's baby shower. When A. was born, I had just crossed the threshold into the second trimester, and holding Baby A. was a little bit magical for me, not only because he was my friends' kid and I loved him instantly, because I was starting to see that there was one of these soft, squishy bundles waiting at the end of the road for me, too.

When I was on bed rest, Baby A. and his parents came to cheer me up. After Lulu was born, when she finally came home from the NICU, Baby A. was one of her first visitors.

From the very beginning, Jamie and I would laugh about how much fun they'd have together when they grew up, all the adventures/scrapes/mischief they would get into. We couldn't wait to see it happen. We watched to see it happen.

But for the most part? The kids ignored each other. At best they were extremely wary of each other.

Sometimes Baby A. seemed curious about Lulu, and would kind of test the waters by hitting at her. When Lu didn't hit back, he'd crawl away. For Lulu's part, I'm not sure she really knew that Baby A. existed. Sometimes she'd focus her eyes on his face for a second, but then they'd slide away toward something else. Four months was too big a gap; they weren't on the same developmental playing field.

Until this weekend--when Lulu finally caught up. J.D., Patrick, Jamie and I spent the day at their cabin in the mountains...and the kids spent the day playing together--actually playing together!--on the floor in front of the picture windows.

Sophie the Giraffe was the rock that finally broke the ice. Baby A. reached for it--Lulu snatched it back. Baby A. gave up, very chivalrously, and spent an hour or so gently feeding Lu her other toys in the most gentlemanlike fashion. He knows how to treat a lady.

When they got tired of the toys, Lu lay on the floor and Baby A. crawled over her a few times and even got a little fresh, taking a bite or two of her cloth-diaper-covered behind. Then he crawled away to eat a bug. There was some brief static over a bottle that both babies wanted to claim for themselves, but it was soon forgotten. As Lulu fell asleep on the floor, Baby A. stroked and patted her hair. Maybe with a little more force than was strictly necessary, but the right sentiment was still there.

I love that Lulu has a friend. I hope they will be friends their whole lives. And I can't wait to see what kind of mischief they'll get into, together.