Saturday, December 29, 2007
:: Christmas Eve spent with my mother-in-law’s side of the family at her house. We gorged on salmon, brie and Aunt Susan’s peanut brittle. The most hilarious moment came after the extended family left when all of us donned hats from my mother-in-law’s collection.
:: When we got home, even though it was late, the boys made slice-and-bake cookies for Santa, put out carrots and lettuce for the reindeer, and wrote gratitude notes to Santa. They got up to bed just before Santa Tracker announced he would be flying over our city. I know that they are too old to believe in Santa, but I’m glad they’re still playing along.
:: Christmas morning spent at home with just the four of us. The boy’s opened their stockings from Santa, and presents from us. We set up the new Wii and I had some time to download some iTunes into Will’s new iPod Nano.
:: Christmas brunch at my parents with my brother, sister-in-law, and their two kids. We started off with my mom’s stocking collections for everyone, and my parents spoiled them the grandkids rotten.
:: Christmas dinner was spent at my brother-in-laws with my husband’s family again. More presents and more joy. I still have to find homes for all this new stuff.
:: My favorite material gift was a modest diamond band from my husband. For most of our married life he claims he couldn’t understand why giving me gifts on the holidays is important, but this year, after working with a counselor, sponsor and working a 12 step program, he made up for it. I love, love, love it. But mostly I love the person he’s become; it’s the best gift I could ever hope for.
:: Other favorite gifts included cash from my mother-in-law (I bought green slacks at Talbots, a red wool scarf and a Lucky Brand knit hat), a hand knit angora scarf (also from my mother-in-law), lots of lotions and soaps, a compact car maintenance kit (it includes a tire gage, I have the tendency to hit curbs – gah), Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Express, and a new Starbucks travel mug (my husband “steals” them and leaves them at work).
:: Post holiday dinner out Wednesday with a group of high school buddies from my husband’s small, boy’s Catholic school. I’ve known them for over 20 years and look forward to celebrating milestones and holidays with them when everyone comes to town.
:: Dinner at a Lebanese restaurant (they prepare the most amazing garlic chicken dish served over garlic mashed potatoes) with Debbie before going to see the film Juno. The reviewers are right, it’s a gem of a film.
:: The boys had friends over Friday and kept themselves entertained ALL DAY. Last night they had “Cousin Fest” at my brother-in-law’s and I got an evening home ALONE. Bliss.
:: Thank goodness for the New Year next week, we’ve overindulged in Christmas cookies and treats, fattening meals, and too many nights out. After some pretty rough years, this was one of our best holiday seasons ever.
:: Listening to Creative Mom Podcasts, learning that it is best to shoot Christmas lights at dusk, getting inspired to journal in 2008, and feeling motivated after pouring through the Best of Zen Habits 2007.
:: Friday’s Oprah show spotlighted depression, and I know it must have brought hope to people who saw that you can come out on the other side. For many years I have suffered from days when I thought I would never be okay, but with a lot of help I feel happy and grateful. I am praying for all the people who have had a tough holiday season.
:: The “Oh No” moment of the week happened this morning when we discovered that our eight month old cats somehow got the baby powder out. They’ve rolled in it and there is a white film all over the house.
:: Quote of the Week: Reese, donning his elf hat instead of his Santa hat at bed time said,"I better wear the elf one in case Santa comes and wants to take me along!"
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Join in the Thursday 13 Fun!
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
I LOVE wrapping paper and ribbons, but when you’re in a rush, or have an unusual shaped gift, you can’t beat a good bag. Plus, bags can be used over and over which has to be more environmentally friendly.
2. Real tree or artificial?
Real, because the Men’s Club my husband is in sells them, but I secretly yearn for a hassle-free fake tree.
3. When do you put up the tree?
After Will’s birthday (December 7th). We feel it’s important to celebrate just him.
4. When do you take the tree down?
I’m ready to take it down now, but we’ll wait until New Year’s. The cats are loving it too much.
5. Hot chocolate or apple cider?Hot chocolate after our annual drive to see the Christmas lights.
6. Favorite gift received as a child?
A Child’s Garden of Verses at a time when I truly believed in Santa and fairies, and a musical jewelry box with a ballerina who twirled when you opened the box.
7. Do you have a nativity scene?
Yes. We have creshes from France, Mexico, and a Play Mobile one.
8. Hardest person to buy for?
Parents and in-laws because it feels like they have everything they need. This year I found them art pieces at the Chicago Art Institute, tea and honey from Teavana, and battery powered automatic can openers (a surprise huge hit).
9. Easiest person to buy for?
The boys. They’re at the age when they’re getting into technology and we got Will his first Nano and Reese got the Wii.
10. Worst Christmas gift ever received?
Pink wide-whale cords when my husband and I first started dating. No single piece of clothing has ever looked so bad on me.
11. Mail or email Christmas card?
We mail them, but this year we received a couple of cute email greetings. We also received a few cd greetings through the mail that are incredibly creative.
12. Favorite Christmas movie?
A Christmas Story
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
All year, but I completely forget what I buy. Next year, I’m going to keep the gift closet organized with a checklist.
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
I can’t bring myself to. I end up passing stuff on to the “Helpie Selfie” box in the teacher’s lounge at work or giving it to someone who might be able to use it.
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
Buche de Noel, clementines eaten with graham crackers and chocolate, chocolate coins, and so much more.
16. Clear lights or colored?
White, but next year I want to go back to color.
17. Favorite Christmas song?
Sarah McLaughlin’s Wintersong
18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
Fortunalely we live in the same city as both sides of the family.
19. Can you name Santa's reindeer?
I know, Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid, Donner (Donder?) and Blitzen, and I recall the most famous reindeer of all...Rudolph the red nosed reindeer.
20. Angel or star on top of the tree?
Angel, but my husband broke off her wings years ago.
21. Do you like egg nog?
22. Open the presents Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning?
Christmas Eve we open one set of stockings at my in-laws, we open our stockings and gifts at home Christmas morning, travel to my parents for Christmas brunch and presents, then have Christmas dinner, and open more gifts, at my brother-in-laws for Christmas dinner.
23. Most annoying thing about this time of year?
Realizing you’re not done shopping, even when you think you are
24. What do you leave for Santa?
Cookies and milk for Santa, and carrots and lettuce for the reindeer.
25. Favorite ornament?
Too many to name, but I’m especially fond of ones from my childhood because they bring a rush of memories, and the ones my boys made when they were little.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
:: The start of winter break!
:: Bunco and “a rob your neighbor” ornament exchange.
:: Celebrating Will’s, my father-in-law’s, and my nephew’s birthdays at my brother-in-law’s house.
:: The melt-in-your-mouth pheasant at cousin Holly’s Christmas party.
:: After Holly’s, and despite six inches of snow and nearly getting snowed in at Holly’s, we headed to our friend’s annual holiday bash to laugh with friends. My favorite line of the night was when I told my friend Jim, a neat and tidy businessman who’s idea of being crazy is not closing all the blinds in their house on schedule when his wife is out, that our kids were both at sleepovers. His quick reply was, “You could be home, dusting. Naked.”
:: The boys sledding and having snowball fights with their cousins.
:: My school’s staff holiday party and getting a basket of goodies from my Secret Snowflake (yes, because I teach in a public school, and we practice what we preach about inclusion, Secret Santa is OUT and Secret Snowflake is IN.)
:: My friends Girl’s Night Out Christmas party with pomegranate martinis and catching up on all the latest gossip.
:: Finally mailing my Christmas cards. I usually have a summer vacation picture of the boys, and an annual ritual for me has always been to put on some holiday music Thanksgiving weekend and get them written. Unfortunately, this year I couldn’t find a photo with both of them I liked, and I procrastinated on taking a substitute. Sunday I took a photo of them, a diversion they were not happy to accommodate, and had to go to two stores to get the photos printed because their machines crashed. Lesson learned.
:: A pajama party with my class on Wednesday because they’re so wonder-full. I have two boys whose families can’t afford pj’s and I was able to find Under Armor style shirts and pajama bottoms for them at Wally- World. Their smiles were so big I cried. My class always gives way more to me than I can ever give to them.
:: My mom taking my two boys for a day and a half since their school let out earlier than mine. When I came home the kitchen sparkled and there was bread baking in the oven. It doesn’t get any better.
:: Christmas cards from friends from high school and college friends that I haven’t seen in years, but whose story we share, and a package (I’m waiting to open) from my best friend, and former bridesmaid, from grad school. She now lives two thousand miles away, but not a day goes by that I don’t miss her.
:: Yankee Mistletoe and Christmas Eve scented candles (they mix perfectly when burned at the same time)
:: Aveda had lotion (a gift from a Secret Santa party last week). For the firt time in my life I have dry skin.
:: Listening to Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas from Meet Me in St. Louis, James Taylor's Christmas, Ertha Kitt's Santa Baby, and Mariah Carey's All I Want for Christmas is You.
:: Reading blogs in stolen moments including this, this and reading the end of one of this woman's journies into creating a better place in one corner of the world, while I wonder where life will take her next.
:: Crumbling into bed last night with a new book, The Photograph, by Penelope Lively.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
:: Use pieces of old wrapping paper to make a collage for new wrapping or create works of art. Be sure to check out http://www.blogger.com/www.kinderart.com/seasons/wrappingpapercollage.shtml.
:: Cut into squares and make orgami
:: Put it through a paper shredder for stuffing other gift bags and gifts going in the mail
:: Use it to protect your Christmas decorations before storing them for the next holiday season
:: Cut it into snowflakes. Anthropologie’s windows this season were filled with stringed snowflakes cut from what looked to be recycled magazines. You could also add the snowflakes to blank card for thank you notes and more.
:: Decoupage it onto cardboard or wooden shapes to make decorations or ornaments for next year.
:: Use it to make clothes for paper dolls. I have my students make Pilgrim paper dolls every Thanksgiving, and although they’ve rarely even heard of paper dolls, they love them and create amazing stories.
:: Iron it on a low setting and use it for backgrounds in scrapbooking.
:: Use it as a mat for picture frames.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
:: Reese’s solo at the Christmas celebration and him getting roars of applause.
:: Snow turning our own world into a white wonderland.
:: A Secret Santa reveal party with laughter and cocktails.
:: Getting this plaque as one of my Secret Santa gifts, even though my Secret Santa didn’t know I had just read this book written by the plaque’s creator. Quite serendipitous.
:: A fleecy new robe. My old, old, old one was too big, and this one, though it makes me look enormous, is cozy and comfy. We also dressed the beds with new fleece blankets and the boy’s are digging their nightly fireworks of winter static sparks.
:: Our afterschool babysitter making sure all the boys have their homework done, and have studied for their weekly spelling lists, before I got home.
:: A Hanukkah gingerbread house from Luca
:: Our friend’s annual Christmas party. For the past ten years I’ve given her an ornament, and we had fun finding them on their tree.
:: Christmas music by Sarah McLaughlin and Karen Carpenter.
:: Decorating the Christmas tree.
:: Because of staff meetings yesterday I got to GO OUT to lunch with four of my favorite coworkers! I normally don’t get to eat until 12:40, and then I’m cramming down a Lean Cuisine, or something from the school cafeteria served on Styrofoam with a spork, in between making photocopies and phone calls. Going out to lunch feels so glamorous, even at the corner Mexican restaurant.
:: My husband’s skillet breakfast of eggs, hash browns and sausage, served with a warm cup of coffee in a snowman mug, and a morning of reading blogs like this, this and and these photos.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
and a clothing budget I want to strech,
here are five holiday outfits that can go from work to party.
All of them works for me beyond the holiday season.
this new skirt from Anthropologie because I can wear it almost anywhere.
This red knit skirt goes with me from work, to sports games, to dinner parties. I'm wearing it tonight to the Secret Santa reveal party.
I fell in love with this Talbots sweater with faux pearl cuffs. It's perfect for New Year's, the pearls remind me of champagne bubbles.
I posted a few weeks ago about my passion for wearing scarves. This red one can be worn as a bow in the front or back. " Merci bow-coup."
For more holiday fashion ideas check out:
Check out other Works for Me Wednesday ideas here
Sunday, December 9, 2007
The Christmas cards have already started coming in and I can’t help but feel a little less than with cards that tout a trip to Russia, a family trip to Maui, updates on their summer home and more (this one’s for real, and yes, they’re happy). Why is it so easy to compare up and not look to compete to have more? Eventually I am happy for my frieds, but I momentarily become little and want to scream like Veruca Salt, “I want a chocolate river, Daddy!”
With the holiday season in full gear there are boundless opportunities to compare whose tree, decorations*, party, home, children, … are better. I don’t like to recognize the competitive side of my personality, but she rears her ugly head when I pretend that part of me doesn’t exist. Thankfully, with the help of therapy and friends, I’m learning to appreciate the GOOD things I do have, and I’m learning to value myself by my own yardstick, not my perception of everyone else’s expectations of me. Starting this blog last month has also given me a place to focus on the amazing moments in my life. I feel it. I know that I won’t have the best Christmas card, that spot has been taken up in my head by two creative friends, and my food will never compare to a girlfriend I went to grad school with who I swear has eight arms in the kitchen. My house is decorated just enough for me. My Martha aspirations will have to sit on the back burner for another year.
Along with putting this embarrassing commentary out there, I want to add that my noncompetitive goal is to spend the holiday season celebrating one of the hardest, yet most blessed, years of our life. I know 2008 is going to be amazing.
*I’m hoping this guy doesn’t have any neighbors who feel a need for some friendly neighborhood competition, or else there won't be any peace on earth.
Friday, December 7, 2007
Happy eleventh birthday! I’m delighted, but truth be told I hoped you wouldn’t grow up. Not the, you’re 27 and living in the basement, but that I would be your mom, and you would be a kid, and we’d live happily ever after. However, I’m learning to deal with reality, and as each day passes I get excited about your universe. You’ve grown into someone I didn’t expect, and I’m grateful for that. I’m proud of your individuality, and that you are confident in making your own choices. You’ve picked up interests I had hoped to discourage you from, like hunting, but you don’t allow your friends to tell you what to do, and you don’t let your mom either.
I am blown away by how smart you are, and that you’re doing so well in school academically, socially, and that you have a diverse set of interests from sports to choir. You have a beautiful voice, and I loved watching you participate in a community theater musical this summer. When you sing in the school choir I hear the voice of an angel.
I’m also glad you are becoming a reader. I had my doubts, wrenched over your love of video games, and worried that you would only read for school assignments, but you’ve started asking for books, and your buddy Michael has got you hooked on the boy’s Dear America series. You recently devoured Old Yeller, a book I thought would be too emotionally wrought for you, but you fell in love with the story and talked at dinner about how books like that stick with you forever.
::Gingerbread Men – I have a story about how to break your Kitchen Aid mixer by trying to put too much dough in at one time.
::Clementine’s – they’re my darlings, and the only healthy item on my list
::Hot chocolate – add Bailey and you have a whole meal
::My mom’s Shortbread Cookies and Rum Balls - Careful how many of those you eat. Whoops, too late!
::Candy Canes and my friend Dawn’s Candy Cane Crisp Cookies – Dawn loves to bake and cook and impress her friends. The link recipe isn’t hers, but it’s close enough
::Rice Krispies & Marshmallows Christmas Wreaths – These were one of the first things I ever learned to make.
::Aunt Susan’s Peanut Brittle – she will not share her recipe
::Bûche de Noël – Easier to make than it looks, and it makes me feel ooh la las
::Red Velvet Cake with Snow White Icing – I could eat this in a box, with a fox, anytime of year
::Italian Panettone – I have never made this because our local bakery does such a good job, and they wrap it in such pretty, pretty paper
::Kim’s Sugared and Spiced Nuts – Kim’s perennial favorite to bring to Christmas cookie exchanges packaged in Mason jars with a Christmas ribbon around the rim.
::Champagne – The bubbles make me feel skinny
The Art of Simple Food,
Nigella Express: 130 Recipes for Good Food, Fast
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Want a simple way to brew yourself a cup of tea? Teavana’s Perfect Tea Maker allows me to brew a cup of tea just right for me. After you boil the water, seep loose leaf tea in the tea maker for a few minutes, and then drain the tea into your favorite mug. Brilliant! With Teavana’s wide array of teas all my family has to do is rinse out the Tea Maker and add another tea.
My fall favorite is Teavana's Plum Harvest, and over the holidays we enjoy drinking Christmas Spiced Tea.
My first Giveaway:
Monday, December 3, 2007
Saturday, December 1, 2007
I HEART my iPod. Its user friendly, does what I tell it to, it’s way cute and portable, its commercial free, has tunes to cheer me up, goes for eight hours, you can shuffle your tunes with just one button, it has more than once it has blocked out the noise of my children, connets me about through the iTunes Store, AND my i Pod motivates me to get up and get moving.
My iMix for walking was inspired by my sister-in-laws’ passion for playlists on her iPod. I have a short attention span for exercising, and she encouraged me to make playlists for different occasions. Most fitness gurus suggest a playlist with a consistent beat, but this one keeps me guessing and giggling.
Walking on Sunshine – Katrina & the Waves
Walk this Way – Aerosmith
Walk this Way – Run DMC & Aerosmith
Walk On – U2
Walk On – Kelly Clarkson
Walk Away – Pink
Don’t Walk Away – Bad English
I Walk the Line – Johnny Cash
Walk like an Egyptian – The Bangles
These Boots Were Made for Walking – Nancy Sinatra
Walking on the Moon – The Police
Wakin’ on the Sun – Smashmouth
Walking in Memphis – Marc Cohn
Walking After Midnight – Patsy Cline
Walking on Broken Glass – Annie Lenox
Walk on By – Aretha Franklin
The Long & Winding Road – The Beatles and ...
Gimme Three Steps - Lynyrd Skynyrd
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:: Going back to school to get my National Board Teaching Certificate
:: A new camera (the anniversary gift I really, really wanted). I love my Canon Rebel, but it’s cumbersome to lug around sometimes. (I'm still in shock I've become such a Canon devotee. I still have the Nikon F4 I got for my undergrad college graduation, but the Canon Rebel was cheaper than the Nikon SLR's, and I've loved what I can do with it.)
:: J.J. announcing she’s expecting
:: Bodyworlds Thanksgiving Sunday
:: Turkey soup with barley
:: My monthly Bunco girl’s night out
:: Reading The Borrowers to my class. It is an indescrible feeling exposing children to stories you know will open their eyes to life in a new way.
:: Reese’s dance classes and Will’s ice hockey games (winning 10-1 and 5-2)
:: Planning Will's laser tag birthday party for his 11th birthday next week
:: The first Christmas cards and party invites arriving in the mail