Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Years Eve

Today we traveled from one part of Canada to another, for a hockey tournament. We followed our GPS down country roads to the address, through cranberry and blueberry fields, past multiple signs that read, ‘Respect Slow Moving Vehicles’ with a picture of a tractor on them. At the end of one of those roads, like a mirage gone awry, we beheld a complex with a water park! Hotel! Multi-ice rink complex! Chain restaurants! Multiplex movie theatre! Only in Canada would you find this, I think.

We’re settled in our room now; Cal’s hockey is done for the day. We’ve ordered in for Chinese food. Abbott and Cal are playing shinny in the hallway while Alexi and his father watch the World Junior Hockey Championship between the USA and Canada on television. We’re drinking expensive champagne in the hotel's plastic shrink wrapped Solo cups. In a couple of hours, the boys will be asleep with Robert, my father in law, who is still on east coast time. Alexi and I will walk across the parking lot of this complex and catch a movie, and be thankful for it all.

Best wishes on this last night of the year to you and yours, for all that is to come.

Friday, December 30, 2011

generational

Alexi’s father met up with us in Canada yesterday, and last night, the boys chose to sleep with him in his hotel room (all three of them in his king-sized bed!). When I went to check on them this morning, all three were sitting on his sofa, the room lit only by the dim morning light of winter coming in through the window. ‘Oh dear’, I thought to myself. ‘I should've come over sooner. They have nothing to do!’ Then I realized they were conversing quietly; actually, the boys were a rapt audience. My father-in-law was talking about the evolution of wolves and dogs. They were settled in together in a way that suggested they’d been that way for a while, and it didn’t look as if any of them were in a hurry to go anywhere, anytime soon.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thursday


Earlier today, we watched part of a hockey game on television. We're in Canada through the New Year; every time we turn on the television in our hotel room, or walk into a restaurant with a television in its bar, or exercise at the hotel fitness center, we've discovered we'll likely be able to watch hockey. One of the teams playing at that moment had the initials 'WGA'; Abbott asked what they stood for. Alexi replied that it must be the West German something or other. A minute later, he remembered there is no longer a West and an East, and corrected himself. I hadn't even noticed his error. (Turns out, WGA stands for Wolfsburg Grizzly Adams!) In high school, in 1988, Alexi got to play hockey in Czechoslovakia, a year before the fall of the Berlin Wall. As we talked about his experiences there I got goosebumps. I distinctly remember hearing the news when the wall fell so many years ago, and not being able to believe my ears.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

how it goes around here

Photos from a birthday party last week.

I’m writing this on my laptop, from the living room of a hotel suite. The kids are on air mattresses on the floor. Abbott is sleeping. If I go sit on my bed in the next room, and read my book, there will be curtain call after curtain call from Cal, who is not asleep, telling me he’s scared, or wondering what that noise is. By sitting in a chair next to him, aside from his occasional commentary about being thirsty or cold or hot, or listening to him wonder aloud about why wireless works for email but not text messaging, I can relax.

Back to the birthday party. While the kids were engaged with a magician in the living room, the dad of one of Cal’s classmates and I cleaned up the residual cake in the dining room and loaded the dishwasher, while we chatted about sports and concussions (he, like Alexi, is a physician and is a team trainer), the holidays, and life in general. It was nice not being a captive audience in the next room, in the event the magician wasn’t amazing (he was very good, but you never know), or went on too long (he didn’t). I feel the same worry when the preaching starts up in church, and during all school meetings when there’s a guest speaker.

Happy Wednesday.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Boxing Day


After the weekend of weekends, at the end of the day, just the four of us, again, with the week ahead, together, to look forward to; a few adventures in store for us. As I put gifts away, and prepared for travel, I felt an excitement at the thought of January, when we'll be back home; the memory of incrementally lengthening days.

Cal spent Christmas afternoon building a Lego Star Wars ship he received as a gift. Today, it was accidentally knocked off a table, and it shattered. With a surprising show of resilience, he rebuilt it. 'It means I really liked it, if I played with it enough for it to wreck.' Yes.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

from Sunday night

I hope your holiday weekend was all you hoped it would be, and more. xoxo

Thursday, December 22, 2011

the shortest day

This is the last night, for us, before things really get going, and slow down at the same time. Tonight, our last night alone for a while, Alexi and I sat, and talked, and drank champagne, while we finished wrapping everything, aside from a few more expected, last minute deliveries tomorrow. We saw the Northwest Boychoir perform A Festival of Lessons and Carols at Benaroya Hall last night. Tomorrow we'll go to our last holiday party, and then, late, family arrives. I thought long and hard, today, about a menu for Christmas Eve and Christmas, settling on a few favorites everyone will like, that won't take forever to make. And tomorrow we'll shop, early, probably before I even shower. The market, the butcher, the wine shop.

I'll likely check in at some point over the weekend. Best wishes to you and yours. xoxo

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

happy wednesday.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

cinnamon dough ornaments


Probably twenty years ago, I bought a little ornament at a craft fair made out of cinnamon dough. To this day, it retains its fragrance somewhat. Last week I signed up to do a project with Cal's first grade class, and decided to make a batch of cinnamon dough ornaments for them to decorate. I looked at a few different tutorials for making the dough; here's what worked for me. Cinnamon can be purchased inexpensively in the bulk spices area of your grocery store.

Mix together 1 cup ground cinnamon and 1/4 cup applesauce. Stir in 1/2 cup school or craft glue. Stir the dough until the consistency is smooth and dry. Knead for about a minute, then let it stand for 1 hour.

Turn out half the dough onto a flat surface sprinkled with cinnamon. Knead it for a minute or so, sprinkling with cinnamon if sticky, and sprinkling with water if dry. It should be the consistency of cookie dough. Flatten with your hands, then roll it out with a rolling pin to 1/4 inch thick. If it sticks to the rolling pin or work surface, sprinkle with additional cinnamon. Cut into shapes. The dough shrinks in the drying process, so keep that in mind when choosing your shapes. Gather up the scraps and re-roll, as you would cookie dough. Repeat the process with the remaining dough.

With a straw, poke a hole in the shape at the point where you'd like the ornament to hang.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Place ornaments on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake, flipping every 20 minutes or so (to prevent the edges from curling), until dry, about 2 hours. Once the dough has dried completely, decorate with glitter, beads, and other embellishments of your choosing.

I used baker's twine to thread through the hole and tie to allow for hanging on a Christmas tree or elsewhere. I have this great glitter set I brought in; it worked well for providing a wide assortment of colors for a group of kids to share.

Yield: about 6-8 ornaments

Monday, December 19, 2011

overheard


'Cal, do you believe in Santa?' 'Of course I do.'

'Me too. Some of my classmates don't.'

'That's ridiculous.' 'Yeah.'

'If I was the youngest, I'd sell my pyjamas when they were too small for me.' 'I don't care about money - it's too much work, putting it in my piggy bank.'


Last year's Santa visit.

PS - Capture The Magic is a clever idea (via Joanna) - upload a picture of your living room, and superimpose an image of Santa.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

fourth Sunday of Advent

I haven’t been caroling door-to-door since I was a little kid, and I have such a vague sense of the occasion, it may not be a real memory. I’ve caroled as part of organized events at nursing homes, and homebound church members’ homes, but until tonight, I'd never walked through a neighborhood ringing doorbells (of houses with visible Christmas decorations) and singing. We joined the family of one of Cal’s classmates and some of their friends in caroling throughout their neighborhood. I was surprised to find the experience really moved me. Putting it out there – joy to the world! Looking strangers in the eye and wishing them a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Families came outside to stand on their porches and listen and sing along, many of them with babes in arms. On one street we encountered a large apartment building; we stood across the street and started singing, and one window after another opened. I must say, the spirit of Christmas seemed more real, more palpable in that hour than at any other point I can remember.

Friday, December 16, 2011

from Friday night


This busy week - busy, in the best of ways, but still feeling like too much - is coming to a close. We'll spend the weekend replenishing our reserves of rest, mixed in with a movie here, a party there. I'll sit next to Alexi on the couch in the evening, after the boys are sleeping, and we'll catch up, plan, laugh, remember, and wish we could sleep right there, next to the Christmas tree.

And I will do my best to remember that what it's really about is the gifts of character.

Happy weekend.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

a few good things

I'm starting to daydream about snow; daydreaming is as far as it may go for a while. Photos from last winter in Whistler.

This week I was cheered by the sight of a few Christmas sweaters worn without irony. And the holiday lights and decorations becoming more and more prevalent around the neighborhood - some of them are crazy!

While waiting at a corner to cross a street with Cal, a man in his mid-twenties stood next to us. He started to cross when the coast was clear, though the sign still indicated 'Don't Walk!'. He thought better of it and turned and said to me, 'I'm not setting a very good example, am I?' Extraordinary and wonderful, to have another mindful of my child in that way.

I haven't had enough sleep in about a week - I need to do something about that.

Happy Thursday.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

a Christmas cookie

I think of these as Christmas cookies, because I made them a few times as part of a holiday baking session with my friend Dana. The recipe is her mother's, with a couple of minor tweaks I've made. They are sort of a jazzed up oatmeal cookie, with dried cherries in place of the raisins, and slivered almonds and almond extract in there with the chocolate.

Cherry-Chocolate-Almond Cookies

1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter at room temperature (I love to bake with kerrygold)
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1 cup dried cherries (I like the tart ones best in this recipe)
1/2 cup slivered almonds

Preheat the oven to 325F.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Cream together the butter and sugars until smooth. Mix in the egg and both extracts. Slowly add the flour mixture, until fully incorporated. By hand, mix in the oats, cherries and chocolate.

Scoop rounded tablespoons of dough onto a parchment lined cookie sheet, placed 2 inches apart. Bake for 12 minutes, switch sheets (alternate top/bottom and back/front) and bake for 6 more minutes. Cool on a rack.

Yield: about 2 dozen

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tuesday

This morning, I accompanied Abbott's fourth grade class on a field trip to a mosque, as part of their study of world religions. Our guide at the mosque started by saying that we all have the same God, and many ways of praying. Well said, I thought.

Afterwards, I went to Costco. The person in line ahead of me had a pointsetta, a ham, and a multipack of tissue boxes in his cart. Just about right for this point in December.

Which Love Language Suits You? A friend of mine told me about this book a few days ago, and then I saw this post. I look forward to reading the book.

A Dozen Wrapping Ideas.

Happy Tuesday. xo

Monday, December 12, 2011

2011 Gift Guide


This week I'm busy figuring out the last of the gifts I need to buy, and delivering those I've made (tins full of homemade treats). Here are some of the things we love to give and receive:

Seasonal truffles by Moonstruck.
Hand pulled candy canes - mmmm.
Whimsy & Spice gift box.

A baggu bag.

I received this pair of earrings as a college graduation gift and still wear them all the time; they would make a special gift. I also love these. Both by Judie Gumm, an Alaskan jeweler.

Fog Linen Daily Apron.

Table Topics would make a great family gift. We use this set nearly every night.

I like to give bare books with art supplies to kids.

The Filson travel kit for a nephew or a brother.

Cloud cookie cutter!

A cookbook stand.

Magnetic measuring spoons are one of the best things in my kitchen.

Everyone could use a Leatherman.

These chalkboard place mats are on our family's wish list.

For your comic lover: Celebrating Peanuts: 60 Years. We gave this to Abbott a couple of years ago; he still reads from it several times a week.

Tickets, memberships, and gift certificates to favorite restaurants all make wonderful gifts.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

third Sunday of Advent


Our Christmas tree lights always end up in a huge tangled clump in their storage box. Abbott took on the task of untangling them – a heroic act, that, having the patience to take it on and see it through to completion. Cal carefully unwrapped each and every ornament, remembering the story behind most of them, and placed them in groups according to who got to hang them. Every year each of us is given a new ornament. I think our tree is pretty wonderful because of it; it tells many stories. Abbott’s infant footprint in plaster of paris, made for Alexi the year he was an infant; a few I made when I was a child; a set of Thomas the Tank Engine ornaments from the year when that was all Abbott cared about. Some made by my maternal grandmother before I was born; one from my Aunt Linda from India ('Tell us about when Aunt Linda was in India.')....

From time to time I fret about what kind of holiday memories my boys will take with them into adulthood, without family living around us and any set traditions. And I realized tonight that I don't need to worry so much about that. They both know and value our family stories. I understood this fully for the first time as we unpacked the Christmas boxes and I saw what they remember. Memories happen because of the emotional content of a thing, be it a tradition, an object, an experience. The care taken in choosing the ornaments, these objects that serve as a marker of time for us, and the act of giving is in itself creating family memory, our holiday tradition, something they will remember and take with them long into the future.

And so we are fully immersed in this season, now, on this third Sunday of Advent.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

from Saturday morning

a recent breakfast at Cafe Campagne

Good morning. I'm sleepy from a late night out with friends. I spent yesterday doing more holiday baking and candy making with my friend Molly; today I'll assemble it all in tins to mail and pass out. And today is the day we're going to get our Christmas tree! It's always harder to choose than I think it will be. Alexi will string the lights and the kids will put the ornaments on, while I do my best to keep the cats at bay.

I've been working on a gift guide; I'll publish it early next week.

Enjoy your weekend. xo

Thursday, December 8, 2011

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