December 24, 2012

Once Again, As in Olden Days

Late morning on Christmas Eve, and here I am writing a blog post! I still have baking to do and even a few random bits to wrap (hangs head in shame).  In my defense, I was struck by a weird and random stomach bug on Thursday that lasted through Saturday. I wasn't that sick, but felt super drained, chilly and what Julia Child politely calls "bilious."  You know, that feeling after consuming a huge plate of butter-based white sauce and half a bottle of wine and top it off with creme brulee? Yeah. For four days, I was just...ick. 

So, obviously it sucks for a mom to get laid low a few days before the Big Day, but I've rallied and am ready to celebrate. I confess to also feeling a little out of sorts by the fact that this is the first Christmas Eve in my entire life that won't be spent with family.  There were two years when we were in Portland with my husband's family, and every single year besides those were spent at my grandparent's (through my first 3 decades) and more recently, at my mom's, with extended family.

This year, we're switching it up, and saving ourselves from the over 150-mile round trip that we've made for the last eight Christmas Eve's.  We'll still see my family tomorrow, but it's different.  On the other hand, tonight I'm looking forward to a nice dinner out at one of the local wineries, and putting myself to bed before 2 a.m.

Some things won't change: getting sticky and sugar-dazed while making Mexican Wedding Cakes, watching Meet Me in St. Louis, and getting all choked up when Judy/Esther sings "through the years, we all will be together, if the fates allow..." next to a sniffling Margaret O'Brien/Tootie.
Image via.
Here's to traditions both old and new. (While I look forward to Judy Garland today, the husband and daughter are stoked about the new Dr. Who tomorrow.)  So whichever kind you have, have yourselves a merry little Christmas.

December 17, 2012


There are so many who do this better, the writing and blogging about the difficult things, the worst things. Who by tapping into their own grief and experiences and wisdom can offer something small and hopeful to pause over in front of your monitor or laptop or tablet, just for a few moments, before you click on over to the next moment.

I can't offer you any of that.  I'm a public blogger but hold my deepest feelings close, in check. I don't ever share my extremes with you, beyond the general ennui of modern life that often dogs my days. 

So I offer this, just a little story, a private moment from Saturday night:

Tucker, who turned 8 a few weeks ago, has a rock-solid and specific bedtime routine: there are kisses, there are hugs, and most importantly, there is the sharing of dreams. Each night, in turn, he asks me and my husband what we plan to dream about: "What will you dream?" My husband's answers are often silly and surreal (they're dreams, after all): flying kitties in marshmallow clouds, singing fluorescent Gummi bears, driving a huge monster truck as big as our house. 

After I plant the final kisses on my boy's tummy and dim his lamp, it's then my turn to share what my dreams will be. My offerings are less flamboyant and more calming: I'll dream that we're all on a wonderful family picnic, or that he & I are walking together in a snowy forest.

Usually Tucker, tired and drowsy, will claim one of our dreams for his own plans: I'm gonna dream about daddy's flying kitties, or I'll be coming with you on that picnic.

On Saturday, tired and going to bed extra late after an evening of family fun, I gave Tucker my kisses and my dream (something vague about Christmas). In turn, he said clearly, with his eyes closed: "I'm going to dream that I'm invincible." Oh! I said. That's a big word. Why will you be invincible? "So I can always be safe, so nothing can ever hurt me."

I asked him, who'd been purposely shielded from any news accounts of the Sandy Hook tragedy, if he worried about being safe. "No. I just want to be invincible."

That's a terrific dream, buddy, I whispered in his ear. I think I'm going to dream that for you, too

Oh, that dreams and magic and flying kitties could always be so. 
I'm going to be scarce around here. Last week, when the world seemed a little more simple, I planned to participate in a Christmas home tour link up tomorrow and share my retro holiday home. But now, that doesn't feel right for me at all.

Maybe I'll share a few pics of what we're up to, here and there over the next week and through the end of 2012, but certainly no tour, no link parties for me. See you back soon, and in the meantime, stay safe. And happy dreaming, if you can pull that off.  

December 11, 2012

December Nights

This past Saturday we drove the hour south to San Diego to attend December Nights at Balboa Park.  I'd found out about this huge annual civic event last year, but last year proved too busy. 

I spent a good amount of time perusing the details on the event web site beforehand, and got excited about all the many, many options of things to see and do. Nearly all of the park's museums opened their doors for free from 5-10 p.m., plus there were myriad versions of Santa's in every nook of the park, free chorale concerts, a puppet show version of "A Christmas Carol," and international food booths.  To name just a few things.

So we went and honestly, I was totally overwhelmed. I feel a little guilty that we didn't really see or accomplish (or even eat) all that much. I blame it on us being newbies to the event, and not really sure of how it worked.  Basically, how it works is that since nearly everything but the food is free, if you want to see or do something, you need to arrive at least an hour before showtime to guarantee a seat. 

Here are the kids in front of the pink Who Christmas tree in front of the Old Globe Theater, which is running How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  (This full-length musical is decidedly not free. I thought it might be fun to go for my birthday next week, until I found that tickets are nearly $80 a seat.)
I don't know, there's something about how people get so excited about koi fish that cracks me up. Just check out the paparazzi back there:
We waited in line for close to an hour to see a "best of" performance of The Nutcracker by a junior ballet troupe.  Except there was no storyline, just a sort of "ballet costumes from around the world" trope going on.  (It's been that part of the story?) But the kids liked it, and I think they'd enjoy seeing a real performance with the actual storyline someday. 

We also braved the crowds at the Model Railroad Museum. Now this museum of model trains is always tight and claustrophobic even on typical weekends, so on this night? YIKES. But I still liked seeing the details of the miniature towns:

After true sundown, it suddenly got very, very crowded and I felt like we were at a giant food fest, more than a Christmas event. There were activities on my agenda that I wanted us to see, but navigating through the crowd was exhausting.
Evidently the Big Thing to do is to view the Christmas Story Tree at the Spreckles Pavillion.  It's a telling of the nativity story, with songs and carols and the tree itself opens up to display various scenes.  We got there more than an hour beforehand, and every seat in the outdoor amphitheatre was taken. Totally SRO. It was chilly, the kids were hungry, and standing in one place for an hour just didn't feel like an option.
I think we had a good time? It's hard to tell, between the porta-potties, the search for kid-friendly food, Tucker's meltdown when he confessed (post-purchase) that he really doesn't like hot cocoa at all, and the jam-packed crowds.

But, there was also a visit with Santa, cookies, singing & music on nearly every corner, and so much to look up and see and admire. Next time, we'll know what the heck we're doing. 

December 7, 2012

Thursday Night, Last Night

Hola & happy Friday.

Here's what my fireplace area looks like these days, compared to the picture I showed yesterday in my post about the new rug.  We're all decked out.
I had a wonderful Thursday night. The husband took the children to the mall to pick out some presents for moi, and took them out to dinner, too.  I ran over to my favorite bakery & got that turkey pesto panini I'd been craving all week, then came home & savored my dinner with a glass (or two) of a buttery chardonnay, while reading a very good novel. (The Invisible Bridge, by Julie Orringer.) 

I had jazz on in the background, and with the scenes in the book describing a Parisian theater at Christmastime in 1937, I felt very cosmopolitan in my suburban tract house, dreaming of a more urban, sophisticated life someday. Although my little dinner & evening in my own Christmastime home was mighty idyllic.

The children came home with balloons and we settled down together and watched the last half of Elf on TV.   Later this afternoon, we'll go and pick out our fresh Christmas tree and bring that sucker home.  (My little fake one there in the family room is just a compromise for my dream of a flocked white tree.)

Saturday promises to be fabulously festive, with a trip down to San Diego. More on that next week.

'Til then, have a great weekend & hope you get your own little perfect moment of peace & jazz & good reading.

December 6, 2012

Rugs & Crumbs

This one's pretty forthright: we needed a new rug for our great room, and last month we acquired one.

Like most families, this area, which includes the kitchen, is the heart of our home. We spend most of our time here -- cooking, eating, homework, video gaming, TV, movie nights, Sunday paper reading, dad-napping: this is usually where it all happens. Oh, and snacking, which is why we needed a rug: without one, every stray crumb, shard, and bit of stray food eaten on the sectional ended up at our feet. And that doesn't even count all the same stray crumbs that hitched a ride on our bare feet or socks from the kitchen and made it over to the couch area. 

Am I grossing you out? Sorry. Such is life with my family.  My husband works from home, my kids come home from school hungry: Food and snacking are almost a constant. Kids are a constant. Crumbs happen. My kids are such messy eaters, I can't even imagine what a rug under the kitchen table would look like after a few weeks. Better to put down a plastic tarp.  

ANYWAAY. There was a rug in the family room before, but it was too small and earlier this year, it traveled over to the living room. It's much happier and better-sized over there. (Plus it was dark brown with a very flat pile, both of which highlighted every single crumb.)

Old rug:
I tried my damnedest to find a pic of the old rug in the family room, but this is all I had:
From our big Halloween party last year. Those aren't even my kids in the foreground.  (And you can just imagine how the crumbs, broken chips and snacks looked on the rug after that shindig.)

So here's the new rug reveal:

I thought the room needed an 8x10, but after some measuring, I realized that a 6x9 would be fine.  The right edge of the rug is close enough to our eating area. Here you can see the edge of our long table in the very foreground:
The patio door is also just beyond the windows, so I didn't want anything too close to that.

Details: The rug was purchased online at Rugs USA.  You are assuming this is a much bigger blog if you think they comped me in any way for this rug.  Ha. No.

I took me forEVER to pick out a rug (I wavered a lot over a brown chevron stripe, but the husband voted a firm NO on that one). In the end, I chose this Moroccan Trellis pattern. And my indecision paid off, because by the time I was ready to order, they had a Halloween sale and the rug was 60% off, with free shipping. I read the product reviews over & over, and received exactly what I expected in terms of the color and thickness.

And the shedding. Lots of folks mentioned the shedding...and it does indeed shed, lots of tiny litte beige fibers. It's 100% wool, and I guess that's what certain wool rugs will do. There is even a tag on the rug, warning me that it will shed for up to 3 months.  About a month in, the shedding is still going strong, but it doesn't bug me too much. If I had darker floors, it would be a much bigger issue.
I also moved my starburst mirror from above the fireplace and replaced it with a colorful Bird of Paradise print.  It adds a big punch of color to the area, but I'm not sure about it for the long haul.

But our new rug is definitely here to stay for a good long time.  Crumbs and wool fibers and all.

Each Thursday I'm linking up with Jules as part of her 2012 William Morris project. 

December 4, 2012

Love it or Like It

It's been a little quiet around here, but I'm okay with that. I feel a little quiet inside, too. Not in a depressive way, just feeling peaceful and okay with things.  I've been decorating the house (almost done, except for the tree, which we'll buy fresh this weekend.)  And doing some Christmas shopping, but not too much, yet.

This weekend, I did some online housecleaning -- basically, I changed 80% of my Facebook "Friends" into "Acquaintances," and removed them from my daily feed. Wow, that felt good.  I check Facebook  a couple times each day, usually to see what my sister is up to, or a couple family members or Friends that I enjoy hearing about.  But that other 80% was comprised chiefly of women in my community whom I know, or knew, only very casually.  I see them on the school yard, or on my neighborhood streets; most don't even acknowlege me.  And vice versa. Yet there they were every day in my feed, filling my head with their gossip and worries and political views and dogs and kid-bragging and dinners out and UGH. The semantics of them being my alleged "Friends" was getting me down. Enough.

I woke up Sunday morning with this realization: It's been several years since I was involved with the MOMS Club.  So why am I still involved, even peripherally, with all these moms?  And why would I want to share photos of my own kid-bragging with them, when they don't even know my children except by name?  I logged on, and snip-snap: Done. A place for everything, and everything in its place, as Mary Poppins would say.

The results have cheered me immensely. I just don't need to know. Ignorance is bliss. (Many times I've considered deleting my personal Facebook account entirely, but don't really want to do that. And besides, then I'd never get to see the gorgeous shots that my friend Becky shares of her hikes in the high Sierras.)

Speaking of Facebook, why not Like my Reading Nest page on Facebook? (There's also a link  over there on the right.)  It's a small tiny teeny little group over there, but you'll get new posts straight to your feed, plus some extra photos and links that I sometimes share. 

Finally, here's a shot from this Sunday morning, of a quick cinnamon roll thing I baked from refrigerated biscuits, via one of my Pinterest boards. Here it sits on my island, in front of my little baking-themed tree. 
I realize that in this shot from my camera, under kitchen lights on a cloudy morning, it looks like a cinnamon glazed brain. But it was pretty tasty, considering the amount of non-effort involved.

I swear, this post wasn't going to be a shameless plug for my FB page.  Actually, I was gonna rant about how my children can eat an entire pouch of bright blue Fun Dip, plus the candy stick and be just fine, yet balk at eating my cinnamon bread because it looked too sweet. 
Freakin' kids. Freakin' Facebook. You gotta love 'em. 
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