2011: A Look Back In Bemusement

Hi there! Today is New Year's Eve and I'm out celebrating or filling out even more grad school paperwork or attempting to take a nap or possibly all of the above all at the same time, because that's just how I roll these days, so for your consideration, allow me to continue a tradition and present for you my self-selected Best-Of-2011 collection. (Hey, if you want to nominate a favorite, then you leave me a comment, capisce?)
And not that you asked, but my four favorite pictures from the whole year are these (in no particular order):

Long-Lost Flying Wallenda
Disneyland_2011 034

Happy New Year, everybody!


Book Review: "The Magic Room" by Jeffrey Zaslow

I have a daughter, an adorable girl who will hopefully grow into a stunning woman, and one day her father and I might have to buy her a wedding dress. And when that day comes, I hope my daughter will get to stand on a pedestal in a place like Becker's Bridal, in place like the one Jeffrey Zaslow details in The Magic Room.

I hope that she will be like one of the brides that Zaslow describes, with a lovely or heartbreaking but ultimately interesting story of how she became the woman she will be, peering at the precipice of a new life with her future partner, maybe naïve or maybe wordly, maybe in the first blush of young adulthood or maybe well-established, but definitely hopeful and happy.

I hope that she will be helped by a woman like Shelley Becker Mueller, or her mother, or her grandmother, or her daughter, women who appreciate that every bride and every wedding is precious, and that every woman is perhaps at her most beautiful in her wedding dress, as she beams or weeps or both in the company of the memories of all the brides who have walked the aisle before her, carrying the hopes of all the brides who will come after.

I really enjoyed The Magic Room and have already recommended it to other parents of daughters that I know. My only caveat is that I found the subtitle ("A Story About The Love We Wish For Our Daughters") and the Introduction to be a bit misleading. The opening pages are quite personal and lyrical and almost had me in tears in places, but the rest is much more journalistic and objective. I would have liked a bit more introspection and perspective from the author -- what did he get out of his experience of writing this book, of spending so much time with these women and their families? But all in all, I found this to be a very satisfying read. 

We're reading and discussing The Magic Room at BlogHer Book Club this month -- won't you join us?

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Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of The Magic Room and was compensated for this review, but these opinions are entirely my own.


Good Riddance

I don't know about you, but I am just about ready for this damn year to be over. 2011 hasn't been the worst year ever, but it's not been one of our best, either, and I'm so looking forward to turning the page and starting anew.

I mean, really: this year we had a leaky roof, we had to bail water out of the basement no fewer than 835 times, we had vacatus interruptus when my husband had to come home during Hurricane Irene to make sure the house didn't float away, the Kardashian-Humphries marriage turned out to be a sham (although that one was not much of a surprise), I've been suffering from outdoor mold allergies pretty much constantly since August since it hasn't been dry enough or cold enough for long enough for whatever I am sensitive to die off, the Post Office went practically bankrupt, my kid lost her first tooth, Mondo was totally robbed on his season of Project Runway, there has been all kinds of tomfoolery and shenanigans at work, and my grandfather passed away.

It hasn't been all bad, of course -- just off the top of my head I can think of our trip to Disneyland and getting into graduate school as banner moments, not to mention all the time I get to spend eating my niece and nephew's little faces -- but this has definitely been one of those years where it seems like there was a lot more on the negative side of the scale than there was on the positive.

So during this last week of the year, when I should be making resolutions that I already know I'm not going to keep anyway, instead I am asking for suggestions: what do you do to clear the air and get rid of all the bad mojo going into a new year? Burn some sage? Change your bed linens? Pop Xanaxes like Tic-Tacs? Drink tequila buy the bucketful? Switch to decaf? What? What can I do to say good riddance to 2011 and welcome 2012 with open arms?

Help me, Internet Kenobi. You're my only hope.


Three Minutes

Man, Christmas is the longest damn day of the year, isn't it? And yet there isn't enough time to do everything and see everybody and eat all the things, especially when it comes to cherry cordial flavored M&M's, amirite? AND YET. We're going to be cleaning up shreds of wrapping paper for like the next week and a half, at least, and that's just the stuff we know about. (We do have cats, you know, and God only knows what they did with all that balled-up paper. Oy vey.)

But I'll be darned if the longest damn day of the year isn't one of the best, though.


Pretty Little Liars

I never told you the story about how we ended up with this year's Christmas card picture. Probably because it involved bribery, subterfuge, jerry-rigging, and outright lying. And also, I barely got away with it, so it definitely wasn't one of my proudest moments as a parent.

I tried to learn from last year's photo shoot. I really did. I made a mental list of all the things that drove me nuts last year -- the not sitting still, the general unpreparedness, the chaos. More than half an hour before I started taking pictures of my actual kid, I rearranged some furniture beforehand, switched some ornaments around, took pictures of just the tree, tested angles and lines and foci and lighting.

Except, I lost a part to my tripod, so I had to try to do all those things with the camera balanced on a precarious configuration of boxes, toy bins, shoes, and keys. It worked out about as well as can be expected. Well, better, I suppose, since I managed to avoid both breaking the camera and setting anything on fire.

When it finally came time to sit Shae down to take the actual pictures, I had everything ready. The chair was in place, I had all the props -- all one of them -- ready to go, and I had my Big Fat Lie all set up.

"Shae, I want to take pictures of the Christmas tree, and I need you to sit in this chair so I can test the light, okay?" And here is the true Christmas Miracle of the season: SHE ACTUALLY BOUGHT IT. She sat in that chair and moved when I asked her to and posed like a pro for 293 FRAMES before she caught on, and by that point we had it narrowed down to four possible photos.

Xmas Card 2011

I gave G the final vote, and as you can see, we went with the fourth picture above. All in all, I am very happy with how our cards turned out this year. And if you're not already on the list and you want one, send me an email or DM me on Twitter and I'll get one out to you, too.

Happy Holidays, yo. Sparkle and shine, and all that.


Abandonment Issues

Oh, hey, I still have a blog! And despite all evidence to the contrary, I didn't run off and join the circus or anything! Even though I kind of want to! Because there has been a lot of stuff going on! Like finding Christmas presents from last year! And wrapping them! Because other ones went missing! And then there was all that paperwork for graduate school! And calendars to finish! And then nervous breakdowns about finishing calendars and getting grad school paperwork in! And holiday card to make and print and mail! And parties! And more parties! And not enough tequila! And possibly running out of exclamation points!

It hasn't been all bad, just extremely busy. As things tend to be at this time of year.


And somewhere in there when I wasn't paying attention, my niece turned a year old, which just shouldn't be allowed. Babies should be babied forever because I said so. If she's a year older already, then so am I, and I don't think I can take getting much older because DAMN. I am tired.


Makayla's party was a lot of fun, though, even though I am starting to suspect that this kid might possibly not actually be related to me, because she basically wanted NO PART of her birthday cake, not even the adorable little smash cake.


She just wanted to prance around in her pretty little princess dress, although I can't say I blame her, because that dress was gorgeous. But I wanted to get the "money shot," the perfect picture of her tiny little delicious one-year-old first birthday cake-face.


207 shots later, I got something I could work with. Happy birthday, kiddo!


Suddenly, A BLOG

Yeah, yeah, it's been a week. Whatever. We've been busy. Doing what? Well ...

so, this happened today. hooray for santa!

This, for one thing. Getting our picture taken with Santa. That takes up almost a whole half hour of a Saturday afternoon, sometimes. And this, also.

Mall Tree Pose Weird Mall Snowman

Because, you know, posing in front of the mall Santaland decorations takes up a whole 'nother maybe two minutes and ten seconds. Plus there was this.

to this 4-y.o., a happy meal at mcdonald's playland = cheeseburger in paradise. #buffettbaby

Which was, incidentally, accompanied by a visit to both a visit to the urgent care center and a follow-up visit to the pediatrician because someone -- and I am not naming names here, but perhaps it might have been Shae -- got sick again. And also this happened.

three different people asked me to make this arrangement for their desks.

Yeah, I know you don't really care about pictures that don't involve my kid, but I put that arrangement together and I am very proud of it. Shut up. Oh, and!

Dress Try-On 1 Dress Try-On 2

We found a Christmas dress. This outfit also features a pair of killer black suede knee-high boots that look make Shae look really awesome and also VERY MUCH LIKE A GROWN UP OH MY GOD MAKE IT STOP. Although watching her attempt to figure out how to work fingerless gloves -- and what the point of them is -- was highly comical.

Oh, and there was also that whole thing about apply and then actually getting into graduate school, because I have gone completely around the bend.

So, yeah, we've been busy.


Happy Birthday To My Sister

We have a little message for you:

And some CAKEFACE! pictures, because of course we had a cupcake in your honor:


Hope your day was great. The cupcake sure was.


Haul Out The Holly

Our tree, she is UP, you guys.

Tree 2011 Phase 1

There she is in her original, unadorned splendor: about 7½ feet of fine Fraser fir. She smells divine. I love Fraser firs the best of all because they smell piney and citrus-y and they are really good about holding on to their needles.

Tree 2011 Phase 2

This year we used two strands of plain white lights and two strands of clear globe lights. I'm pretty sure all our lights will need to be replaced for next year, because they're all starting to unravel. If anyone has a line on frosted and/or pearl globe lights, let me know. I love me some globe lights.

Tree 2011 Phase 2A

We let Shae put the star on the top of the tree this year. I'm pretty sure that by this time next year, she'll be able to do it without even needing a stepstool. I really wish they would stop putting Miracle-Gro in all the food at school. Maybe pizza really IS a vegetable.

Tree 2011 Phase 2A Complete

O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree, how lovely are your branches! (G says that in the original German, the words to "O Tannenbaum" translate to "how lovely are your needles," but we don't listen to him.)

Tree 2011 Phase 3

We have more ornaments on the tree this year than we did last year, but we went with the same color scheme: bright aqua, lime green, hot pink, sparkly purple, gold, silver, and white, with a couple of random clears and bronzes, and that one blue sweater ornament up there near the top. We only got four new decorations this year (two aqua butterflies, a pink-and-purple fish, and my new favorite.)

she is called "sparkleduck" and I LOVE HER.

Sparkleduck, ladies and gents. Isn't she lovely? Isn't she WONDERFUL? This is probably the best dollar I ever spent at Target on Christmas ornaments in the last two weeks. Shae and G did most of the decorating while I stood around and freaked out because my Martha Stewart Complex got aggravated by all the straight lines and color-non-randomization, but Sparkleduck is all me. (Oh, and yes, we hid the Hula Pickle, but I can't tell you where because I am not sure if Shae knows how to work the Internet. But TRUST ME.)


Nine Things I Was Thankful For On Thanksgiving

1. Turkey hats.

doin' the turkey dance! (like the chicken dance, but with cooler hats.) #mykidisawesome

2. Babies in turkey hats.

passing the turkey-hat torch.

3. The last of the summer flowers.


4. Painted concrete ducks.


5. Uncle Quack's piano.


6. Joyful noises.


7. The young and the young at heart.


8. Titanic.




Catching Fire

So. There was a bonfire on Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, just like there is every year.


This year's was slightly sad, at least at the beginning, because it rained for like an entire week beforehand, so all the wood and all the ground and everything were wet and muddy and basically difficult to set on fire.


But we had a good time anyway, even if we only stuck around for like 10 minutes and barely managed to get any good pictures at all.


The operative word in that last sentence being "barely."


Because the ones we got? Pretty alright, if you ask me.


Sunday Supper

Olive oil
Three carrots
Three ribs of celery
Small onion
Some boneless skinless chicken thighs
Chicken broth
Diced tomatoes
Fresh thyme
Fresh rosemary
Fresh sage
Kosher salt
Fresh-ground pepper
Balsamic vinegar
Hot buttered baguette



Very Short Movie Review: "The Muppets"

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We're kind of having a lazy weekend, what with it just being Thanksgiving and all that turkey still digesting and all. We were supposed to go get our Christmas tree today but we never got around to it; it's on the agenda for tomorrow. If we get around to it.

What we did do was go to the movies. We saw "The Muppets" because OF COURSE we did. We loved it. At least, I did. It is nice to see movies that don't rely on fancy CGI and special effects, with scripts that are cute and clever without being twee and precious.

Kermit, Piggy, Animal and the gang were spot-on; Jason Segel, Amy Adams, and Chris Cooper were perfect; the cameos were exactly as awesome as you expect Muppet movie cameos to be. Loved the blend of old and new songs. Overall, I think everything was done with just the right amount of winking at the audience.

If you love the Muppets -- and I imagine you do, since I love the Muppets, and you and I love all the same things, right? -- then you'll like this movie. This is, in my opinion, exactly the right way to reboot a franchise. Highly enjoyable. 8/10.


Bittersweet Birthday

Today is my grandmother's birthday.

It would also have been my grandfather's birthday, and my grandfather was older than my grandmother, so today is literally the first birthday my grandmother has ever had without my grandfather.

And yesterday would have been their anniversary.

I can't imagine what it must be like to know that it's your first wedding anniversary and your first shared birthday after your husband of many years has passed. To have to celebrate those things on and around Thanksgiving, a holiday that is all about family, and to get through that without the one person who was your family for so long ... I just can't imagine.

Yesterday on our way to Thanksgiving dinner, Shae saw a "shooting star" -- really a contrail, but anyway -- and she said, "Mommy, make a wish." And I did.

I wished for my grandmother to have a happy birthday. And I really hope she can. And I really hope that everyone else remembers that today is her birthday, too.


Today We Give Thanks

I don't know what anybody else is giving thanks for this year, but I'm giving thanks for good examples.


This year would have been my grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary.


Today would have been their 60th wedding anniversary.


My grandparents set an example without even trying to, of how to be and stay married.


And today, as I celebrate Thanksgiving with my family, their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, I am thanful for their good example.


Feed The Tree

We also climbed some trees while we were at the park.


Shae claims she doesn't "know how" to climb a tree, but she does just fine, I think.


We also found a funky old stump to play with.


And an old log to use for a balance-beam-slash-jungle-gym.


I suppose it goes without saying that we love the park.