Saturday, December 31, 2016

Resolution Recap

Well, in the spectacular dumpster-fire way that 2016 was, I'm happy to report that I pretty much failed at ALL of my 2016 resolutions:

1) Photos. Frame and display a bunch. Put together some photo books. Organize iPhoto. Get rid of frames that are too twee or that I will never use.

NOPE. They are still sitting there.

            2)  Storage. Organize storage spaces around the house so I can find things and be happier with what we have.

            NOPE. Hot mess.

            3)  Client work – improve, not just maintain. Circle around to some past clients and make sure they are still doing well. Make a conscious decision to network and land some new clients. Dedicate some real professional development time. Shuffle off client things that no longer make sense.

            NOPE. But I didn’t crash and burn anyone either.

4)  Exercise. The lack of it is getting stupid.

NOPE. Just nope.

            5)  Get our financial house in order. It’s not totally off the rails, but it could be much better.

            NOPE. Hot mess.

            6)  Have more fun!

            NOPE. Politics.

            7)  Talk less, smile more. Oh wait, that’s not it.

And those others have for me, so they might as well be mine:

8)  Craft more with Beatrix (that’s hers for me).


9)  Double down on date nights (per Patrick).


I've even filed at formatting this post.

Let's hope 2017 is better?

Friday, December 23, 2016

Fairy Doodles

One of my goals for 2016 was to do more creative things. I was just about ready to chalk it up as a total fail when I came upon Doodletopia Fairies and decided to give it a try.

I have to say, I was at first intimidated by it. "SURE it's easy" I groused as I paged through and saw perfect drawing on one side and the instructions on the other. I put it away for a day, thinking there was no way I would even get that far.

But, on second look, it became a lot more manageable. The instructions are not overly demanding, leaving you a little space to experiment on your own. And though my first attends were not perfect, they were not bad either. I'm excited to spend some time over the winter holiday trying this with my 8-year-old daughter.

In summary — just the right amount of hand-holding to keep you feeling engaged, without being too didactic on the final product.

(as usual, book provided free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an unbiased review)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Holiday Nostalgia

Yesterday was Beatrix's last day of school before winter break, so we decided to do some celebrating.

First we headed over to Rosedale to see a free mini-performance of The Nutcracker by Out on a Limb Dance. I have a lot of respect for their program, which is greta dance and has kids of all sizes and shapes performing, and we love The Nutcracker. It made Beatrix really anxious to dance again. After that we wandered the mall a little, including checking out The Limited, which is closing (I feel like I lost my youth just saying that). The entire mall was actually really dead and sort of run-down; I don't know if we have outgrown malls, or if malls have changed with an online culture. But it was kind of depressing.

We then decided to go to Macy's to see the Santaland on the 8th floor. I have not been in years, but my mom and I used to make a tradition of going every year, and shopping/having dinner downtown afterwards. In my youth, it changed every year, and the always-amazing Jack Barkla and his team would design it — but for the past several years it's always been An Elf's Life. That said, Beatrix loved seeing it, and was truly in wonder at the scenes displayed; I wonder if I was ever that cute about it.

The rest of the store, though, was depressing as hell. Many of the floors were closed — no more furniture department, for example. The rest were dead, and with rather dowdy (and expensive) clothes on display. As we left, Beatrix said "I wonder what it will be next year?" and we had to break it to her that there would likely not be a next year, which brought her to tears.

Riding the nostalgia train hard, we headed to Annie's Parlor for dessert afterwards. There, a raucous youth hockey team took up half the restaurant, and our hot fudge sundaes and malts and fries were as delicious as ever. Dinkytown may have changed dramatically, but Annie's Parlor is exactly the same.


(Tonight we went totally new, to see Rogue One and then to dinner at Pajarito — which just opened int he old Glockenspiel space — to celebrate me landing a new client. Delicious!)

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Guerilla Gardening

Beatrix and I wanted to make something special for teacher and friend gifts, but were not sure what to do besides the usual food gifts/ But then inspiration struck — why not make seed bombs for people?

A quick search on Pinterest gave us some great ideas. (Meanwhile, hero Patrick ran out on the snow to get some more seeds, since we realized that out seed packets were somehow empty and all we had were veggie seeds. Photo credits also to Patrick).

First, we tore colored tissue paper into small pieces, and mixed it with paper from the shredder to make a pulp (though we did have to pull out several parts that had had window envelopes). Beatrix thought tearing the paper was tedious, but stuck with it.

The info we had called for making the paper mulch into shapes using cookie cutters and squeezing out the water. We learned quickly that this was harder than it looked, but paper towels helped. We also realized we could not use cookie cutter shapes that were too intricate.

The information also called for sprinkling the seeds on the top of the paper mulch, but we realized that they would not stay on very well. We then tried to do one layer of paper, and then a layer of seed, then another layer of paper, but that often tended to fall apart as we took it out of the cookie cutter shapes. Finally, we simply mixed the seeds with the paper mulch, which seems to work.

We made 10 in shapes and then just rolled some up to make round bombs, which was certainly easier but not as pretty.

They are still drying, but I am pretty happy with the project. It was fun to do, and definitely provided some Christmas gift-making spirit!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

December Days

"2016 has been so bad it doesn't even deserve a December" I quipped as the calendar page turned.

And then it mocked me even more by throwing even harder stuff at me — death and illness for those I care about, financial struggle, smaller issues like car problems that should be easier to get through but somehow are not. It's bone-chillingly cold, and I am tired and by the time I put Beatrix to bed at night I'm slogging along and can barely face the things I have to get done still that night.

And by now it's "deep December." I always start feeling crummy and overwhelmed exactly on the 12th, and it takes me a day to remember "oh, that's the day your mom was admitted to the hospital for the last time." It's a dull, nagging pain that gets more acute every day until Christmas, and it's worse this year because it's been ten years now, and milestone days are hard. Ten years seems like a lifetime — in many ways it is.

So I'm holding on, but just barely.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Cats and Guns

Ok, I have to admit that I first thought How to Talk To Your Cats About Gun Safety would be more of a coffee table book, like "Why Cats Paint" or something. Though what I thought the pictures would be of I am not sure.

It turns out to be a funny little book that apparently stems out of an original zine of the same name. It's kind of grungy and cute and an amusing enough read.

This is where I have to warn you that if you are really talking to your cats about gun safety and teaching them to use firearms, it's more than a little weird....

(as usual, book provided free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an unbiased review)

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


When I was about six months pregnant, I commented "I think we should have a doula."

Ever-practical Patrick was like "Why would we need a doula? I'll be there." (This is the same man who when I said "If I have a c-section would you go with the baby or stay with me?" said "What, is this one of those Cosmo quizzes?")

Eventually he agreed, though, that having an extra person around for Beatrix's birth would be a good thing. And the first time we met Vanessa, when we walked into Dunn Brothers to meet her and she was curled up with a 450-page book, we knew she was the right person for us. One of the best decisions we ever made).

Over the next several weeks, we spent a lot of time together as we tried different techniques to turn stubborn Beatrix around from breech (it worked!) and come up with a birth plan that we felt good about and Abbott would not pooh-pooh.

When we went in to one of our last pre-natal appointments, and they decided to admit me, Patrick called Vanessa who remarked casually "I'm already packed up. I figured it would be the case."

And I don't know that we would have made it through the next 30 hours without her. She helped me live through pitocin, being hooked to a monitor and unable to move much, 2 epidurals (the first one failed), and a totally stalled labor. She hit McDonald's (the only place to eat) in the middle of the night with Patrick. She talked her way into the delivery room for the c-section. She stayed with me for the hours after, while Patrick was with Beatrix to be checked for her heart murmur (guess he passed that Cosmo quiz).

For the next few months, she would come over and help me learn to nurse. She cooked, teaching Patrick an awesome curry. She carried Beatrix around in a wrap so I could get some sleep. She cleaned. Westley fell into our pond. She knew more about our early life as family of three than anyone else.

And after that, we got to be friends with Vanessa. We got to see her (far too rarely), and talk, and Facebook message. We got to share joys and sorrows with each other. Vanessa was so prevalent in both — so much joy and sometimes, so much pain. The joy made me feel better about the world. The pain made me want to fix it, somehow, but I never know how. I just knew it was wrong for someone so vibrant to be feeling it.

I'm never going to get another chance to know. Vanessa lost that battle with that pain on Sunday. The ripples of shock, and pain, and sadness throughout so many people I know are deep. I'm surprised, honestly, at how deep they are — and how many people are so deeply and strongly affected. It's nice to know that the love I felt for Vanessa was not at all unusual, and to realize how much she touched and so many.

I really wish she had known that. I really wish it could have helped.

(it's kind of a bad picture, but one from that night in labor)

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Cashmere Cardigan

In the airport as we left London, I bought a soft, cozy cashmere cardigan that I have worn constantly since being home, wrapping in the memories of London.

Paris is a city you visit; London is a city you live in. While we spent a week in Paris being tourists and seeing things, we spent a week in London simply being. We shopped in all the High Street stores in St. John's Wood near our flat. Beatrix visited Hamley's Toy Store, and was in heaven. We met friends in pubs, my friend Ben took us around the new building at Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Patrick's friend Matt flew down from Paisley for the day to join us.

We did to tourist-y things too. We did a bus tour, and a Thames River boat ride (so many changes in that area — and I hate to say it, but the Shard is beautiful!) We spent the morning at the Tower, where Beatrix told us about ghosts and we had a fantastic Beefeater guide. We drank tea at Kensington Palace. We went to several museums: the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the (new) Tate. We saw Matilda on the West End (in great seats!), and went on a fantastic ghost tour (Beatrix's high point of the trip).

We went to 2 Christmas markets, including spending a day in wonderful company in the Hyde Park one, which is hands-down the most American thing I've ever seen in London. We had lots of delicious fish-and-chips. We went to markets. I drank not-enough cider, and ate pounds of HobNobs and a few Lion bars (still not enough of either). We walked down Fawley Road to look at my old flat. Beatrix became a pro at the Tube. We found the Darlings' house (from Peter Pan) and had a delicious Italian dinner at Polpo in Noting Hill. We enjoyed mussels at Belgo Centraal, noodles at Wagamama, and sushi at Yo Sushi. We stumbled around with a 25 year old A to Zed and got lost only a few times.

I really came into my own in London, almost 30 years ago. It's a city I know well, and love fiercely. It's the only other place I could really consider living (if I suddenly came into a LOT of money...), and it was wonderful to ignore Thanksgiving and to share that with my beautiful family.