Christmas comes early.

16 Dec 1452242_10101065942821078_1565249728245729952_n

Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind. – Mary Ellen Chase

We decided to have our family Christmas this past Sunday, as it was the only day we had completely free of other obligations leading up to Christmas itself.

We started the morning with hot cocoa, homemade cinnamon rolls, bacon, and Christmas music. Afterward we unwrapped our gifts to one another: a knife sharpener and holder for Mike (it’s what he wanted, the weirdo), a toy picnic basket that sings, bubbles, and books for Margot, and an immersion blender and shoes for me. Margot walked around dancing to Run DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis,” carrying paper and empty boxes and, for the most part, ignoring her new loot. Babies, man.

"Christmas" morning pick-me-up.

“Christmas” morning pick-me-up.

Paper and boxes, boxes and paper.

Paper and boxes, boxes and paper.

With Home Alone on mute in the background as we showered up, we then ventured out to Beverly Hills to take a spin on the Jolly Trolley with Mrs. Claus, followed by a visit with Santa, the Big Man himself. The first bit sounded better than it actually was, what with Mrs. Claus sounding a little white wine drunk, shouting Christmas carols at everyone in a “Roseanne-Barr-sings-the-National-Anthem-like” fashion. Listening to her stumble over the words to “Do-Re-Mi” was…fun? Luckily Santa was just as wonderful as Mrs. Claus was strident, spending a solid 5-minutes with us soothing Margot’s fears.

All aboard the Jolly Trolley.

All aboard the Jolly Trolley.

I actually probably wouldn't recommend this, even at $11 for a family of three.

I actually probably wouldn’t recommend this, even at $11 for a family of three. You live/you learn.

At least she didn't scream, right?

At least she didn’t scream, right?

We finished the afternoon with an all-you-can-eat buffet at one of our favorite Indian restaurants, a family viewing of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” and lots of warm hugs.

Early Christmas is a good thing.

Happy birthday, mom.

15 Dec

Had she lived, my mom would have turned 55 today.

This morning Mike and I talked about what her life might have been like. Would she still be living in Indiana? Would she still be married to my step-dad? Would the course of my life have changed, too, and that of my sister and other family members?

I can’t know the answer to these questions, but I’d like to believe she’d be excited for the holidays and eager to see us arrive from California in just 9 days from now. Maybe she’d be deciding what to wear to Margot’s baptism or rushing out to buy last-minute gifts for all of her grandchildren. Maybe she’d roll her eyes the billionth time she heard “Feliz Navidad” on the radio (just like me).

She just left too soon.

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A house needs a grandma in it. – Louisa May Alcott

10 Dec Ready for a soup bath.

My grandmother passed away a couple of weeks ago and my instinct in remembering her is to cook, bake, and otherwise make sure my husband and daughter are good and stuffed with comfort food. My grandmother was obviously more than just a cook and caregiver, but these are the things I most associate with her. Good food. Good hugs. Warm hearth. Warm heart.

So warm that they don't even need jackets in Wisconsin winters.

So warm that they don’t even need jackets in Wisconsin winters.

Recently I decided on a whim to make homemade chicken noodle soup. But I needed it to have those doughy, flour-based noodles and not slippery noodles. Since I’ve only ever seen slippery-type egg noodles in the grocery, I decided (still on a whim) that I’d try my hand at from-scratch noodles.

The first step was to roast a whole chicken.

You can find my recipe for roast chicken with lemon and rosemary here.

You can find my recipe for roast chicken with lemon and rosemary here.

And, from there, I used a recipe I found on Saveur.com.

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First things first: prep onions, garlic, carrots, and celery for soup.

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Next, make a flour well and add eggs, salt, and pepper.

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While your dough rests, begin prepping soup.

Roll out your dough and cut.

Roll out your dough and cut.

Ready for a soup bath.

Ready for a soup bath.

Voila. Homemade chicken noodle soup, with love.

Voila. Homemade chicken noodle soup, with love.

It’s like a hug from grandma.

 

The Old Familiar Faces

2 Dec
How some they have died, and some they have left me,
And some are taken from me; all are departed;
All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.
-Charles Lamb “The Old Familiar Faces”
 

I’ve had that poem running through my mind these last few days in light of news that my grandmother had passed away. It’s a decidedly hopeless sort of poem, one where Charles Lamb’s pain feels just as raw as your own. It’s surprising that he wrote it at 23.

The best of my childhood memories involve being on my grandmother and grandfather’s farm as a kid, visiting family up in Wisconsin and Minnesota, driving a four-wheeler (and wrecking it) at the farm, helping my aunt deliver fresh eggs in her truck, ice fishing (okay, that maybe wasn’t so much fun), decorating Christmas cookies, and eating cheese curds. Like the Old Familiar Faces, with the passing of my grandfather in 2012 and now with my grandmother gone, too, that life seems so far away. Too far away.

My grandmother was a lovely, lovely woman. Truly the nicest, kindest person. If you mentioned you liked, say, a book of hers, you’d find it packed away in your luggage after your visit, along with fresh fruit and the lamp you also said you liked. She was the kind of person who stood on her porch as you drove away, crying and waving her handkerchief.

It was one of those things where you knew you’d be getting the call, probably sooner than later, but it still took you off guard. She suffered from Parkinson’s disease and dementia and was almost 90. It’s hard all the same.

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At my cousin’s wedding.

Grandma gives me the necklace the women in our family wear on their wedding day at our rehearsal dinner.

Grandma gives me the necklace the women in our family wear on their wedding day at our rehearsal dinner.

Margot Mondays – Margot Turns One

24 Nov 10

Grow old with me! The best is yet to be. – Robert Browning

About 15 or so of our nearest and dearest helped us celebrate Margot’s first birthday this past weekend. Mike made his nana’s pasta sauce and homemade meatballs, I made caramel apple cake, and Margot made…a mess. Naturally.

So close to Thanksgiving, it was a wonderful way for Mike and I to give our thanks for a healthy, beautiful, bouncy, sassy kid, one who kept trying to run out the door and onto the basketball court every five seconds. She’s a Hoosier, after all.

yuouou

Margot's wonderful nanny gifted her with a hot pink car.

Kids’ music (and hot pink car) corner

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I'm proud of my flower-arranging skills.

I’m proud of my flower-arranging skills.

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The Stash

13 Nov Letter I wrote to Seventeen Magazine and never sent (haha!), letters from friends, senior picture where I look like Aunt Becky from Full House, and two prom pics. Yep, I was the prom queen.

Take care of your memories, for you cannot relive them. – Bob Dylan

We all have one of these, right? A shoe box-full of memories (if you’ll allow me the cliché) tucked into a closet somewhere. To make way for Margot’s stuff in our closet, I recently pulled mine down and moved it to a shelf on my nightstand. I couldn’t resist sifting through it last night.

I’ve kept so many things. Newspaper clippings. Ticket stubs. Ridiculous photos from high school. Lots of it seemed important then and very much still is. Other things make me laugh because, really, why did I feel the need to keep a letter from a friend in sixth grade about how cute Scott Wolf is? If nothing else, it reminds me that at one time I sat and thought about how cute Scott Wolf was.

My husband doesn’t love my shoe box because it contains the dreaded letters from ex-boyfriends. I pull out dozens of letters from HIM in there, of course, but he doesn’t get it. Why keep that stuff? It certainly isn’t because I miss those days or want that boyfriend back in my life in any way, shape, or form. I just like the reminder of my former self. These letters are also good for an occasional dramatic reading (which Mike does love).

Souvenirs  from England: Mary Poppins in the West End, Harry Potter 4 in Newcastle, Belle & Sebastian, etc...

Souvenirs from England: Mary Poppins in the West End, Harry Potter 4 in Newcastle, Belle & Sebastian, etc…

Crufts in Nottingham. I'll never forget walking into a warehouse space full of pugs.

Crufts in Nottingham. I’ll never forget walking into a warehouse space full of pugs.

Souvenirs from France: Louvre guide, Metro passes, train ticekts

Souvenirs from France: Louvre guide, Metro passes, train tickets

Love letters to/from Mike.

Love letters to/from Mike.

In 8th grade our English teacher asked us to write down one nice thing about each person in our class and then compiled everything and gave it to us for Christmas.  It was nice.

In 8th grade our English teacher asked us to write one nice thing about each person in our class and then compiled everything and gave it to us for Christmas. It still makes me feel good, though I love the person who stretched themselves to come up with “..has nice hair?”

A letter from my grandma and grandpa, letting me know how happy they were that I got to visit Paris. Also: wedding table sign and bachelorette party photo.

Letter from my grandma and grandpa letting me know how happy they were that I got to visit Paris. Also: wedding table sign, bachelorette party photo, and sign we made to put on the “in remembrance” altar at our wedding.

Letter I wrote to Seventeen Magazine and never sent (haha!), letters from friends, senior picture where I look like Aunt Becky from Full House, and two prom pics. Yep, I was the prom queen.

Letter I wrote to Seventeen Magazine and never sent (haha!), letters from friends, senior picture where I look like Aunt Becky from Full House, and two prom pics. Yep, I was the prom queen.

Work stuff: old schedule from when I worked at the library in college, brochure I made for my MA degree, the speech I wrote for our exhibit opening, and a brochure I wrote in a previous job.

Work stuff: old schedule from when I worked at the library in college, brochure I made for my MA degree, the speech I wrote for our exhibit opening, and a brochure I wrote in a previous job.

What kinds of things to you keep?  Why keep them?

And here’s a clip of my favorite use of “stash:”

Margot Mondays – Story Time and Craft class

10 Nov 10801528_10101045363512178_955776179289633030_n

Mike and I live in university housing and, you know, it has its definite minuses. It’s sterile. The carpeting is a kind of wonky Berber Blue. It’s on the third floor and there’s no elevator (which has made carrying a 20+ lb child and groceries/laundry a near impossibility). I could go on.

And yet there are some really, really good things, too. For one, we live in a lovely (read: expensive) neighborhood in Los Angeles, one where 2-3 bedroom homes go for $1.6 million and 1,000 sq.ft apartments rent for upwards of $3,000/month. Our rent is roughly half of that for the same size. RESOUNDING PLUS.

We also have our own garden plot, a yoga center with free fitness classes for residents, Easter and Halloween festivals with free food trucks, bouncy castles, and magicians, the city’s best donut shop within two blocks, a pool, multiple playgrounds, and a private garage. Tomorrow there’s a free basketball clinic for children of all ages. What self-respecting Hoosier would miss out on that?

One of the best things is that our nanny can take Margot to Story Time and Craft class, especially for babies, every Wednesday afternoon. I LOVE Wednesdays because I know that, at some point in the afternoon, Nanny will text me all kinds of photos of Margot getting into mischief with paint and crayons or (and this is rare) simply sitting quietly and listening to the Lady Who Tells Stories.

Margot has been to maybe six sessions so far and class has already made a mark on her. The other day Nanny told me she mentioned to Margot that after her nap she’ll get to go to Story Time. Margot then toddled off to her bedroom, pulled “A Snowy Day” off her bookshelf, and brought it to Nanny to read to her. Lately all she wants to do (aside from opening the kitchen cabinets and dragging out the Tupperware) is read books. This morning as I was getting ready for work she brought me two and, so far today, Mike tells me they’ve read three.

All of this has been a huge relief for us. When we decided that we were going to go the nanny route and not the daycare route, we had all these fears that Margot wouldn’t have opportunities to make friends or interact with other children, and we worried that maybe she’d miss out on scheduled classroom instruction, which apparently is a real thing that parents insist on for their babies.  Would she be ready for preschool?

We think the answer is yes.

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