Daily Affirmation

The best things in life are free.
The second best are very expensive.
- Coco Chanel

Friday, December 31, 2010

December 31st 2010: In which Marion inspires a trail hike

December 31st, 2010.  Last day of the year.  It started earlier than usual for this week - L and I went to Fullerton at 9:45 so I could get my bangs trimmed.  Normally that's something I do myself, and it never really ends well, so I decided to get organized and actually go in for the free trim.  10 minutes later we were on our way to breakfast at Tom's Place - the best breakfast burritos anywhere!
When we got home, we were stuffed.  A walk was in order.  We discussed back and forth where to go: the river bed, the Yorba Linda trail... and then I remembered the book of easy OC day hikes I'd given L awhile back.  We'd never ever gone on one.  Until today.  My friend Marion, in Washington goes on hikes all the time in beautiful forests that are so green and ferny they look prehistoric.  When we were there visiting last year she kicked my butt hiking and I've never gotten over the humiliation.  So this little hike (and the ones that follow) are inspired by her - although they won't be nearly so green.  Or damp and ferny.  I mean, this is Southern California - we don't have fern sprouting forests here.  Pity.  You know what we do have, though?  Rosemary that grows like weeds along the trail side.  It was a sweet smelling surprise.
Anyway, back to today's hike:  we chose a 4 mile loop that was back in the hills off of Weir Canyon.  It's always nice to look at new scenery when you're setting off on a longer than usual hike.  It helps to distract you from the sweat that's pouring down your back.  The trail was a little muddy in spots from the rain, but it was good for the most part.  The hardest part for me was the up and down and general unevenness of the trail.  We're used to walking on bridal paths or streets, so this was a new challenge for my ankles and knees - but I'd fortified myself beforehand with Excedrin and Advil.  It was a beautiful day - blue skies and crisp cool air.  Even so, it wasn't long before I was huffing and puffing.  But I did it.  All four miles.  And I only whined once or twice.
Here and there we saw evidence of the fire a couple of years back:

But you can see here that the rain has done it's work.  Lots of green and the sky was gorgeous!

I took a quick shot of my hiking companion so I would have an excuse to rest for a minute:

Towards the end of the 4 mile loop we came upon what was probably just a large puddle of water, but it looked so pretty on top of the hill overlooking the valley!  And check out the clouds reflected in the water.

And who's the happy girl who sees the end of the trail ahead?  Actually, I thought I saw the end of the trail ahead.  ahem - I actually DID see the end of the trail, but L thought that it wasn't the end of the trail and he led us on a little wild goose chase down a random trail that turned into a death defying (well almost) steep path that eventually led us to the car.  Next time I really need to speak up when I know I'm right.  But that's an argument for another day.  As I said - here's the happy girl who thinks she's about to stop hiking:

It was a fun couple of hours (except for the death defying part).  My knees and ankles and lower back are feeling it, but I keep thinking that I actually went 4 miles today, and I'm kind of basking in the glow of it all.  (I know I'm a hiking wimp, but you have to start somewhere...) Since it was cool out, there were no bugs flying around, and that's what wrecks most hikes for me.  I told L we should make a trail hike a weekly thing for better health in the new year.  I'm hoping it will strengthen my muscles, give me a cardio workout,  and beat some fluff off my butt.  I'll let you know how that goes.

My very best wishes to all of you for a happy, healthy 2011!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Hat For My Noodle and other holiday tales

I've been trying to do this post for the past 2-3 days, but could never quite get around to it.  Chalk it up to post-Christmas blahs.  Because I know you've all been waiting to hear - our Christmas Eve was good.  Rex and his family arrived about 2:30 and the good times began.  I'd had a kids basketball hoop for almost a year that I'd never pulled out and put together, and we finally got it out and put it to use.  Lexi and Matthew had a great time (after being in the car for almost 2 hours!) shooting hoops and running after balls.  Lexi was a superstar, but Matthew was still a little bit too short.  He would shoot and miss, and then sigh and say "I try again!"  He tried and tried and tried, and managed to get a few in the basket while we would applaud wildly.

We went inside, had a pre-dinner snack and brought out some games to play.  Matthew soon fell asleep in the bean bag chair and had a good nap.  Rex and Ronna played checkers and Lexi and I played a game and then went upstairs and played with the fairy castle.  L slaved away in the kitchen getting dinner ready so I could play with the kids - jealous much, ladies?  (I'm still shaking my head that I was lucky enough to win this prize - my life with him is a constant wonder.)  Andrew was also here visiting from Provo, but he opted to spend the evening with his cousins at L's parents' house.
Scott and Ashley arrived and we sat down to eat.  And we laughed and we talked and Lexi ate her dinner all gone and Matthew slept through the whole thing.  It was a good time - the most fun and least awkward time I think our family has had all together ever.  After dinner Lexi wanted to play with the fairy castle some more, so I got the four kids busy playing Apples to Apples, L ran over to his parents' to say hi to his brothers, and we settled down for some serious play with the fairies.  At one point I asked her who her favorite friends at school were.  She said that Justin and Derrick were her favorites.  I asked why and she said very matter of factly in her four year old way: "Well, they're boys, and sometimes I fall in love with them a little bit."  That perfect little story you tell for years, and laugh every time.
Soon we had the hunt for the Christmas Treasure: 2 bags of chocolate coins that I'd hidden in the manger of the nativity scene.  The kids had a lot of fun figuring out the clues and finding the prize.  We opened presents after that.  When Lexi opened her Princess Castle she hugged the whole box.  She was delighted with her little Rapunzel/Tangled doll that just fit in the castle.  Matthew loved his Hot Wheels cars.  Yay - I shopped well this year, thanks to L - all of that was his idea.
Too soon it was almost 10:00 and everyone had to go.  Rex told Lexi she'd have to leave her castle at my house until after Christmas because the car was too full.  Her eyes filled with tears and she begged him to "Try daddy - try to make it fit."  It fit.  I couldn't have let her drive off without it - my goodness!  The house was quiet while I cleaned up, but I basked in the memory of a good evening with everyone.  Without going into detail, I'll just say that there were some issues that needed to be smoothed over, and I think the time spent together laughing and playing did just that.  Success.  I went to bed with aching feet but a happy heart.
Christmas, quite honestly, was a let down.  The fun had already been had.  None of the kids were coming - they had to be elsewhere.  It's funny how you can understand that, and it's still lonely and waay too quiet.  I woke up with a headache - not a regular one but a hormone one.  The kind that just never really goes away.  Ugh.  Andrew got up and we opened presents and I was glad that he was happy to be with us.  He and L watched basketball, and I was happy for the peaceful day, but couldn't help wishing my kids were coming back.  I miss the noise and laughter and L cherishes the quiet.  It's about the only thing we ever disagree on.  Later in the afternoon, the two of them left to see "True Grit" and after my mom and dad came over for a bit, I headed out to see my grandma and aunt.  When I came outside after visiting with them it was raining.  A fitting end to the day.  It was an OK day - it just didn't feel like Christmas.  So while I got Christmas Eve down, clearly I need to figure out Christmas Day - especially if I can't have my kids come.  I spent pretty much the whole day feeling sorry for myself - how selfish.  Holidays can be hard when things change, so next year I want to be better prepared to have a Plan B.
On Sunday after church we took Andrew down to Balboa Island to walk around, and so he could smell the ocean that he gets homesick for.  It was a good afternoon for all 3 of us.

I'm off of work this week - a much needed vacation!  My mom and I finally got around to her birthday lunch and afternoon of shopping that I'd promised her.  We went to South Coast Plaza and tooled around.  It was fun to hang out with my mom and have a nice leisurely lunch.  She just turned 80 and we walked around from 11:30 until almost 5 - and I think I was more tired than she was!  She's a wonder.  While we were in Nordstrom, I found a hat.  A rainy day chapeau.  I love this hat. I'd never planned to get a hat or look for a hat, but that's just the kind of surprise I like to find when out shopping.  It's exciting to come home with something completely unexpected.  And so today I had a little fashion shoot with myself and my topper.  Like Lexi with her boys, I think I've fallen in love with this hat a little bit.  Indulge me.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Traditions

I'm late linking up to Jen's Christmas Traditions post here, but better late than never I suppose.  We (L and I) are new to the Christmas traditions thing.  Being a blended family, we haven't had a lot of time to develop our own traditions and favorite Christmas things.  While the kids were still growing up it was mostly trying to keep up what they were used to doing.  That meant that L would oftentimes go to his parents' house on Christmas Eve with his boys, and I would go to my parents' house with my kids.  Not really satisfactory, but you do what you need to do.  We tried alternating years, but that never seemed to work very well either.  Finally, after becoming grandparents and having the babies become toddlers, we decided that it was time to break away from each others' old traditions and establish our own.  Our own parents haven't been too thrilled with this, but we felt it was what we needed to do to try to strengthen our own family bonds.  We're able to concentrate on our own children and grandchildren instead of having our attention divided among a lot of brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews.  It just feels better to try to do things the way we want to, instead of bending to what we've always done.
The main problem, however, has been to try to come up with traditions of our own.  I've watched other families (including a lot of you blogging friends!) to try to come up with ideas that feel right for us.  L is a quiet man - and that's an understatement.  His boys are quiet young men.  My children are not.  They're loud and silly and opinionated.  They quote movie lines uncontrollably.  I think they're incredibly funny and a lot of fun.  They sometimes make my husband's eyes roll back in his head, and he heads upstairs to his office retreat where its nice and quiet.  His boys, by contrast, make me nervous.  They don't talk a lot, so I feel the need to talk a lot and very fast to fill a void that really doesn't need to be filled because no one is nervous about the silence except me.  It's an exercise in extremes on the rare occasions when they mix company.  Like on Christmas Eve this year.
As luck would have it we now have these wonderful grandchildren that take our attention off of ourselves. Instead of sitting around stiffly and hoping everyone mingles, we can concentrate on the little ones and have a wonderful time.  This year Lexi and Matthew will be spending Christmas Eve with us, along with their parents Rex and Ronna, and also Uncle Scott and Aunt Ashley (or Ash-a-ley as they say it). I wanted to have an evening that would start some new traditions, instead of the old lets-eat-dinner-watch-a-movie-and-leave-early routine.
I've planned a more formal dinner than we usually have: ham, scalloped potatoes, winter salad and, of course, green bean casserole.  That's a carry-over from my mom.  We always had a nice dinner together, even when the kids were small, using good dishes and pretty things.  I think it makes the evening more special.  After dinner, we'll play games.  L and I are not game players, but we are going to become game players.  I bought Carroms, Apples to Apples, and Uno.  We can all play together, and all be involved.  (No retreating up to the office!)  Before games, I've planned a special activity for Lexi and Matthew: a search for Christmas treasure.
Basically, it's a series of rhymes I wrote which provide clues to finding different symbols of Christmas - a star, candy canes, a gift, and finally a clue to the Christmas treasure, which is baby Jesus in the nativity set.  I'll have placed some gold foil wrapped chocolate coins in the manger with baby Jesus (the "treasure" - I hope that's not sacreligious!) and that will be the prize at the end of the hunt.  Lexi loves games, and I think she'll have fun figuring out the clues.  Matthew will follow along for the fun.  I thought we could have a brief reading of the Christmas story and the kids can place the nativity figurines in the set according to the story.  I keep hoping that one year we'll have more grandkids here and we can have a live reenactment of the Christmas story.  It's a little hard with only two.
After that, we'll play some games, and the kids can watch a Christmas movie - Polar Express or The Santa Clause.  They can open their gifts from us, and we'll have cookies and hot chocolate.
Boy, typing it all out makes it seem like it's not so much - but I've been really doing a lot of planning and preparing for it!  I hope it's something that everyone will think is fun, and that they'll look forward to each year.  And we can build on it.  The Christmas treasure hunt is short and simple this year.  As they get older it can become more elaborate.
I've baked and shopped and wrapped and planned.  L is excited to have some traditions of our own too.  He loves the grandkids and is excited for them to come.  I've checked my list of things to do, and rechecked.  I think we're ready.  Now all we need is our crazy mix of kids and those two sweet little ones, Lexi and Matthew.  Merry Christmas to all - have a wonderful time with your families, and if you happen to think about me briefly, send up a little prayer that we here are bonding and establishing some real family memories and traditions.  It's been a journey to get to this point.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Last Minute Decorating and Warm Coziness

I wanted to link you up to a really fun blog: Craftily Ever After  Her ideas are fun, creative, and best of all, EASY and INEXPENSIVE.  Or maybe it's best that they're fun and creative. Or all of the above.  Anyway, I downloaded her free gift alphabet art spelling out "JOY" and I love it.  It literally took only a couple of minutes and a trip to Target for the frame, and *VOILA* - a pretty holiday addition to my baker's rack in the kitchen.  I love it.  Be sure to check her blog often as she has a new idea almost daily, and lots of free downloads.  If you don't want to do the work yourself, she also has an Etsy shop!

We're all busy this last week before Christmas, so maybe this is something to save for next year, but I wanted to make sure you saw this beautiful , easy idea.

The remainder of the week?  Baking, wrapping, cleaning, and a few quick dashes out for last minute gifts.  I hope you and yours are enjoying a safe, happy Christmas and holiday season.  I'll be checking your blogs for updates on your celebrations, but won't expect much if you're as busy as I'm going to be!  And at the end of the day, the mister and I cozy up in our new Christmas jammies -  our gift from Katie this year. (And I've got my Halloween socks on in the picture - SWEET!)   What could be a better end to a busy,cold, rainy day?  MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL *and to all a good night!*

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Deck the Halls

I did it - I finally finished the Christmas decorating - just in the nick of time.  I don't remember when I've been this late getting it done, but tonight I mastered myself and instead of laying around like I wanted to do, I got busy.  L was doing security duty at the Newport Beach temple so I had the evening to myself.  All alone.  *sigh*  No matter.  I scrambled myself some eggs - extra cheese, yes please! - and got to work.  Last night I downloaded a bunch of Christmas music from i-Tunes that is mostly not strictly Christmas music and I turned up the sound and commenced the decorating.  Do any of you remember that song by Peter Paul and Mary "The Marvelous Toy?"  That's one of them.  I love that song.  I love Peter, Paul, and Mary, which shows you just exactly how old I am.  Anyway, I managed to deck the halls and hang the bows and treetop thing-y without falling into the tree.  Usually by the time I get to that I'm cursing and saying all kinds of bad 
un-Christmasy words because I don't really have a concrete, solid way that I attach everything.  It's all kind of by the seat of my pants.  And sometimes it doesn't want to work very well.  But tonight was magic.  Maybe because L was fulfilling his service duty at the temple.  It wouldn't have been nice to come home to a wifey tangled up in a tree and yelling like a lumberjack after guarding the Lord's house for 4 hours.  So I think I was spared - if not for my sake, for his.

I got the mantle decorated (again, things are precariously balanced.  Heaven help us if there's an earthquake...  I got my big orb of light (see on the right) plugged in and it gives
the most glorious light.  Magical...

I even got out the nativity.  This particular nativity is one my grandparents sent my family when I was a child.  My youngest brother and I used to *disagree* about how it was arranged.  I'd arrange it my way, and the next day I'd see that he'd disassembled my arrangement and done his own.  And then I'd do it back my way.... and so on.  The other two brothers couldn't have cared less - they probably didn't even notice.  (We were also the only two who could decorate a decent cookie.  He grew up up to be a plastic surgeon.  I grew up to be... fussy and stubborn.)  Even now I'm so particular about how all the figurines are arranged.  I know my teeth would gnash (and I might weep and wail) if L decided to change it around.  I usually put it up on the piano, but this year I put it in front of the fireplace (where it will hopefully not catch fire) so Lexi and Matthew can see it, and arrange it how they want to.  (I'll have to busy myself in the kitchen.)  It has a light attached that makes it look ethereal, and a small music box attached to the stable that plays "Silent Night."
So game on.  Now I need to wrap and wrap and wrap.  And bake even more than that.  It's going to be a busy weekend.  In between all the wrapping and baking I am getting my gray roots dyed.  Glad tidings of great joy indeed.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

I'm Back

Did'ja think I'd died?  It's been a wild, busy, chaotic week.  My daughter and her two girls were here this past week.  Staying here.  In my tiny tiny house.  I actually babysat the girls the first night they were here while Katie and Zach enjoyed a night in San Diego.  I was nervous.  I've not had small children in my care overnight for years.  We don't have a bathtub anymore (just showers), so Hayden got bathed in the sink.  She didn't seem to mind it a bit.  Mia and I played with the fairy castle and fairies and unicorn while Hayden crawled into it, over it, and through it.  Soon enough it was time for Hayden to go to bed and she went without crying.  Yay! - points for me.  Mia and I watched a movie and then she settled down to sleep on a sleeping bag at the side of our bed.  Hayden woke up only once (just like Mommy said she would) but went right back to sleep.  And, just like Mommy said, they were up before the crack of dawn.  In California this time of year it isn't quite light at 6am.  Mia looked out the window and said "It's not a sunshiny day..."  I told her it soon would be, but that the sun wasn't up yet.  No matter - we went downstairs for breakfast: pumpkin pancakes.  Mia was skeptical, but loved them so much she wanted them every day.
I was actually successful watching them overnight!  This may not seem like a big deal to most of you, but I'm not, and never have been, much of a kid person.  Oh, I like kids, and I enjoyed my own, but I don't love to sit on the floor and play and pretend and play endless games.  I'd much rather be out doing something.  Maybe that's where my daughter gets it - she's the same way.  I've always been self conscious that I'm not that great with kids.  Never been the type that every kid gravitates to.  (That would be my mom.)  The time I really start enjoying them is when you can have a conversation with them.  And we're just starting to enter that era, so the fun is beginning.  My confidence is growing.
I worked at least part of the day the entire week they were here.  I knew Katie had planned to see several friends, so I wasn't worried she'd be bored.  Unfortunately, her car had some problems, and for a few days she was unable to drive it.  I adjusted my schedule at work and took a couple of half days.  Ashley was able to come and help her out one day, and she and Scott stayed for dinner that night.  It was so fun to have them all here - although that was early in the week and I was still adjusting to my house being blown up.  Sadly I did have a couple of moments I'm not proud of - the chaos and the small space got to me.  That, combined with a bad day at work made for a not very nice me.  Thank goodness for kids who love me anyway and are way more patient and forgiving than I have any right to expect.  And thank goodness for the sweetest little girls in the world, who were so excited to see me at any time of day or night.  All they wanted was my attention, and a little snuggle time in a chair watching a movie.  It heals your soul, is what it does.
Their last day here we went to see "Tangled."  If you haven't seen it yet, make sure you do.  It's so good.  I sat next to Mia.  She shared her popcorn with me, and we laughed and laughed.  It was a good afternoon.  I shared Red Vines and Junior Mints with Katie and Ashley.  Ahhh... good candy, a Diet Coke, and a great movie with people you have fun with - it doesn't get any better than that.
Saturday morning was crazy trying to get their car packed up, checking and rechecking rooms to make sure that nothing was left behind.  Poor Katie wasn't feeling well, and as it turns out was actually coming down with the flu (please please don't let me get it!) and had a miserable ride home.  No bueno.  Mia cried when they left and I cried.  Ten minutes later my phone rang and it was Mia, telling me thank you and I love you and crying.  I told her that I was crying too but that we needed to put our happy faces on, and she said she would.    I tried, but I had to get in the shower and have a good boohoo before I could pull myself together.  I find it's that way after every visit.  The chaos is hard for me, and I long for some quiet time.  Some down time.  But when everyone is gone, and the house is all put back together and I finally have the quiet time I'd been wishing for, I want everyone to come back again.  It's too quiet, and I start to feel bad about all the things we didn't have time to get to - or that I was too tired to do.  (Damn this getting old stuff!)  I can't seem to win this battle.  But I'm starting to realize that a lot of people struggle in this same way, and for some weird reason, that's a comfort.  As if maybe I'm not so crazy after all.  Or defective or something.

Christmas is coming.  The house is only half decorated.  I'm having a hard time getting into it this year.  My shopping is done, but very little is wrapped.  L is downstairs right now getting the tree up and putting on the lights.  (That's right -we're probably one of the few who have a fake tree who don't have a pre-lit one.)  I've not been able to get excited about putting it up - as if I can delay the season or something.  I'm just not looking forward to it.  At all.  Hopefully as I go through the motions this mood will disappear.  I remember a Christmas several years ago when I felt the same way.  I was a single mom then and my oldest was on his mission.  I couldn't even begin to get excited about a tree or decorating.  One of my daughter's good college water polo friends, who was a real family guy, went out and bought us a tree.  I'll never forget it.  Even now it brings tears to my eyes thinking about Scott Naples and his sweet Christmas gift to our sad little family.  It snapped me right out of the doldrums I was in and put a warmth in my heart.  Maybe I need to get busy doing for others - to find a way to get my mind off of that little sadness that's bothering me.  A little Christmas cheer to take my mind off of myself.  Because I need that small dark place in my heart to heal.  I need a small miracle.  Maybe this will be the year for that to happen.

Best medicine ever - isn't this a sweet picture of Mia flitting through her back yard like a magical fairy?

And Hayden, looking angelic in raspberry pink.
Yep - it was a great week with the girlies.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Brussels Sprouts and Christmas Visitors

For those who wanted the Brussels Sprouts recipe, it's sketchy and you may have to wing it here and there but here it is (without any specific measurements - we're a bit on our own here):
Parboil sprouts for 5 minutes.
Saute chopped leeks, pancetta (Italian ham/bacon) and chopped onions in butter.  I think a lot of butter, because you let it reduce down to where everything is carmelized.  Add more butter and bring it back up to a sauce. 
Pour the sauce over the sprouts and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.  At 350?  Probably...  Sorry - those are the directions we got, so it will be experimental.  But if they come out as good as at last week's dinner, they'll be fabulous.  Let me know if any of you try this.  I want to, (I really do)  but I'm still having bad Brussels Sprouts flashbacks from when I was 8.  Kind of like it was a fluke and I'll gag on them again.  I'll try to take courage and make a stab at it.

Hey guess what?  Katie and the girls are coming for the week!  She and Zach are going to watch Zach's brother play in a basketball tournament in San Diego on Saturday night and I'm the babysitter.  I don't mind saying I'm nervous.  I've never had them overnight before and this will be in a house they're not used to.  Yikes...  It makes me wonder how I ever raised my own kids.  You just don't know any better, that's how you do it.
Zach will go home and attend another rotation in Tucson for med school, and Katie/girls will stay on here.  In my tiny tiny house.  With the iffy heating/A/C ducting.  What does that mean?  It means that when you using heat or A/C, the master bedroom is hot or cold.  The rest of the upstairs is either freezing in the winter or hot in the summer.  We've tried everything, but the house is just wacky that way.  I'm worried they'll be cold and crying in the night.  OR - I'm worried I'll be hot and sweaty in the night.  What to do...what to do...
I'm worried the baby will pull the tree over on herself.  It's improbable - it's just one of those things that wake me up in the night.  I'm worried I'll be late to work every single day because I can't stop myself from playing with little girls in the morning.  (Will they understand that I can't play in the morning??  Will they think I don't love them?  I hate work...)
Depending on how the week goes, maybe I can take an afternoon off on one day or another.  I'm sure Katie has plenty of friends and places to go, however - I'm certainly not indispensible.  I just want to be.
One activity that's a must: going to see "Tangled" with Mia.  Not sure what day yet - I need time to talk L into babysitting Hayden while we go.  She'll be in bed - shouldn't be too much of a stretch for him.  But it will need to be finessed, although truthfully, he'll probably be glad for the peace and quiet.  Crowds big and small stress him out.  Me too, although it's hard to admit that.  I like order and neatness, and when company comes I have to force myself to Stop.  Just stop.
But just look at what I'll be enjoying.  That makes all control issues and all messes totally worthwhile.  It even makes bundling under 6 blankets in a cold house worth it - or sleeping in a tropical heat room.  However it works out.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving Weekend in a Nutshell

It's times like this that I miss my daughter.  My daughter the picture taker.  We had a lovely Thanksgiving dinner, but did I take any pictures?  Well, yes - at the last minute with my phone, and they're all fuzzy.  L took some, but he tends to not take pictures of people.  He's fond of shooting inanimate objects, like the table, the turkey, etc.  He snapped one of Grandma near the end, but it's fuzzy.  I really do mean to take pictures, but I get busy cooking and talking, and talking and eating...and then I forget.  So I apologize, but this post will be mostly just words.
It was a Thanksgiving of firsts: my first time making gravy.  My first time making real whipped cream.  A new sweet potato recipe (thank you Pioneer Woman!) and a new member of the family (Ashley) at the Thanksgiving dinner table.  The day before Thanksgiving, I worked a half day, rushed home and began to cook.  In one afternoon I made mashed potatoes, the sweet potatoes, two pumpkin pies and the cranberry sauce.  I was just finishing up when L came home from work - just in time to take me out for a little Mexican food dinner.  I'm not used to standing on my feet for that many hours at a time and my dogs were barkin'.
Thanksgiving morning came a little bit early for me, but I put my game face on and trudged down to the kitchen to get the turkey in the oven.  One thing I love about L is his interest in cooking.  He beat me down to the kitchen and removed the turkey junk (the neck and "giblets") and proceeded to rub the turkey with a garlic butter mixture.  We'd never done that before either, and I'm here to testify that it was the most beautiful turkey we've ever had - due largely to the browning from the butter.  Gorgeous.  I've always stuffed my turkey's, but this year we didn't.  I prefer the taste of stuffing "in turkey" but all the cooking shows kind of freaked me out about the dangers of food poisoning from doing it that way, so we just baked it this year.  Meh... not as good, but it wasn't bad.
My grandma and aunt came right on time.  I wheeled my grandma's chair up close to the stove where I was making the gravy.  I told her I needed her expertise and she brightened right up.  She loves to get out and feel like she's doing things she's always done, and it was good to have her "help."  Ashley, Scott, and Ashley's friend Tara arrived soon after.  Tara brought good little rolls, and Ashley not only brought her assigned green bean casserole, but also a PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE.  This is exactly why Scott was such a genius to marry her.  She is a family treasure.  Plus, she has nice friends.  I was so happy that Tara came.
I'd made up my mind to only eat a little bit.  But, have you ever noticed that just a little bit of each and every side dish there is, plus turkey, adds up to a whole lot of food?  Well, it does.  I was foolish again this year and ate way too much.  I could barely eat pie, but I managed.  Took one for the team.  It would have been rude to not have a piece of cheesecake, right?  So we ate and laughed, and ate some more.  Grandma was pretty with it, and loved being in the middle of everything.  It seemed like the party had barely started when it was time for everyone to go, but that's the way it is with good times, isn't it?
Unsuspecting Grandma doesn't realize how naughty L is...

Grandma holding court at her end of the table

The rest of the weekend continued in the same way.  It was one continuous round of feasting.  L's birthday was celebrated on Friday.  I took him to dinner to a little place he'd been wanting to go to.  We had lobster fritters, grilled rib eye steak, warm spinach salads and ice cream sundaes for dessert (his was peanut butter ice cream with chocolate and marshmallow topping and mine was just pure chocolate but with toasted marshmallow topping. )  We left the restaurant in the same condition we'd been in the night before after Thanksgiving dinner.  But with big smiles on our faces.
Saturday: took L to see the movie we'd tried to see on Friday, but it had been sold out.  Unstoppable with Denzel Washington.  I recommend it.  Good couples movie - something for everyone.  Then off to the first holiday party of the season at the home of a coworker.  It was in Manhattan Beach, which should have been my first clue that it was going to be fabulous.  We drove up to the house and my jaw kind of dropped.  And it never shut the entire time we were there.  I've never been inside a more beautiful home.  It kind of made my teeth ache it was so gorgeous.  Kind of Italian with frescos painted on the walls and ceilings, beautiful heavy furniture, shiny hardwood floors, and the food... oh my, the food.  He'd hired a chef to cook for us and it was amazing.  I don't usually like prime rib, but this was amazing.  So full of flavor.  I loathe Brussels Sprouts (I've refused to eat them for over 45 years) but these were not only tolerable, I liked them.  There were little tastes in between to clear the palate, and the individual chocolate souffles at the end...well, I think I heard angels singing.
Most of the folks I work with are serious wine snobs, so I'm sure it offended a few senses to see all of that beautiful food washed down with Diet Coke and water.  *sigh*  Our host had a different wine to go with each course, but to his credit he didn't bat an eye when we declined.  I love that in a host.  He didn't even get upset when we declined to taste his sampling of micro brews after dinner.  (Our post dinner entertainment.)  We were good sports and swirled each sample and sniffed to catch whether it had a fruity bouquet or a citrus-y one.  But we didn't taste.  So funny what people get excited about.  Micro brews and wine are very exciting for this bunch so L and I were fish out of water.  You know, trying to look interested, but really wishing we could head for home, which we did soon enough.  But not before gathering the recipe for those Brussels Sprouts from Chef Jorge.
Sunday: another dinner at L's folks for his belated birthday.  This time lasagna.  More full tummies.
Monday: 90 minutes of yoga and then a brisk walk for another 30 minutes.  It feels good to go to bed feeling lighter than I have in days.
But it was a good weekend full of family, friends and lots of good food.  Did anyone get out shopping on Friday?  My daughter went out at 5:30 in the morning in Mesa, but scored some great deals.  I shopped a little bit today, on Cyber Monday.  Bring on the Christmas season!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pies and Nostalgia

L and I had a busy weekend.  It was a pie weekend.  On Saturday morning I was browsing through a Williams Sonoma catalog (those things are as good as a book for me - I love all the gadgets and equipment!), and I came across an appliance that made little personal pies.  Could be a fruit pie or a turkey pot pie - but it makes four little pies at once.

It's kind of like a waffle iron but with four little pie shaped cups in the base (about 4 inches in diameter).  On the lid is the complementary top half.  You cut four pastry rounds with the cutter that comes with the appliance, and the same tool also pushes the crust into the bottom of each opening.  Spoon in the filling of your choice, and don't be stingy - you want it to mound up a bit.  Lay the top crust over the top and close the lid.  The top half seals and crimps each little pie and bakes it in about 10 minutes.  Our first batch burned around the edges but didn't get browned on top.  Hmmmm... so we figured out that the filling needs to be mounded in so the top crust is rounded over it.  The second batch turned out pretty good.  We made apple cranberry pies - we found the filling ready made at Trader Joe's.  With the leftover pastry dough I was able to also make some pocket pies with the apple shaped pastry cutter I got last year at Williams Sonoma.  We were up until about 11:00 Saturday night baking little pies.  I'm kind of over pies now... which is too bad, because I have to make some big size pies for Thanksgiving and it's not sounding that good at the moment.  I don't know whether I'm hoping my appetite comes back or not.  I'd love to be able to look at pie and think "Meh - don't want any."  But it's hard to cook if you're not thinking it's going to be delicious.  You need to have your eye on the prize, as it were.
I did have fun cooking with L though.  He does most of the every day cooking, but when it comes to special occasions or the holidays, I do like to get in the kitchen and whip up this or that.  I usually get so ambitious that I get all worn out, and I don't want to cook anything else for a year.  Let's see if I can reign in the enthusiasm a bit this year and keep it real.
So it's a big week.  3 days of preparation (I'm trying to negotiate taking a half day off on Wednesday so I can come home and cook), then the feast day.  Scott and Ashley, Ashley's friend who is far from her family, and my aunt and Grandma are all coming.  I'm so excited that Grandma's coming - she loves Thanksgiving dinner, and she's a joy to cook for after all the years she's spent cooking for everyone else.
On Friday L and I are going to celebrate his birthday.  He wants to go to a particular restaurant and go to a movie.  His wants are simple.  He wants it to be just the two of us, and after Thanksgiving that will feel just right.
L is helping my dad put together a book of my dad's life.  My dad wrote his memoirs and L is art directing it and laying it out.  Dad has given him the goofiest assortment of photos to include in it.  Well, actually there are some really nice old photographs of grandparents and my dad when he was a boy.  And the ones of us kids when we were little are cute and darling.  But then it gets into the 70's and 80's and I just don't know what happened.  All of a sudden my hair is looking like I don't ever remember it looking (perhaps I've blocked the memory...).  It's embarrassing.  There are a few photos of me that I really am putting the kabosh on.  No go.  I do not want ANYONE remembering me that way, and out of all the pictures my parents have of me, I have to wonder what possessed my dad to pick those.  It makes no sense, and I must put my foot down.  Eighties hair should be outlawed - I looked like someone in a bad Farrah Fawcett wig.  L says it was what it was, but I say we should be remembered with a little dignity.
But L also came across this one.  My senior picture.  Class of '71.  Dig the green eyeshadow...

Funny - I remembered disliking this picture.  Didn't like the way I looked.  Can you imagine that?!?  It's odd looking at an image of the person you used to be, and in many ways (deeeep inside, under many many layers), still are.  I like that girl a lot better now than I did then.  I didn't appreciate her half enough when I was her, and it makes me a little sad remembering that.  I miss her in a way, but I hope she'd be pleased at what she's become.  And I hope one fine day, when all is said and done, to look like that again.  L said he would not be disappointed if that were the case.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Lest you all think, after my last post, that I'm curled up in a ball sucking my thumb (that was yesterday) I just wanted to report that my to-do list is getting shaped up.  First of all, I've made an actual list, as so many of you rightly suggested.  I've always been fond of lists, so that wasn't a stretch - I just needed to get it done.  One suggestion, however, really resonated, and that was from Cherie.  Her suggestion?  1 day = 1 task done.  No more of this feeling like I need to get 20 things done in a day.  As long as 1 thing gets ticked off the list per day, I'm doing my job.  I liked that concept.  Took a lot of pressure off.
Today was a good day.  Work was busy, but not insane.  I turned my phones off at lunch and treated myself to a quiet time with my salad away from my desk.  (I'm usually trying to do 3 other things at my desk AND eat lunch.)  It was sublime.  Everyone else had gone out so I had the place to myself.  After I ate, I gave myself the small gift of finishing one task: going online and making a list of possible gifts for the grandkids. Now all I have to do is talk to parents and narrow it down.  Easy.
L got home from work and we put on our walking shoes and hoofed it around our regular 2 mile loop.  So nice to get it done a bit early.  What next?  Flame Broiler for a chicken rice bowl.  Awesome for 2 reasons: it was good tonight, and, since I only eat half, I have lunch for tomorrow.  No decisions tomorrow about what to pack for lunch.
And now we're back home, waiting for 9:00 and the Food Channel's throwdown between Bobby Flay and the Pioneer Woman.  It's going to be Thanksgiving themed, and I'm hoping to pick up some good ideas for Thanksgiving's menu.  (Another thing crossed off the list - yay!)  I love the Pioneer Woman and Bobby Flay, and have been looking forward to this show all week.  So while I'm waiting I'll get this quick post in, and L is in his office doing his freelance work to the musical stylings of Jethro Tull and Aqualung.  (Does that bring memories back for any of you?)  I really like Jethro Tull.  It's good to have the old man home with me, listening to the music of our wasted youth, and in 10 minutes we'll cozy up to the Food Channel together.  Life is good.
Thanks for your suggestions, and friendly comments.  I appreciated every one of them, and it was great to feel support from you, my friends, when I was feeling like a hot mess.  Brought me right to my knees with thanksgiving to have such amazingly kind ladies in my corner, and lifted my mood.  So... thanks.
Hey - Pioneer Woman is on.  I'll return and report.



Monday, November 15, 2010

Random Thoughts

Can it really be true that Thanksgiving is only a little over a week away?  It seems like I was just recently leisurely browsing recipes, idly considering new ideas for our Thanksgiving dinner.  And now, here it is almost on top of me, and I'd better get it together.  This year really snuck up on me.
I feel like my life is getting crazier by the day, and yet at the end of every week or even weekend, I can barely remember what I did.  Life is moving fast these days, and I'm not so sure I like it.  I've lost/am losing the luxury of free time.  Every minute away from work is jam-packed with things I need to do.  And I never get to half of them, so they become just good intentions.  And you know what the road to hell is paved with...
Here are the thoughts and worries that fly through my brain on most days (in no particular order):
1. My daughter all alone in Mesa with her two daughters while her husband is in Savannah on rotations.  At least the baby has gotten some relief for what turned out to be allergies, and is now sleeping most, if not all of the night.  But now Katie threw her back out and is in a lot of pain.  I want to help, but how??
2. What to get everyone for Christmas.  I've done almost no shopping, and the idea of going to a mall makes me want to cry.  I need to buckle down, make some decisions, and fire up the internet.
3. How to make Christmas an easier day.  I get so wound up trying to make everyone happy that I'm just about done in.  L and I have a blended family that isn't always so blended.  Its getting better with time, but I wish everyone could just relax, chill, and enjoy everyone for who they are.  I like all different kinds of people, and  I don't understand why this is so hard, but then - the holidays are nothing if not emotional.  *sigh*  I always want the picture perfect holiday, and so far its been elusive.  I like holidays with lots of family and talking and visiting, and L likes holidays with lots of alone time.  See? We're a match made in heaven.  But really - he understands me better than anyone, and I totally get him - we just have opposite socializing requirements.  We'll work it out.
4. How to get myself thinner.  Okay, this is trivial, but it has a lot to do with how I feel about myself.  I have a sneaking suspicion that I wouldn't spend half what I do on clothes and skincare if I were more happy with my body.  For some reason I always think that a new pair of pants will make me look better.  And they do... for a day.  And then I'm stuck with me again.
5. How to fit in visiting my grandma, doing my VT, finishing my painting projects, and maybe sneaking a good book in, along with a regular exercise routine when I don't get home from work before 6pm and I need to be in bed by 10?  (So, consequently I don't usually get to bed before 11 so as the week progresses I become a hot mess because I'm sleep deprived.  AND I still don't get all of those things in.)

My friends, I could go on and on but then you'd know how nuts I really am, if you don't already.  I'm having a hard time not having enough time for things I really want and need to do.  Add in the holidays, and it's a recipe for emotional craziness.  We're all busy, I know, so how do most of you cope with too much to do?  I used to not be so busy at work, so I could do a little online shopping during the day, or balance my checkbook or plan a menu.  But lately it's been so annoying - my 8 hours are actually filled with work.  I hate when that happens.

I think what I'm experiencing is a little pre-holiday jitters.  Once I plunge in and start getting things done, plans start falling into place.  I just feel a little ambushed right now.  Not prepared.  But I'm looking forward to having Scott and Ashley over for Thanksgiving.  Ash and I had a great night last week shopping for makeup at Sephora.  (They were having a 20% off your purchase night!) We reality checked each other's spending.  We were good shopping buddies AND we discovered the best mascara anywhere.  (Givenchy - the wand is shaped like a little spiky ball and makes your eyelashes just stunning)  Afterwards we grabbed a bite to eat and she announced that she was going to bring green bean casserole to Thanksgiving dinner.  My favorite.  Suddenly I felt like I wasn't in this feast dinner all by myself.  Someone was going to bring the veggies.
So these have been the topics banging around in my head the last few days.  Nothing more entertaining than that. Just raw life in all it's randomness.  It's 10:10.  Past my bedtime.  The day went so quickly.  Again.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It Was A Dark and Stormy Night...not

This week we are linking another post to Denton Sanatorium.  Subject: the story of how our families came to be.  I don't have a dramatic or heart wrenching story to tell.  I've always been a normal girl living a normal life doing normal things.  No big drama where I live.  I was married at 20 and we went along for 2 years without thinking too much about having a family.  Probably a good thing - I needed some time to grow up a bit, and I probably could have used still more.
I remember going to visit one of my old roommates from BYU one day.  She and her husband lived locally and she'd just had her first baby - a little girl.  I'd always admired Bronwyn - so funny and so solid.  It was from her and my other roommates that I first became serious about  my religious beliefs.  They were my mentors, and now she was a mother.  I started to think more about having a baby of my own.
I became pregnant in 1976.  I was convinced I was having a girl (why, I don't know - there was no ultrasound or anything like that) and I got out some beautiful little dresses that had been mine that my mother had saved.  I ironed them and hung them up (no such thing as permanent press back in my babyhood!)  I dreamed about what a wonderful mother I would be.  So loving.  So encouraging.  So perfect.
Somewhere along the way we began to pick names.  It's funny, but I can't even remember the girl's name we picked out. I do remember we agreed 100% on it though.  We couldn't come up with a boy's name to save our lives.  My husband kept going for names like Trajon (what??!?), while I went for dreamier names like Patrick or Timothy.  We got a little desperate towards the end because we just couldn't find a name we agreed on.  One night we were sitting watching the horse trials in the Olympics (1976?  1977?  I can't remember) and there was a beautiful horse named Rex something.  Rex...  Rex... We both looked at each other and knew that was it!  I looked in a baby name book and came up with Rexford, and that is how my oldest son got his name.  True story.
We meant to go to the LaMaze classes... we really did.  But my husband was in sales and worked a lot of nights, and I didn't have the wherewithall to go by myself.  I thought to myself, "How hard could it be?  A little breathing, a little concentrating.  Easy!"  Are you laughing yet?  We convinced ourselves we could wing it.
I went into labor at around 7am on February 10th, 1977.  We were living a good 30-45 minutes from the hospital - and that was with no traffic.  I was having some pretty good pains, and it was rush hour.  Sweet.  So there I was in the car, bundled into my pink fleecy robe (I still remember that) and we were stuck in traffic.  It took forever to get to the hospital.  I remember feeling sorry for my husband because he looked so stricken that there was nothing he could do to make it better.
Finally we were in a labor room where I moaned and cried, and a nurse came in and told me to be quiet. There was a Mexican lady down the hall yelling "Ai yi yi, Ai yi yi" and no one told her to be quiet.  It was finally decided (after several hours) that things weren't progressing and that a C-Section would be performed.  I wanted to dance.  Finally - an end to it.  I've never had a thing about natural childbirth, and I certainly wasn't seeing any charm in it at that moment.
So off we went to the OR - they put me completely out and when I woke up I was freezing.  In recovery they piled warm blankets on me.  I'll never forget how good that felt.  When I got back to my room, they finally brought my little Rex to me.  He was 8 lbs 6 1/2 oz - good thing he was a boy, because he wouldn't have been a very dainty little girl!  I remember looking at him and thinking I'd never seen such a beautiful baby.  I think everyone feels that way, but in my case it was true.  He was gorgeous.  A little jaundiced so he had to go under the lights, but it just made him look tan.
Rex was the best baby anyone could ever have.  Happy, even tempered, easy going.  Bald.  Soooo bald. But sweet chubby cheeks you could use for pillows.  I've never gotten over my love affair with that little boy, who grew into a sweet young man, and a sweet husband and father.  He has tender feelings he tries to cover up with toughness, but I will always see the sweetness in his heart.
Now, I know the other two are a little upset that I haven't talked about them.  As a mother, I could go on all day about each one.  Katie, the peacemaker and scrappy athlete who fought back from a broken neck and 3 knee surgeries (not all in the same day) to become a champion water polo player, college grad, and wife and mother.  She is not afraid to tell you how it is, but she'll cry about it later.  Scott, who is at once tough and sensitive, athletic and afraid of cockroaches.  He loves his wife and Project Runway.  He is not embarrassed to carry her purse on his shoulder in public.  All three of my kids like good smelling bath products.  We have read hundreds of stories, sung a million songs, and laughed about everything under the sun.  I taught them about "Jesus' plan" and they believed every word.  Their faith put mine to shame.  I tried my best to teach them to be good people and live a good life, but in the big picture I think it was me who learned the most from them.
A rare occasion all together: Scott's wedding

And... the cycle continues

Monday, November 8, 2010

Happy Birthday Hayden

Last weekend was a blur of a road trip to Mesa, AZ, and a couple of quick days to be with this little princess on her 1st birthday:

My traveling companions were Scott and Ashley.  (Remember them?  They got married this past June)

Scott drove, Ashley alternately slept and conversed in the back seat, and I rode shotgun.  I'd anticipated sleeping a lot (my usual behavior after 10 minutes in a moving car) but Scott likes to talk a lot more than L does, so I was entertained the entire way there.  He can recite quotes from just about every movie he's ever seen as well as Project Runway, of which he is quite a fan, apparently.  (I like what marriage has done for him!) He kept me laughing and the drive went quickly.  (For me, anyway...)  We arrived at Katie's house a little after 9pm and Mia had been waiting up for us.  She ran out and gave us all big hugs.  Then she told us that they'd been cleaning up their house all day long.   *oh really?  I thought it always looked spotless...*  But trust a 4 year old to air the dirty laundry.  Literally.

The next morning, the little girls were up bright and early.  Like 6am early.   No bueno.  But how do you resist this little face coming in to get you up when she says "Mema, get up!  It's a very sunshiny day!"

I'm always surprised at how long it takes to get everyone ready in the morning.  I probably take longer than anyone, but it's especially hard when you try to shower and Mia wants you to play.  We finally finally made it out of the house in time to all go to lunch together.  It was so much fun to have 2 of my 3 kids together, along with our newest family member, Ashley, and the two little girls.  We laughed and laughed and had a great time.
We made another trek Friday night to the Children's Museum in Phoenix and then Katie stayed up late sewing a cute outfit for Hayden to wear for her birthday party the next day.  Hayden isn't fond of sleeping through the night these days, so after 2-3 times up with her, Katie was exhausted.  Mema was in charge of breakfast in the morning.  Surprisingly, I managed to muddle through.  Katie got up, and we all trudged to Trader Joe's (me sans shower or makeup) and a regular grocery store for party ingredients.  We made pink princess cupcakes, chocolate dipped pretzels and marshmallows, and got the party organized.
The guests arrived, Hayden was adorable and picked away at her cupcake just like we hoped she would.  The only snafu was when she tried to take off her pink party hat and the elastic snapped back on her face.  I think it hurt her feelings and she cried.
After the guests left, Scott and Ashley ordered some Indian food and we sat around the dining table and laughed until we cried.  I think that's what I love most about being with my kids - we just laugh so much.  One old friend, now living in Mesa, came to the party and stayed after with all of us.  I haven't seen Sandy in a few years and it was great to catch up.  She remembers Scott from when he was tiny and he'd stand on the bottom of her refrigerator looking inside to see what there was to eat.  She always doted on Katie because she had no girls of her own.  And Rex was like one of her own.  I love Sandy and it was wonderful to sit and laugh with her over old times.
Too soon Sunday morning came, and it was time to leave.  Mia (predictably) cried, which made me feel like crying.  She had on her new pink shoes that she calls her "happy shoes."  We'd gotten them on Saturday when we were out.  She was wearing them to church, and through her tears she promised me she would be a happy girl and sing her Primary songs.
Why is it that you're barely back from being away, and all you can think about is the next time you can go back?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Doing Penance For Candy Gluttony

So too much chocolate and sugar has placed a massive zit right in the middle of my forehead between my eyebrows.  Like a bullseye.  I've tried alcohol, and I've put Bare Minerals blemish powder on it.  It's smaller, but still there, boiling under the surface.  I'm nervous that the thing will come to a disgusting head while I'm at work and away from mirrors, completely unaware that I've developed a noxious about-to-explode third eye.  Sweet.  I love zits in my middle age.  Wasn't clear skin supposed to be the trade-off for getting old?
So today was the cleansing, purifying day.  Lots of water.  LOTS. OF. WATER.  And  very little else besides lean protein to eat.  Breakfast?  Cold diced chicken.  Mmmmmm...  Nothing like a little cold meat in the morning.  A little chicken again for lunch.  And a Diet Coke.  And L came home tonight and made me a taco with the rest of the diced chicken.  Because we all know I'd just eat peanut butter with a spoon otherwise.  I'm lucky he takes dinner seriously enough to make it because I just hate cooking after work.
We went out and hiked around Yorba Linda for an hour or so tonight, and I feel a little better.  A little lighter.  Except for the angry red beacon between my eyes.  *sigh*  Thank goodness for Bare Minerals powder.  Covers it right up for the most part.
Did anyone else eat too much candy?  It's so hard to resist those little bite size candy bars.  It seems so harmless until you've pounded down 7 or 8 of them.  Then you not only get bulges, you get zits.
I'm going to Arizona over the weekend for Hayden's 1st birthday.  We have a big bag of candy bars left over - since we get next to no trick or treaters.  I need that bag to be gone when I come back.

PS: Halloween down and on to Thanksgiving!  I'm already starting to plan my menu, but I'm looking for some new ideas.  I've gotten a few ideas from some of you, but would love to hear about other special food items or traditions that everyone enjoys.  Bring on the holidays!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Halloween!

I hope everyone has a safe and happy Halloween!

Enjoy all of the little ghosts and goblins, and a little bit of chocolate!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Getting Your Sassy On

OK girls - I'm going to tell you about this cute thing I learned to do with my hair on days when I don't want to do anything with my hair, but I want it to look like I really thought about it.  As I already told you, this can be done with short hair, medium hair, or long hair.  Makes very little difference.
To back up, when I went to get my hairs did on Saturday, my stylist came bouncing up to fetch me (she is adorable) and I almost didn't recognize her.  Usually she has the cutest short hair - amazing short hair - but that day she had a pretty cotton scarf covering her head and tied in the back in a sort of knotty bow.  Then she had put a newsboy cap over it all.  Don't worry - this doesn't involve a cap.  I loved the look, but I'd never wear a hat even if I had one.  Well, maybe I'd wear it once and then I'd get self conscious and never wear it again.  
I asked her how she did the scarf and she showed me, and then said that I could just use a scarf as a sort of headband, rather than a full head scarf, but tie it the same way in back.  Since her hair is short, she just knotted and tied it in the back.  For me, since my hair is long, I bring my hair over to one side behind my ears and twist and pin it into a little bun.  If little hairs stick out, so much the better.  It shouldn't look perfect.  The scarf that's shown in the picture is kind of long and not too wide and has fringe on the ends.  I usually use it as a belt.  So I folded it to the width I wanted and then brought the ends to the one side under the bun and tied them into a bow.  The ends are still long, so I pulled the bow parts as long as possible without pulling the ends through and tied them again into a bow.  (Like double tying your shoelaces.)  Whatever short ends are hanging down you just tuck into the scarf.  The bun is above the bow and the scarf keeps all the little short ends (my hair is layered) nice and tidy.  It's a little bohemian, and a little bit sassy.  My coworker called it edgy.  I was just happy that it was quick, easy, and I was out the door in a hurry while still looking like I'd done more than pull it back in a rubber band.

Back View: I know this is hard to see - in person the scarf doesn't look this bulky, but it was hard to photograph  well. You could even tuck the bow ends in if it looks too wonky out. You kind of have to play with it.

When I did this over the weekend L thought it was so cute, and I did too.  I wore it this way to work today, and I have to say it's a little bit edgy for the office.  Our office is more casual than some so it was OK but for knocking around town or on the weekends, this is the best little trick to do.  I let my bangs hang out, but you can experiment with how much or how little you want your hair to show in the front.  Everyone will be a little different.  I think it might depend on the scarf too.  The one I used in the picture is kind of natural and bohemian, but I tried it with a more preppy wool scarf I have (that is also not such a long length) and it was a little more polished looking.
So have fun and experiment a bit with it!  I'm sorry the pictures aren't more clear.  It was hard to get it right so you could see what was done.  But it's cute - it is!  (Although I know some of you are shaking your heads in doubt because of my pictures.)  Just try it, ok?

One more thing I must announce: my daughter Katie has purchased a new computer and is now ready to be able to begin again with her photography and retouching.  If you live in the Phoenix/Mesa area and would like your family photographed for the holidays - or for any reason at all - she is taking appointments.  She does beautiful work, her prices are reasonable (lots of bang for your buck!) and I don't think you'd be sorry.  For prices, information, and a peek at some of her other work, go to her photography blog here  And don't pre-judge her photography skills by mine.  I taught her nothing in this arena because I know nothing.  Amen.

I hope you'll try this little trick with your hair.  If you do, tell me how it works out for you.  I'm one of those people who buy scarves, thinking I'm going to tie them around my neck, and I never never do.  Now I can use some of the pretty ones I have in a way that's comfortable.  And it'll be a lifesaver on a bad hair day.  And you Arizona folk - contact Katie and let her work her camera magic on your beautiful families.  You'll get some memories that will be quite special.  And you'll rise up and call me blessed for suggesting it.

The latest photo Katie took of Mia - isn't this gorgeous?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A New and Improved Me (for now, anyway...)

I feel like I've been out of the loop for weeks.  As you may remember from my last post, I came down with the flu last Tuesday night.  Miserable stuff.  The sorest throat I've had in years.  We finally did break down and call Dr. Rick, who very kindly called in a prescription for me on Friday morning.  Unfortunately, I couldn't get to it until Friday evening, but better late than never.  Thank you, Dr. Rick.  I love you.
I ended up going to work on Friday, feeling I couldn't milk it anymore at home (having gone to Work Ethic School of Dad) so off I trudged on Friday morning in the fog and mist, tired beyond belief.  By noon I felt a little bit better though so I was encouraged.  The work day finished successfully enough, but there was still the Primary Program rehearsal to get through.
I don't know when I've been more miserable.  If you know me at all, you know how much I hate extra meetings of any kind.  And this one was particularly heinous, coming after work when I felt more exhausted than usual, due to not being completely well.  I've been involved in more of these programs than I'd care to admit - usually as the pianist - and the rehearsals are always awful.  The kids mess around, they don't cooperate, they don't sing.  I couldn't play this one particular song (He Sent His Son) to save my life.  There's a part right in the middle where nobody is singing and the piano builds and has this little solo riff - and I bungled it badly every single time.  In my defense, I don't have a piano to practice on.  I mean, I OWN a piano, but it has about 6 or 7 broken strings and is in need of major repair.  It's a baby grand though, and so I hold onto it, thinking we'll get it fixed one of these days.  It actually held up well for many years, but during my single mom years there was no money to maintain it properly and it had one move too many, and it sunk into disrepair.  So I'm a Primary pianist who wings it every week.  My practice comes at church every Sunday during Primary, and luckily I'm a good sight reader.  But after this last practice I came home in a foul mood.  I hated Primary and was irritated by everyone in it.  I complained nonstop, I think.  (Did I mention I have a saint for a husband?)  I also practiced that passage from hell until I had it memorized.
On Saturday morning I woke up not feeling well again.  My throat was better but I had a massive headache.  (Can antibiotics cause headaches??)  I cancelled by pedicure appointment, but was determined to make the hair appointment.  Fortunately I was feeling human by then and I went.  My husband drove me as he was concerned about me still not feeling well.  I forgot my wallet, and when it came time to pay I had to call L (who was then on his way) to see if he had some money or a credit card with him.  Now I know you are all going to stop being my friend and hop on over to his side.  And you'd be quite right to do so.  Because not only did he pick me up, he also paid.  Without complaint.  Even paid for the Aveda shampoo and conditioner I picked up.  *sigh*  He is a saint, and I really don't deserve such riches.
As the afternoon wore on, I noticed that my right shoulder and arm were hurting a little bit.  Huh.  Must have slept on them wrong.  By about 7:00 it was abundantly clear that I was having a flareup.  In my right shoulder.  I couldn't move it or do anything without the most excruciating pain.  I am not good with uncontrollable pain.  I get a little panicky.  And I was supposed to play the piano in the morning.  My husband assessed the situation and calmly said that I would maybe want a blessing.  Yes, please.
He changed into his white shirt and tie  (Oh how I love this man!  He never cuts corners...) and gave me the blessing.  I was in so much pain, but I almost had to laugh at part of it.  HF actually yelled at me a little bit.  In the nicest way, of course, but I was definitely being corrected.  I was told that I would be relieved of the pain and that I would rest well that night.  But then I was told that I needed to get back to working on getting closer to my HF and my Savior, and that I should refocus and work harder in the coming week to that effect.  OK... so no more complaining and moaning about Primary, I assume?  Straighten out the attitude and stop criticizing?  It reminded me of places in the D&C where Christ is rebuking Oliver Cowdery and others because they would get off track and muck around.  And truthfully, I HAD been mucking around, and hadn't been positive or helpful or productive.  Mostly just sulky and entitled.
Within a few minutes the pain was relieved (and if you've even had a flareup you know what a miracle that is - and how welcome!) I knew for a certainty that I have a Heavenly Father who wanted to comfort His child in pain - as well as correct her course just a bit.  I did sleep well that night, and Sunday dawned on a new and improved me.  The program was beautiful.  I played that passage without any error.  The kids were awesome, and did the greatest job.  All of the ones who'd made me crazy on Friday night were like little angels today.  Were they really that much better, or was I looking at them in a new way?  Probably a bit of both.  I made an effort to interact with them more today, and found myself enjoying it more.  I'm still tired of mainly being asked to play piano, but maybe what I need to do is do it CHEERFULLY.  That would be new.  That would be growth.  And that is my little testimony for today.

ps: I also learned the cutest little hair styling thing on Saturday that involves a few bobby pins and a cute scarf.  Great for those days when nothing else works, and it's so cute you'll want to do it every day.  You can do it with long or short hair - my stylist has short hair, and mine is long.  I will share next time.  L thinks it is very cute and sassy.

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