Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

After driving and driving, J.P., Maggie, and I made it to my mom’s house in Minnesota on Sunday night. We were lucky that we didn’t really encounter bad weather. Well, unless you count the -30 degree windchill. Taking Maggie out to do her business every time we stopped wasn’t the most fun thing we’ve ever done.

You may notice that Maggie is missing her traditional red nose this year. After putting her through the trauma of the lights*, it just wasn’t fair to also make her bear the indignity of the red nose.

We hope you have the happiest of holidays, and that you’re able to spend some time relaxing and enjoying time with friends and family. Merry Christmas!

*No dogs were harmed in the making of this photograph. However, several pieces of Pupperoni did meet an untimely end.

Fourth Annual Blog Cookie Exchange

Two posts in a week? Yes, I’m working hard to get back on Santa’s Nice list. I hope it works! Welcome to the fourth annual blog cookie exchange party, sponsored by Ms. Susie Fairchild!

Vintagey stockings

Would you like a hot buttered rum? I haven’t actually tried these yet, but I think we may need a drink like this when we head to Minnesota this weekend. Yesterday’s high temperature there was 3 degrees. Recipe is courtesy of Emeril Lagasse, and all 19 reviewers gave it 5 stars. It must be good, right?!

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch salt
  • Bottle dark rum
  • Boiling water

Directions: In a bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Refrigerate until almost firm. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the butter mixture into 12 small mugs. Pour about 3 ounces of rum into each mug (filling about halfway). Top with boiling water (to fill the remaining half), stir well, and serve immediately.

My family has no shortage of traditions. See those stockings up there at the top of the post? I think mine is celebrating its 40th year. My grandma made it, and of course she also made them for my sister and my three cousins. When J.P. and I got married eight years ago, my mom decided that he needed one too. His looks considerably newer than mine, in both fabric and style. And of course, we can’t leave Maggie out. Hers isn’t handmade (it came from Target), but shhhhh . . . don’t tell her!

Here’s what they look like for reals:

The stockings were hung . . .

And I know I’ve written about this tradition before, but I ran across some photos the other day and decided to include them here. When I was in high school, my mom’s side of the family did a “goofy gift” exchange every year. But this wasn’t just any gift exchange—we always had a rule. In 1989, the gift had to be made of wood and it had to cost $5 or less.

Being an avid clarinet player, I had plenty of old reeds lying around. I happened to draw my aunt’s name, and I made her a pair of earrings using the reeds, paper clips, and curly ribbon. She loved them!

Clarinet reed earrings

CB drew my cousin’s name. I think he must’ve been about 10 at the time. Somehow, she got the idea to make him a sign:

His gift from my sister

Moments before he opened it, he proved that it was the perfect gift:

Proving that he deserves the sign

Rather than help him up, we all grabbed our cameras and started snapping. He’s 29 now and has a kid of his own. Where does the time go?

The Folly
Susie asked about our favorite gift to give. Do you remember the show Surprise by Design? It was a reality show where friends/family members would get their loved one to leave the house for the day, and then the show would come in and re-do a room in the house. When the person came home—surprise! Everything was done. Well somehow, my mom and I got the idea to do that for Character Builder and her husband five years ago, and my step-dad began calling it The Folly.

We planned for a couple months, and Mom snuck (is that a word?) over there during the day to measure their basement family room and take photos. We chose paint colors and fabric, and managed to come up with some lamps and a storage cabinet for their movies/video games. Of course, I was living in Pennsylvania, and Mom and CB are in Minnesota. So almost everything was done long-distance. When I arrived in MN a few days before Christmas, we upholstered the cornice boards that my step-dad had made, and we made some Roman shades for the windows.

J.P. and I were staying at CB’s house for the holidays, and I told her that I was getting up early on the 26th to go shopping with a friend. She woke me before she left for work, and as soon as she was gone my BIL loaded the kids in the car to take them to my dad’s house for the day. My mom, step-dad, and aunt arrived, and we started painting. The six of us (including J.P. and BIL) worked like crazy all day long. CB picked up the kids on her way home from work, and was surprised to learn that their dad made them get up “in the sevens” (Alex couldn’t really tell time yet, but his clock radio showed that the hour was 7:00) that morning after she’d told them the night before that they could sleep in.

I think she may have smelled the paint when she walked in the house, but she and the kids were pretty surprised to find a completely new family room when they came downstairs. And you know, I think we probably enjoyed doing the project as much as they enjoyed using the room.

And then they sold the house and moved away. The end! (Well not right away, but they did.)

Gay Apparel
No flashy earrings or gaudy themed socks for me, I’m afraid. But I do have two new sweaters to wear next week! They’re both cashmere, and I got incredible deals on them. One is already waiting for me in Minnesota. If only we could arrive there as quickly as it did! We’re loading up the car on Saturday and heading out for a week with Maggie. Somehow, I don’t think we’ll be allowing much of this in the sub-freezing temperatures:


Merry Christmas!

Excuses, excuses


So this is pretty much how I’ve felt the last several months—chasing around, with everything out of focus. This little photography gig I’ve got going? It’s kinda caught on! Since returning from Minnesota at the end of June, I’ve done nearly 25 photo sessions. (Thankfully, the photos I show clients are technically much better than the one you see above. Some are in focus even!) With my regular job I can really only handle about a session a week, so it’s really been keeping me busy.

Let’s see . . . what other excuses can I come up with for not posting? Well, there’s Twitter. I’ve made 600 posts/updates there since April 24—does that count? How about Facebook? Any points for that? Nah—I didn’t think so.

Oh! I know! I have things going on three nights a week—Tuesdays are camera club, Wednesdays are band, and Thursdays are church choir (exciting, no?). That must be the reason why I haven’t posted.

::Mrtl-style tangent (with photo!)::
Incidentally, I took first place and second place in the camera club’s November competition. The theme was Children. Hey—I photograph kids all the time! Here’s my second-place entry (note the ever-present drool hanging from his chin):


I wish I could show you the first place winner, but for privacy reasons I can’t.
::End Mrtl-style tangent (with photo!)::

Then there’s Guitar Hero. We got GH3 this summer, and recently got the new World Tour version. J.P. plays guitar, and I play drums (badly). I even tried my hand at singing the other night. Um, yeah . . . it wasn’t pretty.

Regardless of all the excuses, you may be asking yourself why I’m posting now. After all this time. See, on Wednesday, Susie‘s sponsoring the Fourth Annual Blog Cookie Exchange party. I’d hate to miss out on the tradition (I can’t believe this is the fourth year already!), so decided to come out of “retirement.”

::Mrtl-style tangent::
Didja know that I actually met Ms. Fairchild this summer? I did! I was traveling for business, and we managed to get together for lunch. I got crabs. She did too. Oh, get your mind out of the gutter—it was a seafood restaurant!
::End Mrtl-style tangent::

Now get moving! Head over to Susie’s to learn more about the party. Put up a post of your own (or don’t), and then visit all the other guests’ sites to have a good time! I’ll be serving hot buttered rum—DEEEEEE-lish!

The day

In Catherine's room

You may remember a few months ago when I mentioned my niece’s surgery. As you can tell from the photo, it was today. (If you missed it, details are here and here.)

Everything went well. It took less than 90 minutes, and the doctors were pleased. She was pretty loopy when I saw her this afternoon, but when we went back tonight her IV was out and she’d been up walking around. And she ate and ate and ate!

There’s talk of letting her come home tomorrow. Character Builder‘s staying the night with her, and CB’s husband and I will probably head back to the hospital in the morning after we drop the chatterbox off at daycare.

Thanks, everyone, for your good thoughts and prayers today—we really appreciate them. If you have any left, send them up for the one-month-old with two bad kidneys who shared Catherine’s room in the PICU. One thing you learn from an experience like this . . . no matter how bad things seem, there’s always someone who’s going through something worse.

UPDATE: She’s home! Currently lying on the couch with a big blue Icee and some saltines.


I don’t often wait while I have my car’s oil changed, but today I decided to. So I’m sitting here at the car dealership, enjoying the free wireless as others read, watch TV, or talk on the phone. The man on the phone was talking about arranging for a car for seven people. That’s the only part of his conversation that even registered with me—I have absolutely no idea what else he said because I was concentrating on what I was doing.

Man on Phone: Okay, thanks. Bye. (Or some such thing. I have no idea because I wasn’t listening.)
Nosy Woman Nearby (loudly, to MOP): Can I ask you a question? (At this point, I began tuning in, but kept my eyes focused on my laptop.) Do you realize that other people can hear your conversation? Don’t you think that’s insulting?
MOP: (somewhat dumbfounded) Uh, well, yes, I guess you could hear what I was saying. But it wasn’t anything private.
NWN: Well I find it insulting when people do that.
MOP: Well yes, if we were in a restaurant or something I would’ve excused myself and gone outside. But there isn’t any seating available outside today, and besides, it’s not that big a deal. I’m sorry if you were insulted.
NWN: Harrumph!

::stony cold silence::

MOP (to NWN): So, are you an Obama supporter? (I couldn’t even believe he brought this up with her, but it truly did sound like he was trying to make conversation.)
NWN: Heh, heh. (You know that Dolores Umbridge throat-clearing/cackle? It sounded a lot like that.) Oh, that’s not available for sharing.
MOP: Oh, so you’re not?
NWN: I’m not saying either way.
MOP: Ah, so then you’re probably not. I guess I should’ve expected as much from someone like you.

Me (to self): Bwa ha ha ha ha ha!

So should I have been insulted by his conversation too? I really hate it when people aren’t paying attention to what they’re doing (in the car, at the grocery store, standing in line for something) because they’re on the phone. But in this setting it didn’t bother me at all. Would you have been insulted? I do think that word is a bit strong—would you have been irritated by the phone conversation?