Monday, December 26, 2016

Post (Super Mega Ultimate Christmas) Weekend

I love scrolling through Instagram and Facebook and seeing everyone's festive Christmas pictures and activities.  Presents and kids and food and fancy clothes and twinkling lights and cookies and bows and sooooo much glitter and new toys, trips, and surprises.  It brings out both the designer and the nesting side of me, seeing everyone's decorations and Christmas outfits and activities and edibles and  then (maayyyybeee) silently critiquing or coveting other people's decor, fashion, and food choices.  Mostly coveting the food choices, let's be honest here.

Knowing, of course, that behind it all are parents and people who are sleep-deprived, who actually feel absolutely out of ideas and energy, and have spent way too much time just trying to find the time to get everything done, with real relationships and family to navigate, love on, and/or avoid.  So we chug some more coffee, close up the social media and work on getting our own presents and houses ready and cozy for our families, and maybe even call it GOOD E-FREAKING-NOUGH and take a little break before the chaos to put our feet up and drink a glass of wine or hot chocolate by the fire.  

And hey, some of our pictures look dang good. 

Or even downright delicious.  A good cookie plate might be one of the most beautiful sights of the holidays.  Chewy gingersnaps, M&M pretzel melts, caramels, and festive chocolate bark.  (Easiest "recipe" ever.  Melt some good dark chocolate bars down (30 second increments in the microwave if you want to make it even easier, and stir, stir, stir between each one.)  Pour chocolate out onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper and spread in a thin layer that is roughly the same thickness throughout.  Sprinkle liberally with toppings of your choice.  I used cranberries, pumpkin seeds, and a healthy dose of sea salt. Refrigerate the entire tray until chocolate is set and then break it all up into small pieces. Voila!  Ridiculously easy homemade chocolate bark.)

(It admittedly makes me a little emotional to see beautifully wrapped gifts torn to pieces.  #realdesignerproblems)

Caden and Brooklyn absolutely lost their freaking MINDS on Christmas Eve when my parents showed up for our small family celebration.  Brooklyn was SHRIEKING with delight as they ran back and forth from the door to the tree, helping to haul presents inside.  "Presents!  Presents!  Presents!!!"  

As you can see, there were absolutely no presents.

(Professional present inspector.)

(Professional tag-ripper-offer.)

(One making weird faces.  One twirling.  One completely oblivious.  We're going to call it a success.)

(Two destroying.  One still oblivious.  Also a success.)

Not really pictured: a whirlwind of present opening, followed by...

Jammies.  Christmas jammies.  

"Dear Santa, Define 'good'."  If there is a more appropriate set of Christmas pajamas for these three I'm not sure what it is.  The older two look a little guilty just standing there.  ;)

(Fun fact: on Christmas Eve, usually later in the evening, I end up decorating a bucket for one lucky recipient the next day.  A bucket?  Yes, seriously, a bucket.  We draw names on my mom's side of the family and one year my dad drew a name and they needed a bucket, apparently? for some reason? and my dad took the idea and RAN with it and now whichever name he draws each year receives a bucket.  A themed bucket.  One year it was bedazzled with rhinestones for my fashionable cousin (who literally took it to the bar with her as a "purse" on New Year's Eve), another year we stepped our production up a notch and used COLORED sharpies instead of just black ones.  And there's a letter with it and everything with the bucket company's name and instructions for your bucket and things to do with your bucket (i.e. take your bucket for a walk, portable bathroom, as a companion at the bar which apparently my cousin ACTUALLY DID) and I don't even know anymore but it is seriously a family tradition around here.  Ten years strong.  If that's not a tradition I don't know what is.  It's like not even weird to us anymore except that now I'm typing this out and it makes NO SENSE except really, it totally does.  People, THIS is why I have a design degree.)

One last round of playing with their new goodies before a reading of The Night Before Christmas...

...and then it was off to bed.  

Which sounds so simple, but a peek behind the scenes would have revealed a little baby who has had issues falling/staying asleep lately (he's stopped sucking those middle two fingers *sob* so now apparently has no other way to sooth himself now) and a couple of bigger kids whose frequent and multiple bed escapes may have elicited a threat of "if you don't stay in your beds I'm going to tell Santa not to come".  And apparently it worked, because...

...he came.

(The anticipation.)

It was hard to tear them away from the dollhouse to open any other presents.  Which was slightly unfortunate, as I had wrapped up the dollhouse people as a separate gift and after making his initial inspection of all things dollhouse Caden realized that "there no people! I need people!" and ran off to the playroom to find...I don't know.  Lego people, maybe?  And it was all we could do to get him to come back to the Christmas tree to unwrap another present because "maybe Santa left you the people as a separate present why don't you try unwrapping THIS VERY SPECIFIC ONE here and let's see".  (Spoiler alert: it totally was the dollhouse people.)  Then Brooklyn opened up the set of pets for the dollhouse and was literally SHAKING with excitement.  (Spoiler alert again: we've already lost the cat and the rabbit.  Looked high and low and in every conceivable nook and cranny.  #reallifewithtoddlers)  (UPDATE: we found them IN THE BRANCHES of the Christmas tree.  Of course.)

(Gifts unwrapped.  Aka daddy's naptime.)

I am so thrilled with this dollhouse.  It's big enough for two to play with, came with most of the sets of furniture, and is beautiful.  Even with only a girl, I would prefer a gender-neutral house  anyway (Just...enough with the pink and sparkles already.  I don't need bedazzled shingles.), and this one has so many great features.

(Enjoying his first Christmas.)

The only thing Caden requested for Christmas was a doctors kit.  I'm happy to report that Santa came through on that one.

(Be still my heart.  Gorgeous clothes and new dollhouses, curly hair and twinkle lights nearby are what Christmas is all about.)

Tyson more or less has most of this week off now.  It used to be such a letdown - could anything be more disappointing to a child than the day after Christmas? - but now it's one of my favorite times of year. The wind is literally howling outside (hello, wind advisory) some snowflakes are swirling, and we are settling into a week of pajamas, comfort food, cozy blankets, new toys, and family time.  I mean, we'll be going slightly stir-crazy by the end of the week, but hey. 

Sometimes that's okay.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Read, Watched, Listened

I love reading just about everything, watching comedy and documentary-type things, and have recently embraced the podcast.  I also enjoy hearing about what other people are reading, watching, and listening to.  Here's my two cents worth.


Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good
Re-read.  A memoir/cookbook, which is a genre that I've stumbled upon and been devouring- pun intended - lately.  Okay, I admittedly haven't tried any of the recipes, but the family stories and the way they are told are soooooo well done.  Kathleen Flinn's writing is interesting, intelligent, and funny, and she has a knack for telling stories that I'm sure in her family are told over and over again.  It's engaging and light, for the most part, and is a fun read with the added bonus of the recipes.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Let's call this a re-re-re-re-re-re-re-read for me.  One of my favorite books of all time.  I probably read it for the first time when I was 12 or so?  I couldn't even tell you but I just adore it.  Kathleen Flinn referenced it at the end of her memoir above, and I couldn't resist segueing right from Burnt Toasts Makes You Sing Good to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  It's an American classic, a coming-of-age story about Francie Nolan and her family living in Brooklyn in the early 1900s.  The characters are so vivid, the writing is beautifully descriptive, and it's just so honest that I fall in love with Francie all over again every time I read it.  It's also interesting to come back to books that I read as a kid, and remember how I used to relate to the younger characters but can now see so much from the adult side.  I haven't read it in years, so I'd forgotten all about Francie's last name - Nolan - and it made me all the more glad I have a baby boy named the same.  I can now claim that his name comes from a great literary work, instead of the lame "oh it was just a name we liked" answer I otherwise have to use. ;)

Honestly in the past month, I've mostly been reading things about the election.  (No wonder I needed to go through those feel-good re-reads above.)  It's hard to believe the election was over a month ago already.  The post-election coverage has been enormous.  If anyone still finds them helpful, and if you can stomach reading anything more that's related to the election, here are some of the best articles I've read in the past month:
Girls Can Be Anything, Just Not President
Don't Panic
Donald Trump's Demand for Love
Questioning Donald Trump
Donald Trump is Gaslighting America (Teen Vogue.  Seriously.)
Al Franken Faces Donald Trump and the Next Four Years

Though maybe the best thing I've read post-election, the thing that has really stuck with me, comes from a statement Bernie Sanders wrote on November 9th:
“To the degree that Mr. Trump is serious about pursuing policies that improve the lives of working families in this country, I and other progressives are prepared to work with him. To the degree that he pursues racist, sexist, xenophobic and anti-environment policies, we will vigorously oppose him."
Amen to that.


The Crown
We're halfway through this series on Netflix based on the life of (the current) Queen Elizabeth.  It's fantastic - the costuming, the acting, the sets.  It really is just beautiful (their budget must be enormous).  Tyson and I have both been enjoying it and Google-ing and Wikipedia-ing different things to get us up to speed on historical events and people that are referenced.  I thought it was supposed to be a full sweep of her life from the time she took the crown up to the present, but we're 5 episodes in (of 10) and only through the first few years of her reign, so there must be more seasons to come.  That's definitely something to look forward to.

Good Girls Revolt
I'm a little over halfway into this one, too.  Set in 1969/1970, it's set at the fictional magazine News of the Week, but is based on real-life events that happened at (the real) Newsweek magazine.  Honestly, I'm kind of meh on it, you guys.  I'm invested enough that I want to finish this season, but I can't help but compare it to Mad Men.  And, of course, NOTHING ON THIS EARTH compares to Mad Men.  I'm really trying to rate this show based on its own merit, but the whole time I keep thinking how the costuming isn't as good (though it IS pretty fab), the dialogue isn't as sharp, and the character development is nothing in comparison.  So really, I should probably just watch Mad Men all the way through again.  In all my spare time.


The Cracked Podcast
Not something I listen to regularly, but the episode I linked to (What the F**k Just Happened You Guys?!) (Profanity!  Not a lot, but you've been warned) is specifically related to the election.  It was released the morning after the election and is a conversation between a couple very thoughtful, well-reasoned writers working through what happened in regards to the election and what led up to it.  They're processing it all just as much as anybody else was that day, but it was interesting and also insightful to hear everything discussed so calmly and rationally, yet with a healthy dose of "what the f**k?" thrown in.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Post Weekend

This weekend definitely felt like one that was leading up to Christmas.  A winter weekend.  Dare I say - a perfect winter weekend.  It was a winter weekend that felt so nice and cozy because we've got maaayyybeeee another six weeks to go before we are SICK AND TIRED of winter weekends.  So we'll enjoy the fun they give us while it lasts.

Winter weekends were made for snow.  Playing in it...

...and discovering the eating of it.  Way to stay hydrated, guys.

(Nolan's face says it all.  "We were inside the warm house and then you bundled me up so I can't move and put things on my hands so I can't get to my fingers or grab things even if I could move my arm and don't you know that grabbing things is my FAVORITE and I'm not sure why we're out here when it's a solid 50 degrees warmer inside the house where I could crawl around."  Sorry, dude.  But you do look good in orange.)

Of course once we did get back inside, it was straight to some cookie baking.  One of Caden and Brooklyn's favorite activities.  (Which is good news for me, since the eating of cookies is one of my favorite activities.)

Well, favorite activity minus the mixer:

(Death stare.)

I guess it got kind of boring.  But it's all worth it when there are beaters to lick in the end.

(Shhhh...there were totes raw eggs in the batter.  Don't tell anyone's mother.)

My mom was all like, "wow, how ambitious of you to play in the snow and bake cookies all in one morning!" and I was all, "yeah, but I was supposed to be organizing/sorting/going through the mess of clothes that fit/don't fit/possibly fit at one time in all the kid's closets and this just sounded more fun". I'll take ambition, but it was really some productive-looking procrastination..  Tomato, tomahto.  Whatever.

(This recipe.  Downside:  needing to be put in the oven twice.  Upside: placing marshmallows on top was super thrilling for these little hands.  And honestly, I could have done without the dried cranberries in them.  Sorry, Ocean Spray.)


...a tree!  The tree is up!  After debating whether I even wanted to bother with a tree this year (we put up a small one a couple of years ago when Caden and Brooklyn were Nolan's age because I was NOT dealing with two babies trying to pull over a 7-foot tree) we went for it.  After the initial fiasco of "oh crap the middle of the tree isn't lit" (something wasn't plugged in properly OH DUH SURPRISE), it's been a festive note in the background ever since.  I managed to get some ribbon on it yesterday, but I'm not so sure about adding ornaments.  While Nolan has steered surprisingly clear of the tree so far, I'm not so sure he could ignore sparkly, dangly things that look EXACTLY like toys hanging from the branches.

And these two probably couldn't, either.

Maybe I'll call it minimalism and say we're good for the year.