Out of wrapping paper.

Those that know me well know I love a bit of a Martha Stewart holiday. I like all my presents wrapped in the same paper, my tree decorated in a particular color scheme, and I have pretty strict guidelines on this. So much so that one year, I wrapped all of our gifts in this silver paper with white stars and tied green Pottery Barn twill tape onto each. It was the year after we got married, and we had that twill tape coming out the wahoo (didn’t help that as a joke, a friend wrapped up a spool of it for us; he worked there). I loved that silver paper. Ryan’s first holiday was entirely wrapped in that paper, and the pictures of the aftermath are some of my favorites.

Holiday 2006

But this year, I ran out.

It was bound to happen. I’d had this SAME ROLL of paper for at least 6 years (yay for Costco wrapping paper). I used it, like I said, for everything. For years. It was even generic enough that I wrapped a few wedding gifts in it. I’m not sure what to do now. I feel a little at a loss…do I buy a new roll of paper to define family holidays for the next 5 years? Or is it time to give up that ideal of the “perfect” holiday and just take it as it comes? Is this a good excuse to look for holiday fabric and make reusable bags for gifts?

Holiday 2007

And in a way, finishing this roll of wrapping paper signifies the end of a few different eras for our family. Michael and I both turned 30 in 2009, saying goodbye (hopefully) to the stupidity and recklessness of our twenties. 2010 will mark the arrival of our second child, and possibly a move into an actual home (one separate from our neighbors). I feel like we’ve let go of a lot in the last year: things, cars, baggage. And it’s helped us to clear the way to move forward.

Holiday 2009, the last present wrapped with this paper.

So, farewell old silver with stars wrapping paper. Though I’ll miss you, it’s time to move on.

(And for the record, due to pregnancy hormones being in FULL GEAR, I’m crying as I type this. Yes, I’m admitting to crying over wrapping paper. I know it’s a metaphor and all that, but geez.)


Holiday recap

The holidays, were, as always for us, a blur. I keep trying to find a way to capture some semblance of slow in a season that seems to thrive on fast, but so far, I’ve had little success. Between being pregnant (and getting ever moreso with each day), planning for travel, and trying to make most of our holiday gifts, there seemed little time or energy left to enjoy the quiet.

But we made it, we’ve survived, and as I type, I sit in my parent’s living room, thinking about how strange it is to be back “home” when it’s not really home anymore. I miss being home. I miss being home for Christmas. It’s been lovely to spend the holiday with my family, but it’s been hectic.

It all started with the plane ride, always a highlight for Peanut. Though I think she likes the idea of flying much more than being trapped on a plane! The next day, we had pictures taken with the ever fabulous Lori of Images by Lori. If you live in Pleasanton, or anywhere in the Bay Area, really, go see her next time you need family shots, kid shots, belly shots, baby shots, etc. She’s truly, truly amazing. Ryan was a grump, but Lori still managed to get some great shots of her, and not only did we get fantastic belly pictures, but Ryan’s 4 year pictures as well (it’s only a month shy).

Wednesday we went to the Nutcracker in San Francisco. Amazing, as I suspected it would be…the dancers are phenomenal, choreography to die for and costumes were amazing. Ryan, unfortunately, was a little bored. I misjudged her abilities to sit through things like that, plus we met up with Uncle Mike and Aunt Allison as we were going into the show, so I think she was just super excited to see them and had a really hard time sitting still. She ended up dancing in her seat area for most of the show, humming along to the music. Each time a song came out that she recognized, she’s whisper-shout “Nutcracker music!”. She was also disappointed that she wasn’t going to be onstage. I’m not sure how, but she was under the impression that she was going to be on stage in her fancy dress. Maybe in a few years…If I take her again next year, it will probably have to be a children’s performance, or at least something a lot less pricey!! Traffic was awful coming home, and Ryan cried for about 40 minutes on the way home. WAY out of character for her…she’s usually so easy going. We survived though, and she stayed up far too late playing with her Aunt and Uncle.

We did Christmas Eve as our big food/present day, and had a blast. Michael and I took over the kitchen, and cooked up quite a meal. Mike and Allison brought a fantastic butternut squash soup along with an apple crisp dessert, and helped us in the kitchen. The four of us had a great time, and it was another opportunity for Michael and I to spend a little more time with our sis-in-law. We’re so glad she chose to join our crazy family…

Ryan loved opening presents from everyone, including the highlight of the day, her new bike from her Aunt and Uncle! The bike is awesome, and she loves riding it. It’s a big girl bike, 2 wheels with training wheels, and we’re still working on a plan to get it back to Seattle.

Christmas Day we all crept downstairs to see if Santa had in fact come to Nonna and Papa’s house…he did!! Mommy and daddy are mean, and made her wait for us to brew coffee before we’d let her open anything, but she was patient. And as she was slowly opening her gift, she was telling Nonna and Papa all about how she asked Santa for a cash register and she realized what she was opening. She got SO excited, shouting that Santa did get her letter, and did bring her what she’d asked for and it was so cool and Santa is so cool, etc, etc, etc. It was sweet to see her so excited about all of it. She’s at such a cool age for all of this. She got lots of other fun gifts from Nonna and Papa, and mommy and daddy. She also enjoyed handing presents around to everyone else.

This morning, we headed over to Vic’s in Ptown for a fantastic breakfast. Standard issue eggs, bacon, hash browns and toast and yum, was it good stuff! We’ll be heading back tomorrow for brekkie with a crew of old friends, some of whom we haven’t seen in ages. We love how we can connect with this group, and it’s like no time has passed, and yet we all mesh seamlessly into one another lives, still. We’re older, chubbier, have kids now (or don’t, and to be fair, some are thinner), and yet, are still entirely relevant to one another. It’s really astonishing to see how connected we’ve stayed over the years.

And in the end, it’s that connectedness that makes the holidays what they should be. Whether busy, slow, mellow or crazy, connecting with friends and family is what it’s all about.

Because I couldn’t have said it better…

I’m sharing what a friend wrote today. I know it’s been a while since I’ve blogged, and I’ll get on that sooner than later, but Heidi of Silly Goose Baby blogged the other day about something I’ve mused rather heavily on for a while. And she said it better than I could have. Enjoy it.

Minor Remodel

Michael and I went all If You Give a Mouse A Cookie on our bathroom this weekend. Whoops.

It started with a sink given to us by friends. We looked at installing that, but alas, it was smaller than the hole in our counters. So, we thought, let’s replace the counter. Easy, peasy, right? Sure, would have been. But then we decided to replace the whole bathroom cabinet. It was relatively cheap at Lowe’s, and black, which matches the mirror we love. So, we get home, rip out the old cabinet, and discover the ickiest flooring EVER underneath the cabinet. So, we figure, let’s replace the floor, too! We’ll just do vinyl, but a nicer vinyl than what’s there, and it’ll look a million times better. Only vinyl is expensive. Almost as much as tile. So, we decide to do tile. But, as it’s already 2pm on a Sunday, the tile will have to wait for another weekend.

We return home to install the other faucet in the other sink in the vanity. M pulls out the old faucet, and starts to clean the holes in the old sink, only to discover that it’s actually got holes rusted in it. Yep, totally rusted out. Like, wonder how we were lucky enough that it didn’t leak. So, back off to Lowe’s for a new sink. One that fits. And he forgets the connector piece that will make it work. So, for now, we have one bathroom sink (which is enough), and tomorrow the other will be functional.

I love that we go to Lowe’s for a piece of counter, and leave with: a new bathroom cabinet, plumbing accessories, a new rug for the living room, and ideas coming out the wahoo! Next big project? Kitchen counters.

Fall is here…

Summer’s been busy, and blogging’s been slow, but I’m hoping that a slowdown in activity of late, and a general love for fall will spark my interest in writing again. Plus, for those who don’t know, I’m knocked up, and being knocked up gives me something new to write about. How knocked up am I? About 15 weeks…so no, not quite in Puerto Rico, this one is a post-vacay baby (wink, wink).

So, the haps on the pregnancy…so far, so good. Baby’s doing well, mama’s surviving, despite the inability to nap whenever I feel like it, or to eat whenever I feel like it. That’s probably the biggest difference between this one and the last. I’m exhausted, as I was when I was pregnant with RE, but I can’t just crash on the couch whenever I feel like it. I’ve got another human to attend to (or two, depending on the day). I also can’t eat strange food whenever I want, simply because it’s not as easy to get at strange food at all times of day or night, and Michael is much less amenable to driving around at 10pm looking for Frosties and grapefruit. Apparently he thinks I’ll survive (doesn’t he know?).

This birth will happen at Puget Sound Birth Center, under the care of midwives, and hopefully using HypnoBabies techniques to stay calm and collected during contractions. I’m hoping for, but not betting on a quick labor (only because Ryan was)…and trying to not get my hopes up. I’m also not getting my hopes up for an early baby again. Really, what are the odds? I’m excited to give birth with fewer (no?) interventions, and to really find a way to trust that my body can do this (it’s done it before). I’m also looking forward to experiencing another birth…I’m sure that sounds strange to many, but for someone like me, who’s life’s work is now teaching about and supporting a physiological childbirth, I’m looking forward to experiencing one. I’m also, of course, looking forward to a new squishy, snuggly newborn in the house, and though I know it’ll be challenging, I can’t wait to sling a newborn again, nurse a newborn again, and just generally snuggle with a tiny. Ryan’s also really excited to be a big sister, and thinks it’s a girl (or just really wants it to be). We won’t be finding out at the ultrasound this time, so we’ll find out in March/April!! Also looking forward to that surprise, and experiencing that differently too.

Fall always brings change, and with that this blog will not only be about our family, and all the crazy that is us, but also about my crafts and sewing. I was trying to run them separately, but it just ain’t happening, because, well, I can’t separate one from the other! Crafting is life, sewing is life, and family is life, and they don’t easily come apart. So look for fun crafty stuff and ideas on this blog going forward.

I owe First Day of School Pictures!

She had a fantastic day…loves preschool. She asks almost every night if the next day is “preschool day” and she can’t wait to keep going back. She thoroughly enjoys playing with whatever messy art project is available for the day, and every morning, heads straight to the little table with the “flubber” (weird gluey/playdough-ish contcoction) to play for a bit before moving onto what’s next. Each day, when she gets in the car, the first thing she tells me about school is what they’ve had for snack. Day one: goldfish. Day two: graham crackers. Apparently, preschool is pretty awesome because they have good snacks. Sometimes she’ll tell me more, sometimes not. Usually it’ll come out as the day progresses. I think it’s a lot for her to process all at once and she needs some quiet time to reflect on her day.

What I find fascinating about the whole thing is that this is the beginning of my little girls’ school career. She’s three and a half, and will be in school for the next 15 years. FIFTEEN! And of course, this has me thinking about the state of public schools, and how we, as parents, will be able to help her succeed despite what’s happening in the schools these days (maybe by the time she gets to high school, a “D” will no longer be considered passing). It’s a lot to process, and though it seems as though we have tons of time, we don’t. Kindergarten is a mere 2 years away, and as is the truth in parenting, the days are long but the years are short.

And for those who were wondering, despite my insane pregnancy hormones, I DID NOT cry on the first day of school (or the second, or the third). Really, Ryan and I were both very ready for this, and I’ve been enjoying my quiet time to get things done as much as she’s enjoying the time to learn and play with other kids her age.

A new coat for Peanut

In honor of the fall weather that’s trying SO hard to creep into our lives (I’m welcoming it, but apparently I’m the only one), I whipped up a quick little coat for RE. Well, actually, this is a practice run, made from some totally adorable $1/yd IKEA fabric. The REAL coat will come soon, made from some fabulous loden green vintage wool given to me by my granny, but I wanted to try the pattern first on some less important fabric.

I’ve been trying hard to muster up energy these days (many of you know I’m a little bit knocked up at this point), and today, thanks to a lovely nights sleep and an at-home-husband, I found it!

RE loved it, which is always a bonus…I love that she’s still of an age where she likes that I can make her things. I know that someday this will go away (maybe not though) and I’m enjoying and taking advantage of it while I can!

And, a nod to that summer weather that just won’t quit:

RE’s last ballet class

The days of my daughter being a ballerina are on hold for now. Her second series of classes ended today, and seeing that preschool starts in 3 weeks (OMG!!), we’re putting ballet on hold for now. I don’t think it’s going to derail her chances of joining PNB.

On the last class of each series, the parents are invited in to watch. We normally have a 6″x3′ window in the door to watch through, and this is a good thing. The girls are less distracted, and actually pay attention to the teacher. When we’re in there, all hell breaks loose and it’s like herding cats in tutus.

I don’t think she’ll miss it…and if she does, we’ll look into trying it again. She enjoys it, and shows me the things she does in class, but I think she may be more of a tap girl than a ballerina. We’ll see!

Ryan and her little pals, Clara and Caroline (which sometimes turns into “Claraline).

Feeling Restless

I’ve been feeling antsy for a while now. It’s annoying me, because my New Years resolution was to be content, and honestly, I’ve been doing a pretty decent job of it.

But lately, I’ve felt restless.

I feel like I’m ready to start a new adventure, a new journey, a new something. I’ve got a few things in the works (to share later), but nothing solid enough yet that it feels real.

Is it time to move (not out of the Seattle area)? Time to change careers (doubtful)? Time for new people (I can’t imagine it)?

So really, I’ve no idea what to do about this restless feeling I’m having right now. Instead of dwelling on it too much, I’m eating chocolate. And for now, that’s working.

Puerto Rico

Every time I travel, I am struck by the ethnocentricity of American tourists (yeah, yeah, myself included). This is not only when I travel to an area where English is not the main language, but even when I’m traveling within the US. Michael and I just spent a week in Puerto Rico, which, though technically a US territory (or colony, depending on my mood), is a very Latin place. Spanish is the primary language, and I speak just the tiniest bit, having favored French in high school (dumb move, I see now).
But at least we tried.
When we walked into Puerto Rican restaurants, we didn’t assume that the waiters spoke English, or that the food would be anything we recognized. Isn’t that the point of traveling? We wanted to try new things, eat traditional PR food, drink local coffee, try local brews. Case in point: first night there, we asked the bellhop where to get good coffee. His reply was quick and finite: There’s a Starbucks just a few blocks down. We responded with: No, REAL coffee. We know it’s grown here and we want local coffee, not crap. He laughed, and pointed us to Pelayo, which, as it turns out, was FANTASTIC. Local flavors, local coffee, yummy frittatas and empanadas and cafe con leche. We went back a few times. And yes, we spoke extraordinarily broken Spanish to the nice girls at the counter. I can ask for coffee! Thankfully, seeing our attempts, they answered us in English. But, like I said, I try not to assume.
This was the restaurant recommended to me by my first class seat mate: Archbishop of San Juan Roberto Gonzalez. It was a little out of our price range. But nonetheless, I sat next to a regular celebrity. Me, a lapsed Jew who spent 4 years in Catholic school. Hhmm.
The other thing that struck us almost immediately was the pace. It’s so slow! Not that that’s a bad thing…we could stand to learn a thing or ten from puertorriquenos. At restaurants, they give you plenty of time to peruse the menus while you drink your cocktail or coffee, plenty of time to enjoy your appetizers before your meal comes, and the waitstaff leave you alone entirely to enjoy your meal, only stopping if it appears your drink is empty, and to enquire your reaction to the food. Eating a meal can easily take 2 hours, something unheard of in American restaurants, by and large. And every place is like this. No one hurries, except to cross the street (if you value your life and limbs, that is).
The first day, we wandered the streets near our hotel, the Condado neighborhood, and found it to be touristy and a little trashy. We got caught in a torrential downpour, as we both forgot that a little rain in that part of the world usually leads to a LOT of rain in short order. Whoops. We dashed across the street to a French bakery, and gratefully accepted the pile of napkins they offered us to dry off with.
Did I mention our room was on the 10th floor overlooking the ocean? Michael’s got the hookup, and man, were we hooked up! We slept the first few nights with our glass door open (heck, it’s the 10th floor, no one’s coming up) listening to the waves. Then we realized that the mosquitoes were going to eat Michael alive if we continued that, so we had to stop. Bummer.
The following day, we headed to Old San Juan, the site of the early history of the area. We walked several miles of Forts and streets, ending up exhausted. We spent a while wandering through forts of San Cristobal and El Morro, absorbing all of the history each had to offer. Michael in particular enjoyed the military history of the forts. I’d had no idea the streets of Old San Juan would be so amazing…I love cultural history, and this was a city that was not lacking. The old homes, with dark wood shutters and brightly painted exteriors were so Carribean, so coastal, I instantly fell in love. Just looking at the way these homes have been kept up, refurbished and refinished, one can see the passion of these people. The streets were alive with color and people. We found several old churches (SJ has a rich history with the Catholic Church), and though we didn’t go in, we were able to admire them from the outside. The white stucco (I think it was limestone of sorts) contrasted so beautifully with the blue skies. Combined with the religious iconography, I couldn’t help feeling like I was looking through my camera lens at a Dali painting. Too bad my camera isn’t awesome enough to capture what I could see through it. Someday soon, I’ll have a “real” camera.
We stumbled on a food fair as we walked through town, though we were too tired to take advantage of it that night. We were again struck at the passion of the Latin culture, and the marked contrast between American culture and Latin culture. Americans are SO reserved, except where it’s acceptable: in nightclubs, bars, late at night. Latin’s seem to let loose day and night. We went back to OSJ on Saturday, after spending all day laying on the beach. Silly me forgot to put sunscreen on my legs, and ended up super crispy, so I donned a loose skirt and tank top and out we headed. I was always amazing at how put together the women were, despite the humidity. When I walk out in to humidity like that, I’m instantly damp, makeup melts off my face, and my hair curls like nobody’s business. The locals must be used to it. They wore makeup that stayed put, hair that stayed straight, and more clothing than I could stand in that heat. I presume one gets used to it when one lives there, but being a West Coaster, and not at all used to humidity, I was amazed (and a weensy bit jealous).
The food was fantastic…we found an Italian restaurant called Fratellis that served yummy lamb, orchiette, and nutella raviolis for dessert. We wandered the streets for a while after that, just enjoying people watching, trying to guess who was American and who was local (it was pretty easy), and musing about whether we looking as much like tourists as some of the other tourists. As Michael and I always do when we travel, we imagine what it would be like to live in this place, to raise children in a new place. Could we do it? Could we defect out of the mainland US and live as expats in another country? Maybe if I could live in the green house…with the dark wood shutters and doors, and beyond the front living area, a courtyard. And maybe if it was at least on the west coast. After the grueling journey (14 hours and three flights), I couldn’t subject my family to this on a regular basis. Maybe, instead, I could bring the Carribean here…I’m plotting a dream home that includes a courtyard. The courtyard needs to make a comeback, and the PacNW is a good place to have one.
Sunday we hit the Museum of Art, which was, unfortunately, the only thing open in that neighborhood on a Sunday. We were both surprised at the depth and quality of the art. It was all Puerto Rican artists, and though much of it was religious, the more contemporary art was all social commentary, and it was fascinating. Thank God I married a man who enjoys art museums as much as I do! We’ll work on RE…for now, she’s too young to appreciate art like that, though I’ve tried, and will continue to try. For the admission price ($6 each), it was a great way to spend half the day. If we weren’t so hungry, we probably would have stayed longer. That night, we went for a walk near the hotel and found some live music at a local trattoria, so we ordered up some mojitos and enjoyed the jazz fused with beats from a DJ. Again, we commented on the life that seemed to flow from the community: kids dancing, old men dancing, people hanging out in the park at 11pm, talking, laughing, drinking (but not drunk). We tried to compare it to a late night in Seattle, and thought that if anyone was really out at that point, they would probably have been belligerent, rather than just enjoying what life had to offer without crazy drunkenness.
On Monday we headed back to OSJ…just to absorb the culture some more, and ogle the beautiful old homes. I’d read that Puerto Ricans were once famous for making lace, and I wanted to try to find some. A travel site told of a museum of arts and crafts that was in an old Dominican Convent, so we headed there.
It was closed. So was La Casa Blanca, the old governors’ mansion that was decorated with period furniture and artifacts. Bummer. No lace and no casa. But, we did find Michael a custom made panama hat, and me a beautiful silk scarf the colors of the Atlantic ocean.
And we noshed on coffee and empanadas in front of a café in a square, and watched as a young girl fed pigeons from her hand…she was so sweet to watch, and it all felt so very Mary Poppins (save the Marshalls that was behind us. Yes, a Marshalls).
Tuesday, we spent on the beach, and Michael swam in the waves. I huddled under the umbrella while a storm passed, and thought how fitting it was that it was grey, stormy and cool on my last day there. For dinner, we hit up the same trattoria we’d had drinks at the other night. The Italian food was amazing: smoked salmon crostini with raita, a sausage platter with pesto, and a crispy crust tomato pizza with gorgonzola. It was a perfect way to end the trip.
And now, here I am, 14 hours into my journey home, waiting to kiss and snuggle my girl when I land in Seattle. I’ve been on and off airplanes all day, and the only real fresh air I’ve inhaled was in LA (does that even count as “real”?). I cannot wait to be off this plane. Almost 2000 words in an hour…that’s what a boring flight, with no books left to read (I’ve started and finished 6 this week) will get you: prolific blathering about the vacation.
But what good is a vacation if you can’t take something back with you? What am I taking back? A nice tan (my NW friends may be jealous), a small jar of sand, seaglass and shells for RE, a few mosquito bites, and an appreciation for slowness. Not that I haven’t appreciated it before, I was just too busy rushing from A to B to really stop to slow down. That is the one thing I’d really like to take back with me. Oh, and I’m ordering this sign to put at the front door.
For the rest of the pics, click here!