inspired by a favorite blogger: {one} photo from the week. {one} photo that sums it up, offers it up. {one} that somehow captures it. what it is, i’m not quite sure. do you have {one}? share it in the comments.


inspired by a favorite blogger: {one} photo from the week. {one} photo that sums it up, offers it up. {one} that somehow captures it. what it is, i’m not quite sure. do you have {one}? share it in the comments.


Yes, it’s timely, but regardless, I’ve been thinking an awful lot lately about the things I’m grateful for. Maybe it’s the cold weather (it’s been hovering around 20* here lately and snowing), maybe it’s spending some extra time with the girls courtesy of snow days and canceled plans, maybe it’s disappointment at the way the election turned out and the cuts our state will be making, but I’m feeling extra thankful these days.

Sitting in my warm house, drinking cup after cup of hot cocoa and tea, it’s so easy to take for granted all that we have. To take for granted the ability to just wander into my pantry if I need a snack, to run my washer and dryer at will (and all day) and  bitch about it. At this time of year, I’m grateful that we can afford to keep our heat on whenever we like, that we can have a big spread of food for Thanksgiving, that we are able to get where we need to go (or have the luxury of staying home, if we can’t).

I’m sad for people who can barely afford to keep food on their tables, who work hard and still can’t make ends meet, who’ve worked hard, but circumstances suck and they’re left homeless. I’m sadder still that our state chose to cut, limit or not impose taxes that would help those people, and that food assistance for people in our state is currently on the chopping block (among other things I see as important).

This time of year in particular, I’m sad that there are children who won’t have gifts at the holidays because their parents have to choose between paying for heat, food and gas or toys. I’m bummed that the holidays (all of them) have lost meaning, and the ideas of togetherness, friends and family are no longer the ideal, but rather filling the space under the tree with more, more, MORE. That Black Friday has become a national holiday for Americans in debt to get into more debt buying more things they don’t need. Michael and I were thinking tonight, and neither of us could really remember what we got Ryan for the holidays last year. We know she got a bike from her Aunt and Uncle, and flashlights and tape from her Nonna and Papa, but we couldn’t remember what we’d gotten her. Still can’t.

Think back to your own childhood. What do you remember about the holidays? If I think back, really hard, what I remember most are the family things: my brother running down the hall shouting “It’s Christmas!! Santa came!!”, my parents making us wait until coffee had been poured, my dad making pancakes and bacon, watching White Christmas and singing along, lighting Hannukah candles and making leqvar cookies. But not the presents. And honestly, I can’t remember any gifts I got as a kid. Not that they weren’t cool, or awesome, or super fun to play with for a few weeks, but it didn’t last.

So, my tiny tirade about thankfulness has turned into a tiny tirade about commercialism…what of it?

My goal for this season is to continue with our attempts to limit the junk that comes in, and to try to make the season about experiences instead of stuff. I’m thankful (see, full circle) that Michael and I are in agreement about keeping the holidays simple and about the real stuff: family, friends, togetherness, warmth, food and love. To teach my girls about giving, not just receiving (funny thing is that I can usually remember what I’ve given or made for people, but not what I’ve gotten). To donate to families in need, to choose presents for children in need. One day, when the kids are older, we’ll volunteer, giving not just things but our time.

And today, I encourage you to be grateful for the small things, as well as the big ones. To attempt a holiday season with minimal commercialism and maximum celebration. How are you going to express your gratitude this year?


I kid you not, there are 39 days until Hanukkah and 63 until Christmas. Any way you look at it, that’s NOT ENOUGH TIME! I don’t know about you, but I always get all excited about sewing, making and doing this time of year, only to disappoint myself when I can’t finish everything. So…this year, Ryan (really, and Finleigh) is getting a kitchen. This kitchen, to be exact. I got it for free (though I’m going to find a way to make it up to my dear friend who gave it to us). She was going to just GIVE IT AWAY and I told her I’d take it. I told her I’d pay her; she refused. I told her I’d sew stuff for her; she said no. Darnit all, I’m going to repay her somehow, because this is AWESOME. All it needs is some love. I’m thinking yellow love. With grey accents. Because I love the combination, and I’m the mommy, and I say so. I even snagged some new pots, pans and dishware, plus a tray of cookies, from Amazon for a whopping $40. Woot!!

I’m also plotting a stuffed kitty for my kitty loving (and slightly allergic) girl, a stuffed baby for Finleigh. If I have time, and can get my hands easily on the materials, a hopscotch rug for Ryan.

I’m not really sure what else I’m going to do, but I’m quite proud that I’m pretty much done with the girls’ gifts. I even have a few things up my sleeve for the man (are you reading this, love?), and family members.

Now, on to finding this years holiday photo outfits for the girls (though I’d love to sew them, I don’t see it happening), and getting that taken care of, so I’m not mailing out New Years cards…wish me luck!!

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.)


I am not a religious person, and I really don’t understand what the resurection of Christ has to do with bunnies that bring eggs and candy to small children, but hey, I’ll play along. I love spring, bunnies, chicks, and all that fun stuff! I whipped these up to bring along to the Easter dinner we’re attending. one for Ryan, one for Mr. Man. Ryan loves hers…I hope X loves his as well!

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Present Orgy 2008

Breakfast. Mommy and daddy need coffee.
Woohoo! A camera!

The doll house. A big hit.
From Santa…a GAME!
A green sweater for mommy.
A green shirt for Ryan.

A green sweater for daddy.
And nope, this was NOT planned.
I do love the holidays. I’ve been alternating coffee and champagne all day, and eating croissants, eggs, sausage and potatoes. For dinner: chicken pot pie, a specialty of the Afro house. RE is thoroughly enjoying her new toys, including her new art supplies, so she can go “arting”. She also got a tutu, a cute new sweater, a dollhouse, and some clothes (which she was less than thrilled about). Michael got me a Zune, which rocks, and I’m super stoked to download new music and even some movies. All of my handmade gifts were super well-received, and I know RE will enjoy the ones I am planning to make for her upcoming birthday.

I hope you all had lovely holidays, and are enjoying the time spent with family, and if you’re having one, a white Christmas! We are, and with our fire in the fireplace, and cozy feeling inside, we’re enjoying barely stepping outside!

Merry merry and a happy happy to you all!

Hand-painted Scarves

I plotted out this project months ago, found knit fabric on sale and bought a ton of it. My current favorite scarf is a jersey knit, and I’ve been thinking about painting or stencilling on it for a while, but couldn’t decide what to do. So, for a holiday gift for a few family members, I decided to dye this fabric and use the freezer paper stencil technique. The tree, to me, represents the bareness of winter, but on a scarf is all warmy and toasty and comfy and cozy.

These ones, in a way, represent my desire for spring (I know, today is only the first day of winter; it’s going to be a long few months)…they started out with just the green grasses, then I decided that they needed blooms, and for some reason, orange just felt right. I used the bottom of a paint bottle for the big blooms, and a crayon dipped in paint for the little ones.

I’ve really been enjoying creating these gifts for friends, family and the little people in my life…I feel like these gifts mean more to me to give because I’ve actually spent tons of time on them, and infused them with a little bit of me. And really, they’re pretty much one of a kind…or in a series of sorts…wearable art!
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Holiday Memories

So, at this time of year, I always get to musing about holidays past, and the tales that go along with them…as I search for the perfect gift for RE, I realized that I cannot recall a single actual gift given to me for the holidays as a child. Not a single one. But what I do recall is the moments, and of those, I recall so many.

I remember my little brother, every year, running up and down our long hallway shouting “it’s Christmas, it’s Christmas”, usually well before the sun was up.

Our handmade, by my mom, stockings that all coordinated and matchy-matchy…and always one for the dog, too.

Our Christmas tree…each year, brought down from the rafters the day after Thanksgiving, the wire branches fluffed and filled out. Decorated with a melange of ornaments made in school by my brother and me, purchased here and there, each with a story, made by mom when she and dad had no money and need to decorate their “charlie brown” tree, but so many had stories to go along with them. Topped by the “Pregnant Angel”, whose irony I didn’t fully understand until I was much older…she perched atop our very fluffy tree with her skirt poofed out, making her look quite preggers.

Midnight mass, with my mom, singing Christmas Carols with the Catholics at St. Josephs and looking for Santa’s sleigh in the night sky.

Going to Gran and Pappy’s and trying to hard to sleep while Pappy watched John Wayne movies at top volume and Granny’s tree with the real tinsel on it that was so pretty and so messy.

Hanukkah menorahs, lit and sparkling, each night and latkes, so yummy and served up with applesauce and sour cream. Picking wax off the menorah and playing dreidl with Mike. Hanukkah parties with all of our friends, and Jay taking a picture of his butt.

Jammies, sleepy parents, and a few very excited kids…I couldn’t ever understand why my parents were so tired on Christmas morning. Now I get it: no presents until mommy and daddy get coffee.

Watching White Christmas with mom, singing along to all of the songs. Watching The Nutcracker with the whole family…only to have daddy come out dancing just like Mikhail. Only not as good. 😉

And now that we’re on our own, we have new memories. Our first Christmas tree, purchased at a lot on Aurora Ave, followed up with a trip to K-Mart for a tree stand. Lights all over our apartment, making our Coors Light wallpaper border shine and sparkle. Our disco ball perched jauntily atop the tree (it’s there every year!).

Our teeny faux Christmas tree, in a pot, sitting on top of our fireplace in our second apartment, which was too small for a real tree. And our Hanukkah party, complete with drunken friends, brisket and latkes. YUM!

Our new home, our first “real” home, and a real Christmas tree, shoved into the trunk of the Civic. Finding our own ornaments with stories…making our own little memories. The year after we were married (holiday 2004), we wrapped all our gifts with silver paper with white stars (still using that damn paper, damn Costco) and Pottery Barn green cotton ribbon. When we joked that we had enough of that ribbon from wedding gifts that we’d be using it, a friend who worked for PB snagged us a whole roll of it! We STILL have green PB ribbon coming out the wahoo.

And this year, with RE, taking out our little faux “charlie brown” tree and lighting it up in her room, decorating it with ornaments from Michael’s holidays past, and lighting up her tiny face that the elves came and brought her a special tree. And pulling out all of our special ornaments: the ones Tammy sent us while she was in Germany, the ones we purchased the year she was in Iraq, so she could be “with us” on our tree, and the Gabriel and Ryan ornaments I have from their first Christmases. Just need one for miss Izzy! The “2004” ornament with our wedding picture, the vibrant red, orange and yellow chuppah glowing against the blue sky. The “2006” ornament with Ryan in candy cane striped leggies sitting under the tree. Maybe there will be a “2010” ornament with another sib? We’ll see. The “peace” ornament Alyssa gave us one year, my “snowbabies” ornaments that I so treasure. Our beautiful, silver, modern menorah that glows to prettily with all eight nights lit up.

And in all this remembering, what I remember most of all is that feeling…that the holidays really and truly are about spending time with friends and family and those who mean so much to all of us…Our friends ARE our family, and they mean as much to us as though we were actually related. I know we all know it, and I know we all get caught up in the gifting, and partly, it’s because of how much so many of us enjoy an excuse to find something fun for those we love, but in the end, it really IS about that feeling. And as Mastercard so eloquently puts it, that is “priceless.”

To all of you, no matter what you celebrate, whether it’s Hanukkah, Solstice or Christmas, we wish you a very happy one, and a very merry one, and may your homes be as warm as your hearts.