THE CROWNING OF THE YEAR

December 21, 2014

bokehtree

This is it, folks. The home stretch. All the candles on the Advent Wreath are illuminated, we’re more than halfway through Hanukkah, and tonight is the longest night of the year which might be the one I look forward to most of all. I love a good Winter Solstice the way I love a good song, a firm tug on the old heartstrings kind of thing. Also, there’s a new moon tonight and I read somewhere on Instagram that this will actually be the longest night in history? I’m not sure about that last bit, but it sure sounded mystical.

This part of the year just gets me, you guys. It’s my spirit season, I think, because I’m always filled with so much gratitude and inspiration, something about looking back and forward all at once, celebrating what has been and what is yet to come. All the caroling and cookie baking and tidings of good cheer, all the decorations and the stories and the movies, this stuff thrills me through and through.

We spent nine straight hours cleaning our house today – it might actually be shining like the top of Chrysler Building, thank you very much Mrs. Hannigan – and tomorrow morning, the Salvation Army will be coming by to collect a dozen bags filled with things that have worn their welcome with us but that might find new purpose elsewhere. I’ve intended to make this a sort of tradition for the past few years, and the fact that I’ve finally managed to pull it all together is extremely gratifying.

With only four sleeps until Christmas morning, the excitement is mounting by the minute. Our halls have had a proper decking and our tree is finally all gussied up in her holiday finest after spending three straight weeks standing in our living room naked as the day we brought her home from the lot. I’ve named her Aster, fitting for the lovely late bloomer she’s turned out to be, and she smells divine.

There are a few projects that need finishing, a few packages that need wrapping, and at least a half dozen movies that need watching before the big day arrives, not to mention countless cookies that need to be baked and eaten. All the makings of a cozy, quiet, homemade holiday with my happy, healthy(-ish, we’ve got some coughs and runny noses), adorable family in our super clean home in the hills of sunny San Diego. All my Christmas wishes granted, and I haven’t even opened a single present!

Wishing you and yours a week filled with joy, from the bottom of my very happy heart.

READY, SET, CELEBRATE

November 26, 2014

piecrust

last year’s pie in progress, which will definitely be making a repeat performance this year

Cue the carols and pop the champagne, it’s Prep Day!

I think today might be my favorite day of the year, if I had to choose just one. Fact is, there is absolutely nothing at all that warms me to the core the way spending hours in the kitchen cooking for the people I love most does, especially when the meal I’m preparing happens to be our Thanksgiving Feast. It is perhaps the only occasion that requires meticulous planning and expert execution in terms of my culinary prowess, which is to say it’s the one time I feel even a little bit like a real chef, my not-so-secret aspiration.

I headed to the markets early this morning, fully prepared to brave absolute chaos as penance for my procrastination, when instead I was treated to the most charming and fortuitous shopping experience ever at both Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, and if you’re a Central San Diego local, you know exactly how truly special an event this was. Parking spot directly across from the front entrance? Check, check. Every ingredient I needed (and then some, ahem)? Check, check. No lines and friendly cashiers? Check, check! Bonus points to the cute old ladies at TJ’s, whom I was more than happy to assist in locating the green beans. Did I mention that I was alone? CHECK, CHECK, CHECK!!!

Homeward bound, laden with delicious abundance, this is when the Holidays really begin. The next 24 hours will be spent carefully and lovingly crafting a positively royal spread to be enjoyed by the finest of folk, followed immediately by Christmas movies + cookies + the decking of our halls. It just doesn’t get any better, it really doesn’t.

I have so so so much gratitude bursting forth from my soul for all the many blessings that have been showered upon me this year. Yes, it has been a painful year, quite literally so, but it’s also been the kind of year that is transformative. I can’t remember the last time I cooked Thanksgiving in the same kitchen two years in a row because I don’t think it has ever happened before. We are so fortunate to call this place home, and even more fortunate are we to have added a new place setting at our Holiday table, for one Roux Huckleberry, the most scrumptious baby in all the land. You can bet I will be nibbling on him for dessert tomorrow, thank you very much.

The time has come for me to throw on my apron and get to work. I’m trying my hand at plant-based pumpkin pie, a special request from my eldest child, along with all of our favorite festive dishes. And stuffing. Stuffffing. Lots of good things in store for our bellies, my friends, and I wish the very same to you. Happy Thanksgiving!

SUMMER, STAY A WHILE

September 1, 2014

ob_sunset_831

credit to babe baker for this gorgeous shot

Early Friday morning, Emet and Jade left with their dad for the annual Miller Family camping retreat, an event which very clearly marks the end of this beautiful season. They’ll return late tonight, with just one day to spare before the new school year begins, our life once again governed by alarm clocks and lunch boxes.

I like to reorganize their room while they’re away, to tidy their drawers and clear their space of any clutter, in anticipation of the chaos these next few weeks are sure to bring. Of course, all I’ve managed to do up to this point is make a much bigger mess than they ever could! At the moment, however, I’m avoiding doing anything about it at all, since both my mister and my baby are sleeping and I can’t remember the last time I was able to quietly sit and sip an entire cup of coffee with nothing but my thoughts and the ceiling fan buzzing about.

I have mixed feelings about you, September.

We watched the sun set over the ocean last night, and as the last of the light dipped into the sea, it occurred to me that while the freedom of summer break has come to an end, our adventures do not have to suffer the same fate. Sure, we spent more time in our house than anywhere else these past several months, and maybe we didn’t have as many barbecues or sleepovers as we could have, but we do happen to reside in one of the premiere vacation destinations in the world, and I fully intend on stretching out this summer by punctuating the rest of the year with twice monthly beach days and at least a dozen exploring expeditions (as per my goals for this year, ahem) because why live in San Diego if we aren’t going to live in San Diego?

With that, I wish you a very happy and relaxing Labor Day. I’ll be making a slow tomato sauce while I finish sorting through the last of the big kids’ things, all the while pretending that Fall isn’t just around the corner. Summer Forever!

MOVE IT OR LOSE IT

August 18, 2014

flowerbombwebsite

image via

Endorphins might just be my favorite drug. I was reminded of their potency when, last week, I went to my first ever spin class at our local YMCA and felt better than I had in months for days afterward. So good, in fact, that I went to a different class at the gym the following day. I can still feel a tingle in my shoulders, and there is almost nothing as comforting to me as feeling that my body has been used with purpose.

I’m not sure why I go through periods where I’m not as active as others, but it’s never a good thing for me to stay still for too long. I tend to go a bit, well, crazy. How good I feel is directly proportionate to how much I move my body, and it is with that in mind that I chose “get my butt back to dance class” as one of my goals for this year.

My instinct, naturally, is to take ballet. I’m most comfortable – and also uncomfortable? I know, but that’s ballet for you! – at the barre, where each and every class begins with pliés. In my entire life, I have taken exactly two hip hop classes. It’s a style far from where I’m comfortable, and requires from me a different kind of flexibility.

So, with that in mind, I did that thing, the one where you go and do something that scares you, and I registered for hip hop classes, which begin this evening.

Between my broken foot and my unexpected and rather invasive surgery, there is a lot I’m still not quite able to do. I’m not even entirely sure hip hop is the answer, but I do know that just having dance class to look forward to has been good for me. Imagine what actually dancing might do!

I’m nervous, sure, but I’m also excited to try something new, something I’ve been afraid to try for a long time. A hip hop class is nothing compared to what I went through twenty-six Mondays ago, is how I like to look at it, and hey. I might just be the next ballerina turned b-girl, you never know.

HELLO, JUNE

June 9, 2014

hopelisacongdon

image via

I have no fewer than six essays in various stages of completion cluttering my drafts folder, in case you were wondering. I haven’t had a lot of time to finish things lately, and not just silly things like blog posts. My to-do list is long, and although I’m getting through it much more slowly than I’d like, I have managed to do a pretty commendable job of fattening up a certain tiny guy. I thought about it the other day, and I literally spend between 4-6 hours a day nursing him, which doesn’t exactly leave time for much else, although I did manage to tackle all the laundry, a personal victory.

June really crept up on me, which is fine by me seeing as it’s one of my favorites. I love me a good summer solstice. Also, there are just three school days left before summer vacation officially begins, and thank goodness because I’m pretty sure we’re all already on break. I’m really really looking forward to lots of little adventures with all three of my kiddos — I plan on taking full advantage of the fact that we live in San Diego, one of the loveliest cities on planet Earth, which is finally starting to feel like home.

I started this blog back up last year around this time, well before I knew I was pregnant, when I was just starting to feel like myself again after a couple of really turbulent years, including that one in Oregon that really unsettled me to the core. One year later, and I’ve got a new baby, we live in a lovely new-to-us home, and we’re more settled as a family than we’ve ever been, Jesse included. In other words, a lot has happened over the last twelve months, and somehow I’ve managed to chronicle bits and pieces of it here. And only one recipe! Shame on me, is all I have to say about that, but the rest of it is pretty spot on and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m rather proud of what I’ve published.

This next year is sure to bring lots more exciting things to write about, including wedding shenanigans. I apologize in advance for the many posts to come about all things related to our totally rad future nuptials, but there are just too many thoughts and they have to go somewhere! I also hope to incorporate more recipes and even a few craft projects into the rotation because, let’s face it, those things are helpful! I’ve learned too many things from the internet not to give back at least a little.

Thank you for reading this silly ol’ blog of mine. I really do pour my heart into the things I write, and having you along for the journey is nice company. Your comments and messages are so kind and thoughtful, I appreciate each and every one and feel pretty lucky to have such a gracious audience.

Seriously, though. My precious firstborn is one month away from turning eleven years old. His tenth birthday was a day I’ll never forget, as it was the very last day of my life as a mother of two. Discovering that a new baby would be joining our family the following day, and all that has happened since, has been wild and wonderful. I can’t even begin to imagine what lies in store for us this coming year. I’m sure there will be plenty of good stories to tell.