Entries in this wonderful life (43)


give us this day, our daily bread

We returned Sunday from a 4 day trip to northern Washington, where Sal attended a work-related conference and I tagged along, because hey, why not. More specificially, he attended Kneading Conference West, the purpose of which is "to inspire and educate novice and professional bakers, grain growers, millers, wheat breeders, wood-fired oven enthusiasts, food entrepreneurs, food writers, and anyone who loves to eat hand-crafted breads."

So basically, three straight days of talking about bread, literally morning, noon, and night, and Sal could not have been happier if he had been baked right into a loaf of artisan bread. He was so gleeful at the end of every day that he probably could've powered the entire city of Las Vegas with his excitement. And now there is talk of milling our own flour and (finally) building that earth oven we've been talking about for years.

While he spent his days at the conference, I spent my days writing and exploring the area around Mount Vernon. The last time we were there was with the Albino and Mr. T for the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, (hence the picture up top). Even without the fields of rainbow flowers, the area is actually quite lovely and the little downtown area is also very charming. On one of my driveabouts, I ended at Bay View State Park, and another, discovered a really great park on a hillside overlooking the valley and enjoyed a wee picnic of cheeses and crackers while reading a book. Not quite the excitement of a conference about bread and baking, perhaps, but a lovely few days of R&R. I can do with a little less excitement at the moment, anyway.

Super behind on bento postings, but here are the last few. The rest are on the daily bento page, as always. (I just realized that I've had pretty much the same lunch for the last several meals. Hmmm, perhaps time to change things up.

9/6 lunch, Lunchbot Duo

  • herb roasted turkey breast
  • steamed broccoli
  • Jazz apple slices
  • cucumber slices
  • carrot sticks
  • strawberry
  • sunflower seeds

9/6 snacks, Lunchbot Pico

  • Jazz apple slices, cashews (morning snack)
  • hardboiled egg, carrot sticks, cucumber slices (afternoon snack)

9/10 lunch, pink Natural Lunch

  • herb roasted turkey breast
  • steamed broccoli
  • carrot sticks
  • pear slices

9/18 lunch, origami squares

  • herb roasted turkey breast
  • steamed broccoli
  • carrot sticks
  • Honeycrisp apple slices
  • dried cherries

the gerbils have gone on strike

<-- So that's pretty much been my life in the two weeks since I first started writing this post, except without the adorableness. The gerbils who make my computer go are way meaner and far less eager to help than kittens.

The good thing is that my problem (hard drive failure in my laptop) happened in slow motion, which gave me time while I waited for a new drive to get here to double and triple check my backups, make a list of programs I'd need to reinstall, copy critical files to a flash drive so I could use other computers (i.e., Sal's) while mine was down, and all the other things that make starting over much easier. I'm the most prepared I think I've ever been for an imminent hardware crash.

But oh, how much it sucks nonetheless. Even though I knew it was coming and had time to prepare, and have a second computer at my disposal and a smartphone to keep me connected to email, just the thought of the hours of reinstalling the OS and software, swapping out disks through endless reboots, the inevitable glitches and unexpected errors, etc. etc. etc. made my stomach churn, nevermind actually having to suffer through all that. Pile on the fact that it requires hours I really, really don't have right now, that I was up against a deadline for getting everything up and running again due to work and my website business, and most importantly, my book was being threatened in whatever minuscule way...well, let's just say I have morphed into a female Bruce Banner, on the verge of hulking out at any moment.

When you're tech savvy, I think people assume that these kinds of things don't faze you. But I can tell you that when you're trying to resurrect what is essentially your day-to-day life in a fancy metal box and you're only a blue screen of death away from utter devastation, you're just as liable to commit ritual seppuku as a less tech savvy person. You'll probably just do it in a really geeky way.

Anyway, I'm still here, I've successfully avoided hulksmashing anything (yet), and I seem to be reaping the benefits of all that preparedness, since the transition has been relatively smooth thus far. (With the exception of about 30 heart-stopping minutes very late Monday night, when I thought I had accidentally overwritten my backup. Sal happened to call in the middle of my building freakout to tell me he was on his way home, and I'm pretty sure nothing I said was coherent, but I don't know for certain because I've blacked it all out.)

Since I had a post mostly written before my laptop started bidding adieu to this mortal coil, I'll just quote it below. More for me than for you, if only to remind myself that we had a life before the gerbils went on strike, and we will again soon. (Also, I won't try to post makeup listings of my bentos in that time, but you can see them all here.)

(post originally written on August 14th, 2012)

Sal did the Bridge Pedal Sunday, riding his bike on a route that crossed all 10 city bridges. It's about 35 miles altogether, plus the 18 miles he rode to and from the race start/finish. Whew! We met up for lunch and drinks when he was finished, which is proof that I'm way smarter, since I skipped right to the good part with none of that silly bike-riding nonsense.

Sunday was officially hot enough that we set up the bed on the back porch and have been sleeping out there since. It's supposed to be even hotter later this week, so we're going to be out there for a week or more. [ETA: And so we did, for a full week, and it was glorious.]

Getting to sleep outside is pretty much the only upside when it gets hot. It's like camping, sort of! We camped all the time when I was growing up -- the really real kind of camping, where you hike into remote areas and cook your food over a firepit you dug yourself and the nearest bathroom is a good 20 miles away -- and I miss that kind of summer getaway sometimes.

It always takes a couple of nights to get used to the change and remember the details of sleeping outside: the rustling of the raccoons on their nightly sojourn through the backyard, the scritchy screetchy sounds the possum family makes as they shuffle under the porch and around the side the house, the occasional mortar round sound of an apple falling onto the porch roof.

Or, I should say, it always takes me a couple of nights to get used to those details. Sal sleeps like a damn rock, and whether it's the creaking sound of a floorboard that may or may not be the footfall of an axe murderer, or the unidentified but very clear sound of something rustling about under the apple and maple trees where it's too dark to see, he sleeps blissfully on.

I've gotten used to the nighttime sounds of our neighborhood wildlife, and with the exception of the apples, no longer shoot bolt upright in bed every time there's a new sound in the dark outside our screened-in porch. In fact, I've even been able to enjoy my current reading material -- a book about the zombie apocalypse -- in this setting, read under the covers with a flashlight*. Without nightmares! I think I'm officially a Big Kid now.

*(I have read many a book with a flashlight, snugged down inside a sleeping bag out in the middle the damn wilderness, but it's been a long while. It's kind of made me all nostalgic. )


and only the stormy hearts know what it says

While the rest of the PNW was suffering its first hot temperatures of the summer this weekend, we were literally basking in the glory of a beautific summer day on the Oregon Coast.

The timing was strictly a stroke of luck. We scheduled this bonus weekend at the end of June, when the proprietors of the cabins we frequent offered us first dibs on a cancellation for this weekend. The perks of being a regular.

So instead of sweltering in 102 degree heat in our non-air conditioned house, we were stretched out on the sand on a perfectly perfect 80 degree day under ridiculous blue sky.

And we remembered the sunscreen! And the sunglasses! So we weren't burnt to human-shaped crisps! Nor were our eyeballs broiled in their sockets! Hurray for responsibility!

A tempered victory, though. We have a standing Oregon Coast Checklist to help us remember the things we need/want/might bring. It's rare that we bring most or even half of the items, but it's indispensable in helping us remember everything for each trip. In our haste to get out the door, I didn't bother pulling up the list. We've made this trip dozens of times, surely we'd remember what we needed. And we were traveling especially light this time. Most of the list wouldn't apply.

Oh, nay nay.

Throughout the weekend, one of us would suddenly name a thing we realized we'd forgotten, accompanied by a facepalm. "Camera!" "Chairs!" "Butter!" Whoops. Lesson learned: always leave a note check the list.

Sunday was nearly as hot in Portland as Saturday, but in Oceanside, we had fog and cloud cover so heavy it was as if the sky was only a hundred feet high. No wind, no sun, and just the right combination of cool and temperate. It was goddamn glorious. Sal and I did not a single damn thing all day except relax and read and nap.

An hour or so before sunset, we changed to warmer clothes, filled a small cooler with ingredients for a campfire meal (hot dogs, buns, marshmallows, carrot sticks, etc.), and claimed a spot on the beach for building a fire. This is a pretty regular thing on Oregon beaches, so it's easy to find a ring of rocks and remnants of a previous fire someone else built. The sophistication of the firepits will vary, but it's rare that you have to build one from scratch.

We managed to snag a good one, complete with two big driftwood logs for seating, and only had to build a second ring on top of the first to make it deeper. Our luck ended there, though. We'd bought a small bundle of wood (with the heat, the beach was crazy-crowded, which means there was not a stick of small driftwood to be found) but didn't realize until we were trying to get a fire going that it wasn't seasoned and there were no pieces that were really kindling-sized.

We'd almost burnt through all of our paper trying to get the fire going and were about to admit defeat when a guy came down the hillside, saw that our fire, you know, wasn't, and offered to bring some kindling from his van. WAY too good to be true, this guy. It could've been a candy-from-strangers situation, but he was just a nice guy with good timing doing a nice thing.

A really nice thing, actually, since he didn't actually have kindling in his van, he had wood in his van, which he then chopped into a big bundle of kindling and hauled back down the hillside to us. And single-handedly saved our much-anticipated beachside picnic in the process. Then politely refused any offer to share in our fire or food, just left with a handshake and a smile. Faith in humanity: restored.

So we enjoyed our cookout and our fire until well past dark, ocean rumbling nearby, fog bank keeping the air cool and still, the smell of woodsmoke bringing back too many memories to count.


title taken from "Young Sea" by Carl Sandburg, which contains one of my all-time favorite lines:  "I am the last word/ And I tell/ Where storms and stars come from."


goonies never say die

Friday, we celebrated our 16th anniversary.

We actually celebrated all weekend. Friday was dinner in Astoria at a favorite restaurant on the water, then to our hotel with a lovely view of Youngs Bay. Saturday, a leisurely start of late morning coffee and pastries at a hole-in-the-wall cafe, a bit of shopping, a visit to Fort Clatsop. Then a pretty drive over to Fort Stevens, where we picnicked on the beach and read and sketched for a few hours. The day was dry and temperate despite a fog that hung heavy and low, which made the whole day feel deliciously still, as if everything had just sort of...paused for a little while. Sunday morning, brunch and a stroll through my favorite art gallery before leaving for home.

At the last minute on our way out of town, and despite a soaking drizzle, we acted on impulse and took a quick detour to drive by The Goonies house.

The Goonies, you see, are part of the reason I fell in love with Sal. On our second date, when I sheepishly confessed a secret wish to live in Astoria someday because I loved The Goonies and maybe kind of hoped I'd discover my own well-creased map that led to adventure and treasure and pirate ships, Sal didn't laugh. He squeezed my hand and confessed he maybe kind of had the same secret wish.

A month before our big move to Portland, we came out for the first time to register Sal for culinary school, look for a job, and find an apartment. We had five days to accomplish everything, and a budget so tight that two loaves of bread, a package of deli turkey, a handful of apples, and small jars of peanut butter and jelly had to stretch for a week's meals. Sal's admissions coordinator tipped us off to a small local motel that was clean and quiet and affordable. We walked a lot.

Sure that we were in over our heads, we were country mice in the big city, just trying to keep from being run over. But being terrified can be good for you, and it was incredibly good for us, that terrifying and terrifically exciting adventure, that leap from the safe to the absolutely unknown. Our lives were never the same, in all the best possible ways.

The last day of that exploratory trip before we had to drive home was our fourth anniversary. Sal was officially registered for culinary school, the beginning realization of a lifelong dream. No job or place to live yet, but I had completed the registration process with a temp agency, and we were hoping to hear we'd gotten the apartment we wanted. We'd survived the city all on our own, and we were making it happen, this intrepid new future of ours. We'd managed to set aside a little bit of money to splurge on something more than PB&J for our anniversary and we had lots of reasons to celebrate. So that afternoon, we headed west on Sunset Highway for a late afternoon lunch in Astoria.

We had only just gotten the hang of two of the main freeways and the streets immediately around our hotel. Driving west, to parts even more unknown, felt like we were driving to the edge of the world. As if we might go flying right off into the starry black if we drove too fast. On our map, I wrote, "Here there be dragons."

But the edge of the world, we discovered, wasn't an abyss stretching boundless past a sharp cliff of earth. It was an ancient sea breaking on verdant mountains, breathtaking and serene. No pirate ships, but no dragons, either.

We were still trying to absorb this monumental change we were undertaking. For a week, we had ridden a fine edge between elation and outright terror, both of us wondering at times if this dream was too big for us, too much for us to hold. But on that anniversary, as we stood along a dock railing watching ships bigger than buildings slide through the water like glaciers, deep blue sky overhead and deeper blue water below, our hands clasped tightly, if only to anchor ourselves to the ground, the realization hit more viscerally than ever before: together, we could face anything. Even flying off the edge of the world.

We've been looking back a lot recently. Marveling at how far we've come, how much more we became because of the leaps we took, the chances and the risks gambled to turn our dreams into this life, this wonderful life. So there was something neatly, perfectly circular about celebrating our anniversary in Astoria this year, in our special together place, our edge-of-the-world place, our we-can-accomplish-anything place.

The place that we discovered adventure and treasure with a well-creased map.


we are human beings, not human doings

contemplations on life, the universe, and everything, from under the apple tree on a perfect summer eveningAutumn is my season, but I seem to develop amnesia about summer. I enjoy summer, too, but I tend to remember the hot days and sweaty nights more than I do the heartachingly gorgeous days of just-the-right temperature, maybe a lilt of breeze to make the windchimes sing a little, a bit of smoke from the coals in the grill, and a whole day to just be. Perhaps I forget so I can have the joy of rediscovery every year, a gift to myself that reminds me about blessing and peace and abundance. A reminder about my cup, so full.

Our long vacation endI come home from the beach each time with rocks and shells stashed in pockets. I tuck them around the yard in little collections like this, under fern fronds and other secret green places to remind me of the ocean. Sal calls them Bitty Vignettes.ed with the holiday last week, but I've been determined to carry over a piece of it into my every day. Trying to leave the office earlier than I have been lately, spending time on the patio and the front porch and the back porch, reading for a bit during the daylight instead of only at bedtime. Setting aside some daily burdens for another day, trimming that to-do list to the essentials, and then trimming some more.

We've been spending our weekend days in a similar routine: breakfast on the back porch, our weekend NPR shows in the background, cats demanding scritches behind the ears and good morning wake-up snuggles. Then to the patio at some point for most of the day, and to the front porch sometime after dinner to enjoy the last sunlight turning the bridge gold, and to the back porch when the bugs finally drive us to the protection of screens. We read, we sketch, we write, we grill, we talk, we putter in the yard, we sit idly by. Such a luxury in lives that are harried and hurried, too much of both. It's good, all this just being time.

I always think of summer as the season of going and doing, and I love going and doing. But there are also the lazy days, the sit-back-and-enjoy days, the I-think-I'll-take-a-nap-in-the-shade days. I needed the reminder.

lunch, Lunchbot Duo:

  • Thai peanut chicken (grilled on skewers)
  • fried rice
  • carrot sticks
  • sesame green beans
  • cherries

it takes an ocean not to break

I think sometimes I was a mermaid in a mythic former life, beginning to shrivel and die a little inside when I'm too long away from water. I live within sight of a river, which helps, and cross a mighty bridge almost daily that soars so high, high in the air that some days the clouds sit low beneath it, and it's very possible that what lies on the other side is a secret city in the sky. Which means I might also be a bird or a seraph (though more of the "burning one" species than the angelic sort).

But even wide rivers across the feet of verdant hills and secret cities in the sky lose their appeal for a mermaid after awhile, and eventually, the sea is the only thing that will do.

The unintended hiatus of the last few months is an indication of how much has been going on, this thing and that thing, a teetering stack, everything piling on to a heap that would crush even the strongest person after a while. Haven't we all known that mountain that can only be carried, not climbed? We identify with Atlas for a reason.

So the salve for such heart weariness is those sacred places that refill us, let us set aside that damnable mountain for awhile and just rest and rejuvenate and remember what it means to be light and airy (and fishy, if you're a mermaid). And my sacred place -- one of many, truth be told, because a person can't have too many sanctuaries, really -- is a wide expanse of mercurial sea hidden at the end of a secret road and marked by the gravestones of three long-dead giants.

We arrived just after a storm had swept through (and indeed, had swept over us an hour before as we wound through mountain passes), sky clear and blue, the air warming and calm. We paused just long enough to unload our stuff and throw together a quick little lunch wrapped in dishcloths, then headed straight for the sand. And for the next few hours, we did nothing but sit in the sun with our tiny feast and spend a whole lot of time just watching. Watching the waves, the birds, the clouds, the people, each other.

And after, we sat on the little porch of our little cabin, drinks in hand and books in laps -- books that never quite got opened as long as the sun was still sinking to the horizon -- and we watched some more. Talked about this life, this wonderful life, what it took to get here and could we even believe it and how we are defined by the places that nurture us.

Then it was time for feasting. An easy accomplishment at the coast, really -- with a good view, even a bowl of cereal could be called a feast. What, then, to call our meal, with its varieties of meats and sausages and cheeses, crusty-soft baguette and sesame-encrusted loaf of Sicilian, fresh mushrooms and carrots, and juicy grapes so sweet we rethink our commitment to chocolate, all with the ocean waves rolling on soft sand a couple hundred feet from our door?

We usually stay longer during our summer break, but this trip was no less regenerative for being shorter. We had warm and cool, sunny and rainy, cloudy and clear, but not a lick of wind through any of it, which makes just about any weather bearable, if you ask me. (The only time I like wind is if it's positively gale force while I am safely ensconced inside someplace cozy and warm with a book and a good light and hot chocolate at hand.) We saw seals in the water and slept in a bed beneath an open window, had blueberry pancakes for breakfast and took pictures of pretty-colored rocks.

Mermaids love pretty-colored rocks.

And bless the dear folks who own and run the cabins where we stay, who call us family and treat us that way, always making sure we get our reservations (even when we're a little tardy in scheduling them) and give us first dibs on our favorite cabins. When we're there, they let us know about cancellations during the busy season, in case we want to snatch up a last-minute getaway, because even though we try to come out every three months or so, we'll never pass up a chance to visit more.

The cynical person would say it's good business to treat your regulars well, but I like to think they recognize a mermaid when they see one.

title taken from "Terrible Love" by The National


light and dark

An impending storm hanging over Forest Park and the setting sun turning everything to gold. Can't believe we get to live here.

weebles wobble, but they don't fall down

Although they have been known to spontaneously combust.

Man, getting ready for vacation takes a ridiculous amount of work. I'm not even talking about trip prep, which is a whole other raft of crazy. Just taking care of responsibilities so you can be carefree for a brief period of time. Job stuff, mostly, but even just trying to get the house in order so we're not spending our vacation cleaning is like trying to put out a forest fire with a cup of water.

We're both busy, it's no mystery why the house can so easily go from untidy to chaos in a matter of days...logically, I know these things. But after days of too little sleep and WAY too much stress, my reasonableness meter redlines and I'm all, "HOW CAN TWO ADULTS POSSIBLY HAVE THIS MUCH LAUNDRY WE DON'T EVEN HAVE THIS MANY CLOTHES WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH US I VOTE WE CHUCK EVERYTHING AND JUST WEAR UNIFORMS ALL THE TIME." Pile onto that the aforementioned pre-vacation job stuff and my inner overachiever coming out to play, and reasonableness leaves me to stay with its mother for a few days.

Which is why Sal's perfectly normal, "How was your day?" was met with a hyperbolic, overzealous, and borderline hysterical freakout on Thursday night. Only one more day before vacation commenced and it felt like it was never going to get here. There were no tears or anything, but something about the crazed look in my eyes must've tipped Sal off that countermeasures were in order. He offered to give me a foot massage and secured his title as Prince Among Men for another year.

So our vacation has officially begun and we are gleeful. Gleeful, I say! We have plans for around-the-house stuff and not-around-the-house stuff and lots of sleep and time together and kitty snuggling and movie watching and book reading. There will be absolutely nothing that resembles work of any kind. There will be beer brewing, of course, and writing, of course, and bike riding and meandering through the stacks at Powell's.

And probably more foot massages because those are totally the greatest.


on the nature of the unintended hiatus

You know how you get behind on something, and then you finally get a minute to do that thing, but you're so behind that you don't know where to start so you don't? And then you just get more behind and it seems like too much to even begin, and the whole thing just kind of snowballs into a big icy ball of Do Not Want?

Welcome to the last two months of website non-updateyness.

We have been busy, yes, but not significantly more than our usual Hamster Wheel O'Crazy, so it's not attributable to some new escalation. And some of those busy things have included many fun and exciting things. Things which include adventures and hilarity and sometimes even photographic evidence! Things that are, in short, terrific website fodder. The radio silence is therefore also not attributable to a lack of material about which to post.

So we will chalk it up to a case of needing to cut something out for awhile in order to maintain sanity. Also: laziness.

In any case...hello! I have many things to tell you about! I will probably tell you about most of them! If I feel like it! I will probably forget something I meant to tell you about! I will include pictures! If it's not too much work! It will probably be too much work! Because I am lazy, as previously established! Some of the topics I plan to tell you about if I'm not overcome by an overpowering desire to do something else:

  • The Great Gallstone Adventure of 2012!
  • Why family is totes the best!
  • Sal's birthday!
  • All of the many movies we have seen recently! See also: geeks are the greatest.
  • That time I was 20 feet from Gary Lightbody and totally didn't lose my shit! Except for maybe a little bit!
  • Girls' Road Trip!
  • Girls' Art Weekend! Launched with an actual Mad Hatters' Party! Because I am the raddest.

So, you know. Those things might be stuff to look forward to hearing about. Although that really puts a lot of pressure on me to make them interesting, and I don't need the stress (see also: gallstones), so I make no promises. Also, vacation starts in two weeks so I am a kitten distracted by shiny objects right now.



boom roasted

I have successfully thwarted the Universe's attempt to make me huddle in a corner out of fear and defeat. Apparently, the Universe didn't get the memo that NOBODY PUTS BABY IN THE CORNER. The memo came via a cheesy 80s dance movie so that might be why the Universe missed it.

Anyway, despite an extraordinarily stressful weekend and being very tired on top of it, life is surprisingly in order at the moment. I feel like saying "BOOM ROASTED" after every accomplishment, as in "YOU THINK YOU CAN TAKE ME DOWN UNIVERSE? BRING IT. I WILL GIVE YOU A WEDGIE AND STEAL YOUR LUNCH MONEY AND TIE YOU TO THE FLAG POLE."

The stress came in the form of a catastrophic web server failure sometime Friday, which meant The Hallway, Writer's Cramp, and all my clients' sites were down. Not only did I get everything restored LIKE A BOSS, I still managed to finish the design work for my clients' platform upgrades that I had originally planned to finish Friday, complete the rollout schedule for said upgrade, send out monthly traffic analysis to clients on schedule, and complete and send invoices. BOOM ROASTED.

Not content with website kung-fu, we still managed to stay caught up on or catch up on the various household chores on our to-do list for Saturday: dishes done, laundry folded and put away, downstairs vacuumed, GROCERIES BOUGHT, dinner made. BOOM ROASTED.

And it wasn't even all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy at our house this weekend. We fit in our first game of Pandemic since we bought it, caught up on all of our shows, fit in a day of writing and art, and read several chapters of a new book. BOOM ROASTED.

All of this despite losing an hour of time, and in fact, we got to bed at a reasonable hour TWO nights in a row, like real grownups! Also like real grownups: clothes laid out and bento packed, ready for Monday. Even the browning bananas that were at risk of going to waste got turned into delicious bread, just in time for both tonight and tomorrow when I'll be having a couple of neighbors over for tea. BOOM ROASTED.

Got anything else to throw at me, Universe?

lunch, matryoshka:

  • chicken lo mein (chicken, carrots, onions, green onions, bean sprouts, celery, noodles, secret sauce)
  • peas
  • Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Bento: Pinova apple

proof that it takes very little to turn things around

Yesterday I was having...well, not a bad day, exactly, but a pretty intense one. Many things going on at work that needed close attention and I had (stupidly) scheduled 3 appointments for the day, two of which were in quick succession. Those latter two were late in the day, the second one ending just before I would need to leave for Nerd Game Night, which was a bit of a drive and would be at a house I hadn't been to before. And somehow in between all of that and before leaving for game night, I needed to stop at the store for chips and salsa (game night is a snack potluck), get the cats fed (incuding enough time for Smaug to rinky dink around while eating, because she's a true diva), change my clothes, pack today's bento, and have some dinner.

The grocery store was such a zoo that there were even lines at the self-checkout. I get up to the checkout and realize I've forgotten my purse, which has both my debit card and my reusable grocery bag.  Great, just great, I thought. This is the Universe telling me that today is not my day. It's time to go home, change into my jammies, crawl under the covers, and wait for tomorrow.

And then I remembered that I just randomly happened to have a few dollars in my pocket that might, just might be enough for my items. Which was kind of miraculous beause I never have cash. Not only was my cash juuuuuust enough to cover my purchases, the total came to an even dollar amount, one of the items on my list of "Things That give Me A Cheap Little Thrill". I love it when totals come to whole dollar amounts! It's like the Universe coming into balance, double underlined, with a red check mark.

So I headed to game night feeling a little less frazzled and played Fortune and Glory for 4.37 hours and then Forbidden Island and geeked out on LOTR and the adorableness of cats and everything turned out all right in the end.

lunch, origami squares:

  • sausages
  • molded egg
  • roasted root veggies (with more under everything else) - parsnips and chiogga beets roasted with some onion, garlic, dill, and a little olive oil and salt and pepper
  • steamed broccoli
  • Golden Nugget tangerines
  • sunflower seeds

in which the room fairy transforms a little girl's room with magic

The Fabulous Miss M turned four late last summer, and it was officially time to graduate from a toddler's room to a little girl's room. But this is the Fabulous Miss M, and we are her godparents, and so this was not to be just any room because she is not just any little girl. I am her Fairy Godmother, after all, and so there had to be magic and treasure and copious quantities of pixie dust.

the 'before"Her room was a bright, deep jungle green with pale green on the ceiling and in the alcove created by the bay window. Fantastic colors for her nursery, which was decorated with a mixture of the bright colors of Kenya (where her mother spent part of her childhood) and the lush green of Ireland (where her mother and father spent a very formative 6 months together), reflective of their love for travel and world cultures.

But it was time to make the room reflective of her, and Miss M has very decided opinions about what she likes. Which meant pink. And purple. And sea turtles. And stuffed animals that include a rhino and a seal and monkeys and a frog and Pooh and of course, the requisite teddy bears. And books. And dragonflies. And yellow. And ladybugs. And all of those wonderful decorations that had adorned her walls before -- the handpainted sun and moon from Mexico, and the cloth doll from Africa and the vibrant metal gecko from South America. There was the antique doll in a silk-covered egg from her grandma and the big pink piggy bank wearing a tutu and tiara and the origami crane folded from rainbow paper from her father. And the artwork from Uncle Sal and Aunt Bitty commissioned on the occasion of her baptism and commemorative of our solemn vow to become her godparents.

I was gifting the bedroom furniture (bed, dresser, desk, and bookcase) that was mine when I was little, which is kind of a cream color with yellow details and canopy, along with a full set of bright yellow curtains to match (a pair of princess curtains, another pair of full length curtains, and a shorter pair for a smaller window, all with tiebacks and ruffles), which meant yellow also needed to be incorporated (a color she likes, thankfully). Yellow, pink, and purple can go together quite well, so I felt pretty confident about coming up with a design that would work. And I added a fourth color into the mix -- the mint green on her ceiling and in the bay window -- to finish out the palette and give it a nice balance to keep it from being too cutesy.

The key would be finding bedding that would incorporate at least three of the colors. Luckily, we found not one, but two great options pretty quickly: each of them incorporating three of the four colors. We took Maddie with us to help us narrow it down -- and of course, she loved them both. Nice to have options! Sister picked the one with ladybugs and flowers with pinks and greens and yellows, and it arrived as a surprise from Santa on Christmas morning. (The bonus was that it was a full bed-in-a-bag set, so it had the comforter (reversible, even!) and sham, along with the most adorable pink polka-dotted sheets and pillowcase ever. AND there was a collapsible pink laundry hamper with a flower "lid" as a matching accessory! How cute is that, I ask you?)

When we were there for Christmas, we broke out the paint color wheel and decided on wall colors. I narrowed down the pinks and purples and let Miss M pick her favorites of each; we settled on a pale pink for the walls, with a medium pink and medium purple and the mint green leftover from the ceiling as accent colors. (The yellow would all be coming in on the fabrics and furniture.)

color blocks in progressI'd also proposed a simple color block design for the walls, both because it's easy to execute and it's not too young, so it should grow with her for awhile. Update the bedding and change out some of the accent decorations, and it can still fit her well into grade school.

Sister and Guy did the work of getting the room cleared out the weekend before we were scheduled to come, along with getting the walls painted with the pale pink base color. I'd also asked Sister to get me detailed measurements for the room so I could figure out the room's layout. Or more precisely, so I could mock it up in Google Sketch up and try out furniture configurations.

You're laughing at me right now, aren't you? Mock me if you must, but aside from being super nerdy, it has the advantage of letting other people see what I picture in my mind.

So we arrived on a cold and wet Saturday with a moving truck full of furniture, armed with paint brushes and blue tape and ready to get down to business. We got all the color block areas masked and with the four of us painting, managed to knock the painting out that day. While we waited for paint to dry, we settled on the final room arrangement -- having the 3-D model of it made it easy for me to show them different configurations and the pros and cons of each.

color blocks finished!Part of the room makeover wasn't just to make it look pretty, but to make it work better for Miss M (and by extension, Sister and Guy) in terms of storage and space. They have a nice organizer for her toys but weren't using the closet because the bifold doors were too bothersome for Miss M to open so the organizer was just pushed up against the closet doors. They had a really nice bookcase, as well, and a dresser, but both were packed to the gills, so they clearly needed more.

I suggested removing the closet doors and using one pair of the curtains to cover it, which would be much easier (and prettier) for Miss M to access. Then we could put the toy organizer in the closet, along with plenty of room leftover for an inexpensive closet organizer system for more storage. I also incorporated a couple of large underbed storage drawers to move puzzles and games out of the bookcase but still keep them accessible. The desk could hold all of her art supplies (previously stored in the computer room and kitchen), the bookcase could hold more books and tchotchkes since it's taller than the one they were using, and the dresser has three huge drawers that could hold all of her clothes with room to spare.

I'd come up with an idea early on in my planning to turn the alcove in the bay window into a secret little nook for reading books and playing pretend and hiding out from mom and dad. Thanks to all the curtains I had, I could use the shorter pair for the windows themselves and the princess pair over the opening, since they swag low. I didn't say anything about it to Sister and Guy until we arrived to start painting because I had to be sure the curtains would be wide enough to cover the opening. They loved the concept so they were really excited once we got started hanging curtains.

I hadn't decided yet on cushions for the nook by the time we got started, figuring I could get some inexpensive throw pillows if I didn't come up with a better idea. But when we'd opened up the closet to see if the organizer would fit inside, I noticed two body pillows on the shelf inside and asked if I could use them. Sister was only too glad to put them to use, and we scored a great pair of inexpensive body pillow-sized cases with zippers at Fred Meyer. Instant cushions! (With washable covers!)

i know, right? how could we not have that rug???Also at Fred Meyer: the underbed storage drawers, a drawer organizer for the top desk drawer, an adjustable desk lamp in purple, a small white ceramic table lamp with plain white shade, inexpensive "jewel" earrings (figured I could poke holes in the lamp shade and bejewel it with star-shaped "gems"), and an impulse buy that was a must-have...a hot pink shag rug with silver sparkles. (When I showed Sister that it was both machine wash and machine dry, she agreed it was a must-have, as well.) Along with the paint and the truck rental for moving the furniture from our house to theirs, that was the entirety of the expense for redecorating the room.

Curtains hung, it was time to clear out all the tools and miscellaneous paint supplies so we could move in the furniture. By that point it was after midnight, so the plan was to get the furniture in place, the canopy up, then get some rest and finish the room in the morning.

But what kind of Fairy Godmother would I be if Miss M didn't wake to a room completely transformed? I couldn't very well have her get up in the morning and find her room partially put together, which none of the finishing details that actually pull it all together. We promised room fairy magic, by god, and there was going to be room fairy magic, dammit.

gem encrusted lamp, fit for a princessSo I sent Sal, Sister, and Guy to bed, and then I stayed up to finish the room. Organized and merchandised the bookcase, made the bed, hung pictures and decorations and small wooden shelves, created a reading nook, and just generally pulled it all together. (I bejeweled the lamp shade the next morning.)

Miss M was very good about not sneaking a peek in the morning before we were all up to see it with her. (And actually, I was more impressed that Sister didn't peek, since she was at least as excited as Miss M, if not moreso. But she said she feared my wrath if she did, so clearly I have her properly trained.)

Once we were all up, we traipsed down the hall together for the unveiling, urging Miss M to open the door and see what the room fairy had done to her room. She went in...and promptly shut the door behind her! Oh my god, that kid. Cracked us the hell up. She wanted to see it by herself first, dammit! We laughingly pleaded through the door for her to let us in so we could see, but she was having none of it. The room fairy came for her, not for us plebes.

Eventually, I was allowed to come in. She was just all grins and barely-contained excitement. We walked around the room to see all the "magic". "Aunt Bitty, it's my bed from your house!" she told me. "I know!" I said. "The room fairy came to my house and brought it down here so you could sleep in your bed all the time!" She showed me her desk, and all of her books in her new bookcase, and the dragonfly garland that used to hang over her bed. And then I showed her the nook, which she hadn't yet realized was there until I lifted the curtains a bit and helped her climb up. I'm betting there'll be many hours spent in that cozy little spot.

Finally everyone else was allowed in, and the looks on Sister's and Guy's faces were nearly as priceless as Miss M's reaction. I suspect Sister kinda wished it could be her room there for a minute. To be honest, I kinda wished the same thing.

see the full transformation

I love how the room turned out. I love that Miss M loves it. I love that Sister and Guy are happy with it, and that Sal is always game for these adventures in interior decorating with me, and that our Smiley family allows us to come into their house and slap paint on their walls and rearrange their furniture and turn it all into an episode from a TV design show.

But most of all, I love how much fun we had together doing this, and all the good memories we made that weekend, and that Miss M believes in Fairy Godmother magic, and basically, that we are an amazing and wonderful little family.


despite needing 20,357 hours of sleep, i feel surprisingly good for a monday

It's because I (we) had a really terrific weekend. We spent it with our Smiley family, doing a wholesale makeover of the Fabulous Miss M's room. I'll have more about the makeover in a future post (hopefully tomorrow) once I've had a chance to organize all the pictures, but the basic summary is that we had an outstanding time together, one of the best family weekends ever.

Friday evening, Guy came up to help me get the moving truck we'd need for all the bedroom furniture before the rental place closed. After we dropped it off at home, I took him to the Lucky Lab for dinner, since we haven't taken them there yet and it's one of our regular haunts. And the reason it's one of their regular haunts is because their pizza is hands down the best. (Guy will quibble that it's not quite the best, and that some pizza place in Moose Jaw, Montana has the best pizza, but he is clearly cracked in the head.) Had a great time visiting and devouring pizza (and he reported that their beer was also terrific), then home to relax while we waited for Sal by playing a hundred thousand hands of Nerts, which I taught him how to play at Christmas.

Saturday morning, the guys got my old bedroom furniture that we were gifting to Miss M hauled up out of the basement, down the stairs of death to the truck, while I gathered up my various decorating supplies and tools, and by late morning, we were on our way. We spent the day working on her room (taping, painting, putting up curtains, moving in furniture), music cranked up and laughing ourselves sick while Miss M did a marvelous job of keeping herself occupied with Disney movies, puzzles, and coloring books in the middle of the floor. After a really long but productive and hilariously fun day, everyone headed to bed around 1 AM.

Everyone except me, that is. I stayed up while everyone else went to bed, because I wanted to finish the room and have it all ready for Miss M when she woke up. I finally dropped into bed around 4 AM, utterly exhausted but pleased with the finished room and excited for her to see it.

She loved it. LOVED. IT. She remembered my furniture from "her room" at our house (it used to be the guest room furniture, where she's slept during her visits since she was born, and she has always considered it her room because of it) and the little reading nook I created for her was a huge hit. The hot pink sparkly throw rug may have also caused a bit of excitement. And the lampshade dotted with star-shaped "gems".

Sister and Guy loved it, too, and thanks to all the storage we added and a few easy changes, they'll be able to contain more of the kid chaos, which should make their lives a little easier. And Miss M now has a room that more properly befits a little girl who loves pink, purple, dinosaurs, books, sea turtles, cooking, and princesses.

So even though today I'm sore and exhausted, I'm walking on pink and purple-colored sunshine, because seriously, after a weekend like that, how could you not?

lunch, Ms. Bento:

  • rad nah (the rice noodles are underneath) with sesame seeds for garnish
  • green leaf lettuce, carrots, and sunflower seeds with a simple vinaigrette hidden under the lettuce
  • Braeburn apple slices
  • almonds

and we will eat like kings...

...damn hell ass kings.

AWWWW YEAH. It's time for the Annual Hall House LOTR Special Collectors' Extended Edition Marathon, in which we power through 14 or so hours of LOTR goodness to ring in the New Year, Eru bless us every one.

Preparations for the accompanying feast are underway, as you can plainly see. There are nine different cheeses, four meats, three different breads, and three kinds of crackers. And of course fruit and vegetables galore because we are all about healthy balance at Hall House. There are also a shitload of our goddamn glorious wings. Sir Not-Appearing-In-These-Pictures would be the sour cream chocolate chip cake currently baking in the oven and the BBQ meatballs that will be the main course of tomorrow's feast when we finish the marathon. (Yes, we break it up in two parts. We make our own rules.) This event is not for amateurs.

I think I hear Sal in there sneaking wings so I'll cut short the end-of-year wishes to just say love, health, and happiness, everyone, and may 2012 be a terrific year for us all.


ending the year on a hopeful note

The last day of the year, when we're all looking ahead to the next, seems like a good time to post something hopeful and heartwarming. Sure, it's older than dirt in internet years, but the good stuff doesn't have an expiration date.

And for good measure, here, have another:


Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the infinite peace to you.

-- Gaelic blessing


Late lunch in Paris

Okay, not literally Paris. But pretty close, wouldn't you agree? Late lunch at Petite Provence after sleeping in, heading to Omsi for the BodyWorks exhibit (and then skipping it for another time because of the crowds), then a bit of shopping for Sally at River City Bicycles for some new bike gear. Collage is across the street so I suspect that will be our next stop, but not before we indulge in a pastry (or three)!


vacation thus far

Sal @ Lovejoy Bakery, contemplating life, love, and the intricacies of laminated doughsOur WinterFest Vacation crossed the halfway mark a few days ago, which means we have successfully developed amnesia about all things work-related and managed to cram in a buttload of seriously awesome fun in the last week and a half or so: four days at the coast, WITH the cats, and no one ended up in handcuffs or a morgue; homemade gifts completed on time and delivered intact, and eventually gifted successfully; Smiley-Hall Christmas 2012 celebrated in the usual grand and entertaining style, with said homemade gifts exchanged during the festivities; a day of utter slothfulness that involved reading in the library with a cat on each lap and staying in our pajamas all day; full seasons of Dexter, Parks & Rec, and Sherlock (re)watched; and today, a Day of Portland that included Powell's and two(!) bakeries. And there are still four days left!

Powell's a complete madhouse today, by the way. We avoid anything that even hints of shopping in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but apparently, a mid-week afternoon three days afterward is still a time to be wary. Holy buckets.

I did, however, come out of there with two new bento boxes, of all things. The "Syrup O'Clock" line is new to me, but clearly adorable. They had locking two tiers that went with each of these designs, as well as a nesting set of square boxes for each, but I managed to resist. I do have some willpower, you know.

These are each 240 mL, which will make them perfect for my "Greek yogurt mixed with fruit" mornings. (The 300 mL sidecars are too large for a portion of yogurt and the 100 mL mini sidecars are too small. These are, therefore, the Goldilocks of my bento box collection.


and then we said "open", and everyone went bananas

Whew! We have officially survived the week of All The Things and are now on Day 2 of our Winterfest Vacation, aka Two Glorious Weeks (And A Few Days) Of Not Working Dammit.

The week of crazydom was not without its fun, however. Friday was the long-awaited holiday party at my office, and you will perhaps be a little surprised that a company party could be described as "long-awaited", and in some years past, I would agree with you, but this year...oh this year, I have a story to tell.

Way back in August, the Executive Team decided to "go big" for the end of the year party in recognition of everyone's hard work. We upped the party planning committee's budget for food, drinks, and decorations. We also decided to do swag bags, since our company has never really had products with our name and logo on them before. The swag bags would include a reusable shopping bag, a really nice insulated steel coffee tumbler, an insulated steel 1 liter thermos, chocolate bars with our logo imprinted, and polo-style shirts with our logo embroidered.

But that was only the start.

We usually have a raffle drawing every year for prizes (usually gift cards), but we wanted the prizes to be really big this year and for everyone to go home with something great. We couldn't send everyone home with a big screen tv or anything, but we could make the raffle prizes pretty spectacular and then surprise everyone who didn't win with something awesome, too. And when I say "spectacular", I mean it: 2 iPod Touches, an XBox Kinect (w/an NCAA Football game and the Michael Jackson Experience game), 2 Kindle Fires, 2 16x zoom cameras, an HP laptop, an iPad, 2 Kitchenaid Professional stand mixers, and a 50" plasma screen TV. For the remainder, the committee was given a list for shopping for the surprise gifts so they would know what we meant when we said "awesome": cameras, iPod nanos, Garmins, Kindle Touches, Wiis, Keurig coffee makers, cookware sets, and a food processor. (The Executive Team was in charge of the big gifts, so that even the committee didn't know what they were.)

So the committee has been on a series of shopping sprees for everything on their list for the last two months, increasingly running out of room as our storage unit. Space became even more of a problem for the raffle items, since we couldn't even let the committee members see those. At the end of the Executive Retreat on Tuesday, we assembled all the swag bags, then had to cram them all amongst our cars' trunks. But it was coming together and we were downright gleeful about what was about to come at the end of the week.

The committee worked their tails off all week getting the conference room decorated for the party (last year was the first time we did it at the office, and they made it look really terrific; this year, they outdid themselves). Wednesday, the committee and the Executive Team wrapped the surprise gifts, hiding things inside other boxes so nothing could be guessed. We stacked them all up along the far wall of the conference room, and I'm pretty sure that when everyone filed in at the start of the party, they assumed the prettily-wrapped stack of boxes were just for decoration to hide the IT station that runs the projector and sound system in the conference room. Little did they know....

The raffle gifts were set up on tables at the front but covered with cloths when everyone came in, with the swag bags all lined up underneath the tables. Once everyone was seated, we welcomed them to the party, took care of housekeeping (party schedule, turn off cell phones, etc.), then showed them the contents of the swag bag that they would be getting at the end of the party. We then announced how the raffle would work -- everyone got a ticket, which they would place in a bag in front of whatever item they wanted to try to win, and we would draw from that bag for that item.

And then the fun began. We slowly revealed each item. The iPod Touches were first and got a surprised gasp, and it just kept escalating. By the time we got to the iPad, the room was a constant buzz, and when we showed the TV, everyone flipped out.

After everyone had a chance to mingle and put in their tickets, it was time to eat, followed by a fun Mad Libs style game at each table. And then it was time for the main event.

The raffle items were a huge, huge hit. As terrific as the raffle was, however, the best was yet to come. "But wait! There's more!" we said. Pointing to the pile of boxes in the back that most everyone assumed were just for show, we told them that the they were in fact not for show, and that we would draw all the tickets of those who hadn't won, and when their name was called, to go pick one out of the pile. There were only two rules: don't shake any of the boxes, and don't open them until we tell you to.

Getting through the remainder of the names took awhile, and I think everyone assumed that whatever was in the boxes would be something okay, but nothing nearly as great as the raffle items. Maybe another swag item, or a set of knives, something like that. Nonetheless, everyone was still having fun.

Once everyone had their items, we gave them the go to open their boxes, and the next two minutes were the best two minutes of chaos pretty much ever. You know what it's like when kids are allowed to just go berzerk on Christmas morning and open packages all at once, and it's just a flurry of patterned paper and exclamations and noise and excitement? Now imagine that in a room full of adults who weren't expecting it at all, and who had enjoyed a glass (or two) of wine and beer, and you will have an inkling of what it was like for that two minutes.

It didn't matter that they weren't all iPads or stand mixers. They were nice gifts that no one was expecting and in many cases, wouldn't necessarily buy for themselves but really wanted. We encouraged people to trade if they got something that wasn't as useful, and by the time everyone left, I think they all ended up with something they were glad for. I tried to talk to as many as I could to find out if they had fun and to hear their individual story about whatever gift they got. For several, it was going to make a difference for an otherwise tough holiday -- a Wii for kids who wanted one but wouldn't have gotten one otherwise, or an avid reader who was struggling with sight issues but couldn't justify a Kindle, or a new set of cookpans to replace the mismatched set that were older than I am. A laptop that would make it possible to work from home, an iPod nano for someone who wanted but didn't own an iAnything (exact quote), a camera for someone who could now take nice pictures of the new grandbaby.

There's nothing I love more than giving gifts, except perhaps giving them to someone who really needed that little boost of magic and hope and joy. I've been blessed with some really wonderful gifts in my life, but nothing is ever quite as fulfilling as being able to do that for someone else. And Friday afternoon was some of the most fun I've had in quite some time.

Best. Company Party. Ever.


As you can imagine, the week was so busy that I'm behind on posting bentos, so there's some catching up to be done here:

Tuesday's lunch, Paris slimline:

  • shrimp sauteed with garlic, toasted sesame seeds for garnish
  • kale sauteed with garlic and caramelized onions (wow, lots of garlic today)
  • brown rice
  • sunflower seeds
  • carrot sticks and steamed broccoli
  • satsuma sections

Wednesday's lunch, Lunchbot Duo:

  • boiled egg,
  • shrimp sauteed with garlic, toasted sesame seeds for garnish
  • garlic butter dipping sauce in the little cup
  • kale sauteed with garlic and caramelized onions
  • brown rice underneath everything
  • apple slices
  • carrots and celery
  • sunflower seeds

Thursday's lunch, Fit 'n Fresh:

  • romaine lettuce
  • boiled egg
  • carrots, celery, radishes
  • apple slices, mandarin
  • sesame seeds

seen on a local store sign: mace-free holiday shopping

It's a whirlwind here at Hall House while we power through these last days before our (GLORIOUS) winter vacation begins. The culprits: work, as always, and our usual hectic schedule, piled on with extra-curricular activities. Last weekend, for example, Sal was at the school shooting their new commercial, yet more evidence that I am right and he will be a celebrity chef someday. Right? He would totally blow all those other posers out of the water. Not that he would ever seek the limelight, of course, but with that laugh and that face and that gift for both baking and teaching, the limelight seems to find him regardless.

I've been recovering from an unfortunate tumble down some stairs, which has been a bit of a setback in getting done what needs to get done, but I haven't let it slow me down much. Which is a good thing, because there wasn't much room in our jam-packed schedule for any slowing down. In addition to powering through to vacation, and some important activities, there is also readying ourselves for the Smiley-Hall Family Christmas, an epic annual event that is not for amateurs.

Although we don't technically participate in holiday gift-giving, we do have a gift-giving responsibility as part of the Smiley-Hall Family Christmas. To wit: handmade gifts and stocking stuffers all around. And of course presents for the Fabulous Miss M, because obviously. And as a family, we are seriously badass at the homemade gift thing.

Which meant venturing forth this weekend into the bustling masses at the exact time of year we generally try to avoid them. Thankfully, the local shops -- while bustling -- weren't so teeming with humanity that we were tempted to contemplate homicide. Like the shopping ninjas that we are, we managed to get all of Miss M's gifts*, supplies that we didn't already have on hand for the various planned homemade gifts, stocking stuffers, AND groceries for a kick-ass spaghetti and meatballs dinner Saturday night.

*(Sadly, the WAY AWESOME Grammy and Nonna's Toys, where we have gotten every birthday and Christmas gift for Miss M since she was born, will be closing after the first of the year so that Grammy and Nonna can move nearer to their grandkids. If anyone's interested in taking over a really successful and beloved neighborhood toy store, I'm sure they'd love to hear from you...)

Yesterday was spent in the kitchen, each of us working on some of our homemade gifts. There seriously must be some kind of productivity drug in our water recently, because we are crossing things off our to do lists at a ridiculous pace. NOT COMPLAINING BY THE WAY. This week is going to be insanely challenging due to everything ever landing on this one week on the calendar (NO SERIOUSLY I AM NOT EVEN KIDDING), but if we can actually survive to the end of the week, then it's easy peasy for the rest of 2011.

lunch, pink Natural Lunch:

  • hard boiled eggs
  • broccoli
  • carrots
  • satsuma
  • sunflower seeds

lunch (from last Tuesday), Fit 'n Fresh:

  • red and green leaf lettuce
  • beets, carrots, celery, radishes
  • egg, cashews, apple slices
  • simple vinaigrette of oil and apple balsamic on the side

our usual holiday tradition

Thanksgiving at our house was the usual, which is to say: fun, quiet, and comfortable. And delicious, of course!

It's nice having a "usual" when it comes to holidays, a personal tradition that's familiar and easy, and family (Sister, Guy, and the Fabulous Miss M) to share it with. We've got the menu and preparation down to a science, share around the tasks of cooking and baking and cleaning, and no one has to get up at the ass crack of dawn to put a turkey in the oven. There's mostly playing and relaxing and sleeping, and whole lot of mouthwatering deliciousness.

What we do not do is venture into the Black Friday melee. I mean, the stress of all those people and all those cars and all that stuff is enough to make me break out in hives, but ye gods and little fishes, it's a freaking battlefield out there these days! Pepper spray? Shootings? Trampling and riots? What could possibly be so enticing that you'd literally take your life in your hands to buy it? And don't even get me started on the poor folks who have to work on what should be their holiday, too, just so Shelly Shopper can get a good deal on a cheap waffle maker. Screw them as long as you save $20 on that XBox, eh? I obviously don't get the attraction of the annual free-for-all, and to each their own, I guess, but surely there's a better way?

lunch, French bistro:

  • beef stir fry (tip steak, peppers, onions, carrots, green beans, kale, secret sauce)
  • brown rice
  • kiwi
  • almonds
  • walnuts
  • dark chocolate-covered raisins

This lunch is the result of having cleaned out the fridge and eaten up leftovers in preparation for the feast (and the need for space), and then eaten up (most of) the leftovers from said feast, as well as being at the tail end of our last produce delivery. Which is to say, a tad short on veggies and color, but that should be remedied shortly once I get home tonight and unpack the organics bin that will be waiting on the porch.