Monday, December 20, 2010

Weekend Wanderings: Holiday Party

This was a very festive, very relaxing weekend. On Friday, I met up with my cousin and his girlfriend for drinks at the Rattle & Hum, and we wandered over to Macy's so they could see the lights for a bit before I headed home to make desserts for Saturday's non-denominational holiday party. It's rare that I have enough cooking to do that I start the night ahead of time, and I'm so glad I did, because it was really down-to-the-wire on Saturday and not needing to worry about the cookies was a big help. For desserts, I made almond cookies, molasses spice cookies and cake balls. The most successful of these was definitely the spice cookies (Martha Stewart by way of a coworker). The almond cookies tasted good, but were more like sugar cookies (both in taste and texture) than the macarons I wanted them to be. France clearly can't come fast enough!

Saturday was spent entirely in preparation for the party, with the exception of a quick run to not one, not two, but three post-offices to mail out my parents' Christmas cards. (After all that, they still won't be collected until noon today. And I didn't get the batch of holiday "forever stamps" I was promised in return for donating my leftovers to the greater-good-family-fund. In time, friends.) When I woke up a little frantic at around 10am (apparently, my body doesn't like the idea of waking up at 8am after making cake balls until 2am), an overwhelming feeling of oh-my-god-I-don't-have-enough-food-or-drinks-for-this-party came over me and I went a little nuts making way too much food, including a cheese platter (cranberry goat, blueberry goat, baked brie, mozzarella, cheddar, hummus, and four types of crackers), a puff-pastry platter (spanakopita, pigs-in-a-blanket, potato puffs, beef puffs, and my mother's famous crab Rangoon), three pizzas (this amazing puff-pastry one, along with a margherita and a pesto/sauteed-onion), and two quiches (both cheddar and broccoli, one with bacon, one vegetarian). These, combined with Roger and I both buying beer, along with all the wonderful things (including homemade hummus, sugar cookies, and Bailey's cupcakes, raspberry-wasabi dipping sauce and so, so much wine) brought by friends, made for an evening filled to the brim. The party went on longer than I anticipated, and it was amazing to catch up with so many people, though, of course, I wish I had more time to talk to everyone. The holiday party is a little tradition that's been going on in one form or another since I was in high school, and now it's the only time I see some of the people who come, so it's really important to me to have it. The guest list has expanded and changed over the years, but it's always a blast and I'm so glad to have been able to work it out this year.

Today, shopping with my mother and sister couldn't wait the way cooking on Saturday could, so I dragged myself out of bed to head over to Woodbury Commons at 8:30am. I'm still very much behind on my holiday shopping (which is really embarrassing when I admit that I usually get gifts for a whopping total of 10 people, most of whom are family or close-enough to be family), but I did pick up three gifts, and a few things that I "needed" for our trip. One thing I've noticed about traveling is that I use it as an excuse to buy things before I go (let's not even talk about once I get there). Iceland? I "needed" hiking boots and a ski-jacket. Maine? A camp shirt and lanterns. France? Apparently a fleece and two striped shirts. I'm going to justify this by saying that I've actually used the boots, jacket, shirt and lanterns way, way more often than I would have reasonably imagined I would, and who couldn't use a mid-weight jacket and more three-quarter sleeve blouses for work? No spoilers for gifts that were purchased, but let me just say - if you're near Woodbury and you need anything for your kitchen, the Williams-Sonoma outlet is closing, and their sales are great.

A few things missing from this weekend's post: pictures (sorry!) and applications (not sorry!). One thing not missing: a really nice time spent with friends and family.

Friday, December 17, 2010

{This Moment}

{This Moment}

A Friday ritual inspired by Amanda Soule & many others.
Please feel free to share a link to your own moment in the comments.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Corners of the Home: Christmas Decorations

I mentioned last week that the holidays this year have been a source of relaxation and comfort for me, and I decided to share some of that with you today, in place of my usual World of Wonder. I really enjoy reading the "Corners of the Home" feature that some blogs do, so you're getting a version of that here today. If anyone likes it (and tells me they like it), I'll do some more, non-holiday-related posts again soon. Even though my "apartment" is really my parents' basement, I'm proud of the choices I made during the renovations (I was living in Brooklyn while most of them were completed, so I can't say I helped much when it came to actually laying down the floors), and of the way I've made it my own since then. It's a cozy little nook all my own, and I really enjoy living here.

Now, onto the Christmas decorations. As I think I've mentioned before, Christmas goodies are my favorite souvenir to buy during travels, because they come out at a special time of year when I can think back on my memories of the trip, and when I can relish a little bit of kitsch, which I usually don't allow myself during the year. The felted nativity set to the right isn't kitschy at all, but it's still one of my favorite pieces. I bought it in Iceland in January, and even though it was more expensive than I wanted to pay, I'm glad I did, because a year later, I still think it's just gorgeous.

I have two other nativities set up, a porcelain one I've had since I was a little girl on my bookshelf, and a tiny one in a globe that I bought at the Vatican and had blessed by the Pope on one of the side tables. I'm not religious at all, but I like nativities because I like miniatures and I like families, and that's pretty much exactly what a nativity is. My mother has the most beautiful Asian nativity, and my grandmother had a very old, fun one with a stable included. My aunt made her a nice, all white porcelain set in the 90s, and I don't know what happened to her older set. I expect that it didn't survive the new nativity, though perhaps it's just lost in the attic.

I do have some of her vintage ornaments, though. They're extremely fragile, and I've already broken two this year (if anyone knows of some sort of coating I could paint or spray them with to make them a little stronger, I'd be most appreciative), so I display them in a holiday planter, instead of hanging them on my tree. They're made of such bright colors and use glitter as designs, and they're just a ton of fun. I have some of her larger ones that I haven't figured out how to display, as well as a set of Lenox balls. I like the way ball ornaments look, but I'm too big of a klutz to be trusted with them!

Most of my ornaments, instead, are plastic or wood, gathered from my travels. One of my favorites are the ones I purchased in England, little cloth dolls of Henry VIII and his wives. They were another too-expensive purchase, but I love them and think they were worth every penny. I also have a book ornament that my 3rd grade teacher gave me in 1994, which I treasure, and the angel tree-topper that sat on my parents' trees until they found the really gorgeous Father Christmas topper they have now. (Yes, they are where I got my obsession with Christmas decorations. My house is tame comparatively.) I'm hoping to raid their ornament collection one year in the near future, but for now, my tree is tiny, and I have just the right number of ornaments on it.

The lights I use on the tree (and in my "mantle" garland) are big LED bulbs, because they remind me of the really big, retro lights my next door neighbor always had. Maybe one day they'll recreate the amazing string lights she had that bubbled. They always seemed like a huge fire hazard, but god, they were the coolest. Other than that, the only thing I need is some mistletoe! I got a great big fake ball of it in 2006, and used it for a few years after that, but somewhere along the lines, I loaned it to my parents, and like so many of the Christmas decorations they've "loaned" me, it disappeared into their holiday collection.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gratituesday: Paris

This week, I am grateful for our upcoming vacation. In case you haven't figured it out (or haven't heard me gush endlessly about it), we're going to France, Switzerland and Italy from Dec. 26 - Jan. 8, and I cannot wait. Not even a little bit. I'm usually a little calmer about vacations, but this one has me on the edge of my seat. I am looking forward to this in a way that I haven't looked forward to anything in a long time. Last night, I was lying in bed, literally thinking parisparisparisparis.

I am thinking about where I want to stay (um, yeah, still haven't booked a hotel), what I want to do on New Years Eve (eat oysters in a little cafe and drink champagne in Montmartre before ringing in midnight at the Sacre Coeur), what I want to wear (this dress). I'm excited for omelettes, chocolat chaud, pain au chocolat, pate de fruite, and about a million other things I've loved eating in Paris. I'm so in love with the idea of being there that I don't even care how long we spend in art museums.

And, I'm excited for the rest of the trip - two days right after Christmas in Strasbourg to see the Christkindelsmarik, a day of wine-tasting in Tournus, spending time with Emily and James in Dijion, visiting the mountains in Geneva, and seeing The Last Supper in Milan. Things are still a bit unplanned - no hotels or trains booked, no really solid day-by-day plans - but you can't expect us to instantly change the way we travel, and enough is settled that I'm allowing myself to be over the moon about going. And I am. I am completely and deliriously happy about going.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Weekend Wanderings: Produce Produce Produce

Oh, weekends of trying to be productive when all I want is to be out and about celebrating. On Friday, I had to cancel drink plans I'd made weeks ago with a friend I never see, so I could write an article. I know it's my choice to write so many every week, and I know I should have written this one earlier, but sometimes it just sucks, and since this was the second weekend in a row where I was in the exact situation, I was not a happy girl. But, I plowed on, had a good dinner at a museum potluck, and wrote my little heart out until 2:30 in the morning. So, yes, it was late anyway. At least I managed to take lunch and get to the post office to mail out my Christmas cards that day.

I slept late on Saturday, and spent the most of the day getting applications in order (including a rushed trip to the post office to overnight a forgotten supplement), and writing a second article. With that finished, I ran to do some unsuccessful Christmas shopping. I'd hoped to be able to make most of my gifts this year, and buy the rest homemade, but that hasn't happened. I'm amazed at how difficult it's been to live consciously since moving upstate. With less time and less (in-person) access to the markets I love, it's been a struggle, and I'm sad to say I haven't done a good job with it. Hopefully the new year will be better for it. I'm certainly hoping things will slow down a bit in January. I returned home mostly empty-handed, and had a dinner of Chinese food with my parents and Roger. Then, I tried unsuccessfully to write a third article, and went to sleep early in frustration.

Sunday was certainly the best of the weekend. Since I'd gone to sleep so early, I woke up at 7:30am well-rested, and lay in bed listening to the rain outside for about a half hour. It was quiet, and peaceful, and a much-needed moment. Then, I set about writing the final article of the weekend, which passed far more quickly than any of the others, and I was free by 9am. I went with my family to drive Liz down to the city to stay in a fancy hotel, and miraculously, the rain stopped just as we arrived in Manhattan. We saw the Rockefeller Center tree, which was much, much more beautiful than it has been in the past few years (and came from our town), and spent some time in Macy's looking for a coat for my sister, successfully. I work right in this area, and couldn't come up with a good place to get lunch, so we had hot dogs from a street vendor, and headed back upstate, where I passed the evening doing pretty much nothing. A wonderful ending to a weekend that didn't seem like it could ever be wonderful!

Friday, December 10, 2010

{This Moment}

A Friday ritual inspired by Amanda Soule & many others.
Please feel free to share a link to your own moment in the comments.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Life List Accomplished Number 9: Attend a Black Tie Event

When I wrote this list, I’d actually already been to one black tie event, my prom, and knew I’d be going to Roger’s prom later that year.

What I really meant, I guess, was an adult black tie event, and when my friend Sal read about the desire on my facebook profile while he was studying at Oxford, he wrote to me and said, “If you want to go to a black tie event, study at Oxford. They seem to have them every week!” He was correct (of course, Sal always is), and I counted the Bright Young Things Ball at the Oxford Union as my real black tie event. I missed Queer Bop at Wadham for it, which was a bit sad, but I met some incredibly interesting people, wore high heels all night, and took a taxi-cab home, so I count the evening as phenomenal success.

Looking back, I don't think a college formal can truly count as an adult black tie event, either. Perhaps it should go back on the list...