I’m not sure how I feel about new year’s resolutions.  Part of me feels like resolutions shouldn’t wait for one date on the calendar to be implemented.  Part of me likes the idea of having an excuse to refocus on things I’ve been meaning to focus on…  There’s also the part of me that hates how busy the gym gets every January as everyone decides they’re going to work out more (fortunately, it always fades back to normal by about March).  Hopefully by putting these things out there, typing them “out loud,” so to speak, I’ll be more inclined to do them.  Maybe you all (three or four of you?) will help hold me accountable.  So here goes:

1.  Be healthy.

This is a recurring resolution, and one that I don’t think will ever go away.  It’s about ongoing lifestyle changes.  The older I get and the more little aches and pains my body produces, the more motivation I feel to keep in shape.  I’m pretty good about getting to the gym, but probably don’t push myself as far as I could or should.  How about a race this year – maybe a 10 or 12k?  And I definitely need more of the restorative kinds of healthy activity.  Must.  Stretch.  More.  And how about more massages and facials, or any for that matter (yay for groupon!).

2.  Be a better friend.

I’ll be the first to admit it – I’m terrible with the phone.  I don’t know when or how the aversion developed, but it’s there.  Since most of my nearest and dearest don’t live in my zip code, I need to come to a truce with my phone, if I want to achieve my goal of keeping in touch better.  What I’d really like is to see my friends more, so maybe I just need to think of the phone as the vehicle for making plans.

3.  Be positive.

I was watching TV the other night, and some still alive actor was being interviewed about another actor who had passed away.  I don’t know either actor, but the still alive one said about the no longer around one that, “he never had a bad word to say about anybody,”  and I thought, “wow, what a nice thing – I’d love for someone to be able to say that about me someday.”  So the only way for that to be possible is to live so that it can be true.  That means a little less road rage, a little less biting sarcasm, a few more deep breaths.

4.  Do creative things.

This goes for within, but especially outside of, work, and that includes writing more on this here blog.  Work can sometimes be draining, and I’ve found that doing creative, non-work things has a tendency to refill my creative tank.  Helping Em with flowers is always good.  I’ve got some knitting on my to do list.  Also, I’ve been attempting to teach myself calligraphy.  I get inspired by all these awesome design blogs, so now I want to put some of that inspiration into action.

How about you?  Have you made any resolutions, new year’s or otherwise?  Or have you resolved not to be so resolute?

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My grandmother was ahead of her time.  She reduced, reused, and recycled long before it was in fashion.  She cleaned and reused aluminum foil until it resembled silver-colored lace.  There was no such thing as waste.  I suppose it was the result of living through the Great Depression, but I’m sure, to her, it just seemed like common sense to continue using something as long as it was still “perfectly good.”  She was also a feisty broad.  I think I could do well to be a little more like her.

So this year, I’m reviving a practice that she taught me when I was young, but haven’t kept up with in a while.  She would save all the Christmas cards she received and cut the pictures up to make into to & from gift tags.  It’s quick and easy, and they’re way more interesting than store-bought ones. And the bonus is that you can feel a little better than if you just threw the cards in the recycling bin.

I wonder if she knew how cool she was…maybe she did.  Whenever I called to tell her of a recent accomplishment, she’d reply, “you know you got that from me, right?”  Yes, Grandma Edna, I do.

So, it’s Christmas Eve, and since I’m reveling in a little nostalgia, it seems fitting to leave you with Grandma Edna’s immortal words (in our family, at least), spoken as she shooed us out the door, fearing we’d find Christmas mass to be standing room only, “now get the hell out of here…and Merry Christmas!”



What do you do when you’ve fallen in love with a house?  What do you do when you have to say goodbye to it?  I’ve been in love (with a house) before, and it was heartbreaking to say goodbye.  I cried so hard that day that just thinking about it now gets me a little teary.  I know it’s just a “thing,” a house, and that it wasn’t the important part of the memories that were created in it, but maybe it was, a little.  Maybe the house is one of the characters in all those memories of meals shared, and holidays celebrated, and slumber parties not slept, and games of hide-and-go-seek played.  Maybe my current situation is bringing up those old feelings.  Transition.  I know that I’ll be moving on to a place where I’ll create lots of wonderful new memories with my soon-to-be husband.  It has left me feeling this strange dichotomy of being super-excited for the future while at the same time mourning the loss of this great little place that I’ve called home for the last 3 years.  Geez, it’s only been 3 years?  That’s such a short blip in my life-house time.  That other house and I had been together for almost 20 years.  This flat is only one of about 15 places that I’ve lived, but it’s the only one that’s really been mine, all mine.
It’s not that I don’t like change.  When I was younger, I would rearrange my bedroom furniture every 6 months, just to keep things fresh.  But I suppose just because you want the change doesn’t mean there won’t be things that you miss about the past.  Maybe it’s just because endings are sad.  Fortunately, they’re often followed by beginnings, which are usually pretty happy.  So until I really have to say goodbye, I think I’ll work on including this little house as a character in as many memories as I can possibly make.

*   *   *

I was driving around last night, killing some time before I picked C up from the airport.  Since I was already in the neighborhood, I drove past the house I lived in when I was five years old.  That was a great house, too.  We didn’t live there long, and I was only five, but I still get nostalgic going back.  I had forgotten, or maybe I never realized, being so young when we lived there, what a cute neighborhood it was.  Still is.  All these houses, probably built between the 20s and 40s – small, full of character, on narrow, tree-lined streets.  And because it was nighttime, I could see inside these wonderful little living rooms, with families and small children (not stalker-like or anything, don’t worry).  It was then that I realized…  I love my little place, a lot, and it will always be this perfect little spot, bookended in time between Beach Blanket Babylon Boulevard and wherever it is that C and I end up together.  Nothing will change that or take it away.  But as much as I love my little postage stamp of an apartment with the great view, I’m even more excited about this new place (wherever it may be) that will likely be the place where we start a family.  It will be the place that we’ll look back on, years from now, when we remember our first home.  Thinking about it that way, I can’t wait.

I’ll always remember this night.  It’s a gorgeous, clear night and the lights on the golden gate bridge are sparkling.  Outside my window, I can hear people cheering, fireworks being set off, horns blaring, and the unmistakable clang of the cable car bells…because miles and miles away, in Texas, our Giants just won the World Series.  This is the first for the Giants since moving to San Francisco in 1958.  Way to go Giants!!!

I try to avoid failure.  I think most of us do.  The method I use is simple:  discontinue activities for which I have no natural proclivity.  Well, except for golf.  I suck at it, and yet I still keep trying, but then again, I hear that’s how it works.  So, no harm done.  But generally, this method has worked out pretty well so far.  Volleyball – good.  Slalom water skiing – not so good.  See?  Easy, right?  Just do the things you’re good at, or think you may get good at, and stay away from those things that cause you immediate and unwavering frustration.  I must admit, however, that there’s one thing recently that has gone against this “method.”  Like I said, generally.

I have failed, quite utterly and miserably, at making french macarons… three times.  For anyone familiar with the process, you understand.  If you’re new to this miniature ring of hell, allow me to elaborate.  I understand that baking is a lot about chemistry and proportion of ingredients – I get that – but these little guys are on another level entirely.

I can already tell where this is headed...

It’s a very simple recipe, or so it seems – sugar, ground almonds and egg whites – how hard can it be?  Uh, hard.  I’m only writing this post now, and posting pictures of the sad failures, because, after trial #4, it finally worked.  There are so many variables.  The proportions are so finely tuned, that they must be measured on a scale.  No scoop and level, no handful of this, pinch of that.  We’re talking down to the gram.  You have to use a metal bowl for the egg whites (preferably copper, but I went stainless steel) – the ceramic just didn’t cut it.  Oh, and don’t make them when it rains.  You need to leave them out to dry a bit before they go in the oven, so humidity is a surefire recipe for buzzkill.  And let’s not even get into the definition of “stiff, glossy peaks.”  How stiff?  (insert joke here) How glossy?

In my unsuccessful attempts, I tried three different recipes.  One from the book I heart macarons, and two more from various websites.  The final, fourth, recipe which shall be the basis for all future macaron-ing, I will share with you shortly.  Back to the not-so-happy attempts.  Two of the three, in hindsight, seem to have had the wrong proportions.

Embarrassing.

The third, from the lovely Tartelette, was probably perfectly fine (she’s quite the expert), but I probably should have used a metal bowl and waited for a less humid day.  I bet I didn’t age my egg whites enough either.  I still wasn’t ready to give up.  It’s like falling off the rock-climbing wall when you just know you can do it, and dang it, you’re not leaving until you do.  The winning recipe bolstered my confidence through copious explanations (most of you know I’d rather too much information than too little), lots of photos, a separate trouble-shooting guide, and let’s be honest about the best part – science.  C’mon, if you’ve got science on your side, how can you go wrong?

I weighed, I mixed, I piped, I waited, and I baked.  And the skies parted, and the angels began to sing…because, there in my oven, these little lovelies had grown feet!  Just like they’re supposed to!  Thank you Ms. Humble – you are my savior!  I will sing your praises to whomever will listen.  Right after I shove one of these little babies in their mouth.

Woohoo!

And the best part is what she calls the little rascally failures – if only I had known there was a term for it – macawrongs.

Okay, back to the wedding in Lake Tahoe.  Aside from the 4 hour drive from San Francisco to Incline, we had a few other concerns about assembling the flowers “on location.”

1)  Weather:  Tahoe during the “in between seasons” can be a little unpredictable weather-wise.  You can have snow one day and bluebird 70 degrees the next.  We were a little afraid that we could have some scorching weather and we wouldn’t be able to keep the flowers cool.  Would we have to enlist the refrigerators at everyone’s condos?

2)  Workspace:  We were staying in a rental house in Incline Village.  It was also three stories.  Fingers were crossed that we would even have access to the garage, but we also didn’t want to be trekking up and down several flights of stairs all day.

3)  Transport:  Half of the arrangements were about five feet tall – how would we get them to the ceremony and reception sites?

4)  Timing:  It’s always hard to do the flowers for a wedding that you’re also attending.  It’s even harder when the reception site will only let you set up 90 minutes prior to the reception, and the ceremony starts 60 minutes before the reception.  You do the math.

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Driving up Highway 80, with an SUV full of flowers and the thermostat set to “chilly,”  the clouds started rolling in.  By the time we hit Auburn, in the foothills, it had started to rain.  It was coming down pretty hard as we came over Donner Pass and the temperature dropped into the mid 40s.  Brrrr…  Well, no fear of scorched and wilted flowers – just frost.  And hopefully the rain wouldn’t last until Friday and dampen the spirits of the wedding party.

We arrived to the house after dark and quickly unloaded all the buckets into the garage (yay – it was open!).  With the cool temps outside, the garage served as an ideal walk-in cooler.  Even better, as Megan quickly discovered, the pool table had a ping-pong topper that would make the perfect workbench – score #2!

The next morning, we woke to a cool, crisp day, with clear blue skies!  It was gorgeous out.  After a brief rehearsal at the church, the guys headed out to golf and our little team – Meg, Mom and I – got to work.  We had tall centerpieces, low centerpieces, bouquets and boutonnieres to make, and we needed to be done before the rehearsal dinner that night.  For the most part, we divided and conquered.  Mom’s specialty is the large arrangements, and she even figured out how we could have them all prepped and then assembled on site, which helped with the transport.  After some quick prototyping, Megan and I got to work on the lower centerpieces and the arrangements for the cocktail tables.  Megan then handled the boutonnieres and I tackled the bouquets for the bride and her maids.  We had a blast – hanging out, catching up, making pretty things, listening to music, and we even finished ahead of schedule.

The next day was a bit of a whirlwind.  Megan was also in the wedding, so she had to leave early for hair and makeup.  I got the car all loaded up and then showered and got dressed.  Mom and I made the deliveries to the guys (boutonnieres), to the church (arrangements at the entrance and bouquets for the girls), and then quickly to the reception site to drop off everything else.  Back to the church…

The ceremony was awesome.  The priest was by far the best – personable and funny.  The vows made me cry.  And the view beyond the altar – evergreens and Lake Tahoe – was stunning.

Mom and I, with much help from a very pregnant friend, Anna, used the cocktail hour to get the reception room set up.  The rest of the guests were enjoying drinks on the deck, overlooking the golf course and the lake, while waiting for the wedding party to arrive.  Centerpieces were placed.  Escort cards, table names, and votive candles were laid out, and we managed to put fresh flowers on the cake.  Phew!  At that point, we were ready to join the party!  Congratulations Cameron & Amanda!

Women of Honor?  Best girls?  The term is still up for discussion.  I don’t much care for the word “matron,” especially if it’s going to be used to describe my lovely honor attendants who are not matronly at all.  They are, however, married.  Apparently, they’re no longer considered “maids.”  I have yet to determine, with their input, what they will officially be called, but I’ve taken care of the more important part – asking them to be in the wedding.

I have two amazing BFFs – Emily & Megan.  We’ve all known each other since we were about 6 years old.  I met them in Mrs. Gramling’s second grade class, and we went all the way through Senior year of high school together.  Em & I even roomed together freshman year of college.

We’re at 28 years of friendship and counting.  There’s something so wonderful about friends who’ve known you all your life – when they’ve been around this long, it makes you pretty confident they’ll stick around for the future.  I was honored to stand up with each of them for their weddings, and I can’t wait to have them stand up with me at mine.

I wanted to ask each of them to be my Women of Honor in a special way.  I pulled together photos of us from over the years and put them together in a little photo book with captions and a little note at the end.  Also included was a CD I burned – a “mix tape” of songs that reminded me of each of them and our friendship over the years.  Lucky for me, they both said yes!

I had the honor and pleasure of arranging the flowers for Cameron & Amanda’s beautiful wedding in Tahoe two weekends ago.  The ceremony was at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church and the ceremony followed at the Chateau, both in Incline Village.  But the adventure started long before that…

 

Flowers prepped in the garage

 

It’s been ten years now that I’ve been helping Emily do wedding flowers, but this is the first complete wedding I’ve done on my own.  Well, not completely on my own.  I certainly couldn’t have done it without huge help from my mom and Megan!  Thanks you two!

But back to the adventure…I started some time around o’dark-thirty on Wednesday morning.  I made it to the San Francisco Flower Mart before the sun.  Armed with my buying guide (you’re a Godsend, Em!), I made the rounds to all the different shops and booths, searching for calla lilies galore (and orchids, and bells of Ireland).  It was a little nerve-wracking, a little thrilling, and a lot of fun.  And I am not a morning person.

With flowers and greens loaded up in the back of my dad’s SUV (so thanks to Dad, too!), I headed to Chris’ garage to prep.  This involved unwrapping all the bunches, removing rubber bands and cellophane and cutting all the stems.  Hundreds of stems.  I should’ve counted.  Not really.  Then with the flowers in buckets, I loaded up the car once more.  It was packed.  To the gills.  Side-to-side and floor-to-ceiling.  Thank goodness I got Chris’ golf clubs in there beforehand.  I went upstairs to break the news to him that he could only pack about two cubic feet worth of clothes because that’s all the room I had left.  I drove the whole way to Tahoe with my purse in my lap, that’s how packed it was.

 

Ready to go!

 

Oh, and then there was the temperature.  We had to keep those flowers fresh!  A/C the whole way.  Chris thought he was in a meat locker.  Stay tuned for more about the wedding and pictures of the end results!

Those of you who know me well won’t be surprised.  I’ve been known to hurt myself in odd and unfortunate ways.  Remember the mousetrap-setting butt-bruise incident of 2008?  How about the scarlet fever of ’94?  The chin stitches of ’80 (and ’95) and the finger stitches of ’78 and ’97?  Well, add this to the list.

Some of you may know that I’ve played co-ed flag football for the last 6 years or so.  Most of you probably also know that I got engaged a couple of months ago.  Well, wouldn’t you know it?  I was playing flag football a couple weeks ago, and I went to grab some guy’s flags.  They’re attached to this belt that’s supposed to come off completely when pulled, but they got caught and didn’t come off.

See left ring finger

My fingers were wrapped around said belt.  The guy went down, and my fingers went with him, twisting in a wholly unnatural way as they did so.  I stood up, took one look at my hand, straightened my left ring finger back into place, taped it up at half time, and kept playing.  Yes, you read that correctly, my left ring finger.  Who else would injure their ring finger while engaged?! As my brother politely clarified for me, it’s not simply that I’m a klutz, it’s that I’m “mildly accident-prone combined with a high level of activity.”  That sounds better, doesn’t it?

After the game, my finger was very swollen and black and blue.  C fashioned a splint for me out of a tongue depressor from the first aid kit and some athletic tape.

A little better shot of the black & blue

I went to the doctor the next day, and based on the fact that I could bend it slightly and apply some pressure, she deemed it not in need of an x-ray.  Two weeks later, it was looking a little less straight, so I e-mailed the doctor, who then recommended an x-ray.

I had the x-ray this morning and the tech gave me the images on a CD to take to my doctor’s appointment.  So, of course, I looked at them first.  I’ve never had a broken bone before, but it seemed pretty clear – this was no sprain.  I made a PDF to send to my doctor prior to my next appointment, and she responded back the same night.  Looks like I need to make an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon.

Fun!

See 4th finger, intermediate phalange

not "the bird"

I realize it may be blasphemy to admit this, but here goes:  I’m kinda “red velveted out.”  I know.  I know.  I didn’t really think it possible, but given that the world is on a cupcake kick lately, I’ve baked me some red velvet, a lot – we’re talking full-sized layer cake, regular cupcakes, mini cupcakes, you name it.  There was the test run for Mom’s birthday.  Then the actual birthday.  Then we had a few other parties here and there.  There were the ones I made for work, and then the pink velvet cupcakes I made for a baby shower.  (Total side note  – I just  saw somewhere recently that the birth rate is dropping in this country.  I don’t know about you, but I seem to be in the midst of a baby BOOM.  Well, not personally, but it sure seems like everyone I know…well, there must be something in the water.  That’s all I’m saying).  Anyway, back to the cupcakes.  So, we were having a little get together for a coworker, a somewhat  non-traditional baby shower.  Dad-to-be was invited, it was in the evening, rather than brunch, and there was minimal gift opening, and no diaper games.  It was wonderful.  Being a potluck, I offered to make cupcakes (everybody loves cupcakes!), but I was determined to bake something besides red velvet.  Somehow, I got it in my head to make strawberry cupcakes.  Not sure where – it wasn’t like I’d seen them around lately or anything.  It was probably because I LOVE strawberries, and we’re finally starting to have some of that summer weather that makes strawberries make sense.  I did a little googling around for recipes and came across one that had some very positive reviews.  Here’s what I ended up making, with a little tweaking to make up for ingredients I couldn’t find (I couldn’t find strawberry liquor, so I substituted some strawberry jam and Cointreau).  Big thanks to Katie at Good Things Catered for the wonderful recipe.  They were a hit!  And the frosting…the frosting tastes like Häagen-Dazs strawberry ice cream.  It is soooo good.  I definitely recommend that you make these with the ripest, reddest, strawberries you can find.  I went with organic, just for a little extra insurance.

Oh, and if I’m going to be any good at this blogging thing, I’m going to have to take more (i.e., some) pictures.  Sorry ’bout that.

Oh, great – I think that makes double blasphemy, all in one post.