Halloween: Nail Art

I've already confessed to my nail art obsession, and there's a tab up at the top of this blog to confirm that. Holidays make it easy to get inspired, so I thought I'd share a few of my favorite designs. Keep in mind, I have shaky hands and no professional training. In other words: you can totally try this at home. 

Sugar skull nail art.

Okay, these are technically for Dia de los Muertos on November 1st, but skulls work in October, too.

Boo #nails #halloween #nailart

Boo!

Quite possibly the EASIEST nail design. Black base coat, pair of white dots on each nail, smaller black dots on each pair of white dots.

Throw some top coat on, and you're good to go!

Fall #nails #nailart

More autumn than Halloween, but still fun: black trees with falling leaves. 

If you want to see more ideas, click on here.

How It Changes

I used to have themed Christmas trees. I had seven in the living room, and the kids each had one and I'm pretty sure a couple small ones were scattered about, too. A snowman tree, Santa tree, angel tree, and trees for just my ornaments, my husband's, the kids' ornaments—it was the only time I really decorated for a holiday. I have ornaments from every Christmas of my life, and it shows. My first Christmas, alone? I have at least five ornaments. And every year I greet them like old friends. Or I used to.

 

 


My Santa and angel from 1969 are something I know will be there in their cotton-candy pink glory each year.

 

But it's hard now. Because in between them are mixed golf ball Santas and Sponge Bobs who belonged to my late husband, and every time I unwrap that piece of paper that used to feel like an early Christmas gift, I now feel a mix of anticipation and fear.

 


Because I want to honor his memory, and I want my children to know their father is still part of our celebration of the holidays (and every day), but I also know that it's a painful reminder of loss with each unwrapped piece of our history.

 

That first year, I couldn't even bring the ornaments out of the attic. Last year, I got them onto the tree, but somebody else had to put them away. This year, it took me three tries and a meltdown in the shed to get the decorations into the house.

But it gets better. I was able to help hang some of his ornaments on the tree. And children are the balm of healing like no other salve of this earth. As I watched them hang too many ornaments from the tips of a single branch, it made me smile. Some day they will know that the branches are stronger toward the trunk, but right now they want nothing more than to make sure the beauty of their ornament is seen RIGHT NOW. RIGHT HERE. UP FRONT. And who can blame them for that kind of passion? Even the tree tries its hardest to support their dreams.

 

 

 

 

Birthday Door

I'm not sure what typical people ask for on their birthdays. I asked for a door.

Last year I asked for a hot tub delivery. Yes, the delivery. Not the hot tub itself. I already had that. I just wanted it delivered to our new digs and didn't want to have to deal with the headache of coordinating having it craned out of my old house and trucked to the new one.

This year, I wanted a door.

I'd say I'm easy to please, but that's probably a lie.

I don't mind paying for my gifts, helping install them, and I can't recall ever returning one. 

However, the chances you're going to find something for me at the mall are slim. I buy my own clothes. If there's a book I want to read, I get it. I don't want more crap. I'd rather have antiques from my family than something from Restoration Hardware. And I already have plenty. I don't need more knick knacks to dust. I don't like decorations that lack stories. I like history, humor, functionality, and beauty in the things around me. 

So, a door.

A birthday door.

Door

 

 

Bunnies And Birthdays And Such

We had a rather action-packed Spring Break. I forgot to tell y'all what we did, so I've decided to show you, instead.

Have eggs. Let's hunt. #easter

Eggs were hidden

Happy Easter #bettertogether

by sly Easter bunnies.

Another birthday. Another cake. Finishing touches not yet applied. #birthday #cake #butterfly

A birthday girl celebrated her birthday with a specially requested butterfly cake.

Pale Moon #nofilter

And as we returned to our work week, we enjoyed a quiet moment together,

Water—Rockridge

then a lunch of crispy chicken tacos at Cactus (still not a taco truck at the dump, but hey, it's hard to compete with that kind of ambience).

 

 

Not Quite There: Merry Widowmass

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Progress. I think I'm making progress. I know I am. I'm surrounded by decorations, the real ones from my past, new ones we've made, and the ones we have blended together. This is a huge step from where I was last Christmas.

I play Christmas music, much like I used to do when Bob was still alive.

I want to bake. I look at pictures of things I want to do. I see my recipes in my head. I buy the ingredients for the cookies. I am So. Very. Close.

I am still not there.

I have to remind myself it is only the second Christmas without him.

I have to remind myself that it is okay to feel like I can't be happy all the time.

I have to remind myself that it isn't my job to bake all of the cookies, wrap all of the presents, or make sure things look like a Pottery Barn catalog. Hell, I don't want to live in a Pottery Barn catalog. I am not Martha Stewart. My shoes are too sexy, and my daughter likes me too much.

We have a decorated tree, a happy bunch of kids, and the crew is getting the rest of the decorations up outside this weekend. My daughter and her BFF have wrapped a lot of the gifts and the boyfriend and I will wrap more tomorrow before his family arrives. The rest will probably arrive in Amazon Blue. God Bless Amazon Blue and Prime Shipping.

Baby steps.

Until then, I'm mowing down Trader Joe's mini gingerbread men like it's my Mother-Fucking JOB. LIttle frosted men. I highly recommend them. I might be passing them off as "my cookies" this year if I can't pull my head out in the next few days.

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Fun Stuff: Let's Link It Up With Some Tuneage

Let's start with a little music. This is probably my all-time favorite holiday CD.

Elton John's Christmas Party is a compilation CD of his favorite holiday tunes, and the man picked a seriously sweet selection. My top picks from the CD (videos not the actual CD versions, in some cases):

Outkast - Player's Ball (Official Music Video). Watch more top selected videos about: OutKast

 

I might have a slight addiction to the holiday tunes, and this year I finally downloaded A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!, which is from 2008. My top pick has to be Colbert's duet with Jon Stewart, "Can I Interest You In Hanunukah?"

Happy Hump Day, kids. Go find some mistletoe.

 

 

 

 

We Go As 7: On Getting A Tree

Last year our trees were black and blue. Literally. They came from Target. (Say it with a fake French accent or I will kick you out of this play date.) I had no intention of going anywhere near tradition nor our attic filled with decorations and memories.

In years past, I have had up to eleven themed trees in my tiny house (no, shut YOUR whore mouth. I have a lot of ornaments!), decorated with ornaments collected throughout my and my children's lives. This year those ornaments will see the light again. I think.

I went up into the new attic and retrieved about two-thirds of our decorations today. No tears. No meltdowns. I have even been playing Christmas carols, albeit some funky ones, but that's not abnormal.

Don't think I'm naive enough to believe it will be smooth sailing through the entire holiday. I know better. I've been on the hunt for snowman-themed tissues already, and I have my grandmother's egg-nog recipe at my fingertips.

This year we went as a family, all seven of us, to pick out our tree. We are an easy-to-please bunch. We liked the first tree we saw, bagged it, tossed it onto the van, and off we drove in our Santa hats, reindeer antlers, and Mark Twain wig. (It's a long story.)

Telling My Secrets

Tonight, I made a couple of big turkey pot pies out of our Thanksgiving leftovers. I already had some pie dough, so it only took a few extra minutes to chop some carrots and an onion and simmer things before pouring them into the casserole dishes and pop them into the oven.

The thing that really made them taste great, in my opinion, was the crust. You can't beat a homemade crust, yet so many people get scared off by the idea.

I talked in a prior post about the importance of ice-cold ingredients when making pie dough. Super important. Keep everything chilled and chill the dough overnight, at least, until you're ready to roll it out.

Don't be afraid to flour your surface for rolling out the dough. And flour that rolling pin, too. The less you handle the dough, the better. If you can remember, flatten it into a pancake shape before chilling it. I do this in a gallon-sized Ziploc freezer bag.

Now, my recipe. This is a variation of my family's "Never Fail Pie Crust" recipe:

3 c flour (I prefer King Arthur's)
1 1/4 c butter (cold, cut into 1/2" cubes)
1 t salt
1 egg well-beaten
4 T ice-cold water
1 T white vinegar

Cut butter into flour and salt until butter is size of peas. Combine egg, water, and vinegar in separate bowl. Pour liquid into flour at once. [I make a volcano shape in the flour mixture and pour the liquid into the center.] Blend with a spoon and then work with your hands until all of the flour is moistened and dough can be formed into a ball. DO NOT OVER-HANDLE. Keeps in the refrigerator for 2 weeks. Can also be frozen. Handles best when refrigerated overnight.

I use an inexpensive pastry cutter to mix my dough, but you can do it with a fork by pressing the tines through the butter and flour. If you have a food processor, that's another option, but again, be careful not to overmix it and break down your nice, cold butter.

Now, go get baked! Wait, that's not what I meant.

Mixed Bags: Grieving And Giving Thanks

This Thanksgiving was filled with so much for which I am thankful. I have an incredible family, love an amazing man, and live in a beautiful part of the world. We are healthy and our needs are few.

Yet, as with every milestone, this holiday was marked with that grey cloud of grief and what is missing. Bug excused himself to his room for bit before the pie was served because he was missing his dad. Peanut needed extra hugs and love tonight after we'd gone to bed. I had a long cry when we finally made it to bed.

I'm resolved to think that there will always be a sense that part of us isn't here. Part of our whole is missing. As much as most of my days feel normal, on these kinds of days, the hole feels marked. There is somebody missing at the table. I hate that gaping hole. I don't feel very thankful for that hole.

I do feel thankful for the children left behind who remind me how wonderful our time together was. It is an honor to be their mother and watch them become young adults.

I do feel thankful for the man who loves me now, that he cares deeply about supporting me and my children through our grief. He is a blessing I cannot even begin to explain, and I tell him every chance I get how glad I am that I found him. (I had to weed through a LOT of kayakers and campers to find him, people!)

This life of walking with one foot on each path continues. I just wish Mr. Louboutin would make the appropriate pair of shoes for the journey. One grief stiletto. One new-love stiletto. Or maybe boots. Something over-the-knee would be nice, with a zipper up the back like he used to do. Mmmm...dreams.

Day 22: Operation Eleanor - Pie Time

It would be so much easier to buy a pie. It would be so much easier to buy a pre-made crust. It would be so much easier to use canned pumpkin.

Fear would be NOT making a pie, probably. See, my fond memories with my maternal grandmother were learning to make pies. However, I stepped up the pie making a notch in college when I decided to start cooking my pumpkins from scratch.

pumpkin

 

I have it down to a bit a science now, and today was step 1. It would also be easier to do all of this by myself, but what's the fun in that? My grandmother didn't do this alone. She taught me. She made sure I knew my ingredients needed to be cold. She is the reason I use ice water in my pie crust.

cold butter

So, I made my pie crusts last night with my daughter by my side. I taught her how to cut the butter into the flour using a pastry cutter, making sure she kept the butter cold so the crusts will be flaky.

IMG 3838

 

We talked about why we add vinegar to the egg mixture before adding it to the flour. (In case you're wondering, the vinegar, is used in your pie crust recipe because the acid, along with the shortening, keeps the gluten strands from getting too long—making a more tender, flaky product.)

Today, we'll make the pies.

Holidays are hard when you're grieving, but forcing ourselves to do some of the things that we remember fondly can help us work through that pain. Trying to get back on that horse a little bit this year. At least step into the saddle. I have a houseful of little people anxious to help with the pie making, so I'm on the hook to get to it. Sometimes I think the next generation was created to make sure we don't stop living when we suffer a loss. They are so very, very good at making sure we stay in motion.

 

Hauntings

When Bob and I got married Halloween weekend, I never thought that our anniversary would come to mean something other than a happy occasion for me. As I widow, I've learned that dates can haunt you. They sneak up on you when you're not expecting them.

You'll be cruising along, happy days, and then WHAM, brick wall to the face. Much like getting your period when you're not expecting it, you check the calendar, but it's not Aunt Flo. Nope. It's a symbolic date of some kind...an anniversary, a milestone, birthday approaching, or some magic moment of sadness come to haunt you when you least expect it.

How does your body know?

HOW?

I want answers. Also, naps. It's exhausting. I used to love Halloween. It was one of my favorite holidays. I can't even find my favorite decorations anymore.

How We Labored

We picked pears from our tree in the back yard. Pretty sure I heard it say thank you. It took two of us to carry the basket.

Peanut made chocolate chocolate-chip ice cream with the wee ones, mastering the double-boiler on her first attempt.

A castle was decorated in grand style using recycled packing materials, found objects, and some card making supplies.

The kids' handiwork was hung on the living room wall. Can't believe how big their hands are now. Seems like just last year they were piecing the quilt together.


Change In Plans: Learning To Be Flexible And The First Christmas

This holiday season has been all about flexibility.

First, we had to forgo the visit to Bob's parents because I was still sick and Bob's dad's immune system is compromised right now. We have plans to visit them upon our return from Denver. 

Then, we had to rework our plans for Denver. The friend we're going to visit and stay with is sick, Bug doesn't want to go (being an Aspie dude means traveling and a change of environment isn't always his thing, and I appreciate that), so we've made another change in plans. Instead, Bug will hang with his grandparents whom he's been missing and have been missing him, and Peanut and I will head out to Denver for a long weekend instead of an 8-day family vacation. 

It's been about other changes, too. We made it through our first Christmas without Bob by doing things a little and a lot differently. We skipped things that didn't feel right; we didn't have a traditional Christmas dinner, choosing to eat a favorite meal of In-n-Out burger, instead. We had a cocktail and soda at a local Chinese restaurant. We drove around looking at lights, listening to rap music, taking pictures, and posting them on the Internet with funny captions. We ate cookies in bed. We visited Bob's sister who's home from the hospital, thank GOD! We bought new stockings instead of climbing into the attic to face our vast collection of Christmas decorations from years past. We missed him. We talked about him. We celebrated the simple moments. I think he would be proud of his kids, of me, of his family, of how we're learning to live and love. It's what he wanted for us.

We did what felt right. It wasn't always easy or peaceful. There were difficult, sad, bumpy moments, but we made it. We sprinkled lots of laughter over the top. It's the only way we know how to do it.

 

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Happy Halloween: We Do It Our Way

We’ve always been a little unique in our costume choices. My favorite year was the one where my son dressed as a box. Yes, a box. He designed a candy chute in the front out of a wrapping paper tube. Other than that, he was a box with legs. People would stick the candy in the chute, it would get wedged in there, his sister would use her fairy wand to shove it the rest of the way into the tube where it would fall into the bag attached at the other end.

As we walked along the streets of Downtown Halloween that year, a mother and son walked behind us, her son dressed in some complicated costume she’d obviously been charged with making. “You see that,” she asked her son, “that’s what you’re going as next year!”

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Peanut the pirate, keeping it traditional, as she usually does. Someone in this family has to.

Bug was a little late in deciding on a theme for this year. He tried for mercenary, but ended up wearing his “BP Cares” t-shirt, donning a sword and shield, and offering to stay home to hand out candy to the two trick-or-treaters we got for the early part of the evening. Then, he managed to score some candy with Peanut and another friend in a later-in-the-evening haul through the ‘hood. Unfortunately, there is no photo of the BP Cares Mercenary get-up as we never really decided if it was an actual costume or just a stellar rouse that scored him some candy.

I handled the usually unusual costume front as Mia Wallace from Pulp Fiction. It’s not easy being Mia, mostly because of the amount of glue required to get the syringe to stick to one’s chest. The bloody nose was the easy part.

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