Saturday, December 31, 2016

And that's 365

I did it.

I set out, on January 1, 2016, to take a photograph every day. I did take photos every day. Even though I often had to resort to posting them in batches, I did what I set out to do. I'm kind of amazed. In many ways, Natalie was the angel on my shoulder; she joined in on the project and seeing her stay steady helped me to not give up. Thank you, Natalie.

I'm struck by how our collective take on 2016 was that it was awful. The year that sucked, it seems. I see that -- I see all our horrible losses, I see a world gone wrong politically, I see the ravages of global climate change and the collapse of empathy. But I also saw joy, and reasons to hope, and reasons to believe. My beloved Cubs won the World Series, for goodness sake!

We are here. We have survived. We may have difficult work ahead of us, and particularly large obstacles to climb over and eradicate. But we will move forward. We will make progress. We will find the good things, the joys; we will hold hope and we will create hope for others. The problems, the evils that have come into sharp focus this year are not new, they are simply newly exposed.

So let's face them head on. Let us remember that every day, every action, every choice, is an important part of a collective whole -- and the energy and intent of those small parts will define the whole. Let's believe in what we know to be true: there is good in the world.

And, finally, let's share. Put yourself out there, share your ideas, add your voice. I'll be here.

A photo a day over at Chicken Blog, too.

Friday, December 30, 2016

It's also an annual thing

In the days *just before* and then immediately after Christmas, I always get my most crafty urges and energies. This is when I always declare that I will keep Christmas (crafting) in my heart throughout the year, and be ready by next Christmas to go nearly all handmade.

It's ok.  It's ok that I go through this every year, and it's ok that it hasn't panned out that way before. That doesn't have to mean that I feel defeated already; this could, in fact, be the year.

I love bears. I love Christmas. I love making. This first endeavor is based on an old Martha Stewart pattern set (as you may well already know, Martha and her minions have really fallen down, as years have passed, in terms of writing worthwhile instructions -- instead of using the limitlessness of the web to our collective advantage, now it's usually minimal patterns, instructions that don't match up to the project or that skim over the stuff you actually need to know); btw, search "woodland" on her site for a slew of interesting ideas.

And so off I go. Making and enjoying and looking out at the cold and not worrying about how far I get.

A photo a day over at Chicken Blog, too.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Monday, December 26, 2016

Boxing Day to some...

...and always Game Day to us. Have you played a newer board game recently? They've gotten super, super complicated -- the impact of card games like Magic, and online gaming, and role-playing games. In a way it's kind of wonderful to see something become so very complex (a sign, perhaps, that the apocalypse, at least measured by patience and education and long-range planning/commitment?), although in the heat of the moment I sometimes have to really remind myself of this (I can get a little frustrated when it seems like it's going to take weeks and weeks, maybe more, to really understand the game and it's strategy -- although that's partly because it's kind of open-ended and incumbent upon the players...). Well, in any case, remarkably, I won this round.

A photo a day over at Chicken Blog, too.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

In case you were wondering

Do you ever play this game? Just try typing the very beginning of a question into Google; it's usually fairly hilarious, informative, puzzling, and revealing of the zeitgeist....

A photo a day over at Chicken Blog, too.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Now it's real

Ken's now officially home from work, and home for the holidays. Dean had a Magic deck ready and waiting so that they could play. I stir up some dinner with these two in view, with holiday music playing, and I feel Christmas. Maybe I'm a little especially obsessed, or observant, of these moments now that I miss them so much; absence makes the ordinary feel extraordinary.

A photo a day over at Chicken Blog, too.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Saving your place

Dean was grateful I remembered to save out his most favorite ornaments for him to hang. He watched the two Prep and Landing shows with us tonight(these became instant traditions -- very well done!), and then was in the mood to do his bit of decorating. They are never too old. You just have to make it smooth and easy and let it unfold on their terms, I believe. I believe.

A photo a day over at Chicken Blog, too.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Gingerbread Day

 I believe I made my first gingerbread house when Dean was 2. For the record, that's crazy; I think I was in that parenting phase of trying desperately hard to make up for working in a high-level corporate job full-time by trying to ultra do things with Dean, for Dean. I remember that he was sweet and super-patient and mostly watched and provided moral support which I dearly needed -- that house almost undid me and I do remember resorting to using straight pins to hold the panels together. He surprised me by asking me to make one again the following Christmas and our tradition was born.

 (In the photo above, Dean demonstrates a great trick; it is MUCH easier to at least partially decorate the panels (and then let them dry) BEFORE you construct the house. Of course this depends on the kind of decorating you want to do -- attaching big candies and stuff would be easier once it's up, but small, piped details are easier to do beforehand. He's also kind of demonstrating why it's much harder to construct on a small or raised plate; you cannot lie the pieces out flat, upside-down, in the way that it's best to start constructing [I tried to find a good online guide but had a hard time -- this one is not ideal, but at 1:59 she has the pieces laid out and begins putting them together in the same way I'm talking about.)

So you slowly put up each wall, as Dean is doing here, and use cans or other heavy, small objects to help support walls as you go. This shape that he's doing, with walls that flare out, is MUCH harder to do than houses with straight sides -- another important tip!

 So the mistake I made this year was that I randomly tried some new house shapes without really checking them first to make sure the patterns were correct. On this house that I'm in the midst of building, above, the roof panels were too short -- they wouldn't fit across the width of the house so that they would rest on those triangular roofline pieces. After puzzling for a few minutes, I decided to cut bamboo skewers to act as supports -- you can just see inside to the roof piece that's on, that I liberally applied royal icing to the bamboo and then used lots of icing to fill in the gap between the triangular roofline piece and the roof itself.  You can also just see, on the right, the odd kind of tower I had to build, using a drinking cup, a coaster, a towel, and a soup can in order to support the roof piece while it dried. If I had built this house on a regular board, as I usually do, it wouldn't have been so hard -- but this cake plate has raised edges and very little space left around the house to place supports. Poor planning on my part.

Dean chose to go with a very rustic, gnome-made in the woods look for his house; he likes to make things that look more real and less precious. I can feel the bitterly cold winds blowing around his little snow-speckled cabin....

This is my House 1, with the roof panels that had to be supported inside with bamboo. I made the wreath while it was down flat, and then attached it to the house once it dried.

 And this is my House 2. Another risky design -- roofs this large and this sloping are very difficult to attach. Plus I definitely pushed the dough too far and rolled too thinly in order to get 3 houses out of one batch; this was the first time I had several pieces crack and had to work around that issue. On this house, one of the roof panels cracked completely in half. I decided to use icing to just fuse it back together, and then *hid* it by using a roof design of kind of squiggly, uneven lines. I also pushed the envelope on the icing in that two batches would have been better -- we were a little tight coming down to the end or else I could have piped more details on the roof, for example, that would have even better hidden the cracks. But, I kind of love the more simple look, and the honesty.

 And here are our three little houses. Dean does not like to put lights in his. I used battery-operated, tiny LED lights and just tucked the battery backs at the back wall of the houses. Ta-da!

A photo a day over at Chicken Blog, too.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

That's better

It's only all right when we're all together. He's grown, and he's happy to be home.

A photo a day over at Chicken Blog, too.

Sunday, December 18, 2016


Dean takes his last final exam tomorrow morning, and then in the afternoon he comes home with Ken for his winter break. A month! Can't wait to have him back here. Getting ready for our annual gingerbread house construction day, listening to Christmas music (honestly, every day since Thanksgiving), and looking out the window at the snow. Grateful for all the things that make this time of year so precious to me, and reminding myself that it's the briefness of the season -- the fleetingness -- that's inherent in what makes it so profound. We don't live this way year-round; we cannot. We can aspire to it, surely, but it only truly exists in this little December bubble.

A photo a day over at Chicken Blog, too.

Saturday, December 17, 2016


It take some imagining to remember the driveway covered in leaves, just a few weeks ago.

A photo a day over at Chicken Blog, too.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Sick day

Supposed to be at work for the staff holiday party and assorted festivities, but instead home with a strange, nasty cold that doesn't want to let go. The thing about sick days is I'd rather not be sick -- a free day at home sounds lovely, but being sick and out of thanks. I'd rather be well and at work and having the holiday fun....

A photo a day over at Chicken Blog, too.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Late start

Much too late, really, but making a run at some holiday making just the same. And fighting a cold.

A photo a day over at Chicken Blog, too.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Still relishing

I know. I get entrenched, sometimes. But this, this gift of this giant, floating moon AND the moment at the stoplight, early early in the morning -- made it worth being up, being alive. These are the moments I set out to capture and remember this year. This is why I'm doing it.

A photo a day over at Chicken Blog, too.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

And it reminds me

Dance around the memory tree....

A photo a day over at Chicken Blog, too.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Still super

Thankful for having remembered to look for this full moon, and for capturing this glimpse of it.

A photo a day over at Chicken Blog, too.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Such loss

Greg Lake passed away this week, after Keith Emerson's having died this spring. Just leaves Carl Palmer. They were huge. Do you remember just how big they were? I loved their music, I loved Greg Lake's voice; they hold an immortal place in my memory, in my heart, of my teen-aged years. I despise this business of getting older, of seeing heroes pass, and this year it seems as though it has been especially brutal. So much talent, so many big ideas suddenly stopped.

He wrote "Lucky Man' when he was 12 years old. Imagine that.

A photo a day over at Chicken Blog, too.

Friday, December 9, 2016


They are waiting, hoping, each day for word from colleges. I love working with students, and I love these quiet moments in my office when they are just hanging out, catching up, dreaming.

A photo a day over at Chicken Blog, too.

Thursday, December 8, 2016


I adore the suddenly soft, delicate winter colors at sunrise and am grateful to be up and out to enjoy them. The quality of light, the celebration of light -- it's just naturally ingrained in me to see it and be delighted. To me, this is in fact what the season is all about.

A photo a day over at Chicken Blog, too.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016


I've edited myself down this year, picking through the boxes (and boxes and boxes) to pull out just a few of the most favorites. Making it a little easier on myself both for now and the inevitable putting-away of it all, and enjoying seeing the details a bit more.

A photo a day over at Chicken Blog, too.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

It settles in

It's really not early for snow, and cold, but somehow it's taken me a bit by surprise. I had plans to put out some little lights on our trees out front for the holidays, but now feeling as though that window of opportunity has passed (I did make a note in my calendar for next year, a reminder to get out there in November, even if I don't turn them on until December). It's the indoor season, suddenly.

A photo a day over at Chicken Blog, too.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Snowy day

It was one of my super-early to work days, so the snow mostly fell after I was here (fortunately). Ken ended up in the middle of a pick-up truck pile-up on his way to work -- luckily no damage to him, but his car.... Ah well. We'll be just one-more-reason glad to put 2016 behind us.

A photo a day over at Chicken Blog, too.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Once it starts

I see it everywhere -- slicing up cabbage becomes a momentary sculpting of little Christmas trees.

A photo a day over at Chicken Blog, too.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Hmmm...not sure about this one

Not thinking I'd want any reindeer blended in to my coffee, but maybe it's just me. (And no, I'm not a Keurig owner -- the box just caught my eye!)

A photo a day over at Chicken Blog, too.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Little house

Using the shelves in the kitchen to display some of my beloved doll house furniture. I saw a wonderful live stream from The Thorne Rooms the other day, and I was inspired to open some of the tiny little boxes....

A photo a day over at Chicken Blog, too.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Nature's version

The sparkling droplets of water, lit from the morning sun, make me think of my version at home -- and wonder how to invent THIS kind of lit up tree for the house....

A photo a day over at Chicken Blog, too.