Sunday, December 29, 2013

Weekending, Christmas!

As expected, Christmas was quiet but lovely this year. I am usually in charge of something - desserts, appetizers, cocktails, playlists - but I was a complete Christmas Eve guest, responsibility-free, which was sort of nice. The relaxation spilled over to my blog and as much as I missed being here, it was a good little break.

Flavio and I try to be minimalists about Christmas. There are no oceans of wrapping paper, no endless rounds of opening, no piles of presents. Just some small stocking stuffers and a couple of meaningful things each - a nice scarf here, a good book there - and then we always choose something we can do together - an experience. So this Christmas we planned and booked a trip to Playa del Carmen for April.  Yay! Our formula for Christmas fun: food, music, movies, and simplicity. For us, it's the way to go.
{Christmas morning light}
Christmas Eve we had posole dinner with Flavio's mom.  We watched hours of A Christmas Story, ate a ton, and the three of us toasted at midnight. There were the usual family quirks, but it was a cozy night and we were happy to be there. I was missing my family but then something huge occurred to me... Flavio and Guiri are my family! This realization gave me a bunch of warm fuzzies and I went forward enjoying the holiday, feeling happy for my parents that they were in Hawaii, adding my own Clinton energy to my newish little clan.
{giant pot o' posole}
{Christmas Eve}
{posole, lime}
Christmas day we woke up late, opened presents, made a big breakfast, and went to our annual Christmas day movie to see The Wolf of Wall Street - which reminded me of Goodfellas, but funnier. I loved it and thought Leo did an amazing job keeping us entertained for three hours. We finished off the day with a sunset trip to the dog park, Guiri looking festive in her Christmas scarf.
{Guiri's present}
{new toy}
{She loves sleeping, playing and hiding behind the tree..?? Haha!}
{dog park, Christmas day}
Each Christmas, we try to get a new ornament and it's one of my favorite traditions. Here's 2013's bauble - a porcelain santa bell. Isn't he sweet?

The week between Christmas and New Year's always feels like limbo, waiting for more holiday fun. Friends were out of town and Flavio had to work, so I entertained myself with a lot of at-home movies, cooking, long walks with Guiri, and some obsessive de-cluttering and organizing. Sometimes, nesting alone in our sunny house feels blissfully meditative.
Highlights of the weekend included a mystery date to The Haven for pizza, sightseeing downtown to visit the new Central Library (gorgeous!), library book reading, lunch with friends from out of town, dinner with Jan and Gary (our San Diego parents), and hours of our new TV obsession, Homeland. It's totally addictive and is partially filling the Breaking Bad-sized hole in my heart.
{top floor, Central Library}
{Coronado bridge, Central Library}
{The greatest gift is a passion for reading. Central Library}
{book, blanket}
{just in case there weren't enough Guiri pics in this post}
{Sunday night, Homeland, wine}
I get to see my best friend of 22 years tomorrow. Anchorman II, tooling around, and a lot of laughter all on the itinerary.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Happy Feliz Joyeux

{my table art - Christmas Eve brunch}
Christmas feels quiet this year. My parents are in Hawaii, my brothers are working, and we'll be spending the holiday with Flavio's mom. It will be lovely but much calmer than Christmases with my raucous clan. Though I'll be missing the Clinton energy, I am feeling very blessed. I am not religious, but blessed is the only word that covers it. Christmas is a celebration of another year, a chance to be with the people we love, and a day to reflect on the love we have for those who are not with us. The older I get, I am ever more convinced that love is all that matters.

To anyone out there reading: Merry Christmas! Thank you for stopping by my little blog - it means more to me than you know. Now go pour yourself some eggnog, or something. :)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Deck Your Halls

Sociologists look for meaning in the mundane. Our study of the quotidian brings into focus the unremarkable, and gives it explanation and perspective. So last night we drove to Christmas Circle and were delighted by the lights, the baubles, and the spectacle. On the ride home, I got to to thinking about the sociology of decking our proverbial halls, but more specifically, the outside of our houses, and why we do it. Our street, for example, is a microcosm of every creed, habit, socioeconomic level, and attitude you could imagine. We've got cholos on our right, Ethiopian immigrants to the left and WASPy, BMW-driving lawyers in front. Regardless of these differences, each house is lit up with some manner of holiday decoration - from the simple wreath on the door, to the spectacle of lights rivaling the one in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Why? Because wintry displays are a symbol to your neighbors that you value merry-making. If there was ever a time to show off your classiest or gaudiest display of lights, it's the darkest time of the year. Your glittering lawn ornaments say something to your neighbors that you might not be able to say in person, like:

"It's dark. It's cold. But we'll get through this together: you, me, and the 20-foot inflatable snowman on my roof."

Neighborhood holiday decorations remind us that even though the days are short and the nights freezing, there's a glimmer of hope, a symbol of solidarity, and a silent wish that you, too, enjoy the season.

Sunday, December 22, 2013


The weekend: merry and bright.

I've been starting every morning (and afternoon) with a cup of my favorite holiday tea.

And tea must be followed up with a leftover cookie...or three.

Friday, Flav became a US citizen! I wasn't able to attend his swearing-in ceremony because I was giving my last final, but such a momentous occasion couldn't go by without proper celebration.

So we went out for pickle marys and Saturday morning brunch at my new favorite spot, Great Maple.
{I love a giant pickle!}
Guiri was showered in gifts this weekend by her uncles, and she always buries her most prized possessions. We caught her hiding her bone under the Christmas tree. Silly goose.
{the ornament on her head makes her look like a behatted Christmas elf}
We went to a couple of great holiday parties, including a white elephant (we won movie tickets - woot!), and a Christmas Soups party on Saturday, where the hosts made 12 different kinds of delicious soup - how fun is that?!
{white elephant}
Saturday night our friends treated us to Holiday Pops at the San Diego Symphony. It was a magical night filled with sounds of the season, including an all-audience carol sing-along (I brought the house down with my vocal contributions) and a snow finale!!! New Year's resolution: attend more cultural happenings. My favorite song of the night was "Somewhere in My Memory" - the song from Home Alone. Sung by the San Diego childrens' choir, it gave me chills. I love the lyrics: "Precious moments, special people, happy faces, Christmas joys all around me...feeling that gingerbread feeling." It pretty much sums up this weekend.
We're off to the dog park and then for a hot chocolated drive around Christmas Circle to see the lights. Gingerbread feeling, indeed.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Angel Thumbprints

Angel thumbprints remind me of childhood. They are my family's signature Christmas cookie and I have sweet memories of punching my little thumb into the dough and helping fill the presses with multicolored jams and chocolate bits. Yesterday, as I listened to the rain fall, I baked a big batch to give as gifts and as I rolled, thumbprinted, and filled, I couldn't help but get a little reflective about 2013. I found myself appreciative of a good year  - a year that in 2012, I was sure would bring the accompanying bad luck of the ominous number thirteen. For now, 2014 looks like it might be a year of change. Flavio started a new position and became a US citizen today (go Flav!), we have a new (to us) car, we've met some great friends recently, and I have a new hard drive ;). In the meantime, I'm looking forward to a weekend filled with the last round of holiday parties, a bluegrass concert at the Symphony, gift wrapping, avoiding the mall at all costs (!), and the general celebration of the fact that I am now.......officially. on. winter. VACATION!!!!!!

Have an amazing weekend! xo

Thursday, December 19, 2013

My favorite winter lunch... soup of course. Soup is like a hug in a bowl, so I put on a quick pot of butternut squash, topped it with a little bacon, wrapped myself in a soft blanket, and Guiri and I cuddled up to watch the drizzle outside.

Today is my favorite kind of day - rain, a twinkling Christmas tree, John Denver & the Muppets' Christmas album on iTunes, plans to bake cookies later, and absolutely nowhere to be. I have grading to do and a house to clean, but I can feel the semester wrapping up (last final tomorrow - whattup!), and am feeling beyond peaceful and happy. It's a magical time of year.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Last night's Advent calendar activity was to PUT A TWINKLE IN SOMEONE'S EYE, and I'm excited we donated to Kiva. Each year we try to pick a new organization to support and I've heard about Kiva for so long I'm glad we went with them. In a nutshell, you make a $25 microloan to someone who needs it - like a young Bolivian woman for her school tuition, or a Ugandan farmer in need of more dairy cows. Then, when the borrower repays the loan, you lend the money out to someone else, so it's the gift that keeps on giving. The coolest part: They have a 99% repay rate and $2.5 million has been lent out just this week. Awesome.

All the borrowers are worthy, so it took us about an hour to choose. In the end, we decided to support a young Kenyan woman who sells tea leaves and wants to use her anticipated profits to build a school. Wouldn't it be a nice gift to donate in someone's name? Especially for that friend who already has everything. 'Tis better to give than to receive.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Weekending, quickly

I am awash in work this week but wanted to pop by and make some quick notes about my weekend before the details get drowned out by Soc. Theory paper-grading (eek!).

Friday night we watched We're the Millers at home - funny! We were supposed to go to a holiday party but at the last minute decided we couldn't rally the energy, ordered Burger Lounge to-go, slapped on our jammies and lounged on the couch. We've been going non-stop and needed a night in to be together and laugh.  I always feel so guilty when we skip parties but this was the right choice.

Saturday morning I baked, went for brunch and Christmas shopping with my ladies (can you believe Christmas is in a week?!), and then Flavio and I went out to dinner for his birthday. Flavio is birthday shy - he doesn't like the attention - and almost never wants to do anything because December is such a hectic time of year, anyway. But if anyone deserves a celebration it's Flavio, so I surprised him with a mellow evening: dinner at The Smoking Goat (excellent food, shaky service), followed by a night cap, presents, and his favorite chocolate cupcakes. I think it was just right.

Sunday we dog parked and Flav watched football while I finished Afterwards (if you like mystery/thrillers with awesome plot twists, you will love this book!). Later we had friends over for what I hope will become an annual event: Reindeer Games Night. Holiday punch bowl, Christmas tunes, appetizers, pizza, and treats, accompanied by the hilariously horrible Cards Against Humanity. I won! Super fun evening with wonderful/disturbed friends.

I took zero photos this weekend, so I am stealing this one from my friend Michael:
{Reindeer Games Night 2013}

Glad I took a little break to write this rambly post. Soc. theory is dark and heavy. My blog is where I keep it light. More soon. xo

Saturday, December 14, 2013

CORRECTION TO THE RECORD: Happy 35th birthday, Flavio!

UPDATE Dec. 16, 2013: 
Can I make a terribly embarrassing admission? Turns out, Flavio is 36! Half a bottle of champagne in on Saturday night, we got a call from Flavio's brother, wishing him a happy 36th birthday. Flavio, who also thought he was turning 35, tried correcting him until we all did the math (2013 - 1977 = 36!), only to realize we somehow lost a year...? How insane is this?! All this month Flavio's been saying he's "halfway to 70" and I  totally agreed. A testament to how crazy-busy and distracted we've both been. Flav, you don't look a day over 25 anyway.

Clearly, he's always been adorable. :)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Holiday Cards

This evening involved the annual viewing of The Holiday, paired with pizza and red wine. I used it as a chance to keep working on addressing our holiday cards (and of course I had fun stamping away with my new toy). I love the tradition of mailing and receiving cards. 'Tis the season.

My mom used to include a long, typed "family update" letter with our holiday greetings, but I just send the card. According to this snarky journalist and his article, the mass-mailed holiday photo card, the kind without a personalized note to the addressee, the kind I send, is smug and self-serving. I agree with some of his points about our current state of 'warped intimacy', but isn't the Happy Holidays! on the card the message? What kind of originality or personalization might one include on a card that's simply meant to wish someone a joyous holiday season..?  I doubt this scroogely writer gets many cards, anyway. He also says the purpose of greeting cards has "always been ambiguous," but I disagree. As everything has gone digital, I think a stamped, sealed, and delivered paper treat in my mailbox- with or without a personalized note - beats a facebook post or email message any day. Mailed greetings are an old-fashioned, friendly, unambiguous "hello!" and each one I get makes me smile. Long live the holiday card!

PS: Fun fact -  The first Christmas card was sent in London in 1843. (It's on the internet so it must be true, right?:)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

On Hard Drives and Kindness

Sorry for the radio silence around here. Besides a terribly busy week, my laptop's hard drive crashed! I'd been getting the rainbow wheel lately, and ignored it, and then yesterday I got the dreaded blue screen of death! When I took it to the Apple Store, they ran diagnostic tests and about 5 employees asked me if I'd backed up my files. Backed up? Nope. No backing up over here. My external hard drive died a few years ago and I never bothered replacing it. The whole scene reminded me of this Sex and the City episode:

When they told me none of my data was recoverable, I started crying in the middle of the mall's packed Apple Store. Yep. Private tears in public spaces. Mortifying. I know it's not the end of the world, but I've been so tired that my coping skills are way down, and the result was a breakdown when I realized that all my precious photos and years of files are gone forever. Poof.

Thankfully, the woman helping me was a saint. She squeezed my hand, telling me this happened to her once, and to take it as a lesson learned, it sucks, but it's okay. She helped me see the positives: a brand new hard drive for a brand new year, getting the newest operating system, I'm still under their extended warranty (thank god!), and no more worries after today. She took AppleCare to a whole new level. It was a tender moment and a small gesture, but her kindness means so much. Surrounded by stone-faced holiday shoppers, bustle, and sleek machinery, she was a quiet example of good will and the true spirit of the season.

Friends, back up your hard drives and be soft with others.

Sunday, December 8, 2013


There was not much relaxing or leisure reading this weekend as hoped for, but there was a lot of grading papers, some brownie baking for a holiday gathering, a rainy Saturday, a pot of Julia's French Onion Soup, fun with friends, and a bit of wassailing.

I didn't get photos of the holiday cheer but here are few of the quieter bits. Note to self: Need to carve out more quiet time. Not rested or ready for the work week ahead (I know I say that every Sunday night). And I am pretty sure this weekend had less than 48 hours in it. But, two more weeks until break, friends. Two. more. weeks.
{Saturday rain}
{the life of a teacher}

{Can you tell which one is hungover?}
{holiday tea, a brownie, morning light}
{French onion soup.)
And last week, Flavio got a new (used) car! Low mileage, low price, well maintained, and driven by a little old lady to work and back. My favorite part: heated seats! My butt has never felt toastier. This was a great deal and we're stoked. Check out his g-ride:

Friday, December 6, 2013


{Buddy the Elf, what's your favorite color?}

The week after Thanksgiving always feels subtly sad for me. The leftovers are eaten, the family has gone, and work is at its most demanding point in the semester. I am pretty much running out of steam at this point. Thankfully, my non-work life has been filled with mellow fun to keep me in holiday spirit, including an evening in with my two faves last night, next to a crackling fire, watching Elf.  We're hitting the first round of the holiday party circuit this weekend and I'm excited to get dressed up. I'm also hoping to squeeze in some reading (currently loving this page-turner), spend time in the kitchen with the inaugural batch of holiday baking, and do a bit of general lounging. I hope you have a fun weekend. xo

PS: 18 things you probably didn't know about the movie Elf

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Is it just me, or is this the longest week ever? Ugh, Wednesday. Humph. Sometimes what you need after a long and draining day is some good ramen to soothe the soul. Thank heavens our advent calendar activity for this evening was to ENJOY SOMETHING WARM and we absolutely did in the form of a steamy, creamy, dreamy bowl of Underbelly goodness. San Diego friends, if you haven't been, you must go. Their kinky noodles are perfectly al dente, the soft boiled egg is cooked just right, the pork belly melts in your mouth, and the broth is a fatty nectar of the gods. And any place that has champagne on tap deserves an award, IMO. The soup warmed us from head to toe, and the evening out lifted our spirits. Tomorrow is Thursday, thankgod. Thursday, Thursday, Thursday.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Angel Chimes

A few years ago, one of my students gave me a box of angel chimes. She is from Sweden and we'd been talking about holiday traditions when she mentioned how lighting the four little candles and hearing the soft "ding ding ding" of the bells means Christmas to her. I'd never heard of angel chimes before and was intrigued when she gave me a set. They've since become a special part of our advent calendar activities.

Tonight, we opened a nice bottle of wine, turned off the lights, and sat on the floor by the Christmas tree to light the chimes and listen to their sweet tinging sound. The heat from the candles makes the angels spin and though these chimes couldn't be any simpler, each year Flavio and I find ourselves mesmerized by the little cherubs, silently listening to the bells like children, delighted as angel reflections dance on the walls.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Activities Advent Calendar

{one of last year's advent activities, mulled wine by the tree}
I look forward to the holiday season all year long. I start playing Christmas music on Thanksgiving, put my decorations up early, sip my favorite holiday tea while addressing my Christmas cards, and I feel so festive and peaceful as I enjoy each of these small traditions. For me, the holidays are all about experiences. But somehow, the calendar fills up, things get hectic, and I used to find myself scrambling or forgetting to enjoy the simple joys of the season. So, for our first married Christmas 2 years ago, I decided I wanted to be intentional about celebrating the holidays and I talked to Flavio about creating an activities advent calendar. Did you grow up with an advent calendar? It's one of my favorite traditions. We wrote down 25 things we wanted to do to celebrate the season, like have a romantic candlelit picnic by the tree, watch National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, pack hot chocolate and drive around to see the lights, etc. and we stuck each activity into the 25 stockings in our advent calendar, along with 2 little pieces of chocolate for each day. We planned our activities so that during the week the experiences were small and no-pressure, and we left bigger outings, like ice skating, to the weekends. Yesterday, December 1, we picked out our Christmas tree and decked the halls while listening to Christmas music. Tonight's experience was to rock out and dance crazy to "Feliz Navidad" - which Guiri thought was scary. I'm excited to document this year's advent activities on the blog - My goal is to post most days, but work is crazy and we'll see how it goes.. I am feeling so merry already!

PS: In case you are looking for a cute calendar, this is our Hats and Mittens Advent Calendar, which I love, for sale here.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thanksgiving Weekend 2013

The long Thanksgiving weekend was just wonderful.

Flavio did such an amazing job preparing everything that on Turkey Day itself we found ourselves oddly relaxed. We watched movies, took long showers, and waited for guests to arrive with cranberry margaritas in hand. It was lovely. Of course there was the annual chaos of trying to keep 10 different dishes warm at once with our teeny tiny oven, but then I finally declared that this year some sides would be lukewarm and everyone should just have another drink - and ah ha! That is the trick.
{table setting, in progress}
{Gorgeous George, as in Clooney}
{my list}
{table games}
We cobbled together seating in close quarters and enjoyed delicious food, delightful company, a highly competitive pre-dessert Thanksgiving trivia competition, and writing/sharing gratitude on our placemats (I stole the idea from here). We made the rule that you couldn't write/share anything obvious, like health, friends, etc., so everyone's "I am thankful for..." lists were funny and inspired. After dinner we crammed into the living room to eat pie and the birthday cake my mom brought for me, the ladies chatting, the guys watching football. Nothing makes me happier than the laughter and the bustle that comes with a full home. I am now thinking Thanksgiving is my new favorite holiday. (Some years it's Christmas, some years it's Halloween) but Thanksgiving feels like Christmas without all the consumerism, but with all the gluttony and family time! Love.

The Post-Thanksgiving weekend involved lazy mornings, lots of leftovers, precious time with my parents, picking out and trimming our tree, and a trip to the movies to see 12 Years a Slave, which is still haunting me.

On 12 Years a Slave: I nearly had a panic attack in the beginning of the film - it is so horrifying and brutal that I kept squeezing Flavio's hand, sinking lower in my chair, thinking I might leave. But then the film sucks you in, captivates and devastates you, involving you in the psychology of subjugation in a way that makes your feel chained to your chair, truly afraid of what's going to happen next. I've never really experienced this kind of emotional manipulation in a film before. The story chronicles the stages of Solomon's mental state as he moves through periods of confusion, horror, helplessness, Stockholm syndrome, anger, and the continual struggle to maintain his identity and soul - and he takes you right along with him. It's a brilliant, heartbreaking, and important film and I can't stop thinking about it. Somehow, despite its grimness, it felt perfect for Thanksgiving weekend - reminding us that slavery is as important to remember as the pilgrims, and that we are privileged to have the freedom to give thanks. It should be required viewing.

{Saturday night's stunning sunset}
{morning, mimosa, magazine - heaven.}
{day at the park}
I'm feeling a little Sunday sad tonight. The house is quiet, I am anxious about the long work week ahead, and I am missing my parents. On the bright side, our Christmas tree lights are twinkling at me, reminding me I only have 3 weeks left of the semester, and that cookie-baking, holiday gatherings, and the most wonderful time of the year is just around the corner.