Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas, from us

I hope everyone out on ye olde interwebs had a lovely Christmas weekend. It looks like ours may be extended, as it is currently snowing. We'll have to wait and see...

We spent the weekend cooking, napping, cuddling with the cats, visiting with friends, and reading.

Happy Holidays!

Adina, Steph, and the kitties

Monday, December 20, 2010

Trip to The Filling Station & Misty Valley Farm Stand

A mere 20 minute drive from our house, there is a magical little corner of Maryland, located at the intersection of Falls & Shawan Roads. Here you will find The Filling Station, an old gas station turned into a pocket-sized coffee shop, and Misty Valley Farm Stand. In the spring and summer, Misty Valley sells all sorts of local produce. For Fall they have a variety of gourds, apples, and cider. The winter is especially magical though because they sell the absolute best Christmas trees. They have a huge selection of trees, wreaths, and garlands.

Jess and Mike asked me to shoot their Christmas card portrait, so we all braved the cold, including little dog Charlie, and set out to purchase some swags, wreaths, and garlands, take some pictures, and get some delicious hot coffee (I am partial to the Mexican Hot Chocolate with 2 shots of espresso added).

It was an especially cold and blustery day, but I was very pleased with the end result of the photos.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Surgery update (& some cat photos)

Steph had surgery yesterday to remove the cyst on her eyebrow. It turned out to be a bigger deal than we had hoped. For one thing, there were two cysts, one on top of the other, instead of just one. The plastic surgeon had to cut into the muscle to remove it and today her eye is pretty much swollen shut. She looks pathetic, like she was in some hideous bar brawl. In a week she'll return to get the stitches taken out, and the biopsy will come back in 7-10 days. Hopefully they got everything out of there and they won't need to go back in to take more gunk out.

She's pretty depressed because the surgeon told her she can't do any exercise until January 1st because there's a risk of developing a hematoma. She's not supposed to have her head go lower than her heart or do anything that will increase her heart rate. She had planned to run the Dreaded Druid 5 Miler on Saturday, so she's bummed about it. I know she had really been looking forward to that race.

She wanted to go to work today, but I said there was no way she was going in with vision in only one eye. We'll see about the rest of the week. I've already had to stop her from trying to put away laundry and from lugging a space heater out of the basement. She is a horrible sick person. I've heard that people who work in health care are the worst patients and I definitely think that's true. It's impossible for her to just sit still and let her body rest. She says she feels guilty about resting and doesn't want to be a burden to me, but I tell her that it's much more of a burden to have to follow her around and watch her like a hawk to make sure that she is actually resting and not being a little baddie. If she would just sleep all day and watch TV like she's supposed to, I could go about my business and not worry that she's undertaking some major project. She's silly. I love her.

I came upstairs today and found that Louis had made himself a little fort and was hiding under some pillows. He's petrified of the vacuum. Enough surgery talk. Time for some cute cat photos!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Miracle on 34th St. Lights

Baltimore is a strange, quirky city. Every year in the neighborhood of Hampden, all the houses on 34th St. in one particular block put on an enormous Christmas light display. It's called the Miracle on 34th Street. We headed over to Hampden one night recently to walk the block and check it out.

Lots of families were out to see the display and there was even a Santa Claus on a Harley. It's a fun Baltimore tradition to walk up and down the block to see how the houses have been decorated that year. I don't shoot a lot of pictures at night usually, so it was a nice change, and I had fun playing with my camera.

More photos are on my Flickr page.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Cheer

I grew up Jewish and it wasn't until I was in my late teens, when my mom remarried, that we had a Christmas tree. And even then, it wasn't MY Christmas tree. It was really for my Catholic step-sister. All the ornaments were hers and the tree was decorated to her liking. Still, it was a tree, so I was happy. I loved coming downstairs and being hit by the smell of pine and smoke (from the fireplace in the family room).

I've always had a longing to celebrate Christmas, even as a child. One year I went outside and decorated a Japanese Maple tree in our yard with foil. My mother was really angry and made me take it all down. I guess she thought Christmas was about being Christian and Jesus and stuff (or she didn't like that I was wasting foil-- who really knows). It can be a religious holiday, but I don't think it's that way for most people. For me, Christmas is about having some brightness and cheer during the cold, long, dark winter.

Of course, a lot of this Christmas thing probably stems from my obsession with having an absolutely idyllic home life. I'm willing to accept chaos and bullshit outside in the real world, but when I come home I want things to be beautiful, warm, and inviting. Christmas is all about having a warm, cozy, and inviting home, and I am all about the same. I'm happiest when the house is spotless, there's the smell of food cooking in the kitchen and I'm sitting in the living room, wrapped in a fleece blanket and reading the New Yorker or Bon Appetit. I have lots of theories as to why I'm like this, but this is a blog, not a therapy session.

I remember my first Christmas tree. We were living in the absolute crappiest apartment in Newark, Delaware. We were still in college. I guess I was 20 and Steph was 21. The apartment had a flea problem and the giant fire you could see burning in the oil furnace scared the crap out of me. We bought a Christmas tree that was way too big for the place and a ton of cheap, gaudy ornaments. On Christmas day we opened presents and wore santa hats. It was kind of perfect in that romantic, poor college student sort of way.

We haven't had a real tree since the cats came into our lives. I'm afraid they'll climb it and all hell will break loose. This year we're experimenting with artificial trees and it seems to be going well. We have a small white feather tree, a white artificial tree filled with owl ornaments, and a tinsel tabletop tree with vintage mercury ball ornaments. Also, we have indoor lights, outdoor lights, my collection of ceramic lighted trees, boxwood garlands outside, two outdoor wreaths and a door swag. We may have gone a little overboard this year with the decorating. One of the great joys of being an adult is the opportunity to celebrate whichever holidays you so choose.

Here are a few photos of our holiday decorations. I still need to take pictures of the outdoor stuff. More photos can be found on my Flickr photo page.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Good neighbors give you 100 year old canning jars

Can canning jars be sexy? I believe the answer is yes. First of all, have you seen the Weck canning jars? Just to receive an empty jar would be a gift in itself. I have a small one filled with Red Himalayan Salt and it is my pride and joy. They are so beautiful that they would be hard for me to give away. They are like the Salma Hayeks of the canning world, all curves and beauty.

Our neighbor, Betsy, has been cleaning out her basement for what seems like two years. As elderly people tend to do, she likes to talk about her imminent death and how she wants to clean up her house before she dies so as not to trouble her bereaved offspring in the future. She is always unearthing treasures and giving them to me because she is pretty much the best neighbor around. She gives me cool vintage stuff and juicy neighborhood gossip, so really I could not ask for more. She happened to mention that she had found some REALLY OLD Ball canning jars in her basement. I practically fell over with excitement when she offered them to me. So she gives me these jars and I do a little online research and it turns out that some of them date back to about 1910. They are 10 years older than our house!

I've decided that they are too valuable and cool to use for canning (I'm afraid they could break-- who knows how many times they've been used), so I'm going to use them to store pantry items and maybe for decorating around the house and the garden.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Winter Playlist

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(written Thursday November 2nd, posted Friday November 3rd)

I'm feeling anxious because I'm missing so much fun stuff tonight. Ann's screening at the Creative Alliance, the lighting of the Washington Monument in Mt. Vernon, the lights on 34th Street in Hampden, not to mention the errands I should be doing this evening. Instead I've elected to stay home with Steph, feed her, provide her with warm compresses for her cyst, and keep her nice and drugged. I don't feel guilty about staying home, it is definitely the right thing to do, but I'm having a hard time sitting still, so I hopped on my computer and made a iTunes playlist for winter.

Some of these are obvious winter songs, while others simply remind me of winter for one reason or another.

Today I read that, historically speaking, December 5th is the day of the year when the most amount of cities in the United States see a snowfall. Interesting little tidbit.

Coming soon: Our neighbor gave me some VERY old Ball canning jars. I photographed them today and will do a post about them tomorrow. Right now I'm doing some online research to determine whether or not I can still use them for canning purposes.

Welcome, Winter

There was a significant amount of frost on the car this morning at 8am, so I've decided that it's officially winter. I, for one, hope this winter holds in store much less snow than the last.

We've begun our holiday decorating. This year we're experimenting with having a small (artificial) tree. So far the cats have left it alone. Before we became crazy cat ladies, we always had a large real tree, but I think the temptation of that would prove too much for our little lovelies. Also, I hated watering it and vacuuming up the needles every day. If you want the scent of a real tree, buy some of these candles. They smell just like the real thing and burn for hours and hours on end.

I'm an equal opportunity holiday celebrator. I've always been fascinated by Christmas, even though I'm Jewish. As a child, I would put foil on our trees outside to "decorate" them for Christmas. It did not go over well with my mother. I love the celebration of winter and the warm homeyness of the holiday. Also, Hanukkah songs kind of suck and Christmas songs are awesome. O Holy Night makes me cry on pretty much a regular basis (especially the Josh Groban version).

There's been a little hiccup in our lives. Steph needs to have surgery later this month on what is hopefully a benign cyst above her eye. I am worried about it, much more so than she is, but there is nothing to do really but wait and see what happens. Because I'm morbid and obviously deranged, I've been looking up cyst removal videos on YouTube. I am both endlessly intrigued and disgusted by them.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Quiet days around the house

After a very busy Fall, I am looking forward to hibernating a bit during the winter. Last weekend we barely left the house and it was wonderful. We caught up on laundry, I read the New Yorker (if you get it, you should definitely read the article about fermentation, by the way), Steph worked on her knitting projects, we watched weird movies like Babes In Toyland, and we thoroughly cleaned the house.

We did leave to have Sunday brunch with Jess and Mike at Woodberry Kitchen, which was amazing. I took some photos with my Canon S90, but I haven't uploaded them yet.

I made an effort to take some pictures around the house though, as most of the photos on my blog lately have been from when we were out and about.

Currently listening to: Sufjan Stevens, "Songs for Christmas" (I'm getting an early start on Christmas music this year)

Looking forward to: a very festive Joslyn Thanksgiving! Steph is making spinach squares and I am making the turkey again this year.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pizza, and other thoughts on life

1. While vacuuming this afternoon, I discovered that one of the cats had peed in my sneaker. Said discovery has really dampened my mood for the day. There has been lots of strife and drama amongst the cats lately, for reasons unknown. I won't bore anyone with the details (though there are many. hint: most of them involve urine).

2. I haven't really been taking a lot of pictures with my cameras lately. It needs to stop. I've let myself get into an impending winter funk that involves a lot of sleeping, reading Harry Potter, and watching Dexter on OnDemand. I've determined that these activities are a reaction to the upcoming holidays, and all the small and large decisions that need to be made in the near future. Example of a small decision: what am I going to get ____ for Christmas? Example of a large decision: the need to update wills and insurance.

3. I've been cooking a lot. Example? Here's a picture I took with my iPhone of a pizza I made the other day. It was delicious and included caramelized fennel, roasted cauliflower, garlic scape pesto, and goat cheese. Other delicious delights I've made recently include eggplant parmesan and lots of mushroom cobblers. In fact, I'm making another mushroom cobbler tonight. Jess and Mike are going to come over for dinner.

4. I'm just going to come out and say this, although I'm sure I'll receive a lot of hate mail about it. I think Glee has jumped the shark. It hasn't been holding my attention this season and the song choices have often been lackluster. I'm also seriously offended by their portrayal of both Kurt and Mercedes. Does Kurt have any personality other than his gayness anymore? NO! And why can't Mercedes have a storyline that doesn't involve her weight or eating habits? Blah.

5. I can't wait for Thanksgiving. I even bought a special Thanksgiving themed shirt from Threadless for the occasion.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sufjan Stevens at the Academy of Music

I downloaded Sufjan Stevens' new album, "Age of Adz" on September 28th, and according to iTunes, I have listened to it 51 times since then. Please note that this does not include the countless times I listened to it in the car. So yeah, I'm just a liiitttle obsessed with this album, and with Sufjan Stevens in general. Thanks to Blair for introducing Sufjan's music to me way back in 2004.

This concert was amazing, especially the live performance of "Impossible Soul", a song that is really more of an opus and is twenty-five minutes long. During the concert, Sufjan (I call him by his first name because we are besties. DO NOT QUESTION ME!) said that with this album, he wanted to strip away characters, geography, and narrative, melody, and even music. He wanted to get to what he called the "heart, the brain, the spine of the noise". Some reviewers have called this album self-indulgent, likening it to a musical masturbation session. Haters. I know very little about music or instruments. I focus on what sounds good and on meaningful lyrics, so I can only speak from that perspective. With that in mind, this is my favorite album. It feels raw, emotional, and like a piece of him, sort of like his other albums were novels and this is a memoir in progress.

A great night that will serve as a beautiful memory in my mind for many years to come. I took some videos of the concert (hand held, so somewhat shaky), which you can view on my YouTube Channel, here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Baby Madness

It seems like everyone around us is having babies lately. I've lost track of how many Mysterio Predicts baby t-shirts we've bought. Life seems like an endless schedule of baby showers and visiting new parents.

I feel left out of all the fun. I thought we would be working on our second baby at this point in our lives. In some ways, it was a blessing that it did not work out for us earlier. Steph has a much better job now, a job that will allow her to be a more present parent. We've gotten to do a lot of traveling and camping, and our relationship has really deepened and been strengthened in these past few years. Still, there is sadness there, an emptiness. So we are back to trying to add a new family member and hopefully we will have a very happy announcement to share within the next year.

It's scary to think that the thing you want most in the world may not happen for you, or that it won't happen exactly the way you had envisioned for yourself. It's especially scary when that thing is something that you are supposed to be able to do, your biological imperative. I admit that I feel pangs of jealousy-- having a baby seems so easy for everyone else (and it probably isn't, but no one really likes to talk about those things), not to mention free.

For us, it's clinical. You pick out a donor based on limited amounts of information. The sperm comes on dry ice, shipped from California. You get inseminated in the doctor's office. Maybe your partner is there and maybe she isn't, depending on her schedule and when you ovulated that month. You sit on a hard doctor's table with your legs up in the air for 20 minutes. You pay your bill. You try not to think about how weird and other-worldly the whole process is for you. You go home and you wait. You fend off well-meaning comments from friends and family asking you why you aren't pregnant yet. So romantic.

I am happy for our friends though, don't get me wrong. It's wonderful to see them grow into parenthood and to watch little versions of them sprout up before your eyes.

Countdown to Sufjan concert: 29 hours! SQUEE! (if we have a boy, maybe we will name him Sufjan)

Currently listening to: Jonsi, "Around Us"

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fall in our neighborhood

I can feel winter creeping closer and closer. The days are getting shorter and the light is different. I'm starting the get that *meh* winter feeling. I decided I needed to take some photos of the foliage in our neighborhood before the trees were all bare.

I wish we had a maple tree. We had a swamp maple at our old house, but it's a crappy maple, as far as maples go, and it never really did very much in terms of fall foliage. At our house in Nashville, we planted a ton of gorgeous trees-- pin oaks, blue pines, serviceberry...I've really been missing our place in Nashville lately. I think it's because I'm tired of living in a 100 year old house and dealing with the kinds of issues 100 year old houses have. We did plant a witch hazel tree this Fall and I can't wait for it to bloom in the winter.

It's going to be a busy weekend. On Saturday we're going to be hosting a baby shower for Korrina and then on Sunday we're going to Ann's birthday party. The theme of Ann's party is "fruit". I love it.

Countdown to the Sufjan concert: 7 days!

Currently listening to: My Brightest Diamond, "Bring me the Workhorse" (she opened for Sufjan on his last tour, so I've been listening to her a lot lately)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Depressing November Playlist

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Quid pro quo.

Mostly for Julie, but for anyone else who wants a depressing playlist for a cold autumn day, here you go. Try not to fall into a pit of despair. Bwahahaha.

Oh yeah, and since this is technically a photo blog, here's a photo. DEPRESSION HURTS.