Monday, December 9, 2019

Part Two of Merry Christmas

This weekend, we gave the kids part two of their Christmas gift: tickets to the Hillsborough Candlelight Tour. It is sponsored by the Chamber, and they say you can't possibly do all of the activities in the window of the event--and they are right! We prioritized and did all of the things that were most important to us, though! 

We started at the Burwell School, where we learned more about housekeeping in the early 1800s. My favorite new tidbit is that they made irons that were hinged to make pleats; it looked like a giant cast iron crimper for clothing! We also learned more about the seamstress, Kepley, who lived her in Hillsborough and went on to be the seamstress for Mary Todd Lincoln, and new tidbit, Mrs. Jefferson Davis! We also learned a lot about the history of harps from around the world and listened to some old Christmas carols performed on a harp.

We saw an original play performed in the old courthouse. A local playwrite wrote it about the Alamance Regulators, and an ancestor of one the Regulators spoke, which was really cool. We toured many historic homes and buildings, voted in the gingerbread house competition, drank hot beverages from all our local favorites, road a train around town, and listened to some local authors read. It was one of those wonderful afternoons where I am so grateful to live in this little town!

I took no pictures on the tours, but I did get these cuties:

And Issa captured my new favorite picture of Brad and I:

It was truly a fabulous day!

Friday, December 6, 2019

The Beginning of Holly Jolly

When we got back from Chicago, we started the process of holly jollying everything! The first stop is always the fire department for our trees:
Bless Brad. He was starting in with the virus I had last week, but he powered through and put up both trees:
Mom's is significantly larger than ours:
Brad was much happier putting up our tree:
After the trees, we went to see A Magical Cirque Christmas:
Evan was not that unhappy; he was just uncomfortable for the picture.
It was an amazing show! We still can't figure out some of the magic, and the performers were incredible!

We spent this week decorating a little in the tiny pockets of time we could, but we are most excited about getting very holly jolly this weekend!

Monday, December 2, 2019

Thankful in Chicago

 This Thanksgiving, we did something totally different: we went to Chicago to spend Thanksgiving with Aunt Shannon. She has come to us for every holiday, birthday, and major life event literally forever. She really wanted to host a holiday, and we thought it was high time we made that happen.

Wednesday, for once, I did not get over excited and book us on the earliest flight possible. We ate lunch at the airport and caught a lovely 12:15 flight direct to Midway. After a short Uber ride, we were at Aunt Shannon's, and after about 20 minutes we we up to our elbows in puzzle:

Our family loves a good puzzle. And we spent a lot of Friday puzzling until it was time to go to dinner at a fabulous Italian place where I had Vin Santo for the first time state-side. We went back to Shannon's where the children fell in love with her building's pool. They would be in it multiple times a day until we left.

Thursday, we spent the entire day at Shannon's puzzling, cooking, and just being:

Eventually, we needed the table for our Thanksgiving feast, so we moved completed puzzle sections to cutting boards:

Brad carved the turkey:

And we sat down to quite the feast!

Also, the children are obsessed with being velociraptors:

Friday morning, we got up and went to the aquarium where we met Tim, Amy, and Maura! It was so good to see them, but we took nary a picture. We did have an amazing time watching the fish and enjoying their Christmas decorations. The belugas, especially the baby, were the highlight, though. As soon as Evan hits five feet tall we are going to go behind the scenes to meet them up close!

We had lunch at Bright Wok, and entirely gluten free Asian place Brad is convinced is heaven. He insists it was the best thing he ate in Chicago. We also experiences the Christmas Market. It is a completely European arts and food fair, and while parts of it were lovely we were all desperate to get out of the crown after 45 minutes. It was the best hot chocolate I have ever had, though--and it came in a little boot mug!

We finished the puzzle Friday!
 And then we bundled up to go to the lights at the Lincoln Park Zoo:
The lights were magic, and we had a blast watching the ice carvings, but the monkeys stole the show. We learned that family groups twine their tails:
 And we got to see the baby gorilla:
 I love that you can see Mom, Shannon, and Issa reflected in that picture.

We ended Friday at an amazing tapas place followed by yet another swim.

Saturday we just spend a quiet morning at Shannon's before we flew back home.

We packed a lot into those few days, but more than anything I'm grateful to see Shannon's city with her. I loved watching my kiddos soak in the city--especially now that they are older and can really see and experience it. No more strollers. No more worries about naps or meal times. We could just enjoy.

I'm truly thankful for a wonderful Thanksgiving and beginning of the Christmas season.

Monday, November 25, 2019

A Heart Full of Gratitude

It seems appropriate that I would start Thanksgiving week with such a full heart. This weekend was a blur, but it was the best kind of blur.

Saturday, I spend the day cooking for Issa's friendsgiving at the studio and our own Thanksgiving yesterday. I wiped up the last of the flour just in time to get cleaned up to go chaperone our semi-formal with my forever date:
We really do make a night of it, and I love seeing our students all dressed up.

We came home Sunday morning and I started cooking until it was time to leave for the ballet. Those pictures are being held hostage on Issa's phone. We came home just in time for me to finish cooking our Thanksgiving!

This is a short week and then we head to Chicago! I can't wait!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

My Sweet Girl

Issa is helping to teach two classes at the studio again this year. Her littles absolutely love her, and she loves them. For Thanksgiving, she wanted to make them a little something. Enter these cute guys:
 She spent hours hot-gluing all those feathers. But this is what melted my heart:
Bless her sweet soul...

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

A Hobby for Me

I posted this on facebook last Tuesday night:

I heard a piece in NPR this week talking in part about the importance of hobbies unrelated to a person’s career. Apparently the vast majority of Nobel prize winners have one. The thinking is the productive struggle and failure rewires the brain to be more resilient and more solutions-oriented. I started to use this reasoning to justify my new pottery obsession. Then I realized something more important: I don’t need a justification. Pottery—even my terribly lopsided, unpredictable pieces—brings me great joy, and we could all use a little more of that these days. My wish for each of you is that you find one great joy this week just for you—to feed your soul. And a huge thank you to Julie Berkowitz and Brad for helping me find this joy.

I returned to the studio again last night, and I felt it even more deeply.

Julie had an HOA meeting last night, so as soon as we were settled she left us alone--we three potters that tend to be there every Tuesday. The other two are far more skilled than I am, and we have very little in common outside of the studio. We stared at each other wide-eyed--like kids left alone in a candy store. Then we started doing what we always do: glazing, shaping, trying to decide what to try next. We missed our teacher, but we also learned that we know more than we thought.

The studio is always warm thanks to the kiln, and it is tucked into the woods, which adds to the cozy feeling. I realized, though, that I'm also finding community there. We don't talk much, but when we do it's genuine. They asked about my kids. One of us is getting ready to move, and we talked about that. The other is in a doc program, and she finally opened up a little bit about that. We talk about our pieces. And there is often a very comfortable silence where all you hear is the whir of the wheels.

I always leave feeling more centered, and I'm still incredibly grateful to have found this little studio and a hobby that brings me so much joy.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Music for my Soul

For a few years now, we have had season tickets to the ballet. This year, when we renewed our tickets, we also received tickets to go see the Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle. 

Our tickets happened to be for yesterday, and they were performing at the Carolina Theatre in Durham. The theatre itself is beautiful. It was originally built in the beaux arts style in the 1920s, and it was fully restored in the 1990s. Sitting amongst all the gilt and velvet listening to the orchestra was amazing.

They started with the William Tell Overture, moved onto a sung German piece of five unrequited love poems, and then ended with a French piece that reminded me a lot of Camelot. As I was listening to the soprano sing in a language I didn't understand, I couldn't help but cry. You didn't have to know the words to feel it so deeply. At that moment, I remembered that I need to do this more often. There is something so unbelievably moving and soul-feeding about a live orchestra. Watching the cellos and violins--the way they move with the music. The artistry of the conductor. The roll of the timpani. 

It's just pure magic, and I need to create space for it more often.

Friday, November 15, 2019

A Step Back in History

Last weekend, we were fortunate enough to meet Papa Don and Grandma Nancy in Williamsburg! Williamsburg is one of our very favorite places, and this time we were there in 1774, before the Revolution.

The first stop was of course the stocks:
 Pure trouble right there.

 Our whole trip was scheduled around this:
The noon cannon. Evan loves watching the cannon, and we learned a lot about the use of the cannon in non-war times--mostly as a lunch bell. Evan was a little sad there was no big mustering of the troops, but we were in 1774.

We loved wandering into each building a learning a little bit more about Colonial life. Thankfully my whole family appreciates my need to follow rabbits way down holes and indulged all of my question asking and sign reading. They only cut me off when I started reading archaeological dig reports aloud at lunch. (The tavern keeper really should not have told me about this treasure trove of historical tidbits.)

This was my favorite, though:
 We ate at three taverns in two days. I love these tavern meals because there is no rush. We got to talk and laugh. And there is just something about candlelight that changes everything. In fact, we have started a new ritual at our house where on the nights that we are not running somewhere after dinner: we turn off all the lights and eat by candlelight. We all slow down a little bit, and it just feels a little bit like magic in the air.

A super sweet gentleman offered to take our picture outside of the capital on the last day:
I will be forever grateful for this weekend. We are running at break-neck speed through November, so having a weekend away was such a gift. Spending it with people we don't get to see very often was just the icing on the cake.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

He Did It!

Last night was a very big night for our boy! At most dojo graduations, your real test is behind you. Graduation is just a chance to show your skills and move up formally. Once you get to brown-black, however, it's very different. Since it is the last belt before black, your test really happens at graduation so all of the black belts can watch and decide if you are ready to move up. It is not unusual to have to test multiple times.

Evan went for his first test last night, and I think I was just as nervous as he was. He looked good! And he earned his brown-black belt:
 Here he is on his Dad's shoulders moving his intention stick one step closer to black:
I couldn't be more proud of not only how well he did but also his attitude going in. He had no delusions that this was a given. He was prepared to take feedback and try again. He was elated to earn that belt, though, and I it is not full-speed ahead towards black belt.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Soup Sunday

Every fall we recommit as a family to really loving and using the things we have. Maybe it's because the cooler temperatures push us inside. Maybe it's the holidays that have us pulling out special objects and lamenting that we don't use them often enough. I don't know. But I'm enjoying the recommitment.

Sunday, Brad spent a lot of time cleaning our the garage. We let go of some things as we are working to make that into some extra livable space--mostly for yoga and training.

As he was moving things about, he moved the fire pit up to our deck, and thus soup Sundays were born:
 I had already put squash soup in the crockpot, but he pulled down Mom's old soup crocks for us to use. They are heavy pottery with handles, do they work well out by the fire:
 As long as we can, we have committed to having soup around the fire every Sunday.

After dinner, Brad got that tell-tale look on his face. We were moving furniture:
 He has such a better sense of how we need to use space than I do, and every fall he switches something up. This year, we swapped the living room and the landing. We now have a cozy space for watching TV downstairs:
 And a table for gaming a puzzling upstairs:
The Legos are already up there, and now we have more room for projects and building. It's a good thing.

I do love this new arrangement, and I'm so grateful to be using the space better. Mostly, though, I just love the people I'm sharing the space with and the memories we are making.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Happy Halloween!

 I'm a little late posting, but we had a great Halloween!

The kids didn't have school on Thursday, so we packed it full! Our morning started with an appointment to get Issa her first passport. It is terribly unfair that her passport picture is actually good.

As soon as we finished there, we came home to finally carve our pumpkins. Evan's was so big we had to do it on the floor:
 Issa opted to paint rather than carve this year:
 And Evan enlisted her to do the sketch of his carving:
 I opted for a very traditional happy guy:
 Dad ended up helping Evan because his walls were so thick:
The end result was pretty amazing:
And Dad and Issa were very pleased by their new front porch decor:
This year, we went with another family costume. We all love the movie Totoro, and Totoro is always exactly the size he needs to be, so we were all Totoro in his various sizes:

 Those costumes were brilliant when we ordered them and it was 50 degrees outside. On Halloween, it was 80 and we were all melting.

They were my cutest trick-or-treaters:
 Every year Issa still does the math homework her second grade teacher gave her:
 It's all sorting and counting and adding and it's not Halloween if she doesn't do it.I just roll with it.

We watching the Nightmare Before Christmas with cold beverages instead of hot cocoa and listened to one of the most impressive thunderstorms I've ever seen to end our night. I would say it was a good one...

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

So Much Dancing

The end of last week was a flurry of dance highlights! During Company Camp this summer, the studio brought in a professional photographer to get some pictures of the girls. We got Issa's last week!
 She doesn't love this one, but this is such a hard jump to photograph:
 She does love this one:
 Look at that smile:
 Dancing still brings her so much joy, and I'm so grateful for that!

Saturday, she had the opportunity to do something way outside of her comfort zone. She danced an improv art piece at the local farmer's market:
 The music was actually the sound of their tap shoes, and they took turns tapping or doing modern. They danced for 30 minutes straight, and she actually had a really good time once she got over the nerves.

Then Sunday, we topped it off with more dance--this time at the Carolina Ballet:
The boys joined us for the Halloween ballet: Frankenstein. One of our favorites played the Monster, and it was truly incredible.

We are still dancing through this week, but thankfully it's a short one filled with Halloween fun!

Monday, October 28, 2019

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Last week, my favorite person in the whole world turned 40:
We had strict orders that there was to be no party, and we complied. In fact, since his birthday fell on a Thursday it was pretty low-key. We did have his favorite spaghetti, and there was definitely cake when Issa got home from dance.

Just when I think I can't love this man any more, I do. He truly does just get better with age.