Sunday, January 18, 2015

Apartment Therapy's January Cure 2015 :: Part One

The Ponderosa :: January 2015
Just like clockwork, I'm up in the middle of the night struggling with sleep.  Every year around this time, sleep eludes me.  My mind seems filled with ideas and running to-do lists and I wake up with the need to write or put my thoughts on paper.

Organizing my home and putting things in order at the beginning of the calendar year is a big ritual for me.  I shared a little bit about my tendencies back in 2012.  Around this time, I picked up a book called Apartment Therapy: The Eight Step Home Cure by Maxwell Ryan (the founder and creator of Apartment Therapy).  The book had these great principles for organizing small spaces and it helped me with a little spring cleaning that year.  I signed up for their daily emails about designing for small spaces and that's where I learned about their January Cure.  You can read more about it here.

I've participated for the past couple of years and you can see my posts about it here and here.

This year, I sent out a bulk email to some of my like-minded friends to see if they wanted to participate and about a dozen said yes!  Accountability really helps to motivate me and I hoped it would also motivate my friends participating in the January Cure.

My kitchen (after) + My January Cure Project List(s)
The crux of the January Cure is making your List of Projects.  I modify this a bit by only making one huge list, highlighting 3 - 5 projects for each room that I want to tackle.  This list ends up being about six pages long with the categories being Living Room, Entryway, Laundry Room, Kitchen, Bathroom, Master Bedroom & Grady's Room.  I leave Steve's office and G's art studio off the list because, hey, I'm a realist.  I also know that if I added them, it would just be too much and it would discourage me before I even start.  The January Cure team encourages  you to make another project list from this list, but I feel like that's just way too many lists!  Yes, even for a list-lover like myself, so I just put these seven pages on a clipboard, highlight the doable items that are most important to accomplish and keep it on my desk for easy reference.

Setting up an Outbox is another key component to the January Cure and mine would live in the laundry room, where I would see it when I walked by and could easily add items to be donated, moved to another part of the house and/or sit here in the outbox purgatory until I decided what I wanted to do with it.  This outbox concept is key to the success of the January Cure.  It allows you to keep your focus on the daily assignments and not get stuck in the more of the details of where to put the items deposited there.  Here's Apartment Therapy's Outbox rules:

My laundry room Outbox during week one of the January Cure
1. Anything can go in the Outbox
2. The Outbox is allowed to get messy
3. Everything must stay in the Outbox for at least one week
4. After that time you have several choices
a. Take anything back out
b. Leave anything you are undecided about for one more week
c. Dispose of the rest by moving to the garbage, recycling bin, or giveaway pile 
Once you get used to separating first and disposing of later, you'll find that clearing clutter gets easier and easier. 

This is hard for me because I don't want to leave a big mess out where I can see it, but it does help break the emotional hold some items have over me.  My Outbox is growing and I finally addressed some items that I knew exactly what to do with.  The other items that are in flux are still in the Outbox.

My goal project for this year's January Cure is our bedroom.  Our bedroom is tiny and in no way feels like a "master" anything.  There isn't even room for a proper dresser.  My husband's wardrobe occupies most of the closet in our room and my clothing and shoes live in a small closet he converted for me a few years ago, just outside our bedroom door.  Living in a 1950's farmhouse has its perks, but it also has many, many challenges.  Making the most of our space in the bedroom has been a conversation topic since we purchased the house eight years ago.

Queen sized bed made of hardwood (Ash, we think) sold on Craig's List in a flash!
I quickly snapped a few photos of our 15 year old bed frame (above) and it was sold to the first person who replied, a 70 year old guy named Richard who told me he found his wife on Craig's List, too.  No joke.  Long story that I won't bore you with here, but the Craig's List karma was good for this bedroom renovation and I liked that.  Plus, the bed would only really cost us the U-haul fee.  Win-win.
Works In Progress :: New storage bed with  headboard + closet purge
We've talked about getting a platform bed from Pottery Barn for years, but I just couldn't justify the $1,900 price tag.  Searching Craig's List a few days after the new year yielded me several viable options.  I was one day too late in obtaining the very bed from Pottery Barn that we had been coveting!  And, it was only $200!  This reignited my search and the very next day I found a platform storage bed with headboard manufactured by Stanley Furniture and I quickly negotiated the deal, sweetly asked my husband if he would be the manual labor and rented a U-haul for the weekend roundtrip to Oakland to pick up the bed.  I'll share the final bedroom project photos in my final post on the January Cure later in the month.

Spice cabinet purge was long OVERDUE
While Steve was driving to-and-fro last Saturday, it gave me an entire day alone (he took G along for the ride) to deep clean my bedroom and then turn my attention to the kitchen assignment.  I was a woman on a mission and purged the pantry, vacuumed drawers, deep cleaned my refrigerator and was ruthless with purging my spice cabinet & the drawers that housed my kitchen utensils - some that we hadn't used in years.   I mean, who was I kidding?  A mellon-baller?  That thing had been collecting dust since the 1990's.  Buh-bye.

It's not all sunshine and pretty pictures at The Ponderosa (yes, we call out place The Ponderosa).  This Virgo is pretty good about the surfaces looking neat and tidy in my home, but open a drawer or closet?  Oh, hell no.  Most of the time you would find a hot mess inside these drawers and cabinets...but not this month!

The rest of the assignments have been pretty easy and I decluttered a few drawers on Thursday and marked those pesky jobs off of my pending List of Projects.  Again, any place in my home where I can hide the mess - I will.  The only bright side to this is that my home is small, less than 1,000 square feet, and when I set my mind to cleaning and decluttering it really doesn't take that long.

I've set in motion a few jobs that I needed to outsource, like calling an electrician to install wall-mounted reading lights above our bed.  We also used that U-haul rental truck to load up yard detritus, a non-working satellite dish and our old set of boxsprings and Steve transported it to the local dump.  See?  I've even got him in on the January Cure.

That's it for now.  It's almost five a.m. and I'm about to tackle the drawers that house my magazines and old newspapers.

I can't be stopped.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Happy New Year 2015 :: Shed

The new year started off kind of slow for me, which was exactly how I needed it to be.  The end of the year reflections always help me out in framing up and taking stock of where I am in my life, as well as giving me pause to think about what I'd like to accomplish when the calendar flips over into the next year.

As I shared in my last post, I usually pick a word for the year and write it down on an index card, think about what that word will mean for the coming 12 months and post it on the bulletin board just above my desk (where I will see it every day).  This year I really wanted to get rid of a few things; both figuratively and literally.  Debt, weight, health concerns, and a cumbersome investment property have weighed heavily on my mind for years and I want to lighten the burden for me and for my family Inherited fears about life, creative self-doubt, "things" around our home that we do not love or no longer bring joy to our lives need to be purged from my mind and my surroundings in order to bring calm into my day(s).
verb: shed; 3rd person present: sheds; past tense: shed; past participle: shed; gerund or present participle: shedding
  1. (of a tree or other plant) allow (leaves or fruit) to fall to the ground.
    "both varieties shed leaves in winter"
    • (of a reptile, insect, etc.) allow (its skin or shell) to come off, to be replaced by another one that has grown underneath.
      synonyms:slough off, cast off, molt
      "the caterpillar shed its skin"
    • (of a mammal) lose (hair) as a result of molting, disease, or age.
    • take off (clothes).
      synonyms:take off, remove, shrug off, discarddoff, climb out of, slip out of, divest oneself of, peel off
      "we shed our jackets"
    • discard (something undesirable, superfluous, or outdated).
      "what they lacked was a willingness to shed the arrogance of the past"
      synonyms:lose, get rid of, discard More
      antonyms:put on, adoptkeep
    • have the property of preventing (something) from being absorbed.
      "this leather has a superior ability to shed water, sweat, and salt"
    • eliminate part of (an electrical power load) by disconnecting circuits.

I almost picked the phrase Shake It Off, but felt like Taylor Swift would be in my head most of the time.  No, I definitely didn't need that.  I love the synonyms for shed - slough off, case off, molt, take off, remove, shrug off, discard, doff, climb out of, slip out of, divest oneself of, and peel off.  

This year has so many opportunities for growth and change.  I want to feel lighter and less encumbered by the trappings of life and the rut of routines that no longer serve me.  I'm excited.

My father used to always say you need to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.  This phrase kept looping in my brain and the word shed seemed like the simplest way to remind me of a great many things.  Wish me luck?

We juiced four out of five days this week.  That seems reasonable and I completely utilized my CSA box from our local farm.  The kale usually languishes in my crisper drawer and I feel guilty for not wanting to eat it, but this week I juiced it instead.  Steve is usually the juice maker in our house, but he is NOT a morning person.  I found I was waiting for him to get up and make it and by then we were usually running late with getting out the door.   The juice window would close and I would just drink coffee and skip breakfast.  Well, not this week.  I boiled a half dozen eggs to keep handy in the fridge for a quick breakfast and drank the electric drink elixir without making a face.  Honest.

Ms. Paltrow's green juice is super bright and delicious (and I'm a tough critic!).  I think the lemon is the trick.  I used a Meyer lemon and nixed the mint, but only because I was too lazy to go out and pick some.  I'll add it next week.

Best Green Juice 
from Gwyneth Paltrow's book It's All Good

Serves 1
5 large leaves of kale, ribs discarded, roughly chopped
1 lemon, zest and pith removed
1 large apple, roughly chopped
A 1-inch piece of ginger
1 sprig fresh mint

Push all ingredients through juicer

Last year, one of Grady's goals for 2014 was to learn how to skateboard.  Mid-year he made it happen.  He's come a long way in six months and it both delights me and scares me (broken bones!).  I need to lighten up, encourage him and just make sure I know the fastest way to Kaiser Hospital.

This year he resolved to climb (part of) Mt. Rainier with his god sisters, again.  We did this back in 2011 and it was the most incredible experience.  He'll be four years older and absolutely capable.  We're going to do it as a family, so it's on my 2015 list, too.

Treated myself to a beautiful 'Lauren' leather double clutch by Hobo.  I had been saving my Mamalode commission checks with the thought that I should spend the money I earned for writing and illustrating on something that would remind me of how I earned it.  I'm a thrifter at heart, but buying a good, quality product that will last a long time is important to me, too.  This clutch will serve as my wallet and can easily transition into an evening bag.  I absolutely love it.

Last year I took several workshops that really helped me stay on my creative path.  Artist Lisa Congdon's basic line drawing class was by far the most influential for me.  I viewed the classes online while we were in Costa Rica by logging onto Creativebug's website.  You can take an unlimited amount of classes via their website for $9.95 a month and they offer a 14 day free trial.  

This time around, I signed up for Lisa's sketchbook explorations class.  This week we worked on watercolor backgrounds and the addition of black Micron pens.  I already use these tools in my journaling, but I was hoping to pick up some of her tricks of the trade, as well as design and composition tips.

I had the good fortune to take a workshop with Lisa in person last year at the San Francisco Makeshift Society.  Her 3+ hour talk was on professional illustration and how to get your work seen and get paid for your art.  Two months after this class, I did my first illustration work for  Coincidence?  Maybe, but I was ready to tackle my first print job due to the knowledge so generously shared by one of my favorite artists.

More workshops are on the horizon with calligraphy, hand lettering and whiskey topping the list for 2015.

As much as I've loved my subscription to the Sunday New York Times, I think I need to put my weekly love affair with the newspaper on hold.  It's felt like treading water trying to keep up with reading the paper and its magazine inserts the last six weeks or so.  I have a backlog to catch up on and I haven't made time for books.  And I love books.

We continue to visit our local library about once or twice a week and the mobile library comes to a town nearby every other week.  Since we are in a rural area, our book requests go to the top of the queue with the mobile library system in Marin County.  What that means is that when we request books, we usually get them.  In my case, I get them all at once!  This week's haul has so many goodies.  I have a lot of reading to do.

My husband witnessed two red-tailed hawks fighting over this western meadowlark just outside his office last weekend.  I've never seen this type of bird around our property, but learned from a friend, Sarah,  that the western meadowlark is Montana's state bird and has the most beautiful song.

We skipped our usual bird burial rituals and decided to leave it where the red-tailed hawks could come back and retrieve this yellow-chested beauty.  Honestly, we didn't need another bird buried on our property, especially since I was trying to shed and release things back into the universe.  This seemed like the perfect small act to burn this concept on my brain.

Walk the walk echoed in my ears.  Just walk the walk and shed my instinct to perform a funeral for this little avian creature.  The act of burying dead animals on our property was more for the sake of teaching my child about the circle of life when he was younger.  We would have sweet conversations about life and death and the importance of honoring and remembering animals and people you loved.  He's 11 now and I know he gets it.  He kind of always has and I think when I was giving him those little talks, they were helping me as much as they were helping him.  I would choose nature over nurture this time around and so the bird was placed under our oak tree, also known as the scene of the crime.

The little meadowlark ended up shedding five pretty feathers during its battle with the red-tailed hawks.  I gathered the tiny, grey striped plumage from the ground and placed them a little vase on my desk to serve as a reminder of my intention for this year.  


Be the verb, Tammi, be the verb.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Sayonara! 2014

The quiet in the house is eery.  The guys left early this morning on a road trip to Southern California for the next five days and I have the house all to myself.  Motherhood nirvana, right?  I have so many things on my to-do list while they're gone.

Watching the PBS documentary on The Roosevelts was at the top of my list, along with catching up with the last disc of Orange is the New Black.  Oh, and Magic Mike.  Yes, lots of important DVD viewing is going to happen over here.
I used to start my new year with a four hour-long yoga class.  The instructor would ask us to write down our intention for the year on an index card and place it under our mat during our practice on New Year's Day.  My yoga instructor has since moved, but I still like to do the exercise of picking a word for the year and think about my intentions for the upcoming 365 days.

Last year's word, Acceptance, was a little vague.  I tried to focus on it, but found that opening myself up to new ways of learning, connecting with new friends and putting myself out into the world creatively did, in fact, help me accept what I am capable of.  But it all feels sort of calculated - like I'm bending my experiences to fit the word for last year.

Needless to say, I'm stuck on what word to pick for this year.  I'm going to let it percolate and see what happens.

I miss my yoga practice.  I should really do something about that.
Once I got home from work on Monday, I slipped into my comfy leggings, slipped off my bra and really hunkered down.  I had so much reading to catch up on - books, old newspapers, magazines, and blog posts written by friends and acquaintances.  
I was asked to contribute an essay to the 28 Days of Play series this coming February.  While I'm super excited about the prospect of writing and sharing my work, I was a little bit daunted in trying to find a head shot that would be appropriate and then writing my own bio.  As I'm sure most moms have experienced, I do not have a lot of photos of just me.  Seriously.  Out of about 4,000 photos, I had about a dozen of just me and only about two of those would possibly work.  

My new year's intention should be get in the frame!  

Where was I?  Oh, yes, the writing.  I was supposed to be writing while the guys were gone, but I often find that when I have deadlines, self-imposed or otherwise, I have to get my house in order.  Does that happen for anyone else?  Like, I have to organize my desk and write in my journal.  The simple act of writing quotes or illustrating a few pages in my journal feels like a mind-dump.  As I'm putting things down on paper, the creative wheels are spinning in my head and I'm having conversations with myself about writing and the project itself.
I finished reading Annie Dillard's book The Writing Life late last night.  So many thoughtful  ruminations on the process of writing in those pages.  Process is so important to me.  I have to enjoy the process of most anything I do or I don't want to do it.  Writing, making art, exercising, decorating, cooking - everything has a process and I'm learning to hone in on what I like about those things and really give myself permission to slough off the chores or acts that I don't enjoy.
Take letterpress printing, for example.  I love the look and feel of letterpressed works.  The craftsmanship and finished product is so good.  I took a workshop a few years ago at a local letterpress co-op and by the end of those four hours I knew I never wanted to step foot into a letterpress workshop again.  Don't get me wrong, I loved all the fonts and presses and thick, rich card stock.  No, where they lost me was with all of the tiny letters and tweezers and exactness of it all.  It's helpful to know what you do and do not like doing.  Admitting it was new to me and quite a revelation.  I loved letterpress as an art form, but not an art form that I would personally make.  Yes, I am a fan and will happily pay the premium for fine, letterpressed artwork made by someone other than me.

Okay, now I've gone off on a tangent.


Yes, it's all about process for me.  Process and documentation.  Processing it in my head and then verbalizing it and then writing it down somewhere (on my blog, in my notebook, in my art journal or in a Word document saved on my computer).
After a restless night of sleep, I finally decided to get showered (yes!), get dressed and get out of the house on New Year's Day.  I drove up the coast to the seaside town of Jenner and got caught up with a girlfriend.  We took a short walk along the Russian River shoreline and sat on the rocks and soaked up the sunshine during low tide.  She asked for my phone and snapped this picture of me because the light was like honey.

My first picture of the new year was of me.

Miracle of all miracles!
At the end of the five days, I was ready for my husband and son to come home.  I feel like I fed my creative soul while they were gone and had a lot of time to reminisce about all the good that happened over the last year - family adventures, a writing retreat, creative workshops, collaborations with writers and friends.  Our son changed schools this year and we stepped into the roles as parents of a tween.  So much growth happened within our family these last twelve months and I'm really proud of us for muddling through it together.

My house, as well as my mind, felt like it was in order.

Sayonara! to 2014.

Monday, December 22, 2014

I Heart Instagram

The living room windows are covered in a steamy, thick layer of moisture this morning.  I shuffle over to the xmas tree and plug in the twisted string of lights and a soft, golden glow gently permeates the space.  My body folds into the couch and I pick up my phone and peruse my Instagram account and smile at the bevy of images being shared in that space - french toast fixings; a North Pole party; winter solstice offerings; snow-crested mountainsslate grey skies melting into perfectly calm waters; and a new puppy for a beautiful family mourning the recent loss of their beloved dog.

I've wanted to write about my addiction to Instagram for some time now, but didn't know what I really wanted to say.  The word addiction makes it sound sordid and taboo, but it's not like that.

Social media has so many negative connotations, but I love my Instagram community.  I do not want to apologize for it or be embarrassed by sharing pretty things in that little 2 x 2 inch square on the screen of my phone.

I get so much inspiration from fellow artists, writers, bloggers, photographers, mamas, poets, designers + the alumni of folks I attended Write Doe Bay with earlier this year.  I love it.  I really do.  

Instagram has been a positive place to share parts of my life with others.  No, I don't show the muddy entryway of my home or the messy sink full of dishes.  Some would argue that I'm not keeping it real, but I would say to them - Who wants to see that?  

Beauty is what I find when I scroll through my Instagram feed and that's what I also personally want to share.  I try to find the beauty in my life and what we're doing and share it with others.  Our life is far from perfect, but there are some pretty perfect moments that make me want to shout from the rooftops that I'm alive, healthy and living in this amazing world.  A wee bit dramatic, but I think you get the drift.

There is so much beauty…

The austere, real beauty of the natural world.   

Beautiful children laughing, playing, doing ballet or playing a sport they love.

Creatives bravely sharing the beauty of their work.

The simple beauty of food - satsumas, freshly baked bread or a steaming cup of coffee.

The beauty of the written word as shared by authors, readers, bloggers and publishing houses. 

The simple beauty of human connection and friendship.

I have found as the days tick into weeks, months, and then years, that I like being alone.  Once social and outgoing, I'm finding that I like the quiet of my home and take great solace in reading the words of others.  Since I am particularly visual, images and photographs amp up the words I read and Instagram links me to a small world of friends who share many of my interests.

My words + Grady's shoe
And while it's true that I won't let my 11 year old son have an account,  I do share images with him.  He was recently inspired to draw his Nike tennis shoes based on a post an illustrator shared on Instagram of her own son's work.

This avenue of sharing has helped me to stay connected with my sister, as well as friends and family  that live all over the world.  I only wish I could get my best friend and husband to use it.  It's not their thing, but I wish it was.

Instagram has definitely changed how I use my phone and how I share words + photos.  I used to come here to this very blog to catalog and record our life.  It's been harder and harder to do so.  Mainly, I think, because of the ease of using Instagram.  It's a way of sharing an abbreviated version of what's going on with me or our family, but I long to sit and write for hours at my desk and save on my blog.  Oftentimes, the day does just not allow for such indulgences.

A really lovely opportunity recently presented itself when a woman I met via Instagram, Rachel Cedar, contacted me and asked me to participate as a writer in her 28 Days of Play series this coming February.  This never would have happened if I hadn't been writing and sharing my life on Instagram.  I'm super excited and will share more about this project in a future post.

Earlier this year, the publisher of Mamalode, Elke Govertsen, asked me to collaborate with writer Annie Flavin and illustrate the centerfold for their print and online magazine.  Again, I don't believe that ever would have happened if I hadn't put myself out there; by sharing my daily drawings on Instagram.   Sarah Geurts Miller, Mamalode's managing editor, asked me to participate as a guest poster on their @mamalode feed on Instagram for their #dayinthelifeofmamalode series earlier this year, too.  Mamalode also published essays I've written online and can be found here, here and here.  The social network of Instagram easily merged our relationship and helped us to share it with readers of our IG feeds.  I'd do anything for those women running Mamalode.  Absolutely anything.

What I'm getting at is that a lot of good has come from my willingness to share on this social media platform.  And while I try to temper my usage, it's a source of daily inspiration and camaraderie with my fellow community of Instagrammers.  It has become this daily source of joy and I'm not inclined to give it up any time soon.

Opportunties and friendships were made this year through this social network and I'm really grateful for them. I hope more of that good fortune spills into next year and I know I'll be ready to receive it with open arms and, most likely, a phone in one of my hands.

I'm not embarrassed or ashamed.  

Not one little 2 x 2 inch square bit.

Friday, December 19, 2014

'Tis the [stormy] Season

Life has been so full lately.  I know this is true for everyone out there, but I just know it's especially true for women.  Among my girlfriends, I know we shoulder the brunt of the holiday list-making and gift-buying-wrapping-mailing-giving.  Sure, my husband does a thing or two to help keep me off the holiday crazy train, but it's mostly left up to me.  Now, don't get me wrong - I enjoy most of it, but sometimes it feels like it's just too freaking much.  

And so I really went into this month with the intention of doing less and being really present this season.  It's harder than I thought, but I'm feeling the benefit of it.  The first order of business was to lighten our December social calendar.  Declining invitations is a definite exercise in restraint (which is not really my forté) but, in doing so, I felt a big sigh of relief.  It was a start.

I don't know about you, but around the 10th of December I kind of start to freak out.  There are handmade items to cook, make & package up and get in the mail so loved ones receive them by Xmas.  

I love this part and I hate this part.  
Treats for the doggies in our lives :: recipe here

I love it because I get great joy out of ritual and tradition.  Creating things with our hands and gifting them to people we care about really makes me happy.  The pockets of time spent drawing or carving stamps become little gifts for me.  The conversations that spring from this merry-making often give me the little push to keep going.
Stationary sets :: we each carved a block to print with 

I also hate this part because I get all ratcheted up and stressed out.  It always seeps out and the passive-aggressive control freak in me unleashes on my poor family.  My to-do list becomes all important and I start to question why I do this to myself; to us.
Molly Wizenberg's Three Layer Peppermint Bark :: Amazing!  Make it. You won't be sorry.

Well, not this year.  

While I did feel a welling up of stress, a freak storm system rolled into Northern California and left us without power for 12 hours during massive wind and rain storms.  And let me tell you, I got some major shit done in 12 hours without any electricity and a dead cell phone.  For reals.
Top-secret Hecht family kahlua recipe :: even I don't know what's in it, seriously

School was cancelled for two whole days and that spilled into the weekend, making for four long, productive days at home.

Our dear friends and neighbors had a big bash over the weekend and that spurred some pre-storm shoe shopping.  Red satin heels ($8) and bronze knee-high boots ($7.50) were my thrift scores.  And, I gotta be honest, I kind of feel like Wonder Woman when I wear the boots and Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz when donning the red ones.

Printmaking is my new favorite thing, too.  Along with smiling.  

We made a print of 50 wonky circles for our friend's 50th trip around the sun.  All three of us carved up the stamps and used red screen printing ink on kraft paper.  The paper is special to me, as it was given to me at a writing retreat earlier this year.  I saved it for just the right project and it turned out just beautiful.

I can't believe it's almost the end of the year.  My drawing a day journal for 2014 is one of my most prized possessions.  The daily ritual was hard at first, but has blossomed into this almost meditative way to start my day.  Pens, paper and coffee at the kitchen table.  I'll write more about this project in a future blog post, but this journal is my new favorite.

This guy.

He's been wearing this sweatshirt (almost) daily since November 10th.  He thinks it's the best thing ever and I think it's kind of cute how much he loves it.  Don't get me wrong, I don't love it being worn every single freaking day, but think he's sweet and funny for wearing it.

I hope to burn it on December 26th.  Kidding.  Sort of.

It's still raining up here and the highways are intermittently flooded to and from town, depending on the tide.  Winter is upon us and the wet weather is so very welcome to all of us in California.  

All of the out of town packages are mailed and gifts have been made or purchased.  This week has been left wide open for movie-watching and cooking a big pot of soup.  I definitely feel like I've made space and time for our family this year, minus the small stress attack around the 10th of the month.

We cancelled our annual Xmas eve open house in our home and have opted for a quiet dinner with a couple of friends instead.  Again, stretching a new social muscle is hard, but I'm really looking forward to cooking this prime rib for the first time and beating everyone at Scrabble.  Ha!

The only holiday decorations around the house are a few scattered reindeer, a string of white lights in G's room and our Xmas tree.  It feels right this season.

Less really is more for us and not just a tired cliché.

It's been a slow lesson to learn, but I'm grateful for the time and space to swim in this new way of doing the holidays.  At first, I felt sad because G was getting older and I thought the magic would disappear.  Instead, we've been sharing words and feelings about the season and what it means to our little family.  

Last night, while driving home from town, Grady shared that he still believes in Santa, but kind of thinks we have something to do with it.  When I asked him how he came to that conclusion, he shared that we (his parents) have messed up on a few of our stories lately and that the prior year's Santa letters (that I save in our Xmas box) have handwriting that looks a lot like our handwriting.

Hmm.  That's weird.

He didn't want to fess up 100% about the non-belief and I think he did that more for me.  He knows how much I enjoy having fun with the season.  His wish list was short this year and he passed up the opportunity to go to the annual Xmas party where he usually sits on Santa's lap.  He told me sitting on Santa's lap would feel awkward and you know what?  I would have to agree with him on that front.

As always, I'm following his lead.

The last little project on my list was to paint a tree for Grady for Xmas.

Every year we make one another a handmade gift.  Last year, I failed to deliver on said gift and, therefore, I'm making good on it this year.  I let the busyness and travel plans interfere with the one thing Grady asked me for.

A painted tree.

Looking back at my blog, I see that he asked for a painted tree in 2012, too.  He gives me simple assignments because he knows I'm not the artist his father is!  Check out how Steve showed me up in 2010 with his parrot painting.

And so it's almost here.  Six more days until Xmas.

Merry Xmas, friends.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Valley Ford Pie Auction 2014

The Third Annual Valley Ford Pie Auction was a raging success!  The Valley Ford Young Farmers' Association, along with many community volunteers, helped to raise thousands of dollars for the building improvement fund for the historic Valley Ford Schoolhouse (where the auction and many other fundraisers takes place over the year).

Grady made a black cherry pie that sold for $200.  He was surprised and so very proud.

This event kicked off our Thanksgiving weekend and really set the mood for good food, drink + friends.


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