Saturday, December 31, 2011

happy happy (joy joy)

Two at the Fair by Kurt Hutton, 1938

I seem to have taken an inadvertent blogging break. Ah well, so it goes sometimes.

Today NPR was asking people to sum up their 2011 experience in a single word. It reminded me of the part in Eat, Pray, Love where Liz is trying to think of her word. What would 2011's word be? Tumultuous, maybe? My life has certainly been engulfed by a bit of chaos this year (getting married, moving to the Middle East). And yet . . .

It's also been so downright satisfying. The moments when I'm practically radiating with gratitude have been so plentiful, and the depth of my lowest low comes nowhere near matching the expansiveness of those feelings. I am relearning who I am, finding my place as an adult in this world. I have taken on new roles and abandoned others. And I am so looking forward to the next 52 week stretch. My immediate sense is that it's going to exceed even my unflinchingly high expectations. 

The word I keep coming back to for 2011, then, is transitional. It's been an adjustment period of sorts, a bridge year. I've fumbled to find my footing, but more and more, I'm ready to run. I guess it's a lot like the word Liz eventually settles on: Attraversiamo -- let's cross over.

Here goes . . . 


Sunday, December 18, 2011


flying over Jordan / early morning hair / on my desk / on my bookshelf

Friday, December 16, 2011

it's here! it's here! it's finally here!

...and I am not even close to ready.

Yeah, that'd be the extent of my packing thus far. (Plus one face I'll miss the very most. My stomach hurts just thinking about it!) So far I've managed to sort my jewelry and pile all the clothes I want to bring on top of the bed. Well, except for items sitting in the mountain of laundry in the hallway -- I'm on my fifth load of the day and am still not done. Fingers crossed everything''ll be dry by tomorrow morning!

I'm bummed about my lack of posting these past few days. I had such a good streak there, too, for a little while! But work has been insane -- grades, meetings, lesson observations, pre-break shenanigans....Though I'll also say that I managed to do some of my very best teaching these past couple weeks. I had several days where I felt like I'd finally found my true footing, was doing the very best job I could, and couldn't have been more madly in love with the students. I planned some of the most successful lessons and activities we've done to date. And it felt so good. Like, oh, hey, maybe I'm a decent teacher after all. Of course, throwing myself so completely into my job left me with little energy left for anything else. Clearly, I'm still trying to recoup some of my drive, thus the fact that I'm sitting here in my bathrobe at 5:36 pm, writing a blog post and surfing the internet, surrounded by piles of unpacked clothing.

I'm anxious to get back into regular updates over the holidays. Recently I've felt like I'm finding my voice a bit more on this here blog, and I'm truly enjoying this little side project of mine. It's fun to see what, slowly slowly, is emerging, and I'm excited to stick with the journey.

Until next time, folks (when I plan to do as promised, and share more holiday movie picks).

Monday, December 12, 2011

cheers to el gordo

Hey, Dad! Yesterday was your birthday, but when I called to say, "Happy birthday, old man! Man, are you old!" you were at the gym. Good for you -- give that aging process the one-two punch and make sure you can keep up with your grandkids (hypothetically speaking, of course). 

Since I wasn't able to wish you well semi-in-person, I made good by scouting some potential presents for you online. I hope you like them!

1| Daptone Gold album for your listening pleasure.
2| Stress relieving zen ball to keep on your desk at work (just don't throw it at anybody).
3| Classic picks, because sometimes it's about the essentials.
4| A bicycle wine rack to support two of your favorite pastimes at once.
5| Spinal tape, because sometimes it's about the not-so-essentials.

Love you, Dad! See you in a few days :)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

watch this! christmas movies, part one

Growing up, one of my absolute favorite parts of the season was hauling up all our decorations from the basement at the start of December. Forget presents under the tree -- when that plethora of red and green bins came up the stairs, Christmas had arrived. (OK, so no, don't really forget presents ;) )

One of the boxes I most looked forward to each year was the one labeled "Christmas Movies" (or, more precisely, "Christmas Videos  Movies," because we recycle). Even now, all grown up and sitting in my living room here in Abu Dhabi, I'm dreaming about that box. I can't wait to dust it off for 2011's go 'round of on-screen holiday cheer. Here, five of the classics -- both old and new -- that should be waiting inside.

My mom "saves" this one for cookie baking. She'll choose a day to bake away, and that's when this movie (her all-time favorite) is finally allowed to be screened. (I actually love this quirk of hers -- it adds to the specialness and reminds me of how similar we really are!)

A little lesser-known, Holiday was the black sheep of its day. But I am absolutely crazy about Katharine Hepburn's offbeat, slightly subversive character in the film and the chemistry she has with the lovable-as-ever Cary Grant. Not to mention the pleasure I derive from drooling over all the gorgeous clothes.

The most current classic on my list, full of joy and wonderfully memorable quotes:

"I just like to smile, smiling's my favorite!"
"We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup."
"Well, there are some things you should know. First off, you see gum on the street, leave it there. It isn't free candy."

And of course: "You have such a pretty face, you should be on a Christmas card!"

These are the kinds of lines that become widespread, communal inside jokes. I love it. Elf is a guaranteed mood boost, every time. (PS - If you live the in the Chicago area, go see it on the big screen today!)

My entire family watches this Griswold extravaganza together every single Christmas Eve. Picture it: My mom's siblings (she's one of seven), their spouses and children, their children's spouses and children . . . There must be at least 50 of us all packed into the living room, warm and giddy and possibly wearing Santa hats, laughing at the same scenes we've laughed at hundreds of times before. My uncles will also insist on rewinding their favorite parts at least three to four times, just to make sure everyone sees. I don't know what this says about my family, but it's one of my favorite traditions.

(For the diehards in your life, here's a fun gift idea. My mom gave these to her brothers last year, and I'm sure they'll remain a gift that keeps on giving for many years to come ;) )

Pretty much the be-all end-all of holiday movies in my life. I think Home Alone has become even more endeared to me in recent years because it's the quintessential Christmas movie of my childhood, the one that most "belongs" to my cohort. It was also filmed about an hour away from my hometown. (In fact, the McAllister house was listed for sale up until a few weeks ago.) One of the first things I plan to do when we land in Chicago next week is hole up and wrap presents with Kevin for company. Though, in the spirit of childhood, I'm hoping Ethan will join me, too.

Next up: the Oddball Edition -- weirdo Christmas movies near and dear to my heart.

Velvet and glitter accents courtesy of Katrina at Pugly Pixel.

Friday, December 9, 2011

summer love

Pictures shot (with somewhat hesitant and fumbling hands) on a Diana Mini. I bought her before our trip to Istanbul last April. Somehow all the film from that excursion ended up in storage, but the other day I discovered a wayward roll from last summer hiding in my suitcase here in AD. Apart from the as-of-yet unseen photos I took in Turkey, these are my first-ever Diana photos -- of hometown strolls, our first shared apartment, road trips, and swimming pools.

It's weird, summer seems like so long ago, as so much has obviously happened since. On the other hand, living in a desert climate is like being in perpetual summer. It's cooled down a bit, yes, but there isn't the same shifting of seasons to mark the passage of time. "Now" doesn't seem so different from "then," at least not on the surface.

OK, interlude over. Back to the snow-covered, holiday-themed posts that suit my heart this time of year, if not my immediate environment.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

all i want for christmas

Funny thing about this time of year, people are prone to asking you what you want. Which for me is basically an open invitation into Alice's tunnel (albeit a rather analytical version): What do I want? What does it mean to want? How can I answer this question in a way that makes us both happy? WHY AM I THINKING LIKE THIS?! Quick, OK, just give an answer. Default! No, yes, fine, default, DEFAULT! "World peace?" Oi, you should be more clever next time. . . . and so on.

When it comes to Christmas this year, I've at least managed to establish that what I want most is to be home. And while I do want to pick up some actual stuff while I'm there (hellllooooo, art supplies!), what I'm really looking forward to are experiences. I want to be surrounded by family, drink good wine with good friends, drive around snowy streets looking at twinkle lights, hear holiday music coming out of every public speaker, sip cocoa while making gingerbread houses and peppermint bark, bundle up to visit Navy Pier and the Christkindlmarket . . . . In other words, I want CHRISTMAS. Full-on, true-to-form holiday magic. (Got that, Santa?)

I know, I know: Touching, but anything else? Like, what do you WANT??? 

To help provide a more standard answer to this question, I've gathered together a few of my more recent cravings.

1| A cozy pair of slippers (as mentioned previously) to keep my feet comfy on our tile floors.
2| Diane Keaton's recent memoir, topping my must-read list as of late (in addition to these).
3| This Curling Ribbon ring, because I love a good dose of (tastefully) festive.

Annnnnd . . . That's all I got, folks. (Maybe not so helpful after all!)

Honestly, I tried to make it three times this long, but nothing seemed to stick. I kept adding items, then thinking, But I don't REALLY CARE if I get this or not. So I went with what you see: A few things I'd really, truly love to have and enjoy, and nothing more.

What do YOU want this year? (No pressure or anything.)

PS - Don't worry, Mom, I still love Field Notes! And you :)

sufjan stevens - come on! let's boogie to the elf dance

This is by far one of my favorite modern day Christmas songs. I've been putting it on in the mornings while getting ready for work, and it puts me in such a positive mood. It can be hard to get into the spirit of the season in a country that doesn't really celebrate it. Plus I'm totally with Kevin McAllister on the necessity of snow and pine trees for a "real" Christmas. In lieu of trees, snow, wreaths, and twinkle lights, though, this song definitely provides a holiday boost -- at least for the time being :)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

countdown, officially

Paper chain in progress . . . Just 11 links away from home sweet home!

anthro sweepstakes: yes, please!

I've been entering Anthropologie's holiday giveaway each day since it started and plan to continue for the duration. Normally I'm not much into contests, but this one is too tempting! I love every single thing they've offered thus far. (Plus, sneaky secret? The fine print includes all upcoming prizes, so you could technically plan your entries accordingly.)

Hopefully spreading the word doesn't decrease my odds ;)

Either way, those slippers are definitely going on my Christmas list.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

world wide open

Lately I have the distinct feeling that anything is possible. 

This feeling refuses to believe otherwise.

The world is glowing again. I am remembering how important it is to look, and to listen. 

And I am so in love with it all.

f. scott fitzgerald deco editions

I am absolutely in love with these special edition F. Scott Fitzgerald books from Penguin. They're so beautiful! I want every single one.

(Somewhat Related Personal Anecdote: In seventh grade, I did a report on F. Scott Fitzgerald. The main thing I took away from that assignment? The author's connection to Francis Scott Key. Clearly, my twelve-year-old self had some trouble reading between the lines. That, or the research I used to write my report was absolute crap.)

the middle east - blood

Been listening to this song again lately. On repeat. Seriously -- there's never a time where I am able to play it just once. Once isn't enough. Doesn't exactly fit the whole Christmas vibe, I know, but I can't seem to help myself!

Saturday, December 3, 2011


there are other people out there
that do like what i like
and do love what i love.
and i think now it’s time to accept
that maybe i don’t need a reason
or an explanation
to feel what i feel 
and be as i am.
it is time to simply go do.
time to do exactly what i love.
for once in my life,
acceptance trumps explanation.
because at this very moment
i just know.

(image found here)

Friday, December 2, 2011

happy birthday, little brother

You're 22 today! While I don't doubt your newly scholarly self would normally spend his birthday studying, you lucked out this year and got a Friday. I hope you take advantage of this gift from the universe and CELEBRATE. And I mean really.

Wish I had pictures of us as kids to post, but since those are in bins and boxes at Mom and Dad's, I suppose this will have to do:

(You're welcome.) 

Looking forward to seeing you at Christmas in a few weeks; in the meantime, I put together a sort of would-if-I-could birthday present -- a few things that made me think of you. Enjoy!

1| A t-shirt that reminded me of your rock collections.
2| The chemist's coffee pot.
3| Special edition notebooks (plus temporary tats) for your bright ideas/hustling self.

Love you, brother!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

you should be on a christmas card!

Hooray, it's here! The first of December and the official start of the holiday season!

We'll be heading home to Chicago in a couple of weeks, and I seriously could not be more stoked. Christmas movies on repeat, eggnog and gingerbread houses, the German market downtown, bundled up light tours, snowshoeing at the head is spinning with excitement! Planning on making a paper chain to count down the days until we leave -- not quite a chocolate advent calendar, but it'll do!

This will be our first Christmas as a married couple, though tomorrow actually marks the eighth anniversary of our relationship. Crazy! Cards seemed necessary.

We chose something a little quirkier, one of our favorite shots from the reception this past June. The reverse has another favorite, slightly more traditional photo and space to write a personal note. 

I ordered the cards here, which was mostly painless (just beware any personal modifications -- we definitely needed more than one round of proofs). I had them delivered to the States, and I can't wait to see them in person. Just one more thing to look forward to at home :)