Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas in Connecticut

For a week around Christmas, I was in Connecticut with my family.  I got to spend some time with my two younger brothers: Peter, who is a senior in college, and Leland, who just got home from a tour of duty in Iraq.  What a great Christmas gift!

I enjoy being a tourist, even in my hometowns, so my mom and I went on a short field trip back to the town where I grew up: Old Saybrook, CT.  We had lunch at Dock and Dine, a classic location right on the mouth of the Connecticut River, and we stopped by the Acton Public Library, where I used to do volunteer work in the summers, in the children's section.  Earlier in the 2000's, the library was totally redone and it is now probably 4 times the size it was when I was a kid, and it has a gorgeous new mural, probably 25 or more feet long, along the entrance hallway, depicting the history of the town and important buildings/things in the town.  Mom and I spent a good half hour reading all the hand-painted tiles and looking for names of old friends (the mural also listed the names of people and families who had given money for the library rebuild, cutely shown as the titles of books on many shelves).

There was also one tile we found interesting, telling about the re-design of the Main Street medians, which my mom had a hand in, in the late 90's.

I also got my dad to be a tourist with me.  We went to the Mystic Aquarium the last day I was in Mystic.  We enjoyed the Sea Lion show and went on a wild goose-chase to find the penguins.  I liked the penguin's bracelets to tell them apart.  Good craft project!
On our way up to the Providence airport, mom and I stopped off in Newport to tour one of the mansions, The Breakers.  Over the years, we've probably visited every mansion that is open to the public, but this is the first time I can remember going at Christmastime.  I loved seeing The Breakers all decked out for the holidays, but I most enjoyed the fragrant flower arrangements.  More than one room was just filled with the perfume of lilies.  I'll have to get some for my house, now that my Narcissus and Amaryllis have wilted away.
Now I'm back in Chicago and I have a few days off.  I've already started the great new year's closet redesign.  Pictures will be up soon!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas in Chicago

Nate and I celebrate our Christmas a little early each year, in Chicago, before flying home to our separate families.  This year, we made the celebration a little longer than usual by starting Saturday afternoon at the Christkindl market in Daley Plaza.  We kept ourselves from eating any of the delicious-smelling German treats (not because we were being good but because we had dinner reservations at the Park Grille later), but did purchase some more ornaments for the Christmas tree at home.

Since I don't have any friends with children, I only admired but did not buy these adorable felt slippers that one vendor had for sale.
After our quite filling dinner (with a creme brulee flight for dessert) and a visit with the lions at the Art Institute, we went to a CSO concert.  That night, the program was 3 "pieces" by Tchaikovsky.  The first was The Storm, which was based on the play of the same name, which inspired the opera Katya Kabanova that we saw just a few weeks ago at the Lyric Opera.  The second was movements from the Snow Maiden ballet, with Alex Balestrieri narrating the story in between movements.  The third piece was movements from Swan Lake, and we were treated to a slide-show of sorts - paper puppets over a projector which acted out the story.  I really can't think of a better way to describe it now, but please know that the puppeteering, done by Red Moon Theater, was beautiful and inspiring.  Nate and I both loved it and wished we could see it again.
Today (Sunday) was Nate's and my little Christmas celebration at home - opening gifts and drinking hot chocolate in front of the fire.  I got him some good gifts, including some felt finger puppets I bought from Abbey Christine on etsy.  It's an unlikely trio of Steve Zissou, Ralphie from A Christmas Story, and Bob Ross, the beloved painter.

Nate the Great got me a real trio of cooking instruments: Mastering the Art of French Cooking - volumes 1 and 2, a subscription to Cooks Illustrated, and a new set of All Clad pots and pans, all of which were either put into use straightaway, or will be within the next few hours.  (Christmas breakfast was eggs benedict, so I'm really not kidding when I say we used the new stuff!)

Now for an afternoon of filling out Christmas cards and starting to pack for my upcoming trip home!

Friday, December 18, 2009

A few of My Favorite Things

Yesterday, I put off filling out Christmas cards for a little longer while I stocked and stacked my new ribbon boxes from the Container Store.  Impulse buy, indeed, but as you can see they were needed!
Also, yesterday, I showed up to my last lesson of the evening and was promptly offered fresh-out-of-the-oven homemade shortbread cookies.  While snacking on those, I began teaching my student to play "My Favorite Things" from the Sound of Music.
Then I was given a whole bag of shortbread cookies to take home, which I shared with Nate while we watched "A Very Gilly Christmas."
This morning I went on a little shopping trip and picked up a sandwich from Subway on the way home.  The guy at the register was giving out free cookies with the sandwich purchases.  Hmmmm, maybe I should have titled this post "free cookies."
Yes, it's been a couple of days filled with the little things that make life (and wintertime) happy.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas preparations - for real this time

So I've been way too busy getting ready for Christmas.    You could say the prep. started over a month ago, when my mom was out for a visit and we planted some paper-white and amaryllis bulbs.  My Amaryllis is gorgeous, as you can see.  3 blooms already on this stalk, with one more ready to pop, and another stalk growing, so hopefully we'll have blooms into January.
We bought our tree 2 weeks ago, and it's still alive, lit, and mostly red.  I'm putting up a picture here of the tree, with all of the secret santa gifts under it from the party.  Unfortunately, those gifts hide the neat tree skirt I bought on sale at Crate and Barrel after last Christmas.
Our 4th Annual carol singing party, which was last Saturday, was another huge success.  We had close to 30 guests to enjoy the food, sing carols, and swap secret santa gifts.  And we managed to make the punch not taste like jello shots this year - a true victory. 
I spent a good part of the week baking - a follow-up to the baking I had done the previous week for my piano recital.  I love decorating cookies and I really think I should take a cake decorating class soon, when I can find one that works with my schedule.
And once the party was over, I got to work wrapping Christmas gifts for my family, which I have shipped off to their destinations this morning, so for the next week until I fly home to CT my only other project is Christmas cards.  Oh Christmas cards.

But that being said, I hope to get moving on some new, real projects soon (as well as my annual New Year's redesign of a closet).  Check back for more holiday fun!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Christmas preparations

Dear Blog,
Don't worry!  I haven't forgotten about you!
However, I am very busy with Christmas prep.
So, just a quick note to let you know I got my Christmas tree tonight.
Also, I will be making gingerbread cookie dough tomorrow, as my students' piano recital is coming up on Saturday and I know how they like cookies :-)
Pictures to follow, when all my decorations are up!
love, PTW