so it was Christmas, friends edition

IMG_7607 For four (five?) years now, we've gathered with some friends and neighbors to celebrate the season and check out each other's holiday decorations. It's a night I look forward to every year. When I looked back at this post last year, I realized that we couldn't host our normal appetizer course because our kitchen was in such a midden. I'll have to show you how it all turned out sometime.

IMG_7605 We switched it up again this year, and I made dessert. My heart is full when I think of these friends, so I think I'll let the photos do the talking. Living here is one of the very best parts of my year. Every year.










Read More

ice skating morning

IMG_7252 Our local mall has opened an ice skating rink for the holiday season, and Callum went with some friends on Friday. Despite several falls, a suspected concussion and some achey muscles, he couldn't wait to get back.

IMG_7222 We got there early, before they even opened and unexpectedly met up with some friends. It was a perfect day to be out. Not too cold and sunny, and even watching the Zamboni was a treat.

IMG_7237 Another treat was a Zamboni Photo-Op!

IMG_7243 The nice man let Neel sit on the Zamboni too!

IMG_7262 I was not physically brave as a child, and I appreciate so much that Callum has bravery in spades. He's willing to try anything, and leaps headlong into it, seeking to master the skill.

IMG_7323 All three kids were incredibly brave, and the transformation they made in just a couple of hours was remarkable. Not just our kids, but everybody there. Even the ones clutching the wall for dear life eventually made their way around the rink fall-free. An impressive feat on the feet.

IMG_7361 After skating, lunch at the boulangerie (la boulangerie!).

IMG_7364 Callum double fisted soup. Warming up from the inside out.

Read More

guest blogger

Clearly I've been out of the loop for awhile. Neel's been working me like a dog. (That should make Mark happy.) I have been busy. But I also have a ton of photos on my camera that I'm dreading downloading. I do want to see them though. Maybe I'll get to them today.

So instead of me, I'll bring you my friend David and his dinner. He's an amazing cook, and even though I was pretty sure he was making fun of me...just a little... when he sent the email with these pictures, I can't help but share them. Let's try guessing what these dear friends of ours had for dinner. The wine alone looks amazing.



The squash looks delish...I think I'm gonna need the recipe, Dave. Why not come down and deliver it in person? We miss you.

Read More

brunch (love)

IMG_5280 I think I mentioned last week that we were planning to have some friends over for brunch on Sunday.

IMG_5283 I love brunch. What's not to love? The food is good, the drink is good. There is a relaxed ease that doesn't always come at dinner parties. We hosted this time, and any time someone would say, "Please don't go to too much trouble." I'd say, "As soon as I finish flinging out this ballroom wing." But I find the process of setting the table and getting out Neel's mother's lovely dishes so wonderful and meditative. It's nice and easy to get ready for a Sunday of food and friends.

IMG_5287 Of course there's always the Bloody Mary too.

IMG_5310 Everybody brought a dish to share, and I'm sorry, but I don't have a picture of the pumpkin bread that was such a hit. I got the recipe on if you're at all interested. We had a potato gratin (thanks, Ina!) and a wonderful egg dish along with the most amazing bowl of fresh fruit.

IMG_5315 I was initially concerned that I'd overdone it on the bacon and made too much, but as it turned out we managed to plow through that plate quite nicely until there was nothing left but crumbs.

IMG_5329 The kids all know each other. Most of them went to school together at one point and haven't seen each other in awhile. It was in the house and out of the house. In the house and back out again. All afternoon. We had a perfect fall day.

IMG_5325 Brunch captured their attention for a bit, as did the webcam, which is where they are in these photos. They're good kids. All of them. Where else can you find a group of kids that range from second through seventh grade who can all have fun together? What a delight.

IMG_5355 Ultimately, I'm not a very good feminist. (I know, way to jump around, right? Bear with me here.) I had a roommate once in college (isn't that when we're supposed to be all radical?) who chastised me for daydreaming with another girlfriend about the day when we'd be all grown up and at "the beach house" together. Our kids would be playing in the sand, our husbands on the porch drinking beers, and we'd be chatting in the kitchen, making everyone ham (it had to be ham) sandwiches. She saw that as a sign of my supression: me in the kitchen/he on the porch with the beer. I don't know about supression. Sounds pretty nice to me.

IMG_5351 And then on Sunday, after the plates were cleared, the kids headed back out to toss the corn hole bags at each other and discuss the newest Harry Potter trailer, while the guys sat around the table sampling Old Smokey. Tracy, Debbie(Cate), and I moved into the kitchen. In between, "Is that your new lipstick?" and "Is it weird that my hip hurts this much?" we did the dishes and got them out of the way. Suddenly Tracy said, "You guys, we're married!" I knew exactly what she meant. Debbie(Cate) chimed in saying that just the other day she'd walked up to her husband in a store saying, "We have two kids." Like, oh my God, we have two kids. How did this happen? Here we are. As women, we know we all love each other. But also, we're married. Our husbands like each other too. They're sitting around the table together! We're grown up! We're all grown up, and here we are having brunch.

I couldn't help thinking back to that conversation, all those years ago. Had I even met Neel yet? It had to be a long time ago. Over twenty years. The men around the table, talking talking. The women in the kitchen, cleaning and talking talking. My old roommate didn't know the wonder of what she could be missing out on. Who is suppressed here? On any given night, Neel is the one breaking glassware in our sink as he does the dinner dishes. This was just three families gathered together. Gathered happily. It was perfect. The whole day was perfect. I was just where I wanted to be.

Read More

kudos (No, really!)

So my friend Mark knows me pretty well. Before nominating me for some kind of blogging award, he had to call and ask permission. He knows how private I am. And he's so sweet. No, really! I was flattered, so why the heck not. The only caveat that he told me about was the one where you pay the award forward and nominate other bloggers. Like I said, Mark knows I'm private, and even admitting to people the blogs I read is hard. If I'd known I was going to have to bare my soul too? I'm not sure I would have ever agreed. Clearly he tricked me. But I'm a rule follower, so here goes. Read carefully. It won't happen again. (And, uh, thanks Mark. No, really!)

The Versatile Blogger Award
► Acknowledge the award and thank and link back to the person bestowing it. A good way to do this is through a post such as this.
► Pass on the award to other bloggers:
►Let the new recipients know you've selected them.
►Share seven things about yourself that your readers or followers might not know. (See "Seven Bits," below.)
►Post the badge to your blog.

1. If I mentioned above that I'm a rule follower, can that count as #1? No? Okay. If I mentioned in an earlier blog post that I love football can that count? No? Okay. Fine. Let me start again.

1. I have mentioned before that I spend a lot of time, too much really, inside my head. What I didn't mention is that there's mostly teen angst going on in there. I am constantly worrying about things like, "I wish I'd never sent that e-mail." or "He didn't seem as warm to me as usual. I must have said something to upset him." or "Is she mad at me?"  or "Why hasn't she texted me yet?"  So when people tell me they think I'm confident, I want to say Ha! If you could see inside my brain, it's like the set of Sixteen Candles going on in there.

2. There is a part of me (sometimes a big part, sometimes a small part) that wishes we'd had another baby. Can't wait for the comments to start on that. (I'm looking at you Marky.)

3. I have found that as I get older, there are things that I used to really dislike that I now really like. Patent leather for example.

4. I have in me a deep, deep desire to write a book. There are two finished and one unfinished manuscripts buried deep in my filing cabinets (and no more shall be said about that), but I really yearn to write more. Fiction, creative nonfiction, I don't know. The dream is there, but I fear that the drive and/or the discipline is not.

5. I don't sleep. I have had trouble with sleep for most of my adult life, and my recent bout with headaches (accidentally typed "hurricanes," how ironic is that?!) has made sleep particularly difficult. I sleep with a book and a my phone, used as a flashlight, next to me. We call my sleep "fragile." When reading, I can get incredibly sleepy, but if it takes too much effort to turn off the light or adjust my pillow, I'm awake again. At one point in the middle of the night a few weeks ago, the image of my sleep being fragile like an egg came to me. Later that same long night, I had the thought that sleep for me is an egg balanced on a bread knife. If I ever write that book, you will read that metaphor there.

6. I love weather. All kinds, but especially hurricanes. I'll admit it, it was a special thrill to move to a hurricane-y part of the world, and terribly exciting to experience one as soon as we got here! Ever since Hurricane Hugo ravaged the area where my family had traveled for so many summer vacations, I have followed the seasons and their formations. As I mentioned before, Callum's getting into it a little now too. It's not just hurricanes. Thunderstorms, record heat, record cold, snow, rain, mist, drizzle, mizzle, you name it...I love it. The problem with weather is that it will always let you down. You watch the storm of the century coming towards you that dumps 8 inches of snow (this is Tidewater, Virginia people, what do you expect?), and you're wishing, why wasn't it ten? You live through a winter of 80 inches of snow (not in Tidewater, Virginia), and you think, "Oh just one more snowfall." Callum is learning this as we speak. I'm sure that no matter how much rain Nearly-Tropical-Storm-Nicole (the system I can't quite understand) dumps on us, he'll want a few more inches and a few more gusts of wind. Heck, I will too.

7. I am in search of a thread. I'm re-reading a book by Orangette author (Do you re-read books? I do, it's a particular pleasure of mine...look at me letting the intimate details all hang out!) Molly Wizenberg, and she talks about how cooking is a thread in her life. And hey! She even wrote a book about it. I am in search of a thread. Sure I like to cook. I've been cooking for a long time. Sure I like to write. I've been writing for a long time. Sure I like to take photographs. I first got interested in photography a looooooong time ago (and queen of dropped thread that I am, left it alone a looooong time ago too). But what's my thread? That's definitely something I'd like to know.

And now that I've gotten started I guess there's a lot more that I could say. I like hot sandwiches but not cold ones. I need my windshields to be very, very clear when I'm driving, or even riding in rhe rain. I like a light to be on in the house when I come home after dark... Funny how that works. Revealing things. In honor of Mark, who I would nominate right back if I could, I'll put the link to the blog back on my facebook profile page. So all 40 of my friends can come check it out. Every new year I resolve to be more brave, so there you go. Now my old high school boyfriend can come see what this is all about, should he so desire (doubtful).

I really do appreicate you thinking of me Marky. And you dear readers, all 12 of you should go and check out his blog. You'll learn a lot more about him than you ever would about me! He and I have been friends since we were baby-adults (newly hatched grown-ups), and he is still one of the best, funniest people I ever met. And I still think that after discovering that half of his facial expressions come from Homer Simpson. Seriously, that man tells the best stories. Way better than mine. If he wrote a book, I'd read it, and I'd try very hard not to be jealous.

And as far as the nominating goes? I have to pick my friend Megan. That's MEE-gan. At Megan's Blog. That's MEE-gan's Blog. Not only a versital blogger, she's one of the most versitle people I know. A little funny too. And she's a great writer. Brilliant posts. I'm hoping this award will encourage her to write more of them.

Read More

old friend from far away

IMG_2890 We had dinner on Sunday with friends who moved away a few years ago. Our families have been hanging out since our kids started school together six years ago. It was so nice to be together again (minus one...we'll have to rectify that soon, won't we Suze?). Nice and easy.

IMG_2894 There was so much catching up to do. We sat at the dinner table and talked for hours. It's hard to find words for an evening like this. We told story after story. Some from our time together and others from way back..."Mommy, tell about the time you were stung by the jellyfish." Callum would say, "I seem to be full of stories tonight!" And then his eyes would light up and he'd say, "Ah! Another one!" Evenings like that are so wonderful when they're shared.

My mom and I talked on the phone the next night about how important stories are. She was talking about this blog and what a lot of you have said about it. The stories are what makes our life's events feel real. We live it once, and then we retell and retell, somehow cementing the reality of an experience. I think that's why I write this blog. It's not for profit or even posterity...I always say it's a gift to my family. Taking our stories, telling them and making them real.

Read More

whine, whine, whine

IMG_0247 This weekend was the annual wine tasting at my friend Catherine's church. We look forward to this get-together every year, a glimmer of fun in deepest, darkest February. They always feature Virginia wineries, and this year's guest was Rosemont Vineyard. Of all the years we've been, this is my favorite vineyard. The owner told a wonderful story about how he was jogging along on the treadmill of life, not feeling inspired and with his health showing the effects of his hard work. He woke one day, knowing that he didn't want to live like this anymore, so he came home to his family's estate. He walked the land, and slept in late, and one day decided that he needed to come home permanently and open a vineyard. That was only three years ago. His son now works with them as the vintner and they're winning awards all over the place. Cool story, huh? Makes me think we need a 15 year plan. That's gonna be a tricky one for Neel, I think.

IMG_0265 We were a table of twelve and everyone brought munchies and delectable treats to nibble on. In fact, I think we were nibbling on nibbles, right Catherine?

IMG_0282 And then the wine! Pretty good stuff too. We had generous pourers, and by the time we got to tasting number 12, everyone was chatty and happy and much warmer than the cold air outside.

Read More

carolina on my mind

IMG_9179 We traveled south to spend the New Year with some old friends.


IMG_9162 We ate seafood, fresh from the boat, for the whole visit.

IMG_9167 If the kids are complaining, "Shrimp for dinner again?" try some crab.

IMG_9171 Paper towel holder an optional, yet necessary addition to the table.



IMG_9178 There are few places like the Lowcountry of South Carolina, I think, for soaking up the local color.

IMG_9189 Men cooking!

IMG_9197 All of us cooking, really. That was my favorite part. Cooking meals together. That says "family" like little else.

IMG_9193 We had a little wine too.

IMG_9211 A gracious home with gracious hosts...

IMG_9186 and winter's windswept beaches. What a way to welcome a new year. Not too shabby.

Read More

batten down

IMG_8391 The wind picked up overnight last night and so did the rain. It whipped around our heads, riling up the trees, now nearly denuded of their leaves, all night long. We're having sustained winds of 30-40 .m.p.h. with gusts over 55. By the time this is done, sometime tomorrow, we'll have over 8 inches of rain. All the schools are closed, even the medical school where Neel works. We couldn't have made it off our block anyway, much less through downtown. Many streets are underwater. High tide is still hours away.

IMG_8388 I had a chat with my friend Debbie yesterday about the differences in our essential natures. She prefers clear skies and being out and about, while for me, well, I wish these unchained windy elements that send me homeward would last for days. I can picture her, restless at home, and I bet she's picturing me, happily settled in.

Read More

charmed, I'm sure

IMG_6080 One of the bonuses of heading to the Shenandoahs this weekend was getting to land in this charmer for our stay.  Nurse Rebecca offered her parents' Charlottesville hideaway, and we couldn't be more grateful.

IMG_6081 The setting was stunning.  Steep and rolling hills that made our little Mini Cooper say, "What the heck, you guys?"  Man, we miss hills.

IMG_6143 I've taken you inside Jan's local home before.  Gracious and stunning on a grand scale.  The feel of this home is totally different, but completely familiar. 


IMG_6144 As welcoming as ever, but this time on a cozy scale.  Neel and I felt like we were in the very best of English cottages. 

IMG_6145 The room we slept in was off the living room, just down a step and through that door.  Thanks to Neel, who mused about ghosts upstairs, Callum bunked there too.  It's on the market now, this sweet cottage, and I can't help wondering if that chair right there (of which there are two), is for sale as well.  Well?

IMG_6146 From the sloping front lawn to the sweet tearrace out back, this house was nothing if not dear.  Neel and I found ourselves wishing Callum were headed to UVA sooner rather than later (ha!), so we could do what Rebecca's parents did and have a place to land as lovely as this is.  Thanks so much for sharing your home with us.

Read More


We headed to the mountains this weekend to catch some Virginia history and reconnect with a very dear friend of mine.  I was so testy getting us out of the house on Friday afternoon.  Time was standing still, and of course there was traffic and rain and a delay in the tunnel.  It took forever to get there.  When we settled in to the house where we were staying, and I called to say we were on our way, I heard her voice for the first time in twenty-one years.  Can you believe it?  I get teary thinking about it.  Of course I got teary then. 

When we finally got to her house, I felt shy and anxious and thrilled and almost desperate.  Neel and Callum kept making jokes, "Well, if you haven't seen her in twenty years, I haven't seen her in almost ten." (Callum) "And I haven't seen her in forty." (Neel, always trying to one-up me.)  When she came out of her house, called Blue Poplar, and we stood on the sidewalk we laughed and cried all at once, and Callum asked, "Momma, are you crying?" which he always asks, and I wanted to hug her husband as if it had been twenty years since I'd seen him too, even though we'd never met.  The magic began right then and lasted right through the weekend.

IMG_6037 We kicked off our time together at the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville.  Snacking on beer and munchies, people watching, but mostly catching up.

IMG_6039 Callum, who'd been cooped up in the car far too long, had a chance to roam.

IMG_6059 At the chalk wall dedicated to Freedom of Speech, Callum wrote, "I love Thomas Jefferson. I can't wait to see Monticello. Love Callum."





IMG_6074 At some point we had to drink eat dinner.  Callum wanted fish, so we swung into the Blue Light where I introduced them to the Dark and Stormy (this time with Ginger Beer!).

IMG_6076 Callum got his halibut on.  Kid's got gills.  Sure we ate, but we talked and talked and talked and talked.  Like we were running out of breath, we talked.

IMG_6133 Next day, we did it all over again.  Back to the Downtown Mall for more music, people watching, yarn stores, and hello?

IMG_6135 Cupcakes.

IMG_6138 A quick drive into the hills for some wine and cheese before dinner (and Ginger Beer!) and then back to Blue Poplar.

IMG_6140 Dinner in the yard as evening fell, and the bugs came out.  Still with the talking.  

I know I've been making dating analogies lately (what's up with that?), but you know how it is when you go out to dinner with a new couple and it's so clear that you connect?  That you get each other and like the same things and you're laughing and talking all at once like you're just so tickled to be together?  That's how this weekend was, but only better, because here we were, twenty years later.  And who knew?  Who knew that this person who was part and parcel of my childhood would turn out to be someone I'd be so thrilled to know as an adult? 

For the longest time I was just going along having fun, and then I walked into their kitchen and saw a grocery list on the fridge.  Seeing her handwriting, so instantly familiar, took me straight back into our shared history and settled the import of this moment upon me.  I hate to use the word "blessed" because it gets thrown around so much these days.  But truly, there's no other word for how I feel right now.  Not just blessed that we'd found each other again, but that we like so much who we turned out to be. 

Neel said it was the high point of his weekend, meeting her and seeing us together.  She sparkles, he told me.  For her husband, it was watching us meet again and then part (not "good-bye," just "see you soon"), because we were so happy to be together again.  

I'm so happy for her because she clearly has a wonderful life.  There may be an appalling lack of bacon in it (at least by my family's standards!), but I couldn't have asked for a better husband for her or more joy.  (Plus she has the job I think I want when I grow up, and it took everything I had not to grab her by the ankle and beg her to tell me how to do it.  I kinda figured she may not want to talk about work over the weekend, that's just about the only thing that kept me in check...that and so much else to talk about.) Walking through just the tiniest bits of their days filled me with enormous satisfaction.  Knowing that she's so close, and that our days can walk along together now, well, that fills me with satisfaction too.



IMG_6046 I took these pictures while we were tickling Callum Friday night, but his face pretty much sums up how I felt all weekend long. I wasn't even sad when we left because it was so clear that this was only the beginning.

Read More

lowcountry, part 2 (the kid version)

IMG_5688 When we got to South Carolina, Callum disappeared into the bowels of the house, only to reappear at meal times or to be spotted as he dashed from room to room...much like dolphins moving their way up and down the Atlantic coast.  ("There's one, did you see it?!").  However...

IMG_5733 Clearly.

IMG_5732 These children.

IMG_5738 Are up.

IMG_5798 To no good.

IMG_5811 Even.

IMG_5812 The dog.

Read More


IMG_5670 Callum's had to say goodbye to a lot of friends this summer.  Before our neighbors moved, friends from school headed south, away from us, but last week he and I piled in the car for a quick road trip to pay them a visit in their new digs.

IMG_5665 It's funny how much I dreaded the drive.  I have a half hour commute each way to work every day, and somehow the prospect of six hours in the car filled me with nothing but ill feeling.  It was fine though, far better than I expected, and so worth it to see our friends.

IMG_5745 Can you believe Neel's never been to Charleston?  I love this part of the world.  I grew up splitting vacations between the Outer Banks of North Carolina and the Lowcountry of South Carolina.  South Carolina sings to my soul.  The ocean, the marshes, the salty smell and the old old oaks bejewled with Spanish moss.  My mom comes back to this part of the country twice a year, and I can see why.  I'm grateful to have a reason to visit.  

IMG_5667 Of course we went to the beach every day.  This sweet house has access to chairs and towels and umbrellas, when the wind's not whipping.  The beach itself ain't bad either.

IMG_5728 On our first night, we went to Brookgreen Gardens.

IMG_5689 I love curvy trails that could reveal hidden surprises.

IMG_5706 Like this. (Gator, not croc.)

IMG_5691 And this.

IMG_5712 And this.

IMG_5699 Otters get itches too.

IMG_5747 After the animals, we moved on to the sculpture garden for some live music. 

IMG_5743 I'm a dork and I know it, but coming upon scenes like this can move me to tears. Simply the beauty of the place, combined with the sound of live music filtered through the night and the burble of happy voices.  Those are the times you know you're touched by happiness.


IMG_5750 We got through one song, fortunately a favorite of mine, before the skies opened up.  After that it was a dash to find kids and then back to the car.

IMG_5761 After dinner, we had drinks on the upstairs porch as we watched the dark settle around us, earlier there so much further south.

IMG_5765 This photo is for my mom.  We did not have lunch here.  I thought I'd save it for when we're all in town together.

IMG_5767 We did have lunch here, and I can't even remember the name.  Avocado soup that tasted more like cucumber, and we split crab and pimento dip and shrimp salad...all southern comfort food.

IMG_5779 Drinks again that night, this time a walk away at The Carriage House.  I had a Sapphire and tonic, of course.  Did you really have to ask?

IMG_5808 The whole weekend was like that.  Go to the beach. Do something fun.  Have a cocktail. Eat an amazing meal, whether it was $5 crab cakes delivered by Crab Cake Man or Shrimp and Corn Chowder.  Easy to be with old familiar friends (Although let's face it, they haven't been gone that long.)  The only hitch was not having Neel there with us.  I think we'll have to bring him next time we come.  It's funny, I thought I took so many pictures of the house and the kids, but I guess I didn't.  Sometimes you just have to live your life instead of photographing it.

Read More

goodbye, old friends

IMG_5880 Somehow it seems you can only say goodbye to dear friends over a meal, even if it includes bad drinks.  So on Friday evening we gathered with some neighbors who are moving, and felt it keenly: how much fun we've had together and how hard it is to say goodbye.

IMG_5875 How do these Navy families do it?  Say hello/goodbye every two years or so?  When these guys moved back into the house they owned on the block (after a several year absence during which all we heard was how fabulous they were) this little nubbin wasn't even born yet.  And here she is, sporting the first broken bone of the family (big toe), and eating her Cherrios with a fork. 

IMG_5893 Callum was never happier than when he was in the mix of their vibrant, bustling family.  He was perfectly situated between their two older boys, and while their eldest ushered him through his first lacrosse season, their second eldest was his best bud on the block.  We're planning a visit this fall, and Callum asked how often we thought we might make it up to see his friends.  When I said, optimistically, I thought, "Oh, maybe once or twice a year, " Callum's response was to wail, "Only once or twice a year?  I can't bear it."

IMG_5904 Al those neighbors who told us how fablous these guys were?  They were right.  Yes, Callum will surely miss them.  And we will too.

Read More

this is not my kitchen

IMG_2638 We have neighbors who have done the most astonishing thing.  They moved out of their house for nine months and completely remodeled it.  Head to toe, top to bottom.  It's a funny thing about neighbors.  We have some who are friends, good close friends, and we have some who are neighbors, the kind we wave at (sometimes) as we pass in our cars, but who I wouldn't recognize if I saw them in the grocery store.  And some are in between.  We don't see them enough.  We catch up in grocery store aisles and in the middle of the street.  We're always saying things like, "Oh we should do this more," and, "I feel like I never see you guys!" 

IMG_2203 Sara and her husband are those kinds of neighbors.  Every time I'm with her, I have that settled sense you get when you just know that you like someone.  That she's my kind of people.  We've been laughing that we've seen more of each other over this past winter as she and her family decamped to deep in another part of the neighborhood than in years previous, but it taught us to be more intentional.

IMG_2650 I love a work-in-progress, and these guys did this massive project the right way by clearing out and involving every surface of their home.  We watched from far and near, commenting from the front yard fire pit as the green siding went up (We love it!), and from the bird's eye view of occasional wintertime tours. 

IMG_2645 Sara, it was clear, was fully engaged by this process.  I think she may have found her calling.  There's a bit of a back story here.  When we first moved here, Sara invited me to a spirituality workshop given by her church.  I think it's an annual thing they do, for women, and those of you who've known me awhile might have just spit out whatever morning beverage you were enjoying with this blog post at the thought of me at a church-sponsored spirituality workshop.  Lauren and organized religion are not so tight, but Lauren and exploring spirituality and Lauren and making friends and Lauren and being brave are trying to get closer.  That weekend with Sara, at her church's spirituality workshop continues to be one of my most resonant.  It stands out for me.  I should thank her for it every time I see her. 

IMG_2644 So when we stood in her half-finished kitchen and swept our palms over the subtly textured surface of her new granite counter tops, and she talked about being swept away with the glory of God's creation, I was right there with her.  I might have chosen different words, had it been my own experience, but the awe?  The pure astonishment at the gifts the earth gives to us?  I was right there with her.

IMG_2642 The feeling she described when the counters, the cabinets, the backsplash tiles, that gorgeous tile over the stove and the fixtures all came together, that sense of perfect oneness, for Sara it was the knowing you get when you've found the perfect gift for someone, I was right there with her.  For me that feeling comes with a well-crafted sentence.  We got each other in that conversation.  It was a perfect accord.

IMG_2649 If I love anything more than a work-in-progress, it's a house filled with empty rooms.  Neel and I differ here.  To him, those rooms are sad, to me they're expectant and waiting.  I've loved walking with Sara through her empty rooms.  Expectant.  Planning.  They've been moved back in for a few weeks now (and of course we haven't seen them except to wave as we drive past!), and I can't wait to see all of their stuff in place, the pear painting in the kitchen, the sofas against the deep deep color of the living room walls.  I wonder, though, happy as she must be to be back home if sometimes my friend doesn't yearn, just the tiniest bit, for the echo and the expectation of those empty rooms.

Read More

princess for a day

IMG_2692 Last week was my birthday, and much like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, I ate my way through the day.  It started at our Volunteer Breakfast at school where I tagged along to take pictures and was serenaded by the most beautiful rendition of Happy Birthday I've heard in some time.  (I highly recommend getting professionals to sing for you on your birthday, next chance you get.)  That meal was the zucchini quiche, and I forced myself not to go after a second piece.

IMG_2672 After that, can you tell?  Lunch at PF Changs, of course, with some dear girlfriends.

IMG_2675 Hello, lettuce wraps.

IMG_2676 Good-bye, lettuce wraps.  Although lunch at PF Changs was weird because it took forever, and our server wasn't great, but it really seemed a kitchen thing, the reason we were there so long (two hours).  The manager came and apologized and said he'd take something off the check, but then he didn't so my friend Tracy asked very nicely, and he comped us the whole meal.  I told everybody that it was as if my birthday was my little gift to them.  Free lunch.

We were supposed to fix a nice dinner that night after lacrosse practice, but after a two hour lunch, I just couldn't face another meal, so Callum and Neel ate my leftovers for dinner and after lacrosse we came home to this:

IMG_2679 Cupcake Heaven!  Catherine made these, aren't they amazing?  I was just speechless.  I still am.

IMG_2685 So we all tromped across the street to where everybody was waiting, and Jean with Champagne Punch, and another singing of the Happy Birthday, and I felt so warm and cherished and just they way you should feel on your birthday.

IMG_2693 My Champagne Punch.

IMG_2696 Finally all those cupcakes came out and the kids just couldn't believe it, and the grown-ups couldn't quite either.  Each of those little ones is like a bit of sushi, two perfect bites. 

IMG_2701 We loved it all so much that we did the same thing all over again on Friday night, right down to the punch.  And then, well it was time for the Sunday dinner, so we did it all again but by then we'd moved onto a new dessert.  Can't imagine a better birthday.  Don't even want to try.

Read More

just what I needed, apparently

IMG_2424 Some good friends, some cartons of Chinese food and a bottle of wine (whine, anyone?).  Who could ask for anything more?

IMG_2427 We made short work of the food and the wine (and Jean took care of the Coke), talking, talking, talking...

IMG_2432 This little guy is no dummy.  After his third sock change of the night, it was pretty clear that he just wanted to hang out with the ladies.

IMG_2436 Dessert you ask?  Of COURSE! "Just Fudge Pie," cookies made by a woman in Neel's lab (Oh my GOSH, Thank you, Katrina!) and almond cake.

I ate too much and stayed up too late, but it was just what I needed.  After surrounding myself with all that love, I feel a little better prepared to face the week. Thank you, ladies, for a perfect night. xoxo.

Read More