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*holly jolly.

You should see me right now.

No really, you should. I'm the personification of cliché, and I need witnesses. I am in front of my sagging laptop, glaring down my own reflection in the window in front of which it sits. (Note to self: Downgrade desk lamp wattage.) Hair in a geisha knot, last of the day's mascara flecking down my face, just enough to keep the under-eye smudge from being entirely holy-shit-this-is-what-30-does-to-you? Not one but two dirty plates alongside, testament to Triscuit and frozen burrito diet. To the right, freelance project atop often opened but rarely carefully studied camera manual; to the left, dog snoring in my bed, which he has overtaken on the basic principle of "my feet are dirty and therefore mucking up your sheets," an opening gambit to which I have no recourse. (Touché, mutt.)

Yet there's a creepy sort of contentment to it, a warmth I don't generally entertain, born out of radio Christmas carols and gift giving and twinkly lights and, at least in part, to Sex and the City.

I KNOW.

But I've been re-watching it for ... let's just say Not The First Time, with a patient friend, and I'm struck by how it's different from the last time I embarked on a marathon viewing, curled up on the sofa with LSis, blithely letting the hours pass in our pajamas, hair in geisha knots, last of two days ago's mascara obliterated—rubbed onto shirt sleeves and into pillowcases—making midday runs to the convenience store for cigarettes because Carrie made it look so effortlessly cool.

Frankly, she still does.

Only now I know better. I know that smoking is effortlessly cool, and that it makes you wake up feeling like you swept the chimney with your tongue. I know that the show's conceit—four women, each supposedly a caricature of what exists inside all of our doubled-up x chromosomes—is heavy-handed, and that cosmopolitans are some sort of cosmic joke, a pinkifying of a perfectly good martini. I know that rent-controlled is a myth and that there is no such thing as "having sex like a man," even for men. I know that shoes and babies will always be uniters.

Because the theme of that show seems to be loneliness—how long we must endure it, how to survive it, and the many many ways in which we must be constantly at the ready should life decide to benevolently divest us of it.

I'm a quarter of the way through season five for the frillionth time, and I still have no idea what makes us less lonely. (Studies show it's not Cheez-its and cherry vodka.)

afoot.


But I gotta say, with its demanded kindness and forced slow-down and sense that (even should one have chosen a career in a wheezing industry and/or have blindly driven one's car into a guardrail) there is something around the corner, Christmas sure do take the edge off.
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*unexpected gifts.

Why do I feel so exhausted? And WHOA what is with the swoopy lightheadedness?

yarn.


Oh yeah. I forgot to take my meds this morning.

But I've been told that if I have to head home anyway, I might as well just stay there.

hee.


ROCK.
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*snowed.

Half of my Christmas presents have not yet arrived, which FedEx chirps cheerfully into my inbox on a semi-regular schedule. "Now we're in PORTLAND!" Well I'm glad you're so all-fired excited about it; my giftee resides in THE 'HAM.

I neglected to even contemplate sending holiday cards; I haven't cooked or baked a single warm, nostalgic, or spirited item; and I have spent zero minutes curled up on the sofa with marshmallow-studded hot chocolate in hand, rocking my kicky light-up Santa headband and sneaking sips of the peppermint schnapps whilst crowing along to "Dominic the Italian Christmas Donkey."



So when this appeared on my desk this morning, lovingly wrapped in brown paper and sweet buttons and tied with a red bow, I was a little blown away.

cookie flakes.


I can turn snickerdoodles into hockey pucks, but there's no way I could pull this off.

sugar snow.


I mean that looks like it requires patience and level-headedness and hand-eye coordination. I swore at a squirrel this morning because I tripped over the crack in my own sidewalk.

flakes.


It's a good thing I'm so adorable.

k face.


Or, you know, baffled about where the shutter-release is.
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*leave of senses.

What a week.

womp.


It's only Wednesday?

jin yoko.


Pass the jin, Yoko.

I suspect posts will be sporadic and lame (see above) until the new year, or at whatever point we manage to get this issue out, I finish the last freelance project of the year, and Christmas presents just walk on out and buy themselves.

But I do miss ranting in this forum, and the relative sanity it provides.

Dear week:

Should you not provide me with the opportunity to vent into the void, I will implode. This strikes me as messy, and possibly dangerous to passersby.

Coping skills being as they are, at a stunning nadir, I may also be forced to find alternate routes to calmness, including but not limited to pilfering untold amounts of Tootsie Roll Pops from office candy bowls and crafting sartorial solutions to workplace frigidity that consist entirely of "if you're cold in one dress, wear two."

So I beg of you, week, please back off. Or pretty soon there's not going to be enough therapy in all the land.

Cheers!

K
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*ho ho hum.

I don't know what's happening to me lately, what's sucking every sprightly molecule from my soul and making the thought of having to create something—anything—feel like a Herculean effort.

Though if I had to guess, I'd probably blame it on that pesky job o' mine, with all its "duties" and "tasks" and "expectations of productivity."

I do know that I am lucky to have a job, any job, pesky or otherwise, and I can't in good conscience overlook its perks: I haven't purchased a cosmetics item in the seven years I've worked here, preferring to greedily pocket all sundry giveaways of eyeshadows, nail polishes, and face cleansers. This means sometimes settling for DayGlo shades better suited to '80s costume parties or '90s raves, but I prefer to approach the world with an aggressive "What? It's a statement" rather than actually spend money on makeup.

I also tote home weird crap, which I generally dump on TFin and JBSH with a self-satisfied grin and the hopes that they'll forgive my randomness in favor of my great generosity. I'm all, "Look! An oyster shucker!" and they pat me on my head and shove the sharp object into the darkest recesses of the nearest junk drawer.

Today, though, there were cupcakes. Possible fodder for an upcoming story on coconut, I believe. And though I am not an avid coconut eater, nor an avid sweets eater, nor an avid frosting lover, I ate the damned thing because it was pretty. This is unrelated to the numbers on my scale, I feel comfortably certain.

coco cupcake.


Isn't that delovely? It was even nicer in person, for the 10 minutes it lasted before I hoovered it. Like a glossy hill sprinkled with snowdrifts by a heavy hand. Just right for the season.

You know, on the Woodside. Where it's currently 68 degrees and foggy.

Because when TFin and JBSH put their tree up before Thanksgiving, they had no worries that it would dry out.

bonita tree.


Santa sails into Alabama on a wave of 94% humidity.
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*reality bites.

I fear this is becoming a pattern of sorts, falling off the Interwebs for days on end, only to resurface and create a distraction in the hopes that no one will notice my carefully honed slacking skills.

Look! Shiny things! Or! In the absence of same, deranged dog!

snake bite.


It's Friday, people. That is quite literally all I got.
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work. loads.

cheep. terrorfied.


Send. Help.
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*various and sundry.

An ode to writing laziness: images from the holiday weekend.

thanks.


Turkey and trimmings.

brown eyes blue.


The body language says, "oh I'm just loungin'," but the eyes say, "yes I did eat all of those pillows, and I'd do it again."

fetching.


"But maybe not for a little while. Destroying the dining room muntins has me plum tuckered out."

skewed.


Buffalo chicken, won't you come out tonight?

foot focus.


One of the great things about being a total photography amateur is shots like this. What's in focus? Why his hind foot, of course. I meant to do that.

reflecting.


No, I wasn't bored. Why do you ask?


My apologies for the slapdash nature of this, gentle readers. I blame the darkening, brooding weather outside and some physical ailments that I'll spare you the details of because a lady doesn't talk about how her UTERUS IS TRYING TO KILL HER.

It's unseemly.
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*holiday spirits.

If there's one thing I've learned, it's that a lot can change in the course of a single calendar year. (Now that I'm officially coasting on the downhill side of my life, I'm going to start all my sentences in that fashion, like a sage imparter of advice and aphorisms, hardened by the passage of time and covered in the bruises of hard-scrabble experience. Or of opening the car door into your shin.)

Remember this? Last year's tree-trimming extravaganza, a trip from stupor to stupendousness motivated by a sisterly nudge. Whereby "nudge" equates to "that face LSis makes when one is being a whiny 4-year-old."

Oh, me. Takin' pictures with my cell phone and unable to navigate the elementary engineering that is lights-stringing. This year, I fared better.

tannenbaum.


I stuck with the same yellow/brown/white decorating scheme this year because ... well, because I love it. And I have absolutely no idea why, which makes it elegant and enigmatic. Yes it does.

I also pulled out the glitter sticks, because they make an inconceivable mess, and I just love finding sparkles in odd places for months.

all that glitters.


And I hung the wreath, an abomination of jingle bells that also appealed to me upon purchase because of the nontraditional color scheme. I've hung it for the past four years, but I gotta say it's really starting to bug me. It doesn't relate to the tree in any way, it makes an insane amount of noise that variously startles me and horrifies the dog, and it is not doing much to improve the state of my already hideous front door.

jingle bells.


God, look at that. I hate it, I really do. The longer I look at it the more I want to bleach my eyeballs. Where were my tastemakers to gently slip me a tranquilizer and steal away with this eyesore?

gay apparel.


Oh! That's better. I still have the same fondness for these hydrangeas

blush.


and these icicles

ice sickle.


and all the baubles

trimmings.


and that insane and wonderful ribbon

yellow ribbon.


and (be still, my heart) these absurdly heavy hooters.

wise.


Tremendous.

all lit up.


I was tipsy on birthday wine when the majority of the decorating got done, warm with Cabernet and sentiment. The results are wonky and lopsided, like a drugged puppy or a giddily stunned drunk. And that's what Christmas means to me.
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*30 rocks.

Thirty. It's a strange number, with its benign evenness countered with the certain malevolent mwahaha of creeping almost a third of the way through your particular century.

I'm less nonchalant about it than I thought I might be, given that I'm not especially sentimental about birthdays as a rule. Milestones are minefields, though, in that they demand comparative reflection, an exercise with outcomes that I don't always find favorable. For example: Grownup readers, what had you accomplished as you strolled jauntily into your fourth decade? If mastering the art of falling down is not on your list, I win.

Technically TwinFin and I don't cross this threshold until Sunday, but I have already been feted and gifted in incomparable fashion. There was frivolity and cheese dip, hooch and karaoke, my sweet chicken and, mind-blowingly, real live actual chickens. (TwinFin received these as a birthday gift. Two fowl by the names of Rogers and Q. I, on the other hand, got a lot of wine. K FOR THE WIN.)

Mostly, though, I realized how much grander and larger and more joyous it feels to balk at the 30-yard line only to be yanked over by a cheering crowd of your nearest and dearest.

JBSH, who created a backdrop too stunning for the humble occasion, who maneuvers through a swaying crowd like a phantom, replenishing food, charming strangers, and cleaning dishes with just a whisper of movement.

walk like.


TwinFin and MW, my constant friend and his whip-smart wife, a study in people overburdened with talent.

K&J, who were the first to arrive, ever-gracious and lovely and bearing a gift for TwinFin, whom they'd never even met.

gray bar.


JLB, with a strength I admire beyond measure.

J&T, who make every occasion a party—J with her Michigan sweet-talk and tight hugs and sincere, breathless hearting of all things, and T with his quiet, incomparable devotion to making all people feel important and included.

pretty please.


DG, whose poetry is too scandalous for this forum, but was beloved as much as his absence was felt.

JULIE & S, he with his wry earnestness and a wit so fast it will catch you by surprise, and she, grinning and mischievous, like a pesky little sister who good-naturedly needles you almost to death before stunning you with thoughtfulness that makes you misty and brimming with something that feels dangerously close to schmaltz.

al in boots.


JA, whose presence is at any moment identifiable by the world's most infectious laugh.

A&N, who have never, in their lives, ever met a stranger. Ever.

MS, a girl's best friend.

you ss.


B&D, my rockstar late-stayers, blessed with the simultaneous dispositions of your favorite buy-you-beer-on-the-sly aunt and uncle, the ones you can tell your deepest secrets to and trust that you'll get compassion, realism, cocktails, and peerless nursing care.

JFR, laid-back and kind and blessed with a rare kind of effortless friendliness.

M&J, always always late, so that their arrival is as stylish and fashionable as they are.

BiL & LSis, superheroes for braving the cold and the rain and the late night and the babysitter and the crowd and the exhaustion with a newbornforheaven'ssake.

tech baby.


K&B, charting new Fin territory and living to tell the tale.

SF and all the Bs, making the night a family affair in order to sing the world's most terrifically awesome and awful karaoke.

couch perch.


S, my late-night confabber, Coors queen, straight-shooter, and JBSH partner in crime.

SN, friend to all things with four legs and possibly the kindest, most quietly hilarious person I know.

chuck.


The momster and S, she with an encyclopedic knowledge of my 30 years (particularly that first one!) and he, always there to wake up a hungover gal with a chainsaw.

duel.


And TFin. Who gave me the camera I've been lustily desiring for months, the one I used to inexpertly take these photos, and a book on how to use it that I've been hungrily devouring since. Making sure that this celebration was first a priority, then a necessity, and then a damn good time. He works a room instinctively, without having to think about it—mixing cocktails, encouraging conversation, shooing people out of cramped corners and dark hallways—forcing me to respond again and again to "Your dad is awesome."

He is. You all are, my people. Thank you.
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*lessons, learned.

Things I discovered this weekend:

Fall leaves are the bane of a perfectionist's existence.

red leaf.


There are always more, the original cosmic joke. I contemplated rocking in a corner in the Woodside until winter comes, but it turns out that place is awash with balls of hair and dust, redolent of outdoor dog, and sagging with seeping moisture where seeping moisture should not be. I briefly considered setting it on fire, but I'm afraid it'd be too wet to burn.

The barter system.

scallopini


Sure, photo fail, but that garish plate is possibly the best meal I've ever made: Frank Stitt's chicken scallopini with creamy polenta and baby greens, lemony arugula leaves alongside a thick, deadly pool of grits and lightly breaded chicken breasts topped with a drizzle of buttery sauce, capers, and tomatoes. It serves up pretty and restauranty, but it's deceptively easy. That's all the better for trading your BiL for his air-in-car-tires services.

I forgot to season the chicken, neglected to include the necessary vinegar in the sauce, and pan-seared my palm. But it was so incredibly delicious and homey, with the kind of flavor balance only someone who's spent years in a kitchen can pass down to the pathologically forgetful and clumsy home cook. BiL cleaned his plate before he had a chance to say, "What are capers?" and LSis ate gratefully, fork in one hand and baby in the other. I, on the other hand, no longer have to whine girlishly about my tires and the scary, scary machine it takes to fix them.

The barter system is my new best friend. I plan to use it for all sorts of things.

K's out-of-pocket expense: $40
BiL's out-of-pocket expense: $0.50

Get in on this deal while I still don't understand how it works!

J never ceases to amaze.

tongue.


That's just not normal. The eyes, squinted and glazed over with adrenaline and the kind of excitement only possessed when short-term memory is on the fritz. (He sees the familiar world like a toddler in front of a Jack-in-the-box: "Holy CRAP I did not see that coming. Holy CRAP I did not see that coming. Holy CRAP I did not see that coming.") The teeth, placed by deeply distracted genetics. The cranium, built for barreling dumbly into stationary objects.

The big mouth he gets from me.
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baby bella.

I'm sorry I've been a bit scarce around the Woodside lately. It's just that I've been staring at baby face for the past two weeks.

stella9


stella8


stella5


stella7


stella4


stella6


Hypnotizing, no?
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*fall friday.

This is the road I travel to work each morning.

cherokee stripe.


In roughly 84 more minutes (give or take), I'll be headed down it in the opposite direction.

cherokee curve.


I can't wait.

cherokee day.


Happy Friday 13, everybody!

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I am a work in progress. I perpetually need a hair cut. I'm totally devoted to my remarkable nieces and nephew. I am an elementary home cook and a magazine worker bee. (Please criticize my syntax and spelling in the comments.) I think my dog is hilarious. I like chicken and spicy things. I have difficulty being a grown-up. Left to my own devices, I will eat enormous amounts of cheese snacks of all kinds.

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