December 20, 2016

Ready or Not...

I love traditions. Even when they don't last very long, so many of my childhood and family memories are centered around these rituals, real or attempted. We had a "tradition" of having chocolate-chip pancakes for breakfast on Christmas morning, and even though I think we only did it a couple times before determining that a big, sweet breakfast only ruined our appetite for the remainder of the day; I still love the memory of piling on the whipped cream - they were happy mornings. Of course, it's also the rituals gone wrong that really stick in the memory - who could forget the year of the upside-down turkey? or of the extremely under-cooked pumpkin pie that my sister poured into the pan? These are the things we still laugh about, years later. 

We have so many traditions that life within our house feel so much the same every year between Thanksgiving and New Year's. I love these comfortable routines, and my boys look forward to them every year. We get the tree the weekend after Thanksgiving. We watch A Charlie Brown Christmas after decorating it. We bake and decorate cookies just about every weekend in December. We watch all the movies. We go see the Boston Pops' holiday concert. We eat lobster mac and cheese on Christmas Eve. The boys open one present that night (pjs or slippers). There are little differences that make each year unique of course, but the traditions are the reason Aaron has declared it his favorite time of year. I'm right there with him.  

At the same time, it's a busy time of year, and I am overwhelmed. I am too busy at work right now, and exercise isn't happening, which means I don't feel great and am less able to be totally present for all the good stuff. I also haven't been spending enough time with friends. I need some friend time. We went to brunch at some friends' house last weekend, and it was so refreshing to have a fun, social conversation and connect with people I care about. More of that, please.

We went to our company holiday parties, which were tiring but also fun. It's fun to have an excuse to get dressed up and go out. I bought this jumpsuit last year and took forever to get it altered (I think you need to be 6 feet tall), so this was my first time wearing it. I was late to the jumpsuit bandwagon, but I looooove it. It's so comfortable, and with heels and big sparkly earrings it's dressy, even though my legs are hidden. Love.

My son turned 10. It feels strange that I didn't record that event here yet - almost like it didn't happen. And yet, it did. He's 10. Officially a pre-teen I think, considering his relationship with his brother. (All of a sudden he has no patience for him.) He's a sweet and generous kid, though, and I'm proud of him every day. To celebrate, he had a few friends to sleep over at the house. It was fun to look at this group of boys and see the men they are becoming. So far, he's doing a great job choosing his friends.

Christmas is coming, ready or not. The cards are out, the packages to be mailed will be late this year but I know my family will forgive me; I have started the wrapping, but I haven't started the menu. Ah well, no matter...we will be ready enough when the time comes, and it will be wonderful. There will be a warm and cozy house, a tree with lights, two excited boys, good food, plenty to drink, and family with whom to spend time. Bring it on.

December 15, 2016

My Favorite Music of 2016

I love going through the music I've enjoyed throughout the year, determining which I think will become long-term classics vs. those that were special in a specific time. I love different types of music for different moods and activities. My driving music is different than the music I want to listen to when I'm alone in the house or cooking or entertaining.

When I look back at 2016, Chris Stapleton looms large. (I know his album technically came out in 2015, along with a few others on this list, but this is the year I came to know them. Sometimes I'm late to the game.) When Kevin decides he likes a band, it goes on repeat for months - Chris Stapleton was his favorite of the year for sure.

Other most-played artists include John Moreland, whose gorgeous, sad voice we discovered in Newport. Sturgill Simpson is now grammy-nominated for his awesome follow-up album, which contains beautiful lyrics inspired by his new son. The Revivalists are the band I turn up loud and want to dance around to. Whenever a song comes on that I love and need to check who it is - it's Rayland Baxter; I love every song on that album. Dawes' latest album is so different from their previous albums, and I love it for that.

The entire list of my 2016 favorites:

Chris Stapleton - Traveller
John Moreland - High on Tulsa Heat
Sturgill Simpson - A Sailor's Guide to Earth
Sarah Jarosz - Undercurrent
Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats

The Revivalists - Men Amongst Mountains
Rayland Baxter - Imaginary Man
Ages and Ages - Something to Ruin
Blind Pilot - And Then Like Lions
Kingsley Flood - Another Other

Jamestown Revival - The Education of a Wandering Man
Dawes - We're All Gonna Die
Conor Oberst - Ruminations
The Lumineers - Cleopatra
The Head and the Heart - Signs of Light

Shovels & Rope - Little Seeds
Margo Price - Midwest Farmer's Daughter
Carseat Headrest - Teens of Denial
Amanda Shires - My Piece of Land
John Paul White - Beulah

A few honorable mentions and albums I'm still getting to know:  The Felice Brothers, Lucy Dacus, Brian Fallon, and Courtney Marie Andrews.

December 1, 2016

Recently Read

Last Letter from Your Lover, by Jojo Moyes. I will read anything by Jojo Moyes. She's a wonderful writer, and she loves a happy ending. This story weaves together two couples, a generation apart, with their affairs and their relationships and their drama. I love the older story with its romance documented in letters, with a bit of amnesia mixed in to increase the tension. It might not be as great as Me Before You, but then that's a pretty high bar, isn't it?

Monster, by Walter Dean Myers.  This Young Adult book ended up on my nightstand after I received it as a part of a gift basket from our local library. (We won a raffle during last summer's reading contest.) Otherwise, I'm sure I never would've booked it up. But it's a fast and worthy read. It's written in screenplay format from the perspective of the main character, a 16-year-old who is in prison and on trial for allegedly participating in a robbery that ended in murder. Did he do it? You, the reader, will get to determine what you think after reading his words. It's thought-provoking, and I could see how it would generate some interesting discussion.

We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie. A short, smart essay about modern feminism and what it means to be a feminist today, with all the baggage and misconceptions that term still holds. It's only 60ish pages, so there's no excuse for everyone not to give it a read. Or if you're really lazy, listen to her TED Talk, which is essentially a verbal delivery of this book. She is wonderfully relatable and not at all preachy or condescending in addressing this topic, and she talks about the treatment of boys as much as women in assessing the gender divide.


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