Wednesday, December 29, 2010

End of the Year

1. What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before?

Traveled alone overnight to a metalsmithing class. Road-tripped with a girlfriend to upstate NY to a conference. Got a pedicure. Rode a scooter on the actual streets amongst the actual traffic.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Well, I seem to recall saying something about losing a bunch of weight. That didn't happen. As for the rest, I don't remember what else I might have resolved to do.

As for 2011, I don't like to make resolutions. I prefer to make adjustments in my way of living for a better outcome. This year, I'd like to stick to my daily walks in the morning, and add in some strength training. I'd also like to better understand myself at this stage of my life, and figure out who I am and what I am about.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?


4. Did anyone close to you die?

No, thankfully.

5. What countries did you visit?


6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?

Oh, everyone always thinks 'more money', and sure, who wouldn't want that? But really, I'd like to have more personal peace, more clarity, and more FUN!

7. What dates from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

1/3/10 -- the date I got my motorcycle license
4/22/10 -- the date I turned 40
9/9/10 -- our 7th anniversary of our marriage
9/24/10 -- the date of my first overnight trip alone without the kids (or my husband!)
10/15/10 -- seeing one of my closest friends from college after 20 years

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Having six pieces of my jewelry work published in five different magazines, with articles or tutorials that I wrote. Having my first wholesale jewelry client. Getting my motorcycle license. Staffing my church's preschool with all new teachers a month before school started.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Those epic loss of patience moments that come as part of parenting sometimes. I think my biggest failures always have to do with less-than-stellar parenting behaviors on my part.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

No, thankfully. Not beyond the usual round of sniffles/colds, and general aches and pains.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Probably my motorcycle jacket. Made riding my scooter in the cold MUCH nicer! Oh, and also admission to the Medieval Glass Conference at the Corning Museum, and tuition for a couple of jewelry and metalsmithing classes.

12. Where did most of your money go?

Groceries, kid clothes, household stuff.

13. What did you get really excited about?

Working with copper and other metals, learning metalsmithing.

14. What song will always remind you of 2010?

Anything by Theory of A Deadman, or The Script

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:

– happier or sadder? Happier.
– thinner or fatter? oh, fatter, I'm sure
– richer or poorer? Richer in all the nonfinancial ways, for sure

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Exercise, yoga, making more art, resting -- really resting, not just sitting on my ass in front of the TV or computer.

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Hating myself, thinking I was unattractive, getting frustrated or angry with the kids, sitting on my ass in front of the computer or TV

18. How did you spend Christmas?

At home with my husband and children. Our favorite way to spend the holiday.

19. What was your favorite TV program?

More than one, for sure: Supernatural, Sons of Anarchy, Doctor Who, Torchwood, Justified

20. What were your favorite books of the year?

These are books that I read this year, not necessarily ones that were published this year. While I consider myself a relative bibliophile, the limits of time and mental energy don't permit me to keep up with the publishing world too.

Totally Twisted by Kerry Bogert

Traveling With Pomegranates, Sue Monk Kidd, Ann Kidd Taylor

Pillars of The Earth, and World Without End, both by Ken Follett

I read all the time, so I am sure there were more memorable books....I just can't remember them right now...

21. What was your favorite music from this year?

Michael Franti and Spearhead, The Script, The Fray, Theory of A Deadman, Rob Thomas / Matchbox Twenty, and anything that Train does.

22. What were your favorite films of the year?

How to Train Your Dragon, Harry Potter.

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

My husband threw me a big party with a lot of my friends and family here for a cookout and celebrating. I also spent the day of my birthday hanging out with a good friend. I was 40.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

If I would have spent less time being all angsty about turning 40. I'm never angsty about my age or about getting older, but this one walloped me good.

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?


More like jeans and knit shirt uniform in colder weather, tshirt/camisole shirt and shorts or skirt in warmer weather.

26. What kept you sane?

Sane? Who said I was sane?

No, really....making art, creating things with my hands, listening to music, walking in the early morning. Snuggling my son and daughters. Being with my husband.

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010.

I am still in the process of learning this one, but I think I'd have to say that I am learning to"own my story", and spend less time worrying about what other people think about me, and more time actually being ME. So far, I think I'm doing pretty good...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Snow Days and Holidays

Today, it is snowing. There were two additional days of school this week, then Christmas break, which is a full two weeks this year because of the timing of Christmas. Now it looks as though my kid-free Christmas prep time is down to whatever I can do in the evenings after they have gone to bed. Hmmm.

I am grateful and glad to have my children home with me, though, grateful that I have a job that does not require my physical presence daily, and grateful that I don't need to make any particular arrangements for my kids beyond planning the things we want to do.

Some people I know seem to always complain about having their kids home. I know I have been very guilty of this. It's easy to be annoyed by sibling rivalries, constant bickering, fighting and picking. It's hard to encourage kids to entertain themselves, and the whine of "I'm bored" is like the sound of fingernails on the chalkboard.


Kids are only young once. Kids are only the age they are once. Someday these days will be over, and we will look back and wonder where the time has gone.

I'm particularly feeling the pull and passage of time lately, and I know that I really want to preserve as much of this time as I can. Yes, the kids get on my nerves, yes they are demanding, yes I feel like I will lose my mind if I have to referee one more fight/sharing incident/episode of boredom.

I try to head all of this off in the summers, when the kids are around ALL the time, by planning activities for each day of the week. Monday is usually for the library, Tuesday is for going to play in water, etc. I'm not saying all this is easy, or that I am some kind of Superwoman, because Lord knows I wish I could take a week off and hole up somewhere with my husband and my art projects and just be ME for a while...


I feel sometimes it does a disservice to your children to complain about them all the time, even if they are being annoying. One of my plans for this upcoming year is to be far more present and more positive about my crazy circus of a family, and to really attend to whether or not I need to voice something negative about my kids. I adore so many things about my kids, and so often, I seem to let myself forget about them in favor of the much-easier bitching to anyone who will listen. That's terrible. Next week, all three of my kids are home for an extended period, a rare thing for our family because of my oldest's custody arrangement. I am working SO hard on letting go of expectations about myself and my own work and art and what I think should be, and just planning activities and things for us to do together that will be enjoyable and will help develop those great childhood memories I want them to have.

Because I am probably slightly OCD, I made a chart.

Knowing my desire to strike a good balance between 'scheduled' and 'fly by the seat of our pants', I am planning a hands-on activity each day, and an outing or time outside each day. I am also anticipating a full-on 'vegetate in front of the TV' day and not feeling guilty about it.

So far, we will be making several batches of Christmas cookies, visiting the Children's Museum, making snowflake ornaments with borax, and working on some super-secret gifts. I'm sure there will be at least one or two movies and popcorn, and some time to play outside, followed by hot cocoa with marshmallows.

I'm sure I will also have to deal with a bout of two of whining, some of the oldest and middle child's picking on each other, and a few instances of flat-out fighting and misbehaving. But aside from that, I am hoping to have some good times with my kids.

They are so worth having good times with, every day.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

My Little Christmas Bird

Five years ago today, our little Christmas bird came into the world and our lives were never the same.
Wren Noelle Brandel, 7lbs 7oz, 7pm, 12-9-05

She is lovely and highly verbal, brilliant and crafty, creative beyond a shadow of a doubt, and fearless enough to stop your heart. She's all I could wish for in a child, and more. She challenges me in ways I don't like to admit, and days with her are a constant state of keeping-up. But her life journey will be magic in a way we can't even comprehend now.

Wren Noelle Brandel, 12-9-10

Happy Birthday, Wren!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Today is my dad's birthday. He's, oh, I don't know, 62 or 63 maybe? Sometimes it seems like my parents are ageless. They were very young when I was born -- in fact my mom was 40 (the age I am now) when I graduated from college -- so it doesn't seem as though they should get any older. Certainly not OLD, old. Like, elderly, like grandparents, or anything. Even though they ARE grandparents.

(I can't imagine having a child graduating from college right now. Although there is something to be said for having an almost-empty nest at the start of your forties...unlike me, with two preschoolers.)

Someday, and I know it's a sad thought, but I can't help it, someday, my parents will be gone, and there will be no one on this earth that gave birth to me or raised me. Will I feel all alone? I think because my own kids are still young, I can't imagine being all right in the world without your parents. I don't even necessarily talk to my parents every day, but they are there. I know how to reach them, and I can see them with just a bit of effort. Well, and a plane ticket, in my dad's case, or a Skype call, but still...not a huge effort.

I've been thinking a lot about getting older. For myself, for my children, for my parents. One day, *I* will be the grandmother. Someday, *my* daughters and granddaughters will be mixing up the Christmas cookie recipes *I* know from MY grandmothers, and leafing through my cookbook collection.

Someday, I might have to make medical decisions for my parents. Someday, I might have to make a last-minute flight to Miami, or choose care providers, or make "arrangements".

Someday, my children might have to do this for me.

We talked with my dad by phone, then got on the computer and talked to him via Skype, so the kids could sing him "Happy Birthday", and we could see each other. I didn't get to ask, but I hope he has dinner plans or some celebratory thing planned. One's birthday should ALWAYS be celebrated, no matter how much of a big deal it is or isn't.

I'm so not ready to be 'older'.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Winter Party

Last night, I got all dressed up and went out to my company's Christmas party. I so rarely get dressed up at all anymore, and I like to go to this party every year because it's the only time I ever get to put on a cocktail dress and makeup. And high heels. I always remember the next day why I don't wear heels [heh...originally, when I typed 'heels', I accidentally typed 'hells'......indeed] more often.

I wish I'd thought to take a better picture of myself with my real camera before I left for the party, but I was running a bit behind and just didn't think of it.
I posted this on Facebook as I went out the door, and was amazed by all the comments from people telling me I looked really good. Not that I don't think I ever look good, it's just...I have a hard time seeing myself as particularly beautiful. Especially lately, when I have been feeling old(er). At any rate, the compliments gave me a nice warm glow. Still kicking myself for not getting a better picture.

The party itself was fun, since I spent the time talking with my favorite work colleagues and their spouses. Apparently the DJ's don't really know how to work an adult, corporate party, as we sustained much musical and temporal whiplash, followed by the worst dance music possible that could be chosen for the event. I'm pretty sure some of it bordered on inappropriate. Not surprisingly, the party was not as rousing an event as it usually is. Oh well. At least Travis was spared the inanity.

I always worry about what stupid things I said or did. I didn't even drink enough to catch a buzz, but I still worry that I was somehow socially inept.

Ah, well. Hopefully, I wasn't.

It started to snow as I arrived to the party, and as I left, the snow was falling in big fluffy flakes. It was romantic and beautiful, to be walking in my long party dress and high-heeled shoes, with snow falling all around, and speckling my hair and black wool wrap. It's exactly the kind of night that is perfect for walking with the one you love, holding tightly to each other, as the snow sifts silently down.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday Grumpiness

I hate waking up and feeling fairly decent, then proceed to get all bent out of shape over the course of the morning. Noises are too loud, I can't figure out what I want to do next, I have no appetite but I eat anyway, the kids aren't listening, I feel overwhelmed by pretty much everything.

Do I do anything to manage my stress? Sure I do. I roll my ass out of bed at 5:30 and hoof it around my neighborhood for a half an hour. Does it help? Yes. But the "help" doesn't seem to last.

At least 50% of the time I feel as though I am wandering around in some sort of unfocused fog, unproductive (to my standards), and agitated. I don't get enough done, I don't get the things I want to get done *done*. Half the time I don't even know what I *want* to get done. It's maddening, and I hope it's a phase.

Friday, November 26, 2010

It's not a cliche that time goes by so really does.

Noah Spencer Brandel 11-26-07

Christmas, 2007

November 20, 2010

Happy third birthday to my little man.

You are the gift I didn't know I wanted, the unexpected joy of a little boy in a house full of girls, and the snuggliest, most loving child. I love listening to your little voice, with it's /w/ for /r/ and /l/ substitutions, and I adore holding your little hand and feeling you wrap your arms around my neck. Sometimes your need for 'same' and for "I do it!" makes me a little crazy, but you definitely have your strong preferences and ideas. Happy birthday, Noah! Mommy loves you so much!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

Happy Thanksgiving from the Brandel Family!

Today, but also every day, I am thankful for the peace of home, the love of family, and the ability to make my way in the world the way I see fit. It's been ten years since I celebrated Thanksgiving Day *on* the actual fourth Thursday of November, but I wouldn't have it any other way now.

Since I spend time on the road on Thanksgiving every year, taking Kira to her dad's, we started the tradition of making a traditional turkey feast on the day before. Around here, the kids are usually out of school, and Travis often has or takes the day off. We cook and eat early in the day, then spend the rest of the time watching movies, playing outside and hanging out together. This year, Kira and I went to see a 7pm show of 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One'.

The reason our Thanksgiving occurs on a Wednesday is because Kira must be at her dad's farm by 2pm on Thanksgiving Day. Because the farm is an hour and a half from here, and because we don't meet halfway, we leave the house at noon in order to be there on time. As you can probably imagine, leaving at noon, driving an hour and a half one way, then an hour and a half the other way takes up most of the prime turkey-eating time of the day. Rather than have a holiday in which my oldest child is not really a part of the feasting (unless we feast at 10:00 in the morning!) and our family's togetherness, we have opted to celebrate the day before. We ALL get to spend time together, then the next day she gets to celebrate with her dad's side of the family. I'm sure she is sick of turkey by the end of the holiday weekend, though.

We had a huge turkey, which we will be eating for the next week (which is ok, because I love turkey). There were plenty of side dishes too: sweet potatoes baked with apples and brown sugar, green bean casserole, ginger-glazed carrots, cornbread mother in law's recipe for mac and cheese, which we lovingly call "heart-attack mac"....and no feast is complete without STC (Savory Toasted Cheese -- a cheese sauce) over broccoli.

Noah loves to help in the kitchen, particularly if it involves using the stove, or stirring anything that is on the stove. He's my little kitchen elf.
Daddy also taught him how to put beer in the fridge. In this case, a few bottles of Blue Moon Winter Abbey Ale.

And after we stuff ourselves silly, and get the table cleared, it's time for Mommy to play Fridge Tetris with the leftovers, which I am very good at. It all fits in the fridge when I am done. Strategic use of plastic containers and ziploc bags make it all possible.

After the recovery from dinner and the game of Fridge Tetris and the endurance of many, many plaintive little cries of "Is it time for pie!?", then it is time for pie. This year, it was three pies for the five of us, because I couldn't decide and I wanted to try a new pie recipe this year. Clockwise from left, Cranberry-Fudge Pie, Peanut Butter pie, and pumpkin pie. That cranberry pie was amazing. Very very rich, though...the bottom of the pie is a dark chocolate ganache, then a layer of walnuts, then a cranberry sauce. Oh. To die for. I'm contemplating having it for breakfast as we speak.

As predicted, not one of the kids wanted to try that pie. That's fine; more for me, then.
They did enjoy the other pies, though!
I hope that everyone reading this is having a terrific day and enjoying (rather than enduring) time at the table with family and friends and good food. Another year is coming to a close, and I am truly thankful for all the great gifts in my life, not the least of which are these three beautiful children that I have been blessed with, and a faithful, loving and generous husband who is an outstanding father to our brood. Among my other blessings this year have been a couple of independent trips and opportunities for learning, discovering new friendships, professional work I enjoy and colleagues I love to work with, a comfortable home, and everything I need for a happy life. Oh, and the rich blessing of re-discovering a deep and significant friendship. That means so much to me.

Thanks to all of you for everything, and blessings for all of you and your families!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Monday Musings

**I think my animals have taken over my house.

**For some reason, I am SO looking forward to Thanksgiving. I really, really want to cook and eat and relax with my family.

**And pie. I want pie.

**We eat our family Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday, so pie-making must commence tomorrow.

**I am in the midst of finishing a wholesale order. Got to get that done and delivered today.

**The Christmas shopping is going well.

**I have come to realize that no matter how much money we save, there will always be something that we will need it for, thus affecting the savings.

** I think the kids and I will be making these on Wednesday for the dinner table.

**Which reminds me...I need to acquire both a bottle of wine and a bottle of sparkling grape juice for the table.

**This little man is going to be THREE YEARS OLD on Friday. How did that happen?

**It's Soup Night in our house tonight. Even though we had beef stew last night, which apparently my husband considers soup. Hm.

**It's still Soup Night tonight.

**Better get the soup on.

Monday, November 15, 2010

On Thinking About Yourself

The past few weeks have been very introspective. I can't say exactly what I've been spending brain power on, because it's kind of nebulous. or I haven't really specifically focused on anything in particular.

Lately, it's been as though my nervous system has migrated to the outside of my skin. I noticed this weekend, when we were in NC for a family gathering, that noise and commotion and chaos has really been bothering me a great deal. Kind of like my balance is upset by too much of anything.

I do know that over the past few years, I have become increasingly in need of honest to goodness quiet time. In the morning. By myself. If I don't get it, I feel agitated and discombobulated all day. In my household, the day typically starts full-speed once Wren and Noah get up, which is usually around 7:00. I've taken to getting up at 5:30 and going for a walk for a half an hour. It helps, but sometimes it's really hard to get out of bed that early.

Walking is like a meditation for me. I don't know what about it that works, because I don't ever think in a logical fashion about anything that goes through my head. The cold, and the dark, and the dawn stars do provide the perfect setting for sorting through junk inside my head. It's kind of like what I do every few years when I can't take the mass of junk that ends up right around the stairs to the attic. I get frustrated when I can't find the Christmas decorations, and I go in there and pull stuff out and move stuff around and reorganize boxes and make a huge donation pile for Goodwill. I get rid of stuff, and pack other stuff away and shift it to the far recesses of the attic -- in case I need it or want it again -- so I know that it's there, but not in my way.

Yep. My head is full of stuff -- not all of it junk -- so I have to go in and rearrange it periodically, so I can reach what I need to have, and stash away stuff that is old, but not ready to be completely discarded yet.

Today's walk was particularly good. It was cold, because the sky was absolutely clear, but the stars were so beautiful and bright in the lightening sky.

It doesn't matter what I thought about -- a lot of things, I assure you -- but now, almost four hours later, I am really awake, and feel pretty settled. It's a good way to start the day.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A new haircut
...and red shoes with stripey socks.....
....makes things better.

That, and a chocolate mocha cupcake for lunch. Better.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The dark clouds gather and swirl in an angry sky. Beneath it all, the sea is roiling. Deep blue water turns black and malevolent, rocking and pitching as though disturbed from someplace far beneath the surface. The daylight has not gone, but the sky turns so dark it is impossible to judge the time. On a lone outcropping, waves smash against rocks with a fury unparalleled by anything on Earth. The water and the wind conspire in destructive rage that borders on delirium, as the natural forces called up by this madness threaten to overwhelm any and all within reach.

Including me.

Drowning, I reach for the place of peace, stretch my fingers toward it, and grasp desperately for the shore. I fight, I struggle, I release all the energy that holds me captive and dump myself unceremoniously on its mercy. Long surges capture me in their grasp and drag me back, back, back into the depths of this storm, but I will not be taken. Not this time.

The wind dies, the current lessens, the waves recede. I lay gasping like a landed fish and stare into the lightening sky, and I breathe.

Partially Speechless

I've got plenty to say right now, but not much cohesive language to use to express it all. At least, not enough that I want to lay out here on the internet for those of you who may subscribe to this blog to read. I'm prone to philosophical discussion and theorizing and 'what-ifs', and frankly, they take up a huge amount of emotional and psychic energy. So I'm left without the linguistic ability to write about them.

Have a picture instead.

This one I truly adore. It's my dear, sweet little son, Noah, asleep in the rocking chair in his room yesterday afternoon. That rocker has been mine since my dad bought it for me after Kira was born. I've had it for twelve years now, and every time I think about having it move on to some other house, I can't bring myself to do it. Noah's getting too big to have it in his room -- we don't sit and rock nearly as much as we did before he got so big -- but I have no place else to really put it.

So, it stays where it is.
He's so big. I can't believe he is going to be three on the day after Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Monday Musings

Ideally, this post would have been written early in the morning, but since I had to run out the door to work this morning, I'm just now sitting down to write.

--So, I'm loving this cold weather in the early mornings. I'm not even freezing too badly when I got out to walk.

--The fact that it isn't pitch dark at 5:45 in the morning is a nice bonus.

--I wish I felt compelled to find the time and desire to work out really hard several times a week.

--Getting older is totally overrated.

--High school is DEFINITELY NOT the "best years of your life".

--It has come to my attention that some things in life are no longer available for you to experience after a certain point. That sucks.

--Youth is wasted on the young.

--I do not understand why two shirts that are the same size, the same style, and made by the same manufacturer can fit so completely differently.

--I really, really love to teach. Too bad I really, really hate teaching in "regular" school.

--My kids are upstairs for their naps. is anyone sleeping? No. It's rather loud up there at this moment.

--There's something really fantastic about fall. So beautiful.

--I'm making broccoli-cheese soup for supper tonight, with from-scratch dinner rolls. Think anyone but me and Travis will eat it? Outlook unclear; ask again later.

--I almost forgot to call for an appointment for a haircut. I know long hair is sexy and youthful and all that, but I just look like a drowned rat, so I'm getting it cut (a little) shorter.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Saturday Morning

It's a sad state of affairs that three beers consumed within a couple of hours on a Friday night while watching 'Supernatural' can lead to a cloudy, vague headache and the need to drink copious amounts of water at 5:00 in the morning. WTF is up with that? I must be old. Sad, really. Very sad.

Today we have an appointment with the kitchen designer at Home Depot to set in motion the new kitchen island. I want red cabinetry, like this:

I don't want that exact island, but definitely those cabinets and finish, and the light grey granite countertop. Travis doesn't think we need new kitchen cabinets -- and we don't, not now -- but eventually we will have them. I might even want black cabinets. Something dramatic and beautiful.

The rest of today will be full of errands, and doing some A Hot Piece of Glass business stuff, and getting ready for next weekend -- a trip to NC, and a show for me (that I don't have to be physically present for). I'm looking forward to both, especially the show, since I have a long list of tools and equipment that need to be purchased or upgraded in my workshop.

I guess I should go take a shower and get going on this day.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Randomness from my brain, because it's cold (yay!), because it's Tuesday (and election day -- go vote!), and because I can't think of anything much to write.

This song has been playing in my head for days. I love it's simplicity and sweetness. Of course, I'm a huge fan of Train in general, and Pat Monahan's voice specifically.

Forever can never be long enough for me
to feel like I've had long enough with you


**I've had, recently, several really wonderful conversations with my husband about different things. Sometimes I feel like we are on distant planets. Sometimes I miss him terribly, even though we are together most of the time. Daily life can really dampen the connection shared by two people who deeply love each other. I have been occasionally envious of some of our friends who have no children, because it appears they have so much more time to spend with each other, taking care of each other and their relationship. We don't have that much time. But my childless friends don't know the breadth and depth of love and joy that we do, so I guess it's a good trade off. I know some of them will (and very well MAY) argue this point with me, and they can try, but I hold firm in my belief.

**This morning I entered a contest on the Pioneer Woman's blog to win a trip to Oklahoma for a weekend of holiday baking and hanging out on her and her husband's ranch. Not only would that be awesome, because I love her writing and her cooking, but it would be beyond wonderful to have a little adventure with Travis. I've never been to Oklahoma, and neither has he.

**The Christmas season is almost upon us. Must commence Santa shopping, and make a list of baking that needs to be done. I am planning to have several batches of cookie dough all prepped and frozen by Thanksgiving, so when the time to bake comes, I can do it quickly, production-line style. I think I want to send cookies to my dad and grandma, and maybe someone (or two) else.

**I can't believe 2010 is almost over.

**Maybe Santa will bring me the metalsmithing and glass tools I would like this year.

**These Halloween decorations have to come down today.

**I really want another cup of coffee. Actually, I want Starbuck's Pumpkin Spice latte, but I've already eaten a mini Almond Joy and two and a half toaster waffles. I think that's probably more than enough junk. Sigh.

**Curried Pumpkin-Butternut Squash soup is YUM. I'll be having the leftovers for lunch today.

**Must figure out some method of not freezing to death on my morning walks. It's getting really cold in the dark mornings, and my yoga pants are NOT cutting it.

**I am letting the kids each fill a small cereal bowl with candy from their Halloween haul as a daily ration. They have been gleefully consuming the day's ration before 10:00a.m. It's made for some interesting times here, but I am also secretly throwing away a handful every day, and putting the chocolate in the freezer. Seems to work. They don't bug me All. Day. Long. for candy.

**Guess I should round up the kids and go vote. Wish there was someone really worth voting for.

Monday, November 1, 2010

This Is Halloween!

At the Brandel residence, much fun was had on Halloween!

The weekend's festivities started on Saturday, at a costume party for a friend's 50th birthday. I even played croquet!

We need a nice wooden croquet set for our yard now. Fun!

On Sunday, we spent the morning shopping for a new kitchen island, since the decrepit old kitchen table and chairs that has lived in many, many houses, and has gone through at least two divorces finally gave up. As a side note, it looks like the new island will be RED with a grey granite top, because that is what I fell in love with at the store.

We carved pumpkins, of course.

Kira always has to make her pumpkin a technical and artistic magnum opus, but it always turns out really well, even when I have to help. :)

We had the traditional "creepy supper", which this year, consisted of mummified hot dogs and mac and cheese.
Oh, and carrots and dip, to provide at least some semblance of nutrition.

This year, we had guests! Bryce brought over Gracie (they were an adorable Batman and Robin), and Moe brought his boys, Trip and Chris, both of whom were very energetic but not silent ninjas! We made quite the exuberant party heading out the door!

We had walked about a block before the littlest ones started to really flag and get left behind, so a quick stop at our house for the wagon, I mean, Batmobile, was in order.
And then we successfully managed an epic night of trick or treating with all the kids. Much fun was had, and many many pieces of candy were obtained (and consumed by Wren en route!). It was after 8:30 by the time we all made it back to the house.

Fortunately, nobody felt compelled to egg or toilet paper our house, but some low-rent bastard stole our candy bowl for the second year in a row. It really made me angry, and I think I know which group of un-costumed teenagers did it, but what can you do? It was a $3 bowl from Wal Mart or something, and not worth getting too upset about. Next year, if we leave candy out, I'm going to pile it on the front step of the house and leave it at that. At least they didn't take the pumpkins.

Hehe. Maybe I should leave a big pile of candy shellacked to the front step next year.

Anyway, after quick baths and too much sugar, the kids collapsed in bed. I'm instituting a candy rationing system this year to hopefully head off the overconsumption.

Today is November 1st already, and since our kids get two days off from school for election day, I think we will be taking down the Halloween stuff, and maybe trying to get out for a short hike in the woods before the weather starts getting crummy.

Hope everyone had a terrific Halloween!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

On Making Dreams Real

Sometimes, parents must do or make happen things for their children that they themselves did not do or have in their childhood.

This, coupled with the need for new furniture in our house, was the catalyst for our weekend's activities.

We have three children, and all of them had some sort of makeshift sleeping situation. Kira was sleeping on an old frame futon on a stack of futon mattresses (at least one of which went to Pennsic with us a few times), Wren was sleeping on a short stack of futon mattresses on the floor in her room, and Noah had a crummy cheap old mattress and box spring.

With our home refinance this year, we had set aside some money to rectify this situation. I've moved far enough beyond the years of pregnancy and childbearing and infancy so that I could now turn my attention to actually decorating my house. The kids' rooms are tops on the list. So, we considered a number of options, and then found what we thought would be fantastic choices for all of the kids at IKEA. I love IKEA. Some people think their furniture and stuff is cheap and falls apart, but I have not found this to be true. The prices are great, the design is innovative and beautiful, and they just have cool stuff.

So, after 200 miles driven, many boxes hauled into the house, many MANY little pieces of hardware inserted into the correct locations on various wood surfaces, we have this:

and we have this:
and this:
aaaand this:
Ta-DA! Three new beds and two new TV-watching chairs.

Two parents: totally exhausted.

Kids: totally thrilled.

Travis, especially, is happy that he was able to buy the kids new furniture for their rooms that did not previously belong to anyone else. This is a big deal for someone who grew up as he did.

Monday, October 18, 2010


It's amazing, really, the difference in my patience level after having been away for almost a week. I guess I really do need that time to recharge and refresh and hit the giant 'reset' button on my life.

Maybe I should make this an annual occurrence...?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

So much

So much to say....and so little ability to put it all adequately into words.

I'm being overrun by nostalgia, even knowing that the good ol' days were hardly as good back then as they seem to be now. How did so much time go by so quickly? How did I manage to miss the passing of so many years?

Or did I really miss them?

I wonder if it wasn't just a case of one day slipping into the next as I moved on, moved through, let my diverging path take me down a road I didn't know was taking me further from a time which I should have spent much more introspectively. I often wonder how my life would be different had I made different decisions, chosen different roads. Scanning back over the years, now I recognize certain markers, points that constituted momentous decisions in my life that, at the time, seemed nothing more than generic 'yes/no', 'here/there' choices similar to determining whether toast or eggs would be on the breakfast menu.

I don't necessarily live with regrets, although I cannot help the temptation to wonder 'what if...' at certain points now.

What if I had stayed? What if I'd left sooner?

What if I chosen this, or that, or these here?

What if I'd learned then, and not now?

Monday, October 4, 2010

End of the Harvest

The garden, which was ridiculously productive this year, is giving up its last fruits. Of course, my husband and I are terribly lazy gardeners, so I think half of the production of the garden was in spite of us, not because of us. Either way, we did get an insane amount of vegetables this year, and even now, with the 100+ degree heat over, the tomatoes and peppers are roaring abck to life for a bit.

Right now it's 49 degrees outside, so I suspect this is short-lived.

But a few days ago, this is what I gathered from our small growing area...
A basketful of green, red and yellow bell peppers, and a few green tomatoes. I was surprised by how many peppers there were, and in such great shape, but what really struck me was the colors! LOOK at those gorgeous, gorgeous reds and greens and yellows!
This deep crimson red has to be one of my most very favorite colors. It's so vibrant and feels so alive to me. My car is just about this color, and I love to wear this color.

This past Saturday, I closed out our CSA share for the year by indulging in a large bouquet of flowers from our CSA farm.
The past few days have been sunny and cooler, and with the recent rain, I am sure we will see the trees changing soon, too. Somehow, this change in seasons is always so vibrant in terms of though the summer forces out one last ostentatious show before turning off the lights and closing up shop for the winter. I love the reminder of how bright everything can be, right before the bleak days of winter.