Saturday, December 31, 2011

11 good things about 2011

I thought about doing 2,011 good things but no, my dear readers, I wouldn't inflict that kind of list upon you.

But did you know that some of the habits of happy people include things like expressing optimism and gratitude, and savoring life's joys? It's true, or so says this article: 12 Things Happy People Do Differently.

So in pondering 11 good things, I am not only remembering happy times of the past but am also increasing my happiness in this very moment... how about that?

The trip we took for our 4th anniversary. Okay, it was technically in the very end of 2010, but I somehow consider everything after Christmas as a part of the new year, so bear with me. It wasn't a big cruise or fancy European vacation - just a road trip from PA back home to MA, really - but we had such a good time, saw so many interesting places and things, and ate good food along the way.

My 2010 Ford Fusion hybrid! Okay, again, technically purchased in the very final days of December, but it was a new thing to have this beautiful car for the year 2011. I just love love love it, and when you have to spend as much time as I do driving, it is a big deal to get to hop into a comfortable car that you love every day. Also, two words: heated seats. Enough said.

In January I switched violin studios, and have since been studying with a teacher I really love; she is everything a teacher should be and I'm so glad I made the switch. It has totally changed my grad school experience.

Our new church! After five years as organist and music director at a church we didn't really like and where we certainly didn't feel loved, or welcomed, or like part of a community, Nathan quit his job there and we immediately started attending a church we knew was the place for us. We both sing in the choir and it's still a weirdly wonderful thing to wake up on Sunday mornings excited about going to church instead of dragging my feet about the whole thing.

For the second year in a row, Nathan conducted his own arrangement of The Star-Spangled Banner in Boston's Symphony Hall.

I finished year one of my master's degree program! And so did Nathan, for that matter.

I attended the National Orchestral Institute for the month of June. I hesitated about being away from Nathan and home and my students and my work for a full month, but let me just say for the record that I'm so glad I did this. It was really a great experience musically and personally. I met good friends (Brooke!) and played amazing music with wonderful musicians, and generally experienced things I would never have experienced if I hadn't gone.

Also, I got to go visit my dear friend Story and her family on several occasions, as they live in Virginia. A definite bonus of the whole trip.

We closed on House #2! And spent the summer working slavishly on fixing up both House #1 and House #2. By the end of the summer we were somewhat moved into our new place, with a few of the to-do projects already accomplished, and House #1 had lovely tenants living in it. And they're never late with their rent check. What more could we want?

I took a really wonderful improvisation course at school this fall, and it expanded my musicianship and challenged me to step outside of familiar things and try new things. The professor is a wonderful person, and my fellow classmates were an inspiration.

We got to spend five days in Northern California visiting my family. I chronicled the days' adventures: | 1 | | 2 | | 3 | | 4 | | 5 |

Do I even need to say it? I'm currently in the middle of the oh-so-serious work of growing us our very own baby. Obviously, finding out that we were expecting this new addition and anticipating his or her arrival has been probably the biggest event of 2011.

And we fully expect that holding him or her in our arms in the near future will be the biggest event of 2012!

Best wishes to all for a very happy new year.

Friday, December 30, 2011

21 weeks

I never claimed to be any good with a camera, but I especially never claimed to be any good at taking photos of myself. In a mirror that needs to be cleaned. In a poorly-lit and messy bedroom. But I refuse to let any of that stop me from documenting Baby's growth! Some day I'll be glad I did this. {At least I think I will...?}

Thursday, December 29, 2011

oh look, it's a two-car garage!

When we moved into our new house this summer, the basement, the garage, and much of the house was filled with the previous owners' stuff. It was a short-sale situation where the owners didn't have the time or money to really dispose of their unwanted belongings, or didn't have a new place big enough to put them in, or who knows. Anyway, we got a house with a whole lot of junk thrown in as a bonus. (Hah.) We're still going through stuff in the basement and the attic, a little bit at a time, but as of a little before Christmas, the garage is cleaned out!

This is completely thanks to Nathan. While I was working on making Christmas gifts for family, he made room for both our cars so that when the weather gets snowy, we'll be able to park them in the garage.

Hey hey look at that.

I've never had a garage to park in before.

Nathan also fixed the garage door.

Now, when you open it, the top section of the door doesn't slide off the tracks and fall on your head.

Imagine that!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

five years

Happy anniversary to us!

We went out to dinner, but not before having Andrew snap a photo of the occasion.

Then Nathan seized the camera. I suppose he wants something to remember me by before I become a frumpy and disheveled mom.

Strange to think that for our next anniversary we'll be needing a babysitter if we want to go out!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

what Christmas looks like

it was our first Christmas in our own home, without traveling.

Nathan's family was all here, which was lovely.

it was my first time planning a whole Christmas, doing stocking stuffers and Christmas breakfast and Christmas dinner and everything that comes in between.

the day started off with making my Mom's cranberry coffeecake recipe, a Palmer Christmas morning tradition

the other side of the family has traditions too, so I made Nathan's mom's coffeecake as well.
{this coffeecake is one of those multi-step processes, and may be the reason I got very little sleep the night before Christmas.}

served with eggs and bacon

{Melissa and Roman came for breakfast, but we forgot to take a picture of them!}

there were stockings to open...

and then the gifts, distributed by Andrew, the designated "Santa."

A prank from Andrew for Stevedad, who had requested salami {don't ask me why}: a cucumber, wrapped so as to trick the recipient into thinking it was a salami.

a gift for Baby... from this soon-to-be Mom who just couldn't help herself

a late brunch after church: Andrew's specialty breakfast burritos with orange julius

from Andrew, to Nathan, who does not always excel at arguments, a book of witty comebacks with a particular suggestion thoughtfully bookmarked by the gift-giver.

new gloves for Andrew

and finally, Christmas dinner!

Nathan set the table and photographed everything

dinner is served:
| boeuf bourguinon |
| mashed potatoes {with grapefruit-pomegranate punch in the foreground} |
| mixed greens with candied pecans, pomegranate seeds, and dried cranberries |
| brussels sprouts chiffonade with toasted hazelnuts |

cardamom bread

{and it only took me about 5 hours to make everything... sitting down at the table that evening never felt so good.}

there was cranberry-apple-pear pie for dessert, too.

all in all, I think it was a very merry Christmas!

Monday, December 26, 2011

what Christmas Eve looks like

munchies for all

my Korean pear had a Christmas star!

cranberry-apple-pear pie prepared for Christmas dessert

stocking silliness



playing violin in the Christmas Eve service at church

last minute gift-wrapping

six stockings on the mantle (Andrew, Nathan, Sarah, Jared, Stevedad, Carolmom)

gifts under the tree late at night

contentment in our home.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Cookie Decorating Party 2011

Nathan and I have a now-annual tradition of hosting a Christmas cookie decorating party at our place each December. This year's party was just over a week ago. We like to hold it around finals time for the students at the college where Nathan works, and invite the music students he coaches and accompanies for a study break and some Christmas cheer. We also invite all our nearby friends, of course.

I bake dozens of sugar cookies:

{this one photo was shamelessly stolen off of a student's facebook album, as I forgot to take a picture of the sugar cookies.}

And plenty of gingerbread men:

And people get to work frosting and decorating the cookies, fashioning them into personal works of art and plating them up on plastic plates they can take home with them.

I also provide goodies for everyone to much on:

{I was particularly pleased with my cheese platter. And the crockpot hot chocolate was a big hit! I followed this recipe as a starting point, and doubled it, but used only one can of sweetened condensed milk and used semi-sweet chocolate chips rather than milk chocolate. I think it would have been too sweet according to the original recipe, but your tastes may vary. Healthy? No. Delicious? Yes. This is real hot chocolate, my friends, and nothing like that powdered concoction of a certain alpine lass.}

Who doesn't like the salty-sweet combination of pretzels and chocolate?

Nathan, as always, requested sausage cheese balls. This year I used this recipe, which is very similar to my Mom's recipe that I usually use, with the addition of cream cheese. I doubled everything except for the cream cheese, and Nathan thought they came out perfectly.

And I made roasted vegetable crostini appetizers, inspired by something a friend once made which I had particularly enjoyed.

{Brush baguette slices lightly with olive oil and broil until golden. Roast zucchini and red pepper, or veggies of your choice, with olive oil, salt, and pepper until desired doneness is reached. Spread baguettes with a soft cheese - I used Boursin herb and garlic - and top with roasted vegetables. The red, green, and white color combo I used seemed perfect for Christmas, but you could use yellow squash, green peppers, eggplant, onions, or anything you want.

And that was our Christmas party this year. A lot of preparation, of course, but very worth it. It's always fun to spend time with friends at Christmas, and I firmly believe that every college student needs a Christmassy home to escape to for a few hours along about the time December rolls around.

Nathan and I were reminiscing and figuring that this must have been our fourth year having this party.

Well, let's do it again next year!

Thursday, December 22, 2011