all I want for Christmas (nice)

Christmas TreeWhile none of the below would fit neatly under my Christmas tree, here’s what’s on my list this year:

1. More hours in the day (for relaxing not working).

2. Teachers to get paid more.

3. A Super Bowl re-do. (Not a re-match.)

4. Snow on Christmas.

5. A reasonable solution to climate change.

6. A deck off my kitchen.

7. George Clooney to read my story.

Hoping all your dreams and wish lists are fulfilled tomorrow!

Happy Holidays!


the gift of Clooney

photo credit: Chris Meck Photography. cover design: Belmont, IncAre you panicking because you still haven’t found the perfect gift for your sister, girlfriend, mother, hair dresser, great aunt, cousin or co-worker?

Have you considered ordering someone My Night with George Clooney? Even though it is electronic in format, you can indeed follow these easy Amazon instructions to gift it. The recipient need not own a kindle; anyone with a handheld device can read it if they get the free kindle app. And since this is a short story – about 40 pages in length – it is totally manageable to read on a smaller device. I mean, if I were giving someone Anna Karenina, I might want to make sure they had a reading tablet of some sort. But this story is the perfect length to take you to and from work, get you through a long conference call or just entertain for an evening before going to sleep.

With Christmas just two days away, you are one click away from not having to weather the crowds (or weather the weather, if you live in the Plains states or New England) to finish up your shopping. You would be supporting an emerging young(ish) writer with your purchase, and sharing the gift of Clooney with your loved ones. In other words, you’d be giving in two ways.

And that is truly in the spirit of the holiday season.


the truth about Santa

Last year, I had a very serious conversation with Jack about Santa. If you go back and reread it, you will see what I said versus what I wish I had said.

Let’s just say, the other night I got my wish.

Once again, it didn’t happen as expected. In fact, I precipitated the conversation in a very unfortunate way. After a frustrating moment with a naughty kitty, I muttered something under my breath about her needing to stop her bad behavior or I was going to find her a new home, Jack started crying. (For the record, he was not supposed to hear such crazed mommy mutterings.) I tried to calm him down and explain that I didn’t mean it, I was just frustrated. Out of nowhere he proclaimed, “I know exactly what I’m going to ask Santa for this Christmas. I’m going to ask him to bring back all the pets I know who have died in the last year. Jack Dog, Roxy, Squee. I want them all back.”

Oh shit.

Me: “Baby, you know Santa can’t do that, right?” I whispered softly into the top of his head.

Jack: “But Santa is magic, and he can do anything!” Jack practically wailed.

Me: “Kids, we need to have a talk about Santa.”

I told them about Saint Nicholas. I talked about the spirit of giving. I assured them that believing in the magic of the season keeps the holiday vibrant. I don’t want them to lose that magical feeling just because there isn’t a white-haired man in a flying sleigh who distributes presents to each kid around the world. I used reason. I used passion. Jack initially bawled, but then seemed soothed by the idea that he can personally have a role in perpetuating the spirit of the holidays.

Me: “Do you guys understand?”

Jack: “Yes. It’s better to give than receive. And I can make the holidays bright by giving to those I love.”

Me: “That’s right! Colin?”

Colin: “Yeah, just one question, mom. What about the reindeer? Are they real?”

At least there weren’t any questions about the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy. One burst bubble at a time.

43 by 43: moment of reckoning

In August, I set some goals. 43 to be exact. A few were big. A number were small. Many fell in the middle.

I did pretty well. I didn’t score 100%, but I came in over 75%. I was never a C student, but I will take it in this case.

Where did I do well? I mostly achieved all five of my big goals. I published My Night with George Clooney. I have unofficially soft launched Cloakroom Style. I roasted a duck. I took a trip to celebrate my birthday. And early next year, I’m taking the boys to NYC. (I’m getting credit for future plans since I only gave myself a four-month window to complete these goals.)

I also have been awesome at picking up the dry cleaning on time. I did all the medical check ups that had lagged. Thanks to Weekend Warriors, I was a home improvement goddess.

Where could I have done better? Well, I didn’t meet any of my three financial goals (stick to a budget, contribute to college accounts, re-fi house). I also failed to go on five dates, though I did go on one and I asked someone to go on one, so I’m giving myself credit for that. I didn’t post to the blog every three days as I aspired, but I did try to write more regularly.

I’m growing my hair long. I wear red lipstick at least once a week. I don’t talk to the boys in a mean voice (as often) when frustrated. Over winter break, we have a schedule to watch some of my favorite (non-R) movies, and I plan to make them breakfast in bed.

The list was random. The list was long. It’s not done, as some items require continued diligence, but it was an exercise worth taking. And now I can begin plotting out what I want to achieve next year. Aside from sticking to a budget, contributing to college accounts, refinancing the house and going on some dates, that is.

duck duck ribs

MinnyIt was on the 43 by 43 list, and we got it in under the gun.

Tonight, on Birthday Eve, Nancy and I cooked duck.

Two, to be exact. (Minny, before she was sauced, is pictured here.)

I know there were many who wanted to be at the duck table, and don’t worry, you will be invited in the future. But it was only appropriate that for the first time I prepare duck, I do it with my most constant and trusty cooking partner.

For some reason, we thought two ducks were necessary. Perhaps it was that our table hosted three adults and seven children. Perhaps it was fear that not enough meat would come off just one carcass. Nancy’s boyfriend even brought ribs for the kids, in case they didn’t want duck. Let’s just say, he’s got a lot of leftover pork and Christmas Eve dinner will feature a duck ragu.

We had to remain true to Julia Child and therefore make her Canard a l’Orange. That recipe calls for a duck in the oven, so for the second duck, we sought a recipe that could be rendered on the stove top. From Jacques Pepin, we found skillet roasted duck with parsnips and shallots.

Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs. But it was the best Birthday Eve dinner ever.

No good meal is complete without phenomenal wine pairings. We started with the Iron Horse Golden Gate Cuvee. And because kitchen prep was taking longer than we anticipated, we then went to the Iron Horse Wedding Cuvee. But for dinner, Nancy brought two bottles of Chateauneuf du Pape, the perfect duck companion. The wine did not disappoint.

I’m so full I can barely move. But I’m already running through ways to improve upon what we did tonight. For starters, focusing on just one duck. And preparing that duck medium rare. (Tonight, both ducks, though flavorful, were unfortunately more on the medium to medium well side.) I’d love to try duck confit. Duck cracklings are my new favorite crispy snack.

Let’s just say, this was not the last time duck will appear at my table. I just might not make so much of it next time.


kids and guns and horror

IMG_2321Across America this morning, parents dropped their kids at school, the bus stop or with early morning caretakers and proceeded with their day just as they did yesterday and the day before that and the day before that.

At our own school, we held a special program. As has become annual tradition, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer came to sit patiently and listen to our kids sing holiday songs. He does not represent our district, but our school bears his late wife’s name, and he never fails to make a December appearance. In fact, when his schedule would not permit him to attend the actual performance next week, he came today instead to watch dress rehearsal. He got on one knee with a gaggle of pre-kindergardeners to cut the ceremonial ribbon for our “new” (to us) school building. He laughed. He clapped. He addressed the kids, not the adults, and told them teachers are the most important people in a society. He was warm to one and all and appeared to be genuinely entertained.

I left school with warm happy feelings for my kids’ school, our community spirit and a driven PTA that makes being that organization’s president a pretty easy job. (As my friend Chuck whispered to me during the performance, “it’s amazing what a PTA can do when it’s run by a bunch of alphas.”)

I learned about the horrible news of what happened in Newtown, Connecticut not from NPR but Twitter. My first reaction was jaded. Another mass shooting. This is America. It seems to happen every other week. Then the details emerged. An elementary school. Scores of young kids shot and killed. The horror of it all quickly sunk in. As I came home to my own elementary-aged kids tonight, I thought of those parents who will never walk in the door to be greeted by hugs and kisses. I thought of the kids who are not tucked into their beds tonight. Most of them kindergardeners. And I felt helpless.

There’s so much that’s wrong that it’s hard to imagine getting our nation back on course. We need to better address mental health issues, for sure. But we also need stronger gun control. I believe in the Second Amendment. But to say it’s outdated seems like an understatement.

I’d like to think as a nation we could have an honest debate about guns. But you can already see the polarization occurring on that great social indicator, Facebook. When Jack asked tonight, “why doesn’t Congress just make a law that you can’t have the types of guns that are only designed to kill people, not to hunt?” I didn’t have an answer. Deep down, I don’t think our government takes this moment to debate gun policy anymore than they’ve signaled a willingness to address climate change post Super Storm Sandy. As they have become so adept at doing, they will kick the can down the road until the next tragedy strikes.

all I want for Christmas (naughty version)

christmas naughtyLast year, I caused quite a stir with my all I want for Christmas (naughty version) list. While I only ended up acquiring one item from 2011’s holiday covetables (don’t you wish you knew which one?) this year I have a brand new list. So let me continue to entertain (female) and tantalize (male) readers with this year’s semi-steamy desires.

The Chantelle Paris-Paris collection has had me salivating all fall. It isn’t my normal style of underpinning, but something really attracts me to it. I even like the (not pictured) corset. Gasp worthy, right? I doubt Santa is going to make way to Coup de Foudre this year, but should he, my size is on file.

I don’t have a problem with real fur except that no pelts in nature come in this color, which the interwebs affectionately (and rather grotesquely) call oxblood. This luxurious looking (but not costing) wrap would be so pretty contrasted against my winter white coat. It would equally serve me well lounging around my very drafty house. Clad in my Paris-Paris ensemble, of course.

Not naughty in style (slutty shoes at my age would vault me into cougar territory) but definitely sinful in price, these Prada pumps would leave me praising Santa all the next year and beyond. True to form when it comes to shoes, I can’t pick between the two. I don’t have a pair of gray pumps in my wardrobe, and these would be a nice (I mean, naughty) alternative to nude for winter. And the bordeaux suede? I’d wear these all.the.time. Just because they don’t scream bad girl doesn’t mean I can’t let my wild side loose when wearing them.

Santa, I promise, I’ve  been very good (and just a little bad) this year.

Hive on the Hill

There are no fashionable women’s shoe stores on Capitol Hill unless you want to make the trek to Union Station, and who shops at Union Station except passersby and Hill staffers on their lunch break?

That all changes for one brief and shining weekend (as in, this weekend) when the Old Town based boutique, the Shoe Hive, comes to Tabula Rasa on Barack’s Row.

Beginning tonight from 7:00-9:00 with a cocktail reception hosted by my favorite Alisons, DC Celine and Wardrobe Oxygen, and running regular hours through the weekend, all sorts of wonderfulness will be available. From shoes to handbags to jewelry and other accessories, they promise to have something for everybody. Need gifts? Walk away from Amazon Prime for one night to support a local small business. Looking for the perfect holiday shoe? Maybe you will find it here. While I have never actually shopped the Hive since I usually make my big shoe purchases from SimplySoles, I’m impressed by the photos I’ve seen on Twitter and Facebook of not only new arrivals in their actual store, but the goodies they are busy unpacking on this side of the river. And they are super responsive on social media, which feels like good customer service to me.

Who knows? Since I already indicated to the Hive-ess that my feet take a size 8, maybe I will find a happy birthday to me present.

Mahalo, Hawaii

Images of HawaiiThank you, Hawaii. And goodbye. (For real, this time.)

Some of you hid me from your Facebook feed these last 2 weeks (admit it) and one of you (Tim) even jokingly asked how many more months I planned to be here. So you’ll be glad to hear that after the unexpected one-day delay, I’m heading home. Home to unseasonably warm DC weather, Christmas planning, my job, and of course, two cute little boys.

I’m going to miss the Maui Onion flavored chips we ate daily, the Kailua Passions we drank on multiple occasions, sunrise walks/runs on the beach, and the laid back attitude of island life. I’m going to miss wearing flip flops and beachwear all day (and night) long. I’m going to miss fresh Ahi, apple bananas, Shave Ice, the most amazing pineapple ever and the Spam aisle at the Foodland.

I’m going to miss having a new experience everyday. Paddle surfing. (Have I mentioned that I’m a goddess at paddle surfing?) Watching the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing competition on Sunset Beach. Hiking to incredible vistas.

There’s a lot waiting for me back home though. The kids, of course. The Harry Potter Yule Ball my friends are hosting on Saturday. Biker Barre. (Oh, do I need some ass kicking by my friends at Biker Barre.) And George Clooney has already been shipped back to the East Coast where he patiently awaits my return.

The best vacations are those you are bittersweet about ending. You want it to continue – because it’s awesome – but you are eager to go back to your life. Because your kids are amazing and you have seen this entire trip through their eyes.

Except the parts that involved copious fruity cocktails, of course.

a slight change of plans…

Sometimes life throws a curveball. And sometimes that curveball means staying in paradise one more day.

It isn’t always this way. Three years ago I was stranded in Copenhagen for four days longer than my return ticket specified. I loved Copenhagen – don’t get me wrong – but after more than a week, so close to Christmas, after your friends have mostly left town, you kind of just want to get home. It was stressful. There were tears. And thankfully, there was aquavit.

There were tears this time too. And I can hear you all… “this is the world’s smallest violin playing my heart bleeds for you.” But while it doesn’t suck to get stranded in Hawaii for one more day, it was difficult to tell Jack (who has missed me desperately) that I’m an extra day away from seeing him. It was hard to return to our amazing house in Kailua after coming to terms with saying goodbye. And mostly, it was hard to cough up the $500 to change my ticket for tomorrow’s flight because, oh, today’s journey was just to get to the mainland. Tomorrow I had a flight from SFO to DCA. To change that leg to Friday cost more than the original ticket had.

And I’m still just on standby tomorrow, though the Hawaiian Airlines people who would not check me in with 43 minutes til takeoff because I should have been there three hours in advance have told me there are 29 available seats on tomorrow’s flight. So I should make it.

And I will be at the airport three hours early so that I am number one on the standby list. Because while I’ve had an awesome vacation, I’m ready to sleep in my own bed, hug my kids tight and wear something other than a bathing suit to dinner.