Thursday, December 24, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
:: This morning I opened my new shower gel and thought it smelled a whole lot like my high school locker room. That's the smell of sweat, insecurity, and the tardy bell, in case any of you forgot. Somehow the fragrance in the bottle triggers some sort of memory dating back to my high school years and beams me right back into that stinky room tucked away in the back of the gym. I'll thank manufacturers everywhere to never use that combination of oils and perfumes ever again.
As if she'd read my mind 4 days ago, my sister sent a sweet little Christmas package that arrived on my door step today. Among the thoughtful items? A bottle of coconut lime verbena shower gel. It smells like happiness and vacation on a tropical island...smells I can totally live with.
:: This afternoon I smelled caramelized sugar and hot, buttered popcorn. I'd been on the hunt for something to make to give to family members when I stumbled upon Molly's recipe for caramel corn. Sure, she doesn't look like much straight out of the oven and all spread out on a broiler pan, but just you wait until I dress her up with a pretty bow. She'll turn heads, she will.
:: This evening I smelled cilantro and raw onions on my hands. We joined our extended family this evening for a fun, delicious Mexican meal. The line was super long, the place super busy, the wait super long, and the outside waiting area super cold. But the tacos al pastor? Those and the company made it all worth it.
Incidentally, I started to think back to last December and recalled a picture I took of this same dish eaten around this time. I looked it up, and wouldn't you know it...December 23, a year ago to the day. Apparently, I have a new tradition.
Posted by Alina at 11:12 PM
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
1. I have never admitted my Droid smart phone is too smart for me.
2. I have never accidentally muted my conversations at least 5 times a day since receiving the phone.
3. I have never dropped at least 25 phone calls while talking to my dear friend Nikki.
4. I have never made the made the following comparison: Matt's technology skills are to a slick, 007, futuristic phone as my skills are to a 1960's rotary phone.
5. I have never been confronted by Matt twice in a five hour time period yesterday for obsessively checking my email every 2 minutes.
6. I have never videotaped my daughter singing while I was driving the car...or taken photos of a cool bridge. Don't see the photo above. I didn't take it.
7. I have never been so intrigued by the 'Barcode Scanner' application that I went around the house and scanned random items just to see what they cost.
8. In relation to #7, I have never discovered that a 12 pack of Ferrero Rondnoir chocolates cost $3.79 at Walgreens and $1.30 at Rock Bottom Deals. (Seriously, that's a good deal!)
9. I have never been tempted to download the 'Period and Ovulation Tracker' application, and I am not currently still considering it. That's gross, people.
10. I have never spent time drafting a mock resignation letter in my head to Matt and the Google/Verizon companies explaining that this phone is just.too.much.for.me.so.please.remove.it.from.my.hands.
11. You never read this post.
Posted by Alina at 9:42 PM
Sunday, December 20, 2009
(The mechanics of the play were fascinating. Here the director is looking on as the actors practice going through the door of the set while a stage hand is nearby to rotate the whole prop piece for a scene change. Very cool to watch.)
I got to play yesterday. With my camera. At a play. My church asked me to take some publicity shots during a dress rehearsal. It was definitely a whole lot more work than play...given the tricky job that it is photographing moving bodies on a inadequately lit stage with a completely black room behind me. Translation: No natural light.
I had been a little nervous leading up to the event, knowing my camera and light science knowledge has it's considerable limits. Up until now I've been a hobbyist photographer that works by the natural light of the sun. Therefore, I knew this experience would be challenging.
When I first got there, I fiddled with the ISO, aperture, white balance, and shutter speed...all of the good stuff. Still, blurry bodies. Fortunately, a few fellow photography friends were on hand along with a film school graduate (my knight in shining armor) to provide some tips that did the trick. He used terms like "light sensor" and "over-exposed". Those sounded like nice words to me, and I wished I knew half of what they meant. (blush)
It was a good experience...if for no other reason than to highlight my need to learn more!! Ah, will the photography learning curve ever level out?
Posted by Alina at 4:24 PM
Friday, December 18, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Grief is a funny thing. It moves in and out of life haphazardly, indiscriminately. There's no guarantee when it will visit...and revisit...and, when you least expect it, visit again.
I've been missing Jessica lately. I'm not sure if the holidays are to blame or the little reminders of her that I find throughout my life. I thought of her as I put up the ornaments she gave me, the ones with the photos of the 3 amigas: she, myself, and Brooke. When I pulled out the icicles that were party favors at her wedding which took place 7 months before her funeral, I thought of her. I also thought of her yesterday at the mall when a cheery college student with bomb shell blond hair and an infectious smile walked by. And I think of her whenever I pull out my camera with the frilly peach camera strap.
Jessica's husband handed out scarves from Jessica's collection to her closest friends at the funeral. I chose this one. At first I had no idea what to do with it. It was likely one of Jessica's supremely cheap attempts at fashion-forwardness....probably purchased on a whim one day when she was wanting a fresh infusion of peach in her wardrobe. I can just picture her bypassing the typical store-bought route and heading straight for the fabric store. It was there that I'm sure she spotted the material and smiled her satisfied, spend-thrifty smile. She would have her peach, and she'd have it on her terms. Never mind the fact that the edges were roughly cut with a pair of scissors (probably right there in the store), and it isn't wide enough or really thick enough to be a scarf, in my book.
So when her husband first showed me the piece, I liked the color but had no real idea what I would do with it. I took it, feeling compelled and hoping a use would come to me one day.
Fast-forward to a year later...my camera breaks, and I send it back to Nikon to get it fixed. They return it, strap off, and I have no idea how to get the strap back through the tiny loops. I'm desperate, about to go on a shoot with some friends. I look for something to hold my camera, and in a pinch, I grab this. I haven't taken it off since.
Honestly, I am so used to seeing the strap that I don't think about it anymore. I use my camera almost daily now, and I don't usually recall Jessica's face or the story of how I got the fabric...that is until someone says, "Hey, nice strap." And, for a few fleeting moments, I think about Jessica, and then respond, "Yes, it is a nice strap."
Posted by Alina at 11:42 PM
I went shopping yesterday. I love this store, though I always leave feeling angry. Yes, spitfire angry. It's a weird reaction, I know. But I think it's a result of the worst of my lust clashing with the emptiness of my bank account. At least I also leave feeling inspired, and that's got to be worth something.
Posted by Alina at 5:57 PM
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
:: Potato, Po-tah-to
I placed a potato on the counter this morning for Matt to take to work for lunch. A few minutes later I saw Karis playing with the potato in the office. I let her be...potatoes are fun to play with. Fast-forward to a half an hour later, Matt's leaving and the potato is no where in sight. He grabs another and heads out the door. My dilemma? A potato is hidden somewhere in the house. I questioned Karis. She stared at me blankly. I looked under the bed and on the floors of all the bedrooms. Question: Have you ever seen a rotting potato? Or smelled one? (shudder). I'm sure we'll find it (read: smell it) soon enough...in between the guest bed sheets, in that office drawer with the expensive electronics, or in my sock drawer. Oh, we'll find it.
:: Sparkle and shimmer
I walked into the bathroom this morning and a tiny sparkling object caught my eye. Stuck in the bathmat I found two stickers, one adhered to the other. They were the kind of stickers that change depending on how the light falls on them...in other words, turn to the right, you have Dancer the reindeer. Turn to the left, you have the word "Dancer" glimmering back at you. Now here's the clincher: I've never seen these stickers before in my life. Where did Karis get them? One of her supremely generous grandmas? And, lastly, am I really at that stage in parenting...the how-did-this-sneak-into-my-home-without-me-even-noticing stage of parenting? I honestly thought I had a little bit more time.
:: Curbside clutter or mantel masterpiece?
Matt brought home this painting yesterday. He said a guy from work was going to throw it away, and he intervened in the nick of time. We tend to really like original artwork, though I'm not talking about the kind hanging in art galleries with bloated price tags. The majority of the pieces we own were purchased at Goodwill for $2-$6. Original art by art students and grandmas with a hobby mostly. But this piece...I'm not sure about it. There are aspects I like and don't like about it. The reflections seem a little off, and I'm not crazy about the frame. But the water theme is appropriate for where we live (near rivers, waterways, and the Atlantic), and the color blue is calming. I know I'm on my own with the first two mysteries I've shared in this post, but can you guys weigh in on this one? Is it fitting for the mantel or meant for the curb? I know art is supremely subjective, but I need some help here. I'll even consider it your Christmas gift to me.
Posted by Alina at 9:36 PM
Monday, December 14, 2009
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Both Matt and Karis nodded off for a nap this afternoon, and, in a rare moment of freedom, I weighed my options. I could have done this:
Instead, I went outside, looked up and saw this blowing in the wind:
I looked in the pot of thyme and saw this lone basil plant persisting through the winter months:
I walked to the back fence line and found this collection of oyster shells, perhaps relics from the river 2 blocks over:
I looked through the fence and saw this shrimp plant thriving in the overgrown, abandoned alley:
Then I walked to the side of the house and found this pretty shade of pink:
I looked at the path next to the door before heading back in and spied this curious brick:
It was time well spent.
Posted by Alina at 3:24 PM
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
:: Work Christmas parties
Even when it's my husband's and I know very few people...I still love it. There's free food, an open bar, a chance to get dressed up (which doesn't come around often these days), and a chance to meet the people that Matt spends nearly half of his waking hours with. A win-win-win-win situation.
I brought my big camera to the party, but I found myself more drawn to using the camera on my new Droid smartphone. I didn't feel nearly as creepy taking pictures of strangers with my phone than my large-lensed camera. Sure, the quality is not quite there, but it gives me the chance to be free from fiddling with the settings and just focus on what I see around me. (All photos in this post were taken with my camera phone.)
Um...vodka, Triple Sec, cranberry juice, and lime juice? You guys are wonderful apart from each other and a dynamite team when shaken together with ice. Thanks for last night, and you are now my favorite cocktail. Sorry, mojito.
:: $5 accessories
I wore my 'go to' accessory of this season, black and gray argyle leggings from Target. Warm and trendy...proof that form and function can be friends after all.
Coming home may just be the best part of a night out. Per her request, we read about Max and his crazy adventures. Then I tucked my favorite pajama-footed girl into her bed, kissed her goodnight, and slid into my own comfy pajamas. In no time at all, I can switch from a cosmo-drinking, legging-wearing party-goer to homebody mama. Could we be talking about a superhero power here? I think so.
Posted by Alina at 1:17 PM
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Karis's cousins came over to play yesterday. Grandma provided the Charlie Brown t-shirts, Aunt Megan brought the treasure hunt game and prizes, Aunt Kelly and MeMa helped commandeer the kids onto the front doorsteps for the portrait session, and I snapped the not-so-winning pictures. The photo shoot and matching shirts were Grandma's idea, and I'm sure the top photo is what she had in mind to use for her Christmas letter. But I kind of prefer the bottom photo. It certainly tells the story more clearly about what it's like trying to get these four little monkeys to pose for a picture.
Posted by Alina at 4:11 PM
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Some of you have hinted around the topic and others have come out and just plain asked. Well, today I'm here to deliver the "before" and "after" shots of our home. We've been in it a few months now, and I think it's high time we took inventory of all the changes. A few disclaimers: yes, I staged things. I mean, who wouldn't clean up a little bit before a photo shoot? I'm telling you because I wouldn't want you thinking we lived this orderly over here. It's just an illusion of orderliness.
Second, I'm only going to show you the rooms that I have "before" shots of and that I felt were ready for the "after" shots. The bedrooms, bathroom, and my office "after" shots are to be shared further down the road when I feel they are ready for their close-up.
Third, I made a huge mistake a few months ago. I accidentally erased a bunch of the "before" pictures, so I had to retake them while the house painting and cleanup was already underway. For those shots, I will give a little verbal description to help you capture the look of the house in the true "before" condition. I know, I know. A picture is worth a thousand words. You don't have to tell me twice. I've almost been in tears a few times over this blunder. I hope you can still capture the magnitude of change...it really is amazing what a little fresh paint will accomplish!
Enjoy the picture show!
Living room/Dining room
Before: The walls were originally a very, very dark shade of plum. The cabinets and all the trim around the doors and windows were a gross shade of butter cream yellow. The room reminded me of an old lady dressed in yellowed lace and dark purple lipstick. Rather gross, dark, and cave-like.
Posted by Alina at 2:38 PM
Monday, December 07, 2009
Late night in front of the computer, wrapped in a warm quilt (dang this room not being heated). I've fought the feeling all day long that I'm not relishing the festivities this month has to offer. Items on the list not completed: advent calendar not made, tree not topped, gifts not bought, Christmas stories not read...so on and so forth. I know I'm missing the point here...like, I'm miles away from it. Truth is, I know this month couldn't be less about guilt and lists than it already is. It's about freedom and hope and a little baby boy that came barreling through space and time to bring it. So bring it on, baby Jesus. Bring it on.
Posted by Alina at 10:32 PM
Sunday, December 06, 2009
I fiddled some with the nativity scene today. It's a wooden set from this store with a childlike rendering of the main characters. I like them, though they are somewhat thin and narrow. The rearranging of them is much like playing a game of dominoes. First Mary knocked over Joseph. Then a wise man knocked over the donkey and caused the angel to fall on the shepherd. With the first wise man still lying face down on the table, a second not-so-wise man lost its footing and began to teeter back and forth, eventually toppling over and wiping out baby Jesus....and a hush came over the crowd.
Posted by Alina at 3:44 PM
Saturday, December 05, 2009
We dressed the tree today. A magical moment for Karis. Though the getting there wasn't so magazine perfect. We purchased the tree last night amid a flurry of police activity in the shopping complex as a manhunt was underway for someone who robbed a clerk at gunpoint a few stores over. Very classy.
Once we were ready to get started decorating today, I put a little Mindy Smith on Pandora to get us in the mood. I love her quiet, folk Americana sound. Perfect for an early afternoon tree-decorating party. Karis thought her own screaming would be more suited to the moment. And so we dealt with tantrum number 4,000 this week. My mother-in-law says "Bless her heart," and I say "Bless her sinful heart."
Eventually we got around to pulling out the box of decorations and started riffling through the loot. It was then that I remembered the mental note I made while putting away the decorations after Christmas last year. Get white lights for the tree next year, I told myself. I hadn't listened. So off Karis went to MeMa's for thirty minutes while I braved the Wal-mart masses for four boxes of 100 ct. white lights. I could have used six.
Now fast-forward one hour later to this lovely moment in our living room. Was it all worth it? Yes, I realized a few hours later when Karis opened her eyes after her nap, took one look at me, and said with a grin, "It's Chwithmath" (translation: Christmas).
Posted by Alina at 2:36 PM
Friday, December 04, 2009
Thursday, December 03, 2009
The decor was breathtaking and the menu nearly impossible to choose from. In the end I chose the steamed muscles in saffron broth with Gorgonzola polenta on the side. Beef carpaccio, prosciutto wrapped figs, fried orzo balls, and fried calamari also circulated the table for all to share. The whole thing felt very Top Chef-ish. Though I did learn that when seated at the end of the community table for a 3 hour meal, you might sweat a little bit under your pink scarf when trying to keep the conversation flowing.
Posted by Alina at 4:11 PM
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Matt and I gave Karis a tour of our alma mater, the place we first met and fell in love. We traveled to the bottom floor of Carter Hall, and I showed her my old mailbox. The number 525 is forever emblazoned in my memory. For four years I performed the daily ritual of peeking through this tiny window in the hopes that I would find a letter from home or my new boyfriend. Such exciting and lonely years.
Posted by Alina at 11:19 PM
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
She helped me clean up her room before nap time today. It's technically the first time I've been able to trust her with the big job of picking up all her toys. I'm so proud. I'm also not winded, which I would totally be if I had done it myself.
I'm participating in the December Photo Project again this year. A big 'thank-you' to Rebecca of View from the Prairie Box for hosting it! Last year's DPP was a fantastic month of structure, inspiration, and photo goodness in my life, and I'm so glad to be a part of the fun again. Any of you looking for a little photography challenge, just head on over to the DPP site, register, and get started taking photos. I'll be posting one (sometimes more) photos a day for the whole month of December. Some photos will have a little description and others might have a full written post along with it (depending on my day and how much I have to say). Happy December and remember to check back each day for a little photo gift from me to you!
Posted by Alina at 3:30 PM