Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Best Presents Ever Received

the pair of black leggings my mother bought me

I wear these under trousers every winter, and are the one thing that gets me through this dismal season. Maybe a boring, but certainly practical gift with a lot of longevity. BTW, I don't need any more leggings because I have gone out and bought a couple more pairs to wear between washings.

faux (?) black suede ankle boots

This wasn't a present as much as a Black Friday purchase by my mom for me while I was a college student in 1992. They may be a little scuffed and worn looking, but I still have them and love them as much as ever.

the general store cookie jar in our kitchen

This was a wedding present from my mom, and it's adorned our kitchen for the last 6 years. We haven't actually put any cookies in it, but instead have used it to store candy, and more recently clean container lids (that I will eventually take to Generation Green). It looks good next to the French border above it, and serves a practical purpose, so it's certainly earned its keep.

light green deep pocket Martha Stewart sheets

These were a house-warming gift from my mom, and were certainly needed as we didn't have a single item of bedding (except for a couple quilts) when we moved to the US from England (since we only had a double bed in England and bought a queen in the US). Deep pockets make them easy to put on our bed, which is certainly much appreciated. Plus I like the color.

my I-Pod Nano

This was a Christmas present from my husband after I dropped (and broke) my Creative Zen. I think he was anxious to initiate me into the world of Apple products anyway, but lacking an MP3 player finally gave him an excuse. It works wonderfully (except for enough advance warning when the battery is low) and fits perfectly into the pocket size speaker I bought for it. Although sometimes I wish I had the next generation model (with more internal memory and video capability), it wouldn't fit in the speaker case, so I guess I'm stuck with a Nano (3?) for life.

my Canon APS camera

That was a wedding present from my husband and I've probably used it dozens of times over the last 13 years. Actually, I still have every cartridge I've ever used, so I could count them up and know for sure, but suffice it to say it's been used plenty. I like it for taking panoramic photos, as some scenery just lends itself to that format. Since APS has kind of gone out of popularity in this digital age, I've had to stockpile fresh APS cartridges and still have at least a dozen in our refrigerator.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Recommended Reading for Black Friday

Unlike millions of other people, I didn't drop a bundle on Black Friday bargains yesterday. Since I've already finished all my Christmas shopping, there really wasn't anything I needed. Also, as I am in the middle of decluttering, it seems counterproductive to go out and bring back armfuls of stuff that I'll have to struggle to find a place for. That's not to say I didn't want to be out doing that, but I managed to resist the siren song of the mall and my other favorite stores. I'm proud that I had the will power, but it's always easier when my husband is home making it more difficult for me to sneak out (not that I'd ever do that : )

Hence, I thought it only appropriate that I recommend a few books to go along with the shopping season.

Confessions of a Shopaholic (and the entire Shopaholic series) by Sophie Kinsella

Like the rest of us, Bex likes a good bargain, but bargain or not, she definitely has expensive taste and little to no will power when it comes to resisting all that bling out there. Of course her spending habits catch up with her, and her roommate, Suze, helps her auction off some of her stash to help pay the bills. There's also another plot unrelated to the whole shopping debacle, which is really the whole point of reading the book. Some of the other book in the series focus a bit more on the shopping, but are still worth a read for the Sophie Kinsella fans out there.

Bringing Home the Birkin by Michael Tonello

For those with slightly less expensive taste, or who aren't in the know, a “Birkin” is “... a handmade purse by Hermès and named after actress and singer Jane Birkin. The bag is a symbol of wealth due to its high price and elusiveness to the public. Its prices range from $9,000 to $150,000. Costs escalate according to the type of materials. The bags are distributed to Hermès boutiques on unpredictable schedules and in limited quantities, creating scarcity and, intended or unintended, exclusivity.” *

* according to Wikipedia

Although I haven't read very far yet, the author takes the first few chapters to explain how he ended up moving to Barcelona (a beautiful city I was lucky enough to visit in 2002) and ended up lusting after the much coveted bag. I look forward to seeing how the story unfolds.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving 1998

Thanksgiving 1998, originally uploaded by authorwannabe.

Here's a picture of my husband carving his first turkey (not that Brits don't have turkey at Xmas, but not sure he had ever done the carving) at our first Thanksgiving in 1998 while living in Gloucester, England.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Memories

After 41 years of Thanksgivings, I feel I have much to be grateful for, including the many fond memories I have of family traditions.

However, as is sometimes the case, I can't claim to have spent all 41 of those Thanksgivings with my entire family.

My first Thanksgiving away from home was in 1994. I had graduated from college and was living in a small suburb of Boston called Sharon. I was the live-in nanny to a family of three where I was in charge of their 18 month old daughter, Elise.

The father's parents flew in from Chicago and turned out to be quite friendly and very down to earth. I remember thinking how nice it was that I wasn't the only one from the Midwest. Among other things, we discussed movies since they belonged to some sort of a film club.

The mother's parents drove in from Rhode Island, and I had met them previously when I stayed at their McMansion while we moved from our house in Brookline to Sharon. They were okay, but not as personable as the Midwesterners (but then maybe that's my personal bias speaking).

We had a fancy Thanksgiving dinner with appetizers I had never had before - like melted brie. Yummy! I also seem to recall having Matzo Ball soup since half the family was Jewish. That was also quite delightful. In spite of their economic wealth, they had cranberries out of the can just like the rest of us. I remember one of the younger brothers saying it wasn't authentic without the ridges!

Of course I was homesick and remember talking to my parents on the phone long distance that morning, but I made it through the day without too many tears. It probably helped that there were about 18 different kinds of desserts, many of which I ate for weeks afterwards until I was literally scraping off the mold (sad I know, but I really have a sweet tooth!).

Four years later I living in England and was serving up my first Thanksgiving dinner to my British in-laws whom we had invited over to help us celebrate. I don't remember any major mishaps, so I guess we did okay with not over or under cooking anything. Of course we didn't actually celebrate on the day since I had to work, so we postponed until the weekend. Like four years previous, I was a bit homesick and called home late in the day on Thursday. As there was now a grandchild in the family, she seemed to more than take my place since much fuss was made over her. I suppose this was inevitable, but it didn't exactly help my homesickness.

Living overseas I missed a few more Thanksgivings, but it got easier with time. My husband and I certainly got better at preparing an elaborate meal for his parents, a skill which has come in handy now that I host our annual Christmas eve dinner.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Book Review

How Did I Get to be 40 and Other Atrocities

by Judith Viorst

This is a book that's been sitting on my shelf for just over a year after turning 40 in 2010. It seemed an appropriate enough book to get at that point. After reading it, I wished I had gotten it sooner since I can long relate to so many of Viorst's poems.

The first poem entitled "The Truth" starts out,

"The truth is
If I had it all to do over
I still wouldn't study Swahili,
Learn to fly a plane,
Or take 92 lovers,
Some of them simultaneously."

It ends with,

"But the truth is
That the next time around,
I still wouldn't."

The less ambitious among us, myself included, can definitely relate to this sentiment!

My other favorite poem is called "Mid Life Crisis" and ends with this stanza,

"While I was thinking I was just a girl,
My future turned into my past.
The time for wild kisses goes fast and it's
Time for Sanka.

I really love the line, "My future turned into my past." It's so haunting and so true.

Those of us who struggle to stay thin can relate to "Eating my Heart Out."

"Misery knocks me off my feet,
But never off my feed.
And the lump in my throat is concealed
By my double chin.
Misery piques my appetite.
Such help I didn't need.
I only wish that happiness
Made me thin."

There are more wonderful examples in this treasury of poetry that I can't recommend highly enough to my sisters out there - both young and old.