What are you doing New Year's Eve?

Normally, we are stay at home fuddy-duddies. While it always seems the rest of the world is ushering the old year out with a party, dancing, a champagne toast and a kiss at midnight, we are usually home with kids, maybe eating some fondue, playing cards, banging some pots and pans and going to bed at 12:01 (that would be 10:01 for Mr. D).

THIS year, still working on my fiftieth year, I really didn't want a replay of the last twenty years. Let's splurge and do something different!

So Mr. D. and I are heading out to a little party at an historic, antique-filled hotel to eat really nice food, play some trivia games with the other guests and do that champagne toast at midnight. (I'll need to spike Mr. D's dinner beverage with some Red Bull so he'll make it to 12:01). I'll be treated to a nice breakfast in the morning that I won't have to make myself or clean up afterward. Should be a grand way to start a new year!

But it's been hell to pay trying to get out of Dodge. There is a good reason we don't pack a bag on a whim and take off on short notice. That simply is not in the realm of possibility. It has taken two days of arrangements to ensure that the world will keep turning while we are gone for 18 hours. Now we have earned our little excursion.

What are you doing to ring out the old year and ring in the new?

I would like to say a hearty Happy New Year to all of you, my friends and family who occasionally or regularly visit me here in this little bit of cyberspace .  May your new year be blessed with contentment, prosperity and good health.

Au revoir, 2010

2010 was a year of change for me.  I started a new job in January.  I'd been at my previous job for 13 1/2 years.  I didn't leave because I wanted to - I left because my division was sold to another company.  Fortunately, the new company offered me a position and I was technically only unemployed for a weekend (and believe me, the knowledge that 10% of the country is currently unemployed is never far from my thoughts).  I liked my old job for lots of reasons, including the fact that I had no commute (I could actually see the office building from my house and vice versa) and the fact that I was earning almost six weeks of vacation every year. So, at first I was more than a little reluctant to round that corner into something new.  I'm not the most adaptable cat out there.

However, in time I came to see that the new job, though very stressful initially, was probably just what I needed.  I lost my vacation time and some other benefits, but I was happy to be employed.  Whereas my division had been relegated to "red-headed stepchild" status at the old company, our web development team is a valid part of the new one. Honestly, the acquisition was probably for the best - I would have stayed at the old job forever otherwise. Stagnant.

Let's see, what else happened in 2010?  Our finances continued to suck. We're hoping things will get a bit better over the next year and a half, when both cars will be paid off. We're also hoping to avoid major household and automotive repairs for a while - this year we had to replace our hot water heater and some expensive part in P's car (after the car was, tragically, out of warranty by just a few miles).

I took up yoga in the fall.  I think I'm officially hooked.  I have no idea why I waited so long to go.  The instructors are so patient, too.  My brain may think it is telling my right foot to point straight ahead, but my right foot does not receive the memo.  Some kind-hearted instructor always comes around and gently corrects my rebellious appendage.

Other noteworthy events from 2010:
  • My baby started Kindergarten.  She is rapidly learning to read, and we can no longer spell stuff in front of her (I miss that already). 
  • We continued to foster for Boxer Rescue. One of the best moments of my entire year was when my senior foster pooch, Fritz, was adopted back in January.  The lady who adopted him has become a friend and I know I'm a better person for having met her. 
  • I turned 40.  I'll just leave it at that.
  • A and I went to DC in April to visit family.  I got mad at the TSA.
  • In August, we took a very relaxing family vacation. The kid noted that she interprets "relaxing" as "boring," however.  
  • In November, the kid and I drove to Oklahoma.  The drive was mind-numbing and I'm still working on blocking most of it out.
Another bit of excitement for me this year: a lot of really good music was released.  Now, I know ya'll hate it when I talk about music.  When I write a blog entry about music, my blog gets negative hits. Literally. But, I shall close by listing some of my favorite songs from this year. I cannot be stopped.
  • Carolina Chocolate Drops: Cornbread and Butterbeans - I love cornbread and butterbeans, and I love this song.  
  • Kanye West: Monster - I only have a few tracks from Kanye's newest album, but I can see why the critics have offered effusive praise for it.  Kanye is a douche, but he knows he's a douche. It's hard to deny that he's got talent.  I think Nicki Minaj really makes the song, though.
  • The Gaslight Anthem: American Slang - I love just about everything this band does. I think I listened to this song at least once a day for a while there. 
  • Arcade Fire: Month of May - I thought this was one of the better tracks on The Suburbs.
  • Vampire Weekend: Giving up the Gun - This came out early in the year, so I've listened to it to death. Still good stuff, though. 
  • The New Pornographers: You Hands (Together) - This was probably one of my favorite albums of the year. 
  • Janelle Monae: Tightrope - I really think she is the next big thing. 
  • Mumford & Sons: The Cave - I lost a little love for them once they got so popular, but I still dig them.


This is what came in the mail today. Beverly and her beautiful daughter Miss G sent this to Kerri. The doll is called Mei Ling, Kung Fu Master. And she is now one of Kerri's most treasured dolls. She is from China Sprout, one of our favourite Chinese cultural and educational product suppliers.

Thank you Beverly and Miss G for your wonderful surprise. The doll is beautiful, but the two lovely people that sent this to Kerri are even more so. We treasure your friendship and the red thread that brought us together on our adoption journey. Now if only we could meet in person!

Life with Kerri is blessed by friendship.

A Fresh Clean Outlook

When was the last time there were any outdoor photographs on this blog?

Don't count those snow pictures I took last fall because they were shot from the warmth of the house looking out of the doorway.

So outdoors...a long, long time ago.

Because it was long, long ago that I spent any time outside the walls of my house.
It's been weeks, months, years? since I've seen the blue sky and felt the warmth of the sun.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is setting in and putting me in a funk.
I should not be in a funk since I have so much for which to be thankful.
I've resolved to quit whining because there are much worse things in the world then imperfect cakes.

A walk in the fresh snow and clean air today was just what the doctor ordered.

We've been having a beautiful winter season so far. Just enough snow to make the landscape especially lovely but not too much to strand people in treacherous conditions.

The air is cold and clean without being frigid enough to freeze the pipes.

The landscape can be beautiful and interesting even without flowering shrubs and growing gardens.

And I am looking forward to two or three months of a more quiet, restful season when the work load is lightened and the ToDo list is shortened.

Great, now I'm one of "those"

A less fat version of me (pictured here with my adorable niece)
I've never been one to make a new year's resolution. To me it has always seemed like a sure path to failure, so I never make them. However, I am truly in need of a change. I'm not making a resolution, per se, but rather, getting my act together.  The timing just happens to coincide with the new year. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Weight Watchers has a new program and I need to get on it. I have not attended a meeting since November 6th, but I will be at the next meeting with bells on so that I can get the scoop on the new program and get started. I have set a personal goal and a date by which to achieve it - June 1st. I have a particular reward in mind and am feeling pretty darned motivated.  For the past few months, I've struggled mightily with motivation (or lack thereof).  I lost a lot of weight in 2005/2006.  I then gained some of it back and lost it again in 2008. I did well for about a year and then set off on a self-destructive course in September of 2009. While I have not gained back all of the weight I lost, I've gained back more than half.

Frankly, I wasn't sure I really wanted to climb that mountain again. I mean, it's not like I'm morbidly obese and that there is some danger of the fire department having to knock out a wall in my house and hoist me out on a forklift. I feel fine.  I go to yoga, I go to step aerobics, and I hit the treadmill.  I don't work out daily, but I'm not sedentary either. The problem, obviously, is that I overeat.  I'm a vegetarian, so I do eat lots of fruits and vegetables.  However, I also have a vicious sweet tooth and it has great power. Also, I swear to you that I can literally hear my metabolism screeching to a halt (that's what turning 40 does for you, my friends). 

My main motivation/frustration, quite honestly, is that my clothes do not fit.  I look like shit these days. I refuse to replace my wardrobe yet again, so . . . . climb the mountain, I must. I'll keep the reward part to myself until the time comes. I'd be embarrassed to make a big production out of it and then not reach my goal.

At the beginning of each yoga session, we are invited to (silently) set an intention for the practice.  I usually try to hold the word "peace" in my mind during the class, as it is my intention to make some sort of mind-body connection and find peace within myself.  However, at last night's class I set the intention of "renewal"   (geez, I hope this isn't like a birthday wish where it doesn't come true if you tell someone what your wish was).  Of course, a few different words came to mind after I fell out of the Warrior III pose for the third time.  Damned gravity.

Anyway, I shall swallow my pride and join all of the resolution people who will be at the first Weight Watchers meeting after the 1st.  Time for renewal, indeed.

Self Flagellation

Pardon me while I vent for a moment.

No one is happier than I that Christmas is finished. (Though that is disputable since really, today is the fourth day of Christmas and there are eight more days to go until Epiphany). But my obligations to Christmas are finished anyway. One week of my precious school vacation was consumed with Christmas preparations and seventy five dozen cookies (give or take a few). With one week of break left I should be able to use it to rest, relax and rejuvenate before getting back into the school grind for another semester. I say "should" but that would be in my dreams.

On the Second Day of Christmas I had to clean up the aftermath of the First Day of Christmas. And that would only be the dishes and chairs and boxes and leftovers. I'm not talking about decorations or Christmas trees. I also had to bake hazelnut cake for a client order. I started that project out by not toasting but burning the hazelnuts at $10 a pound.

On the Third Day of Christmas I worked for four and a half hours without a break to ice and decorate the cake, delivered it in the pouring rain and finished it off by a night spent tossing and turning over my dissatisfaction with it.

On the Fourth Day of Christmas I baked, iced and decorated a carrot cake to take to a meeting with a bride and groom from out of state who were visiting for the holidays and wanted to taste cake and plan for their wedding. An half an hour before the meeting, while checking my notes about their wedding details, I discovered that on the date of their wedding in July, I have a large commitment that will prevent me from making a wedding cake for them. Regardless, I had to proceed to the meeting and give them the cake with my apologies and good wishes that they can find another baker for their date.

From the meeting I went directly to the sports club in desperate need of some stress relieving exercise. The only exercise I actually enjoy is swimming. I have found swimming laps to be exceedingly relaxing and meditative. It is almost perfectly quiet under the water. I can clear my mind and get into a zone and swim until all my anxieties are gone. The trick is to get to the club when no one else is in the pool (most people like to sweat on cardio machines or flail around on tennis courts anyway) and then the swimming is truly divine. But since it is Christmas vacation, of course, the pool was full of people. In the lap lane there was a girl with Down Syndrome just hanging out. I asked her if I could have the lane and she was only willing to share it with me. I could tell it was completely useless to try to coax her out of the lane (her own sister could not) so I decided to swim around her, trying not to kick her as I went by. This kind of situation makes it difficult to meditate and get into a zone though the girl was very supportive telling me "good job!" at the end of each lap. She didn't tire of coaching until I had swam nearly thirty laps. By that time I had to keep my eye on my own kids that they were staying out of the way of other lap swimmers that had arrived and were anxious for me to finish up so they could take over the lane.

So much for my recreative relaxation.

Tonight one of my offspring brought me one of my Christmas presents that he had sat on and broken.

What will the Fifth Day of Christmas bring? Do I dare get out of bed to find out?

Enough whining.

Either the cabin enclosure and lack of sun is getting to me or I just plain don't know how to rest, relax, or rejuvenate. How do you?

Anniversary Cake

Today I delivered a fiftieth anniversary cake. I got to try a new technique with this cake. The client did not want white icing or flowers for decoration. So the hazelnut cake got a mocha icing and chocolate ganache embellishments. I always find it really challenging to make a cake pretty without using flowers. Piping decorations is very old school and we've gotten away from elaborate icing decorations like royal icing swags and piped roses. Most people now prefer a more simple and spare style.

I had decided for this golden anniversary cake to try some gold dust on chocolate. I was struggling with making a cake that was sufficiently decorated but didn't look too gilded or old fashioned either.  I first piped some motifs onto parchment paper and chilled them to make them firm.

Then I dusted them with edible gold luster powder. It worked great and looked very golden.
I then carefully applied the elements to the frosted cake. I had to work quickly because the chocolate would get soft with my handling.

I think the cake would have looked much better with some fresh burgundy colored rose in a few key places. What do you think?

Fahoo Forays, Dahoo Dorays

Christmas Eve had an inauspicious start, when I realized that my debit card had been compromised.  Chase blocked the attempts to use my card, so I was glad for that. What surprised me was that the blocked transactions were for small amounts, all for "internet services."  Honestly, thieves . . . go big or go home.  Anyway, the only option was to shut down my debit card and send me a new one.  So, that was the first snag of the holiday.

I worked until noon on Christmas Eve.  Kindercare was closed, so P took the day off to stay home with the kid. I ran a few errands after work and then headed home.  We didn't have a lot of plans for Christmas Eve, other than attending church at 7 p.m. and then driving around to look at festive holiday lights (one house, in particular, goes all out). After dinner, the kid insisted on helping me with the dishes (for the first time in her life).  I mean, she was not taking "no" for an answer.  This sudden burst of extreme helpfulness may have been related to me telling her that Santa does not load up his sleigh until he is just about to leave the North Pole.  For borderline children, things really could go either way. Right up until the last second.

The Christmas Eve service at church was very nice.  We sang a few songs and then passed a microphone around to share stories and memories of Christmas.  The kid poked me in the shoulder and said she needed the mike ASAP. So, curious to hear what she'd say (and a little bit frightened, too), I raised my hand on her behalf.  The microphone was handed to me and I turned it over to my daughter. What, oh what, would she say? Perhaps she'd share some shining example of what the spirit of giving means to her. She gripped the mike in her hand and tilted her head downward before she spoke.  "My next door neighbor . . . " she began, "Dressed her dog up like an elf."  Alrighty then.

When we got home, I read to her for a while and then encouraged her to go to sleep (after declining her request to sleep on the couch).  P and I watched bits of "Miracle on 34th Street" (yes, the original - the only one really worth watching) and waited for Santa. We had guests coming over the next morning for brunch, so I started getting my act together for that.

The dogs woke me up bright and early Christmas morning.  I sure wish they understood concepts like "weekends" and "holidays." My daughter, on the other hand, slumbered on.  And on.  When I was a kid, I was up like a shot on Christmas morning. Finally, she rolled out of bed at around 8:45.  She tore into the gifts and P dutifully picked up the wrapping paper along the way.  We actually had to keep her on a pretty tight schedule because of the impending arrival of family members.

As for me, my mom hooked me up quite nicely. She always gets me all sorts of fun things (like eye shadows, bath stuff, manicure sets, etc) as well as stuff I really need (like new sheets for the bed, towels, and so forth). P and I don't exchange a lot of gifts at Christmas.  We do stocking stuffers.  However, we do try to buy decent stocking stuffers - we don't just toss each other a candy cane and call it a day.  This year, I only asked for two items: the "Despicable Me" DVD and this ornament from Hallmark:

The ornament I actually received:

Do you see a resemblance between the two?  Yeah, me neither.  This is what happens to husbands who wait until December 23rd to shop, when the gifts their wives actually wanted are sold out. Now, I know what you're thinking.  "It's the thought that counts blah blah blah."  Well, there was no thought, you see.  If I'd known it would be that challenging, I would've just bought it for myself.  In the mean time, I went out and bought him exactly what he wanted, which was Grand Turismo 5 for the PS3, an electric shaver, some candy, and some cologne.  Also, I took the kid out and she got him a sweater, some lotion, and an iTunes gift card.  But no, I'm not bitter.  Not bitter at all.  He's just got some lonely nights ahead of him, is all.

You're probably wondering if I've had the opportunity to enjoy some baked goods fresh off the light bulb.  Indeed I have.  Cripes, though - between warming up the oven, the actual baking, and the cool down period, it takes the better part of an hour to bake a cake the size of my palm.  The things we do, I swear.


Christmas week started off with my big sis coming to visit for a couple of days. It was so wonderful to have her down. We live closer than we've ever have, and talk less than we ever have. Between her homeschooling her girls, driving back and forth to see Steve, and me busy with my three kids, we just don't see each other much. So it was so fun to have her to myself for a couple of days Christmas week. Doesn't she look amAZING?!! The picture on the left is of her in May 2010. The one on the right, I took for her last week. I wish I could find 2 pictures that are more similar, but it's all I could find. She's lost over 40 lbs (is that right Bec?). She stopped eating sugar for months and months, while working out 2 hours a day. She's such an inspiration to be around. She and Steve are now engaged and soooo happy.

The kids were getting stir-crazy at all week, staring at presents, so I let them open a couple early. We are doing that every year from now on. I really felt like they were able to enjoy their presents more this way.

We tried to teach the kids more about "giving" and less about "getting" this year, which I think really hit home with Tanner and completely had no affect on Kate. We tried to include the kids in delivering gifts to people. At one house we gave a gift to someone and Kate stared right at them and asked where her present was. I'm hoping it's their ages? Tanner and Kate bought present for each other this year.....

Christmas morning was magical...how can it no be with little kids?

Tanner made Shad and I presents 3 weeks ago, wrapped them up and put them under the tree. I had sort of forgotten about them. He drew us really cool pictures. This is the one he drew for Shad. It's the manger scene. He did it all by himself. I love it.

Mike and Robin joined us this year with their kiddos....

The cousins....Tanner, Daniel, James and Kate.

Tanner being silly last week.

Can you believe he can run around in shorts, a t-shirt and bare feet the week of Christmas? And that there are flowers still blooming? The weather is crazy here.

A Blessed Christmas Wish to All

Merry Christmas everyone!

This is a 15th century German Christmas carol that is in our Lutheran hymnal (78).

Making music the old fashioned way!

Christmas 2010 from Kris Regentin on Vimeo.

Hail the day so rich in cheer 
For each earth born creature!
God's own Son from heav'n draws near
Takes our human nature;
Of a virgin born is He;
Mary, by the Lord's decree,
Is become a mother.
See the miracle of love:
God Himself, from heaven above,
Came to be our Brother!

Child of wonder, virgin born
King of all creation,
On this happy Christmas morn
Come for our salvation!
Were this Child for us not born,

We should all be lost, forlorn,
No true hope possessing.
Dear Lord Jesus, thanks to Thee
Now and through eternity
For this grace and blessing!

Christmas morning.

The first one down the stairs was Pookie, stretching and yawning:

But he was soon followed by Kerri, who was excited to find the picture she had been carrying around for 5 months on top of a special box from Santa (who, by the way, had his own wrapping paper that said "Merry Christmas" in Spanish, English and French, which are the three languages spoken in our home.)

Then there was a lot of this happening:

followed by a lot of this:

Because every time Kerri got something she really loved, she pretended to faint. Which happened with every single gift by the way. And Pookie would revive her:

There was also a lot of these expressions:

And Kerri exclaimed this was "the best Christmas eber!"

Even Pookie got gifts:

And a huge thanks to Tia and Nana for spoiling our little girl this holiday.

And, of course, Pookie the Elf too.

Merry Christmas!

Life with Kerri, our family, and friends is the best gift eber!

Christmas Eve

The turkey was carved by the cook with care,

while Kerri placed poinsettias in her hair.
The guests were all merry from too much wine,

and smiles all abounded, a very good sign!

The men were especially happy, you see.

Even my hubby expressed his glee.

And Pookie never wandered far from my chair.

And when it was all over, Santa was there.

So now we await Christmas morning with joy, to watch Kerri open her special new toy.

Merry Christmas!


Today I was wrapping the gifts that Tia sent. There was a pair of fur lined booties for me, so I just placed them under the tree without wrapping them. And about half an hour later, I realized Pookie was being unusually quiet.

I found him under the tree, grooming the fur on my booties. He licked them so much, they were soaking wet. I hung them up on the tree to dry, and Pookie spent the next hour gazing longingly up at them.

Kerri wrapped her own gifts too. She used an unusual amount of tape, bows, paper and other embellishments. Her wrapping was very creative.

We spent the day preparing for tomorrow. There were groceries to buy, gifts to wrap, things to clean up, and lots of eating. Because a certain little one is in a growth spurt again. I hope Santa brings her clothes instead of the puppy toy she has been drooling over the past five months. Somehow, I think Santa will be bringing the toy though. Kerri has been pretty good this year.

So as we rush around getting ready for a lovely evening of food and laughter, wine and presents with our favorite people, I wanted to take a moment to pause. And wish you all peace. And happiness, love and laughter. And good health and prosperity.

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate. And may the true spirit of the holiday bring joy to your hearts and homes.

She's Closin' in

Yesterday I took the afternoon off from work.  I met a friend for lunch at Noodles (Penne Rosa with tofu, oh how I love thee) and then headed home to wrap gifts.  You see, Santa finds it challenging to wrap gifts for a certain recipient, when said recipient is a) home all the time and b) stays up later than Santa does. Hence, the need for an afternoon off while Short Stuff is in school. It's pretty rare that I've got a weekday off, so part of my plan also included the viewing of trashy talk shows, court shows, and the like.

I gathered all of my wrapping supplies in the living room.  Then I noticed that the couch was looking a little . . . crumb-y.  I dug out the vacuum, dismantled the couch by pulling off all of the cushions, and then vacuumed out its contents.  I sucked up enough crumbs to feed a small unincorporated town, which is strange to me because I don't actually allow eating on the couch. Hmmm. 

Then I got back to business.  I settled on the floor, tape and scissors in hand, and then turned on the TV.  What's this?  President Obama delivering a special news conference?  On every bleeping channel?  Son of a !!!  President Obama, I voted for you and this is how you repay me?  I didn't just vote for you - I've maintained steadfast loyalty since the election.  I can't believe you could be so thoughtless as to deprive me of the opportunity to watch roommates battling it out over a cell phone bill on The People's Court.

Plan B: I had a couple of Netflix movies to watch.  I recently re-ordered our Netflix list and bumped my stuff to the top, much to my other half's chagrin. The Netflix account was my idea to begin with, but he quickly took it over and nothing but crap has shown up at our house since that day ("Blood Creek," anyone?).  But this tyranny had to end sometime.  Anyway, I had "The Lottery" so I watched that.  It was a very interesting documentary - really made me think about education and how few opportunities are available to children in some areas of the country.

I started wrapping gifts and quickly discovered that:


I put up a baby gate (with pup on the other side) and completed the project. Now we're all set for the big event.  Hiding stuff has gotten more challenging over the years, though.  It was a lot easier when the kid didn't know how to work a doorknob.  Also, she never bothered to figure out those doorknob covers where you have to pinch the sides together to get enough traction to turn the knob.  Those only came off within the last year or so.  The least-used room in our home is a dank little room in the basement.  It contains an old futon, a filing cabinet, some random boxes, and oh yeah, my father-in-law's ashes.  Nobody goes in there unless they have to. Hence, the perfect spot for hidden gifts.

I'll leave you with a photo of my favorite Christmas decoration.  My mom got it for me years ago.  It's an image of Santa that just really works for me . . . an image of kindness and giving that is extended to all (even adorable woodland creatures).  Rock on, Father Christmas, rock on.