I tweeted about my fond memories of studying abroad in Bath, England. Back in 2003, I was still using a film camera and I have a few albums full of pictures, ticket stubs, pub coasters and pressed flowers. Someday, I'll digitize it all, but until then, here's a picture of the academic house, Nelson House, from the Advanced Studies in England website. I've already said fond in this description, but Bath is where I learned to incorporate the word into my vocabulary on the regular - so I have to proclaim my fondness for this green door in particular.
I already wrote extensively about it here and paid tribute here, so I won't belabor the point - but I LOVED the Hunger Games trilogy this year and immediately read it again straight through.
I've been focusing on my overall health - mentally, physically and emotionally - over the last year. It's the first year that I feel like I've found a balance on being committed to things. I set priorities on being at home with family, getting involved at church, volunteering for children in the foster system, and concentrating on my health. I realized that a vacation here and there wasn't enough to recharge my batteries and that I needed an ongoing plan so that I wouldn't get worn out, sick and frantic. This has been a goal since college because try as I might, every year, I got to the point of tears because I was so busy and stretched so thin. A couple of keys to my strategy this year that made the difference were ongoing counseling appointments, massage therapy, Bar Method, Arabic classes and church small group meetings. I used different combinations of these things and I need to add regular exercise back into my routine, but the focus on body, mind and soul as the priorities in my schedule made all the difference.
We're not outdoorsy people. We both had bad camping experiences earlier in life. We love the views, but not the dirt. And lack of toilets. Then we moved to California. Lo and behold, we discovered ways to enjoy the views and conquer something greater than ourselves by hiking. We even tolerated the bathroom situation a bit better. Now hiking is an activity that we plan to do while travelling. We'll call friends and suggest meeting at a trail head. We both have hiking shoes. We've been to Yosemite, Muir Woods and the foothills on the peninsula. Then we discovered we didn't even have to leave the city - we can urban hike!
I soaked in a lot of love this year. During times of loss, there was also still love reminding me that beauty rises from the ashes. We made 3 trips to the east coast and 1 to Texas to witness the beginning of marriages. They were all incredibly meaningful and represented the rich diversity of the people who planned all sorts of personal details. I was honored to do the reading at my brother's wedding in the Outer Banks and I spent a lot of time soaking in the love of my family and the meaning of marriage. Though the beginning of the day was rainy
and cloudy, the sun peaked out at the last moment, allowing us to soak in the sun's warming rays as well. The love and the sun - it seems as close to heaven as I can imagine sometimes.
This is the reading they chose for me to read:
From Union by Robert Fulghum
You have known each other from the first glance of acquaintance to this point of commitment. At some point, you decided to marry. From that moment of yes, to this moment of yes, indeed, you have been making commitments in an informal way. All of those conversations that were held in a car, or over a meal, or during long walks – all those conversations that began with, “When we’re married”, and continued with “I will” and “you will” and “we will” – all those late night talks that included “someday” and “somehow” and “maybe” – and all those promises that are unspoken matters of the heart. All these common things, and more, are the real process of a wedding.
The symbolic vows that you are about to make are a way of saying to one another, “You know all those things that we’ve promised, and hoped, and dreamed – well, I meant it all, every word.”
Look at one another and remember this moment in time. Before this moment you have been many things to one another – acquaintance, friend, companion, lover, dancing partner, even teacher, for you have learned much from one another these past few years. Shortly you shall say a few words that will take you across a threshold of life, and things between you will never quite be the same.
For after today you shall say to the world – This is my husband. This is my wife.
This response is on Twitter! Not following me yet? I'm @PalindromeHome and the water in the twitter bird bath is just fine :)
Oh, and I didn't feel particularly inspired by a quotation this year, so don't go twittering about how I have false advertising about putting my inspirational quotation on twitter. It's strange for a girl who used to keep a whole book of them, but maybe that was just my early 20s angsty self?
I was really inspired by the Young House Love/Bower Power Pinterest Challenges. I participated last fall and this past spring because I got swept up in the bandwagon of DIY fun. My favorite project was a cute terrarium with a darling squirrel friend and succulents. It lasted a really long time (at least considering that I kill things within a few weeks), but the climate made the succulents grow up and out and I think I eventually overwatered it because it died a slow death of root rot and fruit fly infestation.
Dear previous house owners who built a sun well garden, thanks for thinking of that! Dear stager and seller's Realtor thanks for adding the flowers and letting us keep them! Dear Oliver, thanks for always jumping out there when I open the window and reminding me how goods it feels to smell the flowers in the fresh air. Dear roofer, thanks for fixing the clogged drain out there. Dear Mr. P, thanks for braving the tall ladder to put in an allergy reducing air filter high above the sun well. Dear rain clouds, thanks for finally unleashing some life saving sprinkles and growing the flowers. Dear pruning shears, thanks for helping me to bite the bullet and give the plants the trimming they needed. Dear mother-in-law, thanks for telling me the name of the hot pink flowering plants in the back. Dear God, thanks for giving me all these little glimpses into the circle of life, tender mercies in the morning and the vine/branches analogies.
Dear 2013, I'd like to thank you for the time and sunshine I need to bolster the planting shelves, add in an herb garden and completely cat proof it!
It started with a hill and a game of chicken trying to hit the walk light and cross the busy Caesar Chavez. Then the sidewalk was quiet except for the children and parents scurrying to the Catholic school, tucking in uniform shirts on the way. With a left between twin bakeries, I walked past shop keepers sweeping their front walks. Plaid shirts of hipster and laborer variety passed each other and me. The smells of fresh brewing coffee and sewer stench intermingled in an early morning brew. The intersection approached and I hastened or slowed my pace to miss the crosswalk signal. I had made a rule that if the light was red, I could duck into The Jelly Donut for a treat. The treat always turned into 4 or 5 treats as the owner threw in a handful of glazed donut holes. A few more blocks and I descended into the earth to wait for the train to carry me to work.
That's a little description of my walk to the BART when I worked downtown. Several days I planned out a life in the day photograph series of that walk because I was always finding something new - a new store I hand't noticed before, fresh sidewalk graffiti and a range of characters walking too. Someday I'll follow through, though it won't be a walk to work anymore, it'll just be a walk in the neighborhood.
This is the first year that we didn't exclusively celebrate Christmas. While Mr. P isn't technically Jewish (his mother isn't Jewish), we certainly have a very Jewish surname (one of the twelve tribes then add a 'stein for good measure). I love tradition, history and family and it just seemed wrong to me not to acknowledge these ties during the holidays. Now that we've been married for a few years and have started some of our own traditions, I wanted to find an appropriate way to weave the Jewish heritage into our celebration of the holiday season. So this year, I bought a lovely menorah and we have lit the Hanukkah candles each night.
I buy holiday cards on deep discount the week after Christmas, so this year, I sent out a hodge podge of different cards along with this picture that we took while on the San Francisco movie tour:
We wish our friends, family, and blog friends joy and peace carrying them through the New Year!
And next year, I'm calling the whole thing off and utilizing Paperless Post! :)
Once we moved to our new double decker with my mother-in-law, I was psyched we had a neighborhood blogger! Bernalwood is my favorite local blog because it's the perfect mix of neighborly news, fun distractions, and caring community. In a place where neighbors generally don't know each other, Bernal Heights is a little bit tighter and more neighborly, in large part due the community that has been fostered online. For example, a few houses were damaged in a fire and neighbors rallied around with donations. Awesome! Check it out at http://bernalwood.wordpress.com/ (and yes, that's Ollie in a recent post, watching over our menorah!)
And if you're looking for yesterday's response, follow me on Twitter! @PalindromeHome I'm tweeting and instagramming some of my responses this year!
In some Christian circles, wealth is a sign of God's blessings in your life. That's something I've been trying to disentangle from my mind because I don't want to find my intrinsic worth, or God's approval ratings, through the number in my bank account. On the other hand, I'm richer this year and sometimes it feels good to think about how my decisions, hard work, and education have paid off. Yet, it's not all me. There was help from friends who have referred me to jobs over the years, classmates who helped me study, family who gave emergency loans when I was starting out and a lot of luck (thought I might attribute it more to God putting me in the right place at the right time or opening a door). I'm also considering how to reinvest in my community and in the world. There's not only a social responsibility factor here, but also a very spiritual factor as well. Being faithful with what you are given is the moral of the parable of the ten talents. I believe that being faithful involves a generous spirit and discerning mind to see investing less as a monetary return on investment and more as a investment in people to have a ripple effect (in Christian lingo you might call it kingdom investing).
This prompt really made me think through some of the underlying motives because my first reaction was, "I'm richer, but I don't want to say that because it seems like the douche bag thing to say." I also have complicated feelings about being poor in spirit (as evidenced by my previous prompt response about loss), because my second response was, "I'm richer materially but poorer in spirit, so let's call it a wash." This post may have turned into a disclaimer of sorts - "I'm richer, but I'm a conscientious giver! Love me even though I have a lot of money!" But I hope that it effectively explained the attitude I want to cultivate towards wealth - that it's not really mine to have, but mine to use for good.
2012 and 2011 were characterized by loss for me. After my father-in-law's unexpected passing last year, the losses continued. I've lost dreams, hopes, dignity, sleep, etc. It's become tiresome to be the person who is grieving, processing and circling around on the merry-go-round of loss. I still can't write about it elegantly or deeply. I use other people's words or cliches. I wish my response to this prompt involved weight or maybe a broken keepsake. Maybe for WEverb13?
If you're following along on Twitter or Instagram, you'll see I didn't drop off the WEverb bandwagon yet! The beauty of this year is that there are several short form options when you're crunched for time and it's been awesome seeing how everyone incorporates the prompts from blog to Twitter to Instagram to Facebook! You can look for the #WEverb12 labels to browse all of the responses, or you can follow me specifically @PalindromeHome on Twitter or @PalindromeAtHome on Instagram! For enliven, I took an Intragram pic of my kindle list. It was super fun going through Goodreads to see what books I read this past year to include in the shot. I recommend them all! I used Twitter to respond to the prompts about listening to my conscience and a professional challenge. It's amazing how deep my association of conscience is with Jiminy Cricket! I couldn't stop thinking about a little cricket in a top hat on my shoulder. And while I wouldn't go too deeply into professional challenges on my blog, I think acknowledging it and growing from it are exactly the intentions of the whole WEverb exercise.
If you are a WEverb12 participant, have you utilized any of the other prompt response forums? I know I did over the weekend because I tend to spend much less time on my computer and my phone is always with me.
If you aren't a WEverb 12 participant, have you been reflecting on your year along with the prompts? I'm curious of non-writers in the blog community have been using them as thought cues too!
This was the best meal I made all year, not to be done by
single dishes throughout the year, but this complete meal sourced from the Alemany Farmer's Market was the perfect spot of fall. Even without falling leaves, I had a taste of Autumn. Here's the menu with links to the recipes:
Appetizer - Cranberry and Ham Wrap Pinwheels (brought by a friend, sorry I don't have the recipe for this one, but I believe it was wraps, spread with creamcheese, sprinkled with dried cranberries, deli ham laid on top, rolled up and cut width wise)
Salad - Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad (even Mr. P who generally refrains from Brussels, couldn't resist this salad - the Brussels are shaved so thin and are fresh!)
Dessert - Pecan, Bourbon and Butterscotch Bread Pudding (I planned this as the dessert, but didn't realize I needed to soak the bread overnight - I made a last minute substitution and served the sauce over organic vanilla ice cream in crystal champagne glasses! Hopefully the fancy made up for the lack of bread pudding? Who am I kidding, classes don't make up for bread pudding!!!)
Today, I tweeted my response to the fellowship prompt, but I wanted to give some bonus material to my blog friends!
My church community has been really important to me, especially with all the moving we've done. We made some really awesome friends, particularly in our small groups, and we keep up with lots of people from 2 even 3 moves ago. For those not familiar with church small groups - it's sortof like part book club and part therapeutic group discussion. For me, it's a safe place to explore my spirituality and share my life with others. While I find it personally therapeutic to talk about what's going on life - the hard things and the good things - I also have found a lot of growth in hearing from others in my group too. It's the give and take that is so important!
I took a long time for us to settle into a church in San Francisco and I'm really glad we ended up at City Church. There's a lot of exciting things the congregation is doing in the city, but I wanted to recommend the book we most recently completed together. Leaving Egypt, by Chuck de Groat, is a professional counselor's in-depth research and explanation of the metaphor of the exodus in our lives. The cyclical nature of having to leave a place, wander in the wilderness and then experience the promised land really resonated with me as I reflected on my personal journey the last few years. In many ways, San Francisco has been a wilderness for me and having this language to describe this phase of my life was strangely comforting.
I've been holding out on you. Our big summer trip to New Zealand and Fiji has been sitting in my mind, being written and unwritten. It's a bit more complicated than "We went, had an awesome time and here are all the fun pictures." But saving that long story for another time, there is one very fun thing that I had never done before and don't know if I'll ever do again . . . Zorbing!
The gist of Zorbing is that it was invented in NZ, as many outdoor adventure things are, for the sake of hedonism. The point is fun and joy while being hurled down a hill in a giant bubble. This picture shows how excited we were to be soaking wet at the end of our ride in near freezing temps. Actually, it shows just how bizarre the whole experience was and when I get around to a proper recap, I promise you a video from inside the zorb with the soundtrack of me screaming the entire way down the hill.
Netflix has been a constant friend to me through Mr. P's deployment and sea tour and throughout our several moves when I don't quite know anyone well enough to call them to meet for a coffee. I looked through my past year of instant streaming history and realized that I watch A LOT - on the order of at least 10 different TV shows in their entirety (ranging from 1 season of Freaks and Geeks to 7 seasons of MI: 5). Huh. I also realized that I have an MO on feature length films - documentaries. They range from the bizarre to the serious and I decided to make a list of my favorites. The best part? You can watch them on Netflix streaming. :)
1. Being Elmo - I saw this about a month before Kevin Clash resigned. I still recommend it, if for no other reason to see the complicated side of human nature. When a Make-A-Wish foundation child met Elmo, I cried. You'll probably get the impression that I cry a ton because I make a lot of warning in this list, and I would have argued against that. But I don't have a good argument. I've become a big blubbering fool that seeks out tear-jerkers.
2. The Cove - Documentary about Japanese whaling with themes on cultural sensitivities, treatment of animals, and rising mercury levels. Warning: It's super graphic and I cried.
3. Dear Zachary - A documentary that starts out as a tribute to a murdered friend and takes on several new layers of meaning as the film was made. It's pretty much devastating and yet there is something about the enduring human spirit in the face of that devastation that is inspiring.
4. Downfall - This is a non-documentary, but it's a historical drama of the downfall of Hitler. Warning: It's super sad and I cried. (Not because Hitler got what was coming to him but because of some of the side stories.)
5. Skin - A dramatized version of a true story about a dark skinned girl born to white parents during apartheid in South Africa. It's truly moving and made me think a lot about race issues, motherhood and forgiveness.
6. Unforgivable Blackness - The story of Jack Johnson, the heavy weight champion of the world, with themes on racial disparity in the US, media coverage, sports history and the humanity of it all.
7. What's Eating Gilbert Grape - Oh right, so another non-documentary but still a gritty drama so I think it fits with the rest. I bet you can guess I have a warning coming about me crying . . .
Today's prompt is compose and involves poetry. I thought I'd attack this month of reflection by using all of the social media tools I can use. The haiku form was perfect for twitter with not only the restriction of 5/7/5 syllables, but also 140 characters.
I participated and volunteered last year for #WEverb11 and couldn't resist being involved again as #WEverb12 launched!
WEverb is a month long series of prompts for you to use in a reflective way. This year, we have options for participating in several forms including blog, microblog (twitter, tumblr, facebook), and even instagram. You can participate one day or all days, there really are no rules. You just have to be into the spirit of sharing and the season of reflection.
I hope to see you around reflecting on your 2012 and looking to the new year! Here are the details from the WeVerb website:
a series of questions/prompts that ask you to reflect on 2012 and look forward to 2013
you! and your friends! and many of your newest Internet acquaintances!
December 1st – 31st, 2012
your chosen space for reflection – a blog, your twitter feed, your Instagram feed, facebook, your “notes” app on your iPhone, a crinkly notepad in your office cubicle
because it’s good for your soul? because you like to answer questions? because your friends are doing it? participation in #WEverb12 is for anyone who wants to join in, so if you’re intrigued please take a step forward and participate!
1) sign-up for #WEverb12 by clicking on the participants link and, if you’d like, sign up to receive the prompts by email by clicking subscribe! 2) there is a given prompt for each day of December. Respond to one or all of them, on the day of that prompt or later. There are no specific rules to follow! Then come back to www.WEverb12.com and share the link to your reflection on that given page so that we can all share it with you and create a fully engaged #WEverb12 community. And don’t forget to use the hashtag #WEverb12 on all of your social media! 3) keep writing, keep reading, keep the conversations going and enjoy the month of December and #WEverb12!
We just squeezed in a visit to the Filoli Estate before it closed for the season in October. I decided to still recap it for you because it opened again briefly for the Christmas season! I love Christmas decorations and would love to go see it all spruced up - so if you visit, tell me about so I can live vicariously.
We started our visit with lunch at the cafe and were as pleased as you can be with cafeteria style food. The butternut squash soup was really quite tasty! It was the perfect day to sit outside under the pergola and the surrounding grounds taunting us to finish our lunch already.
The grounds are self-guided so we started at the house then moved on to the gardens. The gardens were somewhat sparse, but due to the recently wetter weather they experienced a bit of a revival.
I waited for about 3 minutes for the folks in the background to pass through my frame, but eventually Mr. P got bored and started playing on his phone while they still intently stared upwards. I still have no idea what they were looking at!
You could really get lost in the gardens and I definitely had the thought that it would be best to go in the spring when everything was alive and blooming.
One of my favorite things was the 70% sale in the garden shop! Ha, I know. We got tickets through Google offers at a 2 for 1 price, lollygagged through the gardens then piled up on cute stuff at the sale. I was thoroughly pleased with the greeting cards and mini chalkboard place cards I found. Afterwards, since we were down on the peninsula, Mr. P took me to a consignment store and Homegoods. He really knows how to show a girl a good time, huh? :)
While it's no Hearst Castle (recap of that trip coming soon!), Filoli is lovely in its own right and definitely worth the drive if you have a discount ticket.
I’m a Defense Consultant with a tendency towards pulling office pranks, taking lunch breaks, and drinking Wawa shakes. I’m also an English major with a serious obsession with alliteration and rhymes. While I’m not keeping America safe, I’m priming, sanding and painting. Or increasing our fresh veg intake. Or pontificating on my newly minted status as a wife. All the while, I’m getting myself into Lucille Ball-esque scrapes and making Jim Carey-esque faces. Post-wedding, I’m bringing blogging home to explore renovations, recipes, and reflections.