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saturday (deep breath)

Forgive my absence here. Every spare moment is full, although I’m working hard to still maintain the things that keep me somewhat sane in the chaos. I have no reason to complain – life is just busy, not wrecked by serious stress or debilitating loss or insurmountable barriers. Just full, a little too full, and requiring some adjustments in several key areas over the next few weeks – before we launch back into the school year routines, and all that entails.

The garden is glorious, and it reminds me (again and again) that these seasons are both fleeting and reassuring in their cyclical passing. As I walk, I think about the many ways these reminders help me to refocus and reconnect. I don’t always have the opportunity to write everything down that I’m thinking about, but I’m always grateful for the moments of focus and reflection outside of the fullness of these days.

saturday (blues)

I finally kicked the poison oak (and the steroid habit), and thought I might settle back into a regular sleeping pattern again. The bags under my eyes are pretty rough looking, although I might be mitigating a bit of it by drinking my weight in water each day. I still don’t have much of an appetite, but I can trick myself into eating with good food, so that’s been my game plan of late.

I feel reluctant to be both vague and borderline melodramatic here, but it is Saturday, and I’ve pledged to sit down at some point every Saturday here and write about what’s on my mind, so that’s where I am.

I suppose the best way to be vague is to just go for it. An opportunity presented itself rather out of the blue on Sunday, we worked at a near frantic pace for three days to research, reach out, organize, and implement some sort of plan of action; only to find out that in the eleventh hour the rules had changed a bit, the time pressure was more intense, the opportunity for further reflection and negotiation was lost. And so we missed out on something that was never really guaranteed, but at least looked like a viable option for many of the hours leading up to the final call. I know, that’s about as vague as it gets.

So now I am sad. Not a spiraling sadness; not something that I can’t see a way out of. Just a gentle, nudging sadness, one that feels like it’s dulling my senses a bit, and pulling my shoulders down into a stoop.

Today has been the toughest. Likely because it’s the first day I’ve had the time to reflect on everything without the distractions of work days and evenings. It hit me like a punch in the gut as I was walking in the garden – somewhere in the middle of all of these blooming beauties. It hasn’t gone away yet – it almost feels like it’s growing. It leaves me feeling confused.

Maybe it’s not really sadness. Maybe it’s more like regret. I really don’t want it to be regret. I work hard to be decisive, to not linger over hard decisions, or second guess outcomes. Those are pet peeves of mine that I work hard to avoid in my life. It’s not working here.

I have big regrets, really big ones. I should have been able to make this work. Even in a short time. Even with stringent limitations. Even when it seemed like too much of a risk. And I’m realizing that I really, really despise the feeling of regret. It feels like too close a sibling to guilt – something I’ve been trying to ban completely from my life.

I feel like I’ve worked really hard to get to a point where I’m confident in my abilities to do hard things, important things, quick things, necessary things, occasionally spectacular things of epic proportions. I fail often, but my turnaround time is the quickest it’s ever been. I should have been able to make this work. I should have been able to craft a detailed plan, a creative strategy, a persuasive stance, a winner. And I didn’t. I couldn’t. Sometimes I can pull time out of thin air. Sometimes I pull out big ideas, crazy ideas. Sometimes they work. And this time, when I really wanted it to work, it didn’t.

This feeling is uncomfortable to sit with. I hope it fades soon, and doesn’t just settle in for the long run. There is so much to be grateful about and excited for. I just really, really wanted it to be this.

holiday card 2018

It’s been a pretty epic “baking” season around here this season!

I’ve had this card idea for a long time – in fact, I think it might be the first card idea that I started mulling over while I was working on another card. You might remember that last year’s card was mostly black and white, save for a pale yellow moon. I loved that card, but when I was in the thick of it I remember craving color. I knew that this year’s card needed to be bright and cheerful.

One of the traditions in our house is to pack our holiday themed books away with our decorations, and so those books get rediscovered every year when we pull out the ornaments and lights. The first book that F always requests to “read” is The Gingerbread Architect – which is really a cookbook that my parents gave me years ago. We’ve studied the pages and directions for years and years, and every year F asks if we could PLEASE make one this year. It’s one of those tasks that feels so daunting to me – not the ease of a house kit you can pick up at the grocery store, but rolling and cutting and baking building components… and then the assembly! So I always defer it to another year, and then another. Reading the book seems so much simpler! But the idea of creating a gingerbread house card stuck with me, and then earlier this fall my sister-in-law texted us a picture of the candy ornaments she had purchased for my niece’s memorial tree.

The sparkly sweet treats sealed the deal for me. I knew that this was the right card idea for the year, and I started sketching out ideas and lists right away.

I started over Thanksgiving, and moved my little cutting mat around with me to wherever the people were. By now they are used to me slicing away while we hang out. I made a quick mock-up, and assessed the numbers required.

There are 110 green Life Savers “dipped” in three toned green sprinkles. I thought I could literally dip them by adding glue and pressing them into a pile of paper sprinkles. I hated the way it looked, so I glued 30-40 individual sprinkles on each wreath. It was the first of many road blocks! There are also 110 extra plain green Life Savers on the card. (Fun fact: it’s hard to get the little hole perfectly centered in the middle – if it’s a little off it doesn’t look like a Life Saver. So the rejects became the wreaths, and that’s why I ended up with extra candy on the side. Basically I was 50% accurate with the middle punch!) Baking twine bows – so tiny! – added the perfect finishing touch. 

Next I moved onto the Twizzler cornices. I ate a lot of Twizzlers as research. I settled on this textured red paper, and then freehand cut wavy strips that I glued on top to create the ridges. Once I got it right, this felt like my finest achievement. There were some really bad prototypes along the way.

But the most epic component is the sparkly candy mansard roof. This came directly from the Second Empire (Victorian Era) house in The Gingerbread Architect. In that example they use candied sour strips – almost like a gum, but with two tones of blue stripes, that they hand cut and overlapped to look like the slate shingles. It’s our favorite thing in the whole book. I thought about scalloped rows of paper, but cutting intricate curves like that wrecks a lot of blades, and seemed time prohibitive and frustrating. So the idea of punching dots out seemed like a good one!

Another fun fact: there are 8,470 dots on these cards – 7 rows of 11 dots times 110 cards. Lots of punching, and a whole lot of gluing, one row at a time. I worked on this every night for over a week. It was soothing and relaxing and really kind of fun. But by the last night I was ready to move on.

I do love how they turned out.

Next, I made 110 cookie sheets by gluing turned edges to two ends. I liked the idea of the cookie sheet because it gave me a base for the card, and it added a little more sparkle.

The most excited I got was when I thought about using actual parchment paper on the cookie sheets under the houses. I really tried to come up with a way to treat the windows of the house to make them look like translucent candy, but never liked any of the results. But the parchment paper made the holes in the house look a little more polished, and I thought the curled up edges would be cool.

Guess what? Parchment paper is designed not to stick to anything! Who knew? So after gluing over 1/3 of them and sandwiching them between cookbooks to dry, I discovered they just slid back off. So I ended up cutting three holes in each one to “sandwich” the parchment between the cookie and the sheet – and filled each hole with a lot of glue and possibly a few prayers. I then promptly forgot that non-stick issue when I glued the gingerbread snowflakes on, so you probably have a loose snowflake floating in your envelope somewhere! Just tack it back on with a dot of glue!

My least favorite part was the gingerbread cornice, but I knew I needed some depth for some snow and icicles. I think it’s one of the best parts of the finished product.

Not the gumdrop buttons!! (Just a favorite family movie reference there!) Gumdrop bushes seemed like a good idea in front of the house, icing snow covered, of course.

Final details were SO MUCH FUN. I used several kind of white pens, plus puffy paint for the dimensional icing snow. I briefly panicked thinking about how I knew they would stick a bit to the envelopes, even after fulling curing. But I think they’ll be fine. Once I send them out they aren’t in my control anymore. There’s a lot of love and care and attention on the inside, and I hope that the recipients know it and feel it when they open them, imperfections and all. I tucked a quick baking tag in, and liked the alliteration of our street name and our house style.

This card celebrates so many things that are on my mind during this season. It incorporates favorite traditions and has so many little nods to family and friends and past projects and future projects that I haven’t even detailed here. It was a busy season in so many ways for our family, but once again I found the time to be creative and connect with others in a way that fills me up for another year. I hope it says that we love you and miss you and think of you often. That home is intricate and complicated and layered, but mostly sweet. This card is best viewed next to twinkly lights, it’s delicious with coffee (let’s grab some together!), and it looks particularly great lined up in rows and rows like a neighborhood / city / region – the community that I know and appreciate and love and desire to work with and strengthen and make better.

Happy Holidays and Best Wishes in 2019 from our family to yours. I really hope it’s a sweet one. xo, Kristin