Nov. 30: Month in review

My summary of November 2013 is a teensy bit late (it’s already December), but I’m dating it as though I posted it on time. Or let’s just say it’s November 31st. Yes, let’s.

Special days I celebrated this month and how:

  • Jack’s football team had their end-of-season party. The coaches praised each boy for their strengths and contributions to the team, and left all of us parents grateful and kinda teary. I’m not gonna lie; I’m glad football is done, but I also love that Jack had the opportunity to be part of a great group like this one.
  • Our boy turned 12 on Nov. 13. He invited a couple friends to a Blazer game, and the next weekend he had them over again for a sleepover party. In anticipation of that night (better known as FartFest2013), Katie and I made our escape to a hotel in Portland. Fun was had by all.


  • Victor and I went up to Long Beach, Washington for a belated birthday vacation from Mother Mary. We stayed at Adrift Hotel, an odd little place just steps away from the beach. Lucy had never stayed in a hotel before, and was really agitated at first—pacing and looking for the other rooms and more people. Then she realized that she’d get several walks each day for potty breaks, and she decided she loooooves hotels. It was a nice little break for all of us. Long Beach is way underrated.
  • Thanksgiving! This year we spent our favorite holiday with friends. We had a delicious dinner, followed by an epic poker game. There was also an assortment of Christmas movies, music, hide-and-seek games, and these pear-rosemary cocktails. ‘Twas a lovely day.
  • Dear friends Ed and Sheila celebrated birthdays this month. I didn’t celebrate with them, though because neither of them invited me to their parties. Never mind they were in Oklahoma and a Dakota at the time. Happy birthday anyway!

I was in the audience:

  • Mom, Dina, and I went to an advance showing of The Book Thief. I loved the book and wasn’t thrilled when I heard it was being made into a movie, but we all thought it was really well done. The cast was amazing—every single character was impressive. I highly recommend it—the book and the movie.
  • We upgraded our Christmas movie collection with this purchase. I’m embarrassed—just slightly—to say we watched all four movies in one evening. At this rate, I’ll be Christmas-ed out long before Dec. 25. That ain’t good.

Books and things:

  • I started reading Amy Tan’s newest book, The Valley of Amazement. I’m planning to go to her reading at Powell’s on Wednesday.
  • My stack of “to be read” books is getting precariously high. I could get through it if I could stay awake for five minutes. Lately reading makes me sleepy. Pffft.

This month’s disappointments:

  • Our kitty was sick. At first her teeny-tiny sneezes were really cute, but then she started doing it on my face and that was enough of that. Poor Millie. Getting her to and from the vet was insanely difficult for me and stressful for her. Thankfully, after a round of antibiotics, she’s all better.
  • Although Victor had most of the week off, he had to work the day after Thanksgiving. He always does, and I hate it. What’s worse, though, is this year he has to work on Christmas Day. Actually, maybe this whole Christmas-ed out thing will work out well for me. I can spend Christmas Day undecorating the house.

newsy bits from in and around our family:

  • These are the people with whom I closed out November 2013—Tina, Theresa, and Val. Lucky me!


  • So, I attempted another blog challenge in November and failed in a very successful way. I’m trying something similar in December and predict I’ll do about as well.
  • Mother Mary has now joined the rest of us in the 21st century: she finally upgraded from a 1990s-era flip phone to an iPhone. If you get a text from her, you’ll have to add your own punctuation, though. She hasn’t figured that part out yet. Baby steps.


I likes to share the silly stuff:




Happy December, friends! Smell ya later.


    Nov. 28: A blessing

    Today I have a family story to share, which starts with this email from my mother-in-law. I printed it nine years ago and keep it with my cookbooks.


    Darlene made this pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving 2003, where it was a huge hit. When I was asked to make dessert for Thanksgiving 2004 at my dad’s house, I asked her to share her recipe. It’s special because the crust is shortbread, and that makes it not only delicious, but easy. The one year I tried to make a rolled pie crust I decided I hate pie, and I’ve never rolled a pie crust since.

    The real story about this recipe, though, requires us to examine each section of Darlene’s email. Here’s the first part:


    “Good luck with it.” Hm.

    The next section:


    I love that she gave me little hints—she’s really good about that kind of thing. Darlene is an amazing cook, and her desserts are always beautiful, so I appreciate any help she can give me.

    The next section:


    See the handwritten part? That’s my handwriting, and I wrote “3/4 c. sugar” after I made and served this pie at my dad’s Thanksgiving feast. AFTER. Yes, Darlene forgot (or should I say “forgot”???) a key ingredient in the version of the recipe she sent me. While making the pie, I thought it was strange that there was no sugar in the filling, but I figured the crust was probably sweet enough that it must not be necessary. I was so, soooo wrong. I proudly served this pumpkin pie after Thanksgiving dinner to 15 people who took their first bites and promptly, politely walked out of the room I was in.

    As soon as I tasted it myself, I knew I’d done something wrong. But I’d followed the recipe exactly as it was written! Why did this pie taste so awful? I called Darlene the next day to ask her about it. milShe grabbed her copy of the recipe and I heard her start giggling. She said, “Oh no! I forgot to write “sugar” on the recipe I sent you!” She couldn’t stop laughing.

    And, since Thanksgiving had already been ruined, I started laughing too. I wrote “3/4 c. sugar” on the recipe and have made the pie, correctly,  several times since. But whenever Darlene has shared a recipe with me since this one, I’ve suspiciously asked if the list of ingredients is complete—especially if she writes “good luck with it” at the top. I like to think that she really isn’t evil enough to intentionally sabotage someone’s Thanksgiving dinner, but maybe she’s just smart enough not to do it to the same family member twice. She’s been my mother-in-law for 16+ years; she’s due for a slip-up, don’t you think? I am soooo keeping my eye on that woman.

    In spite of this story that’s on its way to becoming a Manullang family legend—maybe even exaggerated to unbelievable degrees as it’s passed from one generation to the next; wouldn’t that be awesome?—I am truly blessed to belong to this part of the Manullang family. They are some of the kindest, most genuine people I know, and they’re way up there on the list of things I’m thankful for today.

    Katie and I are making pumpkin pie today. Wish us luck.


    Yep, I’m doing another blog challenge. This one is photo-riffic!

    Nov. 24: Technology

    This blog challenge that I’m half quarter third-assing? Yeah, it’s goin’ just super. Today’s prompt is technology, which is perfect because I wanted to post this photo anyway.

    Tina, my dear, sweet neighbor-friend, Instagrammed a pic of her kid playing in boxes.


    Pretty cute, right? But the part I really love is the comment Tina’s middle kid wrote to complain about Tina’s oldest kid.


    I’m sure Tina will stop her busy moving project… read comments on Instagram… drop everything… drag Alex from his awesome box fort and load him in the car… and race home to mediate whatever injustice is being done. Yep.

    Ah, technology. Thanks to social media, when kids are home alone they can whine to their parents in real time. In my day we met them at the door, sometimes bloodied, always emotionally scarred, and promptly ruined their evening.

    I can’t decide which is better.


    Yep, I’m doing another blog challenge. This one is photo-riffic!

    Nov. 21: Work or play?

    wreathmusic Every year since 2004, we’ve sent out CDs of oh-so-carefully-selected Christmas music to some of the people on our Christmas card list. Creating the playlist is a project that typically begins in July and continues through late November. I make up a rough list over months and months of research and occasional piracy, design the CD label and case (sleeve) sticker, and Victor jumps in at the end with final approval and the ceremonial Burning of the Huge Spindle of CDs Why Oh Why Do We Continue To Do This Every Year I Don’t Think People Even Care But Jen is a Creature of Habit and Can’t Not Do It So Shut Up and Keep Clicking Those Buttons. That is totally what we call it.

    I get excited to start the process every year; it’s become a holiday tradition in the family. Even the kids like to get in on the fun. I enjoy teaching them the fine art of blending The Carpenters, Bing, and Frank with Jimmy Eat World and Barenaked Ladies in a way that makes the finest hour of music anyone’s ever heard.

    I might (might!) be overestimating the importance of this thing. Might.

    We never set out to create a new CD every year; in 2004, it was just a fun addition to our Christmas cards. But then we talked about how there were still lots of songs we thought we’d like to share, and made another CD in 2005. I don’t think we even discussed whether or not we should make one in 2006. We just did it, and we kept doing it, and now I’m working on our Tenth Annual Christmas CD Extraordinaire. Again with the overestimating and Unnecessary Capitalization!

    This year I got a late start. A few weeks ago I checked iTunes for new releases and made notes, but it wasn’t until yesterday that I actually got serious. I made the mistake of setting up at the kitchen table (instead of my desk) and sat in a chair that, while quite comfortable for a meal, is not ideal for seven hours of intense musical work. That’s why I took a handful of muscle relaxants before bed last night and also why this year’s possible CD titles include:

    Joy to the OMG I Need a Drink
    The 12 Days of Chiropractic Adjustments
    All I Want for Christmas is an Ass That Doesn’t Hurt


    And now this CD has become a chore. Now I’m not having fun. Now I kinda hate Christmas music. Now I’m remembering that EVERY YEAR I go through the questioning and the re-thinking and the frustration and the throwing in of the embroidered poinsettia towel… but then it all comes together and people say nice things and I’m glad I made the effort. I’ll finish up my part today, turn the rest over to my husband, and will once again be the Christmas music-loving, listen-all-year-long dork that you know and love shake your head over.

    Maybe it’s just my extremely relaxed muscles talking, but I already can’t wait to start on the playlist for 2014.


    Yep, I’m doing another blog challenge. This one is photo-riffic!

    Nov. 17: Watching

    tv I can’t remember how long ago we cancelled cable TV service, but it seems like maybe a couple years. Victor missed ESPN and other sports channels. I missed the frequent Law & Order marathons on TNT and USA. Katie missed watching hours of reruns on Disney and Nickelodeon in her spare time. Generally, it seemed like having less reason to sit in front of the TV was a good thing for our family.

    Without cable we were still able to keep up with our favorite current shows by watching Hulu, and thanks to Netflix and Amazon Prime, we got to watch season after season of new-to-us shows. I honestly don’t think Victor or I spent any less time watching TV than before, but the kids definitely did.

    And then something terrible happened.

    A couple weekends ago Victor realized we were no longer getting a good signal to receive local channels. We bought an antenna but it made no difference. He was hyperventilating over the idea of missing a football game between two teams he cares nothing about, so I contacted Comcast to get us hooked up again.

    The rep didn’t ask if we wanted HD service, and I didn’t even think about asking for it; it’s been 16+ years since I last requested cable TV service. The picture is terrible and we’ll be fixing that soon. But after a week of being able to watch live (fuzzy) football on local channels, ESPN, and the NFL network, my husband is happy as can be. Jack, too.

    Katie has happily parked herself in front of Disney and Nickelodeon night after night. I haven’t had a chance to watch much L&O, but I predict I’ll be folding laundry in front of a marathon soon. Give us a few more months and we’ll be TV zombies again. Yaaaaay.


    Yep, I’m doing another blog challenge. This one is photo-riffic!

    Nov. 11: Jack’s TD

    I’m not gonna make excuses for failing miserably at my blog challenge this month. I’ve felt rotten for the last week and, quite frankly, have thrown my hands in the air like I just don’t care.

    I do care about this video, however, which shows Jack making a touchdown in his last game of the season. He’s #25, and you’ll see him in the foreground before he gets the ball and squeezes through all those big kids. He is one fast little dude.

    I love that Blaine runs to Jack immediately after the touchdown and congratulates him. The boys all seemed to be so supportive of each other throughout the season, and the coaches were (mostly) great. ‘Specially that one. Dina knows who I’m talkin’ about. Rawr.

    It was a nail-biter of a game, and our boys won in the last few moments 42-43. It made me love football more than a little bit—but only for a little bit.

    Now that we’re done with football for eight months or so, I can stop mega-dosing on Xanax. I get to go back to being mostly-always-anxious Jen, which is a huge improvement over constantly-anxious Jen (why do they gots to hurt my boy all the time, huh?).


    Yep, I’m (kinda) doing another blog challenge. This one is photo-riffic!

    Nov. 5: A favorite place

    When you think of your favorite place, is that place an actual location or is it more like a state of mind? For me, it’s either or both. My favorite locations—where I’m happiest, I think—are an (uncrowded) beach, Sunriver, Disneyland Resort, San Francisco, and Maui. I’d add Paris, France to the list but-cept being in a country where people pretend they don’t understand English stresses me out.

    State of mind-wise, I’d say my favorite place is wherever I’m around people with which I’m able to be myself… the ones who “get” me… who aren’t competitive… who can relax too… who make even boring stuff fun. Here’s art I found on Pinterest that sums up this state of mind pretty well:


    I’m fortunate to have a lot of friends who bring love and laughter wherever they go, which means I spend time in my favorite place frequently. How lucky am I?

    So no, I don’t have to leave home to be in my favorite place, but I’ll be honest: an opportunity to leave home is almost never refused. I say this just in case you were planning to give me a vacation for Christmas but are now thinking it’s not what I want. IT IS TOTALLY WHAT I WANT, OK?


    Yep, I’m doing another blog challenge. This one is photo-riffic!

    Nov. 4: Silly boys

    Back in my day, we called them “titty twisters.” Now kids call them “purple nurples,” which is a far more preferable term, IMHO. I’m thankful that this moronic and painful pastime goes on only between the boys in my house. Here they are, checking out tonight’s post-war injuries:


    My reaction when they start in on each other always reminds me of the Seinfeld episode in which George and Jerry are explaining to Elaine the fine art of wedgie-giving:

    Elaine: “Boys are sick.”

    Jerry: “What do girls do?”

    Elaine: “We just tease someone until they develop an eating disorder.”


    Yep, I’m doing another blog challenge. This one is photo-riffic!

    Nov. 3: Painting project

    I’ve been meaning to write about a project I recently attempted; unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures of the process or the finished product. Then, when I saw today’s blog challenge prompt (“paint”), I thought of a great plan: I would steal the photo someone else took of my project! Ta-da!


    Photographer credit goes to Sherilee. She was the recipient of four of these stem-less goblets, which I painted with fancy paint. I also made a set for Tina, and I forgot to take a picture of hers too.

    anthro hack I kept seeing these glasses as an Anthropologie hack on Pinterest, but my brain wheels had been turning ever since I received a hand-painted glass on one of my first visits to Val’s house. There are lots of options for painting on glass, but for the most durability and longest life, I recommend paint that’s made especially for glass—people say regular ol’ Sharpies work but they don’t. Martha Stewart makes a beautiful selection of styles and colors of glass paints, and DecoArt is another good option—check Michael’s and JoAnn’s. I chose a type that could be baked so the items would be dishwasher-safe—again, a life-extender. (I avoid kitchen items that can only be hand-washed. I have a huge china cabinet full of them and that’s enough for this girl.)

    Here are my thoughts on the glass-painting process:

    1. The best stores I know of for plain glass items (drinking glasses, vases, pitchers, plates, serving pieces, etc.), cheap, are IKEA, Ross, and TJ Maxx. There goes my secret, Sher and Tina. ;)
    2. Plan to practice with different types of painting tools until you get the look you want. In the photos below, it’s obvious that some projects will require more than just a paintbrush tip, which is what I used for my project. Pens are great if you can find the right colors and types, but if you want to draw tiny designs and have a steady hand you’ll go far with a small paintbrush.
    3. Elevate whatever you’re painting to eye level or your back will be killing you for days. Trust me on this.
    4. If you’re not naturally steady-handed, at least plan to be sober.
    5. The eight glasses I painted took most of one day. This is not a quick gift you can throw together on the way to the birthday party.
    6. It is really, really hard to fix mistakes when you’re painting designs close together. Be extry-careful, or plan to work mistakes into your design.

    Here are some other Pinterest pins I’ve collected for my “painted glass ideas” folder:

    painted flutes  painted jars  painted plate 

    painted vase  painted wine glasses

    I love, love, love receiving handmade gifts, and therefore love giving them too. This month I’ll try to post more do-able ideas. Christmas is cooooming!


    Yep, I’m doing another blog challenge. This one is photo-riffic!

    Nov. 2: Close-up on Lucy

    Apologies to the people who visitor our home, because you’re gonna get this thing straight up your butt—like, HELLO, DOCTOR! deep.


    Lucy really likes getting to know people well, and she’s just the right height to do it her own special way. Sometimes our visitors miss the days when we had small dogs (“sometimes” = “every time”).


    Yep, I’m doing another blog challenge. This one is photo-riffic!

    Nov. 1: Halloween aftermath

    Alright, I’m trying to light a fire under my blog again, and have decided to attempt another blog challenge. This one will require much less thought because it’s mostly going to involve photos. Here’s the list I plan to loosely follow; if I feel like photographing something that’s not on the list, I’m just gonna.

    IMG_0695 (2)

    punkins My favorite part of Halloween is handing out candy. The costumes, the littlest kids figuring out the trick-or-treating routine, the proud adults waiting on the sidewalk, the kids who recognize me from school and run back to their parents screaming SHE’S PTO!… I love it. We seemed to have more kids come by last night that in the past few years—the warm-ish, dry weather, maybe?—and it was pretty much nonstop doorbell ringing from 6-8:30pm.

    Most of them even said “trick or treat!” when I answered the door—that’s one of my pet peeves, the kids who just hold out their bags without saying anything. They’re usually the ones who have mustaches and are driving their own cars from house to house. As always, our trick-or-treaters were mostly gracious and said “thank you,” rarely needing their parents’ reminder. I usually toss candy into each kids’ bags, but last night I held out the bowl and let them choose for themselves. It ended up being a fascinating peek into human nature. These are the types of kids we had:

    1. Grab candy, barely even looking, and run off to the next house because MORE CANDY MORE CANDY MORE CANDY
    2. Touch every single piece of candy in the bowl before choosing
    3. Pick up one, then put it back and pick up another (sometimes repeatedly)
    4. Ask if they can have more than one
    5. Don’t bother asking; just grab a handful and run off (I did not like those kids)
    6. Tell me they don’t like any of the candy and ask if they can have something else (I really did not like that kid)

    I got lazy and didn’t do a lot of decorating this year, but Katie and I did copy something I found on Pinterest for our front door. This morning its hair was slightly mussed:

    doorI especially like the sad little Sweetarts pack a kid left behind
    (prob’ly the one who was dissatisfied with our choices)

    We gave away almost all of our candy. The fact that most the leftovers were banana Laffy Taffy makes me think next year I’ll go back to choosing kids’ candy for them—at least then the leftovers are good.


    Between getting Katie and Jack to their friends’ houses and keeping Lucy from eagerly greeting all the trick-or-treaters, neither of us had a chance to take a picture of our own dressed-up kids. Jack was a football player and Katie was an eighties girl (I did her makeup, thankyouverymuch). Big thanks to Stephanie and Val for these photos:

    …and you can’t even see her righteous blue eyeliner with those gnarly glasses on.
    Like, I’M SO SURE, Y’KNOW?

    ‘Twas fun this year, this Halloween thing. I miss having more input into my kids’ costumes, but that’s normal, I suppose. I still think Jack makes the cutest pirate ever, but he’s all WHATEVS, MOM. HASHTAG NO WAY.



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