Monday, December 20, 2010

Making Christmas Traditions

Christmas is all about traditions for me. I have no problem with tweaking traditions and trying new ways of realizing traditions, but I really need to go through the familiar motions in order to feel like I'm experiencing the season correctly. There's something about tracing my own footsteps through the visions of Christmases Past that makes the season feel special. I firmly feel that anticipation may be the best part! Living in a different state from my family meant that the weeks before Christmas felt melancholy without the Christmas traditions I relished as a child, though I cherished the week I did spend at home with my parents even more.

Being a member of the "real world" and living in a different state from my parents for the first time meant that I couldn't participate in all of the traditions I cherish from my childhood. For example, I didn't get to help my parents pick out a tree, and I didn't help put Christmas lights on the house. I didn't get to shop with my mom and dad for presents for each other, and my family didn't get to make Christmas cookies together. There simply wasn't enough time. This transition had been brewing in my college years, with more and more traditions carved off my Christmas turkey with each successive year. It's what happens when you get older. First Santa goes, and slowly all the other trappings.

Never fear! We had a great Christmas despite the brevity of my family's time spent together. I enjoyed every day of my week at home, conscious all the while that most people who work reception jobs don't get this much time off around the holidays. My parents' Christmas tree was lovely and well-stocked with presents:

I love giving my parents presents, and I can tell that they love to give me presents. I've taken a special ownership over the stuffing of stockings, and I like to think that I do it very well. My parents both loved their presents and stocking stuffers, making Christmas morning a success. Later that day we took an entire meal to my grandparents house for Christmas dinner: roast, Gruyere potatoes, asparagus, green salad, rolls, and buttermilk pie, oh my! The roast in particular was delicious and afforded excellent sandwiches later.

After Christmas there was a birthday dinner for my grandmother, an outing to a garden statuary store with the Eckels, my parents took Malcolm and me to the Nasher sculpture garden for a Calder exhibit (swoon!), and even a day of classic movies and Chinese food. The holiday was a perfect blend of action-packed and restful hours. The only thing I regret is not having time to see my few friends who still come back to Arlington. Essentially, it was an excellent Christmas; I think the brevity of time with my family made it all the more special.

So while we pulled together and made an excellent holiday week, the truth of the matter is, I'm not always going to get to spend a week in Texas for Christmas, and even if I am, there's still the month before which should be full of decorating, cookie baking, and present acquiring time that I am going to have learn to make my own now that Malcolm and I are our own little family.

This year, with the exception of shopping for presents, Malcolm and I didn't do these things with gusto if at all. It just felt a little silly without family, as though trying would somehow make our isolation feel more pronounced. I imagine that one day, many years down the line, when we have our own children this will be different, but for now, we settled on a few simple observances of the Christmas season.

For example, the last meal Malcolm and I had together in L.A. this semester (sorry, I still measure time by an academic calendar) was the exact same meal we had the morning after I first arrived in L.A.: Literati Cafe's Eggs Florentine with Hashbrowns! Perhaps this wasn't strictly a holiday tradition, but the beginnings of a tradition nevertheless:

Furthermore, we our own little tree. I put curled ribbons on it, and Malcolm folded origami cranes. It was simple, handmade, and lovely, but it certainly won't fit the collection of winged ornaments my parents have been adding to- an ornament a year for 23 years! Still, it seems more practical and more environmentally friendly to have small potted trees as long as we are apartment-dwellers:

I also made a few simple, low-budget and very DIY-y attempts at Christmas decorating:

Perhaps the closest we got this year to a continuable tradition were the Christmas cards I handmade and hand-wrote this year. I like the idea of making cards every year, somehow it feels more genuine. I tried to make the messages in them as heartfelt as possible.

So while this year Malcolm and I seem to have failed to celebrate Christmas together in style (we still haven't even wrapped, given, or opened our presents to each other), I have a plan for the future! I have resolved to make stockings for Malcolm and myself next year. As previously mentioned- I love stockings, I love the tiny little bits of joy, and I love how stockings feel super-traditional in their long history. It's a tradition from my own family's holidays and from the days of yore that I look forward to claiming as my own next year. I have something like this in mind. That's all you can do, right? Try to get a little more festive every year.

How did you claim Christmas as a holiday for young adults this year?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Reflections on Blogging

One of my friends, one of the most natural, witty writers I actually personally know, finally caved to the trend and started his own blog, overcoming considerable fears that he was being unpleasantly narcissistic in writing publicly about himself. I'm still figuring out what role I want my blog to take, so I find his self-deprecating guilt about beginning a blog fascinating. For this reason I'm going to provide a few of my thoughts:

I think that if you are going to attempt to update many people about your life at once, then blogging is undeniably the preferable format. (As opposed to the mass e-mailing option some people prefer.) I consider blogging superior for three main reasons:

First, blogging allows your audience to come to you. When the author of an e-mail update selects who to send the e-mail to, he or she might exclude interested parties, or burden disinterested parties with too much information about their life. I would never e-mail someone to tell them: "Hey! sorry, I don't actually want to hear about your life!"; personal listserves are basically impossible to extract yourself from. But with a blog, you can just stop reading it, and no one is the wiser. Basically, a blog is just a diary until outside readers decide to visit it. It's more like an invitation, without social obligations.

Second, blog formats are more conscientious of reader's/friend's time. Monthly e-mailing tends to take the form of long, this-is-everything-I've-done-in-the-last-month! messages rather than pointed, theme-specific posts spread out over the days or weeks (like blog posts). I find the latter to be the obviously less daunting option. Maybe I'm showing my ADD generation affiliation, but reader-attention-span is a legitimate consideration for online communications, and in this respect blogging is clearly superior.

Third, pictures! The e-mail format does not allow for easy inclusion of pictures or illustrations, while the blog format does. Obvi!

Next, the friend in question, (let's call him Winston), feels considerable guilt with using the pronoun "I" in his writing. For example: "It makes me feel enormously self-conscious; it’s like a giant pimple on the face of one’s writing." While this viewpoint is extraordinarily, charmingly self-deprecating, I would posit that as long as the author of any personal blog attempts (and this is crucial) to draw conclusions from their personal experiences that would be relevant to a wider audience, and remains humble as to the impact of their opinions, then there is no harm done. After all, didn't the wise men say: "write what you know"?

Finally, my good friend "Winston" states that one of the underlying themes of his blog is to encourage and foster his friendships. This is where my musings run aground. I, too, stated this as one of my objectives when I started my blog, but it hasn't been clear to me whether I've made anyone feel connected to me and vice versa through my blog. I don't feel like I'm sparking two-way conversations with friends on this end.

But then, I can think of two relationships in particular that have been fostered through my ability to read their blogs. Both blogs are incredibly important to me because of the connection they created. I also know that I feel fostered and inspired by the various crafting blogs I follow. So I'm not giving up on the format just yet.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Quiet Thanksgiving Weekend

I've had a couple of bemusing conversations with friends recently who seem vaguely disappointed that M and I haven't spent many weekends sightseeing in Los Angeles. This confuses me, because I can't say that I'm entirely sure what sights we are supposed to be seeing. So help me out a little bit: when you imagine Los Angeles, what landmarks or passtimes do you have in mind? I've been to the beach several times, I even worked a corporate team-building experience there once. I've been to Griffith park, with the famous observatory and the views of the Hollywood sign. I've driven on Sunset Blvd., and I've been to the Getty Villa and the Getty Center. I've strolled the UCLA campus. I drive past the Fox studios on my way home from work everyday. What else did you have in mind? What would you consider the young life in Los Angeles to look like?

Does it look like this?

That's just a little bit of my decorations from Thanksgiving dinner. M and I decided that it just wasn't quite cost effective to try to go home for Thanksgiving, the first time for either of us, and to do it ourselves this year. It was just a *little* chilly in sunny LA, and only slightly fall-ish, but it suited us just fine.

With the help of one of M's teacher friends, we put a turkey breast, greenbean casserole, sweetpotato casserole, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, rolls, cranberry Waldorf salad, and a pumpkin pie on the table, and it was all very yummy! I didn't take pictures of the foood, because we were hungry, the natural light had faded by then, and because traditional Thanksgiving recepies are so suprisingly non-stressful that I felt like I was cheating to make a big deal out of it. But let me assure you, it was all yum!

M was quite satisfied with our efforts!

I will say, despite all our self-satisfaction, that it was disappointing to not be able to see our families. There were the pleasant phone calls home, but it's not the same thing as sitting at a table full of people you love. I'm looking forward to Christmas!

But don't worry, we weren't about to mope all weekend! On Friday, M and I took advantage of the non-Novembery weather to wander the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanical Gardens in Pasadena. It was sunny and perfumed with flower blossoms at their 127 acre complex, featuring restored historical homes, a waterfall, greenhouses with one of the country's largest orchid collections, and peacocks. Ironically, none of which are pictured here because of my difficulty with the harsh California late-afternoon sunlight. Ha!:

This is how M and I prefer to handle holidays and weekends. We avoid the touristy famous places in favor of the quiet sanctuaries of peaceful existence. It was an excellent Thanksgiving holiday, where were able to enjoy each other.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Of Reception and Luncheon

A month ago I started a new job; it's another temporary thing, but this one lasts for about three months, with the possibility of going permanent, so I at least have the illusion or normalcy right now. I'm overjoyed.

Additional perks abound: it's really close to me, in a beautiful and very secure office complex in Century City. The building in the center is where I work:

This is my daily ride up the escalators from the parking garage to the main lobby of the building. The parking garage for this office complex is ridiculous, by the way. It is 8 layers, four being loading dock or reserved parking, and then four for take-it-as-you-come parking. It includes a service station and a car wash!

It's another receptionist gig, but this one involves more varied duties than I've been given before, so it is far from rote, even after a month. I maintain the conference rooms and the conference room schedule book, escort guests to their meetings in our suite of offices, as well as check people into of the security list and validate their parking when they're done. I also answer the phones for the executives as a back up to their personal assistants, distribute the newspapers in the morning, and make any maintenance requests for our office to the offices of the building, and so on. I'm pretty much a Girl Friday, the retro nature of which I truly love. The variety of tasks is great, and I especially appreciate that the people who have been training me have been very nice. So far they seem to like me, and that counts for a lot too.

This is my lobby:

This is my desk, and the largest conference room barely visible over the counter:

As you might expect from a building this opulent, this job came with the best salary I'd been offered to date. It's not changing my quality of life or anything, but it's allowing me to be slightly less worrisome than I had been.

The hours are 7:30 to 4:30, which is great, because I get a jump on the infamous L.A. traffic heading both ways (totally worth it). The odd thing about the hours is that everyone works as much as possible during the work day, including through lunch. That's right, a nine-hour work day! I'm fine with that, though, because its extra salary, and my office orders-in lunch every day, which we get to eat for free! This was the menu my first day of work:

Mmmm, crab cakes!

In addition to my other random administrative and supportive duties, my boss is slowly transitioning me making the lunch orders for the whole office, and on Friday the office tried a new restaurant of my suggestion. B.A.D. Sushi (it stands for Best and Delicious, people) is a charming new restaurant within walking distance of my apartment with high-quality fish, exquisite and unexpected special rolls, and an extremely charming waitstaff and manager. I was so happy to get them a sale of the magnitude of our lunch order, and I was really happy that my wealthy, picky, and vocal co-workers enjoyed it as much as they did. It really was something of a workplace success. We will definitely be ordering from them again!

There's nothing like free sushi for lunch!

Monday, November 1, 2010

It's Nice to Go Home

Last weekend M and I both left town, him to visit a dear friend from high school, and me to visit my parents back in Arlington. The visit home really highlighted for me the difference between my parents' energy level, and that of M and I.

My parents, who, mind you, were on vacation last week, had me hit the ground running with a trip to Steinmart, a run by the Toyota dealership, and finally a meal out (which isn't an every-day thing with my parents). So much for curling up on the couch after a taxing plane flight!

The next day kept up the same feeling of business, with errands and activities from morning to night. I'm not complaining, I enjoyed all of them, and the pace made a very short visit feel full, but M and I do not keep such a busy schedule when left to our own devices. We prefer time to unwind between errands and activities, which I hope makes us feel less stressed and less worn out, but which also makes us way less productive.

Being home, I felt busy and rushed, but I also felt more energized and creative than I ever have in L.A. I'm not sure if that's the adrenaline, or maybe it has more to do with other factors, like the great windows in my paretnts' house, or the drawers overflowing with craft supplies, or the presence of a super handy dad and an extremely creative mom. I like my life in L.A., but I want more of how I feel at home mixed in. I just wish I knew how to make that feeling happen!

I feel like there are so many differences between the domestic bliss I imagine for myself and the way I actually live, which is normal since I'm twenty two and just out of college, and it takes time to learn to paint walls, cook great meals repeatedly and confidently, grow your own successful garden, remember everyone's birthday and so forth, not to mention doing it all with an 8-5 job. I'm just impatient to have/be it all!

Anyway, I love visiting home, where we have creative holiday spirit, even if barely anyone sees it:

My dad has always been interested in the details: pumpkin carving and cake and cookie decorating galore. He did the witch, and I did the owl. I've missed carving pumpkins!

I also love my parents' garden, overflowing with green things, even if the fall chill is setting in.

I got to say hello to Mabel again, who is a goofball, but I love her:

We even went on a walk in a new nature preserve/park in Arlington. It was a great weekend, with good food and energy and creativity and Halloween cheer!

I love you Mom, Dad, Mabel, Co-Jack, Honey and Poppy!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Snapshot! Around Here

The last two weekends M and I have been rather house-bound, so I thought I would do a small around-here post of some shots I've taken of things that please or intrigue me.

M muddled the strawberries himself for this delicious lemonade:

We accidentally stumbled across this house on a romp once, it's tiled all over, quite a little work of art:

Here are some shots of the Floss Silk Tree, used in landscaping all over down here, it absolutely fascinates me with its thorny trunk and beautiful flowers:

I have way too many pictures of my various commutes on my computer, but you can see how beautiful they can be in the morning:

This is a collection of stuffed animals, some mine, and some belonging to my co-workers at the spcaLA, which sat at my desk there. I called them my "staff":

Our neighborhood is a really strange mix of large apartment complexes, and small houses that never sold out:

Finally, here's a baby oak tree growing out of a palm tree. Wild!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Three Months as a Blogger!

Today is my three month anniversary as a blog-writer, so I was wondering if you guys have any suggestions? Do I write about things you like to read? How could I induce more comments, so we engage in more of a dialogue?

More importantly, who reads? No pressure, I'm just wondering who I'm writing to. So, if you read and/or if you have any thoughts about it, could you let me know?

Most importantly, love to you guys!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Toll of Temporary Employment

Since I finished my assignment at the spcaLA last week, I've been shuffled through three different assignments at vastly different companies. Turns out, the ability to answer a phone is a transferable skill (sarcasm).

On Monday I worked 8 hours at a small movie studio which I forgot to take a picture of.

Tuesday-Thursday I worked at an outdoor furniture company that sells "to the trade", which means to professional decorators and designers only.

Apparently, designer-only furniture and decor stores operate out of design centers like this: the Pacific Design Center, known affectionately as the "blue whale" by Angelenos.

The building is super-ritzy, hosting Oscar after-parties, and including two restaurants by Wolfgang Puck (who is apparently very famous).

Finally, on Friday I worked for the "Latino Business Association's 2002 Business of the Year", a commercial realty group.

And I already know that on Monday, I can look forward to working, from 11-6, at a team building "Beach Olympics" on the Santa Monica Beach. ?!?

Obviously, there are some perks regarding temp work. Working at three different companies in a week is interesting, and allows me to observe a lot of different fields. Also, I'm still getting a kick out of the Los Angeles nature of the problems I get to field. I'd be lying if I said I didn't find it exciting to go from transferring calls from the offices of Paramount execs on Monday, to finding out the "status of the other 37 pieces for Dr. Phil" on Wednesday, to overhearing leasing arguments with WalMart brokers on Friday. And did I mention that I am going to be helping out with an executive team-building "Beach Olympics" on Monday? What is this life I'm living?

Of course, I am also aware that considering the economy, it's saying a lot that I have a job that lets me work at least close to the hours of 8-5 on weekdays only. And the companies I have worked for so far have been really professional and friendly towards me, which is saying a lot.

But on the other hand, as you probably know, I am a ROUTINE and a SCHEDULE person. I have been known to hyperventilate when my daily planner went missing for 15 minutes. I made Sarah and Figgy sit through epic 5 hour musical-schedule-planning-sessions EVERY SUNDAY of HH! and WSS. So you can only imagine how much it upsets me to not know how, where, or when I'll be making money on a day-to-day basis.

I almost glared at one of my agency's staffing managers this week when she mentioned off-hand, how great a way to make money temping is. (It's not a great idea to glare at the people finding you jobs.) M and my mom will both tell you that I have NOT been happy this week. And I am entirely aware that that is all in my head, not in the situation itself.

I am just really, REALLY realizing from this experience that I need a routine to settle in to, and a project that is both ongoing, and exciting and worthwhile for me. Just working a job every day is not enough for my happiness. I need to find a vocation for my life to seem bright and full of color. Do you think that's unrealistic?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Four Years

W E celebrated our four-year anniversary last week. Because of my dad's visit, we didn't do anything terribly romantic the day of, but rather spread the festivities out over the course of the week. We exchanged presents on Saturday: Malcolm got me Christmas lights for the flower room, and I got him a fancy, adjustable piano stool.

On Sunday we went to the Getty Villa. A truly magnificent approach to the art of museums, which I will probably discuss more in length later:

But mostly, we were just normal and relaxed the whole way through. No stressful romantic gestures, nothing big and fussy. It was just what I think defines the best of us as a couple, the two of us just holding hands through life and occasionally exchanging looks of joy/incredulity/surprise/love/peace/silliness. It doesn't seem like four years, and I'm totally excited to see what happens each day of the next one.