Thursday, December 28, 2006

Happy New Year!

For some reason I'm having trouble posting photos to the system right now, which is rather unfortunate because I'm compiling a Year In Photos entry that's comprised almost entirely of pictures, just like I did last year at this time.

Hmmmm....frustrating.

And we're moments away from heading to the mountains for a sledding and snowball break, so it looks like you'll be getting your photo post sometime in early 2007.

So, as Finney would say:

We wish you a Merry Christmas,
We wish you a Merry Christmas,
We wish you a Merry Christmas,
And a Happy You Near!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Thanks For Playing

So I guess I'll never know what priceless words were uttered between Santa Claus and my son on that early December afternoon when I took these photos, but thanks for all the great suggestions.

And let me just say that fart jokes just never get old, do they?

But I strayed from the scatological and crashed straight into the endlessly entertaining notion of Santa Gone Bad by selecting Admiral as the first-prize winner in this year's holiday captions contest. Congratulations! I should have a Mickey's Wide Mouth and a chocolate Easter Bunny in the mail to you shortly.

I know, I know, from the look of the comments section it appears that Admiral won because he was the only person to actually enter; but I also received a handful of entries that were sent directly to my personal e-mail address. It should all make you feel a little warm and fuzzy that bribery, flatulence and misogyny were all cast aside in favor of a little old fashioned inebriation.

Hope you had yourself a Merry Little Christmas.



Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Images taken at Crystal Cove State Beach & Historical District in Newport Beach, CA on December 22nd and 23rd, 2006.





Friday, December 22, 2006

Reminder

Thanks to everyone who has left their caption suggestions here and e-mailed them to me directly for the 2006 Holiday Captions Contest.

For the rest of you, you've got until the end of Christmas day--that's just around the corner!--to take your best shot at winning.

Prize(s) for the winner(s) and lumps of coal for anyone who doesn't at least take a shot at it.

C'mon, don't be Grinchy; you know you wanna own this sucker.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Future Is Now

Much of parenthood has been much more intense--both good and bad--than I ever imagined it to be.

And I'm not just talking about the whole intensity of labor and delivery, although, WOW! That was some pretty life- (and body-) changing stuff.

I'm talking about sustained intensity.

The long nights with infants, for example, were longer and more trying than I could have ever imagined, while the constant messes are more constant than I would prefer and the temper tantrums more maddening than I thought possible.

By the same token, the depth of my love and devotion to my children -- step in front of an approaching wild animal to protect them? No problem. Is that all you got? -- is in reality more profound than I ever could have anticipated. Sometimes it takes me by surprise just how full they've made my life, and how eerily different -- even two-dimensional by comparison -- it now seems before they arrived.

Some of the things about parenthood I've looked forward to since I was a child myself, being parented by others. Specific things, like taking them to the beach, watching baseball games, and hearing them tell me about school, have been just what I thought they would be: magical in their momentousness.

And school pageants.

I'm one of those people who just LOVES watching kids perform in school singalongs, plays, talent shows, chorus recitals, etc. You name it. What sounds to many like a front-row, folding-chair seat in Hell is a high point of spectator joy for me. And the more flubs and mistakes the better, I say. I adore the earnest attempt at showmanship, regardless of the results.

Something about the sound of small children singing in unison makes me think of hope.

So you can probably understand why I was a little frustrated last year when my firstborn child passed on the opportunity to perform in his Very First School Holiday Performance.

And you'll be able to understand how fulfilling it was to watch him, a year older and more confident, join his classmates at the front of the chapel to perform a nativity scene and sing holiday carols this year.

It was just as good as I always knew it would be.





Friday, December 15, 2006

Completely Addicting

We don't get any snow where I live. But I've been making my own snowflakes here all morning.


No cutting yourself on scissors, no mess, and if you make a cut you don't like you can just "redo" it.

Awesome.
(Thanks, once again, to www.kottge.org, for finding and sharing the coolest stuff evs.)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Our Newest Addition

Santa paid me an early visit this year and in my stocking I found myself a Really Nice Camera.



My
last Really Nice Camera, which I still adore and bring out on special occasions, was a Christmas gift I received from my parents about 20 years ago, when I was a teenager enrolled in my high school's photography class. It's a piece of machinery I adore and when I dropped it--only once!--in the rush-hour bustle on Brompton Road in front of Harrods department store in London, I mentally kicked myself for months.

But if I thought I was protective of the first camera, I didn't fully yet know my own fierce, mother-lion instincts of protection for this newest baby. When I set it down it's as if the camera becomes a defenseless newborn in a house of ferocious tigers. When I go to bed at night, I check on the kids to make sure they're tucked in, then I make sure the camera's in a safe spot.

I still love my trusty old AE1 and will keep it tucked safely in my drawer, at the ready for those occasions that demand the rich coverage that only black and white film can provide. May it continue to click on for years to come.

And I'm still getting to know how the new camera works. I'm a bit of a purist and arrived fashionably late to the digital photography party, so bear with me as I click my way through the learning curve.

Just as I learned with my own children, though, there's always room in your heart for a second baby.




Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Christmas 2006 Captions Contest!

Put your funny hats on, folks, because it's time once again for a Double Duty Diary Captions Contest!

While visiting Santa Claus with the kids in early December, I managed to capture on my camera a hilarious exchange between Finnegan and Santa Claus. What I didn't manage to hear, though, was the conversation that unfolded between them to elicit their classic facial expressions. That's where I need your help.


Here's how the contest will work:

First, you'll need to choose a Version of the narrative that works best with your caption ideas.

For example, this is Version 1, wherein Finney pulls the first verbal punch but Santa Claus gets the last word:



And this is Version 2, wherein Santa Claus pulls the first verbal punch but Finnegan gets the last word:


(By the way, don't hesitate to choose Version 1 out of fear that I might take offense to Finney becoming the butt of the joke; if he's guilty of sassing off to Santa Claus, by all means good and right he should be put (gently) in his place. A boy needs to learn about the whole gift horse credo, after all, if he ever wants to work his way up Santa's Nice List to get an iPod when he's a recalcitrant teenager.)

Caption suggestions are due by the end of Christmas Day, 2006. Winner(s) will be chosen by my highly unscientific preference method (think WIT, folks -- make me think, make me laugh!), and will be announced sometime between Christmas and New Year's Eve. Prize(s) will be chosen and distributed by me, soon(ish) after the new year. Sorry, contest is only open to folks with mailing addresses in the United States.

When submitting your caption suggestions, please remember to indicate in which Version (1 or 2) you wish your captions to appear.

Good luck!

EDITED TO ADD: If multiple caption submissions end up being eerily similar in theme, the person who submitted their entry first will receive priority in judging. So get your captions in sooner rather than later!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Cookie, Cookie, Cookie Starts With C

I don't bake very often but when I do, it's usually Macaroons I'm pulling out of the oven. Over the years, after bringing countless plates full of the little buggers to parties and events, they've somehow become my signature cookie.

(Sideline trivia: When I was a wee Bobby Soxer, the very first organized softball team I ever played on was called the Macaroons. You know, because our jerseys were maroon. I never really understood that name because I had never eaten a Macaroon at that point in my life. I think someone brought a plate of Macaroons to our final game, but by then I had already parted ways with any concern I had for our team's name; that pitch had long been fouled off by then. Early in the season my Dad had suggested we go with the name Crimson Tide, but since Alabama's a long way from Southern California -- and because sixth-grade girls prefer chanting softball songs that include cutesie names -- that one never took flight. Either way, they were both confusing to my sheltered 12-year-old mind.)

Anyway, I'm asked so often for the recipe to these fabulous Macaroons that I thought it would be a great idea just to have it up here on the blog for all to see and reference as needed.

Full disclosure: This recipe, wonderfully straightforward in its simplicity, is not my own -- nor did it get passed down through the generations in my family. (I've got those, too, thankfully.) No, this one comes from the Barefoot Contessa herself, Ms. Ina Garten. And all you gluten-phobes will be happy to learn that it contains absolutely zero flour. But, oh, the sugar!

(My notes, in red, are tips I've used to improve the recipe over the years.)


COCONUT MACAROONS

14 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature (really, they need to be at room temperature for best results)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (make sure it's kosher)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Combine the condensed milk and vanilla in a large bowl, then add the coconut to the mixture. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites and salt on high speed until they make medium-firm peaks. Carefully fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture. (Be delicate with your folding; overdoing it will break down your whipped whites.)

Drop the batter onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper (an absolute must if you want to keep your cookies from burning), using either a 1 3/4-inch diameter ice cream scoop, or 2 teaspoons. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Cool and serve.


Thanks to Jenn, who had the great idea to share holiday cookie recipes around the world by hosting the First Annual Virtual Cookie Exchange, and to Shannon for letting me know about it.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Fair Dinkum Congrats!

In my NaBloPoMo frenzy last month, I managed to overlook a joyous occasion:

The birth of a new snugglebunny.

And not just any little basket bug, either -- this one's an honest-to-goodness Aussie Sheila!



One month ago today, baby Connor's new cousin, Audrey Joan, was born in Sydney, Australia, to Jen, Andrew and big sister Georgia.

Happy one-month birthday, sweet girl!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Doing Our Part, Kleenex By Kleenex, To Boost Revenues At Kimberly-Clark

Shea's getting over being sick.

I'm sick.

John's getting sick.

Finn's just sick of all us sickies.

Because I don't want you to be bored, though, I've found some fun stuff to keep you occupied in our absence of entertainment:

In Vino Veritas: Hop on over to
this great blog, which does nothing but sample and rate wines from Trader Joe's.

Call Me Pablo: At
this site you can let your inner Picasso shine to make beaaaauuuuuuuutiful artwork.

Can You Wrap That Up To Go? Finally, you can do some advanced armchair traveling
here and view a slew of amazing photographs of Southeast Asia.

Enjoy!