holidays



As Bella’s birthday is November 1st, she pretty much gets a Halloween-themed birthday cake every single year.
This year she got spider cupcakes delivered to her sushi dinner in Laguna Beach. They were a hit.
I made the devil’s food cake recipe from Williams-Sonoma (I amped up the chocolate flavor with a scoop of instant coffee) and frosted with the chocolate frosting mix from Trader Joe’s (very fudge-y).
Decorations: black sprinkles for a fuzzy back, mini gobstoppers for the eyes, and licorice laces cut into sixths for the legs (eight legs turned out to be too many)
Happy Halloween!

We used candle lanterns and also homemade lanterns out of tin cans, that were lit with glow sticks for the kids.


I’m looking forward to celebrating Martinmas next month with another campout and soup and bread potluck.

According to French lore, St. Martin was a soldier passing into the city of Amiens, when he passed a shivering beggar. He stopped, took off his own warm woolen cape and slashed it half with his sword and gave one half to the beggar. I love this image – one, it’s more practical to share what you have rather than give it ALL away and I love the complete surrender of material possession to human generosity with the slash – and I love the magnificent gesture of a sweeping sword to give rather than to kill.

From Diana Carey and Judy Large’s book, Festivals, Family, and Food: “Martin went on to become patron saint of beggars, drunkards, and outcasts. He was known for his gentleness, his unassuming nature and his ability to bring warmth and light to those who were previously in darkness.
On the evening of Martinmas [Nov 11] he is remembered in many French households with a festival of lanterns, carrying light throughout the darkened home, singing songs, and sharing a simple cake, perhaps decorated with the symbol of the sun.”

Inspired by my dear friend Darlene’s 20+ year tradition of celebrating Martinmas with a homemade soup and bread potluck, I’ve decided to do the same here in Orange County with my friends.

We’ll start the potluck around 5 pm with a short blessing and explanation of Martinmas. The bread and soup directs our mind to the meals of the poor – but really, we’re taking a moment to be intentionally simple to reflect on our own lives of plenty. And one of my greatest riches lie in the community I’ve found here, who will camp with me in November!

The puppet show props.


Shortly after dinner is done, we’ll gather to watch a puppet show about the shortening of days, and the idea of making a lantern to carry light through the dark days of winter. This is the puppet show Darlene wrote years ago. I posted it in full last year here.

Then we’ll practice a few songs together from Sing Through the Seasons: “Down with Darkness” and “With a Lantern in the Hand.” When we’ve got the melody worked out, we’ll light our lanterns (we’re making balloon and tissue lanterns) with glowsticks and have a lantern procession through the woods. The kids love this part and so do I.
This celebration has become one of my favorite holidays.

Christian will be thrilled to be camping, and doubly thrilled to be singing and with his favorite friends.


*All photos by Jaimie and Alex.

My efforts to produce a New Year’s card for 2010 have been plagued with the kind of small obstacles that multiply and appear in front of rushed harried persons around the holidays. To wit, I picked up our first set of New Year’s cards from Costco and didn’t discover until I’d got home that not only was Bella’s name spelled incorrectly (“Becca”), but also that I’d picked up somebody’s else’s cards as well as my own.

After an apologetic rendezvous with a (very understanding) stranger, I put the cards off until after Christmas. In any case, Costco would make me re-upload the photo, so we thought we might make lemonade out of the situation and  try and come up with a better photo (since the original photo was taken on Halloween and Christian is dressed as a clown…) Bella agreed to a holiday photoshoot with her little brother on the beach. This was unprecedented cooperation. We headed down to the beach, north of Main Beach in Laguna, in the late afternoon.

Whoa. Beautiful setting! It was low, very low tide, and the light  was just gorgeous.

We took many many photos (but then spent that many hours arguing over which photo to use). You’ll get to see the one we finally chose when it arrives in the post – yes! We’re sending cards the old-fashioned way this year.

Other families had the same idea: groups of people dressed identically, holding hands, and running down the beach, abounded.

This is one Bella liked, but I didn't like the way Christian was gazing heavenward.

This one was my favorite - but Bella says she looks "funny."

Understandably, Christian had little patience for the whole affair - what did he care about the great lighting?

He was really, really done with the whole thing.

We were able to salvage the situation with different family configurations...

Christian's favorite perch.

We live in a beautiful place. Come visit! Check our clothes – these pictures were taken a couple days before Christmas and Chad’s in short sleeves. I was wishing that I’d thought to wear my bathing suit – that’s how lovely the weather was that day.

Yes, it’s true, Americans like to go over the top.

Christian’s been loving the lights this holiday season, so we made a point of visiting Candy Cane Lane (actually, El Corzo Lane in Rancho Santa Margarita) on Christmas Eve. Bella came, but only under duress, and then when we got there, insisted on staying in the car. Oh well – the little dude was impressed anyway. (Since then, Bella’s made up for her typical truculent behavior with lots of thoughtful help in the kitchen and with Christian.)

Christian was pleased to make the acquaintance of a new dolly friend, Sterling, who was asleep in bed next to him when he woke. He was happy with his wooden tree blocks as well. (And his Christmas sweater was a gift from his sister, Bella.)

When I have the chance moment that I’m feeding myself while the baby is asleep, I indulge in one of my bad habits: reading while eating. I prefer magazines – so I don’t have to focus too hard – specifically The New Yorker and Vogue, over one of half dozen books I’m in the middle of reading at any given time (another bad habit).

I am defensive about reading Vogue the way you hear men say, “I read it for the articles.” I enjoy an issue of Vogue from cover to cover: for the visuals, as a cultural newsfeed, and sometimes for the good articles.  More often than not, they are of an autobiographical essay nature, written by a well-heeled, well-traveled woman.

There was great one this December 2009 issue by Susie Boyt, which has inspired me to do a proper Christmas stocking for Bella this year. She writes:

“I was the youngest of a large family of slender means, our day-to-day existence modest and at times austere, but our Christmas selves inhibited a different realm entirely. My mother packed five stockings that, in fact, were pairs of tights. Lavish and unfailingly thoughtful, they contained a level of care designed to stun. They celebrated her five children, turning all our eccentricities into badges of honor. They were medicine and compensation for anything we might lack in life, rewards for our efforts, indulgence shown toward our childish whims. Things I remember: a blue notebook my mother painted with gardenias and the words SUSIE’S POEMS in a fond italic script; a pair of 1940’s silk-satin polka-dot pajamas with black piping at the collar and cuffs that bespoke of movie-star honeymoons; a drum of Gentleman’s Relish to make me feel Noel Coward-ish at the breakfast table; a bank of Chanel perfume testers my mother had salvaged from a local pharmacy’s closing-down sale.

The balance of the contents was so tender and acute. There was something cozy, something glamorous, something to expand your mind; something to make you see that a new and fledgling personal development you had barely noticed in yourself had been acknowledged and admired. It was an annual tribute to the best of myself, where I was considerably more promising that the facts of my life implied.”

When I have the chance moment that I’m feeding myself while the baby is asleep, I indulge in one of my bad habits: reading while eating. I prefer magazines – so I don’t have to focus too hard – specifically The New Yorker and Vogue, over one of half dozen books I’m in the middle of reading at any given time (another bad habit).

I am defensive about reading Vogue the way you hear men say, “I read it for the articles.” I enjoy an issue of Vogue from cover to cover: for the visuals, as a cultural newsfeed, and sometimes for the good articles.  More often than not, they are of an autobiographical essay nature, written by a well-heeled, well-traveled woman.

There was great one this December 2009 issue by Susie Boyt, which has inspired me to do a proper Christmas stocking for Bella this year. She writes:

“I was the youngest of a large family of slender means, our day-to-day existence modest and at times austere, but our Christmas selves inhibited a different realm entirely. My mother packed five stockings that, in fact, were pairs of tights. Lavish and unfailingly thoughtful, they contained a level of care designed to stun. They celebrated her five children, turning all our eccentricities into badges of honor. They were medicine and compensation for anything we might lack in life, rewards for our efforts, indulgence shown toward our childish whims. Things I remember: a blue notebook my mother painted with gardenias and the words SUSIE’S POEMS in a fond italic script; a pair of 1940’s silk-satin polka-dot pajamas with black piping at the collar and cuffs that bespoke of movie-star honeymoons; a drum of Gentleman’s Relish to make me feel Noel Coward-ish at the breakfast table; a bank of Chanel perfume testers my mother had salvaged from a local pharmacy’s closing-down sale.

The balance of the contents was so tender and acute. There was something cozy, something glamorous, something to expand your mind; something to make you see that a new and fledgling personal development you had barely noticed in yourself had been acknowledged and admired. It was an annual tribute to the best of myself, where I was considerably more promising that the facts of my life implied.”

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