Wednesday, December 29, 2010

a tour of trees

One other Christmas Day tradition includes visiting the National Christmas Tree. This year, we opted for a tour of trees.

First, we started at home, admiring our own, and setting up timed shots with the camera.

Our beloved tree

We can easily kill 30 minutes just trying to get a couple of pictures.

Playing with the camera's timer

Then, we ventured to see the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse. It was packed, as usual. The tree's a little chintzy, in my opinion, but I do love the smaller trees representing each state, commonwealth, and territory, the yule log, and the many small trains racing around the giant tree.

National Christmas Tree

On a whim on our drive home, we decided to park and walk up to the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, something I'm embarrassed to admit we've never done in the more-than-ten years we've lived here. This tree was much more authentic than the National Christmas Tree--we could see its branches and ornaments and imperfections; it wasn't just a cone-shaped structure with a massive, lighted net stretched over it. The area surrounding this gorgeous tree was not crowded at all, and we could walk right up to the tree and stand there for as long as we wanted without being jostled or pushed along. And, who can beat the United States Capitol as a backdrop?

U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree

I'm never sorry to see the holidays end and a new year begin, but I will miss these trees!

Monday, December 27, 2010

my someday Christmas goose

Our cozy Christmas dinner for two
I grew up eating fondue on Christmas Eve and ham and turkey--or both--on Christmas Day. Brad and I have continued the fondue tradition with our own little family of two, but we've implemented a new meal for Christmas Day: rare-to-medium-rare beef tenderloin.

We both love this meal. It's delicious and simple, yet elegant. Beef tenderloin requires little preparation or time in the kitchen, allowing me to spend more of the holiday relaxing with my husband.

I've prepared beef tenderloin for several Christmases now, but I sometimes long to try something new. Rack of lamb, duck, and goose all tempt me. Someday, we will eat goose on Christmas!

What are the staples of your Christmas meal?

Friday, December 24, 2010

merry christmas

"Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:11

Merry Christmas, Gentle Readers!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

priceless

For the first time in our 8.5 years of marriage, Brad and I are claiming this Christmas holiday as our own. Starting tomorrow, we'll have 11 straight days in our own home together: no work, no traveling, no company, and, Lord willing, no sickness.

This lengthy, rare time at home alone with my husband-of-the-year is my favorite Christmas present ever. And, it's one that can't be bought.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

how I'm doing

When I wrote this post, I was in the numb stage. The grief hadn't hit yet and I naively thought I could avoid it this time around. But I was wrong. I've had my share of the yucks recently.

I've been social, yet antisocial. I avoid hoards of mommies and pregnant women--two populations that are painful for me because I can only have so many conversations about children and pregnancy and remain sane--and opt for coffees and lunches with one or two close friends instead. Friends' pregnancy announcements, no matter how thoughtfully and compassionately delivered, can put me into pity-party mode for days. I tasted these feelings before, when Brad and I dealt with only infertility. But multiple pregnancy losses have increased my jealousy, anger, and woe. It stinks to try to rejoice for a friend while suppressing feelings of miserable sadness for yourself. I am not proud of these feelings. They are an ugly side of what I'm going through right now.

Brad and I have undergone the tests to see if some fluke on one of our sides is causing these miscarriages. The good news, praise God, is that both of us are in perfect health. The frustrating news is that there's nothing the doctors can do to "fix" our miscarriage problem. They say the losses are because of chromosomal abnormalities, which can't be prevented, and they're likely to continue. If we get pregnant again, we face an increased risk of another loss. This news has been heavily weighing on me, and it is not helping my battle against fear. Brad and I are so compatible! How can our DNA be so incompatible? But then I think of our friend and his wife, who are now on their sixth pregnancy, bravely marching on, praying that this one works out, and I feel encouraged by their faith, courage, and perseverance. I continually remind myself that while statistics can be useful, they are not the determiner of life: God is.

There's only one question (thus far) that I can't tolerate and unfortunately it's a popular one: when will you try again? Some well-meaning people want to offer a solution and they think that another pregnancy will solve everything. Well, it won't. Replacement babies are a myth. Brad and I could go on to have loads of kids, but we will always grieve the ones we lost. Other folks pretend that emotions don't exist, so they don't dare ask us how we're doing or feeling (because we might actually tell them), and instead ask only questions of a practical nature, which I don't find at all helpful or comforting. In fact, I usually have to resist the urge to throttle people who ask me when we're going to try again.

2010, while certainly not my easiest or happiest year thus far, has been important and life-changing. I am learning to trust God in ways I never have before. My faith has grown exponentially. I am continually convicted of my sins and my need for a savior. I have received love and compassion from the most unlikely places and have developed instant friendships with people I barely know. Sweet sisters in the club have cared for me. Other friends, who have no experience with infertility and miscarriage, have shown compassion beyond what I thought capable. I hold a special place in my heart for those who brave the awkwardness to ask me how I'm doing and insist on a truthful answer.

Brad, my heart protector, remains one of God's greatest gifts to me. The Lord has strengthened our marriage through these trials, which I thank him for every day. Don't underestimate the stress on husbands, dear ladies. They feel the pangs of pregnancy loss, too, which are often overlooked because so much focus is on the woman. Insensitive people also pressure men about starting a family. Husbands deal with their wives' raging hormones, endless tears, and fears and anxieties, often feeling helpless because they can't fix the situation (and we all know how much men love to fix things).

If you see Brad, give him a hug and a pat on the back. He deserves this year's husband-of-the-year award. Anyone know how I can nominate him?

Monday, December 20, 2010

worth it

Every minute of the 3.5+ hours it took me to make boeuf bourguignon was worth it! Watch out, Julia. I'm a cooking machine . . .

Thursday, December 16, 2010

the tree's troupe

Our Christmas tree needed some friends.

I adored our wreath last year, so I bought another fresh one and dressed it up with tiny red bows.


The former owners of our house left behind these darling little trees, but they needed some holiday flair (aka more red bows).


The extent of my outside holiday decorating . . . 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

a sure sign of winter

I run my dishwasher more than I should for a reason: I've seen the toll that washing dishes the old fashioned way every day can take on youthful hands. But if dirty dishes won't do me in, then winter surely will. I woke up one morning last week with dry, cracked, and bleeding knuckles.  I use lotion every morning and am now applying cortisone cream to the worst spots.

Any tips? My hands need help!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

my spring will be less pink than normal

My worries from last year came true this year: the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler's lottery system didn't select Brad and me.

Does it matter that we've run this race for five consecutive years?
Can we qualify for it and skip the lottery?
Doesn't anyone care that it was the first race we ever ran and therefore it is dear to our hearts?
Shouldn't being the race's biggest fans count for something?

No, no, no, and NO.

I'm so bummed.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas card politics

Although the holidays can be tough, one thing that makes them more bearable, in addition to my Christmas tree, is sending and receiving holiday cards. But, the whole endeavor can become so political, don't you think?

I send about 100 cards each year to a random assortment of folks. All of Brad's and my extended family members receive one, regardless of our relationship or communication (or lack of on both counts) with them. I've never removed a family member from my Christmas card spreadsheet, although I've been tempted to at times. We receive few cards from family members compared to the number we send, but we still feel obligated to send them. Go figure.

I send cards to a handful of Brad's and my childhood and college friends (and in some cases, their parents), but not to all of them. I also send cards to a handful of friends we've made here in DC, but again, not to everyone. And to be honest, I have absolutely no idea what determines the selection. I have no rubric. I have no A list or B list. I do keep a spreadsheet that I use from year to year, so once someone makes it on, he or she is probably on it for life. One sure way to get on my spreadsheet is to send us a holiday card. I can't bear to not return the nicety.

Occasionally, I'll have to delete people because they died (sad) or moved and left no forwarding address. A college friend and I have faithfully exchanged Christmas cards each year since we graduated in 1996. Although we haven't communicated much since then, our Christmas cards have always managed to find each other despite cross-country moves and married names.

What Christmas card politics do you deal with? Who makes your holiday card list? And how do you decide?

Friday, December 10, 2010

how to create a profusion of houseplants

I understand that houseplants, and plants in general, intimidate some people. But the benefits of plants are endless, and they really are much easier to care for, keep alive, and reproduce than you think. From one modest Heart-Leaf Philodendron--my favorite of all houseplants because it doesn't need much light or water--I've created an army: two pots at work and at least five pots at home.

Let me show you how to do it.

Make sure your plant is good and healthy. The leaves should be a lush, dark green (not yellow, brown, or lime green) and the vines should be long, like in the photo below.


See how long the vines are in the picture below? They will grow forever if you let them. In Brad's and my old apartment, the vines stretched at least ten feet once, before I cut them off.


Snip off the vines with a pair of very sharp scissors. I normally leave a healthy amount of greenery in the pot, but trim off everything that spills over the edges. Don't worry--it will grow back.


Snip each vine just below a leaf, like I did in the picture below. Then, remove the bottom 1-2 leaves. Once exposed to water, the little nubs (I'm SURE there's a scientific name for this, but hey, I'm no botanist) where the leaves were will sprout roots.


After this step, you have two options: plant the snipped vines in a pot of saturated potting soil or stick the vines in a cup full of water. If you're a novice, and want to watch the roots grow, choose the latter option, which is pictured below.


Keep the vines in the cup for two to three weeks, changing the water every few days. You'll notice long, thin, black/brown strings forming on the "nubs" on each stem--these are the roots! Once you notice the roots forming, you can plant the stems in potting soil, making sure to keep the soil very wet for another couple of weeks so the roots can grow and establish themselves. The stems can be tender and may break easily, so clump a few of them together and plant them in bunches. After a couple of weeks of wet soil, just treat the vines like any other plant and water them whenever needed.

May you create Heart-Leaf Philodendron armies, too, and never have to buy another houseplant again.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

julia wannabe

I received both volumes of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking for Christmas and I can't wait to dive into them. I want to make a few nice meals in the upcoming weeks when Brad and I are off work for the holidays. The Boeuf Bourguignon is at the top of my list. Does anyone have other suggestions?

Monday, December 6, 2010

blondies unite!

There's another blogger with my name, only she goes by Doctor Blondie. She googled her own blog recently, but found mine, and contacted me. We both claim the Dr. title (she's an MD, I'm a Ph.D.). We both have blond hair (hers is natural and mine's slightly enhanced, or, as I like to say, brightened). And, we're both runners! Imagine that!

I think we're going to be friends.

Friday, December 3, 2010

reading like a champ

I've been running, running, running, and now I'm reading, reading, reading. Just yesterday, I hit my running goal. Hooray! But regarding my reading goal, well, I'm a little worried.

I've read TONS of books this year--more than in 2009--but I've gotten distracted from reading what I said I would. As of this entry's publication, I have 2+ "required" books left for 2010: the last two in the Lord of the Rings series (I've started the second one) and something, anything, by Richard Russo. (I'm thinking it will be Empire Falls unless someone persuades me otherwise.)

I have 28 days to read over 1,200 pages. Can I do it?

It's going to be tight.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

evergreen forever

Gentle Readers, it's time for my annual tradition (and the #1 reason my husband boycotts my blog) . . .


Oh, Christmas tree, how I long to spend forever with thee! You're back again, indefinitely this time as Brad and I have no travel plans in the foreseeable future, which for you means no departure date. Fear not! We won't kick you to the cold curb before Christmas or the day after so we can leave town assured you won't burn our house down. We picked you up on the Friday after Thanksgiving, two days earlier than usual, and with no end date in sight, well, you may still be here come March.

Even though I question others who keep their Christmas trees up long after the holiday is over, you're changing my attitude. You are so splendid that you could easily become my forever tree.

Of course, Fern and Sprout will be enraged if you permanently steal their prime, sun-filled location, but what can they do? They won't burn the house down. Let's not worry about them just yet. For now, it's all about you.

Once again, you are exquisite. How do you do it year after year? Towering at just over eight feet, you're lush and full, but not at all heavy. Your branches cascade to form the perfect cone shape. You hold our beloved ornaments, most of which are hand-me-downs, with care. Our new shades are the perfect canvas to showcase your elegance. And luckily for all of us, their red hues blend in with your color scheme. Your fresh-cut aroma--wow. Delicious. Energizing. Comforting. Inspiring. Home. Us. Love. Memories. Tradition. The slightest whiff of you brings tears to my eyes. Like I need another reason to cry these days! But you provoke tears of joy, so it's okay.

You are a special one, dear tree. No matter how severe the yucks, one glance at and sniff of you will wipe them away. You twinkle. You dazzle. You lift spirits. You heal. You have no idea of your awesome power.

Stay, darling tree. Stay here with us, forever.