Preparing to bid a fond farewell to one of the best years of my life...

It was a year like no other, that is for sure. I learned a lot, I became more myself than I have ever been, and I found my spot. I toasted the new year with a wonderful man, and with our lovely children, and I knew without making wishes or resolutions, that I was in for a big year.

 I got to travel more than usual. J & I went to Las Vegas (a first for me!) where I learned that not only did I adore him at home, but that he was far & away the best travel companion a girl could hope for.

I went to Portland, and got to see old friends, which was wonderful, albeit brief. I went on a whirlwind trip to Phoenix for work, which was...nothing special, as travel goes. Eventually spring rolled around, and I planned a trip to Seattle. I wanted my family and closest friends to meet the guy I'd fallen so madly in love with. We planned the trip for June, but on May 5th, he proposed... so in the end, I brought my fiance to meet the family. We had another wonderful trip together and resolved to travel as much as two people with four kids possibly can get away with.
So of the major highlights of this last year was just that. The proposal. The move to Santa Fe. {God!! I love this town. I thought I was happy in Albuquerque, but having moved to Santa Fe, I feel truly at home. It's like a very small Seattle, at least in terms of culture and ideology. Of course, it's the desert, so there's a pretty significant difference. It lacks the beautiful waterways of the Puget Sound, but oh! the sky is so blue. And it snows and feels like winter and has the most majestic cloud formations you've ever seen.}
And autumn. Autumn in the high desert is unspeakably beautiful. I can't tell you how thrilled I was to marry this man, to clasp his hand and promise him everything, on a sparkling, crisp October day. It was like everything that had ever happened in my life led to exactly that moment of pure magic.

Immediately after the wedding, we launched into holiday mode. This year has been nothing short of whirlwind. It's had its difficult moments, of course. A lot of change and transition, and especially seeing the kids through all of that...well, there have been challenging moments. I went through a couple losses in terms of friendships, which is something that had never happened in my life before. That was rough, particularly in the sense that for a while, it made me question myself and who I am in a relationship. But I came to the conclusion that really, everything does happen for a reason. And by and large, I'm the happiest I have ever been, so who is to argue with that outcome?

So, it's with some reluctance that I'm preparing for the end of this year. It's odd, I can't say I have ever felt that way. I'm usually glad for a new year, the notion of a clean slate. This year, I'm simply thrilled to be where I am and to continue to see how things evolve. I loved this last year and I welcome the next. I have lots up my sleeve, but I'm not one to make big declarations or resolutions. At least, not out loud.

Oh! And in case anyone wondered, after the baking fiascos of my last entry, the gingerbread apple upside-down cake was unbelievable. So delicious.

Yeah. So good.  For New Year's Eve, I'm making Cappelini with Beans & Greens (good luck foods... I never said I'm not superstitious!), with some chianti, and for dessert, Vanilla Roasted Pears with homemade butterscotch. Can you tell Smitten Kitchen is my favorite food blog?

J & I are sans children for five more days while they are off with their other parents. It's still not easy for me to put S & V on a plane, and this year was particularly hard, since it fell on the anniversary of my mom's death (there's an interesting story of a shooting star in there, but I'll save it for another day...) but I am glad they are getting time with their dad, and I'll be honest...solo time is good for us, too. It's rare.

I hope 2010 brings ridiculous levels of joy into all of your lives. All five of you who read this. And to those who used to, and to friends I've lost track of, and to my lovely family, all (or at least most) of whom I miss, to my dear friends far away, and to my newest friends and family, please...have a shiny, happy new year.
...only 7 days until Christmas!!

The kids, of course, have been counting down. I've spent the last two days evenings baking cookies. The first set was for a presentation S had to do on holiday celebrations in other countries. He chose Greece, so we made these butter cookies that were a lot like Mexican Wedding Cookies, only less dense and without nuts. They are okay, but not exactly delicious. In the lovely litle damask boxes pictured above, which are being hand-delivered to four teachers this morning, are Chocolate Espresso Snowcaps.

What do I have to say about these cookies? They are pretty good. Not delightful. Not oh-my-god. Also? They are a royal pain to make. I won't be repeating this recipe.
Sigh. I guess I'm kind of 0-2 on the holiday baking front thus far this year. I hope that Gingerbread Apple Upside Down Cake comes through for me.

In other domestic news, I finished the lil baby hat for my sister's friends last night. I'm hoping to make some good headway on the stripey legwarmers this weekend.
In non-domestic news, work holiday party today at lunch. Whoo. Also, I had an epic nosebleed in the wee hours of the morning and seem to be catching the first cold I have had in at least two years. Yet, I remain cheerful and happy and generally very thrilled with life. Gotta love that.

It's all about new traditions.

Freshly married and blended, this will be our first official Christmas as a family. This weekend we will decorate our tree-- a real tree this year, for the first time in a few years. (I went the fake-tree route the last couple Christmases-- can you imagine me, bionic single mama that I was notwithstanding, in all my 5'2" glory, hefting a tree on top of the car?)
I'll be baking the beautiful cake pictured above for Christmas dinner with my new in-laws. We will pack up the battle-wagon and trek an hour south to spend what will be a much bigger Christmas Eve with my former in-laws, who in all fairness, are really more like my very own family. I will send of a box of love to my very-much missed sisters and their families, and cross my fingers that some of my brother-in-laws famous cookies will be tucked into the box that's coming our way.

Next week, as we prepare for the last week of school, the four children will join me in the kitchen to bake cookies for their teachers. We have agreed upon these little lovelies and these ones, with a nod to the slightly more healthy. Hey, there's oatmeal in there, right? And fruit. We will also make ornaments, because guess what? Crafting with four kids is fun! They get such a thrill from their accomplishments.

Another new tradition I'll be starting is creating an annual book of photos, chronicling the prior year. 2010 will be the first book, since it will be our first complete year as a family. I'm so excited to start compiling it. I'll edit it as each month passes so the moments still feel fresh. I thought of this while putting together our wedding book, over at the very cool book-making site, Blurb. Would you like a peek at the wedding book? It's only a few pages, but you get the idea.
to the moon & back

wintry indeed...

Winter has arrived, and it's not kidding around. We have had morning temperatures as low as two degrees. Yesterday was a snow day, and today there is a two-hour delay for schools. I know none of this really compares to weather seen in the midwest, or the northeast for that matter, but I have spend the last two days wanting nothing more than to cuddle up under down blankets and drink hot tea.
Over the weekend, I started a little hat for friends of my sister who have just picked up their new baby daughter in China. I'm using chocolate brown and baby pink Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino. I've knit with it before but I forgot how soft it is.

I'll be knitting up these adorable little baby legwarmers, too. I'm also designing her announcement, something I've been doing quite a bit of lately. I'm slowly working at launching a side graphic-design business, which I hope to tailor mostly to personal events and announcements, although certainly also for small local businesses.

The chilly weather the past few days begged for homemade soup, so I cooked up a batch of potato-cheddar soup, courtesy of my lovely friend, Toni. We all loved it, and it seems like a recipe that can be played with...extra veggies, some italian flat beans maybe, bacon if that's your gig (J crumbled freshly-cooked bacon over the top and declared it a hit), maybe some thinly sliced pan-roasted garlic.

So, for the forseeable future, it's all about staying warm, enjoying family, and preparing for the holidays.
There is much to be grateful for.

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