Things to Do/Make - Everyday Advent Calendar (2016)

I know it's super dorky, but I love making these calendars. I keep thinking the kids will grow out of it, but I can't let go.



December 1 (Thursday) - Xmas jammies from Old Navy

2 (Friday) - Outburst (game)

3 (Saturday) - Movie night - Suicide Squad

4 (Sunday) - Fujifilm mini-camera with film


5 (Monday) - The Oregon Trail Card Game

6 (Tuesday) - Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls & The Boys' Book of Survival (I find it somewhat annoying that so many good books have become segregated by sex, so my hope is that all the kids will dive into both books.)

7 (Wednesday) - Georgetown Glow and dinner at Farmer, Fishers, and Bakers.

8 (Thursday) - Christmas tees. [Postscript - I AM SO ANNOYED! The tee-shirts never came, even though I ordered them in early November; luckily Amazon sells similar shirts, which I could buy at the last minute.]


9 (Friday) - Love Letter Card Game

10 (Saturday) - Movie night - Sound of Music or Home Alone

11 (Sunday) - Meadowlark Winter Walk of Lights

12 (Monday) - Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipes

13 (Tuesday) - Dinner and games at Dave & Buster's

14 (Wednesday) - Unbored Adventure: 70 Seriously Fun Activities for Kids and Their Families

15 (Thursday) - Candy

16 (Friday) - See Rogue 1 in theaters

17 (Saturday) - Make teacher's gifts

18 (Sunday) - Get donuts or cupcakes


19 (Monday) - Maze: Solve the World's Most Challenging Puzzle and How Do You Get an Egg into a Bottle?: And Other Puzzles: 101 Weird, Wonderful and Wacky Puzzles with Science, and Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World

20 (Tuesday) - Movie night - April and the Extraordinary World

21 (Wednesday) - Family trip to the National Christmas Tree followed by dinner out

22 (Thursday) - Make cookies and ornaments

23 (Friday) - Movie night - It's a Wonderful Life

24 (Saturday) - New socks and slippers


Things to Do - Sock Panda (November 2016)

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Sock Panda continues to be my best random gift choice ever. F waits anxiously for her newest pair and they never disappoint. Who doesn't love a skiing dinosaur?

So if you're looking for the perfect Christmas surprise, look no further. Especially if you have tweens.

Click here for pricing and subscription info. (On the downside, photographing socks has made me realize that our stairs need a major makeover - cleaning won't cut it anymore, painting might be required).

HAPPY MONDAY EVERYONE!! I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!


Things to Eat - 6 Week Meal Plan (October through mid-November)

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Basically, I cooked almost nothing in the last two months and my husband is totally awesome. We'd be either starving or living on fast food if it wasn't for him. So thank you, Dan, I love you!!

(Sorry for all the cheesy family photos, I dragged our family to the National Mall and tried to get some good shots for Xmas cards. Plus, it feels great to finally have some group photos where we all look sort of respectable.)


MONDAY - Carnitas in the slow cooker, served with rice and sides (burrito bowl style).

TUESDAY - Dan makes dinner - fish and roasted potatoes.

WEDNSEDAY - Dinner at the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse while watching Goonies on the big screen!

THURSDAY - P has a birthday party and Dan has softball; so I take F and T to Silver Diner.

FRIDAY - Dan and the kids are in Richmond; I make myself an easy salad.

SATURDAY - I photograph a wedding, Dan feeds the family.

SUNDAY - CAMPING with friends at Prince William Forest Park (this place is incredible!); Dan makes hobo snacks for everyone.


MONDAY - Quesadillas.

TUESDAY - Orecchiette with sweet sausage bolognese (via How to Celebrate Everything). We're all pretty much in love with this recipe.

WEDNESDAY - I have a photoshoot, Dan makes dinner.

THURSDAY - Black bean chilaquiles (recipe here). This is one of my favorite recipes ever.

FRIDAY - I have a photoshoot, Dan makes fish sticks and french fries.

SATURDAY - I photograph a wedding, Dan and the kids go to dinner club.

SUNDAY - I have a photoshoot, Dan makes dinner.


MONDAY - Breakfast for dinner - sour cream pancakes with roasted blueberries. I felt randomly guilty that I've never made the kids pancakes (in my defense I've never made anyone pancakes), so I decided to cook breakfast for dinner using the recipe in Julia Turshen's Small Victories cookbook. And these were the best pancakes we've ever had. Phenomenal. Everyone was super happy.

TUESDAY - Mac and cheese for the kids while Dan and I eat out at Farmers Fishers Bakers and see The Curios Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime at the Kennedy Center.

WEDNESDAY - Bread, sausage, and apple hash (via Small Victories). Another crazy good recipe from this cookbook.

THURSDAY - Silver Diner night (school fundraiser).

FRIDAY - Ground beef tacos.

SATURDAY - I have a photoshoot, Dan makes dinner.

SUNDAY - I photograph a wedding, Dan makes dinner.


MONDAY - Dan makes dinner - fish and potatoes.

TUESDAY - Dan makes dinner - pasta two ways (pesto and tomato/meat sauce).

WEDNESDAY - Dan makes dinner - fish and broccoli (can you tell that Dan really loves fish?).

THURSDAY - Sour cream pancakes for dinner (via Small Victories). Because late night breakfasts make everyone happy.

FRIDAY - I photograph a wedding, Dan makes dinner.

SATURDAY - Neighborhood dinner club.

SUNDAY - Taylor Gourmet carry-out.



MONDAY - Halloween - pizza at our neighbor's before trick or treating.

TUESDAY - Kale, sausage, and white bean stew (via Dinner: A Love Story, the cookbook).

WEDNESDAY - Trader Joe's Indian (chicken in simmer sauce and naan). I wish I could say this was good, but it was sort of blah. Oh well.

THURSDAY - Dan makes dinner - fish, corn, and mashed potatoes.

FRIDAY - I photograph a wedding, Dan makes dinner.

SATURDAY - Neighborhood dinner club.

SUNDAY - I have a photoshoot, Dan makes mushroom risotto and pork chops (so so good).



MONDAY - Dan makes chicken quesadillas.

TUESDAY - I have a photoshoot, we order pizza, watch election results come in, and cry (okay, so the crying didn't start until way after dinner).

WEDNESDAY - Black bean burrito bowls with rice, avocado, tomato, and cheese.

THURSDAY - Dan makes dinner - spaghetti.

FRIDAY - Parker's birthday dinner at Fugo De Chao.

SATURDAY - I have a photoshoot, Dan makes pizza.

SUNDAY - I have a photoshoot, Dan makes homemade clam chowder.


Things to Do - Random Links & 5 Hours 'Til Bedtime

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HAPPY FRIDAY EVERYONE!! When the girls were little I used to dress them in matching outfits and then they rebelled. Luckily, now they'll wear matching rebellious t-shirts. Pretty cool.

Have a great weekend and don't forget to check out this week's awesome on 5 Hours 'Til Bedtime!


* The New York Times' Best Illustrated Children's Books of 2016.

* We visited this canyon as part of our road trip and F still keeps talking about going back.

* The 50 best Joe Biden memes.

* I'm a little bit smitten with feisty pets.

* I want this book.

* What are you fighting for?


Things to Read - Eight Interesting Articles From Around the Web - NONE OF WHICH DEAL WITH THE ELECTION!!

(1) ENGLISH MAJORS - As a chemist turned lawyer turned photographer, Steven Pearlstein's Washington Post editorial, Meet the Parents Who Won't Let Their Children Study Literature, really spoke to me (and reminded me that I have to step back and let my kids make their own paths.

"You might not expect college freshmen to understand that careers don’t proceed in straight lines, but surely their parents ought to. In the real world, most physics majors don’t become physicists, most psychology majors don’t become psychologists, and most English majors don’t become writers or teachers. You’ll find a surprising number of philosophy majors at hedge funds and lots of political-science majors at law firms. I was an American studies major. Among chief executives of the largest corporations, there are roughly as many engineers and liberal arts majors, in total, as there are undergraduate majors in business, accounting and economics combined. Indeed, one study found that only 27 percent of people have jobs that are substantially related to their college majors — a reality that applies even to the STEM fields. “Choosing a major is not choosing a career,” says Jeff Selingo, author of “There Is Life After College.”

. . .

It’s worth remembering that at American universities, the original rationale for majors was not to train students for careers. Rather, the idea was that after a period of broad intellectual exploration, a major was supposed to give students the experience of mastering one subject, in the process developing skills such as discipline, persistence, and how to research, analyze, communicate clearly and think logically.

As it happens, those are precisely the skills business executives still say they want from college graduates — although, to be fair, that has not always been communicated to their human-resource departments or the computers they use to sort through résumés. A study for the Association of American Colleges and Universities found that 93 percent of employers agreed that a “demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than [a job candidate’s] undergraduate major.”

(2) HOUSEKEEPING - I loved Rachel Cusk's "Making House: Notes on Domesticity." (And thank you to Julia's Bookbag for the recommendation).

"Like the body itself, a home is something both looked at and lived in, a duality that in neither case I have managed to reconcile. I retain the belief that other people’s homes are real where mine is a fabrication, just as I imagine others to live inner lives less flawed than my own. And like my daughter, I, too, used to prefer other people’s houses, though I am old enough now to know that, given a choice, there is always a degree of design in the way that people live. The man who admired my peeling Formica was crediting me with, or accusing me of, doing something deliberate, and I don’t doubt that the apparent artlessness of my daughter’s adopted household is, however half-consciously, a result of a carefully considered set of convictions. That those convictions so closely echo my own makes the illusion — if illusion it is — more tantalizing still.

Entering a house, I often feel that I am entering a woman’s body, and that everything I do there will be felt more intimately by her than by anyone else. But in that house it is possible to forget entirely — as the passengers on the top deck of a liner can forget the blackened, bellowing engine room below — what is surely nonetheless true: that a home is powered by a woman’s will and work, and that a curious form of success could be measured in her ability to suggest the opposite. I can’t see any difference, in my daughter’s adopted household, between what it is and what it seems to be — the home of a kind, artistic and educated woman — and yet I find myself unable to believe that difference isn’t there."

(3) CAREGIVERS - Anne Marie-Slaughter has moved from saying mothers can't have it all to arguing that nobody can.

". . . the biggest change came when Slaughter’s husband’s aunt sent her a small book called “On Caring.” Published in 1971 by American philosopher Milton Mayeroff, the book is a treatise on caring for others as the foundational work of society.

“It was like, wow, this is about investing in others. And this is a set of skills,” Slaughter recalls. “That was the moment I was like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, there’s a big idea here.’ ”

Slaughter’s book, “Unfinished Business,” which is out in paperback this month, hasn’t reached nearly as many readers as the Atlantic article but approaches the topic with much more nuance. She argues that across the board, we give caregivers the shaft, dismissing stay-at-home parents at dinner parties, barely paying nannies a living wage and punishing those who take career breaks to focus on family with a challenging on-ramp back to the professional world. We have no national standard for paid parental leave or universal child care.

But she doesn’t define this simply as a woman’s issue.
Slaughter heard from enough men to see an often overlooked end of the equation: that the pressure to be the breadwinner comes at the expense of time and relationships with family.

(4) - THE NOVELIST DISGUISED AS A HOUSEWIFE - New York Magazine's profile of Shirley Jackson, entitled "The Novelist Disguised as a Housewife", made me want to read more of her work.

Jackson often complained about the mental calisthenics required to be at once a mother and a writer — the “nagging thoughts” about finishing the laundry or preparing meals that often interrupted her creative work. When she was working on a novel, she once wrote to a friend, she preferred to “lock myself up in my cave for four dogged hours a day, and sneak a minute or so here and there for writing letters and making lunch (‘You will eat vegetable soup again today and like it; Mommy’s beginning chapter three’).” But many writers, especially women writers, learn to derive imaginative energy from their constraints. Alice Munro has said that she began writing short stories because as a young mother she had no time to write novels: “When you are responsible for running a house and taking care of small children, particularly in the days before disposable diapers or ubiquitous automatic washing machines, it’s hard to arrange for large chunks of time.”

. . . .

The housewife role also provided Jackson with a form of camouflage. Bowing to stereotypes, she preferred to present herself to reporters and critics — virtually all of whom were men — as a women’s-magazine-certified happy homemaker who tossed off her stories during breaks from dusting. “I can’t persuade myself … that writing is honest work,” she said cheerily in an interview with Harvey Breit of The New York Times Book Review. “Fifty percent of my life is spent washing and dressing the children, cooking, washing dishes and clothes, and mending. After I get it all to bed, I turn around to my typewriter and try to — well, create concrete things again.” The pose sometimes worked too well. In The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan myopically criticized Jackson as part of “a new breed of women writers” who wrote about themselves as if they were “‘just housewives,’ reveling in a comic world of children’s pranks and eccentric washing machines and Parents’ Night at the PTA.”

(5) GROWING UP AS A WHITE NATIONALIST - The White Flight of Derek Black in the Washington Post is a must read on the "family" of racial supremacy. It is hard to excerpt, so if you have time, try to read the whole story.

"White nationalism had bullied its way toward the very center of American politics, and yet, one of the people who knew the ideology best was no longer anywhere near that center. Derek had just turned 27, and instead of leading the movement, he was trying to untangle himself not only from the national moment but also from a life he no longer understood.

From the very beginning, that life had taken place within the insular world of white nationalism, where there was never any doubt about what whiteness could mean in the United States. Derek had been taught that America was intended as a place for white Europeans and that everyone else would eventually have to leave. He was told to be suspicious of other races, of the U.S. government, of tap water and of pop culture."

(6) - PERFECT HOMES - I seem to be smitten with articles about the home lately - Kim France wrote an excellent essay on the difference between a place you live and a home entitled "This Is Not My Beautiful House."

"I felt fortunate to live in rooms that were so beautifully composed. It was all completely my taste, but nothing I could ever had conjured myself, and it felt like such a cool trick that you could actually pay somebody to do that for you.

Less cool, unfortunately, was actual life in the Brooklyn house.
The first problem was the place itself. There was so much room — too much room for two people by far — and yet there was not one spot in the entire house that felt comfortable or warm to me. Like home. The living room was beautiful, but the real thoroughfare of the house was the ground floor, and somehow, traveling up a floor to relax after work, instead of just plopping down at the kitchen table — with its stylish-but-none-too-comfortable midcentury chairs — never felt quite intuitive. The red room was dead space — the books lived there, but aside from that, there was really no reason to ever enter it. One afternoon, my husband settled into the womb chair to read a New Yorker, and that New Yorker stayed on stool next to the chair for the next six months."

. . . .

A few years after selling the house, I received a package at work. It was the bon vivant’s first coffee table book, warmly signed. I was giving it a quick flip-through when I saw something that looked awfully familiar: it was the red room from the brownstone in Brooklyn. And on the facing page, my old living room, with the two long, low sofas and the African gourd lamps. For a moment, I hadn’t recognized those pictures as my home, the place where I had lived while I was still married. The rooms had never felt particularly warm, and here they looked especially vacant: of any soul, all memories. I remembered how naked I felt when buyers came to tour the house once we put it up for sale; how obvious it was that the life of a typical Brooklyn family was not being lived there — that the three small bedrooms on the top floor hadn’t been filled with children and wouldn’t be — and I felt, for a moment, naked once more. But of course it was nothing the casual reader would ever pick up on, and that’s when I realized that a spell had been lifted: never again would I envy the lives of people whose homes I saw in books or magazines, no matter how perfect they may have appeared. Because mine looked pretty nice in those pages too."

(7) LEONARD COHEN - The New Yorker's profile of Lenoard Cohen is INCREDIBLE, since reading it I've played Cohen constantly.

"Leonard Cohen lives on the second floor of a modest house in Mid-Wilshire, a diverse, unglamorous precinct of Los Angeles. He is eighty-two. Between 2008 and 2013, he was on tour more or less continuously. It is highly unlikely that his health will permit such rigors ever again. Cohen has an album coming out in October—obsessed with mortality, God-infused, yet funny, called “You Want It Darker”—but friends and musical associates say they’d be surprised to see him onstage again except in a limited way: a single performance, perhaps, or a short residency at one venue. When I e-mailed ahead to ask Cohen out for dinner, he said that he was more or less “confined to barracks.”

. . . .

There is probably no more touring ahead. What is on Cohen’s mind now is family, friends, and the work at hand. “I’ve had a family to support, so there’s no sense of virtue attached to it,” he said. “I’ve never sold widely enough to be able to relax about money. I had two kids and their mother to support and my own life. So there was never an option of cutting out. Now it’s a habit. And there’s the element of time, which is powerful, with its incentive to finish up. Now I haven’t gotten near finishing up. I’ve finished up a few things. I don’t know how many other things I’ll be able to get to, because at this particular stage I experience deep fatigue. . . . There are times when I just have to lie down. I can’t play anymore, and my back goes fast also. Spiritual things, baruch Hashem”—thank God—“have fallen into place, for which I am deeply grateful.”

Cohen has unpublished poems to arrange, unfinished lyrics to finish and record or publish. He’s considering doing a book in which poems, like pages of the Talmud, are surrounded by passages of interpretation.

“The big change is the proximity to death,” he said. “I am a tidy kind of guy. I like to tie up the strings if I can. If I can’t, also, that’s O.K. But my natural thrust is to finish things that I’ve begun.”

(8) LIFE ATER BALLET - Elle Magazine's "The Afterlife of a Ballerina", profiles Alexandra Ansanelli. "At age 16, Alexandra Ansanelli was anointed a prodigy. By 22, she was a principal for the New York City Ballet. At 26, she was a principal for the Royal Ballet. By 28, she had given it all up."

"We know of no other occupation that requires such extensive training, that is held in such esteem as a contribution to culture, and that pays so little," the authors of the 2004 survey write. Even during peak earning years: in the U.S., an average dancer's annual total income is just $35,000—about half of which comes from non-dance activities. Even stars might not earn much more, or find themselves better equipped for life on the outside. After his body gave out in his late thirties, Edward Villella—a star at New York City Ballet in the 1950s and '60s, who had danced for four presidents—lived for a while on $5 a week.

. . . .

At 35, Alexandra has only recently come to a realization that most of us are forced to reckon with much, much earlier: "You can try to do everything right and it still may not work." Though she spends many of her days in an office, she says she's not an office person. Learning to communicate verbally has been a challenge. "I didn't realize how introverted I was. I had been so used to emoting silently and physically." Nonetheless, she is seemingly ahead of many of her peers. She is aware of the limitations that her career imposed, and actively working to overcome them.

When I ask her how her personal life has changed, she answers, "It exists now." But it's hard to catch up on everything her peers went through as teenagers and young adults. "I feel I'm learning all the time, what to do, what not to do." She worries about what new acquaintances will think of her past. "It's freaky to a lot of people," the way she left her career. "Did she have some kind of mental breakdown?" she imagines they wonder.

She wants a serious relationship; both of her sisters are married. She's tried Tinder and recently joined Bumble. For obvious reasons, she doesn't like the apps that make you fill in your whole biography. Does she miss her old life—the drama, the spotlight? "I don't think real life has enough glamour," she says. But she also says that she doesn't think glamour is "enough to base your life on."


Things to Do - The End of the World - A Playlist

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I'm not going to sugarcoat it, last week was tough. First the election and then Leonard Cohen's death. I don't talk about politics much on this blog (nor do I plan to in the future) and I'm not saying Hillary isn't flawed. But I just don't understand how Trump won. I've spent hours reading articles and sharing articles and trying to analyze it all, but in the end I'm just really really sad. And scared.

Everyone has their own way of dealing with loss/disappointment. So I made a playlist. Some angry songs. Some hopeful songs. Some funny songs. And listening to it made the week go a little better.

Regardless of who we elect president, I still believe love trumps hate. So I'm going to try to take advice from this post and "ask everyone if they are okay and if they’re not see what you can do. Say hi to strangers. Volunteer, anywhere. Shop locally. Host people in your home. Cook for yourself and others. Speak up when you see racism and sexism in action. Protest. Donate time and money. Talk to older people more. Talk to kids more. Teach empathy. If you feel your future is in danger, start now to build a secure foundation for yourself. If you’re in less danger, reach out to those who are and offer your time and money and care to them."


Things to Do - Random Links & 5 Hours 'Til Bedtime

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Sorry for the lack of posts lately, my busy season this year has been even busier than expected. Totally excited about spending my weekends and afternoons at gorgeous weddings and hanging out with amazing families, but I haven't had much time for this space. I promise, I'll be back soon with more posts than ever.

In the meantime, the photo above is from the Hotel Monaco in Alexandria, last weekend I brought the kids to look around and check out the light for a wedding I'm shooting there tonight. Have a great weekend and don't forget to check out this week's awesome on 5 Hours 'Til Bedtime!


* 20 off-the-beaten-track museums in and around DC.

* This movie looks awesome. As does this one.

* I really want to read this book.

* I know it's expensive and inappropriate, but I really really want this neon sign in my kitchen.

* 3 questions to ask your kids every night (link via Dinner: A Love Story).

* I'm a little bit in love with these housing project photos.

* Happiness - literally.

* The New Yorker profiled first time voters (love the photography) and NY Magazine asked 9 women why they're voting for Trump.


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