We’ve been burning the candle at both ends lately in the lead up to Christmas.

We finally got our tree decorated last Friday:IMG_7586.jpg…and put out a few more decorations, just in time for an evening get together with some dear old friends.

IMG_7612.jpgThe next day my daughter had friends of her own over to decorate cookies. IMG_7590.jpgThe final products were charming:

IMG_7604.jpg…in a rather surreal sort of way!IMG_7606.jpgThe boys had fun decorating cookies of their own with a “Ninjabread Cookie Kit”:IMG_7601.jpgIMG_7614.jpg

On Sunday we headed up to Arlington. That evening my friend Victoria and I went to a Mount Vernon by Candlelight tour:


We sang Christmas carols all the way back to her house, where we ended the evening by lighting her Advent wreath:

IMG_7659.jpgIMG_7662.jpgOn Monday, the kids and I went over to my friend Janel’s house, where we decorated more cookies, sang more Christmas carols, and even caught a glimpse of Santa as he cruised through Rockville, MD on a fire truck!


I got to have lunch with this sweet friend today:

Afternoon tea at the St. Regis with my friendy Wendy:

And dinner with my family at an old favorite, Jang Won Korean Chinese Restaurant in Annandale:

Tomorrow we hit the road to head to Princeton, where we’ll be spending Christmas with the rest of my family.

Weekend Snapshots 32


A friend from my high school days came for a visit this weekend…


Back in the day, Victoria and I shared a locker, worked on plays together, and sang duets in the hallways after late night rehearsals when everyone else had gone home. It was a sad day for me when she left Yorktown High School to go back to her beloved Waldorf school. She knew back then that she wanted to be a Waldorf teacher, and that’s exactly what she is today.

She speaks so passionately and eloquently about the beautiful, organic way she teaches her students, it makes me sad to have never had that kind of educational experience myself. From our conversations I got the sense that the marking of time and the observance of cycles is an important part of a Waldorf education. I heard her casually mention terms I’d only ever read before, like Michaelmas and winter solstice. One of the first things she asked me when she walked into my house was, “Where’s all your advent stuff?!”

Ummm…in a box buried under other boxes deep in the bowels of my basement maybe?

OK, so we’re not entirely ready for Christmas, but we did go to my husband’s early music ensemble Christmas concert…


The photo reminds me of an article I forwarded to my very tall husband this weekend. It summarizes the finding of researchers at Konkuk University in Korea, who conclude that for a woman, the greater the height differential with her husband, the happier she is in her marriage. The effect, however, entirely dissipates after 18 years of marriage, which is exactly how long we’ve been married. But hey! This shortie is still happy after 18 years of marriage with her giant of a husband!

After the concert, my friend and I stayed up late into the night, chatting and folding and glueing stars together from special kite paper she brought, because that’s the kind of thing that happens when you hang with a Waldorf teacher!


My friend Katherine came over for lunch and we played with our food!


Peeling a massive Korean pear in one piece…

Did you know there’s a little bunny inside every peanut?

And a star in every apple?

Katherine left with a gift from Victoria:

Victoria and I made a quick trip to Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall…



I found some pictures on my camera that I didn’t recognize. My early-rising son had captured this gorgeous sunrise.


The gift that keeps on giving:

My children and I sang in the choir for the candlelight Lessons and Carols service, which means that the Christmas season is now officially upon us.

For the first year ever, we, or rather I‘ve decided to have a real live tree that we can plant after Christmas. We got it at this magical place just down the road from where we live:


Behold our adorable chubby little Baby Blue Colorado Spruce:

Now if only we could get motivated to actually decorate it!

Weekend Snapshots 25

Even I, dogged chronicler that I am, have to admit that some moments are impossible to capture in words or on film. This weekend was full of those moments…


My fifteen year old came back from his pilgrimage with his youth group to Arizona. I picked him up late at night in the church parking lot. I drove him home with a smile on my face as I listened to him talk about the adventures he’d had.

“The Grand Canyon is amazing. Even more amazing than you can imagine. Pictures don’t do it justice.”

As we pulled off the interstate we slowed down so that I could show him another of the world’s wonders in our own backyard. There is a scrubby, weedy tree to the left as you exit the highway onto the dark country road which leads to my house. I believe it’s called a Tree of Heaven. In the daytime you wouldn’t look twice at it. For the past few nights, the whole canopy has been full of twinkling fireflies. The effect is indescribably beautiful.


My very dear friendy Wendy, whom I’ve known since high school, came to visit me this weekend to say goodbye. After teaching elementary school kids in Arlington for almost twenty years, she is moving on to a new chapter of her life. Sadly for me, that chapter takes place all the way on the other side of this great big country.

There would have been more photos, but for the fact that we spent the afternoon, evening, night, and the next day doing nothing but talking, talking, talking. (OK, and maybe we ate a little, too)!

As we drove back home late on Saturday night, I was glad to be able to show her the firefly tree.


The next day as my friend prepared to drive back, I tried to express the ineffable sense of joy I felt for the new direction her life is taking mingled with my sorrow that she will be so far away.

“It’s NOT goodbye, Ada,” she said, using my old childhood nickname, “We’ll see each other soon, I promise!”

Later that night, I met up with my friend Katherine to go to the Charlottesville Free Clinic’s annual benefit concert at the Pavilion on the Downtown Mall. I was dismayed to see all of the signs forbidding any photography or recording. But as I sat with my friend in the sultry summer air and listened to the Indigo Girls and Mary Chapin Carpenter without once picking up my camera, I felt like I could swim in the music. For the final song – in gorgeous three-part harmony, some of it without any accompaniment at all – all three women sang The Water is Wide. I was spellbound.

On my drive home, I decided that I had to record an image of the firefly tree. I exited the highway, and pulled off to the side of the road where I tried and tried to capture the picture. No matter what setting or camera I tried, all I could get was a black frame. I finally gave up and drove the rest of the way home. My son was still up when I got back. We chatted about the music I had heard, and I looked up some of my favorite songs and played them for him on youtube. It just wasn’t the same. I kept finding myself saying apologetically, “It sounded much more amazing live…”

The truth is, sometimes the most beautiful moments can’t be pinned down. You just have to show up and be there.

Related Posts:

The Torpedo Factory with my Friendy Wendy



Weekend Snapshots 24


My husband and two younger kids are visiting family in England for the next couple of weeks. They stopped off at my work on Friday afternoon to say goodbye.



“And God wrought special miracles…”

My oldest son is spending the week in Arizona. He is on a “pilgrimage” with his church youth group. I think the fact that I managed to get my teenage son out of bed by 2 am and to the church parking lot by 3 am on Saturday morning for his ride to the airport could be considered a bona fide miracle.

Knowing the house would be empty, I thought it would be the perfect time to invite my college friends to visit Charlottesville for the reunion we’ve been talking about having for so long…I was thrilled when my friends agreed to come, all the way from Boston, Massachusetts and from Charlotte, North Carolina.

We painted the town red this weekend:

We went to Monticello and the Downtown Mall. We ate at some of my favorite restaurants in Charlottesville. We went to the movies. We tried the buzzy “bronut,” or brioche feuilleté at Marie-Bette Bakery Café…(délicieuse)!

Most of all, we talked and laughed, and talked and laughed some more. Although we’ve been in touch over the years, it’s been over a decade since we’ve actually seen each other. One evening I brought out an old box of photos and we had a wonderful time looking through them and reminiscing about our time together at Dartmouth College…

We even got to catch up over the phone with our friend who wasn’t able to come:

So much has changed since our college days. We have scattered to all ends of the United States. We are all gainfully employed. We collectively have eleven children. And, of course, now we are older, wiser, and far, far more mature!

Weekend Snapshots 20

Last weekend was perfect, because of all the things that didn’t happen. The snow wiped clean a full slate of activities, and we got to stay home in our pjs all weekend long, reading and napping and drinking hot cocoa. This weekend was perfect, because of all the things that did happen…


My beloved book group met this Friday. My friend, who has been hosting us for years, always puts out a lavish spread, which includes a decadent dessert she’s made and tea served in beautiful heirloom tea cups. Last month Calamity Jane here broke the handle of the one in the front. My friend let me back into her house anyway, and she even managed to repair the handle with some super glue. Our book group nights are always such a special occasion, and so I like to get dressed up appropriately:

What could be better than kicking off the weekend hanging out with dear friends who love you even when you break their precious things, and to do it in my pjs?! (Pajamas seem to be the common denominator for all perfect weekends).


On Saturday morning I got an impromptu private concert with two of my favorite musicians:

Later that day another group of old friends and I got together over lunch. It was especially lovely, because it was a mini-reunion with our friend, who has moved away from Charlottesville. Drat! Forgot to take a photo! Next time, friends, next time!

As I drove away to the next appointment on my schedule, I got the news that the house we’ve been trying to sell is UNDER CONTRACT! Yahoooooooo!!!

Saturday was the first night of the two weeks that our church will be hosting PACEM, a roving homeless shelter that operates during the cold winter months in various churches around Charlottesville.

It was my first time ever being the nightly meal coordinator. My husband volunteered to make his famous lasagna:

and I had a willing crew of helpers, which included these three hooligans:


I wrote about Rite 13 here and here. The last time I went through this brutal and sadistic ritual, I had some warning and time to prepare myself for the ordeal. This time I was completely caught off guard and the consequences were absolutely devastating.

After the service, I recovered enough to insist on taking a photo to commemorate the momentous occasion of my son’s Rite 13 and my public breakdown. Predictably, he began to complain about having to stop and take a photo. What I could never have expected were the shocking words that came out of his older brother’s mouth:  “She gave birth to you. Take the picture!”

Holy smokes! There is a God. And He and now I’m thinking more likely – She is good. Really, really good. 

The kids all insisted on closed-mouth smiles, because they were afraid goldfish crackers would be stuck in their teeth…

And I even got to get a photo with my son, because I did give birth to him after all!

New Years Past and Present

For years we rang in the New Year with friends of ours who have daughters close in age to our boys…Our kids have grown up with each other. Every year we would have a sleepover so that the kids could hang out until their bed time, and the parents could play after the little ones went to sleep…

Although the two-year-old was busy taking important phone calls, we still managed to include her in the annual New Year’s photo.

We were finally able to prise her away from the phone to have some cake…

For one reason or other, this cherished tradition fell by the wayside. We were delighted to be able to have our friends over to celebrate the New Year together again this year.

We prepared with a thorough cleaning – inside and out!

My husband made his famous lasagna…

and we ordered a galette des rois from MarieBette, the new French bakery in Charlottesville. Délicieuse!

Look what I found!

I got to wear the crown!


…and games until it was time for the countdown to 2015!

Get ready, kids, because next time we’re going to recreate the pajama photos!

Making Music and Merry

Many years ago, in one of my darkest and loneliest of hours, I made a friend who became like a sister to me. I was living alone at the time. Every night I would cry myself to sleep in a grim, rat and cockroach-infested apartment in a welfare hotel that was gradually being converted into graduate student housing. I know this sounds maudlin and over the top…like something out of the 19th century Russian novels I was reading for my degree at the time, but it’s true.

When my friend and I decided to become roommates, we lucked into that rarest of commodities – a beautiful and affordable sublet in an elegant pre-war building in New York City. It was a sign. For one magical year, we lived in an apartment with a fireplace and a large turret window overlooking Riverside Park. That year it seemed like anything was possible and everything was going our way. We spent many a night talking and laughing into the wee hours of the morning. We threw lots of parties. We started a graduate student singing group. Two of the people we auditioned were already friends who knew each other from another choral group. They sang their way into the group and into our hearts. A few years later, we married them. Many more years and six kids later we live a few hours away from each other, but we try to get together as often as we can.

My friend still knows how to throw a great party. This weekend my husband had to stay behind to fulfill his professional singing obligations, but the kids and I drove up to Maryland to attend the party of the year. …a cozy affair with just my friends and all of our kids.

While the kids decorated cookies:

I wandered around feeling nostalgic as I looked at Christmas decorations I remembered from our old Riverside Drive apartment…

I admired some new ones too:

After dinner, we played a game that involved drawing winter scenes on paper plates…

while they were perched on top of our heads!

We opened Christmas crackers.

They contained whistles that played an entire musical scale…

So naturally we played a few songs…

under the direction of our very able conductor:

We played dreidel:

This boy may have lost the dreidel game, but he’s a triple crown winner nevertheless:

We opened gifts:

We were sorely missing one of our tenors, but my favorite part of the evening was singing Christmas carols:

How lucky I feel to still be making music and merry together all these years later with these dearest of friends.