Monday, December 23, 2013

Glade Lille Jul Aften!

I spent all day cooking, and it was worth it. The Norwegian waffles were a big hit followed closely by the meatballs. And of course there was rice pudding aka riskrem. If you don't know what the rice pudding game is, Google it. I'm to tired to explain.

God Jul alle sammen! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I'm taking a hiatus so I can wrap presents.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Never give up, never surrender!

I went beck to the DMV today. I know you are thinking that is a horrible way to spend a Saturday and you would be right. I think the only thing worse than trying to get service on a Saturday at the DMV would be having to work on a Saturday at the DMV. I felt very, very sorry for the employees because you can tell the DMV is a horrible place to work because I don't think any of them smiled even once. I smiled a lot and was as pleasant as could be because I was determined to get out of there with the two things I needed, and after having been four times and not getting anything, I wasn't at all confident. But this time I was prepared with lots of forms and evidence and I won! I got both of the things I wanted and even a grunt from the employee which I will take as a positive response to my "happy holidays!"

Then I went and picked up my last few presents and got some lunch with Child 1. Then home for a nap and then food shopping. Lille Jul Aften is on Sunday and it's time to get cooking. So I went to three different stores, because I can get most of everything at BJs, and dairy free whipped cream at the organic market, and short grain rice at the Asian market, which also had Ambasa and fried rice and kimbap. This is Ambasa. I know it's weird, but get over the fact that it looks like watered down milk, and you'll realize it is the best soda ever. Really. If you disagree, I will fight you.

And this is kimbap.

Husband asked what the occasion was and why I was bringing home Korean food because I don't normally voluntarily go out and get Korean food on my own. Ever. But this is not because I don't like Korean food, but is because when we were married, I didn't realize that ever single time we went out to eat, Husband would suggest Korean food. Seriously. For years, we couldn't go out to a "nice" restaurant that wasn't Korean. And now, since I can't have soy sauce or imitation crab, we can't ever again. But there it was, kimbap all nicely wrapped up and right next to a package of japchae and next to that was shrimp fried rice without soy sauce and Husband is working hard on a back splash for the kitchen so there is nowhere to cook, so I brought home Korean food. And the children were very, very happy because they love Korean food.

A newly rediscovered Van Gough is better than a brownie. This painting had been in a private collection until just recently when it was donated to the National Gallery of Art, which just happens to be very close to where I live. Artemis, I'm so sad you aren't here any more to go see this with me. I hope you have a safe trip to your Enchanted Castle. Here is a photo of that painting, if it makes you feel better.

One of Van Gogh's Last Paintings Unveiled

Friday, December 20, 2013

And Hello!

I forgot to mention that FSI stands for Foreign Service Institute and is the place where diplomats go to feel badly about themselves because no matter what they do, they can't pass the stupid language test. There are all sorts of great courses at FSI, but most people are there to study language. And you would think it is the best language school in the world, but it is not. There are serious problems with the teaching methodology and don't even get me started on the issues with the testing and how the teachers kind of get paid to not pass you. Ugh.

But at any rate, FSI did work its reunion magic again today and after I got finished teaching my class (which I rocked at, btw) and I ran into four friends and one of them want to hang out on Sunday. Yippee!

Child 2 is chatting with me on facebook and sending me stickers. I sent her this one.

Not because she loves unicorns, but because that is the weirdest fat cat unicorn I have ever seen and it would make her laugh. Then she sent me a cannibal bunny and now I am afraid that I have encouraged her too much in the dark side of humor. But it's alright. There is hope. She also sent me this. Child 2 loves sushi.

But the best surprise of the day wasn't that Child 2's birthday party went really well and the kids had fun, but that one of my friends whom I haven't heard from in a while called to say she had moved close to me and wants to get together! We spent more than an hour on the phone catching up and it was just like old times. I love friends like that--that you can be apart, but when you see each other again, you pick up right where you left off. Good friends are way better than brownies, and I'm lucky enough to have more than a few.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Hello again and good-bye

The worst thing about being a Foreign Service Officer is the good-byes which happen every single year because someone is always rotating in and out. This means that every summer there are a bunch of "hail and farewell" parties which I loathe and not only because I can't eat any of the food. You see, I stink at good-byes. I'm just really terrible at them because my method of coping with them is to pretend they are not happening and that I will see all these people again soon.

The remedy for this problem, however, is not to actually participate in the good-byes, but to hang out at FSI. Because if you hang out at FSI for even a few minutes, you are bound to run into someone you know who is in training there. Today, I got to teach part of a course again, and I was lucky enough to have a friend as one of my students. I knew she was coming and I e-mailed her before she arrived so she could look for me on the schedule. And she not only came, but she brought presents from some of my other friends at that post. And it made me miss them all over again. But since they are local staff, they don't get to come back for training all that often and I might not get to see them any time soon. But at least I know they miss me! Because oh, do I miss them and I am loading up my friend who is here with peanut brittle because I think they will like it.

And then this evening was the worst part of the day, because I had a wonderful dinner/shopping trip with Artemis and it was so much fun to relax and catch up and chat and it was awful because she is leaving me! She is moving on Sunday far away to her enchanted castle and I had to say good-bye before she left. And I am not happy about it because this is not one of those FSO pretend good-byes and I'll see you at FSI in a couple of years. No, she is leaving for good and will no longer ever be at FSI to run into or have consultations with. This one is permanent. But because I love her like a sister, it won't be good-bye and there will definitely be some getting together in our future, even if I have to take vacation days to do it. So there, Artemis. You can't get rid of me just by moving across the country. Hmph.

Crazy ant infestations are not better than a brownie. See, there are some invasive ants in the Pacific Islands and the US Fish and Wildlife Service has put together a Crazy Ant Strike Team to go eradicate them so they don't do this.

Poor baby bird! Apparently ground nesting birds are really at risk and there are some rare ones on Johnston Atoll, so the Crazy Ant Strike Team goes and lives on the atoll for months at a time and kills ants. And the strangest part about it is that all the positions but one are volunteer, although they pay for food and "housing" which apparently is tents, and transportation to the atoll which is good because it is in the middle of nowhere. Really. Nowhere. This is a picture of the atoll.

The volunteer notice says "bathing is done in the ocean." I so want to do this! Sign me up, let me bring a crate of books I haven't read, and I'm there. It would be so awesome. Except for the sunburn and danger of plutonium contamination because we used to explode nuclear weapons on this atoll. But still. I think that might be my dream job. Of course, after the children are all grown. Sigh. But a girl can dream.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Tonight was my favorite of the Christmas concert. It was the 6th grade band's turn and they played 5 songs. 5! It was 25 minutes long. And there were no solos. None. Not a one. And no long boring student compositions either. It was perfect and ended with Feliz Navidad, which is not spelled with a "c". (Husband take note.) It is super funny that Husband thought it was spelled "felice" because for many, many years I have had to listen to how he was a spelling bee champion and how important spelling is and he can't spell "Merry Christmas." OK, he can't spell it in Spanish, but still, I can spell something he can't!

I have this theory that studying so many foreign languages is the reason I can't spell. Does address have two ds and one s or is it the other way around and isn't there an e on the end? These are the things that go through my head when I'm typing because I can't remember the difference between German and Norwegian and French and English spelling and so I just guess and thankfully there is Google and spell checker. Spelling is a big thing in the Department because apparently if you can't spell or you make a comma error, you are not worthy of promotion. Seriously. No. I'm not joking. I so wish I were joking.

You see, the promotion panels have to rank hundreds and hundreds of files, and so, to make things easier on themselves, they count the spaces after each period and if there aren't two--down you go. Same with spelling. One typo can mean being mid-ranked (which means not promotable) even in a year where you single-handedly rescued hundreds of Americans from certain death during a fire storm, or whatever. You could actually make world peace and you would not get promoted if you mistakenly wrote worlde peace and good-bye ambassadorship for you if you say I single-handedly created world peace because according to spell check, handedly is not a word and therefore you are not ambassador material. Or materiel. Or materielle? You would think that people who are also in a job that forces you to learn so many foreign languages would be a little understanding on the spelling issue. But you would be so very, very wrong.

Child 3 thinks Baskin Robbins Gold Medal Ribbon ice cream is better than a brownie.

I'm not sure because I haven't had chocolate ice cream in so long. But we went after the concert tonight and I saw this which I totally think would be better than a brownie.

Quick, someone try it out for me and tell me if it isn't as delicious as I imagine. For your sake, I hope it is, but for mine, I really hope it's not.

Sunday, December 15, 2013


Not feeling well enough to blog. Everything is fine, I'm just sick like always and dog tired. No actually, I'm more tired than The Dog.

Is peppermint ice cream better than a brownie? I'm not sure. Discuss.

Friday, December 13, 2013


Today was another sick day. I am really tired of sick days and really just tired. And I'm sure you're tired of reading about them. And I can't even write about food because I mostly just ate chips today because I didn't feel like cooking. And I did at least get a clean bill of health from my slightly longer than yearly mammogram so I can prove to the Department that I don't have cancer because I didn't have cancer in China.

And then Child 2 and Child 3 had a Christmas recital and they played Christmas music on the piano in front of all of Gabrielle's piano students and their families. It was a little nerve wracking, but they were amazing. And Gabrielle is a great piano teacher.

Being in Hawaii would be better than a brownie.

I read this awesome article about what Hawaiians dislike the most about tourists, and the answer was really nothing. Aside from littering, the typical dumb tourists who don't know where they're going and don't understand the culture and crowd all the shopping malls didn't bother the locals in the least. Because they are awesome and the spirit of Aloha is a real thing.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Yes, please!

There was a bake sale at work today which normally makes me very sad. But my sweet colleague rushed back from buying cookies to tell me that someone had brought something gluten free and I rushed in and bought the first piece of the most delicious pumpkin praline cake. I would have bought more, but I wasn't feeling well, and also I got the recipe so I can make it later.

I realize this blog ends up being a lot about food, but that's my life--kids, home, work, kids, work, home, and food is my hobby. So is fashion. If only there were a way to make food and fashion go together and pay well. I'm pretty sure that's not possible.

OK, possible, but not a very good idea. Who wants to wear a dress made out of chocolate that not only can melt but looks like an apron? I mean other than the model they paid to wear it?

Chocolate dresses may not be better than a brownie, but this adorable little girl is.

She's not pretending to talk on the phone. Her kindergarten class was singing in a Christmas program and she decided to sign the words to the song as a surprise for her parents who are deaf. She does a great job and is just as cute as can be and way better than that fake interpreter at Mandela's funeral. And to her mom, you are doing an amazing job.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


You know those days where you go to work and everything goes well and you sit back at the end of the day and feel totally excited and energized about what you've accomplished? Yeah, I never have those days. Today felt like I sat down at my desk, took a deep breath and finally let it out at 5pm when it was time to go. I accomplished a ton, but at the end of the day I felt like I had been run through the spin cycle over and over again and I was completely wrung out with not a drop of energy left. Oh, and sick to my stomach. Kind of like this.

The thing is I love, love, love my job. It is perhaps the perfect job for me, except for the last one which was also weirdly perfect but in a different way. Neither of them were made up kind of jobs. You know, the kind of jobs that only exist because someone makes up a reason for them to exist and it's not a very good reason either like "we should always have someone answer the phone no matter what kind of idiot is calling." Or "we should count more things that don't need counting." Or "we should sell these things that no one needs to people who don't need them." I have had all of those jobs and this job (and my last one) are real jobs that are necessary and I do real things that make a difference. But still, at the end of the day, all I want to do is go home to bed and sleep forever and ever.

Speaking of hibernating, I don't think pandas do. They also don't pay attention to fashion, and if they did, they would hate this onesie.

Courtesy Net-a-Porter

Yep. It's a panda romper for grown ups. For a mere $1000 you can have the privilege of dressing in something a toddler would be embarrassed to wear. I mean, seriously, where would you wear this? You couldn't wear it to a field trip because your children would refuse to be seen with you. Likewise, The Dog would refuse to let me walk her in it. But I don't know, I think the pink tongue would make a nice talking point at staff meetings. And if you got up late, you could just zip up and not worry about hair or makeup. Seriously. Fashion designers secretly hate women. I'm convinced.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Snow Daze

Two snow days in a row! Awesome. School was closed as well, so we did a lot of stuff around the house, like get flu shots and have eye exams. OK. So we didn't spend so much time in the house, but I did get a lot done. First the flu shots which Child 2 is still angry about, then some grocery shopping. Then putting stew fixings in the crock pot and working for a few hours now that my FOB (no idea what it stands for but that's what they call the thingy that lets me log in from home.) Then eye exams and some Christmas shopping and three new pairs of hipster glasses. None of them for me because I don't need glasses but apparently all of the children do. We got two tortoiseshell, one pink, and one black. I know that doesn't add up. I'm not that bad at math, but one of the tortoiseshells has pink temples. These are hipster glasses, in case you didn't know.

Then home to eat and clean out a couple of boxes of stuff that don't fit anywhere. I managed to get it into one box which I think is pretty impressive and since the other box is broken and is plastic we can recycle it and feel good about taking care of the planet.

Speaking of taking care of the planet, China is doing a pretty poor job. So poor, in fact that models on the runway look like wannabe surgeons which is not better than a brownie at all. I mean, look at this poor girl.

Getty Images

It's bad enough that she has to wear a mask, but now she needs some kind of armored wings to fight pollution. OK, those are really not pollution fighters, that is part of the dress or whatever she's wearing. But really, the mask part is very sad. They are awful and uncomfortable and this kind probably doesn't work well because it doesn't actually filter the air. So get your act together, China, and in the name of fashion clean up your air. And also stop rationalizing that the pollution is good for China because some armies use smoke on the battlefield to obscure operations. (Seriously, they said that.) Unless your country is currently completely at war everywhere, you don't need the smoke. Also, it's cutting your life spans considerably and it will cost you a bundle in medical costs. So if the bad fashion doesn't scare you, 1.3 billion people with asthma and lung cancer should.

Monday, December 9, 2013

I got it!

Snow day! Or rather ice storm day. It looked a lot like this. Actually, it looked exactly like that because Child 2 took that picture.

It was a delayed opening/uscheduled telecommuting/liberal leave day. Since I have a new little device that will let me log in to my desk from home, I decided to try teleworking. And it was awesome, if by awesome you mean that I spent hours and hours installing and uninstalling and reinstalling the same stupid program that never, ever worked, and then spent more than an hour on hold with the computer people trying to figure out what was wrong and finally got it to work at 4:45pm, then yes, it was totally awesome.

I gave up in the middle and took the kids to see "Frozen" which we loved because it was set in Norway and it's main character is a redhead, so it will end up being about 5 hours of trying to telework and 3 of liberal leave (which no does not mean leave only for liberals but that you didn't have to get advanced approval.) But anyway, back to "Frozen." It was delightful and full of visual references to Norway, which I still love and miss so we had Norwegian meatballs for dinner.

Yes, that is cranberry sauce on there. Don't judge--it's delicious.

But the very best thing about the day is that they are actually predicting snow again tomorrow and the transformer blew at the school, so the children will probably have the day off again, too. I love snow days when I actually don't have to go out in them. They are better than brownies.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Let me, let me, get what I want

Please, please, please let the roads be icy tomorrow. That is all.

Under done pot roast that takes too long to cook so dinner is at 8pm is not better than a brownie. Stupid unreliable crock pot.

Saturday, December 7, 2013


Today was pretty productive and I can tell because I am completely exhausted. First we left at 8, that's am, to pick up Child 3 who was at a slumber party with a friend from our last post at their house which is 45 minutes away. Then we rushed her back to play practice and made a grocery run. Then I finally went to Michaels and managed to replace some of the broken ornaments. Then I rushed back to pick up Child 3 from the practice and ran some errands on the way home.

And then we made apple crisp--gluten free of course, and rushed off to the church Christmas party to not eat lasagna and watch Child 3 perform in the Christmas pageant. I should mention that although everyone else was eating lasagna, Stevie and I had arranged to share food, so she brought delicious gluten-free skillet lasagna, and I provided the dessert which we did not put on the dessert table which was a good thing because if we had, we wouldn't have gotten any to eat. Then we discovered there were other gluten-free families doing the same thing and we traded some of our dessert with them for some of theirs which Stevie ate and said was delicious. (It all had chocolate.)

But anyway, back to the play. You have not lived as a parent until you've put bunny ears on a three year old and pushed him out onto a stage in front of hundreds of people with the instructions not to cry or wiggle. I'm not sure if there were bunnies at the manger in Bethlehem, but that 3 year old rabbit was cute. These were not our kids, but  you get the idea. I think the girl on the right is a donkey, but is the other one a duck?

Child 3 was a "Believer" and had some sort of brown fringey costume and ribbons in her hair. I'm not sure where the ribbons came in Birth of Jesus, but those were our instructions, so we ribboned her up. She looked adorable.  So then we came home and put up some more Christmas lights and now the teenagers are having a fire pit party in the back yard. That was their reward for attending the pageant without whining. I'm exhausted.

This hat is not better than a brownie.


I guess based on the model, that I am not the intended target, but then again, I'm not sure how many 20somethings wearing strapless fur dresses would go for a chimney hat with Santa legs either. Honestly, who thinks up these things and how can they possibly make any money?

Friday, December 6, 2013

I told her so!

Child 1 got into college. I knew she would. One of her schools has already responded, even though the deadline was mere days ago. Not only did they call and leave her a message telling her she got in, they have already sent two e-mails. So congrats, my sweet girl! I told you you'd get in. Moms know these things.

So back to last night, we caught the end of the Sound of Music thing on NBC and it is the only time I will ever yell at the TV for Capt. Von Trapp to just marry the baroness already and forget the boring nanny. It's safe to say that I didn't like it, and given the comments I saw on facebook, neither did much of America. It's not so much that Carrie Underwood isn't Julie Andrews, because nobody else will ever be Julie Andrews, or that you can't get the Austrian Alps onto a sound stage. I mean, how do you make this a backdrop?

No, it's that Carrie Underwood's last name is entirely descriptive of her acting ability which was extremely wooden and way understated which is to say so understated that you couldn't tell that she was acting because it sounded like she was just reading off the script for the first time. I would feel sorry for her, but she probably made a boatload of money for all that non-acting.

These macaroons might not be better than a brownie, but I think they're worth a shot.

Cherry Macaroon Rosettes

Festive and delicious and gluten free. Oh, and not chocolate. I really miss chocolate. And brownies. Did I mention that I like brownies?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

I dreamed a dream

Tonight was the high school band concert so of course I have a headache which is doing it's best to explode into a migraine but I'm fighting it. Child 2 was awesome,  but someone needs to tell me why We had to listen to some kid singing and watch a ballerina at a band concert!  So very annoying and made the concert way too long.

So I'm going to bed. Listening to Child 2 play music from Les Mis was better than a brownie. But the headache isn't. Good night.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Foiled again

I didn't get to go shopping tonight. I forgot that Husband had a thing and needed the car, and since the children had the other one, I was left home alone with the dog. So I finished reading the new Bridget Jones book which was OK, but predictable and I was very, very sad that Helen Fielding has lost all her imagination. There were some funny parts, mostly involving Bridget's daughter who is 5 and hilarious, but the rest of it was very disappointing. It makes me sad because I have a special place in my heart for Bridget. I mean, what girl hasn't hidden under her blanket with a tub of Ben & Jerry's at least once? Or maybe twice. OK, a lot, but that was before the whole chocolate/wheat/and now dairy problem.

I read Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason in 2001 a couple of months after 9/11. I love reading. I read all the time, but I couldn't after that horrible day. Nothing held my interest and I thought nothing would ever be the same again. Then I discovered Bridget and I read it and I laughed out loud for the first time in months because the part in the book where she interviews Colin Firth about the scene in Pride and Prejudice where he comes out of the pond is probably one of the funniest things ever written. Yep. Loved it. So very much. This new book is not like that.

This Christmas apparel is not better than a brownie.

reindeer bun kit shine

The children and I saw this when we were out shopping and thought it was probably about the worst idea ever. I told Child 3 I would pay to see her wear it and she said why would she want to turn her hair into a nose. She has a point. Still, if anyone wants to try it, please, please send me a picture.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Because I don't feel like it

I am exhausted. I've been in my pajamas since 7:30, but I can't convince my family to let me go to bed. First there was dinner to be cooked and then there were dishes to be done and homework to be helped and hair curlers to be put in. Plus I had to tell Husband to stop diagnosing himself on the internet and make an appointment to see a doctor which if he actually has the thing he diagnosed himself with, he had better do soon or he'll be in a wheelchair. (He doesn't have it. Nobody every has what they self diagnose or else Child 3 really did have Toxic Shock Syndrome last year and I currently have pancreatic cancer. She didn't and I don't, so he is not likely to either.)

So the upshot is I didn't make it to World Market today. Maybe tomorrow because the children will all be off at an activity which Child 3 is driving them to and other people are chaperoning, so if I can ditch Husband, I can go get some ornaments! Child 1 called them "orgamets" when she was little and I still miss that.

Child 2 would like me to apologize for my bad blogging behavior and let you all know that she has taken nutrition classes and she knows what healthy food is. The fact that she didn't put any on the list on her own is beside the point. So, Child 2, I am sorry for implying that you like unhealthy food. However, I have to point out that there is nothing wrong with liking unhealthy food. I, myself, am very fond of brownies and really, really miss them on days like this. so here is a picture of scrumptious brownies because this is as close as I can get to them without feeling sick. I used to make awesome peppermint frosted brownies. Nothing is better than that. Not a thing, at least that I can think of today.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Only a little smashed?!

Apparently if a Christmas tree falls in the middle of the night and no one hears it, the ornaments are still smashed. We woke up to find the Christmas tree completely toppled over. I shrieked when I saw it because who wouldn't be upset to find their beautiful 8 foot tree on the ground and half of the ornaments smashed. When I yelled, The Dog immediately flattened her ears and slunk off into a corner, so I'm pretty sure I know who the culprit is. She likes to drink the water out of the tree stand, so I can just see her knocking it over. Husband says she is a small dog and the tree probably fell over from exhaustion from having to hold up all those ornaments. To which I say hmph! You decorate your own tree then next year, Mr. Scrooge! But he at least helped me put it back up. We placed it in a bigger stand and are hoping it's more stable. We'll see, I guess.

So I went to Target tonight to buy a few ornaments to replace the ones which got smashed which of course were all my favorites including the Vera Bradley glass painted one and two of the manger scenes. And the ornaments at Target were all awful. I mean, I love Kermit and Animal as much as the next person, and maybe more, but no way will a hot pink Animal ornament go on my lovely cranberry  and gold tree.

And frankly, that doesn't even look like Animal. It's some sort of evil pink Grover in a Santa hat. It's all wrong. And believe me when I say this is the best of what was there. So tomorrow I'm going to Michaels to see if they can help. And sometime this week I will make it out to World Market to replace the ones I got from there.

So then we came home and Child 2 broke out in hives again. I know! This is the child that is supposed to not be a problem and there she is breaking out in hives all over her face. So I made her wash her pillow and she is starting a journal about what she ate and where she went when she breaks out because this is the third time in about a month. Speaking of Child 2 still, and how she is not supposed to be difficult, she is still obviously a child because I told her to make a list of things we needed at the grocery store and this is what was on it when I got to the store.

  1. Milk
  2. Chocolate chip mint ice-cream
  3. caramel sauce
  4. gluten free cereal
  5. rice pudding
  6. candy
I'm the one who made her add the milk and cereal. We're going to have a little talk about nutrition and "needs" and exactly why an all sugar diet is not a good idea, especially when we are already hyper about the holidays.

On a happier note, the annual Christmas Island crab migration has begun and it is better than a brownie.

Someday I hope to get to see this in person, but that would require more luck with bidding than I've had in the Department so far. But go little crabs! And watch out for cars.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

But that's supposed to by MY thing

You may remember that I am a little addicted to Christmas decorations. You see, in a former life, OK, not really a former life but before Child 2 was born, I was a floral designer in a craft store and I made wreaths, lots and lots of wreaths, for fall, and Halloween, and Christmas, and Hanukkah  and Valentine's Day, and along with the job came a discount on everything in the store, so I bought lots and lots of Christmas decorations, and I've kept adding over the years, and um, now I think we might just have too many. Maybe. It's hard to tell because we haven't got them all up yet. I promise, it's much more attractive than those people who decorate like someone vomited Christmas all over the places. There is a color scheme, and it is all artfully placed. But there is a lot of it and I'm thinking that at some point, we might need to cull it a little bit. But not yet, I'm not ready yet. This would be way, way too many decorations. Is that a swan with the wise men? Or are those elves, and why is th manger bigger than the church and why is poor Mrs. Santa exiled to the back of the porch away from everyone all by her lonesome? Poor Mrs. Claus always being left behind and having to wear that stupid bun.

Thankfully, the children are old enough that I can say, just start putting it all up, and they go for it. They did almost all of the tree decorating tonight, except the ribbon and some of the poinsettias, because even though the tree is supposed to be my thing, now that I know for certain I am allergic to it, I can tell that I react worse when I touch it. My face is all red and swollen, I can't stop sneezing, and I have a rash on my hands--all from decorating the tree. I must have had this going on for years, but I never connected it with the tree. But I can't give up the tree. I already gave up chocolate and wheat and the. tree. is. staying. period. However, I think I can bribe people to water it and then take it down later. Or at least I can threaten to never do a real tree again. That might just work because it's something I'm clearly considering.

Baby Pandas are better than brownies, and this one is so scrumptious, you could just eat her up.

Figuratively, that is. It is illegal to eat pandas and I would never, ever do that. But the National Zoo finally gave her a name since she has reached 100 days old and it is Bao Bao, or 宝宝, which means treasure. So welcome, little Treasure! You are as precious as your name implies.