Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from Amp and Abi. 
Here's a toast to your 2015 being full of laughter, happiness, and love! 
Thanks to all my readers for reading and journeying with us. 
We're looking forward to a new year full of new possibilities.

Have fun and stay safe tonight, everyone!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Home for the Holidays

Clutching luggage in each hand, one bag balanced on the  very edge of your shoulder, you kick the door with the toe of your boot. Thunk thunk thunk. A distant patter of footsteps, someone hurrying to greet you. The knob creaks and turns, and then the door swings up, suffusing the winter night with warm air and yellow light. It slants across the law, a distended rectangle reaching out to welcome you home. 

Panting, you heave your burdens--duffle and gift bags--over the threshold. As the chill ebbs from your limbs, you breathe hellos and how are yous, fielding hugs and backslaps. A bundle of fur bumps past your shins--the dog rushing in before you. His head low and his tail beating, he innocently displays all the excitement you feel as you let your luggage fall to the foyer floor. Your shoulders ache from the relieved weight as you think "I'll worry about those later." For now, you are home. 

This year, we spent Christmas in Virginia with Mark's family: the Hobbs and the Richardsons.

Every family has its own unique holiday traditions, but Mark's family always ensures that a few of my own family's traditions are observed. Every year, without fail, my own mom made sausage and cheese balls. After opening our gifts, she would pull trays of sausage-cheese balls, crumbly and warm, from the oven. Crispy and brown, they were always too warm to touch, but we grabbed them anyway, bouncing them around on our palms before dropping them onto a small plate. Too good to wait. My sister, father, and I would wolf them down, pausing only to douse them with Tabasco sauce. (Some families are wine connoisseurs. The Black family are hot sauce snobs.)

The first year that I spent Christmas with Marks, I passingly mentioned that I would miss Mom's sausage-cheese ball breakfast. To my surprise, I awoke the next morning to their familiar smell and found a small plate sat before me, complete with a side of Tabasco.

It's the little things that let you know you are loved.

For me, Christmas can be described through its various tastes and smells.

Heady cinnamon. The buttery, velvety softness of chocolate-peanut-butter fudge. The tartness of cranberry. Sweet boiled custard, smooth and thick on your tongue, like melted ice cream. Juicy ham, spiced with brown sugar. The creamy whirl of mashed potatoes, drizzled with salty ham gravy.

The day after Christmas, Mark's maternal grandmother hosts a Maryland-style holiday dinner, and her dining room swells with family. Having lived in Baltimore before relocating to Virginia, Gram whips together a seafood feat that makes everyone's mouth water. Steamy shrimp, fried oysters, and lumpy crabcakes whose "one per person" rule would test a saint's willpower. Marylanders are as proud about their crab and seafood as Carolinians are of their BBQ or Georgians of their fried chicken. The pride is well-deserved.

Eating seafood at Christmas surprised me the first time I ever encountered it. Being from the Deep South, I associated tinsel with casserole, Santa Claus with chicken and ham. But after having been a member of Mark's family for three holiday seasons, this tradition now feels just that: traditional. It simply wouldn't be a proper Virginia Christmas without shrimp.

Recently, I encountered an interview article of the ever-vivacious and cherry-lipped Taylor Swift in which she remarked that some of us love to give gifts and some of us love to receive gifts. I definitely fall into the former category. I honestly derive as much or possibly even more joy from selecting paper, ribbon, and trimmings than I do from unwrapping my own presents.

However, this year, I received an unexpected gift that upended my giving preference. On Christmas Eve, my iPhone pinged with a text message: a video file of my father reading The Night before Christmas. As a little girl, I would snuggle on my parents' bed with my sister (along with a stuffed animal and a kitten or two) to listen to him read the familiar poem. Even though my sister now has children of her own and I'm married and living hours away--when we're all together for the holiday, we still curl up like little girls, ready to be read to.

It's funny how something as simple as hearing your dad's voice can make you feel both gut-wrenchingly homesick and content to your very core.Such is the magic of the holidays, I suppose.

What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions?
How did you and yours celebrate? 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Do You Happy? Or Do You Merry?

The time of gift-giving and tinsel-decking is upon us.

The malls, outlets, and post office overflow with customers. A jazzy , forcibly jolly Christmas jingle plays everywhere you go--so that later, no matter how you may try to rid yourself of it, you find yourself "dashing through the snow" in 50 degree, Southern weather. Among all your other to-do's, your mind churns with your gift list and baking ideas... how to find time for it all? At the next check out line, your arms heavy with purchases and your wallet lighter than when you entered, you flippantly remake to the clerk:

"Happy Holidays."

You can hear onlookers' mental tires screech as they register your words. And so ensues the great debate: to happy or to merry? That is the question.

 In a moment of unthinking holiday cheer, you wish your fellow human a happy holiday season, only to have the manner in which you wished come under close scrutiny. Did you say Happy Holidays? Well, surely you are an atheist attempting to spread your atheism by word alone. How dare you not say Merry Christmas! After all, isn't Jesus the reason for the season? Yet, conversely, if you say Merry Christmas, some view you as a Bible-thumping fanatic ready to bop someone over the head with said tome.

So, I asked myself...Which way do I typically wish people a happy holiday season? And why do I say what I say?

The answer: I use both expressions.


In my opinion, the two are somewhat interchangeable with "Happy Holidays" being a more general expression encompassing the entire holiday season from Thanksgiving to Hanukkah to Christmas to New Years Day.  On the other hand, as a professional in the education industry, I also feel compelled to acknowledge the varied holidays my students and coworkers may be celebrating. Therefore, I often say "Happy Holidays" as an encompassing, general expression.

As a Christian, I do celebrate and love the Christmas holiday. Therefore, yes, I'm also going to wish others a Merry Christmas--both as a sincere wish that they as Christians too have a happy Christmas but also just out of sheer joy for the holiday commemorating the birth of my Savior, a joy I wish to spread with anyone regardless of their religious affiliation. (Even though, historically, it's unlikely that He was born on December 25th.) I would never be offended if someone wished me a Happy Hanukkah, even though I do not celebrate Hanukkah. I can still appreciate that that holiday is just that, a holy day, to those celebrating it. Who am I to sneer at their kind expression or belittle their belief? I hope that I would not offend another by belittling their holiday just as I would prefer to not have my holiday belittled. Expressions of kindness and happiness occur rarely in this world. In my opinions, the holidays remind people to do just that: share a little bit of their own joy with others.

While I'm sure that this explanation will seem insufficient to some people, it captures my reasoning for why I both Happy and Merry my fellows.

So which expression do you typically use? And why? Leave a message in the comments-I would love to know!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Eve of Autumn

Over the past two weeks, Old Man Winter officially blew Autumn away.

A few great gusts and the sky turned dim and then all that was left of our beautiful fall was a pile of dry leaves, forgotten and shivering in the gutter. Huddled in coat, scarf, and gloves, I stepped onto the street and thought "Forget winter is coming...Winter is here." You could detect its sudden presence in the heavy grey sky, the bare branches, the lack of bird song.

While each season is beautiful in its own right, winter is a season I sometimes struggle to appreciate. Sure, you've got your holidays and family gatherings--but once those are past, all you have is snow drifts and cold toes.

In memoriam of Autumn, I thought I would share a few images of Frederick's lovely fall season. It's a brief period, but it brims with vivid color, spicey aromas, and yummy harvest. In opinion, Frederick was made for fall. Here are a few of my favorite images captured around our little city.

What is your favorite thing about the changing of the seasons? Do you have a favorite aspect of Winter? Mine is definitely the holidays--spending time cuddled by the fire with either a steaming mug of cocoa or a glass of moscato, chatting with friends and reminiscing with family. How about you? 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Dill House Diary: Bedroom Reveal

Several weeks ago, before I took my unannounced blog hiatus (blame graduate school), I hinted that Mark and I may renovate our bedroom. For a reminder, I detailed our ideas and inspirations in this post.

When searching for design inspiration, one of my favorite things to do is scroll through Apartment Therapies' Home Tours. Apartment Therapy is a great resource when you need affordable, functional, and yet still aesthetically pleasing ideas. Unlike most design magazines, which feature multi-million dollar homes, Apartment Therapy often features the cutesy little apartments of your average Joe. It doesn't matter if you have dingy linoleum floors or dated cabinets... If you made the space work and the design is worth sharing, you can have a spot on their blog.

In addition to their wonderful Home Tours, Apartment Therapy is a treasure-trove of practical advice. One such tidbit of useful information was an article on selecting paint colors. The article suggested color shades based on the room's orientation and lighting. For example, you may paint a north-facing room an entirely different color than a eastward facing room. To my surprise, the article actually recommended avoiding light colors--like white, pale grey, or tan--in north facing rooms. Apparently the limited direct sunlight can render the pale colors a bit yellowy.  Instead, they recommended using darker, moody shades. Charcoal greys, browns, navy blues, even blacks (if you dare.)

I suppose the philosophy is a bit devil-may-care. You don't have much direct sunlight; the room is going to be dark anyway...So you may as well make the darkness a dramatic statement.

Eyebrows raised, I realized this yellowing issue was probably the reason our bedroom color bothered me so much. The cream-in-coffee tan--while lovely throughout the rest of the house--seemed a completely different color in our bedroom. It just looked...blah. I decided to test out Apartment Therapy's advice by going with a bold dark color.

And so, without further ado, here is our bedroom reveal. Dun-dun-DUN!!

What I would still like to do:

  • Buy blackout shades for the windows. At first, our new curtains did the trick. But since the City of Frederick decided to erect new light-posts downtown, the front of our house has been illuminated with all the wattage of the Second Coming. I've been eyeing this pair.
  • Buy an area rug for the foot of the bed. Mark is a staunch fan of carpet in the bedroom. I much prefer hardwood or laminate floors. To compromise, I'm letting him keep his carpet and hoping for a pretty area rug to hide said carpet. I like this and this
  • Replace the painting over the dresser. (Maybe). I love that painting--so I'll most likely use it elsewhere in the house. I'm thinking I may replace it with two sleekly framed photographs. 
The only major changes were paint color, window treatments, and bedding. So, an easy weekend redo with relatively low cast...yet it still delivered a big-impact change. Let us know in the comments below what you think about our bedroom's new look! I personally love it!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Currently, 12.8.14

Crafting: a soft little baby blanket for a sweet friend and mommy-to-be. I'm using this pattern from PurlSoho.

Despite Saturday's torrential downpour, I was seized with knitting inspiration. Donning boots and grabbing my umbrella, I set out for Joann's Fabrics. Apparently everything I did that day was irrational: case in point... I marched into the store (slightly damp but no worse for the wear) and thought "I don't need a shopping basket!" Needless to say, I found myself waiting in a line wrapped half-way around the store, juggling seven yarn balls. A note of warning: don't go to craft stores in December. Middle-aged knitters and crafters descend in droves. They'll take you down with a buggy full of tinsel and bows. It's dangerous, people, dangerous.

Reading: In a bow to Greater Nerddom, I have been rereading the Harry Potter series. I started this venture late September, and I've made it to the sixth book. I haven't read these books since my pre-teen years; so reading them from an adult perspective has been very interesting. I notice different things, laugh at different things, but have been enjoying them as much as I did as a braces-wearing, ponytailed tween.

Writing: a creative nonfiction essay about peaches. Yes. I have somehow managed to write eleven pages worth of narrative about a fuzzy fruit.

Watching: Arrow and Gilmore Girls. Arrow is our husband-and-wifey show. Mark loves the action; I love Oliver Queen's abs.

Listening: to my Pandora Classical Christmas radio, Tchaikovsky radio, and Avenged Sevenfold radio. It's an interesting mix. I've taken to loudly belting carols around the house, much to Mark and Solo's dismay. Tis the season to be obnoxious.

Cooking: Christmas treats! Sugar cookies, no-bake cookies, peanut butter cookies, and pumpkin bread. I'm anxious to try this recipe.

Needing: a camel-colored coat. To me, a camel-colored coat just speaks "classy." I've been eyeing this one and this one. Although I have also have been eyeing this JCrew option.

Wanting: a unique right-hand ring. This Etsy shop has the most unique rings I have ever seen. Who doesn't love one-of-a-kind, handmade sparklies?

Anticipating: the Christmas holidays with our Virginia family. Whatever the wintry weather may bring, I know for sure the holiday itself will be filled with good food, family, and a ton of laughs.

What have you been up to lately? What have you been watching, reading, and cooking? I'd love to know! Link to your most recent "Currently" post in the comments below. I'll stop by and read!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...