Saturday, December 24, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011


Tonight, for the ninth year in a row, I made the amazing candied pecan recipe I got from one of my favorite people in the world, Danielle Villalpando.

This was the first Christmas that I can remember that we didn't get together with our beloved Villalpando family (Danielle's husband, Dan, is Josh's oldest friend in the world & I've adopted them as my own). Schedules and distance and time got between us this year. But every single time I make her pecans, I remember how much I adore them and their beautiful family. Hopefully some of that love goes into the pecans and the receivers feel some of the affection I feel when I make them.

Merry Christmas, Villalpandos. Merry Christmas, all.

Pecans for our sweet mail carrier, Rosa.


I've been compelled to come up with a ritual to help us celebrate the Winter holidays since Dash was born. We do light the candles at Hanukkah, and we deck the halls like motherfuckers, but we don't practice any religion (we're ethnic Jews, but we don't go to temple), so the narrative of Jesus' birth doesn't really play in the Engel house. I've always known that Christmas had its roots in the Solstice, but I didn't know where to start in our celebrations.

Well, this year I took the bull by the horns & just made it up as I went along. We invited our most beloved & (over)fed them on brisket and latkes, and then we did some serious hippie shit and it was the most perfect thing ever. Testify:

The first project I came up with for the kiddos was to make bird feeders from found pine cones. I wrapped a bit of raffia around them for hanging and then let the kids at them.

I set out paper trays of peanut butter & bird seed. The kids smeared the pb on the pine cones & then rolled them in the seeds.

Voila! A Winter snack for our winged friends.

Our next project was a Solstice candle holder. We talked a little bit about the short days of winter and how lighting the candles was a symbol of hope for the coming longer days. Each small guest was invited to light a candle and make a wish.

(I made the candle holder with a slice of wood & some painted doo-dads from the craft store. I love it in a weird way.)

I also took the opportunity to tie the idea of "lights" into the Hanukkah and Christmas traditions of lighting candles. I'm hoping the more religious of our guests weren't pissed at my hippie ramblings.

Our next craft was the making of the ornaments. I bought some clear ornaments and colored glitter from the craft store. I prepped some strips of colored paper and invited the smalls to write their wishes for the coming year on them. 

We then rolled up the papers, inserted them into the ornaments and filled them with enough glitter to choke a reindeer. We can open them next year to see if our wishes came true!

Our last craft of the night was the making of bell wreaths from pipe cleaners & jingle bells. The olds from before used to ring bells to scare away the dark spirits, so we did, too!

And, finally, for part of the gifts, I settled on the idea of Solstice jammies for Dash & his besties. I got them matching Ts & bottoms & appliqued their initials on them. I love the idea of all three of them (not pictured: Ben) waking up on Christmas morning in matching jams.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


How to make your wife pee her pants a little bit first thing in the morning even though you discussed putting him there the night before:

Crazy Town

After a false start on Sunday...
Liz: "Pose for a picture, boys!"
Josh & Dash: "Dun wanna, bleh."
Liz: weeps, "I'm trying to make MEMORIES here, assholes!" storms home on foot. *Fin*
 ...we had our annual review of the Christmas crazy last night. And WHOO BOY, it was a doozy. Since we moved house late last year, we had to find a new neighborhood to tour and, if I may say so, we found the best one in all the land.

See if you don't agree:
Um, excuse me? I think Christmas threw up on your house.

You can't really see much here, but each house on the street has a stanza from "Twas the Night Before Christmas" 

I honestly wonder if agreeing to string lights between your house & your neighbor's is in the HOA agreement.

They were collecting money for the local homeless shelter. Josh just took a couple bucks for mad money. That's allowed, right?

Brrr, it's cold here in the fake North Pole!


Yo, Baby Jesus, I'm really happy for you & I'ma let you finish, but last year's Santa Kneeling Before the Baby Jesus was the best Nativity of all time!

This house has a whole penguin thing going on. Magical!

Poor Santa can't get no respec'. First he's all hanging from the lights and people are just ignoring him like, "hey, it's not MY problem that Santa got wasted & tried to tightrope walk between houses."

And then Josh & Dash won't even let him dunk in peace.

It all worked out later, though. He had a little nap & then tore it up on the ones & twos.

Even the Jews own it in this neighborhood!

Of course they also had to be all topical with their liberal Jewish agenda! (I kid, I kid! I also have a liberal Jewish agenda! Ask how many briskets I'm making this year! THREE!)

Santa is the 99%!


Bye Wakefield Winter Wonderland! You win at Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2011

December 18, 2011

Yes, shorts, bare feet and a water gun fight. Seriously.

Friday, December 16, 2011


Speaking of Made! Lookit what Dash made for his teacher for Christmas (in addition to the class gift and a gift card from our family):

An illustrated coffee cup! When I handed him the porcelain markers for this project I was 90% sure his teacher would end up with a mug full of zombie brains & illustrated farts. But instead he made Rapunzel, with accompanying lizard. I mean. I just can't with this.

(We used Porcelaine pens for and baked at 300 degrees for 35 minutes to make the mug washable. I read somewhere that if you preheated the mug with the oven & then also cooled it in there after baking that the illustration would be more wash resistant, so that's what I did. I have no idea if it will make any difference at all).


Sometimes I remember back to when I couldn't sew & I get a wee bit wistful. You see, when I couldn't sew, I wasn't inspired to make five storybook dolls, three Chewbaccas, four sock monkeys & an assload of doll clothes for Christmas giving and I had time for things like smiling and brushing my hair.

But then I look over my Flickr stream & feel all proud & braggy & realize it was all worth it (to me & hopefully the recipients, at least; I'm pretty sure Josh is about to chuck my sewing machine into the dumpster behind Home Depot).

I always want to give books to kids because I'm a pretentious old lady. But! Also because books shaped my entire childhood & the minute I found out I was knocked up I started making Amazon wish lists for "Dash Now" & "Dash of the Future" (no joke). But little kids (especially the ones who can't read) don't want your stupid books. They want toys, bitch. So this is my compromise.

Story book dolls! Here's Little Red. She goes to her new little Mama with a basket of felt treats & a beautifully illustrated retelling of the original story (delightfully gross!).

Here are some of her treats on the accompanying picnic blanket. Because if it's not worth overdoing then it's not worth doing at all.

Pippi Longstocking is one of my very favorite stories from childhood. I must have read each book ten times & constantly wished my poor mother away so I could turn our one-bedroom West Hollywood apartment into my own version of Villa Villekulla. 

This Pippi comes accompanied by her pet monkey & a copy of the book illustrated by my favorite Lauren Child.

Monkey butt!

(All storybook dolls & dresses--less Red's cloak which I just kind of made up as I went along--are adapted from the super, seriously, incredibly awesome patterns available from Wee Wonderfuls here.)

I also made a Princess & the Pea doll with mattresses & pea & bed, but I forgot to take a picture. Dammit all to hell.

Another little Mama I know is getting a special American Girl doll from Santa this year (yeah, that's right, I have access to the Nice List. I know what's up at the Pole). She asked for Kanani (the Hawaiian doll) because her family will be vacationing there after the holidays (la-dee-dah), so I took it upon myself to help kit her out.

First I made her a bathing suit because duh. (All garments are being modeled on a borrowed doll I used for fittings).

Doll butt!

Then I made a coordinating sarong. Because seriously, you can't expect a doll to hit the beach without a cover up. Christ, what kind of animal are you?

And then, just a sweet little wrap dress so she can hit the clubs after her little Mama goes to sleep.

Ties in the back!

And last, I whipped up a little monogrammed tote for her keys & copies of Cosmo.

(The swimsuit & wrap dress patterns are from the most excellent Liberty Jane here. The sarong & tote were a collaboration between me & my Chardonnay).

OK, that's enough showing off for now. I may or may not be back later with more braggy posts about squishy crocheted baby blankets, hand made ornaments and more, different stuffed things.

Friday, December 09, 2011


It's that time of year again. The time I start thinking about goals and lists and resolutions. People always kind of groan about resolutions, don't they? Talking about broken ones and neglected ones. I guess I probably do a bit of that, too. But this year I'm starting to reassess what it means to me to make plans for the coming year.

Last year I wrote down four items:

1. Lose the last 15 lbs. I feel better than I have for years and years, but I want the number on the scale just a wee bit lower.

I didn't lose any weight. I may have gained some. I still want to lose 15 lbs. I still try. But it's not the most important thing. I'm ok. I'm better than ok, actually.

2. Participate in the Toy Society's toy drop.
I didn't do a toy drop. Not yet, anyway. It's on my to-do list, and I have every intention of getting it done in 2011. But, if for some reason it doesn't get done in the next month, I'll be ok with it. I gave in other ways this year, and I did make many, many toys for loved ones and loved ones once removed. 

3. Less wine for me, less candy for Dash.
Nope, not this one, either. Turns out I really like wine and Dash really likes candy. He gets a couple of pieces of something sweet after dinner and I get a few glasses of wine. We're both healthy and happy and managing just fine. It was kind of a stupid resolution to begin with.

4. This. Shh. Don't talk about it. I'm scared. ["This" was to run a 5k]
Now this. This I did. I ran a 5k. And then I ran another. And then two more. I was never fast, and it was never pretty. But I ran four races in a year after never having run in my life. I learned to love the feeling of my legs under me. I learned to love talking to Josh about our times and our training routines. I even learned to love getting up at ungodly hours on race days and getting so nervous waiting for the start that I thought I'd puke. 

So that's it. I threw a bunch of resolutions at the wall and one stuck. The important one. The one (unlikely as it seemed at the time) that really meant something to me. 

So I'm not going to groan about broken resolutions or missed goals. I'm going to celebrate aiming high. I won't always hit my target. I'll likely fall short more than not. But I'm going to keep at it, and I'm going to keep writing it down and I'm going to enjoy trying and failing and seeing what sticks.

So, all that said, here are Liz Engel's goals for 2012:

1. Run a 10k. At least one.
2. Figure out a way to do movie night. Our backyard is too small in the new house, but we have a driveway and a garage & there's just got to be a way to do this on some scale.
3. Go camping again. At least once, more would be better.
4. Enter a jam in the Ventura County Fair.
5. Start reading Harry Potter with Dash.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Oh My God, the Tree

We got our tree this weekend!

We hit up our favorite tree lot. (May be time to retire that shirt, yes?)

But this year we actually cut that shit down our own damn selves.


Here's the thing about cutting down your own tree: when you're in a forest of giant Christmas trees, it becomes impossible to gauge the size of the tree you select. (I wish this could be our Christmas picture. Hi Aunty & Tio!)

That's how we ended up with a tree so big that there isn't really room for anything else in our sitting room. 

Can you tell how tall that tree is? It's crazy tall. Like, have to stand on the stairs to see the topper tall.

Speaking of tree toppers! Click the link & marvel at the nipples.

Or just let Josh point them out to you.

(Also, not sure why it looks like we live on the surface of the sun in these pics. May be related to my unyielding obsession with Instagram & refusal to use an actual camera any more).