breaking tradition

December 22, 2014

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Growing up, Christmastime was always my favorite part of the year. My parents did a spectacular job of making the season magical and building traditions for our family. Every year until I graduated from college, I remember waiting at the top of the stairs with my three younger brothers, all dressed in our pajamas, for our dad to get ready with the video camera and for the coffee to finish brewing before we could come down to the family room. I also remember, every year without fail, bundling up in the car with hot cocoa to drive around our neighborhood looking for the best Christmas lights- and, when we got home, my mom beaming at my dad and saying ours were the best.

Since finishing school, I’ve moved around a lot and spent a few Christmases apart from my family. This will be my second in a row- both spent in New Mexico, with frosty mountains swapped in for Chicago’s snowy roads. No doubt I feel a little sadness missing out on the Zucco fun, but I’ll FaceTime with them in the morning and will see them for vacation soon, so it’s been pretty easy to be positive about the situation, and Shaun’s been good about reminding me that I still talk with my family plenty during the season. With all that said… it’s been nice to start building new traditions here.

The way Shaun phrased it to me yesterday was that now, as adults, we’re creating the Christmas magic in ways that “grown-ups” did it for us when we were kids- and it helps that Shaun has a lot of family here, so there are plenty of kids around to create the magic for. We’ve passed on the excitement of chocolate-a-day Advent calendars, explained the Nativity, made gingerbread houses, bought little Nutcrackers (which Shaun’s mini me insists on using for even roasted peanuts), baked cookies and packaged them in little Santa tins, and thrown snowballs with the little bit of snow we got this month.

It’s a bittersweet feeling being on the other side of Christmas in that way. But “grown-up” or not, I still feel the magic, and I get it in different ways now – appreciating decorations in town plazas, snuggling up with cocoa and movies, insisting on corny Christmas carols in the car, and knowing that I have new friends and loved ones to spent the day itself with.

Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas, with all of the magic the North Pole has to offer. :o)

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snapshots of a perfect weekend

December 15, 2014

This weekend was fun, adventurous, sentimental, productive and relaxing — the perfect balance for making the most of off-work time.

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Saturday Shaun and I made a mini road-trip to Las Cruces in southern New Mexico for a wedding. The drive there was full of fun music, lots of coffee and a couple little stops. The ceremony was sweet and the reception was a blast. We had the best appetizers ever at High Desert Brewery, and walked around Old Mesilla, which is beautiful at Christmastime. We left after a few hours of dancing because we had to be back Sunday morning- which meant a late night fast food run and a lot of The Lumineers to get through the long, dark drive!

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Sunday we baked Christmas cookies and packaged them in tins for family and friends. Growing up my family always baked early in the month- an excuse to be festive for longer. It was a sweet way to spend the morning before an afternoon at the mall and a baby shower (it was a weekend full of life moments)! I still have Monday off work, so some time to get a few errands and some reading done… but I’m already feeling refreshed and ready for the week ahead.

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Last photo- a pretty surprise from Shaun on Friday, setting the tone for it all.

why i’ll miss ‘the newsroom’

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Photo Source: HBO/The Newsroom

Tonight HBO aired the season finale of The Newsroom and I’d be lying if I said my eyes were dry by the end (or, okay, middle) of the episode. The show has been fairly divisive — particularly among friends and co-workers in the business — so I’m familiar with many of the common criticisms surrounding the show. And while yes, there are parts of the show that don’t jive with the reality of a network (or local) newsroom… and while there were storylines that I, as a viewer and as a journalist wish would have been handled differently… there was something about the show that sold me from the first episode and kept me until the end.

Working in news, I’ve met so many people that really do just want to “do the news.” To shoot straight, tell the truth and make a difference. I watched Aaron Sorkin’s post-finale interview, and he said something that stuck with me: “I would like to see a renaissance of decency.” I think there is that sense in a lot of newsrooms. A desire to bring the community together– to provide people with the information they need to protect their families and to engage with their communities. I could go on and on about this, but this quote from the first episode of the show explains it better:

We sure used to be. We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons, we passed laws, struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were, and we never beat our chest. We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and we cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars, acted like men. We aspired to intelligence; we didn’t belittle it; it didn’t make us feel inferior. We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn’t scare so easy. We were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed. By great men, men who were revered. The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.
–Will MacAvoy, “We just decided to.”

There are, of course, plenty of people in TV news that are in it for different reasons- some good, some bad. But I do believe a larger number of people go in trying to help others, and every day, go to work doing their best to bring light. This show did a good job of capturing that aspiration. If you liked it too, I suggest you read the “Wires and Lights” speech by Edward Murrow (though if you’re a TV news geek, you probably already have!)

why i’m in love with my hairstylist

December 9, 2014

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Well, first I love her for turning my brassy blonde Lady Lovely Locks (do you remember that show??) situation into this warm shade that feels more like “me” again… but beyond that, I love her because she probably knows more about my life and dreams and inner thoughts than anyone apart from my boyfriend, best friend and mom.

I’m a generally open person (I’m blogging, so…) but I’m also very much a “don’t air your dirty laundry” kind of person – online and in real life. Aside from a few close friends and a couple co-workers who I spend 40 hours a week with…I don’t like to complain or vent… but for some reason, suit me up with a salon bib and it all starts spilling out. I’ve never met a stylist I didn’t like (luckily), but when I met her I was like “oh my gosh, she’s the best.” (Note: I doubt she will ever read this but for some reason she does I also know she won’t even think it’s that creepy because she gets me and where I’m coming from.)

There’s something about seeing someone once every two months, for around an hour and a half, that makes it easy to let it all out… and with her, I do. She’s heard about when I first met my boyfriend, when I first met his son, how things go at work, the moments of drama that surface every once in awhile… and talking about it with someone who is generally detached from my situation- work, relationships and otherwise (we live in the same city, but rarely cross paths outside of appointments), is so helpful and therapeutic. I showed up at the salon today in a pretty good mood… but I left feeling like I’d just let it all out. I think she should call her appointments “hairapy”, that’s how therapeutic they are (I do know how corny that is, thank you very much).

Today, there was something that was worrying me – a situation I can’t control, which I’ve previously medicated with donuts – that I explained to her…and by the time my color had set, I felt 100% better. Here’s to a new positive outlook, letting it all slide off… and auburn hair :o).

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One more picture of my hair, which I shamelessly asked my boyfriend to snap before pizza at Gioco’s (great new lunch/appetizer/sports watching spot in Albuquerque, I’d recommend it…especially the carne adovada nachos) and a trip to the movies for air hockey and Mockingjay (yes, I know we’re little late). It was so good I cried!

big apple blues

December 4, 2014

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(Source)

They lit the tree in front of Rockefeller Center tonight, and I’m feeling a lot more than Christmas cheer (though I’m feeling that, too). 30 Rock was where I worked while living there, and it’s funny to watch a lighting that I once watched from the windows while on a break at work from a TV millions of miles away. I love my life here, but sometimes I long for that city like I long for my best friend — who is also amazing and too far away.

I only lived in NY for a few years, but the imprints it left on my heart and soul and moral compass are deeper than what I gained in the 20 years beforehand. I moved there fresh out of college with a clean slate, nothing to lose and everything to learn, ready to take on the world with “If You Have to Cry, Go Outside” as my mission statement. And I left without looking back… loving every memory I made but convinced that the city that never sleeps wouldn’t haunt my dreams at night. I was sure that I’d soaked up the moments I needed, and that I could move back whenever I wanted, and that leaving the place I’d wanted to live since middle school was the “right choice” and one I’d never regret.

I wasn’t necessarily wrong… I can visit anytime I want, am still unattached enough that I could move back, and I don’t “miss New York” often…but the thought of that beautiful city at Christmastime tugs at my heart more now than it did last year, especially as I realize I may never go back “for good” or “for long.” There was something about that city that, despite its expensiveness and battles with pretentiousness, was, to me, romantic and timeless. I miss mornings in West Village coffee shops and nights at East Village hangouts and what seemed like endless opportunity to “be.” In New York, life felt suspended from “the real world” for me…though perhaps that’s the part of the reason I eventually felt like I needed to leave.

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(Down the street from my apartment, on a snowy night)

New Mexico is home now. I have a job I love, a partner who I adore and who’s anchored here by family and fatherhood, and a connection I didn’t expect with a place I’d never been before. I love my life here, and it does feel like another fresh slate…another place to build a life and a good one to plant roots. But it’s also a total 180 from my life in Manhattan… a life that I also loved. I’ve been making a lot of big decisions lately and the next few years will likely bring even more. And as I reflect on those choices, I know I have to somehow weave the energy and emotions New York uniquely evoked into my life here.

It’s odd how attached we can feel to places…the kind of real estate they can scoop out in our hearts. I feel that for every place I’ve lived…but especially for New York. My mom visited a couple months ago and we were talking about “growing up,” and she noted that when I moved to New York I was “really still a kid”- it was my first solo apartment, my first time paying real bills and student loans, my first time doing a job where the consequences could follow me forever, my first time starting a life on my own without a family or the comfort of a college campus. I think, in a way, the city held my hand. It was more than a home — it was a big sister or brother… one that showed and taught me far more than I could have learned on my own.

Perhaps it’s nostalgia not just for the city.. but for growing up.

I miss all of that. But on the most superficial of levels, I also miss that beautiful skating rink, window shopping in December, and cupcakes from Magnolia while admiring the tree.

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(The tree, snapped on my way home from work a few years ago)

apartment christmas decorating

December 2, 2014

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This is likely one of the last Christmas seasons for the foreseeable future where I’ll be living in a one bedroom apartment. In Albuquerque, houses are so affordable it almost doesn’t make sense to live in an apartment (though it was convenient when I got here and I love the one I live in!). And Shaun and I are planning to move in together soon (another story, haven’t even started looking haha) in a couple months…So anyway, my point is, this is one of the last times I’ll be decorating a cozy little nook. And while I’m excited to start decorating a larger space — Christmas lights on the outside, more space for a nativity set and a big tree… there is some charm to a small space.

I have always loved colored Christmas lights. I know the white twinkly ones are probably more elegant, but the colored ones feel warm and homey and kitschy… more Clark Griswold Christmas than winter wonderland, in a good way. So, starting with my studio apartment in New York City, in my small town apartment when I was a bureau reporter and now in my normal apartment…I’ve used varying sizes of bulbs to outline windows and fireplaces. In a small space, all you need are a couple strings to light up the whole room. So, there’s one of the pluses to a small space!

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And while I’m 100% on board with LOTS of Christmas touches…having moved so much in the past few years I’ve kind of held off on collecting big or super nice decorations. Instead, I have a few glittery spiral Christmas trees, a tiny Charlie Brown style fir and then I’ll add to the feel with chocolate advent calendars, a couple little Nutcrackers and ornaments, and red or green bowls of Christmas-themed candy. In a small space, decorating only really takes a few hours- so this weekend I enjoyed the process slowly while listening to The OC Chrismukkah album, munching on chocolate snowmen and Santas and then wrapped a few gifts (I tried to get my shopping done early this year, I’m almost completely there!!)

Even just that little bit of decorating got me completely in the holiday mood. I’m ready now for Christmas lights, gingerbread houses, lots of time with people I care about and hopefully, a little snow! In New Mexico, that’s less likely- we don’t get a LOT of snow but it does get very cold, so I’ll enjoy spend plenty of time snuggled up in my cozy Christmas space! :o)

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why i’m thankful

November 28, 2014

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Despite all the talk of “working the holiday,” I actually got a pretty full dose of festivity for Thanksgiving (minus lounging around on the couch for a post-gobble nap). Wednesday night I whipped up a pumpkin chocolate chip pie and some cinnamon crunch muffins so on Thanksgiving morning I’d have plenty of time to get up and ready, do my nails, stop at Starbucks…yeah, not so much. I hit the snooze button a couple times and was a little late for Macy’s parade watching and breakfast… but no harm no fowl. (Yeah, fowl. Get it? Sorry, I know.)

I started the day with Shaun’s family… we went out for coffee and then played an hour at the park with his son before heading back to the house to draw hand-turkeys with pilgrim hats. It was the perfect morning before heading into work – which, by the way, was the easiest drive of my life. No one hits the road on Thanksgiving until 5p (and even then it’s that select group of shoppers) and it was kind of nice to see Albuquerque so strangely quiet. Work was pretty straightforward, and we ordered in turkey and all the fixing so I still got a solid food coma.

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Anyway, today is the day to talk “thankfulness,” and while I could probably write for ages about all the things I am so thankful for at this point and place in time, I’ll keep it to short little bullets…

  • An amazing family who I am crazy close with even if we’re thousands of miles away
  • A job that lets me learn, explore and meet new people daily
  • Friends in a new place, who are fun and supportive and like to plan fun things
  • A boyfriend who is sweet and kind and caring, and his mini-me, who I adore
  • New Mexico, my (fairly) newfound home, with its warmth and with its beauty
  • Healthy, happy day to day life that’s full of lovely little moments
  • The freedom to have new adventures on a whim
  • Days like today. Time spent with people I love, and doing things I love

I have so much to be grateful for. I know that today, and every day.

when you work the holidays

November 25, 2014

Local television news stations broadcast 365 days a year, which means that if you’re on air (or even if you’re behind the scenes), you’re likely to work through at least a few holidays each year. Being young, unmarried and childless with a family that’s thousands of miles away anyway, I volunteered the past few years (and this year) to work through them in exchange for unadulterated vacay time. It helps because then the married and close-to-family folks get the best deal possible, if not perfect (and most of my other single transplant co-workers tend to do the same)… and I got some sweet time off to relax in January.

Having worked in TV news- first producing, now reporting- since I graduated from college…I’ve worked a lot of holidays. Here’s some of what I’ve been doing to make the best of it!

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Remember why it’s worth it (for whatever reason, represented by this photo of my messy desk haha).
If you don’t L-O-V-E your job, this may not be so easy. But being passionate about my job, I know that I’m working holidays because Christmas or not, news can strike at any time — and it’s my responsibility to capture it and share it with viewers. And if there’s not a ton of hard news, I get to capture a sweet holiday story and share it with families that are watching a newscast together, or people that might be home alone and not have anyone to share that special day with.

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Enjoy holiday cheer– and spread it– where you can.
I’m working Thanksgiving and the day before- which means I won’t have a ton of time to bake pies, something that I love but that takes a little time and I can feel guilty doing if I should be getting ready for work. So instead of baking them for Thanksgiving day… I baked them for this Sunday. I made a couple chocolate chip pumpkin cream pies- one that I shared at Friendsgiving and one that I gave to some of Shaun’s relatives. I got to enjoy the process on my Sunday morning off, try out a new holiday recipe, and not feel stressed about it.

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Spend what time you can with the people you care about.
Shaun and I may not be able to cook a Thanksgiving dinner together…but instead we went out to eat with some friends Sunday and then shared with each other why we’re thankful to be together. And since I don’t work til 2 on Thanksgiving, we can still spend the morning with his family… so we’re making the best of it with brunch and by watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. That’s always been a tradition for my family, so I will still feel like I’m celebrating the day!

Here’s to all the working women (and men) making it work. Happy Thanksgiving!!

S’more cookies: the trial run

November 19, 2014

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My friends are doing Friendsgiving “Tapas-style” next weekend- meaning instead of turkey and mashed potato overload, we’re each supposed to bring a little appetizer or dessert. Driving around the other evening with my window down the autumn scent of fire wafted in and a little lightbulb told me “s’mores cookies.” I did some googling and found a recipe here – since the idea of baking marshmallows in the oven seemed a little precarious, I decided to do a trial run.

I swapped in chunks of Hershey’s bars instead of chocolate chips and halved actual marshmallows instead of using Mallow bits since I wanted it to be as close to what a real s’more tastes like as possible. While baking, my apartment smelled like heaven and straight out of the oven, the cookies were warm and gooey… but the cookie base itself was kind of off. I think I used too many graham cracker crumbs — the texture was almost a little grainy. And even though taste is all that really matters, I don’t love how they looked — a little too chunky and kind of dry. Though I did love the golden brown they took on, and the way the marshmallows kind of caramelized.

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My plan for next time: I think I’m going to add some honey, for a little more “graham cracker flavor” and moisture without having to use as many crumbs… and I might add an extra egg or at least half a yolk. I’m also kind of considering swapping out all of the white sugar and substituting in brown sugar… though I’m nervous about that since I’ve never done it before.

I know, I know – a whole lot of thinking for a simple cookie… but I have this little dream in my head of what “s’mores cookies” should taste like and today’s batch weren’t quite there yet. They were, however, pretty darn cute on the cookie sheet.

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in defense of being totally lazy

November 17, 2014

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Lately weekends have been jam-packed with autumn activities, movie dates and to-do-list cross-offs. Today was different: I slept in two hours later than usual (heavenly), had a late long brunch with a friend, then spent a few hours playing (indoor) hide-and-seek and blowing bubbles with Shaun and his mini-me. I grabbed dinner to-go, caught up on Scandal and painted my nails. I picked up the magazines and catalogs I’d left in a pile for a couple weeks, and plan to top it all off with an early bedtime.

Good thing, because starting next weekend life gets very, very busy again. Almost every week has a big event booked and during those that don’t I have pies to bake, Christmas gifts to buy and vacation prep to do. A whirlwind, but probably my favorite months of the year.

Christmas last year was so much different than this year will likely be. I’d been dating Shaun for about six months, so we were still getting to know each other… but his family invited me into their home and since mine’s thousands of miles away, I said yes. His mom was so inviting and kind and gracious and seeing Shaun play Santa with his son was so sweet, and we finished the night by ordering pizza at midnight (I was shocked that Domino’s is open, too)…it was the perfect way to finish a year that had been full of change.

This year, I work nightside til 10:30 (which I volunteered to do in exchange for prime vacation time off)… which basically means “Christmas Day”=FaceTiming with my family in Chicago, then searching for stories full of holiday cheer. That means instead I’ll be peppering in the spirit of my favorite holiday as much as I can throughout the month. Starting with a peppermint mocha a day and some really ugly sweaters (bought this one at Target a couple weeks ago – couldn’t resist the pom pom balls).

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Anyway, back to how lazy I’ve been this weekend. I did get to hang out with our friend Liz who was in town visiting from Taos… we hit a couple bars and caught up. She just had the cutest baby in the world three months ago and I can’t wait to see her again so probably a little road trip is in order. I also finally decided on what to make for Friendsgiving next weekend and picked a twist on pumpkin pie that I can’t wait to try.

Right now, though…I have an episode of MTV’s Faking It to watch and some cuddly pajamas to sink into. I have about an hour of lazy left!