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wrapping up

It's early in the morning, and I'm typing in my office in the dark. Still I can see the chaos everywhere--piles of presents, rolls of shiny paper, unfinished lists, etc. It's the last three days before work officially goes on winter closure, and not long after that, Michael and I will be reunited with my family. But first, all of the emails need to be sent, the house cleaned, the to-dos squared away.

The other day, I emptied out a bottle of conditioner, body wash, and hand soap in the span of a morning. Don't you love that feeling when you finish something all the way through? Choosing just the right shampoo is a major source of glee--just ask my husband who has to wait (v. impatiently, of course) while I sniff every single option in the Target aisle. But I digress. My point is that crossing anything off the list feels like a major accomplishment these days.

The year is nearing its end, people. The magic of Santa and the tooth fairy have long faded away, but there is still something powerful about December 31st and the first day of the new year. Around this time, people talk about how new year resolutions don't work. Some take pride in not making any at all because what's the point? But I like to focus more on thinking than doing (although I do make resolutions!).

How was 2014? What did I love about it? What am I grateful for? What do I want to carry over into the new year? What do I want to be better at? What will make me happy? How do I want to treat others?

The quiet mornings are all the more special because they give me a chance to reflect. It's amazing how much--albeit sometimes how little--can occur in twenty-four hours, in five. Some of my favorite moments of the year only took two. As the clock winds down on 2014, it is awesome (in the old-fashioned sense of the word)  to think of all the possibilities, big and small, short and long, that lay ahead.

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celebrating with friends

The holiday season definitely feels different from how it did when we were kids, but that's a good thing, right? Yes, the wide-eyed wonder of Santa and the North Pole (I hope I'm not ruining it for you when I say he doesn't exist) and abundant glee from a mountain of gifts (now I wince when I look at my budget) are gone, but in its place is an opportunity to create a different kind of meaning. Not only do I appreciate family so much more, but there's a certain kind of magic in the celebrations we have with friends. Here are people with such different personalities who aren't tied by blood, creating meaningful bonds of their own, deriving joy from sharing time and traditions.

This weekend was a great reminder of that. I decided to bake a family favorite—the Malacañang Roll—as my contribution to a Thanskmas dinner. I'd never baked it before and have only made maybe two other cakes in the past five years or so, but decided to do it. What ensued was a comedy of errors. Oh I had fun singing at the top of my lungs to Taylor Swift (I went through both the 1989 and Red albums) and waving a wooden spoon around the kitchen, but when my filling wasn't thickening after a full forty minutes of stirring I got worried. So worried that I called my grandmother at 6:30 her time to ask what I had done wrong. After a lot of laughter, she said she had no idea. It eventually worked, so that should have been that, except that the icing decided not to cooperate either! The result? A truly fugly cake.

The perfectionist in me was wincing, but being surrounded by friends and holiday décor and all-around good cheer made me forget it. Trying out what everyone else made, talking about our plans with our families… While I sometimes miss feeling the way I did as a kid, there's so much more gratitude these days, so much kindness (in large acts and small) that completely flew over my head. And that's pretty wonderful too.

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blink and it's friday

Work was so busy, busy, busy this week that I am extra glad I got to relax and regroup last Sunday. As I type, I look around and wince at the piles of papers in the office and heaps of dirty dishes (yikes!) in the kitchen. One of the side effects of working from home is having a full dishwasher every couple of days even when the husband is out of town. Well, he's home now, but dish duty is my domain (he who cooks, does not clean—and I do not cook), so our sink is not a pretty sight.

It's a good, tired feeling—akin to how you feel after a great workout—hitting Friday with most of my to-dos crossed off. And it’s so easy to look at the bright side during the holiday season. After all, part of the reason I'm so tired is that I had a late night (which means in bed at 11:30 for an oldie like me—I know, so exciting) decorating a Christmas tree with good friends and another night having a book club session where we, of course, did not talk about the book at all, and consumed three bottles of wine among six women instead. And while this weekend's schedule is jam packed, I can't complain about a double date brunch and holiday shopping. I'm also really, really excited about a good holiday sit-down dinner with friends, so much so that instead of stealing the two free hours I have to read and relax, I will be baking away, likely to some Christmas tunes. A store-bought cake would be simpler and, let's be honest, likely yummier, but it just isn't the same.

I wonder—if it weren't Christmas, would I feel as optimistic, would my need-three-cups-of-tea-before-ten tiredness roll off my back as easily? It's an unexpected gift, this reminder that a simple perspective shift can make me so much happier. How nice it would be if I could carry this kind of joyfulness all year round.

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thankful for family

Happy Monday! Even though it was a challenge to wake up early this morning, I'm feeling pretty great--refreshed, relaxed, ready to tackle on the week, thanks to an amazing Thanksgiving-holiday-weekend. This year, we spent it in Atlanta with Michael's relatives: his uncle and aunt and their three kids and the grandparents. Princess (the grandparents' cat) was locked away because she doesn't get along with Muffin (another cat), and Annie (the dog) was vacationing in the mountains away from the rest of the family (long story), but Watson livened things up a bit.

Even before the move to Nashville, I was getting horribly out of practice on family time (my wonderfully boisterous and large family is now split pretty evenly between Manila and Vancouver), so I've come to see it as a real treat to be with relatives. I genuinely enjoy Michael's family. There are so many things to look forward to: brushing up my (non-existent) card shark skills, eating the yummiest home-cooked meals, and being entertained by the funniest kid I've ever met, among others. My favorite thing to do is just lean back and watch things unfold--Michael loves his family, and he's so happy around them. And it's so much fun to see the kids goof off. They're such good kids, Michael's cousins, so welcoming with their big hearts and happy smiles.

We headed home on Saturday night--much as I love family time, the introvert in me needs alone time to recharge--and puttered around on Sunday to get everything in order for the week. (Don't you just love having a day to regroup after a holiday? I feel so discombobulated otherwise!)

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend with your families as well. I can't believe that this is only the beginning of the holiday season! It's going to be a great Christmas.

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my kind of marathon

I made the huge mistake of taking Netflix up on its generous offer to give me a free trial (I got off their bandwagon about two years ago). A few months ago, I came to the conclusion that I'm not really a television show kind of person anymore. I have a handful that I watch regularly, but aside from Top Chef and Game of Thrones, which is seen as soon as Michael and I can be in the same room (he travels a lot), I can hold off for a few days, even a few weeks, on Modern Family and New Girl. My interest in some pop culture faves: Scandal, Revenge, Big Bang Theory and the like, peaked and waned pretty quickly. I'm not a loyal viewer. Free time is limited after all, and I prefer to spend mine reading.

So imagine my surprise when I started marathon viewing shows! Now it's hard to pry me away from the screen. I've revisited Gilmore Girls, which I watched regularly throughout high school and college. It's wonderful to know that it lives up to my memories of it (unlike Dawson's Creek, unfortunately, although I still love Pacey). And, in a Lauren Graham streak, I'm viewing Parenthood from the pilot onward. My friend told me that he can't get through an episode without crying--and I've begun to prove that theory right.

I'm having a lot of fun--and I'm surprised by the lack of guilt from this television-binge. With the weather so unforgiving outside, it's nice to know there's something interesting to watch while I'm bundled up indoors. 


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move over, adam

Within the first five minutes of the show, I knew I would enjoy BBC's Sherlock, but I didn't know that I would love it so much that I would name my puppy after Martin Freeman's Dr. John Watson (in my mind, this would be his ideal human personality). And I didn't know that, over the years, my celebrity crush on Benedict Cumberbatch would grow to the point where it would eventually knock Adam Brody off first place.

The psychology of a celebrity crush is an interesting thing. It's admittedly weird to get a little thrill when I peruse photos online, but it's also a humorous party conversation starter and (am I being even weirder by saying?) harmless fun for a married woman to engage in.

Clearly, pretty much the entire internet agrees with me on Benedict Cumberbatch's appeal. I'll even admit that I was late to this party. I found him oddly attractive from the first, but my crush grew over time as opposed to a legion of women who fell instantly. It was the interviews that did me in. Aside from those increasingly handsome features and that accent, he's well-spoken, surprisingly down to earth (must be due to his fame late in the game), goofy, and engaged. I like a man who can commit. I mean, my husband had to remind me that I was married when I expressed disappointment the morning I read about his engagement to Sophie Hunter, but that's another story. My point is that celebrity is a very strange thing, and from what I read, I like how he's handling it. It must be fun to be his friend, I think.

In case you aren't convinced, have a different #1, or do not have him on your list entirely (if so, what on earth are you thinking?), read this great article in Elle UK's December issue. Out of all the pieces I've read on him, I like it best. Just be ready for some heart pitter-pattering and heavy sighs---and that's before you even get to the part about him describing Sherlock having sex. Yep, never thought I'd be interested in that when I was reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but what can I say?

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the pixie

After our trip to Europe this summer, I decided I would be growing out the pixie. It was the easiest cut I'd ever had, styling it took five minutes flat (no hairdryer, no flatiron!), and it was remarkably liberating--but cowlicks and crazy bedhead--and fighting windy days as a tourist (my hair never emerged victorious) got tiring. At least twice a year I wake up and need to do something to my hair and usually follow through within the next 48 hours. This time though there was nothing I could do but wait...and wait.

As a researcher by nature, I had read up on the good and the bad of the pixie cut weeks before getting my hair chopped. So yes, I knew I would be going through an extended awkward phase (two of my friends recently reminded me by sending a buzzfeed article that described it in hilarious detail). On Saturday, ten weeks after my last cut, I got my "duck tail" trimmed to avoid a full-on mullet. It's funny how you get used to your reflection in the mirror--I didn't realize how awkward I must have looked until after the trim.

As I settle in the loooooong stretch before being able to coil my hair and tie it in a precarious knot atop my head (for some reason this hairstyle and a fisherman sweater means "cozy winter" to me), the photos above of the adorable Carey Mulligan give me hope. She rocked every single phase of the growing-out period.

If all else fails, I have my trusty beanie. The one good thing about this miserable not-fall-like weather!

{image via which also has great practical advice for growing out the pixie cut}