December came and went in a flurry of activity/house stuff/ traveling/getting ready for the holidays and spending a lot of hours getting pet portraits done in time for them to be delivered as holiday gifts.
Early on in the month, we planned a weekend with my best bud Daniel. He came down and saw our new house and then we all went drove down to Baltimore.
My two fave dudes. I feel really lucky to be in a relationship where we both hang out with our (and each other’s) big exes and don’t think twice about it. I forget that that isn’t necessarily typical and is even a point of contention in a lot of relationships. These guys have both been huge parts of my life and I’m glad they are good friends now too.
We got to Baltimore in the early evening and headed to Spro for coffee and met up with Kate, one of my besties from when I lived in Baltimore. We were roommates for a year and a half, which in hindsight, isn’t that long, but it was during a very formative time in my life so she feels like one of my most significant former roomies. We sat around catching up and dove in deep to good conversation and it felt great to get right back to that point with two people I don’t see enough.
We took our coffee to go and walked through 34th St. on the way back to our car. Hampen was nearly unrecognizable as a neighborhood. I heard it had been changing but I actually couldn’t believe my eyes. So weird. But at the same time, it’s been 8 years since I lived in Baltimore, so of course it has. I can’t believe it’s been that long.
After getting dinner, we all went to a show at Metro Gallery to see Dead Mechanical play. The purpose of our trip was to see our friend Dan’s last show before he moved out to San Francisco. We didn’t get to hang with him too much but I’m glad we got to see him before he headed across the country.
We were torn about whether to stay over in Baltimore or head back to Philly that night and we ended up heading back home. In the morning, making breakfast. Mikey dancing to something.
Nice light in our dining room
We just hung around for the afternoon and took a walk around our neighborhood.
When we got back home, I made some cookies to bring over to a holiday cookie party we were going to later that afternoon and Daniel headed back up to NYC. If you want to eat the best salted chocolate chunk cookies you’ve ever eaten, make this recipe. You will not regret it.
Kat Frat holiday party
The following week, we made the decision to adopt a puppy our friend Jaime had been fostering. I never thought I would get a puppy – I like the idea of adopting adult dogs for a lot of reasons: they’re less likely to be adopted from shelters than cute little puppies, you can tell more about their personality rather than having to wait and see, not having to house train, etc. But we met this little pup and she spoke to me. She wasn’t super eager and all over us like a lot of puppies can be. She was quiet and observant. Something about her personality reminded me of Rover. Not to mention she looks pretty similar to him too.
After two weeks of weighing the pros and cons, we decided to go for it. We had planned to wait until February to get a dog because we knew we would be traveling for the holidays and Mikey has a 9 day tour in Feb so we wanted to wait for that to be over first since we planned to get a rescue and adult rescues can be a handful. But when we met this little pup, we realized we could make it work. Our new house didn’t feel like a home without a dog and I wanted one way more than I expected to after we lost Rover.
The day we adopted her, they found out she has a genetic eye disorder called Entropion. It basically means her eyelid is too small to function exactly right, it curls inward, and there’s a good chance her eyelashes can scrape her eye and cause eye infection or eventual loss of eyesight. But it can be corrected with a surgery when she’s around one and the shelter offered to pay for the surgery in full if we were willing to do preventative care until she was one. We decided that was manageable.
In the meantime, they put in tacking stitches to hold her eyelid open a little wider to prevent any problems. As she gets bigger, they may need to do the tacking stitches a couple more times to keep the eyelid held back.
Maple was pretty nervous the first couple days – she had been in foster care with her brother from her litter and was used to being with him all the time. Adjusting to being the only dog was a process she had to go through. She was really scared to be alone.
But we made good strides pretty quickly.
Little leaf eater.
She’s a real cuddle bug.
Four days after getting this little noodle, we headed on the road to Michigan for the holidays. We definitely took for granted the fact that not all dogs are okay traveling in the car because Rover was so easy about it, so I can say I truly feel lucky that Maple didn’t have any trouble. She slept the entire way!
We did the drive in two chunks, staying near Pittsburgh in a motel and driving the rest of the way the next morning. We got to Michigan around 6pm on Christmas Eve. My mom sold her house in Paw Paw earlier this year (the house I lived in when I was 16 until college after my parents divorced) and moved in to an apartment in Kalamazoo. She kept making it sound like her apartment was tiiiny but it was way bigger than I expected. My siblings and nephews came over that night to hang out. That’s my older brother, Abe, and my nephews Thomas and Asher (my oldest sister Rachel’s sons.)
Ah! My brother, Abe, didn’t realize how close he was getting Asher to the ceiling until I showed him this photo. Ha.
Traditionally, everyone hangs their own stocking on Christmas Eve. My brother Abe got married this year and his wife’s mom was visiting from Taiwan. She doesn’t speak English and it was interesting to get to see my brother speak fluent Chinese. I knew he could but had never really seen it since he and his wife, Ivy, mostly speak English when they’re around us.
Maple was sort of thrown into the deep end as a new adoptee. We had her for just a couple days before driving across the country and meeting a LOT of new people. Her biggest socialization fear seemed to be meeting new people, so I think although overwhelming, it was ultimately really good for her – especially since Mikey and I have a pretty quiet house and don’t have people over toooo often. Here she is eating her own harness, which she has mostly stopped doing since.
After brunch, skyping with my younger brother who currently lives in China.
For some reason, basically everyone showed up wearing maroon!
After all the Christmas celebration at my mom’s, we headed over to my dad’s to do it all again there. My dad still lives in Paw Paw in the house I grew up in.
My dad’s wife, Sue, handing out presents.
By second Christmas, Maple was tuckered out. At one point she wandered off and when I went to check on her I found her sleeping on our shoes by the front door.
My childhood landscape. When I lived on this farm it was mostly a vineyard and hay. A few years ago my dad turned it into a chestnut tree farm. The trees are still pretty tiny but have gotten a lot bigger over the years. It’s weird to think that in the future it could be a forest!
Lake Brownwood. I didn’t think about how weird it is that I ended up buying a house on Greenwood Ave and that also the lake in the middle of Paw Paw is called Maple Lake! I got to Paw Paw and had no idea how all of that hadn’t crossed my mind.
My dad and Mapes.
The day after Christmas, I met up with my siblings and nephew to take our nephew geocaching around Paw Paw. My older brother and Ivy got into geocaching in Chicago because it’s a surprisingly fun free activity and a good way to find your way around a new place. Abe and Ivy are both in school right now so they were looking for free things to do around Chicago. He told me and Mikey about it and we tried it over Thanksgiving when we were in Bethesda visiting Mikey’s family.
It was fun doing it in Paw Paw. It took me to a couple places I had never been in Paw Paw even though I lived there for 18 years and it’s a tiny town! That’s my favorite thing about geocaching. It makes you engage in your surroundings in a new way, especially spots you would typically overlook.
The temperature was 60 when we arrived in Paw Paw just before Christmas and dropped to 30 pretty quickly. We were all underdressed.
Mom and Mapes. My parents are animal lovers. When we were thinking about adopting Maple, the first thing I did was check in with my parents to see if they would be cool with a puppy staying over for the holidays. My mom didn’t hesitate. Even when I called her back after our first (and thankfully only) sleepless night, letting her know she might bark in the middle of the night, my mom came up with all the reasons it would be totally fine and she was more than welcome.
Later that day we headed over to my friends’ Katie and Kristy’s house in Kalamazoo. They just bought it at the end of summer! We were meeting up for “Crew Family Christmas.” Growing up, I had a group of best lady friends (Merry, Katie, Frances and Erin) and we would refer to ourselves as ‘the crew’ in middle school and high school. Considering we’ve all lived in different places since we graduated high school, we’ve done a pretty great job of staying in each other’s lives. This is Kristy, Katie’s wife, holding Maddie, Frances’ baby. None of us had met Maddie before! She’s super sweet and smiley.
Erin, helping her son, Eli, open presents. Those of us without kids (Merry, Katie and me) got some gifts for Erin and Frances’s kids. This was intentionally the first annual “Crew Family Christmas.”
Frances, Katie and Merry! I’ve known these ladies since I was five (Frances since I was ten, when she moved to Paw Paw.)
Maddie checking out a gift she received.
Look at this cute little fam. John, Fran and Maddie live outside of Detroit.
My cute little fam.
The straw in the martini glass. Eli is pure class. Erin, Jason and Eli live in Chicago.
Kristy was a total baby hog
For reference…. freshman year of high school
senior year. We took one each year, and have pretty much taken one every time we’ve all gotten together post-college.
One of Katie and Kristy’s dogs, Elsie.
Fran and Maddie. All of my best buds are married, and Frances and Erin both have a kid. Erin is expecting a second!
Much later in the night, after having watched the Taylor Swift 1989 World Tour video.
Merry and Tim! These two live in San Francisco.
The following morning, we had yet another big get together with another set of old friends. This is my friend Dan’s mom and his baby, Vi. The last time we saw Vi she was only a few weeks old!
Later that night, we started our drive back to Philly. We stopped outside of Cleveland and stayed over at a hotel. We also got Maple a silly little sweater because she was not happy about going out in the cold.
Back in Philly, a few days later, it was New Years Eve. Our old roommate Guy came to town so we were able to catch up with him, which was great. We went with him and Leslie and Andrew to see the James Turrell Skyspace installation at the Quaker Meeting House in Chestnut Hill. I was really excited for it and it exceeded my expectations. I’m excited to go again sometime. No photos were allowed in the space, but it’s a room with a rectangle hole in the ceiling that you watch the sky through, and lights in the room change color gradually which effects your perception of the color of the sky. It lasts for the whole sunset, almost an hour and is quiet and meditative. It was really beautiful. A great thing to do on the last night of the year.
Later, after binge watching Making A Murderer, we tore ourselves away long enough to go to a party at our old house, Swoon City.
We stayed just past midnight and then went home and watched more Making A Murderer. Ha!
On New Years Day we spent time working in our studios, hangin with Maple, and then went to a show that night at Hub Bub. Some friends from DC came up to play in their band, Maneuvers.
Jen jumped on a song to sing a Green Day cover with them.
Then her band, Fraktur, played. They’ve only played a couple shows and went on a weekend tour that weekend with Maneuvers.
I can’t believe December is over and January is well under way. It came and went, as all the months seem to these days. Someone said that years go by faster as you get older because each year is a smaller fraction of your lifespan as time goes on, which made a lot of sense. That fills me with some sort of existential dread if I think about it too long, so I’m not going to. But damn. 2015 was a year. I feel like almost everyone I know went through some pretty big changes/growth/loss/transition. I know that goes without saying, but it felt more monumental than other years. I hope 2016 is a building year – where things stay the same but only get better/stronger/more solidified and I expect my yard and garden to be the start of that. Already counting down the days to getting things growing.