Friday, December 23, 2011

'Tis the Season

Christmas has turned into a wonderful season this year. It has been warm, festive, and relatively low stress. I think that in light of Papai's death on December 1st, I emotionally gave myself permission not to accomplish anything, so when we decorated, or made Christmas cards, or had a baking day for our neighbors, I felt well pleased with our work instead of driving myself crazy with to-do lists. Marcos and my mom have also pitched in this year, which has made everything so much more manageable.

This season we have enjoyed...

Co-hosting a Christmas Cookies and Milk baby shower for my friend Holly who is expecting her first little girl in January.

Having a few hand-made (in this case, hand-painted) gifts to work on.

Making cookies for our neighbors.

Attending the UNC School of Social Work holiday party at a local fave, Foster's Market. This photo is of our dean Jack Richman playing his guitar and leading the group to the song, "If I had a hammer". My best work-friend Lisa's daughter Ellie is in preschool, and knew all of the words to the song, so they put her on the chair to help lead the song. I work in the coolest place. Each year we also have cookies for the kiddos to decorate, and this year Fosters provided the sugar cookies and royal icing. Yum!

The first week of December we put up a few decorations around our little home so that we could enjoy them for a few weeks!

And last Saturday we took a sleigh ride on a real horse with our friends Kim and Jason and co. in Raleigh, and came back to their place for a Mary and Joseph dinner. I unfortunately didn't get any good photos of the sleigh ride, but the dinner was superb! So filling, but not in a heavy way. Grilled marinated chicken (traditionally we do fish, but we had some non-fish eaters), grapes, an impressive olive platter, pears, and my new-found home-made hummus recipe with fresh pita bread from the Mediterranean Deli in Chapel Hill. I wish we could eat this every day...

And if you add on a few dinners with friends, a present opening Family Home Evening, a Christmas sing-along at our friends, and a movie night out to see "A Christmas Story" in the Varsity Theater, that brings you to today. I wanted to post now because soon we will be in Portland for a few short days, and then off to Hawaii!

I can't believe it, I'm going home after three years away!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Just four months away from TWO

It's time for a Gigi update! I've been wanting to capture who she is right now, because she is learning and changing so fast that each stage seems to fly by very quickly. She is now 20 months old, and I can't believe that we are four short months away from TWO! *Sigh*

We love her so much. We are so, so, so in love.

When I was young I used to organize my Tutu's canned goods cupboard into categories for fun (I didn't have siblings, remember?), and I think that organizing has stuck with me. I seem to like approaching Gigi's development by categories. It helps me to remember the things I want to remember.


Gigi is becoming quite a talker. The other day I think we actually had a conversation...

Gigi: Let's go!
Me: Okay. Where should we go?
Gigi: Hawaii
Me: Oooh, Hawaii? What should we do in Hawaii?
Gigi: Walk!

Gigi is also starting to put together simple sentences. The other day Marcos went to work with his friend Matt, and Gigi looked at me in the morning and asked, "Papai?". I told her that he had gone out to help "Tio (Uncle) Matt". Throughout the day, whenever Gigi thought about her Papai, she pointed to the door and reassuringly told me "Papai ajuda Tio Matt".


When I'm not prompting her, Gigi can sing the entire musical octave (not on key, but hey). When I try to help her, she rebels and starts to sing "Do, mi, mi... mi, sol, sol".

Gigi loves the "Hello, hello!" song, "I Do" by Colbie Calait, "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and "I love to see the Temple". I didn't realize until last week that "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star", the "ABC" song, and "Baa Baa Black Sheep" all have the same melody. It became clear when Gigi started blending a few of them together in the same song.


Gigi knows a handful of letters. We have magnetic letters on the fridge and it is fun to look at them during snack time. The other day she was looking at a book and said, "Double Yu!". I looked at the page, and was surprised to see that the versal was indeed a beautiful "W". Because Marcos, my mom and I all have days that we are with Gigi, surprises are common because she is learning different things from each of us.

Potty Talk:

In Hawaii, all little kids grow up learning "Pupu Hinuhinu", which is a Hawaiian lullaby about shiny pretty shells found at the ocean. Well, I unintentionally created a Pavlovian link between this song and Gigi making poopoo. She is fairly regular, but when we're on a deadline and I'm trying to get things moving I put on the song, walk away for a few minutes, and without fail...

When Gigi passes gas she has carried on the Prieto tradition of saying "Passa Lulu!" (Shoo, Lulu!). Historically, this was the way for Marcos' paternal grandparents to blame it on the family dog, whose name was Lulu. We're still not certain if Lulu the dog ever actually existed.

Recent fixations:

Gigi is fixated on peanut butter, birthday parties and candles, Elmo (sigh...), the little table and chairs set we just bought her for Christmas, agua (her imaginary scene where she says she is in a boat now includes dolphins in the water, and she has added an element of swimming), talking on the pretend phone with her Tutu, chocolate, reading books, and her red painted toenails.


A month or two ago, we left a friend's house and Gigi cried all the way to the car because I made her give back a stuffed dog that belonged to her friend Emerson. As we were leaving their house I told her, "Gigi, we can't take that wow wow because it's Emerson's wow wow". Suddenly the light clicked on. For the ten minutes on the way home she kept repeating in an awed voice, "Emerson's wow wow... Emerson's wow wow". Since that day, she has been careful to label things according to whomever owns them. Tutu's toothbrush. Papai's socks. Mamãe's juice. Gigi's table. Fortunately, "my" and "mine" haven't come into her vocabulary yet.

She also recently started using the word "too". "I sitting too". I think she might have it confused with "two" because if she sees you do it and you are number one, and she does it then she is doing it two/too, but that will get ironed out in the wash. I am just amazed that she is as verbal as she is. She is a girl who knows what she wants, so I'm hoping that by the time she hits her really colorful stage, she will have the tools she needs to communicate and continue to rock our world!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Delivery Girl

Mrs. Clause and Tutu Clause have been busy at our house this week! This year we tried Martha's Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies, and Torie's Cherry Chocolate Chunk cookies for our neighbors, and this is the first time I have ever been truly impressed with a cookie that has come out of my oven. I am not being modest when I say that my cookie-baking skills are dismal. The chocolate gingerbread recipe was a wee bit persnickety, but totally worth it in the end. They are as delicious as they are pretty!

The delivery girl was pretty cute as well.

Monday, December 12, 2011


Last week before The Worst Day happened I was looking for time to write about our annual trip up North for Thanksgiving, and I never found it. But finally, life is flipping back right side up, and I have a backlog of things to say.

First, Thanksgiving.

On the Tuesday night before Thanksgiving, we packed up the car at Gigi's bedtime and started off on our journey. At about 8am the following day we reached our destination. It's not necessarily easy to drive through the night, but what a treat to drive up the East coast without traffic! Gigi was awesome and slept through most of the night.

We moved to North Carolina in 2007, and every Thanksgiving we have made it to New Jersey to celebrate the holiday with my dad, Emili and her clan. Each year there are new elements, but there are also elements that are starting to take on the less-nebulous form of traditions. One of my favorites is our park trips. The day before Thanksgiving we took an afternoon stroll at a local park, and the weather was beautiful!

Does this girl know what she wants? Why, yes she does. She wants the nausea-inducing carousel. She loved spinning with Papai and Tutu.

And then came Thanksgiving Day. Usually Thanksgiving is a frenzy of activity all day long, but for some reason this year we were all a bit more relaxed. Even the turkey felt relaxed. I had to take photos of it because it was so pretty, but the end result was much less impressive. Does anybody ever make a good-tasting turkey, that is moist and flavorful? I'm about to take a page out of my friend Abbie's book and vote for Rotisserie chicken next year.

For those of you dedicated prietissimo readers (yes, all three of you), you may be wondering about the location of our Thanksgiving feast. Usually we sup under the stars in the greenhouse out in my dad's backyard, but this year we did something new: Emili purchased a dining table and chairs, and the front room was converted into a dining room! We hung the lighting together, and decorated together, and cooked food together for our celebration. Although we missed certain aspects of eating in the greenhouse in the backyard, being warm, being close to the kitchen and having room for everyone at the table was a major bonus. I think that we have simply outgrown the greenhouse.

They may not eat meat, but their sense of humor is still intact! My dad and the inflatable turkey...

Kali Orexi! Turkey, Emili's super delish cranberry sauce, butternut squash risotto, roasted potatoes and carrots, roasted asparagus, the famous sweet potato and bananas dish, and white rice for my dad, who still has a lot of Hawaii left in him. Below, some of my creations. Pumpkin Flan with Spiced Pepitas, which I thought turned out surprisingly similar to pumpkin pie but much more silky - the burnt sugary caramel sauce and the crunch and spices of the pepitas made it worth the effort, at least in my book. And the apple pie that Emma and I worked on. She made the dough and I did the lattice work.

Thanksgiving night we always stay up late eating desserts and playing scattergories as a family. Below, Emili and Gigi enjoying some down time.

And then it was time for our NYC adventure of the year! Each year we spend the Saturday after Thanksgiving in New York City. Last year Gigi was little enough to bundle up in a stroller and push around, but this year I knew we would have to rethink things a little bit and make our trip much more toddler friendly. Overall, I think our adventure left a good impression because Gigi still this afternoon yelled, "New York CITY!".

Our walk up 5th Avenue after arriving at Penn Station is always an adventure. The sidewalk is a zoo, but Lord and Taylor's didn't disappoint. The display windows were incredible this year! It was just Gigi, my mom and I for the trek into the city on the commuter train, because Marcos had gone into the city early to catch the Islamic Art exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Marcos has been in an Art History class this semester, and hallelujah, those required General Education classes are starting to pay off! Below, my mom and Gigi point to a sign that read "Little Brazil" and well, the truck would have ruined my photo if the exchange between my mom and Gigi weren't so darned cute.

Above, Gigi lovin' on the mini-chairs at Bryant Square Park, and below, the New York Palace Hotel after we had met up with Marcos at St. Patrick's Cathedral. I asked these "British Guards" how they scored this kind of seasonal work, and they chuckled and said, "It's an interesting story". I'll bet.

Every year there are a few new things to discover. This year we discovered the NYC taxi! Marcos hailed one just like in the movies, and we all piled in for the ride across town to meet our friends at the Shake Shack off of West Central Park. I've been hoping to meet up with Abbie and her little family in the Big City for the past few years that we've been in NYC, but usually they are off traveling for Thanksgiving week. This time we were lucky. So very, very lucky! Abbie and I met one hundred years ago in college, and although our paths didn't cross as many times then as I would have liked, she was exuberant and interesting, and definitely someone on the top of my "get to know better" list. She and her cute family met us for a late lunch at the Shake Shack for amazing burgers, fries and shakes, and it was so nice to enjoy their company outside on the benches where we enjoyed the perfect day and dodged the drips from our super delicious burgers.

By mid-afternoon Gigi was ready for some park-time, so after waving adieu to Abbie's husband Forrest, who went off to study for medical school boards, Abbie and her littles Audrey and Eli guided us to Heckscher Playground in Central Park for some hard-core playing. Below are Audrey and Gigi. One of my favorite photos of the day! Abbie has a great camera and also captured the little ones in her post of Thanksgiving here.

I don't know how long we were there at the playground, but Abbie and I were sucked into a time machine where the world functions without you (a.k.a. thank you Marcos and mom for playing with the kiddos!), and we had the best time talking about life. Sometimes I feel like blogging steals some of your thunder because often people can read your stories before you have a chance to tell them in person, but in our case, I think blogging and reading each other's blogs over the past few years really facilitated a smooth transition to enjoying our together time. When it became dark and we had to say good-bye, I felt really inspired to do things differently because of my conversations with Abbie. I don't know how she pulls off being wise, exuberant, honest, attentive and family-minded, gorgeous and fashionable, incredibly down-to-earth and loving all at the same time, but she makes it look so easy...

Gigi may hate me someday for putting the above photo on the internet, but I just had to. She was so tired by the time we left the playground that this photo just says it all. Below, one last photo before we said bye bye to Abbie and co.

After a brief stop-off at F.A.O. Schwartz we headed for dinner at a Japanese restaurant that was quiet, clean and just the break we needed! Then was the trek through Rockefeller Center...

...and Times Square before catching the train back home. It was nearly 11pm when we got back to New Jersey, and Gigi was still barely awake, after snuggling me on the train all the way home. What tired feet, what tired bodies, but what a great day.

The next morning we packed, enjoyed a quiet morning, and Gigi looked at her favorite book with Grandpa. What a treat! Thank you Dad and Emili for hosting us again, and for providing our little clan with so many good memories this year!

On the way home we were in for another treat. Our friends Robin and Scott moved from Hawaii to Maryland about a year ago, and so we stopped at their place for dinner and for a perfect break from the frustrating Sunday traffic! It has been years since we saw them last, and I love when time treats people well. They now own a house, they have two great little boys, and it was such a nice evening touring their new little home, sitting to eat the great dinner they prepared and catching up on life. I knew Scott in high school and Robin in college, and they were the two nicest people I knew so I introduced them and they got married. I think it's a great story.

But I always leave something undone so that I have a reason to go back: we didn't get to sing! Robin and I have always been a singing duo, so next time when we're not in such a rush visit we'll have to prioritize singing together. Robin has a gorgeous alto voice.

And I think that just about wraps up the annual Thanksgiving road trip. Thanks for sticking around to the end. Whew!