Hello, again! I've missed you all in my absence . . . I've been dwelling in holiday and family (and snow!) here in Georgia. Hope everyone else's Christmas was as beautiful as mine was. My best gift? Inches of snow!
on my mama's back deck on Christmas Day
excuse the poor picture quality--camera was dead!
But last night came the real excitement as the Saints took on the Falcons in the Georgia Dome. Note that I am a major Saints fan currently in Falcon territory! And given that I grew up in Georgia, you can imagine my facebook news feed was brimming with this kind of slander:
Hunter Willett:I hope the aints fans are wearing protective gear cause there will be some shankin going on tonight if they want to talk that who dat BS. They will walk into the dome tonight happy and hoping for a win and they will leave with a loss and a knife in that ass.
I mean whoa, man, a little agro there, huh? In any case, I quietly basked in giddiness and glory since my boys were the first team to take down the Falcons in their own stadium this season. WHO DAT!
We had at least 20 people over to my dad & Amy's house, and I believe I was the only New Orleans fan in the room . . . but I wore my Love Dat! shirt, fleur de lis earrings, gold glitter shoes, and my Who Dat scarf, and I cheered my boys on proudly.
I'm off to lunch with the family, but I'm eager to catch up on all of your blogs and hear about your holidays!
As soon as I took my seat on the airplane, right next to a couple decked out in head-to-toe Harley Davidson gear (man with long gray ponytail, excess facial hair, Harley Davidson wife beater, and tattoos; woman with excess eyeliner, Harley clothes, Harley ring), I knew I was headed home. I'm not kidding when I say that I heard them talking about their dog . . . named Harley.
My mama picked me up at the airport, and now I'm writing from my childhood bed (and at 3 am Georgia time). There's even a framed picture of tiny baby Claire on the nightstand. :)
It feels good to be home, and I can't wait to see all my peeps. Plus, my stepmom and I are going to get Brazilian blowouts tomorrow--woo hoo for shiny, frizzless locks!
But before I left California, I went to a baby shower for a very special lady. Many of you know my dear friend Heather from her blog, A Measure Of . . . . She was one of my first friends in grad school (I met her in my very first poetry workshop as an MFA student!), and we've never looked back--through several relationships, a few wild and mildly embarrassing stories, and trips around the world. After a few-year stint in Patagonia, Chile, I finally have Heather back with me! And now she has a husband and a baby (belly) in tow.
On Saturday we convened at The Hobnob, one of the East Bay's finest brunch establishments (my opinion might be swayed due to their $8 bottomless mimosas). It was so wonderful to see Heather again (although harder to hug her now!) and to finally meet Serkan! He's just as sweet and adorable as she'd described.
soon-to-be-parents, Serkan & Heather
And because I was so thrilled to be hanging out with Heather again, I didn't even mind that I was the only single person at the table, and the only woman drinking (I had four mimosas)! Cheers to that, right?
Heather, Heather's belly, and me
She's a pretty damn cute pregnant lady. She's all belly and she carries it so elegantly! I cannot wait to meet lil man Yalin. There's no doubt he's gonna be a stunner, what with his lovely & peaceful parents. Move to Oakland, Heather! You'll pretty much have an on-call auntie-sitter! :)
Today, December 17, 2010, is a very special day. It is my best friend Tiffany's 30th birthday! What I would give to be celebrating with her over wine and laughs in some woodsy cabin right about now. Sadly, for the past 8 years, we've lived across the country from each other. And although I talk to her several times a week, I still miss her all the time!
I wish I had a scanner and could scan some pics of Tiff and me in our incredibly mischievous early teens. We tore up our high school! Here are some of the antics we pulled off during our four years at Harrison High School:
Signed our meanest teacher up for a professional escort service
Came to school wearing only trench coats in an attempt to woo our Latin teacher
Put dried pasta in all the vending machines (where you get your change) just so people would be like huh???
Wrote an expose on a local theater director, accusing him of being sexually inappropriate (he was!), and placed them in bookstores around the town
Created an email account for the mean teacher and wrote ridiculous messages to students and faculty
Dressed up as . . . "ladies of the night" and tried to get a job at the Moonlight Spa, just so we could expose them as a secret brothel. It kinda worked! (Although at one point we got chased pretty far down dark streets by the angry Chinese proprietor). Our constant harassment resulted in their installment of video cameras right inside the door. (And for the record, they did get busted for prostitution not long after we went off to college. Tiff's mom mailed us the newspaper article!).
Tiff in a tree
We went off to college together at Tulane University in New Orleans, and lived together throughout our four years there. After college, Tiffany moved to Pittsburgh both for grad school and to be with her beloved, Matt, who was in a Ph.D. program at Carnegie Mellon, and I moved to San Francisco to teach poetry at San Quentin State Prison. Now, Tiff and Matt are bona fide home owners and parents to the darling baby Aria (human) and to the darling-but-kinda-bad Mia (canine):
all of us at Tiff's beautiful wedding (reception)
it was in an art gallery in Atlanta!
Tiffany, me, and our third college roommate, Brenna
at my mama's house in 2005
for Tiff and Matt's Mardi Gras engagement party!
I love you so much, Tiff! I don't know if I would have made it through all these years without you. You're all the things I'm not: modest, composed, calm, wise, and totally unselfish. You're one of my life's greatest blessings. Happiest 30th birthday!
Do any of you have a friend who is just so good they're almost too good to be true? Like, they never bitch about anything really, they're nice to and about everyone, they don't get drunk and chip their teeth, and you trust them implicitly? Such is Diana, one of my best friends, and whom I've talked about many times cause she is one of the Cobras. She's the most loyal person in the world, she loves me despite my (many) faults, and she doesn't really have any of her own. Ha. I'd say she was intimidating if she wasn't the sweetest person ever. She kind of reminds me of Faiza.
When Ali can't come to our poetry soirees and it's just Diana and me, we tend to go to fun places out on the town and discuss our poems from the week prior (as well as assignments for the next week).
I am here to tell you that if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area and you have not been to Bittersweet, get off the computer right now and hightail it there! Diana first introduced me to it years ago, and let's just say that it changed my experience of hot chocolate. As in, since that fateful day back in 2005 (I think), I haven't been able to enjoy a hot chocolate anywhere else.
Diana's hot (milk) chocolate, homemade vanilla marshmallows, my soy salted caramel hot chocolate
I was nervous to branch out and order something different (I usually get the regular hot chocolate), but the salted caramel was the best I've ever had. It's pretty crazy how good this place is. They even have a hot dark chocolate that I think is even vegan! Just straight up liquid chocolate. Amazing (if you're into dark chocolate). The only problem with Bittersweet is that they close at 7 pm, which is kind of unacceptable according to my night-owl self. Oh, and there's one other problem: I've totally become a hot chocolate elitist and now I don't think it tastes very good from anywhere else.
A fine price to pay, in my book. I mean look at this--
I didn't have an ugly sweater for the ugly sweater party. This is why:
Thursday I taught all day and babysat till late. When I got home around 11 pm, I started baking for the holiday party the next day. I made cookies till 2 am, and then finally went to sleep, only to wake up at 6-something to go right back to the high school and teach 2nd period, meet with a client I did an editing job for, and then hurry off to the party.
It was all I could do to put on my dangly Santa earrings and grab my tin of cookies. In fact, I was so exhausted that I burst into spontaneous tears while talking to a friend/co-worker at the party. D-e-l-i-r-i-o-u-s, I tell you.
Turns out, though, that only 6 of the 40-ish folks at the Community Works holiday party actually wore ugly sweaters. I guess everyone else was too freakin' tired, like me . . . or else all the hipsters in Oakland scooped up the ugly Christmas sweaters from the thrift stores cause they're ironic & cool.
These were the contestants:
my boss, the E.D., is the fifth from the left in blue
but she kinda doesn't count cause her sweater isn't really ugly
the very clear winner
If only I'd had my aunt Pat ship me some of her Christmas sweaters ahead of time! She and I were discussing this last night, and she said that the Christmas sweaters she wears now (with Santas, etc.) are more "fashionable" than the 80's ones she used to wear (poinsettia vests, etc.). I told her that we needed to be realistic, here . . . no Christmas sweater is ever "fashionable."
So what do y'all think about White Elephant gift exchanges? I love the idea of them, but I've run into the same problem over the years with the whole rotating gift exchange thing: some people bring good, serious gifts, and other people bring ridiculous stuff no one wants. Ultimately, I guess it's just important that everyone's on the same page?
I always bring a serious gift (I brought a handmade table runner, earrings, and a turquoise necklace from Guatemala), but I feel like most people bring dumb shit laying around their house (I got a wrapped up Hershey's bar, which I promptly gave to another co-worker). And while I can condone that if it's *really* funny, most of the time I think it just becomes someone else's trash. What's your take on white elephant exchanges?
(As a side note, I can't hear "white elephant" without thinking of Hemingway's very intense short story "Hills like White Elephants," so maybe that screws it up for me as well. Ha).
Many of you also participated in Micaela's annual ornament swap. I was lucky enough to have two partners! My original partner was Lauren Nicole, but then Micaela asked if I would also pair up with her younger sister, Madeline . . . swap ornaments with another lovely Lechuga girl? Of course I will!
I was psyched to hunt for just the right ornaments for these girls. Micaela gave me a couple tips for Maddie--that she loves owls, and that she'd like a San Francisco ornament since she wants to visit here one day.
I scooped up this adorable owl from Etsy shop Beets and Bernice. If you like it, I highly recommend buying from her--she's so sweet and ships quickly! Plus, the ornament was even more adorable in person that it was in pictures:
I wasn't willing to venture into tourist-land for an SF ornament (I imagine I would've had to go to Fisherman's Wharf or some other tourist-laden 'hood), so I made one for Maddie:
amateur, but cute-ish, right?
and wrapped 'em up like this:
and sent 'em off to Texas!
Maddie had a similar idea about what to get me: one from her home state, and one ornament representing something I looooove.
I love this!! Makes me think of all my Lechuga girls.
love me, love my shoes
A pretty perfect exchange, right? I wouldn't have expected anything less from a partnership with Micaela and Marianne's sister. :) Merry Christmas, Maddie, and thanks for the sweet ornaments!
My exchange with Lauren Nicole was just as great. All I knew about her was that she has impeccable taste . . . so I ordered some vintage ornaments from my sister's etsy shop, Very Fine House:
(four) turtledoves, and a partridge in a pear tree
Aren't they darling? But I decided to attempt to make one for Lauren, also . . . so I tore up some Vogue magazines and broke out the holiday sparkly modge podge and ended up with this (it's spherical, so I couldn't get a good picture of it! but you'll get the idea):
Lauren sent me two exquisite beauties from Anthropologie. They're pretty much exactly what I would have picked out for myself . . . how did she know? and I quickly placed them front & center on my tree!
This delicate little bird is so pretty, and her underbelly is grayish-silver glitter!
a colorful knit K for my last name
Thank you, Lauren! I love both my ornaments so very much, and as you can see, they went right up on my tree! I've already yammered on and on about how in love I am with my Christmas tree, and now it has four new, special ornaments that make it all the more lovely.
Micaela, I'm already looking forward to next year's swap. ;)
I'm learning the meaning of the phrase "no rest for the weary" better than ever before. Between teaching, several babysitting jobs, and a freelance editing gig I took on this week cause, well, I need to make up for all my Christmas spending somehow! Throw in a visit to the DMV, a couple holiday parties, and staying up till 2 am baking cookies to bring to said parties . . . and you got one exhausted girl.
So what better day to focus on what I'm in love with???
1. My Christmas tree.
I already showed you pictures. I can't get enough of it. All I want to do is sit on my couch and gaze at it. It's made me happier than anything this month.
Also can't get enough. Christmas cookies, egg nog, dinners out with friends. I really gotta get this in check . . . but that's not gonna happen till after the holidays. Cause look at the cookies I invented and baked last night!!! Seriously SO GOOD. They're chocolate chocolate cookies with crushed Andes mint cookies and topped with little bits of candy cane. Amazing, right??
3. The fact that Snooki is going be inside the ball that drops in Times Square on NYE.
Soooooo since the other day I talked about how crazy they are, I figured I better also give credit where credit is due. I have talked about the absolutely mind-boggling (and infuriating) West Memphis Three case before, and I just gotta brag on my lil monsters that they've seriously rocked the project I assigned around the case.
They've written letters to the Arkansas Supreme Court voicing their opinions about the case . . .
expressed themselves through poetry . . .
created posters to educate others about the West Memphis Three . . .
proven that the mixtape is far from dead . . .
as well as created pamphlets and "business cards" to hand out to folks, written newspaper articles about the WM3's new hearing, made phone calls to the state Supreme Court, and written letters to each of the three wrongfully incarcerated young men (Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley). I'm a proud mama hen!
Also: My student Eddy has a blog for the independent study he's doing with me around capital punishment. He only posts once a week, and he's excited to be learning (and teaching!) about the death penalty. But when I nudge him to post more often and put more effort into his blog, he says "But Ms. Kiefer, you're my only follower!" What do you say we fix that? Care to follow a teenager's journey to learn about capital punishment in the U.S.? He'd appreciate it. :)
Last night, after my cuckoo's nest 5th period, I met my beloved friend Brady for dinner. We went to a local, family-owned Italian place that just soothes my soul with their eggplant penne & Monte Antico red wine. Brady and I had a long catch-up session that included some good laughs, which is doubtlessly the best antidote to a wack-o day at work.
After a delightful dinner, Brady and I went to another one of my favorite spots, Miam Miam (which I discovered thanks to my beautiful friend Diana!), for some very stylish frozen yogurt (click the link and you'll see what I mean). Perhaps it was because the evening had been so perfect that I felt compelled to make a spontaneous stop at a Christmas tree lot on my way home.
I'd pretty much decided not to get a tree, because I go home to Georgia on the 19th and my family has trees there. But something took over me as I passed by all the festive green trees, and I made a sharp turn and found myself parked in the lot! Not only was there a perfect, medium sized tree waiting for me, ready to be taken home, but I ran into my friend Sarah at the lot!
After a quick stop at the drug store for lights and egg nog, I came home, dragged the tree off the top of my car and up my apartment stairs, and did this:
Today's episode of 5th period was outta control! Sometimes when my kids act like they drank a little crazy in their milk carton, I get crazy right back at 'em (call security, write referrals, raise my voice, etc.)
But today I just sat back and enjoyed the show . . .
(Enter S, a teeny little volatile thing with an ice-breaking attitude).
S: J, I HEARD you talked to the counselor about me. You snitch! You act like a lil ass kid!
J: Whatever! F--- you! I don't give a f--- about you! (commences singing)
S: Grow up! You snitch! No one likes you! I don't give an f--- about YOU! I swear Ms. Kiefer I'm gonna slap him.
J: Do I look like I care? Do I look like I care? Do I look like I care? Do I look like I care? Do I-- (Enter V, a girl who suffers from a total lack of a FILTER).
V: GROW A D--- and THEN talk to us!
J: I'll go outside and show it to you right now. (starts undoing his belt). Come on! Let's go!
V: ACT LIKE A N----! ACT LIKE A N----! ACT LIKE A N----!
J: You got me f----- up. F---.
etc, etc. I just had to take a deep breath and practice calm, positive thinking.
Afterwards, I told them they were all being ridiculous. And then we went on with our activity about racial profiling. Winter break, where art thou???
When my friend Annie called asking if I wanted to head up to Napa with her yesterday to pick up her bi-monthly shipment at Domaine Carneros, you better believe I was all over that!
(I mean, let's be honest . . . pretty much any excuse to spend the day in Napa is good enough for me. Dentist appointment, day-long meeting, funeral? Sure, let's go taste some bubbly!). I am so lucky to live just 40 minutes away from one of the most beautiful wine countries in the world. And even though I can't afford to become a member at all of them (like I wish I could) and get shipments of new, surprising, incredible wine several times a year . . . I still love going up and tasting at some of my favorite spots as often as I can!
We started the day off right (with lattes) and then continued it right (with girl talk) on the way up to the winery. Domaine Carneros looks like an old castle or something, and it sits atop this magnificent hill overlooking rows and rows of grapes. We each got the sparkling tasting, and they were all so good, I couldn't even decide which was my favorite!
post bubbly flight & feelin' good
After purchasing the best truffle I've ever had in their store (orange mimosa . . . See's Candies, get with the program!), we popped across the street to the chic winery Cuvaison, where we were met with a knowledgeable sommelier (who blogs about wine here) who served us up a very fine (and slightly random) tasting menu. I came *this close* to caving and buying a membership, but ultimately figured that buying myself expensive gifts right before Christmas was probably an unwise plan.
Our wine guy doubled as a photographer:
After Cuvaison, we figured it would be self-destructive to taste any more wine without a meal, so we drove to downtown Napa and had some food (and another glass of wine) at one of my favorite spots, The Bounty Hunter (which I blogged about in April here). They have a very impressive wine wall . . .
I'll take one of each!
Annie had some ribs and I had a roasted vegetable sandwich and we both had a blast! ;) We figured we should call it a day after our third stop, and so we finished the day off right (with another latte) and headed home where, continuing the day's tradition of deliciousness, I proceeded to bake Andes mint chip cookies.
Love it! Anytime anyone wants to spend the day up in Napa Valley, I'm your girl. And now I'm off to watch my Saints smash on the Bengals! Happy Sunday :)
My darling friend Marisa (one of my very first friends in grad school) moved to New York this summer, which made me very sad. But she's back here visiting, guest teaching, doing readings, etc. (cause she's a big shot and her first book was published this year! Check it out here). Last night, we met at Union Square for a dinner date and some Christmas shopping! Shopping at Union Square with Marisa is one of my very favorite things to do in December.
San Francisco's Union Square Christmas tree
We met at 6:30 outside the Powell St. train station and headed to First Crush, where we had a delightful (and long-overdue!) dinner date.
cutest name for a restaurant/wine bar ever!
I promptly ordered a (delicious) cucumber gimlet, and Marisa had some sort of old-fashioned whiskey drink. So good! We split some appetizers and a cheese plate and caught each other up on the past 5 months. She works at an office on 5th Avenue now--doesn't that sound straight out of a romantic comedy?
not our best shot but it's all I got! And I promise Marisa's not a Cullen
it's just an overexposed picture.
We had roasted fall vegetables, swiss chard au gratin, and the very fancy cheese plate. And a baudy zinfandel. :) First Crush only serves California wines, and they create specialized flights for you based on what you're eating!
We lingered too long over dinner to get any real shopping done, but I did get a tiny thing for this girl and a funny stocking stuffer for my sister. Maybe I subconsciously didn't get much Christmas shopping done so that I'd have an excuse to go back to Union Square pronto . . . I loooove it there at Christmastime! Lights and Christmas music and the big tree and coffee shops! So festive. ♥
And for kicks, here is our favorite picture of the two of us:
It's December 1st, y'all! Which means that watching cheesy Christmas movies and listening to Christmas albums in the kitchen is totally acceptable now. And Christmas cards! I'm so excited. I've already bought mine and can't wait to write them and send 'em out!
Last night I celebrated December Eve by knitting a scarf and watching Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. Have I mentioned the massive crush I had on Macaulay Culkin as a kid? My childhood BFF Susanne and I took pictures of ourselves with just a scarf wrapped around our (non) chests when we were around 11 or 12 and mailed them to Macaulay. Ohhhhhh childhood fantasies. Gone awry. ;)
And then my sister and I saw him in a tiny coffee shop in London once! I stared into my latte and nervously debated saying something but just couldn't bring myself to bust out with "Hey Macaulay! My Girl changed my life! I am Vada Sultenfuss!"
the golden days
sometimes good things go very wrong
In any case, it seems all I want to do is rock out to Xmas tunes and watch festive movies. And beg y'all for gift ideas since my brother-in-law and stepdad are so dang hard to shop for!
But there is one thing stopping me. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a just-snapped picture of my desk:
Originally from Georgia, I'm a high school teacher and San Francisco transplant who is passionate about teaching, poetry, prison reform & education, strong coffee, good wine, beautiful beaches, writing letters, hot football players, jetsetting, deep friendships, creative writing, fashioning an engaging, social justice curriculum, and shoes!