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As we’ve now done every other since 2008, the Cleaver clan (now expanded!) took our bi-annual trip down to Southern California for Thanksgiving. It’s a long trip cobbled together on buses to/from Boston and long plane flights, but the travel is worth it to see my now-distant family.

A few nights before we left Mr. Cleaver and I tried to figure out how many times we had done this Thanksgiving trip (this was the 4th): there was the year I have memorialized in a photo on my desk, when my mom  and her mom came and my cousin Preston was there and my grandmother Leota was still alive and there was only one wee member of the next generation.

Then there was the year my grandfather, now a widower, had my brother and I cook an entire Thanksgiving dinner two days before Thanksgiving and when we visited my Great Aunt Betty at her house and she gave me a little brass bird to take with me to look at and think of her. She’s since moved to a senior living community and I haven’t seen her since.

Then most recently, the year we met my little red-headed first cousin once removed, while I was pregnant with my own little red-headed girl, and we stayed with my Aunt and Uncle and went to Disneyland.

This year there was one less member of the eldest generation and two more members of the youngest.  All reminders of why its so important to make the trip, if only every other year. My uncle said it best this year  – “traditions like this don’t just happen, you have to put in the work and everyone has to pitch in.”

I’ll admit that this year, with LMC as part of the group, made for a very different experience for me – not to say she was trouble – she was spectacular on the all the travel and in adjusting to the new people and surroundings, but it really struck me how much more your attention is divided when you’re the parent of a small child. When a half an hour conversation turns into 10 minutes because she needs you in another room, or the shift in times from up late and sleeping in to early to bed, early to rise. But I loved seeing LMC read a book with her Great Aunt, or sit in her Great-Uncle’s lap to watch the Polar Express or for her to play kitchen with her cousin and try to be like the big girl. Not to mention her first experiences seeing a baby hippo, chowing down on In-N-Out fries, or taking her first pass at big-ball bowling.

To some extent, visits to my family during the Holidays have always felt a little bit nostalgic – going back to the places I loved as kid and remembering all the things we did in those backyards and houses, but this year I was reminded how great families (and I have some great family), allow you to change and grow and love you all the more for it.

And for that, I’m thankful.

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According to my big brother, I haven’t posted anything since November 8th, and I’d be the first to admit that ever since this pregnancy began, I’m lost my blogging rhythm, which I suppose can only be expected. But worry not – things have been carrying on here at the Cleaver household, in perhaps a more chaotic fashion than usual.

Work has been keeping me very busy, we’re having new insulation put in the house, I’m trying to finish up a number of deadline projects, and I’ve been building up a cache of knit and sewn baby things I hope to share with you soon. In the midst of all of this, we took off Thanksgiving week to visit my extended family in Southern California.

With three other shutterbugs snapping photos of all the family gatherings, I neglected to pull out the camera for any of the family events, but I did take my camera with us on our Tuesday trip to the Happiest Place on Earth, Disneyland, thanks to the generosity of my aunt and uncle. Because everyone else was still working that day, it was just Mr. Cleaver and I, but I was pleased to accompany the Mr. on his first trip to Disney.

We gamely avoided any of the non-pregnancy-friendly rides, but still found more than plenty to fill our day. Mr. Cleaver declared Pirates of the Caribbean to be the best ride, while my favorite of the day was the new-to-me Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. Between all the standing in queues and walking, I think it took my legs 3 days to recover!

But it was a fabulous fun day and a great transition into the holiday season!

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Maybe it’s because I have food on the brain, but I took a lot of photos of food on our California trip, and truthfully we did a lot of eating out while we were there, so I thought I’d share some highlights.

Oxbow Public Market

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For southern Mainers, the Oxbow Public Market is like a successful version of what the Portland Public Market tried to be. INside the market there are a dozen or so food-related booths ranging from cupcakes and ice cream, to spices and olive oils, to oysters. Even on a Wednesday the whole market was fairly popular.

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We grabbed some delicious Tacos at Casa and had the unseasonable pleasure of enjoying them outside on the patio seating. Casa’s food is my favorite kind of Mexican – instead of the heayy refried bean and cheese fare at most Mexican chains, their food was fresh and light and featured some tasty but untraditional favor combos, like my blue cheese/onion/steak taco below.

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Buttercream Bakery:

My visits to Butercream are more about nostalgia than anything else. The food at the diner is simple diner fare, while the doughnuts come in regular and fancy varieties. We picked up a dozen of my old favorites, but I most enjoyed the red velvet doughnut I’d never tried before. So much for nostalgia!

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Genova Delicatessen
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A great deli in an unassuming location, this is the one spot my brother always makes sure to visit whenever he’s in Napa.

See’s Candies
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If you’re Californian, or ever been in a California airport, you probably know See’s Candies. I used to always try to get to the sprinkled one first – never realized they were mocha-flavored. If you visit one of the stand alone-stores, you get a free sample!

In-N-Out Burger
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What is there to say about In-N-Out that hasn’t been already said. Of all of my food photos from the trip, this is one that made Mr. Cleaver the most hungry again.

Boon Fly Cafe
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I was most excited to visit the Boon Fly Cafe.

One summer during college I worked at the under construction Carneros Inn (its parent/location) as a temp in the accounting department filing papers in a trailer full of soap and shampoo and one day my supervisor took me to lunch at the Boon Fly, which I remembered as delicious.

My memory served me well.

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The Boon Fly is my favorite kind of restaurant, simple food done incredibly well. The blackberry lemonade and flatbread pizzas were especially tasty. As a bonus the restaurant boasts a beautifully designed and relaxed atmosphere.

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Ghirardelli Ice Cream Shop

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After all this food, there’s still a place for desert. While in San Francisco we stopped at the Ghirardelli Ice Cream Shop, and let me tell you they do not mess around with chocolate there.

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Other notable stops (non-pictured):

Gillwood’s Cafe – Napa locals’ favorite brunch spot

Norman Rose Tavern – a new spot w/ great comfort food and an impressive tap list that includes several local beers and ciders in addition to the expected wines.

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Last week Mr. Cleaver and I headed out to Northern California to visit my family. The weather was beautiful and we ate enough food for the entire month of January – in fact most of my trip photos were of food, so I’m going to give the eats their own post.

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Today I wanted to focus on the last day of our trip when my big brother (hi Luke!) took us to Muir Woods and San Francisco before depositing us at the airport to catch our red eye back to Maine, where it promptly snowed 8 inches on our return.

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Luke had suggested we go to Muir Woods, and since Mr. Cleaver had never seen a giant redwood tree, I heartily agreed!

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If you’re not familiar with redwoods, the coastal redwoods are the tallest living trees in the world and can grow up to 380 ft (115m) high. These amazing trees grow only in a small region of Northern California and the the Pacific Northwest and I visited them often growing up on camping trips with my family.

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Perhaps even more amazing is that these giant trees grow from the tiniest pinecones!

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Coming from Maine, it was fun to see how green everything was, even if the non-evergreens had lost their leaves.

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For a complete 180 from our woodland trekking, we ended the afternoon at Ghiradelli Square and Pier 39 in San Francisco- the epitome of touristy hustle and bustle.

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The  Bourdin Sourdough Bakery

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IMGP4812.JPGChecking out the Sea Lions at Pier 39

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Sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge.

Mags and I got together for some sewing fun on Saturday and had a surprising role-reversal, in which she worked on a detailed wrap-dress and I whipped out two shirts (and a muslin for some pants, which need a lot of work), one of which ended up as a pajama top because the fabric was crummy, and then there’s this one:

Sorbetto

The Little Folks voile was the perfect weight and drape for this top. The pattern is the Colette patterns freebie, Sorbetto, which has been making the sewing blog rounds for good reason, as it’s quick, easy, and flattering.

SorbettoA few pattern notes:

  • With some careful cutting, I got this out of less than a yard of 54″ fabric near the top end of the size range.
  • I added about 2 inches to the hem when I cut it out
  • Like others have mentioned, the bust dart could probably be 1/2 inch lower.

I think this pattern would look great in a silky solid too. Pretty much anything drapey will work well.

In other ice-cream related news that I’m mostly posting about for my brother, at Maggie’s instistance I grabbed a Blizzard at the local Dairy Queen (DQ) this weekend (and supported a local dog rescue).

For the first time in 15 years.

The Return to DQ

I’ve avoided DQ’s for the the past decade and half due to a overload on an extended roadtrip through the heartlands with my Grandparents at age 12.

So how was the break fast Blizzard? Not bad.  Not great. But not bad.

Just don’t make me get the “Hot Eats” 😉

Scout's Honor (Lent Day 44)

I was once told that wearing this scarf made me look like a Girl Scout. So for today’s outfit, I figured in for a dime, in for a dollar and paired it with a brown skirt and some knee highs.

Scout's Honor (Lent Day 44)

Scarf: Vintage Vera, purchased at Ferdinand

Cardigan: Old Navy

Flower Pin: Made by Me

Skirt: Ann Taylor Loft

Socks: Made by Me

Shoes: Bass Outlet

I don’t have any experience with the Girl Scouts myself, but I was a Boy Scout sister for many many years (My father and brother and two cousins are all Eagle Scouts and my father and uncle both served as Scoutmasters).

Scout's Honor (Lent Day 44)

As such I am displaying the Boy Scout salute in these photos. Maybe they’re the same, I don’t know.

And since I brought up Scouting, I have to admit that I’m very torn about the BSA and whether I’d let my imaginary future children join.
Scout's Honor (Lent Day 44)

Scouting is such a huge part of my family and I think it teaches fantastic life skills, but I have a huge problem with the BSA’s discriminatory membership policies regarding gender, sexual orientation, and religious affiliation (or lack thereof). My hope is that by the time I have children old enough for scouting, it may no longer be an issue. (It should be noted that the Girl Scouts of America does not mirror the BSA’s policies, nor does the non-gendered Canadian Scouts).

Scout's Honor (Lent Day 44)

Politics aside, this is my last weekday of Lent (Day 44) and I’m thinking come Monday, wearing pants in going to feel kinda weird! (Though I won’t miss the tights)

Table #2

John and I got back home late Sunday evening after a wonderful week with the family in Southern California. It was nice to have so much time to spend with everyone. We could relax and enjoy the beautiful to us (cold to them) weather.

I am especially grateful for the stories I learned about various family members, like how my great aunt and uncle met at a roller skating rink he was running, and how when my grandfather was born they had to light the stove in the farmhouse with walnuts, because all the wood had already been taken to the new farm his family was moving to.

Makin' Whoopies

Mr. Cleaver and I stayed with my Grandfather, who requested a turkey dinner for Tuesday night, so my brother and I spent the majority of the day cooking Thanksgiving dinner #1, which included turkey, stuffing, pumpkin cake and whoopie pies. Mr. Cleaver took on dish duty. We were joined by my sister-in-law after work, and Grandpa invited his friend Patricia from church to join us for supper. Patricia has encouraged my Grandpa to take up yoga at the age of nearly 83!

Dish Duty

Chopping spices

On Wednesday we explored San Dimas and joined my Aunt, Uncle and cousins for some ten pin bowling followed by In-N-Out. Mr. Cleaver was excited to bowl over 100 for the first time ever.
Big bowling!

Choosing a ball

In-N-Out

Thanksgiving day was spent at my Aunt and Uncle’s, playing games (like Clankers( like horseshoes, but with washers), Corn Hole, and Skittles), chatting round the fire, eating delicious food, and gathering in the rec room for slideshows.

Winding the top

Clankers

Maddox

Aunt Betty and Grandpa

Starting the fire

Friday we visited the Rancho Santa Ana Botantical Garden, goofed around in Claremont, and had dinner with my Great Aunt.

Snow and desert

Don't touch!

Prickly and pretty

Loops #2

View from Aunt Betty's

Saturday we spent with my Aunt and Uncle, looking through photo albums, walking in Bonelli Park,  and catching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Rattlesnake warning

Around the Resevior

A big thanks to all my Southern California relatives, who made our visit so wonderful!!