On Solstice, Greg built a successful fire; Christina made it magical with the addition of colors; M and J and I all oohed and aahed appropriately. We all, I think, appreciated the evening and the weather and the colors and the light, while we laughed about the pieces of paper we were burning. Sticky notes instead of origami, but the symbolism remained the same. A metaphorical burning of the dead past, releasing the regrets and the grief and the anger; a kindling of a living future, inspiration and hope and wishes for positive change and transformation.

Colorful flames

One wouldn’t want to toast marshmallows over that fire, but it was lovely for gazing into and thinking profound thoughts of the future and past.

A highlight of the evening was the opossum who visited, sending the dogs into such major derangement mode that they had to be put inside, so the opossum could placidly wander the fence line. The opossum flat-out did not care about the dog hysteria or the people taking photos.

An opossum walking along a fence.

This opossum did not care about us at all.

Post-Solstice, we held Early Christmas and it was the first time I’ve had a classic Christmas in… a long time. Christina called at 5:45AM to say Christmas was beginning so Sophie, J and I hopped in the car — we were all awake already! — and joined C, G, Riker, and M for present opening, breakfast, and stockings.

dogs before the Christmas tree, which is piled high with presents

The dogs got presents, too, of course. Sophie’s favorite is a big alligator.

If I am so fortunate as to have another Christmas with the same excellent companions, I am going to have to step up my present game, because wow. My favorites were not the biggest: C gave me a magnet that says, “It took me halfway through to realize my life story has an unreliable narrator,” which I adore, and G gave me a candle labelled, “Smells Like a Best-selling Novel” (that actually smells like the ocean), which ditto the adoration. (Also cookies, a game, socks, candy, a t-shirt, a Disney MagicBand+, eyeshadow… an abundance of unwrapping fun!) And J basically listened every time I mentioned missing something left behind in California or needing something in our current kitchen, and gave me all of it: cookie sheets and salt scrub and small bowls and a microwave popcorn popper. I gave him a book. A good book, that I think he’ll enjoy, but yeah. Fingers crossed that I’ll have a chance to do better next year!

For breakfast, J made a delicious GF cross between a quiche and a shepherd’s pie, and G made home-made GF bagels that were the best bagels I’ve had since a trip to NYC in 2017. Mmm, I want one now. Maybe for lunch, because I might even have the ingredients (flour and Greek yogurt, basically).

GF bagel picture

My bagels, so delicious.

In the evening, my dad and step-mom joined us for an extremely classic Christmas dinner: prime rib, mashed potatoes, green beans, cassava rolls (which are the best GF crescent rolls I’ve ever eaten), and two types of pie. I ate way, way too much — I’m pretty sure I was five pounds heavier the next morning — but I enjoyed every bite.

It felt like Christmas was over, but actually, it was yet to begin.

On Christmas Eve, I sat next to my dad for the candlelight service at his church, listening to the sound of his voice — so familiar — as we sang the same Christmas hymns I’ve been singing with him since I was a child. On the other side of me, my step-nephews tried to smother their out-of-nowhere giggles while they took turns poking one another with pens. I would never have predicted that moment: I will remember it forever, with gratitude that I got to experience it.

And on Christmas Day, with Christmas officially over, J and G and C and I played games and ate gluten-free pizza all day long. Seriously. All Day Long. I had pre-made the pizza crusts from a new-to-me recipe site, and we took turns making pizzas with them, so mine was goat cheese, tomatoes, basil, and spinach, while J’s was sausage, mushrooms, and onion and G’s… well, okay, I forget. The crusts were not as good as Christina’s Brazilian cheese bread pizza crusts, but they were a lot easier to make. I think the recipe maybe gets the timing of the cooking a little wrong — I’m going to be experimenting with longer & lower times & heat — but I suspect that I will enjoy every experiment. And I’m definitely going to try other recipes from that site, too.


J’s pizza, because I forgot to take a picture of mine. I was too eager to eat it!

As for the games, I think the best was Abducktion, which we only played once, but which I’d like to play again. We also played Tokaido, which was… pleasant? I enjoyed it, but I don’t think any of us are going to be rushing to play it again. Our third game was the Princess Bride game and it was long, fun, and probably aimed at a younger, less strategic audience. We had only one moment where losing seemed even remotely within the realm of possibility, and even then we course-corrected quickly and wound up with an efficient win. I can think of a couple ways that we could make it more challenging if we wanted to play again, but I think the chances that we will are probably pretty low. We still have a couple new games that we didn’t even get to try so there’s another game day in our future. Yay! (Links are affiliate links, because I’m trying to up my blogging game.) 

The ducks in Abducktion

The game was more challenging than those little ducks make it look. I felt like I needed more coffee after we played it once!

Speaking of upping my blogging game, I’ve been spending a lot of time researching social media and marketing in the past few weeks. I got to Florida two months ago, thinking that I would find myself a “real” job, given my need to pay real rent. I started looking and fairly quickly realized that maybe ten years of self-employment, spent more or less 24/7 with an extremely active dog, wasn’t setting me up well for a routine 9-5. I mean, I think Walmart would probably hire me — I’m not unemployable — but what it would cost me in doggie day care for Sophie would probably equal my paycheck. Example, I could be a dog-training apprentice at PetCo for $12/hour, while spending $33 to keep Sophie busy. Um, probably not efficient.

And then once I’m back to sitting in my room at my computer all day… well, doesn’t it make sense to do something that I will enjoy? Feel good about? Obviously, it also needs to be something that will pay the aforementioned rent and ideally set me up for a more secure future, but I think I’m more suited to being an entrepreneur than an employee. So I’m spending my work days mostly learning right now, with a lot of contemplating of my options and planning for the future. It won’t change this blog — this is going to stay entirely personal, my own record of my memories of my life — but my business blog might get more active with publishing related posts, and… well, I’ve got some other ideas, too. But I’m not quite ready to write about them yet. I’m feeling optimistic and cheerful, though. Eating my vegetables, being strict about bedtime rules, and trying to walk more, too. Those things are connected, I know!

I’m planning to post again on New Year’s — the classic looking back/looking forward post — but if I don’t get it together in time, I wanted to thank you for reading — as I close out 2023, I’m so grateful to know that you’re rooting for me!

Have a very, very happy New Year!