It’s the 6th of December and I’m walking the dog in a T-shirt, skirt and flip flops. It’s been a lovely, lazy Saturday morning so far, the right kind of day for pancakes and coffee and warm sunlight streaming in the windows.

We live in a beautiful apartment community just a few minutes’ walk from Frank’s Apple office building.  It’s quiet, green, full of families and impeccably clean.  I pass the one lone smoker as he has his morning cigarette on the outskirts of our group of buildings.  He smiles and goes back to his phone.  Though it’s a pet-friendly community, Georgie is one of only a handful of dogs here, much to the delight of the children when we pass the play areas.  As I walk her around, she stops to sniff at Redwoods and many other trees I don’t know.  Some have fluffy little pink flowers that fall like snow.

Pink Blossoms

Ha. Snow.  You know I’m a snow-loving gal.  And I will always prefer a white Christmas to a green one… but this year is going to be pretty special, nonetheless.

We’re just getting started with the holiday merriment in our house – we only moved in two weeks ago, after all. The nativity set is out, as are the Christmas books, CDs and movies.  The kids are eagerly opening their advent calendars each morning and Evelyn writes letters of reminder to Santa several times a week. Her personal elf, “Robbie,” keeps a watchful eye on her from different spots every day.  We have a mantlepiece this year, and even a real gas fireplace.

Watching "The Late Late Toy Show" from Ireland in our new living room.
Watching “The Late Late Toy Show” from Ireland in our new living room.

I love how homey our apartment feels already, how “us” it is.  Even though the last few years have been tough, this place in which we now live is proof that we’ve been blessed, and our lives have improved dramatically.  In Drogheda, we made do with what we had.  In Indianapolis, we lived with what we could afford.  Here, in Cupertino, we have finally gotten to pick some things we really like.  Within reason! We got a wonderful sectional couch at a used furniture place, a beautiful rug from Home Depot’s online Black Friday sale, a master bed and mattress from Ikea, two new lovely matching lamps from Goodwill, and two matching bookshelves by the side of the road for free! It’s still a work in progress, but it’s a place I like coming home to. It feels safe, and that is huge for me. The kids and Frank are more relaxed, too.  Georgie doesn’t have a big yard to run in, but I think she’s pretty happy anyway because she gets to go on walks at least twice a day now.

I still don’t know much about our area, which is the South Bay part of San Francisco.  I can find my way around a bit better these days, though I still get lost in Apple’s Infinite Loop, ha ha! It’s a very expensive place to live, but the people are pretty “normal,” especially in our apartment community.  It’s very international, with more places to shop for Indian, Middle Eastern and Asian cuisine than any other specialties.  There’s lots of traffic and there are lots of people everywhere… but we’re not far from the beach, and the mountains, and some stunning natural woods.  There are parks everywhere. I like it a lot.  I may even love it, before too much longer. 🙂

Money is still a bit tight heading into the holidays, what with the move, and rent, and medical bills, and losing a bit of income over the holiday breaks.  But we’re good.  We’re comfortable, almost never need to put the heat on and don’t need A/C at all.  The car, bless her heart, is putting up a fair fight to keep going as long as she can.  She crossed all those mountain ranges, after all, a few more months in-town driving around sunny California isn’t going to kill her yet.

A walk through lovely Saratoga
A walk through lovely Saratoga

Frank likes his job a lot, so much more than where he was before.  He says his colleagues are all pretty cool, and he enjoys getting to see his work more and more on the Apple website.  There’s not much he can say about what he’s doing day to day – it’s all the height of secrecy! – but he comes home looking relaxed and content, which does my heart good.

I am looking for work as well, and will probably have Starbucks fill in during the interim, perhaps get insurance through them since Frank’s won’t be available until summer.  I’d rather have something a bit more professional, though, but it’s hard to find part-time work that’s worth putting the kids in childcare for.  I’d love Evelyn to start preschool again next month, too, and there are no shortage of top-quality places from which to choose around here… it’s just a matter of what we can afford and what works with her needs, too.  We are very close to an excellent elementary school, which will be wonderful for next fall.

So things are pretty good for the Kellys! I can’t complain! I’m living close to my sister, Caroline, and Frank has friends from Drogheda in the area, too.  We were lucky enough to be invited to two Thanksgiving dinners this year. We are really looking forward to seeing some of the Irish family next year, too, though we’re not sure exactly when.  But we’re settling in, making a life, and at last feeling like we’re closer to what we’ve been seeking for the last several years.

I can’t wait until the day when we’re in a place to give back more, to help others who are taking risks, too, and be an encouragement to those who are struggling to live and dream at the same time.

I don’t want to jinx anything, but I think it might be safe to say we’re a bit of living proof that circumstances can change, and improve, with time, hard work, the kindness of others, and lots of faith. Especially faith.

Meanwhile, I’m christening the oven with lots of holiday baked goods, including the gingerbread foxes pictured below.  It seems, in my big bag of cookie cutters, the gingerbread boy didn’t make it to California, so we went to Target looking for a replacement and could only find a fox cutter! I guess the fox ate the boy, just like in the story. 🙂

What does the fox say?

Recipe – Chai Gingerbread (from “Family Circle” Dec. 2013)

3 Cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp finely ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 Cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 Cup packed dark brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 Cup molasses

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, pepper and salt.  In a separate bowl, beat butter and brown sugar two minutes, until fluffy.  Beat in egg and molasses until just combined.  Add flour mixture and beat until just combined.  Divide dough in half and shape into disks; wrap tightly in plastic.  Refrigerate two hours.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Remove one dough disk from refrigerator.  Generously flour work surface.  Roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness.  Cut into gingerbread shapes and place on baking sheets two inches apart.  Refrigerate 15 minutes.  Repeat with second dough disk.

Bake at 350 in batches until golden brown, about 14 minutes.  Cool on wire racks, then decorate, if desired.

Notes: This recipe made over 3 dozen cookies for me, 1 dozen of which I froze for Christmas week.  I think I would bake some of the batches a bit longer as they went a little soft and need to be crispy to hold up.  Also, make sure you have ground cardamom – I had the seeds and thought I could grind them, but found them harder than horcruxes to crack, thus changing the outcome of the flavour, I’m sure.  Last of all, the dough will be super crumbly when you’re putting it in plastic to refrigerate, but fear not, trust the recipe.  It will be perfect for rolling out when the time comes.


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