Saturday, December 31, 2011

Resolutions review

It's the last day of the year and time to look back before heading into 2012. Here's how I fared on my resolutions:

Be Good to Myself: Be intentional about and take ownership of my life


  • find a new job -- Nope; still working on some ideas, though.

  • find a new home -- Yes! I love my lil' studio!

  • travel internationally -- Yes! Japan, Jamaica, Italy

  • join a book club -- Nope. But I read a lot this year: White Teeth, The Year of Magical Thinking, The Glass Castle, The Kite Runner, On the Road

  • blog regularly -- Yes! 76 posts: much more than in 2010.

  • finish all current WIPs (craft projects + books) -- Nope; they are still stating at me.


  • learn how to use my dslr -- Nope; I actually stopped using it in favor of my iPhone camera. Then I had a problem with the lens. But it's fixed now, and I have a friend who will teach me photography in 2012, huzzah!

  • maximze iPhone capability (Evernote or Springpad?) -- Yes! In addition to Springpad, I discovered Instagram, audio books, podcasts, and a bunch of other apps for news, music, and getting life done.  I love my iPhone!


  • build a piece of furniture -- Nope. I was all set to build a daybed for the studio but found one on Craigslist.

  • sew a garment -- Yes! I made vests for MyKo's kinder kids.

  • knit for myself -- Yes! Striped cowl, rainbow stripe knee highs, and a pink shawl that was never blogged


  • buy a new food at each farmers market -- Yes! Eggplant

  • try a new restaurant each month -- I didn't keep track, but I don't think so.

  • watch a movie in the theater each quarter -- Yes! 50/50, Midnight in Paris, Cars2, Puss in Boots, The Naked Island, Postcard

  • do a new activity each month -- Yes! January -- Explore Abbot Kinney Boulevard & discover Intelligentsia coffee; February -- Rose Bowl Flea Market; March -- Ash Wednesday at Our Lady of Angels Cathedral; April -- Hike the Sam Merrill Trail to Echo Mountain ; May -- Jamaica!; June -- Help plan and throw MyKo's bridal shower; July -- Visit the Bowers Museum; August -- Read prayers in three languages at MyKo's wedding!; September -- First visit and purchase at estate sale ; October -- Wine tasting in Italy!; November --  watch my brother's debut taiko performance; December -- Drive alone up to San Francisco

Be Good to My Body: Maintain a healthy lifestyle + gain five meaningful pounds


  • don't be online after 10p -- Nope

  • sleep by 11p -- Nope

  • wake up at 6:30a -- Nope

  • eat breakfast (not just coffee) -- Nope


  • stretch daily -- Nope

  • 30 situps + pushups daily -- Nope

  • run -- Yes!  I started in May!

  • take a yoga or pilates class -- Nope

Be Good to My Wallet: Invest in myself

  • pay off debt -- Nope (but almost there!)

  • invest -- Nope

  • tithe regularly and joyfully -- Yes!

  • start a savings account -- Yes!

  • don't buy anything new -- Nope.  I strayed here and more recently with a pair of long running pants for cold days.

Be Good to Others: Deepen relationships

  • spend time with God daily (prayer, BCP, My Utmost for His Highest) -- Nope (not daily)

  • write one letter each week; remember birthdays -- Yes!

  • quit taking it personally (qtip) -- Not entirely, but much improvement made.

  • seek healing and reconciliation in strained or broken relationships -- I'll always be working on this; am learning to both draw boundaries, and to accept.

There are slightly more "Nopes" than "Yes!s" but I can live with that.  Some of the "Nopes" were actually successes -- for example, I didn't join a book club, but I read more books last year than I had for at least two years before that. And, I didn't build a piece of furniture, but the Craigslist score was better in terms of price, time, and energy, and it was the exact piece I wanted.  I'm most disapponted in my fitness failures, but at least I started running.  It was a huge leap not just in terms of feeling stronger, but to witness and push my own transformation.

This review will help me shape my resolutions for 2012, which I'm still working on.  I'm also using this set (pdf) of questions from the Simple Mom blog.  Did you make any resolutions?  What are they?!  Do share!

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Vignamaggio was everyone's favorite place, hands-down.  Our eyes nearly popped out of their sockets when we pulled up to the villa.  Having gotten to know each other a little better after three days into the tour, we felt free to take peeks into each other's rooms, exclaiming at the different details: views from windows, linens, stationery, ceramics, etc.  Mine and D's room was more like an apartment -- complete with master bedroom, living room, two small lofts with single beds, and a higher "observation deck" with a small ottoman -- presumably, to look out over the amazing view.

The first evening (of three) there, we went on a tour of the on-site winery.  Our guide told us the history of Vignamaggio, which was originally owned by the familyof a guy who married a nearby villa owner's daughter and later commissioned Leonardo da Vinci to paint her portrait: the Mona Lisa.  Back in the 90s, Vignamaggio was the filming site of "Much Ado About Nothing," with Kenneth Branaugh and Emma Thompson; if you haven't seen it, you should!  It's one of my favorites.

The kitchen was downstairs, so each morning I awoke to the smell of freshly baked bread.  I had fresh cappuccinos along with meats and fruits and fruit juices.  We also had a terrific dinner there; I can still taste the lemon mashed potatoes.  On the last afternoon we had a traditional Tuscan cooking class.  If we didn't have all those other wineries to visit, I'm sure we all would have been quite happy to stay at Vignamaggio the entire three days.






What a truly special, magical space. Beautiful grounds. Wine in every room and corridor.  Two pools. History with the Mona Lisa.  Filming venue for a great movie.  In short: a great story, a great stay. 

This is definitely on the short list for the 5-year plan to spend a month in Italy with the gals.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Remembering Renzo

Renzo Marinai is a veterinarian by education and training, but is now a wine maker. We visited his beautiful grounds in Tuscany's Conca d'Oro (Golden Shell), where he and his dog led us on a tour and tasting.

What's cool about Renzo's small operation is his "back to basics" approach. (Instead of creating separate grape and olive fields) He plants olive trees among the vineyards -- and wheat, too. He believes living together helps their immune systems as well as the soil. Of course, in addition to the wine from grapes, he makes oil from the olives, and pasta -- and perfume -- from the wheat.

I bought a bottle of the perfume, Vita, for myself. It smells heavenly: clean, fresh, Tuscan. It was a bit of a risk, considering I haven't worn perfume for years now on account of allergies.  But the risk paid off: no rashes.  So I get to be reminded a bit of Italy now and again.

But you really want to know about the wine, right?  Panzano, where Renzo lives, is in Tuscany.  Which means the wine is Chianti.  As most wine makers do, he ferments in stainless steel and ages in oak.  But his wine ages to the sound of Mozart.  According to Renzo, the candence of the composition is reverberated by the wood, enhancing the aging process.  I especially liked the Chianti Classico Riserva. And he also poured some of his Kadar for us to try -- a special treat because there are only 290 bottles of the stuff!


This was one of the more memorable winery tours.  It's one of the smaller wineries in the region, but is very unique in terms of philosophy and product line.  And the tour was by the proprieter himself -- who, for someone of my parents' generation, is a pretty spiffy dresser!

It's been over two months since the trip, and although I have tons of photos and can probably write an individual post on each of the vineyards we visited, I'll abbreviate the process by sharing a list of the others we visited:

One last and special post to go, and I can say, "Ciao, Italia!" for now.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Artsy Autumn: Uffizi

We had a choice between a pasta-making workshop or tour of the Uffizi. Most people opted to cook. But I chose art.

On the walk to the Ufizzi we came across a medieval parade.  Turns out it was the feast day of Saint Reparata, the patron saint of Florence.  The cathedral was segmented off, bands played.  But we couldn't stay to watch.  Off to the museum!

Our "docent" was actually the head of the Art History department at the Florence University of the Arts, which is a part of the Palazzi school that handled most of the Florence segment of our tour. She was really friendly and knowledgable, asking each of us what we know about art so she could determine what story to tell for every piece of art.  It brought back a lot of memories of the first class I took in Art History, when I studied abroad in the U.K, and the wonder of going from slideshows (on carousels, not even PPT!) to the real thing.

I've already mentioned how I feel about taking pictures of paintings, so I purposely don't have the Fra Angelicos and Boticellis to share (you've got to go to Florence yourself!). Instead I've got one of my best photos of the trip; it's a view of the Ponte Vecchio from the second story of the Uffizi, and yes, it's Instagram:

Marsha commented that she'd seen the same view 20 or so years ago, and it hasn't changed -- which makes sense, because it looks the same as when I saw it over a dozen years ago, too. 

It was another morning of walking along cobbled streets and through long galleries of art, competing with other (larger) tour groups.  My feet weren't doing so well, but a four-course lunch was upon us, which meant I could slip off my shoes under the table for a good while. So: totally worth it.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Read: On the Road

Oh my stars it took me so long to read this book! If I count from the first time I picked it up -- during a bout of homesickness-slash-patriotism while living in Japan -- and couldn't get past that fabulous quote about Roman candles, it's been 10 years. Yikes!

Last summer I was struck again by wanting to know more about America through the eyes of out great artists, and get some insights into why they were considered such good artists.

Blame it on the LA Times Travel section, those slender six or so pages that I look forward to each week. There was a great article about the wonders of Northern California, Monterey and Carmel and Big Sur. and I was at the library and picked up a copy of Cannery Row. Then there was the exhibit at the Hammer. Which reminded me about this broadcast, which I'd heard on NPR a few years ago. And, surprisingly, my library had the CD and DVD.  And that is how the universe conspired to draw me back to Kerouac.

I got past the Roman candles this time -- but still, the book wasn't a breeze for me. It took a lot of perseverance (a lot of renewals and even an overdue fine), but I can finally call this one done. I still don't really identify with much of it. But I appreciate a glimpse into that time, both in the life of America and in the life of a carefree young man.

I was actually much reminded of my younger brother as I read On the Road. I got a random call from him one summer weekend: between the last rest stop and the gas station from which he called me, he'd lost his wallet and GPS; he didn't know what to do. I told him to put on his best smile and get on the good graces of a kind person who might fill up his gas tank. He was successful, and rode back to the stop to see if someone might have found his wallet and GPS. No luck. So he headed home. So much for the impromptu road trip on his new motorcycle, right?

Wrong.  I later found out that on the way home he'd called our youngest brother ("Dude, spot me some cash"), met up for the exchange at the house, where he grabbed his passport and was promptly off all over again.  "I couldn't help it," he told me, "the road was just calling to me." 

He had a great time up north, making new friends, checking out different neighborhoods, and came to love San Francisco.  And knowing that I would have simply called the trip a fail had it been my lost wallet and GPS, I admired my brother's fearlessness in an entirely new way. A few weeks later, he posted to his Facebook wall that he'd just received a package in the mail: his wallet!  It was sent back by a young man who had the same first name, and the same appreciation for the unknowns, both good and bad, of being on the road.  A kindred spirit.

As I returned to the novel after my brother's experience, I was able to appreciate that semi-fictional cross-country roadtrippin' in a new way, too.  Of course I recommended it to my brother.

Though I might have hinted otherwise above, it actually is one of my dreams to do a California (or Pacific Northwest) coast road trip one of these days, and, eventually, a cross-country road trip, sometime in my life.  I've got bookmarks and plans and to-dos galore; all's left is the time off and the actual going.  It might be nice to have an extended trip at home (instead of always going abroad) one of these years.  Could be 2012, right?  We'll see.


This was another memorable wine tour and meal. Our trip organizer rented from this elderly couple, Carlo and Valeria, when he was on sabbatical in Italy, so it was a homecoming for him.  We made a 10-minute trek from where we were staying, through a vineyard, to get there.  It felt very homey. Walking out to greet us as we arrived, Carlo held up two hiking poles, saying to our leader, "You left these here from five years ago! Storage fees are very expensive here in Italy!" It was the beginning of a delightful afternoon.




Carlo and Valeria hosted a home-cooked meal of pate and jelly with crackers and homemade bacon ciabatta, lasagna, salad, veggies, and a lovely dessert spread.  All the while, Carlo poured his own wine for us, cracking jokes the entire time.  We ate out on their terrace, which has an extremely pleasant view of the typical Tuscan vineyards and olive groves. 

Afterwards, their daughter, Ludo -- Philosophy Ph.D. turned 5th-generation winemaker -- gave us a tour of their operation.  You can read more about their story here.  We picked up a few bottles for our BYO dinner later that evening (at Solociccia). And a few of us made away with some bottles of jam and pepper jelly, handmade by Valeria, with lid coverings crocheted by Ludo's mother-in-law.  (Sadly, my marmalade was confiscated by the French as having, "beaucoup de liquide."  I'm still sad about it.)

We were sad to leave, but there was another tasting to attend!  Mille grazie for a wonderful visit and meal!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas cards 2011

It took me a long while to come up with my Christmas card design for this year.  I thought I wanted to shy away from stamps, since I'd used them the previous two years, but in the end, a stamp is my most efficient cardmaking friend.  I toyed around with different ideas to practice, and a little light bulb turned out to be the final for most of my cards.  I also carved a snowflake and a star from a couple penciltop erasers.  They're awfully cute!

For the past couple of weeks I have been carrying around my cardmaking supplies, creating a card here, a card there... during lunch, a few minutes after work (before heading down to the post office), at home before bed.  Here's what I've been using:

cardmaking tools

It was fun to bust out the old Japanese pens; they add just the right amount of sparkle and shine worthy of a holidlay card.  For the most part, though, the cards are pretty plain. Here's an example:


I explored a few different designs but ended up with an asymmetrical string of lights across the front of the card.  At first I randomly stamped the light bulb and added the "cord" with a black Sharpie, but then started drawing the line first and stamping afterwards.  Some have the bulbs colored in, too.  Just whatever I felt like.  I added stars or snowflakes in rose gold.  "merry and bright!" is the phrase I used most often; but some cards say "comfort + joy" or "happy holidays" or the four Advent themes of "hope, joy, love, peace."

Today is the last day I'll be making cards, as time's basically up.  I didn't pressure myself this year to write to everyone in my address book.  Instead, I just jotted names and addresses as they came to mind.  No-pressure cardwriting, what a concept.

I'll spend the next few days penning some new year's cards to send abroad, since I didn't come up with the design in time.  Better get to practicing my Japanese!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Still strewn

A few days after the Sunday LA Times Travel section finally featured my neck of the woods in its series highlighting various SoCal neighborhoods, the crazy Santa Ana winds paid a visit and left much of the SGV one huge, hot mess.

Three weeks have passed, and the sidewalks are still piled high with broken branches.  As I drive about town, the tress still standing show evidence of their branches twisted and snapped off; lifted sidewalks and root balls the size of cars are common sights; and there are piles of branches, pine needles, and palm fronds broken up here and there by parked cars along the roads. 

Here's a series of photos, where the damage is totally unreal (courtesy of the L.A. Times); it's hard to imagine that a huge tree can fall so suddenly until you see it. And it wasn't just a few, but a few hundred trees that toppled. Below are shots I took on a walk around the block the other day.  This is the street one over from me, which  is lined with huge eucalypus trees that are probably as old as the Craftsman homes there.  In one of the picutures you can see a hydrant, for scale.

eucalypus branches

stump, hydrant

sad stump

Poor, old trees. It makes me sad.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Hyper organization

Delving into pen, ink, and paper blogs has sent me down a rabbit hole into an entirely new-to-me world. Amidst all the reviews and advice, there are stories about actually using these everyday items. And, in turn, the question of personal organization and productivity is asked and answered in many, many ways.

I discovered people who use a different planner for different aspects of their life (e.g. knitting, health & fitness, finances, professional, etc.). That's too much for me; I want to keep as little as possible on me at all times. And as I clicked on to more and more blogs, I found that a lot of people go the DIY or hack route to personalize a calendar or organization scheme to meet their personal needs. Fair enough, right? It's fun and encouraging to read about and see people's ingenuity and creativity. But it also added a lot of options for me, in addition to what's available commercially.

A few weeks ago, as I was pondering and exploring the options, my eye was piqued by the phrase 'nifty Japanese planner' on the sidebar of the DIY planner blog. And it was like falling down yet another, wonderful rabbit hole. Said planner is nifty indeed, a uniquely accordion-folded format, each panel a quarter sheet, each panel divided into eight columns for days of the week plus notes. I like the accordion style because it doesn't necessitate a separate month view (which Moleskine's weekly doesn't have and desperately needs!). Which means I wouldn't have to write things twice (once on the monthly, once on the week view). Each panel is 1/4 of a regular sheet of paper; printed double-sided, I can get a whole year in six pages. Not bad!

Of course I obsessed about the origin and evolution of this system. It was designed by an economist named Yukio Noguchi. There's not a whole lot of information in English, despite the face that he spent time at Yale and Stanford. The best one I found was on Postalco's site:


Chou seiri translates to " hyper-organized." These planners (chou seiri techou,「超」整理手帳) are still popular in Japan, and have, in the 15 or so years since their debut, a league of imitators. As you can see above, Postalco reimagined their version of the calendar, complete with leather or pressed cotton folio cover. Standard inserts and covers are easily available on Amazon Japan, too, but I won't have anyone buy it for me for two reasons: standard paper size in Japan is A4; and the weeks are printed with Monday as the first day. Secondarily, Japanese holidays are kind of irrelevant to me.

I found the link to one that someone created (can't find the link anymore) but it still didn't meet my needs: the week still begins on Monday and there is too much wasted margin space. Plus, Tuesday is written, "Tun" and Wednesday, "Wen." Small details, but still. How to get around this? A little DIY with Excel. I set all the margins to zero, created a basic grid, and drew in some boxes. Then I punched in each date separately (couldn't wrap my head around doing it by formulas). A little but of a PITA but not overly taxing. (And I can always leave it blank and write dates in as I go.) Fiddled around some more with formatting, shading the weekends and putting in a grid; and finally came up with this:


It might work! Now I'm cooking up ideas to create some sort of holder, with slots for cards, sticky notes, and blank paper for notes and doodles. Kinda like the original. But custom built for 8 1/2 x 11 and the U.S. calendar. I've been using my beta version for the past month and will give myself until about mid-January to decide what to do for the remainder of 2012. Here's to gettin' everything together for a productive year!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Tiptoeing @ TJ's

A while ago I picked up a call from a friend while shopping at my local Trader Joe's.

"Oh, you're right on time. I go to my TJ's about this time to check out amy single ladies."

"What do you mean? I always go around this time."

"Exactly. I bet you're holding a single basket, and there's a quart of milk and three bananas in it so far. "

"How'd you know?!"

"Because you're at TJ's now; that's when all the single people go. Just look around you."

Sure enough, lots of other lone shoppers with baskets carrying small quantities of food. I shared the story with some girlfriends and one of them posted to my Facebook wall soon afterwards, "Was at TJ's today; you were right!"

Since then I've been particularly self-conscious about my trips to TJ's. I feel like everything about the endeavor screams, "Hey, I'm single!" Especially when one of the cashiers said, "You shop here a lot, don't you?" Although I'm sure he was trying to be neighborly.

I felt extra self-conscious with tonight's haul:

On top of the quart of milk, there's the single-sized pizza and bottle of wine. "Hi, I'm totally single and have no Friday night plans. I'm just gonna eat and drink wine, at home, all by myself."

Not that I need to explain it here, of all places, but I did so most intentionally. It's the only night I've had to myself all week, and though I considered going out, the introvert in me won. It's been a pleasant and productive night of hanging up some holiday decorations and watching a cute documentary from China called Please Vote For Me, about an election for Class Monitor of a third grade class.

Now it's time for the true winding down: a shower, writing some Christmas cards, and maybe even a manicure. Not a bad night to be single.

Oh, and that pizza was pretty good!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Artsy Autumn: Florence Architectural Walking Tour

You know that saying about not breaking in new shoes while traveling? I was stubborn. I thought my feet impervious to new leather. Then I opted for the architectural walking tour and walked all over Florence -- on cobbled streets, no less (beautiful to look at, painful to walk on).

First off, mad props to our tour guide, a chic Italian young lady named Alfreida who was an Art History student.  I loved her accent and the way she spoke of the city and the sights and their creators with such love and admiration and understanding, claiming these places and people not simply as names or pieces to be memorized for a course of study, but as part of her history, her identity, her very self.  It's always so rewarding to witness a person in their element, exuding their passion. 

A day of spotty rain made the smell of leather all but permeate the city.  It was a nice, organic smell as we walked by the San Lorenzo central market and across long rows of stalls selling belts, wallets, purses, and more.  The cathedral itself is quite old; I snapped a neat shot of colorful bikes leaning against bricks that are hundreds of years old.  We walked onwards towards the Dome and Cathedral, stopping to look at Giotto's reliefs of Bible stories on the Baptistery doors.  Then to the Palazzio Vecchio, which is now City Hall. Past the old Palazzo di Medici, all the way up to the Piazzale  Michelangelo, where you find that sweeping, panoramic view of the entire city.  I waited patiently for the clouds to move so I could get a picture of the sun shining on the Dome.




Walked back to city center to meet the rest of the tour group, who had opted for the cooking class.  We were met with heaping plates of bruschetta, risotto, a braised pork.  And wine.  (Yes, for lunch--we were on vacation!)  I promptly sat down and slipped my shoes off, giving my poor, swollen feet a bit of respite.  By the end of the trip the shoes were worn in.  It was worth it, but I won't be repeating that on my next trip.


Speaking of architectural details: throughout the trip I took pictures of some doorknobs as I walked by residences, businesses, and other spaces.  My travel mates began making fun of me for taking "strange" shots, but I trusted my vision.  It came together quite nicely, if I do say so myself!  I have one of doors and windows, too, which came together by chance.  Thank you, Picasa, for making it fun and easy to create collages!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Gift guides galore

No Black Friday or Cyber Monday shopping for me.  But that doesn't mean I don't like a good gift guide.  The good peeps at Apartment Therapy are starting to put up various roundups (I especially like the guide for architecture lovers and the various green guides).  It's a quick way to see what's new and fun.

I am especially intrigued by the post on surprise subscription gifts.  It's not a new idea, of course, but is being taken to a whole new level these days.  From the post, I like the idea and content behind Quarterly the most, though I must confess that I'm not *so* into design that I recognize the contributors by name or face.  I'm curious about the personality test offered by Lost Crates, and may go for it one of these days.  But realistically, I love browsing for stationery too much to relinquish the fun of discovery and curating a set into someone else's hands!  From the comments, I discovered the Craft Coffee subscription, which sounds pretty cool: three coffee samplings from artisan roasters across the country with each mailing.  Good blog and packaging design is a plus +.

Here's a short list of other gift guides I enjoy peeking into each year:

Design Sponge guides

Anthology magazine gift guide

Gifted magazine guide

Treehugger holiday gift guide 2011

More entries are coming in as Christmas approaches, too.  Where are you finding the goods these days?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Searching for 2012

I've been buying an analog calendar every year, not so much for plans and productivity but as a means of recording things I've done. I want to pivot more towards using a planner to, well... plan. My default is the Moleskine weekly + notes that has a blank page on the right for notes. A couple of years ago I tried to get by with the pocket monthly, which didn't work for me at all. This year I have a simple, checkbook size (slightly slimmer, slightly longer than Moleskine), which I like because I can use my fountain pen without ink feathering or bleeding all over the place (new vocabulary words!). But, for some reason, I haven't really loved it.

As the year winds down, I am thinking more and more of how to organize myself for 2012. What to do? Will I go back to the Moleskine pocket weekly? Or try the vertical or panoramic versions? Or should I check out the Muji calendar, which my friend swears by? Or dig up my old Day Runner (when they were in, in high school -- can I find it?!) and get a refill?

local selection

I spent a good hour flipping through the wide selection of panners and calendars at my local independent bookstore. Quo Vadis, Letts, At-A-Glance, Moleskine (the tiny day-per-page planners are so cute but entirely not functional for me), and tons more, including the Standard Daily that is the reason I alwasy keep an analog calendar (my parents used to get one of these from the office each year. One year I found and old one and spent hours poring through its contents, many of which were milestones and small moments in my brother's and my life -- first day of school, dentist appointment, etc. -- in my mom's distinct hand, complete with little hearts. Call me narcissistic, but I want my child(ren) to have the same experience one day). Sadly, after flipping through dozens of planners, I still wasn't able to commit to any of the ones at the store.

j planners

Last weekend I stopped by Kinokuniya to see their collection of Japanese planners.  They're awfully, awfully cute, and so nostalgic, but the Japanese week begins on Monday, which skews my monthly view.  When I lived there it made sense to go with the flow, but back here I need the week to visually start on Sunday when I look at a monthlong spread.  Unfortunately, this makes J planners categorically unusable for me.  *sigh* I've got three weeks to make a decision, and, ideally, the quicker the better, as I'm already scheduling appointments for January (yikes!). How are you organizing your day and your life for 2012?