Monthly Archives: December 2008

I can ride my bike with no handlebars

2008 was a big year for me and my various family members and loved ones, in a lot of ways. Last year I was traveling and didn’t get a chance to do this meme, but I did it two years ago, and I’m doing it again now, courtesy Linda of All and Sundry and Jive Turkey.

1. What did you do in 2008 that you’d never done before?
I got married! So, you know, that was pretty good.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Didn’t make any. I knew 2008 was going to be crazy going into it, and I was right. I will make some for this year, but I think they’ll just be between me and me. (robble me.)

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Wombat Agirlandaboy was born on December 14, 2008 to our great friends Leah and Simon. His was the most-anticipated birth in my world since my sister was born in 1986.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No dead people (or pets, even) this year.

5. What countries/places did you visit?
January = Rome and Florence, Italy, plus spent a day back in California before heading home
March = drove to the Bay Area for the wedding, passing through Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada.
April = Drove home from the wedding through Southern CA, Nevada, and Utah.
May = Quick trip to the Bay Area to surprise Leah for her birthday.
June = Flew to So. Cal for my sister’s college graduation
July = I went to Nor. Cal at the end of the month to help my sister get ready for their wedding on August 2
August = Started the month in CA, flew home.
September = Philadelpha, PA for work
October = Traveled all over CO for work.
November = CA for Thanksgiving

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?
A new job. To be debt free (nearly there!) Maybe a fetus.

7. What dates from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
March 29, 2008 was the day we got married. August 2, 2008 was the day my sister got married. December 14, 2008 was the day Wombat was born.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Making it through 2 family weddings, a college graduation, 6 weeks of work travel and 2 major family holiday celebrations withot going nuts. I think planning our wedding from 3 states away and having everything happen smoothly was pretty good, but most of that was done in 2007, just culminating in 2008.

9. What was your biggest failure?
To find a fulfilling and challenging new job. Losing my camera in Italy.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I started the year off right, with a nasty cold in Italy that culminated in a sinus infection and 2 ear infections. Simultaneously! And, of course, the Leg Incident. I still have a divot in my calf. And last but not least, the weird hives/bumps on my face that lasted from February until June really could have gone away much earlier. There was no need for that, and I never did figure out what caused it.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
The services of our wedding photographer, which I still maintain was the deal of the century. I didn’t buy a whole lot of stuff this year, other than stuff related to the wedding (either before or after).

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Barack Obama, throughout the entire election process.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Whoever was behind the horrible campaign ads (both for people and propositions) here in Colorado. Ugh. Also, the people who were originally going to stand up with Dan in the wedding. I won’t even go into that.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Wedding, travel, paying off debt.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Um. Our wedding? My sister’s graduation? My other sister’s wedding? Wombat’s arrival?

16. What song will always remind you of 2008?

Love Today, by Mika (our wedding)
Bleeding Love by Leona Lewis and Take back the City by Snow Patrol (summer and fall)
Handlebars, by Flobots (fall/winter)

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder?
Happier now that the holidays are over and I’m feeling excited about what 2009 will bring.
b) thinner or fatter? Ugh, probably fatter, but I’ve got a lot more muscle and I’m not paranoid about fitting into a wedding dress.
c) richer or poorer? Definitely richer.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Job hunting. Reading new books. Listening to new music. Bike riding. Swimming.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
I – don’t think there was anything I did too much of. I wish my leg injury hadn’t been so debilitating, but there wasn’t much I could do about it.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
With Dan’s family

21. Did you fall in love in 2008?
I fell more in love with Dan. 9 months of marriage and we haven’t killed each other yet, woohoo!

22. What was your favorite TV program?
Gossip girl. Battlestar Galactica. We just started Mad Men on DVD; I have a feeling I’m going to love it, too.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

Hate? no. There were some people whose behavior earned them demerits in my book.

24. What was the best book you read?
I think the book I enjoyed most was The Year of Living Biblically

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Flobots!

26. What did you want and get?
The wedding was exactly what I was hoping for. Plus, so many people helped us out and did way more for us than we deserved. Also, two new cameras (point-and-shoot that’s mine; fancy Nikon d40 that Dan and I share).

27. What did you want and not get?
Photos from Italy.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
I liked most of the movies we saw (a paltry few, alas) but I probably enjoyed Wall-E the most.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
My 29th birthday was a spectacular non-event, being 2 weeks before the wedding. I took the day off, took myself to breakfast, and went to the gym. And did wedding stuff.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
I would have to say that NOT tearing my calf muscle certainly would have improved my May, June, and July.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?
How to Cope When You Gain a Cup Size in the Boobage Area and All Your Work-Appropriate Blouses Stop Fitting. And Your Bras. Hello, Cleavage!

32. What kept you sane?
Dan is the king of keeping me sane. Also, liquor.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I was pretty enamored of Tina Fey playing Sarah Palin.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
GLBT rights.

35. Who did you miss?
Friends who couldn’t be at the wedding (but will see them next week!). Friends we wanted to see more.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
I got to meet two longtime blog crushes in 2008, Holly Burns of Nothing but Bonfires and Adina of Crazy Asian. Plus I made new friends on the internets, like Jive Turkey who rocks my socks.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008.
You never know what sorts of behavior (good or bad) people will surprise you with when weddings are involved.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

See title of post.

Jew, Zoo

This weekend brought about two great days. Saturday, Dan made 2 loaves of delicious, delicious challah for our friend Julie’s annual latke party. We went to the party and had a marvelous time.


mmm…challah…


60 pounds of grated potatoes.

This party was a bit smaller than last year’s (thankfully; last year you could hardly move inside) and we enjoyed catching up with people, meeting new people, and generally socializing. Julie made her chicken soup again to go with the latkes and challah, and people played guitar hero (or was it rock band? kids these days and their video games), and the coolest part of the evening for me was the havdalah. The rabbi was unable to attend this year, so it was just the host of the party (Julie’s friend Len) who presided, with the assistance of a rabbi’s daughter in attendance who read some of the prayers off her iphone. At least half the room recited along with her.


bubbes at work


Important rule: NO KETCHUP ALLOWED.

At some point, we got recruited to become bubbes-in-training (or, I guess, Dan would be a zaidy in training). Anyhow, Dan and I took our turn standing at the hot, greasy stove in the huge mess and fried latkes for a while. This process is far less easy than one might think (you think: potato, flour, egg, plop in hot oil, turn when browned, right?). Latke, uh, batter? dough? makings? is difficult to work with and it takes some real skill to get the stuff to stick together when you plop it in the oil. You have to squeeze a lot of water out, and wait a long time before flipping the latke, and lots of little bits come off and brown much faster than everything else. It makes the whole house smell of oil and creates a heavy, hot atmosphere. But Dan got so good at it, he was deemed Zaidy Daniel-san and given his own bandana to wear.

Bubbe Julie with Daniel-san

Sunday we decided we needed some good, old fashioned exercise. I only had two latkes and no booze at the party and I still felt ill from all the grease in the air and from standing in the hot kitchen that long, so we decided to walk to the zoo.

Zoo!

This year, I made sure my camera was functional and was excited to get some interesting photos. Dan played around with our fancy camera and got some Really Nice photos. Even though it was nice outside, it’s still winter, so the zoo, though not as empty as when it’s snowing, was still sparsely populated. Most of the animals were out and about, at least the ones that like cold weather, and the lack of screaming children made them more active. The wolves and bears seemed to be particularly enjoying themselves; the dall sheep and bighorn sheep were playful; and there were tons of gorgeous peacocks showing off for the peahens. The lions were in the larger enclosure and the adult male displayed his vocal prowess throughout the couple of hours we were wandering around, audible from everywhere in the zoo.

The scariest part was the duck pond. Or whatever the place was. Most of these birds just kind of show up and hang out here, I think. It was kind of like a nightmare you might have after watching a hitchcock movie.

My favorite amusement of the afternoon was watching an adult kangaroo chase an emu who was chasing a baby kangaroo. Or the cheetahs who have worn a path next door, trying to find a way in to eat the kangaroos. Or maybe the orangutan who was lounging under a large piece of burlap looking sort of babushka-like.

All in all, we probably walked 7 or 8 miles on Sunday. It was just what I needed to cap off a week of relative sloth and gluttony.

Stuff happened in the last 2 weeks.

Coolest thing I saw in the month of December: Guy walking down the street, slowly and steadily. He is walking in the same direction as us but a block or so ahead. We catch up to him and notice he is knitting(!) and then notice he is carrying a baby in an Ergo-style carrier WHILE knitting. Go, multitasking guy!

Drink that is tasty: Manhattans made with Knob Creek bourbon.

Best white elephant gift given at my work holiday party: 8-track cassette of Neil Diamond.

Thing I gave Dan: 120 gig ipod (it was on his Amazon list but I got it before he put his Amazon list together!)

Other things I gave Dan: polar bear finger puppet I knitted, pair of underpants with WOO embroidered on the waistband. (by me)

Thing I tried to finish before Christmas and failed: Dan’s sweater, but it’s almost done! I’ll finish it this week.

Things Dan gave me (among others): replacement for my ipod nano, concert tickets, a cool homemade clock, and A CALCULATAH!

Highlight of last week: spending 3 hours with friends that have a 21-month-old. Homemade chai, exciting plans all around, and a little boy playing peek-a-boo.

Presents received from my family: 0 (everything is coming late)

Boxen still to send to various people: 3 (I think)

Exctiting upcoming events: Flobots concert Tuesday night, 2 parties Wednesday night, and in January we go to NYC!

The Best Weekend Evar

Saturday, we fought maddening crowds getting our groceries (including the supplies I needed to make cookies). Sara’s cookie recipe called for cacao nibs; I looked for them at four stores but the only ones I found were a teeny bag of chocolate covered ones at Whole Paycheck. Which I bought, because the cacao nibs are the best part of those cookies. I made Cil’s rum balls and Austrian Chocolate Balls and Mexican wedding cookies on Saturday.

Saturday night, it snowed. Then, it got really frakking cold. The low recorded at the airport was -19F. Sunday the high was about 7 or 8 F, so our original plan to see Tuba Christmas got scrapped once again (because nobody wants to stand outside in 5 F temps and watch tuba players’ lips freeze to their mouthpieces). I did, however, have a brunch date with the FOAF for whom I’m going to be doing wedding flowers in June. It was a very exciting date, especially since Simon called at one point to update us on the Wombat situation. At that point Leah was 8 cm dilated so I knew it was only a matter of time.

The rest of Sunday was spent making more cookies (the Mocha Slice cookies, plus gingerbread people), cleaning and organizing, and getting excited about the Big Phone Call. Dan made pizza for dinner, and we chilled one of our last two bottles of prosecco from the wedding (the last bottle is being saved for our anniversary), and we got a phone call in the middle of pizza. I got a little teary. We toasted the new life. And we played a song (well, two, actually) in his honor.

It may be a while before Leah or Simon read this, since they’re, like, busy with a newborn and family and recovering from delivering a newborn and trying to catch up on sleep and all. But if and when they do get a chance to read this, I wanted to publically thank them for letting us be a part of such a fascinating and amazing process. We are so happy for you guys and we love you very much. And we can’t wait to meet ol’ whatsisname.

You can call it faff, or you can call it not so faff.

Most interesting thing I saw this week: (tie)

1. Guy on the free shuttle bus dressed in silver, painted with silver, so I figured he was one of the buskers that does the painted statue thing. As soon as the bus started moving, however, the guy witnessed and prosyletised loudly and with great gusto to the entire bus for about 10 blocks. He was impossible to ignore.

2. Last night, the release party for the magazine Dan’s class has been working on all semester was held. The party was a lot of fun, particularly the part where Ooh La La presents performed. I got to see both dudes and chicks take off their clothes to music. Sweet! This burlesque group is, shall we say, a bit less than traditional (two of the acts included a woman in a straightjacket and a woman in an octopus costume).

Thing I have been thinking about most this week:

The impending arrival of Wombat, who seems to have learned that teasing can be fun (even in utero!). I intend to give him a piece of my mind when he finally arrives. Because teasing isn’t nice, especially when so many people have been waiting to meet him for so long.

Cookies I intend to bake this weekend:

Rum balls courtesy Cil; mocha slice cookies courtesy Sara via Martha Stewart, also possibly some of my family’s traditional cookies, including Mexican Wedding Cookies and Austrian Chocolate Balls. Now I just need to figure out what to do with them all. Who wants me to send them some cookies?

Knitting projects I am currently working on:

Too many to really name, especially since some recipients of said projects are blog readers, and there has to be some surprises left in this world. Photos forthcoming.

Number of angel tree-type gift requests we were able to fulfill this year:

six from the grocery store tree(!), one from my work (an 11 y/o girl who likes historical young adult fiction! I got her Anne of Green Gables, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, and The Witch of Blackbird Pond).

I would also like to thank Hillary for letting me totally steal the faff thing. She has pretty hair and cute doggies. And faff is such an appropriate word!

Stumped

I don’t know what I want for Christmas.

I never know what I want for Christmas or any gift-giving occasion, really. I have a hard time coming up with ideas for things I want. Sometimes I can come up with ideas for things I need, but those things aren’t as fun. This year, I have no idea. I bought myself a giftmas present yesterday, a pair of snowboots I’ve needed/wanted for a couple of years and they were on sale plus I had a $15 off coupon, so I got them for pretty cheap.

I’ll tell you what I really want: I want Wombat to arrive, safe and healthy. I want the economy to get better. I want a trip to somewhere exotic. I want my ipod back. I want everyone I know to have a good holiday season, however that is defined for them.

Tell me, internets. What do I want for Christmas?

Charlie Brown trees

This weekend, in between the googolplex of hours Dan spent working on his final school projects, we decided to go cut ourselves a Christmas tree. We’d both forgotten to do any tree-cutting research on Friday, so Dan headed out to a Panera Bread and figured out what we needed to know, which was that we needed chains and a permit to cut trees in forests (and the permits were all gone for the weekend), and we only needed some cash and a saw to cut our own at a Christmas tree farm to the north and east of us. Our two best options appeared to be located in La Salle and Greeley, up Highway 85, so we put the rope and saw in the car and drove north, land of few colors. This time of year, that part of the state is all wheat and tan and the occasional dark brown of a leafless tree, and bright blue or grey sky. Also, it is full of what Dan likes to call Special Smells, consisting of everything from feed lots to grazing land to slaughterhouses to rendering plants.

The first Christmas tree farm was just outside of La Salle, which isn’t saying much because La Salle consists of one stoplight. The entire operation consisted of a muck-filled dirt road leading toward an even muckier parking area in between a few acres of the same species of tree. They handed us an information sheet informing us that they only take cash or personal checks, neither of which we had on hand, but we decided if we found the right tree we’d go back into La Salle to get cash and come back. We wandered around in the muck, dodging stumps of trees past, and never finding the right kind of tree for us. A few came close, particularly one that was a little twisted and somewhat sparse because it had a bunch of pinecones on it! And then there was the tree with the dead mouse on it.

Dan asked if I wanted to try the other place, which was only a few miles away. I said it was up to him, since he was the one who still had so much work to do. I think we kind of both wanted to go, since we weren’t especially impressed with the trees or the muck. For 40 bucks I’d rather just get a noble fir at the grocery store.

So up to eastern Greeley we went, to the Fern Hill Christmas Tree farm. Now, THIS was a business. They had things all set up; marked and accessible parking, a hay ride out to the trees, a fire pit, cookies and cider inside where you paid for the tree you chose. And you could pay with a credit card. Each tree available for sale was marked with a tag telling you the height and price of the tree. We found a few we liked, and then I saw The One. I knew it was The One because a) I liked how it looked, and b) the tag looked like this.

How could we not get it?

Dan cut it down, with a little help from me, and we had it shaken and baled in some sort of netting to make it easier to transport, and we tied it to the roof of the car. The gordian knot used to secure it amused me so much, I took a photo.

When we got home, the tree came inside and got be-lighted and adorned with a lot of new ornaments that we got for half price at Cost Plus World Market on Saturday. I had also knitted four new ones, so there are eight giant knitted balls now.


The tree-topping pantheon, which includes Devil Ducky, The Frog That Lives Over The Door, an angel, and a poseable Jesus on wheels.

My abiding love for the Charlie Brown Christmas special has been well-documented on this site, and I was especially excited to see it this year because of our fancy teevee. Last night, I got a ride home from the gym with a friend (it was snowing heavily, so this was rather nice of her) and shook the snow off my shoes, ate a snack, and settled down on the couch to watch. And when the kids danced, I danced too. It wasn’t the amazing transformative experience that the Grinch or Rudolph were, because as Dan pointed out last night it’s pretty low-budget animation. But it made me feel like the season was really here, as I watched my favorite Christmas special while sitting next to our Charlie Brown tree.

A small post about Christmas

When I was a kid, we never put the Christmas tree up (or, technically, brought the potted Douglas Fir planted above my placenta into the house) until a week before Christmas or 10 days at most. I never understood why so many people I knew put up their trees the day after Thanksgiving but we had to wait until so close to the day. My mom always talked about how it was a compromise, because my dad’s family didn’t put their tree up until Christmas Eve. Which in my opinion was completely n-v-t-s nuts, but I never really questioned WHY they didn’t put the tree up until Christmas Eve.

I was reading a blog written by a Catholic blogger today, and she mentioned Advent and said something about being unable to wait until Christmas Eve to decorate. Then, like a bolt from the blue (or the yellow or the green) I made the connection between what she wrote and my dad’s family practice. Because my dad was raised Catholic. THAT’s why they didn’t put up a tree or decorate until Christmas Eve. It had never occured to me before.

Huh.

Food on Friday: It’s Cold Outside edition

The temperature here dropped dramatically. Our high on Tuesday was in the 60s and yesterday was about 18F (plus, there was snow). When the mercury goes down here, my appetite changes to wanting hot, starchy white people food. However, it’s not good for me to only eat starchy things, and especially not good for my waistline. I conceded to my appetite last night, making a somewhat-healthy version of a shepherd’s pie, and boy was it YUMMY. Here, in all its glory, for your viewing pleasure:

MLE’s Healthy-ish Shepherd’s Pie

1/2 pound ground turkey or chicken (substitute veggie crumbles if you’re a veg.)
2 medium russet potatoes
6 mushrooms, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 cup frozen green peas or 1/2 cup canned corn (I used peas last night)
1 small can mushroom gravy
seasonings (I used garlic powder, savory, and thyme, plus salt and pepper)
milk (nonfat or soy if you like) and butter (or butter substitute) for potatoes
Oven 350F

Chop veggies. Start potatoes to boilin’ for mashed po’s. I cut my po’s up to decrease cooking time but don’t peel them because I like the skin. Brown the turkey or chicken in a small skillet. Sautee onion, carrot, and celery in a large skillet with a little oil and add seasonings. Add peas or corn. Add mushrooms when other veggies are mostly cooked. Add browned meat (or crumbles if you’re using those instead). Add mushroom gravy and stir everything together, turning the heat down. When potatoes are soft, prepare in whatever way you like best (for 2 potatoes, I use 1 tablespoon of butter, probably 1/4 cup of nonfat milk, and some salt and pepper). Transfer contents of large skillet (veggies plus ground meat) into a coverable casserole dish (I have a 2 quart glass pyrex one). Spread mashed potatoes over the top, cover, and put in oven until everything is heated through and the gravy is bubbling up through the potatoes, 20-30 minutes. Let sit for a few, then serve. Makes 4 dinner-sized servings. I use a kitchamajig to get it out. If you’re feeling fancy, you can add some parmesan cheese to the top of the potatoes for the last couple of minutes, removing the lid of the casserole so the cheese has a chance to brown a little. Last night, I was all about the easy and not feeling fancy, so I opted against.

I forgot to write about all the things I made for Thanksgiving at my mom’s house. I made a pumpkin pie from scratch (starting with a pumpkin), two pear tarts, sweet potato soup, salad with balsamic-carmelized fennel and pomegranate seeds, cranberry sauce with mandarin oranges and pears, and did about half the work on the mashed potatoes. Plus I helped with the fondue setup and making.

The soup was the best version I’ve made yet, so here is the recipe, seasonally appropriate, good for non-meat eaters, and tasty. Nobody in my family likes candied yams/sweet potatoes, so this is a way to use them in a holiday meal in a more savory fashion.

Sweet Potato Soup (scaled down to serve 4 meal portions, I made enough to serve 11 appetizer portions)

2 large yams or sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 celery stalks plus the leafy tops, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
Seasonings
4 cups veggie broth

Peel and chop veggies. Add to large pot, along with veggie broth (either from a box, made from veggie base, etc. Add whatever seasonings sound good; many herbs could work here, or even red pepper flakes or something to give it some kick. Heat until veggies are soft. Let sit to cool a little, then add half of the veggies and broth to a blender and puree until smooth. Puree the rest of the veggies/broth and mix with the first batch. Reheat in the pot, stirring occasionally so the soup doesn’t stick. Serve with toasted pumpkin seeds or sour cream/greek yogurt.

Thursday Faff

* Monday night, I saw How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the animated version, as if another one were ever made) on the teevee, and I marveled at how phenomenally gorgeous it was in HD. Then, last night, I saw the Rankin-Bass Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and it blew my freaking mind, mang. I hadn’t seen it since I was 8 or 9 (always managed to miss it somehow) and my childhood memories of the show stem from watching it on a TV with rabbit ears and not-so-great signal because we lived so far away from the city. To see it in HD glory was just unbelievably cool. I can’t wait to see what Charlie Brown looks like.

* It snowed here today, a real snow, and it continues to snow and be very cold (the high today was predicted to be 20F) It was the tiny, powdery snow that happens when it’s really cold outside, and it muffled everything as I walked to work this morning wearing my new coat which I would mary if bigamy were legal. Snow makes everything prettier, makes everything quiet and still, until you get to the big downtown intersections and then it’s just dirty mush in the street.

* Last Monday before we headed out to California on the aeroplane, Dan and I went for a run. Now, to those of you who don’t know us IRL, this may not sound like a big deal. But Dan and I trained for a marathon together a few years ago and we ran together all the time, but after it was over we pretty much stopped the practice. I somehow got away from running for the most part, while Dan continues to do so nearly every day (he runs anywhere between 3 and 6 miles, 5 days a week). I haven’t run with him in ages, and I hadn’t run at all since before I hurt my leg back in May. I wasn’t sure how the leg would do and I was really concerned about holding him back, but it did just fine. I managed to run a mile and a half without stopping. Cardiovascularly, I’m in good enough shape that I should probably be able to run 5 or 10 with no problems, but I didn’t want to push my leg too hard. And it didn’t bother me once during the run. I think it was the walking around for 6 hours in San Francisco the next day that was the problem, because Wednesday it hurt like a mofo. I decided to wait a little while and try again, so today at the gym I ran for 10 minutes in between a 15 minute walk (5 walk 5 run 5 walk 5 run 5 walk). It felt pretty good. I wanted to run more. Maybe I will this weekend.

* And without futher ado, some of the photos I took in CA. These were all in my mom’s yard; I was playing with the macro setting on my camera for some of them.

(hee)


My mom has had this plant for longer than I’ve been alive.


I took a bunch of photos of this moss-growing rope swing; I liked this one best.