A North Carolina Christmas

 NC snow
Mark and I spent Christmas in North Carolina with his family this year – West Coast meets East Coast! Mark’s sister and brother-in-law came too (actually his brother-in-law’s family is from that part of North Carolina also), as well as family friends Wendy and Gerald. We kept Wendy and Gerald’s trip a secret from Paul and Della (I had a dream that I spilled the beans to Della which probably helped keep me quiet) so they were pleasantly surprised with two extra guests. :)

We decorated Christmas cookies on Christmas Eve (a Seymour family tradition), ate LOADS of delicious food and played in the snow. This was one big difference we noticed between Charlotte and Seattle – during a Seattle snow, you can find plenty of people out and about on the streets and sliding down hills. However, at least where we were, no one wanted to leave their house except for the Seymours and their visitors… snow won’t keep us inside!

Thank you SO much to Paul and Della for their hospitality and great food – now I know how to make ebelskivers!

Analyze this (actually, please don’t)

I had the weirdest dream yesterday.

First, I dreamed I got an e-mail from a friend at church saying how I’d volunteered to help make food for an event, but hadn’t shown up. She asked if I’d forgotten or just decided not to show (in the dream I was berating myself for completing spacing it). Then, I was actually at the church and realized the service had already started but I was supposed to be helping with the kids’ program, so I was about half an hour late. The teacher that morning was my friend though, so she said it was fine.

So I went outside and started jogging through the woods. I realized someone was jogging behind me and when I looked back, I realized it was a guy I knew from SPU (actually I didn’t know who he was specifically, I just knew I knew him from school). I said hi and we both stopped running. Then, he said, “I had an affair.” Surprised, I replied, “Oh… I’m sorry?” Then he started telling me about his relationship and that somehow they worked it out and were still married.

THEN both of us were in an office at SPU and I put a wrapped present that had somehow materialized in my hands on the desk. We walked out of the office and into a garage to find my car, where we found a client of my company rooting through it. She said some things of hers were stolen, and asked if I had seen them. We said we hadn’t (though my friend looked a little suspicious) and I told her that I hoped she’d find them. She left and then Captain Cragen from “Law and Order: SVU” appeared and said my rights were violated, so who would I like to call? I said to get me “________” on the phone (in the dream I said a name but I can’t remember it now). He asked me if I was sure. I said I was, get him on the phone!

Then I woke up and realized I should’ve been awake 20 minutes ago. How strange.

Snacks and more snacks

snacks

It’s hard to eat right when you’re surrounded by all sorts of goodies at work! So far, we’ve sampled:

  • Harry and David’s gift baskets
  • Crackers and cheese gift baskets
  • Tins of cookies
  • Tins of fudge
  • All sorts of homemade Christmas cookies

Tis the season!

Theater etiquette

Speaking of the theater, now would be a perfect time to review theater etiquette. Nothing’s worse than paying good money for a live performance and then having to put up with unnecessary nonsense.

“Mommy, how are they doing that?”  My experience with this issue occurred during my second trip to the staging of “The Lion King” at the Paramount Theatre. We had stellar seats (a birthday gift) but didn’t expect an additional soundtrack behind us: a 5- or 6-year-old girl intent on making her own observations. Please don’t get me wrong – I am all about exposing children to live productions. However, if the child isn’t able to sit still and remain *mostly* silent for the duration of a show, perhaps a crowded theater isn’t the best place for her, no? Granted, the first thing out of her mouth was adorable – when the lion protagonist first appeared on stage, she exclaimed, “Siiiiiiiimba!” But it went downhill from there. And don’t think this is limited to children: my friend Nicole had the misfortune (also at a performance of “The Lion King” coincidentally) to sit in front of an exceptionally talkative group of women. We don’t need the play-by-play, people!

Stay in your seats, please.  You paid good money for your seat – try to stay in it. Just this weekend I sat behind two people – in one seat. A father let his daughter sit on his lap for the majority of the performance, which would’ve been fine if she were four, but she was at least seven or eight and about a head taller than her father when perched on his lap. Meanwhile her chair next to him was empty. Luckily I was in the aisle seat so I could lean into the aisle for an unobstructed view, but what if I had people on both sides of me? I could’ve been up a creek.

Bottom line: use common sense and be considerate. And try to stay away from the passive-aggressive dirty looks if someone is breaking the rules – at least, that’s what I try to tell myself.

Midweek Tidbit: WHAM edition



Because this is so fantastically 80s... and it's Christmas.

A Christmas Story

One of my favorite people
Nicole is back in town from Zimbabwe and inhabited our guest room for a couple of nights this weekend. It was SO good to see her and get caught up (not much to catch up on our end, plenty to tell on hers) and we even fit in a musical: an adaptation of "A Christmas Story" was playing at the 5th Avenue Theatre so we put our age to good use and got $20 tickets (a special for theater-goers aged 25 and under). It's like the movie was meant to be turned into a musical. I loved every minute of it. My favorite scene was the musical number after the leg lamp was placed in the living room - all the adults came out and danced around with their own leg lamp, and then out came all the children with miniature leg lamps! Hilarious.

Card me, why don’t you

Around Thanksgiving, a thought process starts churning in my head: will I send out Christmas cards this year? Of course! And look, I’m starting so early!

December inevitably rolls around and the Christmas cards get pushed to the back burner amid shopping for presents and making travel arrangements. Christmas comes and goes sans cards and I set my sights on the next year.

2008: No cards

2009: No cards

2010: Mailed today! I’m covered in a light dusting of glitter from them but they’ve been stamped, sealed and dropped off at the post office. Now watch, I probably won’t send them out again for another two years.

For some reason I’ve considered Christmas cards a rite of adulthood, right up there with buying a car and listening to talk radio. Chalk one up for the adult.

Wednesday Wednesday

Why does this feel like a Monday?

My office has been plagued with a host of IT problems this week so I’ve had to pop on my IT hat and pretend like I know what I’m doing. Thankfully, all these issues have been solvable thanks to Google and my co-workers’ willingness to hand over their iPhones and Droids for me to tinker with until I get them to work.

I’ve discovered that my approach to IT is very similar to my approach to algebra. Method: plug in some numbers. Did it work? No? Try some different numbers. Still not working? Try a slightly different number. Voila! The correct answer! I can’t show my work but I have the right answer so it doesn’t matter (until I get docked points on a test). Meanwhile, IT-wise, I get to look like a genius when really I’m just pushing buttons and trying different solutions to see what works.

With that said, no Midweek Tidbits this week. I had one link saved in a draft but I haven’t come across anything too interesting lately so I deleted it. Sorry for the lack of entertainment…

We’re going to my company Christmas party tonight which usually entails hobnobbing around an open bar and inhaling delicious food, so naturally I’ve been looking forward to it for months. At least it didn’t get snowed out this year, a la 2008 – amid a dire forecast of a snowstorm yet to come, our boss canceled the party the day of though a snowflake hadn’t even hit the ground. Two hours later, snow was blowing everywhere and the bridges were icing over. Our boss took a lot of flak for his decision until the forecast decided to prove true!

Dang you Pineapple Express

A Pineapple Express is causing the skies to dump buckets on the Pacific Northwest right now (the airport measured almost an inch and a half of rain yesterday). Yes yes we should be used to rain and all, blah blah blah, but it never pours like this here! Our normal rain is a drizzle. Maybe some showers.

But at least we aren't Minneapolis, which has gotten 17.5 inches of snow since Friday and lost the roof to its Superdome. It's always worse somewhere else!

Classy Christmas: PHOTO

The epitome of classy.

Classy Christmas

Speaking of classy Christmas decorations… since we don’t have actual stocking holders that we can put over the fireplace, we’ve had to make do with what we have.

Currently our stockings are being supported by miniature sports trophies (you know the kind – the ones that every Little League team member gets for participation) that we used for a small group event. I must also add that these trophies were used over nine months ago and have been hanging out on our mantle ever since. High class to the max.

I keep forgetting to snap a picture of them, but I will. It’s only temporary.

Oh Christmas tree

The least blurry shot I got - my camera has trouble focusing.

Properly floating

Somewhere between the Christmases of yesteryear and now, I developed a slight obsession over a certain way to decorate a tree: MY way. I suppose I am to a certain extent a product of my upbringing: I can remember pretty early in my life being shown a method to string Christmas lights where you start from the inside and individually wrap branches toward the outside (Martha agrees).

This year I wanted to deviate from our multicolored lights of the past two years and use white lights – I personally think white lights add a classy and clean finish. However, somehow I got confused and thought that we did have white lights for the tree (I’m still not sure how I managed to convince myself we had them – obviously we’d used colored lights because I decided to make the switch). By the time I figured out we didn’t have them, the tree was already in the stand and I didn’t want to wait to decorate or trek out to buy lights. I whined to Mark about having to use multicolored lights again and he said they gave the tree “personality.” So… my tree has a great personality.
Improperly resting


And don’t even get me started on ornaments. I grew up with a fake tree, so we could bend the branches to hold the ornaments however we wanted. This isn’t so easy with a real tree, so I have to find the perfect spot so each ornament can properly dangle. I can’t handle when an ornament rests on a branch – it has to look like it’s suspended in mid-air. Floating, if you will. 

Now I constantly find myself glancing over at the tree and trying to find ways to make it better. This ornament is too close to that one. That branch is awfully dark – is there any way I can twist the lights to make them more noticeable? What can I put in this empty hole between branches? And why does that spider insist on continually making his web at the top of the tree? It’s a curse.

And don’t worry, I won’t judge your tree! This only applies to my own tree. The one with personality.

Happy birthday Mom!

In honor of your special day, I’ve compiled some favorite memories we’ve shared together. I couldn’t have asked for a better mother and friend. :)

  • Makeovers at Macy’s
  • That fated drive to Eagle Lake Camp where we were caught in a freak hailstorm and ended up with a flat tire
  • Three days traipsing around New York for a family wedding – Time Square at 1 in the morning!
  • Watching movies in the middle of the night
  • Visiting San Francisco on the free trip you won
  • Watching The Nutcracker on PBS
  • TACO SALAD
  • Setting a balloon free after “Finding Nemo”
  • Putting up the Christmas tree and especially the ornaments that plugged into the lights

Love you, Mom!

Back to reality…

Among other things:

  • Back to… work (actually everyone seems to be in a splendid mood, including yours truly! The pumpkin pie a co-worker brought in is helping.)
  • Cooking for myself and others
  • Housework
  • Loads and loads of laundry
  • THE GYM

Thank you to the Bluhms who so generously let us stay at their place during the break and fed us TONS of amazing food, and also to Mark’s grandparents who hosted Thanksgiving lunch! I think I’m still stuffed.

Midweek Tidbits

Happy Thanksgiving early! :D
...

The ultimate Thanksgiving turkey cake: layers of turkey, potatoes, and stuffing.

We twenty-somethings sure seem to be a mystery.

Last week I posted an article on shared office space - now we're onto shared kitchen space.

Top 10 bad messages from good movies. I do disagree with a couple of these and I'm a little surprised "Grease" isn't on the list. I also went through the comments and plucked my favorite about what should've been included (though I do love Finding Nemo): "How about 'Finding Nemo'? Accept the disabled woman’s help to find your missing son – but once you think your quest is over, feel free to leave her stranded hundreds of miles from home. Every time my (very small) kids watch this movie, I sit in on that scene and exclaim in horror over what a horrible, selfish person Nemo’s father is, ditching Dory like that! They pretty much hate Marlin now, too."

The advice of food magazines to reinvent your Thanksgiving menu.



The commute from hell

I was initially excited to get off work an hour and a half early due to weather conditions - snow had been steadily falling all day and the forecast said everything would freeze in a few hours. Leaving work at 3 p.m. should've given me plenty of time, right?

Unfortunately, I got caught in the absolute worst traffic jam I've ever had the misfortune to witness. I made the first 9 miles in about 10 minutes - not too bad. And then we all came to a sudden halt. And. Stayed. There. I moved four miles in four hours. FOUR HOURS. By the second hour I had grown tired of the monotonous voices of NPR and was calling or texting anyone who might have their phones on them. My phone summary:
  • 55 texts sent
  • 48 texts received
  • 8 phone calls made
  • 11 phone calls received
By 7 p.m. I had made it off the freeway onto one of the downtown exits which was completely frozen and snowed over. My car was fishtailing, the car in front of me was fishtailing, and another car in front of them had spun out completely. The joy! I made it through downtown without any significant issues and was beginning to regain my optimism until I hit another traffic jam - this time I needed to get around the mass of vehicles trying to get to the freeway. "It's pointless!" I yelled at them from the car. "Don't do it!!" Then a semi blocked our street for 30 minutes. Try sitting at a stoplight, three cars away from freedom, unable to move for half an hour.

Point A to Point B: 1.7 miles.  Time elapsed: over an hour.
I finally burst into tears (five minutes shy of five hours on the road) at the futility of it all: cars wanting to get onto the freeway would not let other traffic pass, blocking the intersection at the first chance to move forward a few inches. I thought about turning around but where could I go? To my left was a hill and barely traversed streets of ice, and to my right I'd encounter the same dilemma - traffic trying to get to the freeway. Another 15 minutes went by and I was finally free (after honking at the latest culprit to block the intersection). Just as I'd suspected, all roads leading away from the freeway were completely empty save for a couple of buses and the streetcar. I fishtailed and slid toward Eastlake, finally making the turn onto a street a couple of blocks away from my house - and knew instantly I'd made a mistake. The hill was almost too much for my little car, but I managed to spin my way into the first available parking spot (and as I discovered later, literally the ONLY parking spot) about half a block up the street.

When I got out of my car, I noticed a group of people crowded around a mess of cars a block further up the hill - nine cars had slipped down the hill and gently crashed into each other. Most of the owners were nowhere in sight but there were plenty of snow tourists with cameras at the ready. A 20-somethings couple noticed I was having a difficult time making it up the icy street in my stiletto boots (that's how I roll).

Girl: "Oh, do you need some help? You look like you're struggling!"
Me: "Yes, please!! I've been on the road for over five hours!" (Yes, by then I had descended into self-pity).
Girl: "You poor dear! Let us help you!"

She grabbed one arm, her man grabbed my other arm, and they both walked me up the hill to Boylston, our street. Less than five minutes later, I was back inside my house and reheating leftover lamb stew. That's the LAST time I don't keep a snack in the car! I have no idea who that couple was and will probably never see (or even recognize) them again, but I was so incredibly grateful. The commute took nearly five and a half hours but I suppose I can now say I survived "Snowmageddon 2010".

Thoughts on servanthood

"It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home, for this is where our love for each other must start."  - Mother Teresa

Sometimes I get caught up in my aspirations of service and forget that my own home is a sort of mission field. I like to think that I care for the people of the world, the people of my city, but how does that translate to the ones closest to me? Do I respond in love and in unselfishness? With gratefulness? Too often the ones around us bear the brunt of the burdens we shoulder - "I'm too busy," I say, "Do it yourself."

The home is the starting point to cultivate a lifestyle of servanthood. If you can't serve your spouse, your friends, the ones you say you love, how can you serve those society deems unlovable?

Buggy

I’ve lately fallen under the spell of homemade sauces and soups. Eating a premade sauce from a jar or carton just seems like cheating to me (or efficient… whatever). We don’t often eat red sauces (too much pasta for bachelor Mark in college) but I wanted to make a marinara sauce to accompany baked chicken. The caveat – all the ingredients needed to be found in my cupboard because I didn’t want to make a trip to the grocery store.

I settled on this sauce because I had every ingredient (thank you AllRecipes for your ability to search with or without certain ingredients) but wanted to add fresh basil from our potted basil plant. I cut off a stalk and prepared to clip off the leaves into the blender when I noticed something odd. Some of the leaves appeared to be covered with small green dots. And they were moving.

I almost let the aphids hold a party in my marinara. I panicked and threw away the whole stalk before Mark suggested we just wash them off. So we did and the marinara was indeed basil-infused. We tossed the rest of the plant though – one less aphid stronghold.

Midweek Tidbits

This kind of makes me want to buy a Columbia jacket.

Architects are sponsoring a contest to design a safe house to take refuge when the zombie apocalypse hits.

The Quidditch World Cup took place last weekend. You heard me right.

Speaking of Harry Potter, the folks at io9 have looked at the possible influences on JK Rowling's work. Conclusion: everything borrows from everything.

Wide open net and the poor guy just couldn't finish. Worst soccer miss ever.

Researchers find that smoking pot at an early age may damage brain function. Was there ever any research to the contrary?

The completed 100 list

As you may have noted by a new tab above, my 100 List is finally (finally) complete. It was relatively easy to get halfway through, but I struggled through the second half of my life goals. Through writing this list, I've learned that there are some things I just don't want to do.

Take, for example, scuba diving. I started to put it on my list (Fish! Coral! Pretty!) but then realized there would be a very good chance I'd have to actually scuba dive. For those of you who know me, the ocean isn't exactly a place I feel comfortable, and the thought of being trapped that many feet below water, beautiful though it may be, terrifies me. So I left it off.

I also left off a few items because the likelihood of getting them accomplished was very low. Like I think riding in a zeppelin (or a submarine) would be completely awesome, but at this point I'm not prepared to drop a couple Gs to do it (riding in a seaplane made the list though).

Some of the different categories my goals fell into:
  • Travel related: 29
  • New skills to learn: 6
  • Animal related: 6
  • Vehicle related: 8
  • Seattle/Washington related: 10
So what should I do first? Some aren't feasible right away (my apartment is cat-free so owning a cat or a Newfoundland is out of the question), but there are a few fun ones I could start now.

I could...
  • Pop popcorn on the stove
  • Actually FINISH crocheting a blanket
  • Bake a pie from scratch
  • Make sushi
Suggestions?

Midweek Tidbits

A Q&A with The New York Time's Amanda Hesser on her new compilation titled "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." You may remember Hesser as the food writer who interviewed Julie Powell during her quest to cook through Julia Child's cookbook.

The Pioneer Woman is going to be famous! Well, not like she wasn't already famous, but REESE WITHERSPOON famous!

It's like "Never Been Kissed", only with a drug bust at the end.

Who do you think is Hollywood's most overpaid actor?

Speaking of actors, check out these dueling Michael Caine impressions.

A place of my own where I can work among other people but not be interrupted constantly? Yes please.

The weekend report

1. I've been trying to finish Alexandre Dumas' "Twenty Years After", the sequel to "The Three Musketeers". I finished "The Three Musketeers" in April but it's taken me until now to really get into the sequel. Dumas continues to amaze me with his fantastic storytelling and character development. I just reached a point in the novel where one of the side characters dies (it's no secret - the back of the book gives it away) and I still cried because I'd grown attached to him.

I remember the first book I read that made me cry: Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' "The Yearling", about a boy and his deer. Do you cry in books?

2. We hosted a Fifa 11 soccer tournament at our place on Friday - a friend brought another Xbox and TV so we had a dual set-up and could have two matches occurring at the same time. Mark and I ended up winning the tournament, which we still find a bit shocking since every time we play the computer together, we lose. Buoyed by our Friday night success, I played two games by myself Saturday - and lost 0-2 and 0-3. My finishing skills need work.

3. You'll find us most Sunday afternoons hanging out at the Fremont Sunday Market, sampling the wares of local artisans and vintage junkies. I tasted a delicious pear jelly with hints of pinot noir and cinnamon but I can't remember the name of the vendor - and my Googling skills are failing me. I guess we'll have to go back!

Sounders my heart

Photo Credit: Mark Harrison, The Seattle Times
I used to congratulate myself for finding a husband who wasn’t a sports fanatic. You know, someone who wouldn’t plan his schedule around “the game”, complain about having to miss “the game”, or build a man-cave dedicated to his team. This was all before Seattle brought a professional soccer team to the city, and turned my husband into the man he is today. Well, he doesn’t have his man-cave (yet) but March through November are dedicated to the Seattle Sounders.

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy watching soccer too, just not to the extent he does. The first season the Sounders were in existence, we were partial-season ticket holders – we had tickets to half the games. The ownership did away with the partial-season ticket package after the Sounders’ inaugural year, so we decided to go all in and get the full-season ticket package. I don’t regret it – the home games are spaced about every other week, so I don’t get tired of going. Plus, we biked to the games during the summer and played active Seattleites!

One great thing about Mark’s new(er) love for professional soccer is the friendly rivalry it created between him and my brother, Richard. Richard is one of the biggest soccer fans you’ll meet, so now Mark and Richard have plenty to talk about (or trash talk about). I love that the two most important men in my life have this in common.

The Sounders are in the playoffs right now, and hopefully by next week they’ll still be in contention – we’ll know by Sunday. Go Seattle!

Midweek Tidbits

So not only will there be an "Avatar 2", but apparently an "Avatar 3" as well.

Asylum presents the world's most useless robots.

Gaming for a cause!

Bumper planes in Seattle. Firings all around!

I've been addicted to the New Yorker's 20 Under 40 series featuring new(er) fiction writers.

Hey pumpkin

We carved pumpkins with our small group Tuesday! And yes, Megan, I totally stole this from you.

In the name of fresh bread

I decided to go all out and make lasagna last Friday to cap off the week. CARBO LOAD. I'm still not too good at this whole meal planning thing ("I want lasagna! Right now!!") and didn't think ahead as to what side dishes we might want with our lasagna. Ten minutes into making the sauce, I decided I'd use the hour-plus of simmer time to leave the concoction on the stove (simmering safely on low heat) and race to the nearest bakery to pick up a loaf of fresh bread and maybe a bottle of wine.

A quick Google search revealed a bakery a few blocks down the street - closing in 10 minutes. Before I left, I made absolutely sure I had my keys and that there was no possible way I could lock myself out of the apartment (which has happened before - I was lucky that time and saved the pot of rice). I flew down Eastlake even though I knew 10 minutes was plenty of time to get inside and pick my loaf. I turned into literally the teeniest parking garage I've ever encountered and eyed one of the available spots. It looks pretty small, I thought. Meh, I can make it! I cleared the cement pole with my side mirror and concentrated on not hitting the car next to me - and heard a scary CRUNCH. For a second, I couldn't move. I thought this couldn't be happening to me. Where was I? Why was I here?? My sauce is on the stove! Abort! Abort!

The pole got me. Or rather, I got the pole. But there was no time to assess the damage - I needed that bread. I straightened my car in the (cursed) parking spot, hopped out and ran into the bakery with five minutes to spare, but was still the fourth person in line. Images of my apartment going up in smoke started flashing through my head. My turn came soon enough and I asked what types of fresh bread they might have.

"Oh I'm sorry, we're actually all out," the cashier said.

Is this not a bakery?

Fine, I do realize it was a gamble trying to find fresh bread at a bakery five minutes from closing. But now I had a scratch on the side of my car and didn't even have bread to show for it. I decided to take another gamble and see if the market down the street had fresh bread, even though I was pretty sure it didn't. Lucky for me they did stock fresh bread from a local bakery so I counted the trip as somewhat of a success, plus I didn't even burn down the apartment!

Sadly, the scratch is going to cost a pretty penny to fix. But at least when I had to 'fess up to Mark about what I'd done to the car, I could follow it up with, "But look! I made lasagna!"

Midweek Tidbits

Cat vs. Printer



Mumford and Sons concert

 Mark and I treated ourselves to a performance of one of our favorite bands - Mumford and Sons - for our anniversary. We headed to the Moore Theater Sunday night, planning to get to the venue at least an hour early since our tickets were general admission. Street parking was procured less than a block away from the front door of the theater - we should've been more suspicious but chalked it up to good parking luck instead. But a quick glance at the theater revealed locked doors and no lights. Something was definitely wrong. The marquee had no mention of M&S but we approached anyway and saw a small sign hanging over the ticket window: "The Mumford and Sons concert scheduled for October 24, 2010, has been moved to the Paramount Theatre." Good thing we were early!

The Paramount Theatre,
Seattle, WA
We headed to the Paramount and saw the nearly three-block-long line for the concert formed outside the venue. Definitely the right place this time. We found one of our friends in line and she told us she'd received an e-mail about the venue change - I'm guessing I didn't receive it (I later checked) because I got our tickets directly from the box office and not from an online ticket service?

We got into the Paramount expecting to head up to the second or third level since our original seats at the Moore were general admission to the balcony. However, since we had originally bought our tickets when the show was still at the Moore, we were told we could go wherever we wanted! The Paramount had removed all the seating from the main floor, creating a more typical concert atmosphere, so we secured standing spots about eight rows back from the stage. Perfecto.

During the "Ian Interlude"
And the band. My goodness. What a talented group of musicians - the lead singer alternated between the guitar, the mandolin and the drums; the keyboardist alternated between the keyboard, the drums, and an accordion; and another guitar player alternated between the guitar, the slide guitar, and the banjo. INCREDIBLE. Their energy was infectious and I don't know if I've ever seen a more dedicated group of fans.

One fan in particular was singled out in between songs, in what was dubbed the "Ian Interlude" - Ian was wearing a glow-in-the-dark shirt, which prompted the lead singer to forbid any more black lights unless they wanted him to start laughing during a song.

All in all, the concert was completely worth it. We'll totally go again. Plus they played three new songs, all of which were amazing. New album? Yes, please!

Post-college

You know you've been out of college too long when...

... you're playing Scrabble online against a robot and, when it won't allow you to place "prys" on the board, you say, "What?! The stupid computer won't let me put 'prys' on the board! Like, 'he prys open the car door!' Wait... that's spelled with an 'ie', never mind. As you were."

Sad.

Make me laugh. Just try.

I have an affliction.

If someone purposefully tries to get me to laugh, and I catch on, I will refuse to laugh. I’m not sure if this is some deep-seated rebellion or perhaps a response to what I deem as manipulative, but you will not even get so much as a smile out of me. My resolve strengthens if I’m in a poor mood.

So know this, Jokesters-Who-Try-To-Provoke-My-Laughter: I’m on to you.

Oh and for some reason this doesn't work for the game "Honey if you love me" - I'm absolutely horrible at that game.

Time... is on my side?

It's a total cliche but it still holds some truth: there just aren't enough hours in the day.

By the time I get off work, spend some time at the gym, make dinner and maybe get some chores done, it's already time for bed. I know I'm pretty good at time wasting but I can also be pretty efficient if I want to be, yet I still feel so unaccomplished at the end of the day. Maybe this is because I still see so many things that need to be done. But if I didn't ignore tasks that need to get done, I'd never sit down. And then I'd get bitter and resentful, and no one wants that.

I seem to have two speeds in life: full speed ahead ("Ramming speed!") or completely stopped. I need to find a viable in-between.

I was in "completely stopped" mode last night when I decided to give the evening a kick of spontaneous - I asked Mark if he wanted to go to a tea shop and play a game. Get out of the apartment for a while. I was surprised when he agreed - we aren't usually very good at spontaneity! ("What do you want to do?" "I dunno... what do you want to do?" "I dunno...") So we went to Remedy Teas on Capitol Hill, ordered a pot of Black Satin (a mix of vanilla, mint, and hints of chocolate), and played Dominoes. I could've been doing laundry, cleaning up the apartment, or myriad other little tasks around the house. But the break was worth it for the change of scene and some quality time with Mark.

Midweek Tidbits

Can't wait to see these guys live Sunday!

How in the world had I not heard there was a new Muppets movie in the works starring Jason Segel?

Adhesive nail designs are the new fad. Has anyone tried it?

Singing is cool again! Especially a capella singing.

"The Blind Side" made for a great movie, and many other football players share the same story as Michael Oher.

My 100 List: still in progress

Like my friends Claire and Maile, I’ve been working on my 100 List, or rather, my bucket list – 100 things I want to accomplish in my life. Some of them are silly and easy to check off, and others require more work or time. I’ve been working on it for weeks now, and I still only have 50 goals. I’m not sure what this says about me yet. By nature I’m a goal-oriented person, so I tend to live my life by lists like these. However, I don’t want to add something to this list just to get closer to 100.

A random sampling so far:

14. Visit the San Juans
27. Drive a Mini Cooper
49. Feed a giraffe

Lake Union Park


South Lake Union got a facelift this month with the grand opening of Lake Union Park. The city did a great job, finally cleaning up the eyesore on Broad and Westlake that had me looking the other way when we drove past. Can you find the heron in the tree?

All part of living in the city

Living in the city has its advantages - walkability and scores of restaurants and entertainment options come to mind. But every once in a while, the suburbs sound like a good change of pace for me. We run into the oddest people in Seattle, and half of them happen to live next door. Nearly every interaction I've had with someone living in that house has led to my recapping the conversation with Mark and ending with, "I'm pretty sure he was high."

Yesterday afternoon we came home to a full-blown yard sale going on next door - on a Thursday afternoon in the pouring rain. Not only were old furniture and items strewn all over their front yard and into the street, monopolizing a precious parking space, but a BONFIRE was raging in their charcoal grill. On the lawn. Under a tree. They asked me if I wanted to come look at their $2 offerings but I declined since I was in a rush. By 10:30 p.m., everything was still in the yard and the street, the radio was blasting and the fire was still going. Bedtime rolled around and I had just asked Mark to do something about the blasting radio (we could hear everything from our bedroom window) when we heard another neighbor yell "TURN IT OFF!" At that point the radio was turned off and the night grew quieter, but we were later awakened by a loud cracking noise (at first I thought someone was breaking into the apartment) which seemed to be coming from the neighbor's lawn and was accompanied by voices and laughter. I can only assume they were breaking apart the furniture they couldn't sell to feed the fire.

I can't imagine why anyone would organize a yard sale in the rain but I've come up with a few hunches.

a. "We're broke... LET'S HAVE A YARD SALE. RIGHT NOW."
b. One of their housemates up and ditched the place, leaving behind some belongings. The housemates left holding the bag decided to sell them. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
c. A bonfire in the rain sounded like a good idea and the yard sale was an afterthought. "Since we're already outside..."

Oh and when I left the house this morning, the furniture and items were still on the lawn and in the street. Way to clutter our block, people.

Midweek Tidbits


My new favorite duo at the moment - "Simplistic Duplicity". If you get bored of the piano playing (if you do, please don't tell me and I won't judge you), watch the guy in the background playing Mario Kart - at one point he steers with one hand and pulls out his phone and starts texting with the other.

I marvel at Andrew Bird's talent - multiple instruments and looping everything. He's obviously a genius.

Michael J. Fox was not the original Marty McFly - Eric Stoltz was.

A list of SNL's best and worst characters from this season's cast - I don't agree with some of these (there's a special place in my heart for the "What Up With That" sketches) and I also don't think Kristen Wiig can do any wrong. With that said, they hit the nail on the head with Jay Pharoah's impression of Denzel Washington - close your eyes and you'll swear it's Denzel himself.

October means... pumpkin seeds!


Photo courtesy of AllRecipes.com
Fall is upon us! I made this recipe last year at a pumpkin-carving party and I could NOT STOP eating them. It's like Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal but with pumpkin seeds. If you're looking for a sweet version of toasted pumpkin seeds, try this out. Best to limit yourself to a handful if you can... unless you want your dentist to yell at you. I'm taking the risk.

Recipe courtesy of AllRecipes.com.

Ingredients (serves 4)
  • 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds, rinsed and dried
  • 6 tablespoons white sugar, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F (120 degrees C). Spread pumpkin seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until dry and toasted. Larger seeds may take longer. (Heather's note: let the seeds dry overnight if you are removing them right away from the pumpkins, or do whatever you can so that they are as dry as possible. I didn't do this last time and they took about an hour and 15 minutes to fully toast.)
  2. In a large bowl, stir together 2 tablespoons of white sugar, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. Set aside. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pumpkin seeds and sprinkle the remaining sugar over them. Stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar melts, about 45 seconds. Pour seeds into the bowl with the spiced sugar and stir until coated. Allow to cool before serving. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

What I'm Learning From my High School Journal

My mom recently found and gave me the journal I kept in high school – I’ve been reading it and recalling vividly (and sometimes not so vividly) who I used to hang out with and how I’d spend my time. It’s been quite a kick. The journal covers April of my junior year through March of my senior year and hits home what I’d previously forgotten – I had a great high school experience and it shows on every page. Journaling used to be an important part of my daily routine – even when I’d miss a day, I’d go back and write the recap so each day would have an entry. I got out of the habit some time in college (then back into it, then back out of it) but going through old entries has made me dust off my current journal and change my strategy.

1. Do not assume you’ll remember your friends 10 years later. Several times I’ve encountered names of people in my journal whom I obviously knew well at some point but cannot for the life of me remember who they are now (like Steven, Krysta and Matt – I know I didn’t go to school with anyone with those names, so who could they be? Youth group kids I guess?) I suppose last names might help but I feel silly including last names of people I feel I’ll always remember. But now I know better. You think you’ll always remember these experiences and people but you won’t.

2. There’s a place for vagueness and veiled references but a journal is not it (unless you want to hide your thoughts from snooping eyes?). At the time I thought I’d always remember what I was talking about but turns out that “I got in a tiff with so-and-so… I hope it blows over soon” is just not enough information to go on. The use of acronyms also proves cryptic: “I finally did my DBQ today! (Chris didn’t.)” What does this even mean??

3. Through re-reading my posts I've realized that I was nearly never home. Most posts involved being at someone else's house and I found quite a few lines like "We didn't get home until 1 a.m." I also barely remember doing any homework in high school but the journal tells me otherwise.


I've gone through the whole journal now and probably won't pick it up for another 10 years, which by then I'm sure I'll remember even less. And I'll probably laugh at myself all over again.

Midweek Tidbits

The trailer for the remake of "True Grit" looks pretty good. 

Gardens are the big trend for restaurants this year.

Friends for hire.

The tech battle of 2010 and beyond: iPhone vs. Android.

Kittehs

These are the cats at my aunt's and uncle's house in Greeley. My favorite is the upper left - I thought he looked like a bobcat. I texted Mark his picture and he texted back "Cute cat. No, you may not have one."

Who says you can't go home?


Time in Colorado: 68 hours

Old friends visited/seen: 12

Number of times pulled over: 1 (no ticket for Richard!)

Number of dogs to play with: 6

Number of cats to play with: 7

Traveling hours between Denver and literally all over the front range: 8 ½

Number of times I killed my old stick shift: 0 (oh yeah… bring it on ’86 Honda)

In the heights

My work persona is 5'5".

But Heather, you're only 5'1".

Not with the help of THESE babies.


Today though, I'm sporting a different shoe. I'm heading to the airport after work (Colorado, I'm coming!) and didn't want to change shoes so I wore my flats instead. After three years of wearing four-inch heels nearly every day, I'm discovering how my work world should really be instead of the false reality I'd inadvertently created. Why can't I reach anything? These shelves seem farther away. And since when is Dave so tall? It's a little alarming.

So long, beloved Chi


So long, my Chi. You served me faithfully for five years and I never gave up on you, even when others told me I should. Even though you sparked daily, you never caught my hair on fire. And when your heating element broke and alternated randomly between hot and cool bursts, you still got the job done. But now you refuse to blow hot air at all, which is simply unacceptable. I will remember you fondly.

Can we just throw hair dryers away or do we have to go through some sort of special recycling?

The cost of laziness

My spacey brain cost me $84 yesterday.

I had to park my car around the block two nights ago because there were no spaces in front of our apartment. The next morning, I didn’t want to walk that far in my heels so my morning logic said, Mark’s in central Washington – just take his car (parked out front) to work. Genius! I hopped in his car and drove to the office. An uneventful day passed and as I was a block away from the apartment on my drive home, an awful, awful thought occurred to me: I had parked my car on the school side of the street the night before, which is illegal during the hours of 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. I panicked and thought certainly my car must be towed by now. I talked myself out of the initial panic – if I assume the car is towed, seeing the empty parking spot won’t be such a shock – and went into problem solving mode. Small group is at 7:30 – who can I call to take me to pick up the car?

After what seemed like a miles-long block, I rounded the corner onto the street where I’d parked the night before – and there was my car, still sitting in its spot. Mocking me – I’m still here!

But I wasn’t exactly out of the woods yet. A telltale envelope peeked at me from beneath my windshield wiper. A ticket is better than a towing, I thought. But a closer glance revealed the envelope contained not only one ticket but two. Both infractions are still better than an impounded car (trust me, I know – our car was towed during our honeymoon and wasn’t THAT a shock to come back to) but are nonetheless a blow to the wallet.

So in conclusion, laziness doesn’t pay. In fact, it’s quite costly.

Midweek Tidbits

I love Emma's style on "Glee".

A mild controversy is occurring over the similarity of one of last weekend's SNL skits to another comedy show sketch.

Vulture's recap of the season premiere of Saturday Night Live.

The Bed Bug Registry includes an interactive map that shows you where bed bug infestations have popped up. It's kinda freaking me out.

A gorgeous photo tour of the top 65 cities in the world.

Eight-legged hate: continued


Apparently the spiders can't leave us alone.

I came home to find this one nesting cozily in our door frame. SICK. Mark was still in Yakima and I'm usually OK dealing with spiders when I'm by myself. Usually. I approached it twice with the fireplace poker but retreated both times and ended up texting our downstairs neighbor for back-up.

Heather: Do you have a fear of spiders?
Mai: No, why?
Heather: Can you come help me kill one? It's so big... :(

Two minutes went by and Mai bounded up the stairs with an envelope and a tupperware container: "It's NOT big! I'm not going to kill it, I'll put it outside!" I cowered in the corner while she trapped it in the container (it escaped once and she had to capture it again), and then thanked her profusely. I've still got the chills... this spider might show up in my nightmares.

Pressure guages and PSI

As of right now, my car has never had a flat tire. Clarification: at least two cars in which I've been a passenger have had flat tires (a certain freezing night circa February 2005 comes to mind), but my car has not. I've thus far dodged the bullet of changing my own tire.

I thought all that was going to change Wednesday morning when my tire pressure light came on and started beeping at me. I didn't even know it was my tire pressure light at first - the icon wasn't exactly intuitive (two half circles enclosing an exclamation point - that could mean anything!) A perusal of the car manual directed me toward the tires so I circled the car, hoping for an obvious leak. None of the tires looked dangerously low but the manual said in BOLD BLARING LETTERS to not drive on the freeway under any circumstances with the tire pressure light on. I was about 20 feet (literally) from the I-5 entrance so I did what most wives would do - I called Mark and asked for advice. He told me to get to the nearest gas station and put some air in the tires, measuring the PSI of course. He asked if the tires were low and I think I worried him when I replied, "Um... no?"

I drove to the gas station and took a look at the air hose - a combination device that included a pressure guage. I couldn't figure out how to work the pressure guage (although if i would've put the quarters in and started the machine then I probably would've figured it out but I didn't want to waste my quarters in case I couldn't), so I  walked into the gas station and asked if someone could please show me how the pressure guage worked. The gas attendant took pity and filled my tires for me.

Attendant: "What's the PSI for the rear tires?"
Me: "Umm... 140. Wait, no... 34?"

He just laughed, and rightfully so. Next time Mark has to put air in the tires, I'm asking if I can pinch hit so I can learn and not be a walking stereotype.

Eight-legged hate

To the spider who so viciously attacked me without provocation:
You are mean.

If you are the same spider I found in the bathroom yesterday, then I relish your death. If he was your comrade, I still relish his death. If you are still at large, then be afraid. Be very afraid.

I have stalking skills like nobody's business. So as soon as the swelling in my arm goes down (your FIVE bites packed a punch), I'm coming after you. With a big stick. And maybe a shoe.

Midweek Tidbits

OK Go - "White Knuckles"

This was all done in one take.

Power Sculpting :: When in Rome

My mom once taught me a valuable life lesson – if you get yourself into a situation where you don’t know what’s going on or you don’t understand something, be quiet and listen – you’ll usually figure it out on your own. Or as my uncle put it, “Stop your broadcasting and start receiving!”

I’ve been trying to get to a specific class at my gym – power sculpting – for three weeks now and I finally made it on Wednesday. A small crowd congregated outside the workout room about 15 minutes prior to the beginning of the class, and I soon found out why – class members must collect their dumbbells and bars at the beginning, and the popular weights sell out fast. I overheard one girl tell her friend that they had to be at the front so they could be first to the dumbbells and true to form, the minute the doors opened those girls made a beeline for the dumbbell bin. But not only do you have to grab your dumbbells (two sets), you must assemble your bar with the weights you want (multiple sets so you can change the resistance based on the exercise), grab a mat, and get your step platform. And of course stake out a prime position on the workout floor. Did I know any of this prior to the class? Not a clue. I merely followed the others and did what they were doing. When in Rome, right? So I assembled my menagerie of weights, seated myself on the step platform and waited for class to begin. And waited. And waited some more.

The instructor arrived 30 minutes later (“Sorry guys, traffic was awful!”) and promised to make the remaining 30 minutes worth our while. And boy did she ever – lunges, squats, curls, dead lifts, presses… UP THAT RESISTANCE! She’d fit right in with Jillian Michaels – buff, intense and motivating. I heard (I’m great at eavesdropping) that the instructor was new and the gym had worked hard to find a great instructor for this particular class. I thought to myself that I didn’t know if I could handle a normal 60-minute session – half an hour was killing me.

I definitely want to go back but I’m afraid the class will get too popular (the instructor was that good) and I’ll have to fight for my weights. But maybe a couple more class sessions and I’ll be able to hold my own in the race to the dumbbell bin!

Stir Fry Ginger Beef

Photo courtesy of Simply Recipes
We don't eat a lot of beef here - we're mainly a chicken household - but I decided to try this ginger beef stir fry I found to switch up our meat options. Below is the recipe (courtesy of simplyrecipes.com) with my modifications.
Marinade
  • 2 Tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar (I used seasoned because that's what I had on hand)
  • 5 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp peeled, grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon chile pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
Beef and stir-fry
  • 1 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lb top sirloin steak
  • 1 Tbsp corn starch
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil (preferably peanut)
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil (optional)
  • 3-4 green onions, cut on a diagonal, 1/2-inch apart, including the greens
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 hot chiles, preferably red serranos, seeded, sliced (I used fresh jalapenos because I couldn't find serranos)
  • 1-inch nob of ginger, peeled, cut lengthwise into matchstick shapes (the slices were a little intense - I might grate it next time)
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed, chopped cilantro (totally forgot about the cilantro - it's almost like I make it my goal to forget at least one ingredient per recipe)
1  Chill the steak in the freezer for 30 minutes before you slice it, this will make it easier to cut in thin slices. Slice the steak first crosswise in 1/2-inch thick slices. The cut each slice lengthwise into strips.

2  In a medium bowl, whisk together the marinade ingredients; the soy sauce, vinegar, grated ginger, honey, red chile flakes, and cumin. Mix the beef in with the marinade to coat and let it sit for at least 30 minutes, and up to 4 hours, in the fridge.

3  In a small bowl, mix the corn starch with 2 tablespoons of cold water to make a slurry.

4  Heat the oil in a wok, or a large sauté pan, over high heat until it is nearly smoking. As the oil is heating up, pat the beef dry and separate it into small batches no larger than what can fit into the palm of your hand. Working in batches, sauté beef until just brown outside but rare inside, no more than 1 minute. Transfer beef to a bowl.

5  When all of the beef is cooked, put the chiles and garlic into the pan and stir-fry 30-45 seconds. Add the julienned ginger and cook for 30-45 seconds more. Add the beef back to the pan. Add the cornstarch slurry. Add the scallions (I think the author meant the green onions?) and mix everything together. Cook for 1 minute.

Turn the heat off and mix in the cilantro (yeah forgot that). Serve at once with steamed white rice.

Serves 4-6.


Country roads, take me home

I just bought my plane ticket to Denver! I'll be there in three weeks but will only be home for three days. I'm excited to stuff as many activities as possible into those three days to make them as action-packed as I can. Mark won't be able to join me this time as he's working tons of overtime this month, but I'll blow some kisses from good ol' CO. I had an extra day of vacation to use before my PTO zeroed out and started over October 8 (my work anniversary), and I can't wait to spend it at home.

See you there!

Labor Day: surf and turf

We went camping and rafting with some friends during the long weekend in central Washington. The weather held up decently enough and the rafting was super fun. This was the first time I'd camped in five years so I was glad we were only out there for one night - I was ready to head home after the rafting excursion. The river was very technical - very narrow and plenty of rocks - but we had a great guide who knew what he was doing and navigated excellently.


Could this be a North Face ad? This is the guys' tent.

Our awesome girls' tent - three rooms!

Overheard at the gym

I was in a side room at the gym doing crunches on the floor when a personal trainer and his trainee walked in. They had apparently been talking about popular fantasy novels/movies as the conversation seemed to revolve around the differences between "Twilight", "Harry Potter", and "The Lord of the Rings". The trainee asked her trainer if he had read the LOTR series, and he replied that he had.

Trainee: "My friends and I were disappointed to see that Tom Bombadil didn't make it into the movies."

Trainer: "Who?"

Trainee: "... Did you read the books?"

Trainer: "Yes!"

Trainee: "You should probably know who Tom Bombadil is..."

I piped in from my corner: "Don't worry, I know who you're talking about!"

Trainee: "Ha thank you!" To the trainer: "You should probably read the books again."

Midweek Tidbits


I know I won't have time to post more links today so I wanted to share a video that made me laugh so hard I cried. This guy must be an exceptional dog trainer or that is one very smart dog. I love how happy the dog looks the whole time...

A first :: yoga class

I didn't know it was possible to lose such copious amounts of sweat.

I participated in my first power vinyasa yoga class at the invitation of my friend Claire this morning. Seattle dawned misty and cool, but the temperature inside the yoga room remained at a steady 90 degrees throughout the class. Claire brought an extra mat for me and I rolled it out next to hers, shot her a nervous glance and admired the rock-hard muscles of the other attendees (in a completely non-creepy way, have no fear). The teacher walked in and introduced herself, and I spent an hour and a half translating terms like "downward dog" and copying Claire's every move, meanwhile sweating buckets.

I've always heard that yoga is quite the full-body workout, but all the testimonials and praise doesn't really prepare you for the experience. The poses improve your strength and balance, since you're consistently holding or lifting your own body weight. Meanwhile, the effort required to hold the poses elevates your heart rate, so you get cardio and strength training rolled into one experience with minimal damage to your body (as opposed to running, which can be hard on your joints).

I couldn't do some of the poses so my option was to hold the easier pose while the rest of the class progressed with the harder variations - "Now, transfer your weight to your arms and your palms and lift your legs off the floor!" Yeah right. But maybe someday.