Wednesday, October 31, 2007

not my happiest Halloween

No dressing up for me this year. This may not be so bad for some of you but I truly enjoy and appreciate a good costume. I think it is fun and I generally enjoy Halloween whether I dress up or not. Of course, normally I choose treats over tricks. I wasn't so lucky this year.

Instead, I had to work late. What's worse, there was some sort of construction taking place directly one floor under my office which meant incessant drilling, banging and did I mention the drill? Around 830 I realized proofing the brief I was working on a couple more times was not going to happen with all the ruckus. So I gathered up my things and walked home.

On my walk I passed various herds of Halloween revelers which included Nacho Libre, Eve (as in Adam & - nude body suit with strategically placed fig leaves), numbered brief case carrying girls I assumed were from that game show I've never watched so I can't remember the name, and a gaggle of other not-so-readily identifiable costumes. And I felt a vague sense of regret that I was letting another year slip by without a costume and wished that instead of carting work home, I too was heading out to a party dressed as a trampy . . . err . . . trashy . . .err. . . slutty . . . err . . . sexy. . . Wait, no! I hate that part of Halloween. The part where nearly every. single. girl. decides this is the one time of year where it is somehow okay to show way too much cleavage, leg and tummy all at the same time, even if your body is not in the best of form, if you know what I mean! That was not what I wanted.

Instead, I simply made my way home, had a bowl of cereal for dinner and finished editing my brief, emailed it off to my colleagues and settled in to my couch to watch Monday's episode of Hero's I missed on Netflix (another reason to love Netflix!). Realizing I needed to celebrate Halloween in some small way, I poured myself a glass of milk and pulled out a couple of leftover sugar cookies, frosted them with chocolate ganache and settled in to finally relax at 10 pm-ish.

Within 20 minutes or so I heard a horrendous crash at my door. I initially thought someone had thrown pumpkins at my door! If only I had been so lucky. I jumped up, ran to the door but by the time I looked through the peep hole there was nothing to see but the carnage. I pulled the door open and egg dripped down the door, onto my rug. It was everywhere - the walls, the doorframe, all over the carpet. Without thinking I put on the nearest pair of shoes, unlocked my door and ran down the hall. I could still hear boys laughing but they were already gone. Wanting to beat them to the doorman I ran down the 6 flights of stairs like a crazy woman beating my fist in the air screaming "Those Damn Kids!!" Okay, so that last part about beating my fist in the air and all that, didn't actually happen. But I am sure I looked like a crazy woman to my doorman when I burst out of the stairwell and blurted out that I'd been egged and had he seen any kids running out? There were two doormen on duty (for all the good that did) and they got on their walkie talkies and put the building on lock-down. Or at least sent the maintenance guys to block the service entrance and look for the kids.

This is the lovely ensemble I was wearing when I ran down the stairs. Cute, no? I felt very conspicuous getting on the elevator to ride back up to my floor (especially without a bra on) to inspect the damage and felt compelled to explain it all to the random woman who had the misfortune to be riding up in the same car. I just hope I didn't say anything about "kids these days" although I'm sure I complained about not expecting to get egged living in an apartment building in NYC.
When I returned to my hall, my neighbor and her teen-aged son were already out there scrubbing the walls and doors and floor. I snapped a couple of photos but they really don't do justice to the disgustingly eggy mess. I should have taken close-ups of the ceiling and walls and floor. Seriously, ick:
As I bonded with my neighbors over our shared victim-hood I had to refrain from lecturing the son about revenge. Apparently, he got in a fight with some boy and this was that kid's way of getting back. As we were scrubbing everything down some so-called friend called and asked "anyone for omelettes?" Jerks.

There were some expletives involved on both the mom's and the son's part but the cleaned up version of the kid's reaction went something like "just because he got @)(*ing busted up don't mean he gotta come into my house" and "that's it, I'm goin' gansta on their a@#" and "how many eggs you think they threw?" (we guessed at least 2 dozen) "that's worth at least a year's revenge" and "mom, don't get the cops involved, I'll take care of this. Don't you worry, I'll take care of it in my own way. I can make a phone call right now and it will be done." He can make a phone call? What kind of phone call? I just like how the mom always calls me girl, as in "girl, why are you out here with no shoes?" and "girl, I'm so sorry you got involved in this."

It bears mentioning that my portion of the clean-up was sponsored by Mrs. Meyer's. It smells so clean and fresh, it even takes egg off the walls and ceiling with just a squirt and swipe of the sponge!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

An important service announcement

While I personally do not plan on participating in the below free food extravaganza (due to an aversion to i) hamburger, ii) Taco Bell and iii) the Red Sox), I thought it was important enough (or at least funny enough) to pass along this announcement I received via email from my brother moments ago. Please enjoy and then feel free to pass along your condolences about me missing the funny gene that appears to thrive in other members of my family:

As some of you are aware, the new evil empire won the most recent baseball World Series, not to be confused with the World Series of Poker. The only good thing that has come from this (although whether this is a good thing or not is up to you) Taco Bell is giving away a free taco this afternoon to everybody in the United States, thanks to Jacoby Ellsbury's stolen base. The offer stands between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. this afternoon.

I encourage all of you to participate in this landmark moment in modern American culture. I stil fondly reflect upon the Burger King Free Fry Day Friday from 10 years ago. I remember exactly where I was and whom I was with. If you missed out on that one, don't miss this opportunity! These are truly the memorable things of life.

Please pass this email along to everyone you know for good luck for the rest of your life, or at least a chance to remember the day you joined in solidarity with the rest of your countrymen and committed to something we all believe in: FREE TACOS!

Your Fellow Citizen of the World,

Nick

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Baking Tragedy (with a happy ending)

Ever since September 1st hit I have been craving pumpkin treats. I originally wanted to make pumpkin chocolate chip cookies but then, due to my recent cupcake obsession, I decided I wanted to try out pumpkin cupcakes, perhaps with chocolate chips. . . or better yet, my new favorite friend ganache.

So yesterday was finally the day. I had the time, I had the ingredients and I had somewhere to take all the cupcakes so I didn't end up eating the whole batch. There was just one problem. I have a habit of tasting my food as I go along to make sure things are moving along as planned. This is hard with a new recipe since I'm never quite sure what it should taste like at each stage. Things were going well until the very end. The last ingredient I added was the pumpkin and after that, just as I was about to pour them into the mini cupcake tray, a horrible aftertaste surfaced on the roof of my mouth - something distinctly metallic. I had been skeptical of this can I found at Whole Foods:
It looked old, antiquated even. It reminded me of something that was long forgotten in the back of my grandma's pantry. But the problem with shopping in New York City is you never have a lot of choice, unless you want to trek to another store. I searched the shelf for the familiar Libby's label of my long-trusted pumpkin filling to no avail. I then inspected the can for an expiration date and found none. After convincing myself that this was some sort of retro-labeling since this particular Whole Foods was only about three years old and generally only sells the freshest ingredients, I purchased two cans. I mean, if this had been one of the corner bodegas where canned goods very well could have been sitting on the shelves since the 60s, I would have passed. But again, this was Whole Foods!

Unable to get rid of the metallic taste I became convinced the pumpkin was rotten, or perhaps a piece of tin had somehow fallen into the batch when I was removing the particularly pesky lid. I tried baking the cupcakes to see if the taste would go away - to no avail. So I threw it all away. The whole batch.

I nearly cried. I hate ruining food. It hurt my pride and I was getting a headache and still thinking I might go to a singles Halloween party at the church later, I didn't need this particular speed bump.

I opened the second can of pumpkin and tasted it to see if I could try again. For your future reference, raw pumpkin sans sugar and butter and spices does not taste good, but I didn't taste anything metallic or tin-like. So I started over. Once again, I tasted the pumpkin before adding it to the rest of the ingredients and no metal taste. But when I tasted the batter just before pouring it into the cupcake holders - the metal was back on the roof of my mouth!

Needless to say I was upset. In defeat, I called my mom to complain.

Not ready to go through the messy process of cleaning out the Cuisinart a second time and dumping everything in the garbage again, I ignored it and pulled my cookie dough out of the fridge and concentrated on rolling out the dough and cutting out bats and pumpkins and ghosts knowing this hiccup decided the question of whether or not I would be going to a Halloween party that night. My headache intensified as I frosted cookies.

As I was cleaning up the sugar cookies and frosting and sprinkles, I decided to try the neglected batch of pumpkin batter again. This time it tasted fine - even good! I tasted a couple more times and was pleasantly surprised. Had I thrown the first batch out for no reason? I'll never know. I cautiously baked the cupcakes and proceeded with the elaborate first layer of ganache frosting.Then added some sprinkles - because where else will I use these tiny little orange and black cat sprinkles?
And topped them with ginger whipped cream (I actually used real ginger root!).
And some candy corn and pumpkins to be festive.
Then I tasted the final product to discover . . . they were everything I had hoped they would be without a trace of metallic after-taste. I snapped a photo of the finished product on my phone and text messaged them to my mom in celebration. I told her that if they were bad they didn't taste it and since I had eaten one I would be sick in the morning and wouldn't serve them - but they looked beautiful. So at 1 am I went to bed happy with my cupcakes that were greedily snatched up by children who could not appreciate the complexity of all the flavors less than 12 hours later.

In case you want to try them, the recipe is below. The cupcake recipe came from Martha Stewart and I found the ginger whipped cream and ganache on other websites or blogs I can't remember because I didn't write them down. Sorry, if I stole them from anyone reading.

Pumpkin Cupcakes
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together, brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, and eggs. Add dry ingredients, and whisk until smooth. Whisk in pumpkin puree.
  3. Divide batter evenly among liners, filling each about halfway. Bake until tops spring back when touched, and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating pans once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.
Ginger Whipped Cream
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (optional but I used it)
  • 2 cups chilled whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup flavored simple syrup (directions below)
  1. First make the simple syrup. Heat 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup water and a 2" chunk of ginger that has been peeled and julienned until boiling an simmer for 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside to cool and strain before using.
  2. In a small metal bowl, soak plain gelatin in cold water for 5 minutes (I didn't use a metal bowl, no big loss).
  3. Place the bowl over a small pot of simmering water and stir until dissolved. Set aside to cool. (I put it in the microwave for 15 seconds)
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat cream until soft and billowy.
  5. Slowly drizzle in the simply syrup and vanilla, continuing to whip as you do.
  6. Add the gelatin all at once and continue whipping until soft peaks form.
  7. Finish beating with whisk to adjust consistency.
Chocolate Ganache Frosting
(I cut this recipe in half and I still had a lot left over and have discovered that everything tastes good dipped in chocolate ganache!)
  • 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1-1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Chop choclates and transfer into a heat proof bowl (I just used my melamine bowl and it worked)
  2. Heat cream until bubbles form around the edge of the pan, pour cream over the chocolate.
  3. Let sit for 1 minute then stir until combined.
  4. Add butter to the chocolate (make sure it is soft) and stir until combined.
  5. Whisk together sugar, salt, milk and vanilla in another bowl until combined.
  6. Pour the sugar mixture onto the chocolate mixture, then stir until combined and smooth.
  7. Let sit at room temperature until thickened. (mine didn't get very thick, I may have just been impatient and tired)
  8. Beat with an electric mixer until fluffy (again, too impatient so it wasn't really fluffy but I wasn't going for fluffy, I wanted a thick chocolate layer and got it).

Fluffy Yummy Sugar Cookies

I was a very lucky child. My mom made the best sugar cookies ever. These thick cookies somehow managed to be light and fluffy yet avoid the heaviness and overly sweet sugar overload of those (albeit fabulous) pink cookies sold at gas stations around Utah. Instead of crumbling they melt in your mouth.
And lucky me, my mother shares all her recipes. I keep this recipe in my battered blue three-ring binder of recipes inside a plastic page splattered with remnants of past baking frenzies. The recipe is still written in my 18-year old handwriting on a small lined sheet of paper torn from my student Franklin Day Planner (pre-Franklin Covey). The top line is titled "VALUE" and next to it I wrote Sugar Cookies. Yes, sugar cookies are an excellent value to have. In the left column titled "priority" I squeezed in the measurements, you know, 1 cup, 2 cup, etc. Like many of the battered recipes in my binder, this one was retrieved on a forgotten day within the first year or two of college when I just had to bake sugar cookies and somehow realized I needed the cupboard above my mother's stove with the worn little yellow wooden box filled with her memorable recipes retrieved and scrawled out on forgotten days when she called her mother wanting to know how to make one thing or the other. For this reason I have long resisted my mother's repeated suggestion to type out my recipes so they are neater and easier to email.

When my youngest brother got married a few years ago I decided to make a family recipe book for him. I spent hours picking out the recipes, typing them in , coming up with instructions for the recipes that consisted only of a list of ingredients. I formatted them in neat little tables and categorized the book. My mom laminated the page and now whenever I visit him, if I want to make chocolate chip cookies (like I did a few weeks ago), I can pull out their recipe binder and find my familiar recipes. My mom printed and laminated the book for each of my other siblings (I think) but I declined. There are too many memories in my over-stuffed binder that inexplicably has brown sugar inside some liners and memories in the scraps of paper, fliers and magazine tear-outs and internet print-outs. Some recipes have post-its pressed onto the plastic liner reminding me to "double recipe!" or "prep all ingred 1st!!"Today I was in charge of a small social immediately following church so I used that opportunity as an excuse to spend yesterday's rainy Saturday baking. The recipe is below in case you want to try it out. Oh and as you can tell by the witch hats, I do decorate like I am 10 and helping my mom in the kitchen. Definitely not my strong point.


SUGAR COOKIES
1 cup shortening
2 cup sugar
4 eggs
6 cups flour
8 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup sour milk (I just add a tablespoon of vinegar to milk)
2 tsp vanilla

Refrigerate for an hour or two (or overnight but I rarely plan ahead that far) then mix and roll out. I use quite a bit of flour since the dough is usually pretty tacky.

Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.

This dough also freezes quite well.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

100 things I would like to accomplish in this lifetime

(please note, these are not necessarily in order of priority)
  1. get married
  2. experience pregnancy and child birth
  3. watch the sun rise over the ruins at Machu Picchu
  4. climb Mount Kilamanjaro
  5. be recognized for something I wasn't expecting would be noticed
  6. experience an African safari
  7. learn and memorize a piano concerto - either Rachmaninoff or Chopin, or perhaps Brahms
  8. learn how to play the organ
  9. live in a place I own (I now own a house so I can't use that one but I would like to live in a place I own)
  10. take my parents to an all-inclusive tropical resort
  11. learn to speak Spanish
  12. visit Finland to discover where my ancestors and last name came from
  13. have someone call me mommy
  14. become a certified yoga instructor
  15. go to the World Series
  16. write a memoir
  17. have my blog comments reach double-digits
  18. perhaps on a regular basis
  19. fly over over Manhattan in a helicopter
  20. hike (or ride a mule) to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
  21. have a picnic on the Great Wall of China
  22. win (or perhaps just enter) a baking contest (any baking contest, doesn't have to be on the Food Network or anything, although that would be very cool)
  23. teach a class at a university
  24. visit Sweden on summer solstice (my birthday) and spend the day and all night on a sail boat and watch the sun never set
  25. pay off my student loans
  26. have outdoor space that is all mine
  27. learn how to garden in said outdoor space
  28. paint an accent wall in my apartment
  29. see the Utah Jazz win it all
  30. set foot on every continent
  31. own one pair of ridiculously expensive shoes
  32. take a hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti
  33. learn how to do tricks on my snowboard, nothing fancy, just something other than pointing my board downhill
  34. fall hopelessly and unconditionally in love permanently
  35. have the person I love fall deeply in love with me permanently
  36. become a dedicated patron of something . . . the arts, opera, maybe an orchestra
  37. volunteer for more projects like Guatemala
  38. volunteer with Habitats for Humanity
  39. learn how to build things
  40. get a dog
  41. see my sister happily married
  42. have more patience in all things
  43. buy more original art
  44. be able to recite 3 amazing poems, not sure which ones just yet
  45. distinguish myself in my career
  46. attend an NFL game
  47. have a room in my house called "the library"
  48. learn how to play the guitar
  49. visit Nepal so I can see (not necessarily climb) Mt. Everest
  50. attend a red carpet event looking smashing
  51. take a road trip from Alaska to the southern tip of Baja - or maybe press on and continue all the way to the southern most tip of Chile (which is the end of South America, right?)
  52. own a secluded cabin in either the Uintas, or near Mack's Inn in Island Park in Idaho.
  53. see an opera at La Scala in Milan,perhaps with my sister-in-law on stage . . .
  54. understand my spirituality more completely
  55. make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land
  56. float in the Dead Sea
  57. enjoy a delectable, romantic dinner at Jean Georges or La Bernardin
  58. kiss someone passionately on the Pont Neuf in Paris
  59. hear live music in Cuba
  60. learn how to salsa dance
  61. read the stories from Arabian Nights to my children in one thousand and one nights
  62. reconnect with a lost friend
  63. eat sushi at the crack of dawn in Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo - unfortunately I was a sushi novice when I went to Tokyo and missed this
  64. sky dive out of a plane
  65. attend the summer Olympics (the winter ones were great!)
  66. swim with dolphins
  67. eat gyros from a street stand in Turkey
  68. learn how to take a compliment
  69. be better at giving compliments
  70. with all my lofty travel plans perhaps I should just buy a round the world air ticket (I've heard they exist) and run away for a year
  71. ride a camel in Egypt and see the pyramids
  72. ride the Trans-Siberian Express across Asia
  73. sit on a jury (really)
  74. for that matter, conduct a trial (not necessarily with a jury because that isn't really my field)
  75. visit Walden Pond and read Thoreau while drifting in a canoe
  76. stand under a waterfall in Hawaii
  77. and perhaps overcome my fear of jumping off cliffs into water and jump into a pool at the bottom of a waterfall in Hawaii
  78. rent a houseboat on Lake Powell with my whole family
  79. learn more constellations (you know, other than the big and little dipper and Orion)
  80. be kissed at midnight on New Year's Eve
  81. ask someone I've only just met to go on a date (scary!)
  82. accept myself for who I am
  83. focus on healthy eating and working out long enough to get my body in the kind of shape I know it is capable of
  84. accept myself even if I don't
  85. recognize that my greatest weaknesses are often my greatest strengths
  86. ride an elephant in Thailand
  87. drive a zambonie
  88. experience a full high tea in London
  89. visit all 58 National Parks in the United States, I think I've been to 11 so far
  90. visit the ruins of Pompeii
  91. save and invest for my future
  92. watch the Iditarod under the Northern Lights
  93. learn how to fly fish
  94. listen to the Dalai Lama speak
  95. eat real jerk barbecue from a roadside jerk hut in Jamaica
  96. try the candy at Papabubble
  97. spend the night in the penthouse of a super fancy, over the top New York hotel with someone fun who will order room service with me, enjoy the view and giggle about how spectacular and decadent the whole experience is
  98. receive flowers from a secret admirer (but not a stalker)
  99. give a needy family Christmas anonymously
  100. how do I put this one . . . really enjoy a much anticipated honeymoon, if you know what I mean, a long honeymoon where I don't see many sights . . . I think you catch my drift.
Please note that you did not see "run a marathon" anywhere on the above list or anything related to running. That is because I do not enjoy running. It hurts. It hurts my lungs, it hurts my knees and did I mention the pain in my knees?

What 100 things do you want to accomplish?

another random day

  • on my walk to work this morning Thriller popped up on my ipod (okay, it didn't pop up, it is in my Halloween playlist I made) and I was transported back to my 9-year old self standing in front of my great aunt and uncle's tv with my brother trying to replicate the dance moves as we kept asking our older cousin to play it again and again (we didn't have a vcr or mtv so this was a memorable treat) . . . then to us begging my mom to play the record on the record player we weren't allowed to touch because it was (is?) my dad's prize possession so we could continue practicing our dance moves - my brother was good at the high leg wiggle thing (not sure how else to describe it) and I was good at jumping around too much and making the record skip. All of which reminded me of the stickers I bought in a machine at the entrance to the Smith's grocery store which I lovingly placed on the front of my rainbow trapper-keeper. I thought I might be able to find a picture of my favorite sticker where he is dressed in all yellow but sadly couldn't find it. So sad he turned into a nut job.
  • last night at a work cocktail party a partner for whom I do not work chose to tell me and another person (who does not work here but whom I believe she knows personally) about the time a few weeks ago when she was "so drunk and stoned" . . . ummm, okay. Call me naive but honestly this shocked me. Shocked me. Stoned? Really? I think she felt comfortable sharing this with me since she knows I went to Bonnaroo last year and she once told me she goes every year. How can I ever take this woman seriously again?
  • speaking of the cocktail party - which was duller than dull - there was good food but none of it was conducive to eating while standing. The hors d'oeuvres weren't bad - mostly meat stuck with toothpicks but then they were offering trays with big soup spoons full of risotto. Did they expect me to stick that whole thing in my mouth at once? How do you eat that delicately and gracefully? And then what do you do with the spoon? I didn't know many people so I got a plate and sat at a table in the corner to eat. I was about to leave when I saw an amazing dessert option - three pretty desserts on a plate including a small wedge of cheesecake, some sort of chocolate cream pie with a strawberry in the middle of cream stuff. I decided I could eat this standing as I said goodbye to a couple of people. Bad choice. For some reason I had a spoon instead of a fork and could not stab the strawberry. When I tried to pick it up it made a run for it by sliding off my plate, down my arm, onto my jacket and to the ground, trailing cream all the way. The only positive (sort-of) to this story is oen of the people I was talking to at the time is a friend and she simply kicked the strawberry aside and went on talking. The not so positive part is that I feel I am always clumsy around this friend who is probably the most conscientious person I know about fashion and always looks well put together so I end up feeling frumpy and sloppy in contrast. The strawberry incident does not help.
  • Also, when I first arrived a waiter offered me white wine or red wine and when I asked for sparkling water (a common alternative) he claimed they didn't have any. I asked him what they have that is non-alcoholic and he offered me beer. Umm, no, something that does not contain alcohol. I tried to just move away but another waiter appeared and I asked if I could just go directly to the bar to order and they told me there was no bar. Finally I managed to find out that they do indeed have juices and sodas and ordered a diet coke. Later I discovered they also had a bar. What in the world?
  • While promising my sister I was mailing her something today I explained that I would go to the post-office mobile that parks on the street outside my office at lunch. I almost explained it is like the bookmobile but refrained knowing what her response to that would be. But she latched onto the analogy herself and immediately began teasing me about the bookmobile.
  • As a 10-year old I loved the bookmobile. I thought it was the greatest invention ever. It would come once a month or possibly bi-weekly and I would trek up the street to exchange my completed reading materials for new books. I have a vivid picture in my mind of walking up the steps into the bookmobile and browsing the shelves. The picture includes me walking home with my walkman blaring in my ears DuranDuran's Hungry Like the Wolf. I still remember the crisp fall air, the cool gray sky and my cold hands and nose as I sang along walking down Quail Hollow Drive with my new stack of books. My sister wrote that "I saw a really nerdy little girl about the same age walking out of the South Jordan library one day with an armful of books and a look of pure joy on her face. She made me think of you."
  • I love Halloween but I have no plans to dress up. No parties to go to. No one to bake cupcakes for.
  • On Sunday I ran into someone I used to work with in Salt Lake at the airport in Boston. My mom is convinced I run into people all the time.
  • She is kind of right. I once ran into a girl I went to law school with in the train station in Amsterdam.
  • Plus I run into people in New York all the time.
  • Last week a movie was being filmed on 7th Avenue near Carnegie Deli. I stopped to check it out a couple of times but never saw anyone I recognized - just a guy dressed as a homeless looking Santa Clause. I found out the name of the movie is Fighting and Terrence Howard and Channing Tatum are in it.
  • Confession: I had a brief crush on Channing Tatum after watching Step Up.
  • Seeing another movie being filmed reminded me that last year everywhere I went for weeks I kept running into the film crew for I am Legend - mostly on the street where I live but also near my office and in Columbus Circle. One Sunday morning I was walking home from church and there weren't many people out and I rounded the corner to walk the last block from 10th to 11th avenue and wondered why all the cars were covered in dust and were all banged up. Then I noticed that I was basically the only person on the entire street and there weren't any cars driving - just the dusty parked cars. At the end of the block a guy with a clipboard and headset was telling people they needed to walk around the block and seemed surprised to see me arrive at the corner. I guess I snuck in somehow. After that I saw the dusty cars (buses and taxis) and film crew everywhere. I even saw Will Smith one Saturday morning as I was walking cross-town to go to Bloomingdale's. The movie is supposed to come out in December. It doesn't really appeal to me other than where it was filmed.
  • I want to re-decorate my bathroom. Any fun ideas? I've had the same spring green rug, white shower curtain with embroidered green pine needles on it for over six years and I'm tired of it.
  • I seem to have a weird weight issue - I keep gaining weight even though I'm eating less. Seriously, this is frustrating becasue my pants are all getting too tight.
  • I really need to get back to work and not keep coming up with random, boring stuff to list.
  • I liked this article in the Times today about the Colorado Rockies. I'm rooting for them in the World Series that kicks off tonight. And not just because of this article, it was just nice to know.
  • One last diversion, this is my Halloween playlist:

Bad Moon Rising, Creedence Clearwater Revival

People are Strange, The Doors

Friend of the Devil, Grateful Dead

Witchy Woman, Eagles

Superstition, Stevie Wonder

Black Magic Woman, Santana

Spooky, The Classics IV

Frankenstein, Edgar Winter

Thriller, Michael Jackson

Dead Man's Party, Oingo Boingo

Another One Bites the Dust, Queen

Hell's Bell's, AC/DC

Witch Hunt, Rush

Halloween, Dave Matthews Band

Scarecrow, Beck

Toccata and Fuge in D Minor, Bach (you'll recognize this as very Halloween if you heard it)

In the Hall of the Mountain King, Grieg

A Night on Bald Mountain

Monday, October 22, 2007

no words required

The rest of my weekend was a lot less stressful - just time with my mom, Regina (her parents) and the beautiful fall leaves of Boston with the added bonus of a regatta on the Charles River.










Friday, October 19, 2007

hope for the best, prepare for the worst

Okay, so I didn't exactly expect the best - but I did hope for it. I did not bill a single hour the entire time I was at work today because I was consumed by banquet preparations and stresses. We cut the tables down to 12 and scrambled to fill them. We filled all but 3 seats.
I don't know what the final numbers ended up being but the venue worked well despite my panic when I arrived at 5 to see another conference just finishing up (our reception started at 6 and dinner was at 7), the seats were filled (with only some scrambling and shifting of people), the centerpieces were simple and elegant (despite the last minute text I received that we received the wrong vases), the programs were beautifully printed (again, despite a panicked text that Kinkos had a) lost our order and then b) printed the pages in the wrong order - who could tell what the proper order was supposed to be?), the food was good and dessert was even better (hello chocolate ganache hazelnut cake - yum!) and the president of the association even remembered to thank my co-chair and I for "making him look good" as he put it. People chuckled but they don't know how true that statement was. And we had this all fall together despite the rain and unseasonable humidity that flattened and greased up my hair.
Our silent auction was a success as well. The Mormon Artists Group organized it this year and had a beautiful display with some beautiful items. Their display was professional and visually pleasing. And I know the auction was a success because I bid on (and won) two items. Including this framed photograph of the Manhattan LDS temple (please ignore the tilt - it is straight on my wall, this was the angle I had to take the photo so you didn't see the reflection of me in my comfy oversized tee). Unfortunately my snapshot loses the blurring, rushing yellow cabs on the street below. Auction item number two is a birthday present for my Dad . . . can't reveal just in case he's reading.


Now I need to relax, wind down for the night and get to bed so I can get in the car I have picking me up at 6:15 am that will take me to the airport to board a plane that will take me to Boston to see my sweet little niece and my mother. Last night I had a stress dream that I slept in and missed my flight. Then when I woke up at 730 am I saw the time and flew out of bed in a panic only to realize, phone in hand trying to figure out how to call the airline that it was only Friday and my flight wasn't until Saturday. Apparently I really wanted to skip today. Luckily for me, it turned out much, much better than anticipated.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

stretching the limits of failure

Earlier this week I smugly snubbed National Fail Miserable Day. I read Tiff's tribute to her second annual day of failure and thought - I don't have time to fail today. I worked late into the night on NFMD and was quite satisfied with what I accomplished in the day and failed to properly take advantage of the one day a year when failure is not only encouraged but endorsed and embraced.

But here is a little life lesson I would like to pass along to each of you, dear readers. Do not skoff at the one day a year that is set aside for underachievment, an innocent day whose sole purpose is to allow for guilt-free eating, lounging around in pjs into the late afternoon and overall slovenly ineptitude, a day whose mantra is "half-ass is good enough"; because ultimately, call it Murphy's law or karma or whatever, if you do not embrace failure once in a while, it will creep up and surprise you in all the wrong places at all the wrong times when half-ass really doesn't cut it.

I think failure is gearing up to knock me down a peg or two (or four five) tomorrow. And why not, tomorrow is the banquet I managed to fail at last year. And until I looked up that post just now I forgot the very title of my summary of that night was failure. So why not honor the anniversary and fail, fail again?

I learned some from my mistakes last year inasmuch as I am not running the silent auction and I did not try to beg, borrow and steal children's art to sell for exorbitant $5 prices. But, unfortunately, I did not learn enough as I am once again participating. No, not participating, this year I am co-chair of the banquet! I won't go into all of the excuses and finger-pointing of why tomorrow's banquet is going to flop. Instead I will just explain how I believe it will fail - sheer numbers.

Tonight my co-chair and I did the seating chart. We were originally booked for 150 people but dropped that number to 140 a couple of days ago because the numbers weren't where we hoped they would be. Yesterday I panicked, purchased a table and emailed everyone I know to try and fill it. After a couple of days of begging and pleading with friends I have a full table. The trouble is two people who comitted to purchasing and filling tables informed us today that they do not have people to fill those tables. That means 20 people we were counting on two days ago when we were worried about attendance have vanished! Tonight as we checked and double checked our numbers and tried shifting people around at tables to make it look like more by dropping 10 person tables to 8, we realized we can't make 86 people look like 140. So we hit the phones, email and text messaging and gave tickets away. We even gave a whole table away. And we still aren't anywhere near 140 people. The seats are $85 a piece and even though we are giving them away, we cannot fill the seats.

The banquet raises money for scholarships for high school kids in the area who are starting college next year. The scholarships range between $2,000 to $5,000 and most of these kids really need the money. We have kids from Harlem and Chinatown and difficult backgrounds for whom every dollar counts in allowing them to get to and stay in college. Yet we are giving tickets away which means no funds raised.

If you are in New York or near New York City tomorrow, please, please, please come enjoy a nice dinner at the Marriott and help some kids go to college. Hopefully we can avoid a failed banquet by getting to at least 130 people . . .

not entirely true. . .

You Don't Need a Man ... or Want One!

Generally, you're very happy being a single woman.
And anyone who has a problem with that... well, that's there problem.
Not that you wouldn't share your life with the almost perfect guy.
You simply won't settle though. Your life is too good to share with some substandard man!

So this one was right

You Are Likely a First Born

At your darkest moments, you feel guilty.
At work and school, you do best when you're researching.
When you love someone, you tend to agree with them often.

In friendship, you are considerate and compromising.
Your ideal careers are: business, research, counseling, promotion, and speaking.
You will leave your mark on the world with discoveries, new information, and teaching people to dream.

Apparently, I'm a witch

You Are a Witch (or Warlock)

You are deviously brilliant and a perfect manipulator.
You somehow always end up getting what you want - without anyone knowing you're working behind the scenes.
Crafty and cunning, you can work your way out of any jam.
And it's easy for you to get people to do what you want, whether you're working for good or evil.

Your greatest power: Mind control

Your greatest weakness: Making people your puppets

You play well with: Ghosts

S.C.A.R.Y.!

If you are afraid of snakes, do not read this. I'm now afraid of my own bathroom. At least I don't live in Brooklyn. But they could at least explain HOW. THIS. HAPPENED! And possibly try reassuring people that GIANT pythons don't roam the City's sewer lines just waiting for the day they can slither up the pipes into a bathroom near you. {shudder}

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

New Discovery

If someone gave me chocolates from here, I might have to marry them. I'm not kidding.

I stumbled into Vosges Haut-Chocolate boutique (as they call it) Saturday in SoHo because the front looked intriguing - the sign said something about chocolate and cheese, everything was purple (one of my favorite colors) and there was a beautiful chandelier hanging over the table in the entry. After entering I completely forgot about the cheese and was mesmerized by the subtle aroma of chocolate in the air. The truffles in the glass cased counter were numerous and overwhelming without some sort of key so I opted for the Aztec hot chocolate because I was cold. But I will confess I took more than one piece of this sampler bar from the counter which was heavenly. Honestly, putting salt in the chocolate! Divine! The hot chocolate was amazing too - thick and rich made of a darker cocoa with spicy chili peppers to give it some zing. Sooooooo good. I tried to force myself to take small sips but I think I only walked a couple of blocks before it was gone.

Come to New York and I will gladly be your escort through this chocolate experience. No plans to visit anytime soon? They are also in Chicago and Las Vegas. Pricey but worth the splurge!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Day Trip

Late Friday afternoon, with several hours to kill, I did what I impulsively do when I have spare time - I called my mom. She asked what I was doing and was surprised when I told her I was just waiting for my flight home. Despite multiple phone calls and emails throughout the week I had neglected to tell her that I would be in Tennessee on Friday. I had flown in earlier in the afternoon and was already back at the airport waiting for my flight home.

Friday morning began with dark, ominous clouds that warned me I should have taken an earlier flight. I had a hearing I needed to attend in Nashville at 3 pm. My 1220 flight was scheduled to arrive at 145 which gave me more than an hour to get to the courthouse. But flying out of New York in the rain is a tricky endeavor. I attended an early morning breakfast meeting at 830, stopped by my office to gather the work that would entertain me on my flight and prepare me for the hearing and headed out to the airport at 10. Before I arrived I received a phone call that kept me outside the noise of the terminal for 30 minutes or so but I wasn't worried since my flight was over an hour ahead of me. Then I saw the security line. Honestly, I have no idea what was going on but the line ran nearly the entire length of the terminal. But not to worry, my flight was already pushed back and running late. I made it through security with plenty of time to sit and wait for my flight. I was a little confused standing in line looking at my ticket with seat 6B and "FIRST" stamped across it. My secretary had made my travel arrangements with our travel agent and believe me, I do not get scheduled on first or even business class. Initially I assumed it was just a small plane which would explain my close seat, you know the commuter jets that only have coach. But as we were boarding I realized with a little bit of excitement (and some regret for wasting it on such a short flight) that I was indeed in first class! It really is a different experience riding up there.

First of all, I had a wide leather recliner for a seat with a fluffy blanket tucked in the seat back in front of me. Before I could stuff my rain coat in the overhead bin, a flight attendant swooped in and hung it up for me! We were 35th or something for takeoff and it was nearly 1 pm so I should have been panicking about missing my hearing. But somehow sitting in first class lowered my anxiety and I just read through my work materials and enjoyed myself. Shortly after takeoff the flight attendant returned, greeted me by name and gave me a Diet Dr Pepper (way to go American Airlines for having DP!) and a cup of warm mixed nuts. After I finished my snack, she was back with a warm towel. And shortly thereafter she was serving lunch! That is right, lunch on an airplane! They still serve that in first class, who knew. I was a bit disappointed that both of their lunch options were beef but I tried the roast beef sandwich and mainly just ate the bread. All of this was served on real plates, glasses, linen napkins and cutlery. Just as I was about to start stressing over the time I picked up the unmistakable scent of chocolate chip cookies and was soon handed a warm chocolate chip cookie to take my mind off the delay.

We landed at 2:30 and I discovered another advantage to first class - I was about the 6th or 7th person off the plane and I was able to run through the terminal, past security, down the multiple escalators and out to the taxi stand and I was in a cab by 2:45. Unfortunately the south doesn't move at quite the same speed as New Yorkers. The cab driver slowly climbed in the driver's seat after I explained I didn't have luggage and gave him my destination. He commented that I seemed to be in a hurry and I told him I had a hearing at 3. He took his time to pull out of the airport and talked incessantly the entire drive about the court cases he has been involved in and how he should have been a lawyer. He also made a number of offensive remarks about foreigners and said something about how I shouldn't have any trouble crossing the street because I was attractive - WHAT? So strange. H reassured me that he would get me there around 3 and didn't judges usually start late? I wanted to be back in the leather recliner on the plane. I just nodded and tried to discourage any more talking as semi-trucks passed us on the freeway.

I arrived at the courthouse at exactly 3 pm and the judge walked onto the bench just as I opened the door to the courtroom. Not having met my local counsel previously, my late arrival resulted in an awkward moment of trying to determine which of the 15 men in the courtroom was expecting me since I had somehow beat the one person I had met before to the courtroom. I proceeded to plaintiff's counsel's table and the lawyer there greeted me as the judge asked us to be seated. The hearing went well once my ear adjusted to the drawling accents that seemed exaggerated.

The hearing lasted about an hour and I was immediately driven by co-counsel back to the airport. My flight wasn't until 8 but one of the other lawyers had a 5 pm flight he was trying to make so I thought I might be able to get an earlier flight. I wasn't.

So I spent some time on the phone, tried the ribs at the airport restaurant while watching the Red Sox game at the bar, had a chair massage at the little airport spa (I think every airport should have one of these) and bought a book. When I finally arrived at my gate I was disappointed to discover my travel luck was continuing - my 8 pm flight was pushed back to 845! I was not going to get home before midnight.

I was tired. Tired of wearing a suit. Tired of wearing heels. Tired of carrying my overstuffed purse full of court papers, my rain jacket (not needed in sunny Nashville) and my book. Just tired. As I passed the first class rows and walked back to my coach seat I wondered if it is better to have never flown first class than to know what you are missing stuffed in the back. As I took my seat, no one greeted me, no one took my coat and there certainly was not a warm cookie at any point on the flight home. There was, however, no one sitting in my row so I had the blessing of three seats to myself to stretch my legs and dive into Love in the Time of Cholera.

To those of you who have ever thought work travel was glamorous, I don't want to shatter your illusions but . . . it isn't. It is exhausting and stressful and all business trips do is give me a greater appreciation for my own bed.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Computer and Homework Gods

I have always been a procrastinator. My motto is essentially "Why do now what can be done with more adrenaline from all the time-pressured stress later?" It doesn't help that I am a night owl that gets a second burst of energy around 11 pm.

Last night while I was procrastinating going to bed in a late burst of energy, I stumbled onto the below essay which was my first (and currently remains my only) piece of published creative writing (I have published very boring analytical work stuff but that doesn't really count, even though I enjoy that too). I vividly remember forgetting I had to write this "personal essay" for English class junior year until the night before. I had no idea it was being entered into any sort of contest until I was told it was to be published in our school's magazine (I didn't say it was published anywhere of note). Anyway, the whole process taught me that if you put something long enough and don't try too hard, you might just win something. Enjoy the read (remember, I was 16).

My computer is giving me "that look" again. You know the look. It is the one that says, "Stop procrastinating and do your homework." I try to avoid it so I throw a blanket over it. Much better. But now I have to do something about the books all over the floor. They don't have the "look" the computer has, but they give off bad vibes of their own. For some reason all that my books ever do is make me feel guilty for not picking them up. Who would it really hurt if I didn't do my homework? Right at this point I don't really care. It doesn't seem important. I'll just shut my door and go in the other room.

I walk upstairs and what is sitting in the living room? The piano and, next to it, my saxophone. They both are having a competition to see who can scream out "PRACTICE!" the loudest and with the most emphasis. The piano wins. I sit down, but I don't get out the jazz band music I need to practice or my lessons. Instead, I reach for something that fits my mood. A loud and clamorous piece, one that just sounds mad. But soon this gets boring and the whole time I'm playing I can feel violent messages, sent from my jazz band music, coming down and penetrating my skull, warning me that if I don't practice Northway will not be pleased. But then I think, why should I even bother going to jazz band at six-thirty in the morning? I'm not a morning person! Maybe I should do my homework.

I venture back into my room, praying that maybe the history and English gods have decided to show mercy and make my books disappear. I slowly open the door, only to be greeted by a gust of Nordic air. For some reason my room doesn't get heat, especially when homework is around, and my sacrifices to the homework gods were futile because my books are still there. So I head back down the hall looking for a heater to make the homework atmosphere a little bit more agreeable. When I finally get back to my room and get the heat up to human conditions, I realize my books are not going to disappear and in order to get anything done I need to uncover my computer. But first I see my planner. Ah, yes, that is all I need, a little organization and some prioritizing. The tape that I bought with my Franklin said all I had to do was keep track of my assignments and use their simple method of prioritizing, and I would awe my teachers while my grades would shoot up. They failed to mention that I had to actually do the work after I planned it.

With that out of the way, I undraped my computer and fired it into action. Now what? The phone rings. Relief! I'm sure it is for me. I answer, "Hello?"

"Is your mother there?" asks the voice.

"Yes, let me get her," I say ever so sweetly, realizing right at that moment that my mom better not stay on long because I feel the sudden urge to bond with the phone and reach out and touch someone, anyone, no matter my or her homework status. "MOOOOM!!!!" I scream, not wanting to go find her. "PHOOONE!! Don't be on long. I need to use it!!"

Now, of course, I cannot start my homework because then I would just have to stop so I could talk to my friend. Looking around my room I see a book, one of those books you didn't even want to read when it was on your grade level. So, of course, I pick it up. Before I realize what I am doing, I am deeply involved in the lives of two idiotic junior high girls who act nothing like any human being I've ever met. I forget my homework, forget I have an urgent phone call to make, and I read until eleven. AT this time I have finished the book and am too tired to even think about my omnipresent homework, so I turn out the light and go to bed. I have yet again successfully procrastinated all my homework to the point where the only solution will be to do it in some other class tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Ten Things I Love About My Kitchen

(this stolen post idea inspired by Beck)

1. My countertops. Made of something called Zodiaq which is supposed to be impervious which makes them especially hygienic. I like that they are pretty and easy to clean (just don't look at the photo too closely because apparently I should have wiped up some crumbs before snapping this one) and that relatively speaking (I am in a NYC apartment after all) I have a significant amount of countertop space to work with/on.2. My dishtowels . I love orange and yellow - they are such bright and happy colors but I turn a horrible greenish -yellow if I try to wear yellow and orange is even worse. So I accent my kitchen with these colors instead.3. Neat and organized drawers. Seriously, this makes me happy. I love dividers and drawer liners!
4. Sunflower photos. My sister took these photos, framed them and sent them to me for my birthday several years ago. They inspired the yellow and orange kitchen motif. So refreshing and happy. 5. My cookie jar, that always has treats - usually m&ms. But oddly enough, never cookies (they dry out in there). This may be my brother's favorite part of my kitchen. He loves that I always have a hidden treat.
6. Pass through window. Apartment kitchens are rough - they are small and compact, I love that this one has a window through which I can watch tv while I cook, interact with guests or just be able to look out the living room window and get natural light.7. Large, deep cupboards large enough to store all my favorite baking ingredients. It is more organized than it looks in the photo.
8. Filtered water from the tap. No need for a Brita - I always forgot to change the filters on those anyway - just fresh, clean, tasty water.9. Easy to clean tile floors with a bright orange striped rug.
10. And last, but certainly not least, baking in it! Sadly, this apple pie was made last Thanksgiving (at my parent's house) but locating this photo has certainly given me a craving for a freshly baked apple pie. Especially since the farmer's market is overloaded with fresh off the tree, newly picked apples begging to be baked!
Now it's your turn. What are ten things you love about your kitchen?

Monday, October 08, 2007

Meeting Regina

Friday morning was full of last minute packing, frantic conference calls, hurried errands and an unnecessary rush to the train station. You see, I thought the only obstacle standing between me and meeting my niece was work. I had a ticket for a 5:00 train but was hoping I could get on the earlier 2:00 train so I could get to Boston before visiting hours ended at the hospital and meet Regina Cristi. I arrived at Penn Station at 1:40 and impatiently waited to print my online ticket from the kiosk behind a man scrolling through train schedules for the whole northeast. For what later became an obvious reason but just seemed irritating at the kiosk, I couldn't switch my ticket to the earlier time so I had to get in yet another line. With less than ten minutes before the 2:00 train I made it to an open window and was told every train was sold out for the rest of the day and I was lucky to have a seat on the 5:00. Lucky.

Rather than dragging my not-so-heavy but not-exactly-light bag back through the unseasonably sweltering subway to the office or home, I opted to wait at Penn Station. As I was eating the salad with soggy croutons I picked up over an hour ago in the waiting area I decided to try and catch a matinee at the movie theater across the street. I looked up movies and showtimes on my blackberry and came up with a list of movies I had either never heard of or had absolutely no desire to see. I decided to walk over just in case the internet listings were wrong. They weren't. The one day I have a couple of hours to kill in the middle of the day, I can't find a movie worth seeing.

There is something romantic about train travel. Maybe it is the timelessness of it. The idea that one hundered years ago I could have been living in New York City and followed essentially the same path to meet my new niece by boarding a train in Penn Station heading toward Boston. Luckily, the Acela train is faster and more comfortable than it was one hundred years ago. But in keeping with my travel woes, just before the train reached Providence we were informed there was an obstruction on the tracks. The obstacles felt endless.

But I wasn't the only anxious passenger. It wasn't until we reached our stop nearly an hour late around 9:30 that I realized why the train was so full. Why all the trains were so full. Not only was this Columbus Day weekend but the Boston Red Socks were in the playoffs and many, many fans were late to the game.



But I had another game to watch to distract me from the fact that I had to wait until morning to meet Regina and feel like an aunt.

I fell in love the instant I saw her. No, that isn't right. I was already in love with her, long before she was born. But when I met her it deepened into something beautiful and inexplicable. We belong to each other. Our relationship is already carved out - it is now up to me to ensure I play it out to the best of my abilities. To play with her, to listen to her, to endulge her. I have looked forward to this for longer than I realized and meeting her exceeded all my expectations.

The rest of the weekend can only be described as passing too quickly. I did my best to let mom and dad welcome their baby home without stealing their beautiful little charmer away. I cleaned up dishes and baked welcome home chocolate chip cookies and Sunday brunch, including Tiff's amazing German pancakes of happiness because what better way to celebrate a new baby? But all the while, I was anxiously awaiting the moment when Jason or Nadia turned to me and asked "do you want her?" You know I never declined.

So here are some of the photos from my first weekend with Regina.


And even better, here is a fun video in which my cute little brother dresses his daughter for her trip home from the hospital. I tried not to giggle too much but it was hard.



not everyone loves a parade

On holidays that the City of New York deems worthy of a parade but my firm deems just-another-work-day, I get the pleasure of being trapped in my office working away while a parade literally makes its way down the street 18 floors below my window. The festivities were kicked off with a marching band around 11 am and two and half hours later, they are still going strong. If my memory serves me correctly, the Columbus Day Parade does not usually last as long as the much-dreaded St. Patrick's Day parade in March which starts around 10 am and can last until well after 4 pm! Does that mean the Irish (New Yorkers) are the bigger partiers or parade-goers than the Italian (New Yorkers)? I think weather may be a factor. Or I should say, I fear weather may be a factor. Last year it was cold and rainy for the parade. But this year, in our annoyingly dragged out summer it is over 80 degrees outside and the humidity refuses to leave. Hopefully that does not result in a 5+ hour parade. I can only take so many drumlines in one day - especially when I'm not sitting at a college football game, which is where marching bands rightfully belong.

Which reminds me. Friday night I managed to make it to Boston (more on that exciting trip later) in time to watch the second half of the Ute game with my brother. I have to say I really miss going to Ute games and/or having someone to watch the games with or simply having them available to watch on tv regularly. Surprisingly, the Utes had a considerable lead going into the third quarter against Louisville. Of course, as soon as I managed to settle down in front of the tv on my brother's couch (his wife and baby were still in the hospital at that point so we weren't neglecting them, visiting hours were over), the Utes looked terrible and started giving up points all over the place. When I responded to a text from our other brother who was watching the game as well that I must be bad luck he texted back "Stop Watching!" Luckily, I did not stop watching and the Utes pulled off another amazing win. They seem to enjoy losing to bad teams and beating nationally ranked favorites (UCLA as well). Go Utes!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Big Three Oh!

October 3rd 1977 was a pretty momentous date. It was the day I ceased being an only child and became a big sister for the first time. Which means my not so little brother turned the ripe old age of thirty today. I believe such an occasion deserves some spotlighting here on my soapbox.

If you have never met my brother Nick you are missing out on one of the funniest, most entertaining personalities I have ever encountered. Which is why he is categorized as one of the "funny kids" in our family, unlike myself. Of course, I didn't always find him so funny. Growing up I often considered him obnoxious, annoying and hopelessly uncool (because I was of course the coolest of cool . . . or so I though in 7th grade). Some of this annoyance was the natural consequence of his precocious nature - always thinking years ahead of his age and asking questions that were far too adult and answering questions that should have been beyond his understanding - and partly I was disgusted by his fixation on selecting one shirt (no collar, no embellishments of course) to wear over and over and over until my mom threw it away. We joke that it is easy to tell what year it was in photos based on the shirt Nick was wearing. Of course this doesn't always work since he had a couple of shirts that lasted more than a single year.

He was also a bit more devoted to things like keeping the Sabbath as a child than I was as evidenced by one famous Sunday when we were camping in Yellowstone. I believe it was the same Sunday my parents thought we should find camping church that allegedly took place somewhere in the Park. We drove around for what seemed like hours without finding anything so returned to our campground near Fishing Bridge. I vividly remember walking along the lake when my parents suggested we get ice cream instead. I nearly kicked (or perhaps I did) Nick when he raised the point that it was Sunday and we weren't supposed to eat out on Sundays. My parents conceded the point but ultimately bought the rest of us ice cream (which helped me resist killing my brother) while Nick resolutely went without. To this day, he is a man of principles.

Camping in Yellowstone was Nick's first exposure to anything resembling an ocean. We spent a lot of time at Yellowstone Lake which, according to wikipedia, is 136 square miles. What wikipedia does not tell you is that no matter the time of year this lake is freezing cold and can remain frozen through June. The altitude is fairly high and the lake is pretty deep so no real chance of it warming by August or September when we were usually there. But Nick was so drawn to the water that he jumped in and swam and swam and learned to body surf in his swimming trunks as baffled passers-by peered out from under their knit caps bundled in puffy down parkas. Nick has always been fun to take on a beach trip unless you want to rest on your towel for more than 30 seconds. When we went to Mexico he would towel himself off as I chastised him into applying more sunscreen and then asked who was ready to get back in the water. He LOVES it. When we rented a beach house on the Oregon coast for his May graduation he and our other brother jumped into the surf as I walked along the edge of the water wearing a fleece. He is crazy.
Nick and I have always been sports fans together. But not always cheering for the same team, which resulted in some yelling, fighting and tears. The most infamous of sports battles occurred over the 1988 World Series. Nick was a die hard L.A. Dodgers fan and I was hopelessly devoted to the Oakland A's having just returned from a year of living not too far north of Oakland in Chico, California. We watched each game with more intensity than I think I have ever watched a World Series since. Sadly for me, my team lost. And I remember tears and a near fist fight breaking out at some point (I believe we were a bit more evenly sized in those days before puberty shot him up to 6'4").

Luckily our choice in sports teams have somewhat evened out and we have spent many, many hours watching, cheering, lamenting and discussing the highs and lows of the Utah Utes and the Utah Jazz. Two of the most memorable football games I ever attended were Ute games with my brother. The first was on this very date four years ago in 2003 when Nick was in law school at the University of Oregon but came down to Salt Lake to see his law school team battle it out with his college. We had a little pre-game barbecue at my apartment in Salt Lake with a small crew of people and then took Traxx (the light-rail) up to the stadium. A photo of his block U (appropriately) red velvet cake is included in the collage. We stood and cheered and danced with our long row of fans as my brother missed his time in the Ute marching band until the Utes beat Oregon. But the best part of that night occurred as we stood in a massive crowd waiting at the train platform for the tardy train to arrive. There was an odd silence as everyone stood around politely waiting in the dark for the train to arrive. We were all far too full of adrenaline to be so still and I am quite certain the entire throng explained our subsequent behavior on intoxication (they were mistaken). I am fuzzy as to how it initially started but at some point my brother was standing in the middle of the tracks trying to flirt with some girls walking across down the tracks several yards. They were embarrassed by his loud attention and tried to squeeze back into the throng. But I yelled out that it was his birthday and they needed to show some love. I have a tendency to lose my voice after exciting sporting events and I remember being quite hoarse as I urged the bored crowd in a pitifully loud and off-key version of happy birthday as we encouraged Nick to dance in the middle of the train track (never fear, there was no sign of a train during this episode). I can only hope his 30th birthday can be as good as that one was. Of course, now he has a wife so I'm sure that is significantly better than begging random girls to smile at him.
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Nick and I also have a lot of music loves in common. Although I do not think he would ever admit it, I have introduced him to some things that have really influenced his life - jazz music and law school being a couple. We have attended many concerts together and shared hours and hours of music. One of the most memorable was the late, late night jam session we went to at the famous Blue Night in New York. We have also been to the Jazz Standard to see Steve Bernstein, Small's, before the lines grew too long and the late but great Tonic together where we saw Groove Collective. There was the concert in Salt Lake at the late-Zephyr club where he got tickets somehow but was too young to get in and so I had to go with his friend who had a fake id (I was old enough). He has turned me on to far too many bands to name so although I take some credit for paving the jazz band path in high school, his talent and tastes quickly passed me by.

It should also be noted that my brother is the greatest road trip buddy. He will drive anywhere for any reason and turn it into the greatest road trip ever. After I graduated from law school, he and my sister accompanied me on a trek across country we named "Roadtrip Southern Exposure" after a sketchy bar located on State Street in Murray, Utah. Who else but my brother (and my sister) would find such joy in capturing the mullets we encountered on film, flipping off the much-hated Texas Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, doubling back to get a closer look at the GIANT Texas sized statue of Sam Houston (we are photoed in his spare head that was mysteriously in the woods behind the actual statue) and enduring one ridiculous Wal-Mart experience after another. Oh, and of course his steam-rolling across America campaign.

We also road-tripped down to Phoenix, Arizona for the Fiesta Bowl in January 2005 in the rental car we lovingly deemed the bat-mobile. My first real bowl game with our BCS busting Utes. The Waffle Hut breakfast was a definite low and no one disputes New Year's Eve wasn't the best ever but walking away with a victory helped us overcome the disappointments.

On our trip to Mexico Nick helped Michele and me invent one of the greatest nonsensical games of all time: Battle Beds! A game that can only be duplicated in the perfect environment of a hotel with tile floors and beds on wheels. To play you simply lay flat on your stomach with the beds pushed up against opposite walls and then you push your feet away from the wall and send your bed flying against the opposite bed as hard as you can. Everyone is ultimately a winner.

Then there was the summer we lived together in 2004. After three years of solitary living I moved into a house with two of my siblings. It shook me up a bit at first what with the amount of food that kid can consume and the messes that come with living with a boy. But such memorable events as Jamiroquoi Dance Night, lots of Mexican salad, our subsequent joint addiction to The OC and our short little commute to work together overshadows the adjustment phase.

So Nick, cheers to you on your birthday. Thanks for thirty years of being a great "little" brother. I'm looking for to a lot more than thirty more.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY NICK!!!!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

It's A Girl!

I am now officially an aunt!
My sweet little neice entered the world at 10:40 p.m. last night - October 1, 2007.
Her stats: 7 pounds, 8 ounces and 20 inches long.
Mom and baby are doing well. So is dad (my baby brother).
No name or photo as of yet - I was told to have patience when I asked! But never fear, I am heading off to Boston to meet this little one before the end of the week and I am confident I will be filling my camera with photos of my very first niece soon enough, and I am sure she will have a name by then. Or else my sister has decided she should be called Koko (long story full of inside jokes that are only funny to my family on our ridiculous email chains).
Now I just have to make the time to visit FAO Schwartz for my first splurge of indulgence on my little niece who I will warn you all now I will be spoiling.

Monday, October 01, 2007

More stolen ideas: Do the iPod Shuffle

I stole this one from here after seeing it in Tiff's Shared Items, which I have been meaning to tell people - I love! I need to focus on the technical side of my blog at some point and figure out how to get a shared items section up and running. Until then, I enjoy viewing your shares so keep them coming.

Okay, to the topic at hand. Here are the rules: Turn your iPod on, go to Shuffle Songs, and name the first 10 songs that come up. No skipping songs! (Especially those you'd rather not admit that are actually on your iPod. That would be cheating.)

Here are mine:
  1. The Sky Is Broken, Moby. This is actually a song (album) I like to listen to when I am reading or working as it is very mellow and isn't intrusive. I think I listened to this cd a lot during law school while I was studying. Not exactly great memories but it does put me in a good serious frame of mind oddly enough.
  2. Psalm 149 for Chorus & Orchestra, Op. 79, Dvorak. I must explain that due to a very memorable nap on the shore of Lac du Neuchatel in Switzerland during which I was listening to this cd on my old school cd player, this cd has magical powers which transport me back to that beautiful day with the sun pressing down on me, French book cast aside in the grass beside me - the lake glistening to my left with a slight breeze keeping me at a perfect temperature. Also, for some reason I can't get past hearing the chorus singing "Salt Lake City" at one point, which they clearly are not. Once I heard that I have never managed to hear it as anything else.
  3. And Suddenly, Left Banke. Ummm, you don't know this song because it is old. Very old. My mom had this album - as in vinyl!! - and there were a couple of songs I really liked so I bought the cd ages ago. Can't say I remember listening to this song but it isn't bad. Walk Away Renee and Pretty Ballerina from the same album are definitely better.
  4. Don't Miss You At All, Norah Jones. Great song. Bought the cd at the beginning of a relationship and listened to this song a lot after it was over trying to convince myself.
  5. That's the Way, Page & Plant. Despite a recent increase in Led Zeppelin listening, I can't say I have listened to this song in the past decade. Not bad but overall I prefer straight Led Zep to the Page & Plant versions.
  6. Tin Man, America. This song is just happy. It feels like a summer day driving down a wide open highway. Also, it reminds me of my mom singing as she cleaned the house. And one more memory: the annual outdoor America concert in Park City during the America's Cup Open in November!! It was freezing but so much fun. Plus we got invited to a party at the house with the yellow door. . . but we were too afraid to go.
  7. Change Clothes, Jay-Z. So in the realm of having variety I have a little Jay-Z. Can't say I have anything to say about this song in particular other than I probably inherited this when my brother gave me some music . . .
  8. Pick Yourself Up, Diana Krall. Great song for singing when no one is around and you are daydreaming about that alternative universe where you are a lounge pianist/singer in a different era.
  9. Everything In Its Right Place, Radiohead. So glad something by Radiohead popped up. I'm a huge fan. This is the live recording and it is best listened to in the dark where the music can engulf you and you can wallow in whatever emotions come. Love it. Or, like Moby, I listen to this while I am working.
  10. Try, Charlie Hunter Quintent. Rounding off my 10 with a little jazz. I don't think I have talked much about my love of jazz here so I will take this opportunity to say I am a big fan and feel I have been sadly delinquent in feeding this love lately. Charlie Hunter is Amazing! So if you are thinking of checking out some jazz music in the near future, give him a listen. Or better yet, ask me and I will put a starter kit playlist together for you. Which is a good idea so I might do that for myself. Let me know if you want one.

And that is it the first 10 of my shuffle of the 4,378 songs currently on my ipod. Kind of an addicting game. And one that can be repeated later when out of posting ideas. Like during NaBloPoMo - National Blog Posting Month, which is apparently in November and requires posting every single day. If nothing else, you can always play the ipod shuffle!

So, what are the results of your shuffle?

Stealing from Tiffany because she always has good post ideas

Tiff did a fantastic starter list for "Things I Would Tell My Twenty-Year-Old Self If I Could", my list would include several of hers (and apparently my 30+ self needs to learn some of her advice still) and would also include:
  • don't let anyone talk you into scrapbooking, you know you are bad at it. Stick with that instinct. In the end you will regret having a bunch of cut up photos and stickers cluttering a page and wish you had photos suitable for scanning into the computer (yes, we can do that now and it actually looks fantastic!).
  • a bit specific to me at 20 but . . . DON'T GET MARRIED! Not yet anyway, and not to him. Just wait.
  • don't listen to your arrogant creative writing professor, you can write. And it does have meaning. Don't quit.
  • don't stop playing the piano, you will regret it.
  • learn to FLIRT, you don't always have to be "one of the boys"
  • Listen to Emily's brother when he asks "isn't it time Alyssa got a haircut?" and cut your hair! Seriously. Below your belt is just TOO LONG! Even if some random boy at that dance place up Cedar Canyon called it "kick ass". It isn't. It is just to your ass.
  • have some confidence
  • wear some makeup - a little bit can go a long way
  • try wearing clothes that fit instead of clothes that will fit once you gain 20 pounds.
  • appreciate the moment and don't worry about falling behind
  • keep rock climbing
  • learn to snowboard before you are 25, I think it will be easier to learn and you will love it
  • study abroad is not out of reach, go for it
  • join the marching band with your brother when you transfer to the U so you won't be jealous of all the fun experiences he has

I'm sure there are more but this list feels revealing enough.

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