Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ghosts of Halloween Past

Some of my earliest memories date to pre-age two (for example, my first day of preschool at 22 months old), but the first Halloween I really remember as a specific event was the year I was four. I think the year I was three my mom made me a clown costume, and I might have been two for the tomato plant costume, but the year I was four I got to pick what I wanted to be and I picked princess. My mom handmade a princess costume complete with tinfoil-covered cardboard crown, and it was the first year I remember going trick-or-treating in my Oldest Friend's neighborhood (we didn't have a neighborhood; our nearest neighbor was a quarter mile away). I think Oldest Friend was a dog that year, though I'm not positive. Other early Halloween memories for me include visits to the fire station (they'd throw a party for all the kids in town every year, with costume contests and apple bobbing and, best of all, this thing where you got to cut holes in a flour tortilla with a butter knife (like you were carving a pumpkin), and then this nice lady would put it in a frying pan full of oil, drain it, and then sprinkle it with cinnamon and sugar. I'm pretty sure my love for sopapillas comes from said memory), trick-or-treating on dark windy nights, and the year my sister won best costume at the fire station and I was so jealous of her prize, a my-little-pony puzzle (her costume was a flower in a flower pot; my mom covered an old lampshade with fabric to be the pot, dressed my sister in green and made some sort of headdress with petals).

As I got older, my costume ideas got more creative and I worked alongside my mom to make my costumes really good. My elementary school did some sort of costume parade every year, where kids from each classroom (there was only one classroom for each grade, my town was that small) lined up in grade order and marched around the playground so the kindergarten kids could be frightened by the scary masks the 5th grade boys wore. This one kid always came as a package of M&Ms. Even from an early age, I always considered the opportunity to dress up in a costume to be one that should not be squandered, and half the fun of dance recitals was the makeup and costumery. One year I hadn't seen the movie Return to Oz, but I'd wanted to, so I dressed up as a pumpkin head and got to wear orange makeup. In fifth grade I decided my costume would be "Over the Rainbow", and I wore a variety of brightly-colored and ranbow-striped clothing, a posterboard carapace with scenes I'd painted from the movie, a painted rainbow cardboard hat thing with birds on little wires above. That was probably my most creative costume.

Sixth grade I wouldn't settle for less than dressing as Mac Tonight (the moon-headed guy from the McDonald's commercials), and seventh grade I was a gypsy. I think eight grade was the last time I went trick-or-treating, because in high school I was either helping my friend hand out candy at her house (nobody came to ours, even our new house wasn't really in a neighborhood) or babysitting. I always had a costume to wear to school, though; my best probably being Scarlett O'Hara. One time I made this spider outfit with stuffed black tights and wire strapped on to make it look like I had four extra limbs.

The best costume I ever constructed was probably the year I made my own Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas outfit; I dyed my superlong hair red (it lasted a few days) and spent long hours finding the right fabrics and hand sewing everything. The last few years I've been so busy with this job in the fall (and two years ago we were in China) that I haven't done much in the way of costuming. Last year I put far more effort into Dan's costume than mine (I dyed my hair red again and did a Pippi Longstocking thing, while Dan went as Max from Where the Wild Things Are). This year I reused pieces from my wench bridesmaid's outfit and did a piratey sort of thing for a party we went to Saturday (Dan went as Indiana Jones), and changed the bodice and shoes and added jewelry and a scarf for a fortune-teller outfit today I'm wearing at work. It's a little odd to look down and see cleavage. There's a piece of ratty blue lace tied around my waist, just to add some authenticity, and looking at it I'm having all kinds of flashbacks about playing dress-up with the same piece of lace as a little kid. I don't know where it came from, but somehow I still have it. Maybe next year I'll use it as a veil and go as a Corpse Bride.

Edit: two photos (one a coworker took, one I took myself long-armed)

Also today, I'm going to call my mom and tell her happy birthday. For some reason, holiday birthdays are common amongst my relatives, and my mom's birthday happens to fall on Halloween. It wasn't until I was around 9 or 10 that I realized we should be making mom a cake and celebrating her birthday in addition to planning elaborate costumes and eagerly awaiting a stash of candy to hoard until Christmas. In college I'd always make a point of coming home on or around Halloween (usually an associated weekend) so I could take my mom out to lunch or the movies or something. Lucky for her, she really likes Halloween as a holiday in itself and doesn't seem to mind birthday celebrations coinciding with costumes and candy. She dresses up every year it's on a weekday and her students usually sing happy birthday to the biker chick or the 50's teeny bopper or the witch. Being older and wiser now, sometimes I think back on my Halloween memories and wonder what it was like to have one's birthday completely overshadowed by something for one's kids.

Friday, October 26, 2007

No need for a title, this is pretty much useless

I'm sitting in a "hotel" room in Copper Mountain resort, about to go to breakfast. The snow on the hillside across from me is gorgeous, if probably at least somewhat manmade. Walking through a ski resort in the off-season is rather odd; it's like walking into an office building after hours when nobody is around.

I don't sleep well away from home these days. This is the third hotel room since the end of September and there will be two more in the next couple of weeks before I'm finished. Dreams of choking wake me up to realize my throat is completely dessicated (it can happen, up here in the mountains). I wake up 3 or 4 times a night and pat the bed next to me, only to remember I'm all alone here. I get to go home this afternoon, where I'll be for a day and a half before I have to do the mountain drive again, all the way to Glenwood Springs. This time I'll take pictures.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What a difference a day makes

Still life with Pream and Lard

Instead of writing a really long post about the cabin trip we went on this weekend, let's just say that we learned what both fall and winter look like in that little corner of Wyoming. Also, it's really helpful to have a great monsterous truck with 4-wheel drive and chains around to pull your Honda Civic through unmaintained road covered in ruts, muck and snow drifts.

Saturday (fall):

Here you see the approaching storm

Sunday (Winter):

See also here and here for interesting comparison.

Dan and I made a snowman in about 10 minutes on Sunday, and then Amber spent 3 hours making another snowman.

One friend with a 4-runner and chains made it out Sunday afternoon, but with six inches of snow on the ground there was no way our vehicles could even attempt it. We left Monday at around 2 PM, everyone's stuff and 6 people piled in the truck and hauled out to where the cars were parked. The (normally 45 minute) drive out to the highway took us about two and a half hours, as the Truck of Many Chains had to pull both the Civic and another friend's Kia Rio through some pretty nasty snow drifts and muck. Once we got to the maintained part of the county road, things got better. We got to Howards at about 4:30 and everyone made necessary phone calls. We got home around 9 PM on Monday night and were thoroughly exhausted.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Trying new things

I haven't done it yet, but very soon on this blog you're going to see one of those scary lolcat buttons announcing my intention to participate in NaBloPoMo this year. I'm going to post every single day in November. I actually think this year it will be far easier than last year, since this year we aren't spending four entire days on a train.

Various people I know/whose blogs I read will also be participating. Several of them have announced intentions to write about a particular theme or with the intent of a specific project. Cagey's going to be writing about food; Monkey's going to chronicle her attempts to save money. I decided months ago that I'd blop again, but in the last week I've been thinking about what to write about, whether I should attempt some sort of theme or whether I should just blog haphazardly as usual. And then the idea came to me that hey, I can have several "categories" of blogging, maybe a few regular ones on particular days of the week. So I started to think of what those days might be - some of the more famous bloggers started day-of-week posts, like Amalah's Advice Smackdown Wednesdays and Frema's Tragic Love Friday. I don't imagine the 10 people who read this blog need any crappy advice, and sadly, while in high school I never wrote a many-chapter-long saga that was sort of a cross between a VC Andrews novel and any of a number of soap operas. But I did have an idea to read a new book a week, one I've never read before. I've gotten out of the habit of reading new things. So one day a week will be Book Review.

Also, I'm kind of getting married in a few months. I've held off on blogging much about it, but I'm going to let myself write anything I want about the wedding one day a week in November. Sort of a wedding news-type-thing. And I've been feeling rather stagnant in my gym routine, as I mentioned a little while ago, so I decided to start taking new classes at my gym. So far, I've taken vinyasa yoga, power pump, chi gong, and (just tonight) I did an hour-long spin class after doing my 45 minute weight circuit. I am tahred. But I hope to continue my "try new classes" streak through November (at least, in the weeks I'll be able to go to the gym) and I'll report on one new class a week.

So that's three "new" days. Any ideas for other stuff? Or should the other four days just be whatever randomness leaks out of my brain and through my fingers, like usual? Ooh, maybe I'll do a review of a new (to me) blog weekly. I've gotten out of the habit of surfing blogrolls, and being part of the NaBloPoMo group will enable me to see a whole bunch of new blogs. So that's four. OK, people, what else should I write about?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

How I eat, by MLE (courtesy Monkey and Average Jane)

1. How do you like your eggs? Scrambled, in omlette form, with stuff in them. Occasionally I get in the mood for a fried egg sandwich, which is also pretty much the only time I ever eat mayonnaise.

2. How do you take your coffee/tea? Coffee is gross. I'll drink chai or green tea if I feel I need caffeine and it's cold outside. If I'm sick I want herbal "teas".

3. Favorite breakfast food: Whatever we make for breakfast on the weekends. Buckwheat crepes with ricotta, whipped cream and pomegranate seeds/strawberries. Coffee cake. Waffles from scratch topped with fresh fruit. French toast. Spinach/mushroom/goat cheese omlettes. Breakfast potatoes or sweet potatoes. Eggs with stuff in them. Man, I don't have a favorite. I likes me some breakfast food.

4. Peanut butter: Only the hippie kind (peanuts only, crunchy not smooth)

5. What kind of dressing on your salad? vinagrette or ranch or spicy tomato, always on the side if I order it in a restaurant. I use very little. For a while at home I just used rice vinegar and faux Mrs.Dash.

6. Coke or Pepsi? I don't care, but it's probably diet and mixed with booze if I'm drinking it. And I'm probably at the cabin.

7. You’re feeling lazy, what do you make? Burritos (refried black beans, ground turkey or chicken, tomatoes lettuce onion bell peppers etc, salsa)

8. You’re feeling really lazy. What kind of pizza do you order? With chicken and mushrooms probably.

9. You feel like cooking. What do you make? I probably bake something.

10. Do any foods bring back good memories? I have a lot of holiday-related food memories/associations. Too many to go into, probably. Though Christmas dinner in my family is usually enchiladas or lasagne, something really time-consuming and special.

11. Do any foods bring back bad memories? I've always wondered whether I don't like coffee because one time when I was a little kid (as in, too short to see over the kitchen counter), I had some milk in a tupperware cup and set it down. I came back a couple of hours later and the same tupperware cup was on the counter, so I thought it was my milk, but my dad (for some reason) had instead filled it with coffee. UGH. Also, for a while I didn't want to eat this curried red lentil recipe that Dan makes (though it is very yummy) because we ate it on election night of 2004 and we both pretty much lost our appetites. It took us a while to be able to eat it again.

12. Do any foods remind you of someone? Indian food reminds me of Dan, since I introduced him to it and now he makes it for me.

13. Is there a food you refuse to eat? I don't eat mammal. I don't eat raw (as in, not part of a bread or muffin) bananas. I don't eat eggplant, but that's because I'm allergic.

14. What was your favorite food as a child? Grapefruit and red bell peppers. They're still favorites.

15. Is there a food that you hated as a child but now like? Lots of standard stuff (tomatoes, mushrooms, spicy stuff).

16. Is there a food that you liked as a child but now hate? Nope, I think my taste buds have matured. Though as a kid I drank 2% milk and now anything but skim tastes like cream to me.

17. Favorite fruit and vegetable: Fruit: depends on the season (I tend to like whatever is in season). Vegetable: also seasonal, but I guess red bell pepper if we're not talking green veggie.

18. Favorite junk food: Samosas, salsa-flavored sunchips

19. Favorite between meal snack: Favorite or what I actually eat? Favorite will entirely depend on what I feel like eating. Maybe chips and homemade guacamole. But I actually eat string cheese between breakfast and lunch and a few walnuts and slices of turkey between lunch and dinner.

20. Do you have any weird food habits? I nearly always make sure that the last bite of a meal is my favorite thing on my plate for that particular meal.

21. You’re on a diet. What food(s) do you fill up on? I don't really "diet" but I do restrict calories sometimes and I avoid eating stuff I shouldn't. It's really hard to stay good about what I eat when I travel for work, so this year I've vowed to not eat everything and leave some food on my plate at ever restaurant/catered meal. I think my normal diet is pretty healthy in general.

22. You’re off your diet. Now what? I don't restrict calories as much and I might have a few more "treats" but I never let myself go crazy with what I eat because a) it makes me feel like crap (best to keep blood sugar stable), and b) it's a lot harder to lose weight than gain it and I'd rather not gain.

23. How spicy do you order Indian/Thai? Depends on the restaurant/food/my mood. Probably medium here in Denver and mild on the coasts/where it's more authentic.

24. Can I get you a drink? Water please. I rarely drink anything but water unless it also has alcohol in it.

25. Red or White Wine? Both. Depends on what I'm eating/the temperature/what we have in the house.

26. Favorite dessert? Tiramisu, though pie is awfully good. And gelato. Oh, I can't choose.

27. The perfect nightcap? Nightcaps in our house are rare. Probably water.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Whiling away a lazy afternoon

We got our first wedding present this weekend (they're being delivered to Dan's parents house as they have storage space and we don't have much); Dan's parents came down to have lunch with us on Saturday and they brought down an amazing gift from my sister and her fiance. I can't wait to use it. Neither can Dan. It's something we'll both use and really enjoy and it looks terrific on our kitchen counter. I'm still not sure how I feel about getting presents but this was one thing I've been wanting for about 10 years now and I did a happy dance around the kitchen when we set it up.

Our weekend was pretty much great, in general. Friday night I finished the baby blanket that I started back in, like, May-ish. I had knitted 84 pieces and had to sew them all together, and then had to weave in all the little ends (of which there were MANY). After it was all put together, I had to block it (rinse it in the bathtub in cold water, carefully wring out the water, lay it flat to dry on some towels on the table, and pat it into the shape I wanted it to dry). Saturday we had lunch with the aforementioned DanRents at a well-reviewed Mexican restaurant the next neighborhood over that we'd wanted to try for a while. It was a little early for tequila, but next time we want to sample a fancy tequila or 50 we know where to go. And despite the flies (? attempt at authenticity?) and flaky server, the food was fantastic. After lunch, Dan and I ran some errands around town, including several trips to various craft/art stores to get wedding-related supplies. I'm starting to get really excited about a few of the projects we'll be doing because I'll get to do something crafty that isn't knitting for once.

Saturday night was full of awesome smells; split pea soup and northern-style cornbread from scratch. And Sunday had a delicious breakfast, me packing for my trip, and a trip to my office to do some last minute prep before I flew down to Durango (which is where I am now). I'm in the same hotel as last time, though this time my room isn't quite so brothel-like (the wallpaper features gold fleur-de-lis on some sort of shiny blue stuff). My first training day went well and I even had some time to do a bit of shopping around town afterward. Unfortunately, the hotel where I'm staying caters more to the "romantic getaway" crowd than the business travel crowd, and they don't have wireless available, so I'm sitting in a cafe a block away jittering in my seat from the small chai I drank and the cookie I ate (no dessert tonight for me!). I totally forgot to bring my camera, which is a huge shame. Last night I had an amazing laugh at the best comedically-timed drop of a bite of pizza into a glass of wine I've ever seen. Now the most pressing thing is to decide where I should eat dinner. The Durango-Silverton train is returning to town; the whistle loud as the train's terminus is only two blocks away. The aspens and other trees are bright gold, and the sky is a deep blue, and everything is just as it should be for a fall day.

Friday, October 12, 2007


From 1991 to 1995, I went to church camp every summer for a week. It's hard for me to admit to the internets that yes, I did go to church (sort of; mostly for choir and youth group) back when I was an impressionable youth. I went to this church that was basically one step away from Unitarian Universalism (it was a UCC church; relatively undogmatic as far as those things go). We had a female minister and she said the Lord's Prayer as "Our Creator, who art in Heaven" rather than "Our Father" etc. There were people of many different faiths in attendance and we had several committed gay and lesbian couples. Anyhow, there was a church camp associated with this church and my best friend went every year, so when we became friends she convinced me to go too.

I have a lot of stories to tell about Camp Caz and my adolescence, how I first held hands with a boy there, and how I fell in serious like at least three times (twice in one week!), and why this one time some guys decorated the backstop with toilet paper and got away with it. But that's not the point of this story. Let's just say that the church camp was about as unchurch-y as one can get and still be considered a church camp. Sure, we had vespers (sort of a church service) out in the woods, and we sang some churchy songs (and also some war protest folk songs), but mostly it was like any other camp you might attend, with cabins and a lodge and goat boners and because it was junior high and high school, there were a lot of hormones flying around. In fact, one thing you might hear if you happened to be walking by (it was kind of in the middle of nowhere, so I'm not sure why you would be, but humor me here) during lunchtime was a song sung back and forth between tables attempting to one-up each other in punnish grossness ("Have you ever heard a hormone, a hormone, a hormone, have you ever heard a hormone now you tell us when!") Heh.

Oh, I have many stories about camp, as I'm sure any of you who went to camp do as well, but last night I was reminded of something in particular that's stuck with me for 15 years or so. This one time at camp we had a big group activity called IWITC (It's what's inside that counts). I'm sure it was all the rage at all the hippie church camps in the early 90s, and I don't remember much of it, but I do remember that it was the first time I really thought about that concept. In junior high people are usually so caught up in what everybody else thinks about them, about what they look like and are they funny looking or fat and who is judging my hand-me-down clothes and who am I and me me me. And just as we all worry about who is judging us, we also judge others by how they are dressed, their makeup, their attitudes, whether they are wearing what young people in whichever era have deemed to be cool. As teenagers, we are so me-focused and yet so you-comparative, it's really kind of funny. I'd never given a lot of thought to what snap judgments meant or how stereotyping someone by what they look like or their accent or whether they have pegged jeans might prove hurtful to others. Camp, like any environment in which kids between the ages of 11 and 17, had its share of cliques and groups. There were the cool kids and the kids who looked or smelled funny and everyone in between. We were all so messed up then, just trying to figure out who we were and what our sense of style should be and what our goals in life should be other than just to get through the teenage years that I'm sure none of us had given much thought to the concept of IWITC, the idea that maybe you should get to know someone as a person (or at least not make a presumption about them at first glance) before deciding if you could like them or be friends with them or at least not be mean.

It's difficult to teach the concept of empathy to teenagers as a whole, I think. They're just starting to get past the complete self-centeredness of childhood yet still have to be concerned with themselves perhaps more than necessary in order to survive the gauntlet of junior high and high school. Even though the acronym was a little cheesy, and of course, duh, what someone looks like isn't necessarily who they ARE, but nobody had ever put it into terms that a whole room full of 13 and 14 year-olds could understand until that day. At least, not when I was around.

I was reminded of IWITC last night after relating a story to Dan. On Wednesday I rode the bus up the 16th street mall back to work after the dentist had finished mangling my mouth. Across from me on the bus was a girl about my age who had a 2-year-ish old boy sleeing in a stroller. Next to her in a seat was a 3-year-ish old girl and a guy who, if I'd seen in any other situation, I would have judged completely differently. He was one of those skinny gangster types, with crooked teeth and a shaved head, dirty clothes and jagged nails and tattoos all over. The kind of guy that you'd expect to see posturing and looking menacing. But it was obvious that he was partner-of-girl and dad-of-son-and-daughter. The little girl looked like an exact cross between her parents (luckily, it was cute, not weird, and she didn't have any tattoos on her neck like her parents did). She was talking to her Daddy and he was talking back, being a parent, taking an interest in what she had to say. They shared a Big Gulp. She leaned up and gave him a kiss at one point. To her, he was Daddy and not some scary gangster-type, just her daddy who shared his seat and his Big Gulp with her and answered the questions she had about riding the bus.

Later, I thought a bit more about my own snap judgment. Like I said, if I'd seen that guy in any other context, my opinion of him probably would have been completely different. And that kind of makes me an asshole. I shouldn't judge people by what they look like, no matter how skeevy they are, no matter what stereotypes they fit. Because that scary guy might be somebody's daddy, or that gaggle of teenaged girls in skimpy clothing might regularly volunteer at a hospital. All those people you see might have college degrees. They might have beaten cancer. You just never know.

After I told Dan the story of the gangster daddy on the bus, he told me about some of his schoolmates. He goes to a campus that has a high population of Muslim students of all ethnicities, and the women wear various levels of covering (long sleeves, skirts, pants, headscarf tight around the face or very loosely covering the hair). In any other context, one might judge them differently because the clothes they wear proclaim their religion to everyone who sees them. We (non-Muslim) Americans have this stereotypical idea about how Muslims treat women, how they are not allowed to be educated or have health care, but honestly that is a very small part of the world's Muslim population. The Muslim girls at the school where Dan attends obviously have support toward their education, whether it be cultural, religious, or familial. They're successful and will have jobs and families after college. There's no reason, when you see a Muslim woman in a hijab walking down the street, to think she is unvalued, uneducated, or unhappy with her situation. Yet another circumstance where judging someone by how he or she looks doesn't always match up with reality.

For 15 years (or thereabouts), IWITC has been rattling around in the back of my brain. It's time I bring it back to the forefront, because there's no reason I should be prejuding people's personalities or circumstances by what they look like. Everyone has a story, and while stereotypes serve a purpose they aren't one-size-fits-all. Internets, here is my vow: to consciously avoid snap judments and prejudice whenever possible. I'm sure some of it can't be helped, but there's no reason I can't take a little longer to smile, say hi, or just consider the circumstances before I make a decision about a given person.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Feeling a little battered and bruised

On Monday, I decided to shake things up a bit and took a class at the gym called "power pump" which consited of a room full of women lifting barbells and dumbells in various ways, set to music with someone perky barking commands at us. It was a great class if you go for that sort of thing, and Tuesday I was sore in muscles I didn't know I had. I returned to the gym yesterday and did a normal cardio workout but was still quite sore afterward.

Today, after many false starts, I went back to the dentist because they wanted to replace a filling they'd done just a couple of years ago. They poked me with needles and numbed up my mouth, took out the old filling, strapped a metal band around my tooth (which kind of cut into my gum) and then replaced the filling. After all this poking and prodding recently my mouth feels like a war zone and I'm sooooo glad to be all done with this dental nonsense. The only real positive bit was that because they'd done the filling and it was not too long ago, they replaced it for free.

Also today, the local vampires had set up shop again. I haven't donated since June, so I stopped by to ask them if I could donate after having novocaine (or benzocaine, or whichever caine) and they said yes. So after I got back from the dentist I got poked in the finger and then stabbed in the arm and a tube with a bag on the other end collected 470 ml of blood. Now I have a turquoise bandage wrapped around my right elbow and elbowpit and I'm starting to feel like maybe I should just take it easy for the rest of the day, because I'm still sore and I've been poked with a bunch of needles and I really wanted to eat that cookie they offered me, but instead I took the 100 calorie package of cheese nips. I can justify having a cookie for giving blood after I make sure I can fit into my dress in December.

Friday, October 05, 2007

I have heard the bull elk bugling*

On Sunday I just had to get outside and be outside for a good part of the day, even though it was my only weekend day (I got back from Minneapolis on Saturday night). Since we have an annual National Parks pass, we decided to get some use out of it and go hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. We picked a trail that sounded good (lots of fall color, not terribly taxing, long enough (4.6 miles) to be worthwhile) and headed up into the mountains. Traffic was stop and go entering the park, which is kind of an unusual circumstance for a fall afternoon (seriously, where were all these people going?) but when we got into the park we found that most people were driving just a little ways in, parking and ogling some elk across a large field.

We drove to the trailhead of the Cub Lake trail but had to park at the side of the road since it was so crowded. The scenery was gorgeous. Despite spending about 10 days at sea level (between CA and MN) in the previous two weeks, I didn't have much difficulty with the altitude and we enjoyed our hike thoroughly. We saw colors galore; it turned out to be perfect weather, the perfect light, and the perfect weekend to see the aspens in all their golden glory (maybe that's why so many people were in the park?). It turned out that we'd hiked that trail before (though it was a few years ago, and that time in the spring) but it didn't matter, because it was so nice to be OUTSIDE during DAYLIGHT HOURS and DOING SOMETHING PHYSICAL.

Toward the end of our hike, we came upon a bunch of people peeping at some elk. They were a lot closer than other elk we'd seen, and so a large group of kids and adults were standing quietly, staring in fascination at the elk which seem to have no fear of humans. One bull started to round up his herd, showing off his massively impressive rack and obviously telling his females to move along. We watched for a while and I took a few pictures, but the most interesting part of the experience was the bugling.

Fall is when the bull elk display and fight over the females, and the echoing calls are almost eerie to hear. I can't really describe the sound, other than it's kind of like a whale call and kind of like the shriek of a five-year-old girl (or boy). But the sound carries for miles, bouncing off the mountains. I'm sure it's very impressive to a female elk, but if Dan started making that sound at me I'd run far, far away.

* Mad props to anyone who can decipher this reference to a cultural reference

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Madame Defarge went to Minneapolis

I was home for one day (Monday) and then on Tuesday (after finding out my flight had been scheduled for the wrong day and having to reschedule with United on Monday night; good thing I wasn't paying!) I flew to Minneapolis. The kitties were very put out while I packed. Loki sat in my duffel bag for a while.

I went to Minneapolis in March for the planning meeting for this conference, and this trip was for the conference itself. I didn't walk down to the Mississippi this time. Also, it wasn't nearly as cold. Mostly, I was in the hotel 18-20 hours a day and started my days at 7:30 (which meant I got up significantly earlier) (which was kind of like torture) and unable to do other stuff until like 6 or 7 PM every night, at which time I was able to go out a couple of times with a friend from Wisconsin who I only see once a year at this event. The conference went as well as it could have what with what all is going on at the Federal level regarding the program I run. Anyhow, probably the thing that I'll remember most from this trip wasn't the conference or the abundant yet bland midwestern food, wasn't getting to have $4 glasses of wine and snacks in the "Regency Club" in the evenings (as opposed to the same glass for $7 in the bar downstairs), or even walking down the street behind some girls who really didn't know the meaning of appropriate dress. It will be the amount of time I spent knitting.

Initially, I had intended to spend time on and off throughout the summer knitting a blanket for another work-related friend (from New Mexico) and hoped to have it done before I left so I could bring it with me and give it to one of her coworkers at the conference. Except this summer was hot, and I was lazy, and I didn't get it done. The thing about this particular blanket is that it wasn't knitted all in one piece, but in 84 small pieces (great for portability, but still a lot of work). I had about 40 done when I left Denver and knitted on the airport shuttle, in the airport, on the plane, in the other airport shuttle, and in my room that evening. I knitted all day during the conference sessions. I knitted so much that I got a sore finger and then a callus. But it became clear after about 2 days that even if I managed to get the whole thing done while I was there, it still wouldn't look right unless I washed and blocked it (because of the aforementioned in 84 pieces thing) - which I didn't have the time or resources to do in my hotel room. I ended up getting about 80 of them done while in Minneapolis/on the way home, and finished the rest this weekend. Last night I started sewing them together and the baby will probably get his blanket when he's about a month old, because he was born in the middle of September, a couple of weeks early.

Anyhow, I knitted my days away in Minneapolis, and the conference was over at noon on Friday. Then I got to spend 3 hours in a board meeting. By the time we were done, I HAD to get outside while it was still daylight (hadn't done that since Monday) so I walked as planned over to another part of the city and managed to smash my hand on a newspaper dispenser when I wasn't looking where I was going, so it was all gory and gross. I stopped into a pretty paper store and drooled a little, and bought some presents for Dan at Penzey's Spices. Then, on Dan's recommendation, I went to Neil Gaiman's favorite bookstore, Dreamhaven Books. They let me take pictures and even gave me a bandaid for my finger. By the time I walked back it was six o'clock and I decided I'd eaten too much all week, so I forewent dinner and was bathed and in bed by 8 PM (though I didn't actually sleep until around 11 or so).

This is half of the shelf for Neil Gaiman stuff at Dreamhaven Books. They even took me into the back so I could see the stack of stuff they have waiting for him to sign when he comes home.

Saturday I had to be in another meeting for the morning. Luckily, after lunch I shared a cab with some people to the airport (so I didn't have to wait for another shuttle), checked in and checked my bag, and then took the light rail back to the Mall of America so I could get my H&M fix in. This time, I avoided the center part of the place completely and just walked around the perimeter. I only had a couple of hours so no time to shop anywhere but a couple of specific stores, but that was OK. My train back to the airport was late in leaving, so I sprinted in, quickly made my way through security, and then looked around futilely for a display that would say which gate my flight was leaving out of. The Minneapolis airport only displays Northwest flights, except in each letter terminal there is flight information for the flights leaving out of that terminal. Luckily I took a wild guess and it ended up being right, but if I'd been flying out of A I would have never made my flight (I was in E). And the flight information they did display wasn't even right, so I ended up sprinting back and forth a couple of times trying to find the right gate, and made it onto the plane just as my boarding group was called.

On the plane, I had an interesting conversation with a frat/cowboy, knitted some more, and managed a little nap. I was exhausted. I was never more happy to see Dan than when he met me at baggage claim and gave me a big hug, then whisked me home and made me a stir-fry for dinner with some of the present I'd gotten him at Penzey's. Man, it was good to be home.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

First, we went to California...

Hi. I still exist. Actually, I'm taking the day off work because I had my permanent crown put on this morning (yeah, 2 hours in the dentist's chair) and afterward had to indulge in a little retail therapy at Cross Dress for Less and TJ Maxx (I was down to one pair of jeans that fit right and didn't have the crotch worn through). But now I'm home, and I think the whole tooth thing is actually going to work out OK, so now I'm going to blog about our trip to California. Which was, um, like 10 days ago.

Thursday evening we got to the airport and had plenty of time to spare before boarding (unlike last time; this time there was no running sans shoes). Our flight was relatively uneventful, though my cold hadn't gone away and so the last 15 minutes of the flight I was in horrible pain, the likes of which I hadn't felt since my eardrum burst when I was 12. Somehow, all my tricks to relieve the pressure didn't work, and the pain only started to subside when I started dry swallowing. Hey, it worked. We got the rental car (a pontiac vibe, not too shabby) and drove to QIR's house. She had made us an awesome meal consisting of basil broth and veggie soup, individual spinach lasagnes, steamed broccoli with compound butter, and sauteed shrimp. YUM. After dinner, we attempted to make some sort of fancy chocolate pudding but it broke (boo!) so we couldn't eat it. We stayed up for a while talking and then got to sleep on the best sheets known to man.

Next day, before anyone else was up, I took some photos in QIR's backyard. Then everyone else got up and we had breakfast at Lois the Pie Queen, which is a couple of blocks from the Big House (the house my ex and his friends (and I, sort of) lived for a few years in college). Lois the Pie Queen has been around for a really long time, and lots of famous people have eaten there and taken photos with the people who own the place. We didn't have any pie (though the pie is good!) but breakfast was yummy. After a stroll through IKEA (our best purchase was called SNAR), we met up with my sisters in order to transport some luggage that wouldn't fit in the Prius they were driving, bought some groceries at Trader Joe's, and headed up north to meet with our caterer and the site coordinator at the club where we're getting married. Things went fine and we were there for a couple of hours, making plans and arrangements and taking more pictures.

We went to my mom's and hung out there for the evening. My sisters and FBIL showed up around 7 and Dan made dinner for everyone on the barbeque while the rest of us chatted about stuff. My sister made a pie for her fiance's birthday and my other sister and I talked about bridesmaids dresses. It wasn't terribly exciting, but it was nice to have everyone there when it wasn't a holiday. Saturday after breakfast Dan and I headed to the next town over to do a little shopping (book, for aforementioned FBIL birthday) and a little tasting of cake (we were stealthy about it and just ordered a piece of tiramisu and a cupcake with ganache frosting, so now we know what their tiramisu, their white cake, and their ganache tastes like! BWAHAHA.) We stopped in at a winery on the way back to buy a bottle of wine as part of our wedding gift to my cousin, then arrived back at my mom's in time to get gussied up for the wedding.

The five of us headed south in our finery, a little snug in the Prius. We ran a quick errand along the way and made it to the ceremony just in time. It had been rainy and foggy and just kind of gross all day long, but somehow the clouds parted (just a bit) just long enough for the outdoor ceremony on the campus by a pond. Behind the wedding party was a pond, and on the pond were some ducks. One of them looked to be wearing a hat. It was a little odd. The bride and bridesmaids were beautiful, the groom and groomsmen were dashing, and the ring bearer made it through the ceremony without barking (it was their dog). My favorite parts were the tree planting (curses, we'll have to think of something else; that was one of my ideas!) and the one-clawed crawdad that showed up just as the ceremony was over.

We hopped back in the car and drove north a bit to the reception. I tried to pay attention to some of the details; my cousin had told me that their reception venue was all inclusive (food, rentals, etc.) and they got to provide their own wine. There were some snacky things and an open bar with beer/wine. We had to wait a good hour and a half before the wedding party showed up and announced by the DJ, but soon after we got there everyone was eating. Unfortunately, the food wasn't especially good, and also unfortunately the five of us were at a table with the cousin who got married last year and her husband. They're both quite religious and don't drink, so we five felt a little strange drinking wine in front of them. We got over it.

I got to spend some time cooing over the bun that was in the oven of another cousin a year ago (she's very small, but very cute), and generally caught up with other relatives. There was some weirdness surrounding my dad, but I don't need to go into that. After dinner, we all started dancing, and the DJ actually played good music for dancin'. At one point, I had a tipsy discussion with the only boy cousin I know (I have three, but two I haven't seen since I was 4 years old. Long story.) - turns out he's not nearly as into Jesus as his family. He smokes and drinks and smokes other stuff and would like to move up to Northern CA to finish school up there (he lives in San Diego). It was nice to have an actual, real life conversation with him since now he's 19 and not a little kid anymore. We all danced like dancin' fools with our cousins, the bride, the maid of honor, and everyone else who was having a great time. I thought the cake was fabulously tasty, but Dan didn't like it because it had cream cheese frosting. Pah, I say.

Sunday Dan and I got up and he took some photos of the yard for his photography class (my mom has a really cool yard). We drove back down to the East Bay and met up with Leah and Simon, who had suggested visiting the Albany Bulb. Leah's already done a great job writing up the experience (and her photos are, of course, far more fabulous than mine) but I was glad I went. I'd heard about the place when I lived there, but I never went, and from what I understand it was our last possible day to ever be able to see it the way it was as they brought in bulldozers the next day. Highlights for me were the "library," balancing on a log with Simon, and rock hopping through the bay to get to the other spit of land.

After our trip through the bulb, we went up to the Telegraph area of Berkeley and had some tasty Indian food. Then we left for the airport, successfully returned the rental car, and had an interesting experience going through security and waiting for our flight as the Raiders game had just let out and at least half the people in the airport had gone to the game and were flying home (I assume to Southern California) on Southwest. My faith in humanity left something to be desired, though perhaps it was just the particular population of Raiders fans from LA. But I gotta say, if your pockets are hanging out of the back of your cutoff shorts and I can see your buttcheeks, your shorts are TOO SHORT. Now get off my lawn.

The flight home was far less painful for me and our kitties were very happy to see us. It was a great trip, much less eventful than last time (woohoo!) and nice to spend time with family and friends without feeling like we had to stick to so much of a schedule. Our next trip out there won't be until Christmastime.