Monday, December 31, 2007

It's the end of the year as we know it and I feel fine

Wow - it's been a long time since I wrote anything. Um, hi? Hey, it's the end of 2007! Woohoo! 2007 has been a fantastic year for us - we got engaged, I bought a car, we went on some road trips, we planned a wedding (mostly), and we're spending the last few hours of 2007 organizing our stuff for the trip to Italy. Which starts tomorrow! Hooray!

Christmas was interesting, and we spent this past weekend with Leah and Simon (thanks again for the wonderful hospitality, guys!) We've hung out with QIR, Guatemalaholla and the lovely Katherine, and had dinner with Sara and Ron. I tried on my dress, we checked off everything on the "must do" wedding list, and we had our engagement photos taken (luckily, I asked my younger sister about the makeup issue and she had some excellent suggestions, which I took, and they worked out very well. More about that another time.) Dan gave me an ipod nano for Christmas which I am very excited about using on the aeroplane tomorrow. Mostly I am really excited that we get to spend two weeks in Italy eating yummy food and walking all the time, and when I come back I'll have a good 9 weeks of gymming before I have to fit into my dress again. And then - we get married! For those of you who care about such things, it's t-minus 3 months and counting. We hope to have invitations out within a week after we get back. But you know, I'm just not going to stress about wedding stuff while we're in Italy, because I'd much rather focus on having a great time. Thanks to a lucky connection, we're spending our last night in Rome (before we fly home) staying in a super-fancy hotel and we're paying about a 5th of what the room would normally cost.

I'm going to try to blog once or twice while we're gone, but no promises. There will be plenty of stories and photos to come, however.

Happy 2008, everybody!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Someone else's lips

We made it to California yesterday after a VERY early flight (and no sleep Wednesday night due to Upstairs deciding to have a screaming, beating each other fight at 2 AM). Most of the day was spent tooling around the East Bay with QIR. We went to Costco and IKEA and the fabric store (no luck yet) and Trader Joe's and a variety of other places, but didn't have much success finding the gifts or other things we need. So today Dan and I BARTed over to the city to try our luck on the shortest day of the year.

I'm still looking for some pants to bring to Italy that are not jeans. They'd preferably be some sort of cargo pants, maybe olive green or a brown, with material that is comfortable and not too thin (gotta stay warm). The China pants were perfect (green cargo pants) and I am still bemoaning their demise. Today I tried Ross, Marshalls, Old Navy, H&M, and had absolutely no luck. Dan found a great thin weather-resistant jacket and some chinos, so he's happy, but I still don't have any damn pants. We were also shopping for other people and had no luck finding a particular gift that a particular relative of mine wanted after trying many many stores. Eventually I gave in and went to a Very Expensive Store to buy the exact product (rather than going with something similar and less expensive). Oh, well.

We also went to the big fancy fabric store in SF called Britex looking for bmaid dress fabric, and after searching all 3 floors of amazing textiles we found the perfect fabric - for only $35/yard. Ugh. I'm going to bring my sisters in there when we come down to the city on Sunday to do Extended Family Giftmas to see what they think.

One store I'd wanted to go into for a while but had been a little afraid of was Sephora. I haven't regularly worn makeup since high school, and I have absolutely no idea how to go about doing foundation or concealer or whatever needs doing to make my skin look all nice in photographs/for wedding. I was told to go into Sephora, explain my issues, and ask for some assistance. So I finally went in there and tried it. The first person who was helping me directed me to a particular line and then sat me down on a stool to put some on my face (to see what I thought). I want to look like me in my pictures, not like I'm wearing a mask, but I'd also like my skin to look nice. The girl seemed like she knew what she was talking about, and I thought the stuff she put on me was OK. Then she got called away to another part of the store and told this makeup artist guy to come over and finish the consultation.

Of course, as soon as I said the word "wedding" and "photos" this guy got a malicious half smile and wiped off the stuff the first girl had put on me, then ran all over the store grabbing products and smearing them on my skin. He was just as frustrated as I've been with the weird dry patches on either side of my mouth (they've been there for a few months and I can't figure out how to make them stop peeling). He suggested a variety of product options (many of which I've already tried) and finally asked if I'd tried Crisco. Or butter. Um, no.

He plastered and applied and troweled, telling me to pay someone to fix my eyebrows and only managed to poke me in the eye once. There were products and products and maybe some more products, eye shadows and liners and mascaras and then he started in on my lips, drawing waaaaay outside my lipline and then drawing some more, filling in with some kind of sticky goo that smelled like banana (bleah). When he was finally finished, the malicious half smile had turned into a malicious full smile, and I looked in the mirror to see someone who was not me.

The worst part was definitely the lips. Not only were they not actually my lips, the color he had used (some sort of weird nude tone) made them look like a butthole - you know, that old-school look with the liner darker than the inside. I called Dan and told him to meet me at the Shoe Pavilion, warning him that I didn't look like myself. When he saw me, he looked a little startled. Hell, when *I* saw me, I looked a little startled. I didn't look like me. I didn't even look pretty. I mostly looked like a drag queen with someone else's lips. We walked to Chinatown to eat lunch and on the way I stopped in to a $tarbucks and spent a few minutes washing my face off with paper towels and water (sadly, there was no soap). I considered asking Dan to take a photo of me in all my bizarre glory but ultimately decided that nobody needed to see me looking like that. I left the mascara alone, since I didn't need it running all over the place, but I managed to get most of the other products off my eyes and face and put my lips back to (mostly) normal. When I walked out, I mostly looked like me wearing mascara, which is far better than the look I had when I left Sephora. I guess I'll figure out the foundation thing on my own and there's no way in hell I'm drawing on new lips when I do wedding makeup.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Wednesday Wedding Day: The saga of the bridesmaids' dresses

When we first got engaged, I didn't give any thought to possible attire for attendants. There were way too many other things to think about. However, my Oldest Friend (and Maid of Honor) started sending me links to bridesmaid dresses, so that made me think about what I might want the women who are doing me the honor of standing up with me to gird their loins with on the day of our nuptuals.

Honestly, I really don't care all that much. I'd like them to be comfortable, and to be able to wear whatever it is again. At first I was very hands-off about it, telling them that I didn't care At All what they wore. Then, Dan figured out what his attendants will be wearing - and while they won't all be wearing the same thing, they will match thematically and somewhat color-wise. I began to realize it might look a little strange to have the groomspeople coordinated and nice-looking and the bridesmaids haphazard. So I asked them, what did they want to wear? We tossed around the idea of staying with one color and doing variations of dress (top/skirt? dress? pants?). Or maybe everyone wearing a different color in the same sort of outfit. Or maybe everyone wear whatever they want, but I get/make them matching shawls. Or - I don't know. It seems silly to me for them to buy a dress they'll never wear again (though I know this is seen as common in this country) or for me to buy them a dress they'll never wear again.

Then, on the alternative wedding planning message board I haunt, I found a link to a company that makes these bridesmaid dresses that are totally customizable and wearable in a ton of different ways. For $300 apiece. Next to it was a link to a crafty message board, with over 100 pages of photos and stories people had written about their experience making, essentially, an identical dress. There was also a link to someone's blog, who had come up with the pattern and made the dress first - the other hundreds of people just followed her lead. And amazingly enough, it seemed pretty simple, for a dress that could be worn in a variety of ways, and such an easy pattern that it seemed anyone could make it.

I've made clothing before, particularly quite a few costumes. I've altered a lot of things as well. I have a sewing machine, and a decent working knowledge of sewing. So hey, maybe I could make these dresses for my bridesminions! It didn't seem terribly difficult, and looked like a dress that all of them would look good wearing, with about a million different ways it could be worn. After emailing them with the links and the explanation, they all seemed to be on board with the idea. The one caveat that I set was that I had to make the dress first, to see how doable the whole plan was, before we really decided that this was the way to go.

The day came on Sunday afternoon. I had several yards of (nonstretchy) fabric I'd bought to make a Ren Faire costume years earlier and never made. I had a sewing machine. I had scissors. I spent hours pouring through all 104 pages of examples and tips and troubleshooting and alterations for this simple dress pattern, a little apprehensive about measuring and cutting my fabric, unsure whether I could make it work. But eventually I got up the nerve to measure and cut, to make some changes due to the unstretchy fabric, to pin and eventually to thread my machine and sew. It's a one-seam dress (if you have the kind of fabric you don't need to hem) - I needed three, despite not hemming, because I cut a couple of parts wrong. Luckily, this was just for practice.

45 minutes after I began, I sat up and took the pins out of the dress. It was done. I tried it on. I tied it one way, and then another. It worked! Even with nonstretchy fabric, the dress worked, and now I have a summery dress to wear (after I hem it, of course), and I'm fully confident that I can get the pattern to work for all four of my henchmaids (even the one with boobs - luckily, lots of busty/curvy women had made the dress and given suggestions for alterations). Hell, if we can agree on some fabric (and I don't care if they all wear the same color as long as they're in the same color group), I can make all the dresses while we're in California, and they'll be there waiting until the end of March. The Oldest Friend/MOH won't be around, but the best part is that we're essentially the same size/height, so if it will fit me it will fit her. QIR and I are going fabric shopping while we're out there, possibly tomorrow, and the dresses may all be done by Christmas.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sometimes the dinosaur eats the house

Earlier this morning I stood outside, watching a dinosaur devour an old house. Crunch, crunch went the enormous jaw, as the dinosaur climbed up onto the pile of old bones and guts to reach for more house. It was at once comical and disturbing, to see the insides of a house as the dinosaur cocked its head and took enormous bites out of windows and chimneys. The house was naked, exposed, its secret insides put on display for all the world to see. The hungry dinosaur roared a mighty diesel-fueled roar, its metal neck clanking and hissing, as it took bite after bite of history and digested it into rubble.

Today marked the beginning of the end for a historic Denver house. Once a stately mansion on a street lined with stately mansions, the Woodward House was the last such structure on the block. Now surrounded by office buildings and apartments, the house was deemed too expensive to renovate, and, being state property, finally got the axe earlier this month. As I understand it, the place was filled with asbestos and no takers were found when the offer was put forth to have an independent person pay for renovations in exchange for a lifetime lease.

The house sat empty since state employees stopped using it as office space sometime in the '70s, and weather, vagrants, and animals all contributed to its delapidation. It was the last reminder that once upon a time, this part of town was where the millionaires lived. You can read more about the house here, which I found to be an interesting history.

I gotta say, it was simultaneously gut-wrenching and fascinating to watch this piece of Denver history be reduced to bits of old wood and brick, and while I watched I imagined who once lived in the house, who stoked fires in the fireplaces, who had babies or got sick and died in the bedrooms. Every old house tells a story. This house was no different. It continues to tell a story of violence and loss, of reducing something once great into worthless junk, of the importance of preserving pieces of the past so we remember how time changes all things. In a few months, where the Woodward House stood will be a parking lot.

Monday, December 17, 2007

I tell you one thing, you wouldn't catch me playing Clara.

I guess if one were to look at our weekend objectively, in terms of what was accomplished and what triumphs were celebrated, one might deem it successful. We finished the errands that needed finishing (though some were less fruitful than others - no pants yet, and the yarn I needed to finish a gift was discontinued in May so I had to find a replacement which, unfortunately, paled in comparison). The kids from the angel tree we picked out will be getting some good presents. We had a nice brunch with Dan's family and did a small gift exchange. I finished a good number of giftmas presents and will easily finish the remainder in time. Dan finished step one (which was the big, long, time-consuming step) of the invitations. We got a few more addresses confirmed, the laundry's almost finished, and each of the kitties got quite a bit of attention.

Yet I feel that there was so much more that needed doing, so much more we could have done, so many things that just Have To Get Finished before we leave on Thursday. I could have foregone the procrastination part of the Bridesmaid's Dress Experiment (more on that later) and instead just jumped right in, damn the torpedoes. I could have been knitting in the car. I could have started packing instead of taking a break from knitting to play on the internets last night. But sometimes people need breaks, right? Everything will get done, at least everything that's really important. I hope.

I'm not used to having three separate major events competing for space and time in my brain. Wedding, Christmas, Italy. Wedding, Christmas, Italy. One thing I'd considered was packing for Italy in a separate bag, bringing it to California and just not touching it until we got on the plane for Rome - essentially bringing everything for California in one bag and for Italy in another. I haven't decided yet whether or not I'm going to do this. Operation Pack for Two Trips starts tonight. I'm actually kind of glad we decided not to buy presents for people until we get to California, so we have that much less to deal with in terms of schlepping it on planes and making sure we have things in time. And something I'm super excited about is that we have tickets to see Mark Morris's The Hard Nut on Thursday evening - a production I haven't seen since I moved to Colorado, and one I've been talking up for years, so Dan's excited about it too. We listened to the Nutcracker Suite in the car on the way to Dan's parents' house and I challenged myself to remember which dance went with which piece of music - I remembered most of them.

I never had the chance to dance in a production of the Nutcracker; the studio where I took classes didn't perform it until after I left (my sister was in it, though). They had to wait until they had a boy old/strong enough to play the role of the prince. If I had been in it, though, I probably would have wanted to play the role of the Snow Queen. She is so much more awesome than the Sugar Plum Fairy, and I don't think I have the comedic chops to play the Rat King. But then again, white leotard/tutu is far less figure-forgiving than other costume possibilities. Maybe I'd play the sugar plum fairy after all.

Friday, December 14, 2007

It's Friday again, so I'm going to write about working out

Monday: zumba/cardio kickboxing 60 minutes, power pump 60 minutes
Tuesday: 35 minutes elliptical 15 minutes crunches/leg lifts
Wednesday: 60 minutes yoga
Thursday: 60 minutes pilates plus
Friday: 30 minutes hardcore elliptical

I'm still reeling a bit from the fall last Friday. The nasty bruise on my leg is about two inches in diameter and still sticks up a good centimeter or two from the rest of my calf. My neck still hurts, both shoulders are feeling wrenched, and my butt was too sore yesterday to sit on the bike seat for my spin class, so I didn't take it. That put me a little below goal for hours spent in the gym this week, and on top of that a last-minute meeting requiring mandatory attendence kept me from the class I was going to take today, so instead after the meeting was over at 2 PM I rushed into the gym, worked out like crazy for 30 minutes, and rushed back to work in order to eat lunch before Unfed MLE overtook me completely. Hey, 30 minutes is better than nothing, right?

The Wednesday yoga class (new class of the week!) was supposedly vinyasa, though we did some crazy binding poses and held them for a long time, so there was very little flow about the whole thing. I'm going to start taking vinyasa classes from the guy who I know does good yoga classes, and it's really flow from one asana to the next.

Despite my paltry 5.5 hours in the gym this week, I suddenly seem to have discovered my abdominal muscles again when I look in the mirror. And there's a line, as Dan pointed out to me. I'm starting to feel pretty good about how I look, both in clothes and out of them, and optimistic that I'll be able to keep it up until March. My goal at this point is just to not gain any weight (and if I manage it, it will be the first winter in memory that I haven't) and have the dress fit perfectly (or, if anything, be a little loose) come wedding time. The only exercise I'll be getting for about four weeks will be walking (in Italy, in California) and running (if the weather's not too bad when we're in California), and I'm sure as hell not going to Italy and avoiding anything that looks yummy. Because what would be the point? Luckily, I'll still have 10 weeks after we get back to continue Operation Look Good in Dress.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

An open letter to me, circa early 1996

Dear 17-year-old MLE,

Hi! It's me, and it's now 2007. Honey, there is so much I could tell you about what cool things you're going to do and where you'll go and who you'll meet, but you'll just have to wait and see.

First of all, it gets So Much Better in college. Yes, really. You are really going to enjoy living in Berkeley. You'll get to eat all kinds of things you've never tried, and you'll even learn to like vegetables. And you'll never have to eat a hamburger again. You are also going to let things like alcohol pass your lips. I know, it's shocking, but true.

That guy you have a crush on, the one you haven't really even admitted to yourself? Yes, you're going to date him in college, and though you'll spend the first six months of the relationship completely insecure and convinced that his other high school friends are going to tell him to dump you, eventually you will become friends with them too and you'll all look back on it and laugh. It won't be the best relationship you'll ever have, but it's important because it will help you learn how to be with someone, long-term.

You may not realize it, but all those clothes that your mom saved from college are going to be in fashion in a few years, long after you wore them in high school. You'll look like a trendsetter, eventually.

Mom is right about a lot more things than you're willing to give her credit for. Including your eyebrows. You will feel so much better about yourself once you stop wearing so much makeup and start maintaining those caterpillars on your face. It's something you'll have to do every day, but you will feel so much prettier. Flirt! Flirt with all those guys in college. It's OK to flirt even when you're in a relationship. And definitely OK once you aren't anymore.

Yes, the acne goes away. Eventually. No, I won't tell you how long, but it takes longer than you'd like.

You are amazingly strong in so many ways, far more than you realize. You will have to quit ballet next year. You finally get your hips checked out at the University health clinic and they'll tell you to quit because the cartiledge is nearly gone. It will suck, but you will find other ways to enjoy being alive. They'll stop hurting once you stop dancing. And let's face it, while you're underweight right now (Yes, you are! No, you aren't fat!) you are never going to have a professional ballerina body. Girl, you have hips and muscles and curves and you like food way more than the taste of toilet paper. Plus, once you quit dancing you'll go up a cup size because you'll finally be at a normal bodyfat level.

College is going to be awesome. There will be drama, and there will be challenges, and there will be a C. Yes, a C. And you will feel lucky to get that C, and it will hold down your GPA, but it will teach you a lesson about not taking classes with 2400 people in them and expecting to do well. You will find interesting jobs and be able to live pretty frugally in college, in situations that are (for the most part) good environments. Don't be afraid to spend money on yourself once in a while. Enjoy yourself!

The internet is going to become much more important to you than you can imagine. You are going to meet so many people that live all over the place, and you are going to go on a Grand Adventure after college, and a particular website that helps you plan your Grand Adventure will lead you to friendships (and more-ships) with people you never would otherwise have met. It becomes far more than chatrooms with avatars, I promise. In fact, in 2007 most people in office jobs won't be able to do their jobs without it. Speaking of jobs, your first job out of college is going to suck, and your second one is going to be work that you really enjoy coupled with a horrible asshole boss and horrible working environment. But you'll figure it out. You'll also end up moving to another state to live with a boy! Yes, you'll miss California, but luckily the internet will help you figure out how to buy cheap plane tickets.

You will find people who love you for who you truly are. You won't have to pretend. You are going to end up meeting someone on the internet and someday you will marry him. No, I won't tell you his name, but he does have a goatee (yes, you'll still like those in 2007) and he'll love you (and you'll love him) more than you can possibly imagine. You'll have tons of adventures before you meet him, and you'll share adventures with him. It'll be awesome.


2007 MLE

(thanks to clink)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Wednesday wedding day: All the crap we have to do in California

So, we'll be in California for about 10 days before we go to Italy. While we're there, we've got a whole lotta things to do and a whole lotta decisions to make for the wedding, because (as I mentioned yesterday) it's the last time we'll both be out there until we drive out a week before the Big Day.

Here's what we have to get done while we're out there:

1. Meet with tent rental company at the venue to figure out what kind of tenting we need in case of rain. Luckily, they are a) local, b) have worked there before, c) it's off season, and d) I went to preschool with the kids of the owners of the company, so I'm hoping we get a good deal. It's not like a whole lot of the space will need tenting (and it's already a patio, so we won't need a floor and will only need walls if it's actually raining).

2. Dress fitting. I'm hoping the dress fits perfectly and it doesn't need hemming so the only alteration it will need is a one-point bustle to lift up the almost non-existant train for dancing purposes. The store will press it and store it for me until the wedding. It's a little nerve-wracking knowing I won't be able to gain or lose much weight after I have the dress fitting but have to stay pretty much the same size until the end of March. I guess I can lose a little, but I can't gain any. I think this is currently the most stressful thing on the list. Why am I so worried about it?

3. Meet with caterers to do our menu tasting. I'm loking forward to this one. I think our food will be yummy!

4. Meet with photographer to do engagement shoot. We'll probably take photos in the redwoods/at the ocean, though not sure exactly where yet.

5. Stop by the wholesale flower place to see what flowers they'll have in March as back-up for my mom's yard. We might just buy flowers from Trader Joes, too.

6. Find a place to get a cake! Neither of us needs anything frou-frou and we've gotten a recommendation for a bakery in the area who will do sheet cakes for not too much $$. So I guess we have to go eat some cake. Darn.

7. Find fabric for bridesmaid dresses (with assistance of bridesmaids). Because yes, I am insane, and plan to make them myself. One of the things on tap for this weekend is to make the dress for myself out of fabric I already have to see how difficult the process is. I'm not anticipating it being all that difficult; in fact it's quite similar to a costume I made several years ago and this time I have a sewing machine.

8. Trip to IKEA for more decor possibilities.

9. Meet with someone about maybe doing my hair. I haven't decided if I'll have someone else do it or do it myself, but since I've never had my hair professionally done (I did my own hair for prom etc.) it might be nice to splurge on something like that. My only concern is the cost of having someone open up the shop (or come to us) really early in the morning since the ceremony's at like 11:30 and we're doing photos ahead of time.

These are the things I can think of right now, though I'm sure more stuff will come up either before we go or while we're out there. Everything else will have to wait until the third week of March.

So what am I forgetting?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Whelmed, slowly shifting to the over- kind

I finished a book this week: The Android's Dream, by John Scalzi. Wil Wheaton talks about Scalzi in his blog on a semi-regular basis (I guess they are friends) which is how I'd heard of him, but Dan picked this book up at the library a few weeks ago and I read it when he was finished. Woo, one of the best and most original science fiction novels I've read in quite some time! I don't want to give too much away, but this is seriously funny (and well-plotted, well-characterized) stuff. Let's just say that several moments had me laughing out loud. Elements of the plot include a device to make farts communicate insults to an alien race, a church totally made up by a hack who wanted people to pay him money for it, an extraordinarily rare sheep, and an alien on rumspringa. If you are at all fond of humorous fiction, whether that be in a sci-fi-type setting or not, I highly recommend it.

It kind of hit me yesterday that we will be going out of town a week from Thursday and will be out of state and out of the country for nearly a month. There is so much to get done - mail to stop, kitty sitting to arrange, cleaning to do, packing and organizing. Plus there is all kinds of wedding stuff that we need to figure out when we go to CA because we both won't be there again until a week before the wedding. Plus it's Christmas (duh) and we have to figure out presents for everybody either from the internets (and have them shipped to mom's), when we get to CA, or made by either Dan or myself. Dear EEK and Monkey: Um, your giftmas presents may be a little late. By, like, a month. Dan's still finishing our invitations, and when they are finally finished we have to spend hours at my work printing them out. We have to figure out envelopes and address the envelopes and have them ready to mail when we get back from Italy.

And have I mentioned that I haven't cracked an Italy guidebook since October? We really don't have much of a trip itinerary planned, other than what city we'll be in on which dates. I guess it won't be that big of a deal to plan the trip on the plane across the pond (it's not like we'll be there during high tourist season). I was in the same boat when we went to China, but Dan had done all the planning so at least ONE of us knew what was going on. This time, we might be flying by the seat of our pants.

Speaking of pants, I am still lamenting the demise of my China pants. I bought them at a Cross Dress for Less a few weeks before our trip in 2005, and I wore them all through China, and wore them when we got back until they fell apart. Not the seams; the fabric. It wore through. That's how much I lurved those pants. I haven't had a chance to find more pants like them, but I desperately want a pair before we leave for Italy, because I don't want to deal with jeans when we're backpacking. So this weekend we have about 894085409348509 things to get done and on top of everything I need to find some damn pants. Or maybe I can do that in between all of the holiday- and socializing- and wedding-related activities in California.

I haven't even written about a really stressful thing that has been related to family and Christmas this year, but I'm not allowed to talk about it. Let's just say that planning a wedding and trying to buy nice Christmas presents and going to Italy all at the same time is both stressful and expensive. I'm kicking myself that Sunday felt like a wasted day; there's so much more that we (I) could have accomplished if I hadn't felt like poo. Oh, well, tonight there will be more projects on my needles and more progress on the invitations, and I'll pick a room and clean it when I get home (already went to the gym, so won't be going after work), and I will feel better because more got done. Maybe I'll even flip through the Tuscany book we borrowed from QIR before bed.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Next weekend we'll be attending a sing-along Messiah

Saturday was one of those very full days, with lots of snow that fell all day long, and going to the grocery store to buy yeast, milk, eggs, and a Christmas tree that we'll get to enjoy for all of 10 days, and decorating said tree with the ornaments we've started to amass since living together. I wasn't willing to spring for the tree that I *really* wanted (the noble fir, much prettier than the kind we ended up with) but I think the one we picked is fine. It makes our house smell like tree. Due to the aforementioned snow (and, along with, COLD), I wasn't up for making a wreath for our front door out of the bottom branches like I normally do.

The tree got beautified and brought inside to melt, decorated with lights and ornaments and, of course, our traditional toppers of Devil Ducky, the Frog that Lives Over the Door, and Poseable Jesus on Wheels (we got Jesus working for us!). The kitties mostly ignored our new evergreen friend. We played Christmas music and hung the stockings I made last year, and Dan made challah from scratch which kind of took all day. It's funny, but we're still rising any bread products in the bathroom because it is by far the warmest place in the house, and our bathroom smells like bread for a day or so afterward.

After a trip to the liquor store for a big-ole' bottle of wine, we got all gussied up and headed out to our friend Julie's annual latke party. We missed it last year due to its proximity to Christmas, the blizzard, and our lack of vehicle, so I was really looking forward to it this year - especially because Julie and the other hosts had arranged for a rabbi to come by and do a brief service called a havdalah to end Shabbat. I think the rabbi could tell that most of the people there weren't Jewish, so he took some time to explain what he was doing. Someone lit a multi-wicked braided candle, and the rabbi used grape juice instead of wine because he had to drive. Actually, the guy who owned the house tried to get him to use the leftover Manischewitz, but the rabbi told him to use that to clean grease off car parts or something.

The havdalah was pretty cool, and afterward I got to play with a wii for the first time (wii bowling), and we all waited patiently for the enormous pile of latkes to be done. Julie's latkes, while fantastic, are, of course, simple carbs cooked in oil. The kind of thing we almost never eat. There was also Julie's chicken soup (and Dan's challah), but the whole point of the party was the latkes, which you could smell from a block away. The only condiments allowed at the latkefest are sour cream and applesauce - yummy, but again, more carbs and fat. Since I have to fit into a dress in a couple of weeks, I opted to go light on the latkes, but unfortunately forgot to eat enough other stuff to make up for it, and the 3.5 drinks I had in 6 hours made for a very intoxicated mle.

And I paid for it. Oh, did I pay yesterday. I felt like poo all day long, especially since the food I did eat was stuff that really didn't agree with me. We had intended to go to Tuba Christmas, this Denver tradition where anyone in possession of a remotely tuba-like instrument is invited to practice in the morning and perform in the afternoon with the rest of the motley crew of people who show up. We went a couple of years ago and took some pictures, which you can see here. So let's pretend that I took these this year, and that we got to go to Tuba Christmas, and there were 90-year-old men tuba-ing alongside their great-grandchildren. But it was still snowy, and the high was about 19F, and neither of us wanted to get as bundled up as we'd need to in order to spend a couple of hours standing around listening to tuba music. So we didn't go, but instead he shoveled all the snow while I stayed inside and desultorily worked on knitting Christmas presents for people.

We did make it out of the house once, to Target for the angel tree gifts we picked this year, then to the grocery store. Outside the grocery store was a man with an oxygen tank, tubes in his nose and everything, smoking a cigarette. We decided to file that under "marginally better than smoking a cigarette next to an oxygen tank at a gas station." I was not myself all day long, and finally started to feel better after he made me a fantastic dinner. After dinner we continued watching Rome season 2 and my stomach got all oogy again - seriously, that show is GRAPHIC. It's a great show, but it doesn't exactly aid in digestion, what with all the blood and the sex and the bloody sex. I slept like the dead, and feel fine today. Except for that one spot in my mouth, which I bit accidentally yesterday, and today it hurts like a mofo.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Friday Fitness: Ouch!

All things considered, I did pretty well this week.

Monday: 50 minutes of cardio, 60 minute Power Pump class
Tuesday: 35 minutes cardio, 60 minute Yoga for Athletes (finally!)
Wednesday: took the day off
Thursday: 60 minutes hardcore Pilates class, 60 minutes awesome spin class

This morning, I was leaving for work and I tripped and fell on our back steps. I'm not sure why; they weren't icy (though it did rain sometime early this morning and so they were a bit wet) but I was wearing my backpack and had my hand on the rail, so my arm ended up wrenched behind me and the backpack kind of crunched into my neck as I fell. My ass is bruised, and my neck/back seized up immediately. It felt like a reprise of the whiplash feeling from the car accident I was in last year. I went back inside, popped two aleve, and caught my breath (seriously, it was scary!) before I strapped on the backpack again and walked to work.

Now, I hurt. I probably don't hurt as badly as I would had I not taken all the drugs, but my neck and shoulders and back are Not Happy. I'm really annoyed, because I wanted to take the cardio kickboxing/zumba class at 11:30 this morning. Somehow, I don't think that's such a good idea. Maybe instead I'll go in and do yoga at 1:30. I'm just glad it isn't worse, because I don't want to have to stop going to the gym for any length of time. I feel like I'm in a good groove; my body feels good and it's such a good stress reliever for me. There's been some major family-related stress going on for me this week and it's so nice to push myself to a sweat or turn into a pretzel and I don't have to think about it for that little while. I'm starting to feel pretty strong and powerful, like my body is capable of great things. Also, I like that my jeans are loose.

New class this week was the Yoga for Athletes class. I must say, it was a little disappointing, maybe because I found the teacher to be a little weird, maybe because the poses she chose to have us do were more painful than they were productive (IMHO). I don't think I'll be taking that class again, at least not with that teacher.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Piers Anthony, a DeLorean, and kicking cancer's ass

In my recent 100 more things post, I mentioned having a penpal in high school. Actually, I had a lot of pen pals, but I knew all of the other people I wrote to. I was a letter-writing fiend. I was also a big fan of a variety of fantasy authors, including Piers Anthony (shut up. I was a kid.) One day, I got a copy of the Piers Anthony newsletter in the mail (I'd called the 1-800 hotline so they would send it to me). They only ever sent me the one, but in that one was a section that was essentially people who had written in to Piers asking him to hook them up with pen pals. One of the messages said something like "Kent, 16, was once seriously depressed and would like to hear from the opposite sex." Kent's Connecticut address was listed for all takers.

I thought to myself, Self? I am 15. I am still somewhat depressed (who isn't, when they're a teenager?) And I am the opposite sex. I like writing letters, so why don't I write a letter to Kent? And I did. I wrote him a letter. I don't remember what I said now, but I'm sure it was full of angsty teenaged girl things. I probably decorated the envelope in some interesting fashion, as was my wont at the time. I didn't think anything would come of it, but a week or so later there was a response in the mail, a letter back from Kent. So I responded. And he responded. He made me a mix tape; I made him a mix tape. He told me about his dream of owning a DeLorean coming true. I told him about wanting to travel around the world. He told me that he'd received tons of letters after his initial ad, but that I was the only person he wrote back more than a couple of times. I think after we'd been writing for a year or so, we talked on the phone once or twice. Our junior year, Kent asked if my mom would let me come out to Connecticut to go to prom with him (I asked; she said no), but then he started dating a girl so it was a moot point anyhow. He heard about my travails with various boyfriends, I heard about his girlfriend; we exchanged photos. He even sent me a photo of his beloved DeLorean. Kent developed the habit of spray painting the envelopes he sent me, so each one is different. And yes, I still have them in a box in the closet at my mom's house. I kept all the letters I got in high school.

I went to college and I think he did too, though he kind of took the long way around. We continued to exchange Christmas cards but eventually lost track of one another. One time toward the end of college I googled his name and came across a site for the band he was in, so I wrote an email to the email address on the site and he wrote back! So we did the letter thing again, only in email this time. He sent me some promotional materials and a newspaper article about his band, and I even liked the songs on the CD he sent me. He started dating a girl named Christine. I graduated college and entered the real world. He sold his DeLorean. He finished undergrad. I moved to Colorado.

Again, time went on, and our correspondence waxed and waned (primarily consisting of the occasional email and annual Christmas card). Dan and I went to visit his brother in DC in the summer of 2004, so before we left I emailed Kent and said hey, do you want to come down and hang out, finally meeting in person after 10 years? He said, Sure, I'll take the train down. And I'll bring Christine (yes, the same Christine). Sweet! I told him. So we met up in the big train station near the mall, ten years after I wrote that first letter.

I learned some things about Kent during that afternoon that I hadn't known before (or, I guess, hadn't really grokked). He was a (liberal) Christian. He was a vegetarian, down to his non-leather boots. He was deathly allergic to peanut products. Christine mentioned how much she missed peanuts or anything nut-related, since he could die if she ate one of those things and then gave him a smooch. He can't even eat regular candy bars/chocolate, since most of those things are made in a facility that also processes peanuts. So sad. We (Dan, Kent, Christine and I) wandered around Arlington National Cemetary in the pouring rain. We met up with Dan's bro and the Lovely Katherine for pizza in the afternoon. Someone took a picture of Kent and I, friends from afar for years and years. It was a lovely afternoon and evening, and I was a little sad when they had to catch their train home, because I felt like I'd not only gotten to meet my long-distance friend but I'd made another in his girlfriend of five years.

Just a few months later, I got to go to Boston for work, and Dan came out for the weekend part of the trip. It was a short drive for Kent and Christine, so they drove down, picked us up, and we went to Salem for the day, exploring and having a grand afternoon. I found myself wishing we lived closer so we could see them more often.

When Dan and I got engaged, before we even set a date I called Kent up to give him the news and tell him to prepare himself for airplane travel. See, he's one of those "hates to fly" types. I told him it was a great opportunity for them to finally see Northern California, and we'd love to have them at the wedding. I called him a couple of months ago to say hi and ask about a logistical wedding-related issue, and he didn't have time to chat. We played phone tag for a while but I didn't hear from him again until I called him on Tuesday to wish him a happy 30th birthday. "I can't talk now either!" he told me. "Christine and I are going out to dinner with my parents. OH! And the day after I talked to you before, we got engaged!"

Woohoo! I exclaimed with joy. "Can I call you tomorrow evening, then, to chat more?" "How about tomorrow afternoon," he said. "We'll be going out tomorrow night with Christine's parents because she has to go in for surgery on Thursday."

"Surgery? What for?"

"Oh - I forgot I hadn't told you. Christine has thyroid cancer."

I called him back yesterday afternoon. He told me the story of how they got engaged (finally, after 8 years of dating!) and how they haven't set any plans yet for the wedding because they want to buy a house first. And he told me how a year ago, Christine found a lump in her neck and didn't have insurance, so she paid out of pocket for an inconclusive ultrasound, at which time the doctor told her to wait until she had insurace before she did anything further. She didn't get insurance until a few months ago, when she had the lump biopsied and lost the lottery, as most (95%) thyroid tumors are benign. It was cancer.

Turns out, though, if you're forced to pick a cancer to have, the kind Christine has is the best kind, seems like. I did a little research using Dr. Google and discovered that there are four kinds of thyroid cancers, and hers is highly treatable (97% cured with combination of surgery and drugs). Also? Because it's cancer of the thyroid, once her thyroid is removed, any leftover cancerous cells, being thyroid cells, are the only cells in the body to absorb iodine. And so a few weeks after surgery she'll be on a low-iodine diet and then take radioactive iodine, which will only be absorbed by any remaining cancer cells and kill them right quick. A targeted cancer treatment, if you will, that seems like it does the trick for almost everyone. Plus, she's still young and (other than the cancer) completely healthy. She should be fine.

The only downside to the radioactive iodine is that she'll be, duh, radioactive for a while as it makes its way out of her body. Sweat, pee, saliva, anything she touches will be a little bit radioactive. So she can't be around Kent or their cats or anyone else for a few days while she's all science-fictiony. I told Kent to tell her that she should take that opportunity to eat as much peanut butter, thai food, and anything else with peanutty goodness in it that her heart desires, since she can't be around him or kiss him for those few days. Might as well find a silver lining, right?

Christine went in for surgery early this morning. I'm going to wait to call until the weekend, to give her time to rest a bit. I feel a little bit helpless being 2000 miles away, but I know she's surrounded by people who love her and can provide whatever support she needs. I've been thinking about her today, and thinking about the trip to Connecticut (and probably New York) we'll get to make in a couple of years when they finally get around to getting hitched. I am glad to still have Kent as my friend, and glad that he has found such a good person to be his partner in crime. And all my good wishes are going out to Christine today, who is totally going to kick cancer's ass.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Wednesday wedding day: Judgy McJudgerson

Confession time: I read about other people's weddings on the internets. People I don't know and will never meet. People who have weddings very different than the one we're going to have. A lot of the time, it's because I like seeing photos of other people's weddings, and I like seeing the different crafty DIY-type stuff that can really make a wedding feel personalized. Many times I've read about weddings with budgets 10 or 20 times what ours will be, but never have I seen one before today that made me throw up in my mouth a little.

On a shall-be-unnamed website, they feature a number of brides writing about their own wedding preparations. Each of these women writes under a pseudonym, and each seems to have things like theme and colors and personalized details down to a T. I've been reading this site for quite a while now, so I've seen many of the bloggers go through the entire wedding planning process, and many of them stick around afterward to tell how it went and to contribute to the community. Another thing this site features is, occasionally, photos and a description of a wedding not that of one of the bloggers, but someone else. Most of the time the photos are nice and the description is interesting enough to read, and usually, even if it's obvious that it was a big-budget wedding, it's heartfelt and classy and the bride is excited to be married and be able to share with the internets how she(or they, but usually she) did it.

Today was an exception to that. The site featured a "real wedding" of a couple who met and married all within the same six months. Unusual, but fine. Right, Will/Nina? It's clear from the kind of wedding they had (white tie) and the venue/place (San Diego) that it was super-spendy. OK, not everyone has to price match everything to find the best deal, and some people are willing to go into lots of debt (or maybe they have generous and wealthy parents footing the bill). Not my money, not my wedding. No big deal. But what really got to me was that this bride went out of her way to BRAG about everything in each of her photos. How expensive things were, how holier-than-thou the couple was about various elements of their wedding (and relationship).

Their first kiss? WAS their FIRST kiss. Apparently, they never even kissed each other before saying I Do. Their entire relationship up to that point was long distance, so they saw each other a few times a month and DIDN'T EVEN KISS. We can only assume from the whole no-kissing thing that there was no-anything else either. Which, OK, but why is that important to tell the world? You're so uptight and want to feel so superior to other people that you don't even KISS the person you're going to marry until you're ALREADY MARRIED. OK, maybe 200 years ago. In this day and age? Uh, what? There's no way in hell I'd marry someone without at least finding out if they're a GOOD KISSER! Because that, to me, is an important thing to know. And as far as I know, Jesus didn't say anything about not kissing people. You're only making things difficult on yourselves.

The bride also went out of her way to mention that she maintained a long-distance relationship, planned a long-distance wedding, and studied/passed for the bar exam, all in six months. You know what, honey? Good for you. Lots of other people do far more stressful things in shorter amounts of time. It was YOUR CHOICE to plan a wedding so quickly, to spend oodles of money on things that ultimately seem like you put on an expensive show for your guests. If all you focus on is the pricey details, making sure everything matches perfectly and that your cake topper looks exactly like you and Mr. Right, how much work are you putting into your actual relationship? You know, with your husband? Who you didn't kiss until you were pronounced Man and Wife? Why do I somehow get the feeling that this marriage won't last more than a year, if you've never even lived in the same state, let alone in the same town or the same house and you're so bizarrely proud of your extreme prudishness that you have to tell the whole internets about it?

I think the part that bothered me the most was that they had a DRESS CODE for their guests. Maybe I'm just a stickler for etiquette, but I think you can put "black tie" or "white tie" on an invite. I don't think it's OK to put "Guests may only dress in black or white, men must wear tuxedos." Hey, people who are coming to our wedding: You can wear whatever you like. I sugest clothing; it might be cold.

Obviously, I don't know this woman, I don't know her husband, and I know nothing about their relationship (or their wedding) other than what she wrote in her photo captions. It's really not my place to judge or to tell other people how to run their lives. But for cripes sake, can you not have just a modicum of humility, or class, Mrs. I-spent-50+K-on-my-wedding-and-look-how-awesome-I-am. This wedding recap made me remember why I've never gone to The Knot (website for non-indie-types) because I'm too afraid to see every recap post look just like this. I have no interest in looking at photos or reading recaps that essentially boil down to "Look how wonderful and perfect I am!" Because, I'm sorry, but no person and no event, no matter how much money you spend or how well-orchestrated it is, is perfect.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Poop and projects

We had a really nice weekend, full of seasonal activities and a little bit of down time. Saturday Dan needed to print some stuff for a school project, so we went into my work and got a little taste of what printing our invitations is going to be like. Because yes, we will be printing them on the fancy color printer at work. Some of you will find out why! Bwahahaha.

We did a little shopping, then printed the 11x17 page at Kinko's (after a big rigamarole/hassle), and enjoyed the snow and rain as it came down. Later, we bundled up and headed back downtown to watch the Parade of Lights.

I thought I might get some good pictures, but unfortunately my camera had other ideas. The night setting on my camera takes a lot of juice and the batteries died after just a few shots. But the parade itself was a lot of fun, making me feel simultaneously child-like and also completely jaded at the silliness of it all. The best part, as always, was the Colorado Fire Tribe spinning their poi and burning hoops and whatnot, but that was closely followed by the Taiko drummers and of course the blow-up Kermit and penguin and most importantly, the dildo-headed Rudolph. Dan and I wondered aloud to each other quite a few times about what some of the people did to deserve having to dress up in some of the ridiculous costumes. I also remember what it felt like to hate just a tiny bit when the Nutcracker float went by, and that one perfect blonde little girl got to ride up in the top of the float, waving to the crowd like a beauty queen. Somewhere, the first runner-up in that contest is seething.

It wasn't QUITE as cold as it had been the last time we saw the parade, but it was still pretty darn cold. Unfortunately, our vantage point seemed to be where the marching bands took a break between songs, so mostly we saw instruments covered in all manner of decoration and lots of really tall kids marching in step. In one of the bands, the snare drums were covered in gift boxes and all I could think about was Justin Timberlake. Hee. The floats were floats, everyone was wearing those battery-operated LED lights, and two guys followed along behind the horses to pick up poo.

Sunday was sunny and in the 40s, perfect weather for walking outside. So we did. Who knows when we'll get another sunny weekend day to be out walking around? We walked to the zoo, about 2.5 miles, so Dan could take some photos for another project. Also, we like the zoo. We were hoping it would be snowy but it was cold enough to keep most people away anyhow. Our first stop was the lions, which were in a smaller enclosure than usual (the lions and the African wild dogs trade off spaces I think). There were two gorgeous females, a juvenile male (about 16 months old) who's going to be Really Big when he grows up judging by his paws, and an adult male. I've never heard or seen the lions do a whole lot at the zoo, but these guys were fully active and the male was vocalizing for most of the afternoon. Any time we were anywhere close to the lion area, we could hear him making lion noises. It was pretty cool.

I'd changed the batteries in my camera out for ones that we were pretty sure had been charged. I got two photos of the lions and the batteries died again. BOO.

We wandered around and saw the tiger, the reptiles (including this gigantic water snake that creeped Dan out, and some komodo dragons), the ungulates. The polar bear didn't seem to want to show himself, and the otters were swimming too fast to take pictures of them. We headed over to the bird area, then visited the gorillas. We swung by the bears and the dall sheep and mountain goats on our way back to the lions, because Dan wanted more photos of them. We passed some leopards pacing back and forth along the fence that separated them from several kangaroos. You could just tell that those leopards were thinking, "Someday, someday we'll get to eat those good-smelling hopping creatures!" We passed an enormous ridiculous-looking porcupine digging a burrow in the dirt. When we got back to the lions, the ostrich in the next enclosure over went a little crazy and chased the zebras around, which caused a great big ruckus. You haven't seen ridiculous until you've seen an ostrich squawking, wings stretched, chasing 8 zebras around and around. The lions found it pretty interesting, and they all looked over to see what the fuss was about.

The best thing about going to the zoo in the winter when it's cold (especially when it's snowing) is that when there aren't many screaming kids, the animals are much more relaxed and more likely to be playing/enjoying themselves. The gorillas were having a great time, the birds were playing, everyone seemed to be much more relaxed and happy than I've seen them in the summer time. The worst thing about going to the zoo in the winter is that it is full of canada geese, in addition to the peacocks and pigeons and runny babbits. The bad part about the canada geese is that they poop. Everywhere. I think the zoo staff is less likely to clean up goose poop when there aren't many people at the zoo to complain about it, which is why the pathways were covered in poop.

While we were at the zoo, it got progressively colder and overcast. We walked home, crossed through city park, and I attempted to get some of the goose poop off my shoes, but it didn't work because city park was also full of goose poop. By the time we got home I was both freezing and starving (it was 4 pm and we hadn't had lunch) so we each had noodle soup for lunch to warm up a bit. Dan got a lot of good photos (he thought; we'll see after they're developed today). I'm just mad that my camera pooped out on me TWICE, for two specific occasions at which I wanted to take pictures.

The other thing I did this weekend was make these. We don't have a tree yet but darn it, we're going to have one, even though we'll only be able to enjoy it for a couple of weeks.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Catching up

Because I took the last two days of blop to write the 100 things posts, I didn't write my literary post for the week, nor did I write my fitness update. Here's where things stand on those fronts.

I finally finished "The Gravedigger's Daughter" by Joyce Carol Oates. I'd never read anything by Oates before, though I had heard of her. The book looked interesting in the library, so I thought I'd give it a shot. I'm a pretty fast reader so I didn't think a 600-page book would be a big deal, but it took me more than a week to finish it because it was so darn heavy. It's no light reading, not the sort of thing you take for a trip to the beach. But the story is gripping and thoroughly satisfying, despite the unusual prose style.

The story begins from the perspective of the title character, Rebecca Schwart, the daughter of an immigrant German Jewish family. Her life is told in snatches of time jumping back and forth between past and present. It is clear that her life has not been easy, nor have the lives of her family members. She finally escapes an abusive husband and changes her entire identity (and that of her young son). The second part of the book chronicles her life as her new self and her sense of self-preservation as she moves her son around from place to place. The character's personality has changed along with her identity, name, and hair color. This second part is written very differently than the first. There is a part 3, but in order not to ruin any surprises I'm going to refrain from spoiling it. Though the book was a difficult read in terms of subject matter (abusive relationships, difficult childhood, what it meant to be Jewish in this country during/after WWII, disturbing imagery), I'm glad I made it through.

* * * * * *
Last week, I managed 2 hours Monday (cardio and Power Pump), a new class Tuesday (combination cardio latin dancing and cardio kickboxing), 40 minutes cardio Wednesday, the hardcore Pilates class Thursday (but no spin class, I needed the break) and full weight circuit with 20 minutes cardio on Friday. I loved the new class - they call it Zumba Kickbox or something and the first part of the class was some sort of fusion latin dancing, the second part cardio kickboxing. I'd never done kickboxing before (despite wanting to) because the teacher who has taught kickboxing at my gym up until this point has the most annoying voice I have ever heard. Hearing his voice when I walk by his classes makes me want to commit homicide. I'm glad they have this new teacher doing this new class, because I really liked it.

I was already sore from my 2 hours of working out on Monday and the new class totally kicked my ass, because on Wednesday I was as sore as the day after the first time I snowboarded. I hurt EVERYWHERE. So I took it relatively easy on myself Wednesday and Thursday and by Friday I felt OK. Saturday we did quite a bit of walking (walked from home to downtown and back twice); Sunday we walked to the zoo, around the zoo, and home from the zoo. The zoo is in City Park, about a 2.5 mile walk from our house, so if you add in all the walking we did while gawking at the animals, we probably walked 8 miles. I think I got enough exercise last week - I'm feeling pretty good. My intention is to continue at the gym every week day, and to do 2 hours at least 2 week days. I think 3 2-hour days might be pushing it a bit much. Plus, we're going to continue to get some decent amount of exercise on at least one weekend day. I've got a dress to try on in late December and I'd like it to be pleasantly loose. That way I have a little bit of leeway for all the gelato I'm going to be scarfing down in Italy.