Friday, October 31, 2008

Memories of Halloween Past, Part 2

This week brings a plethora of birthday celebrations, as three of my friends celebrate natal days in this week and my mom's birthday is today. Dan and I had flowers sent to her at school in honor of her big day. I'd hoped to be able to fly out there for a visit, but a) we've spent a ton of dough on trips to CA in the past year and change, and b) I've spent the last five weeks traveling so I'd kind of like to stay at home, and c) I only get to see Dan on the weekends so had I gone out I would have gone two weeks without seeing him, essentially. I realize it's kind of silly considering the first year and a half of our relationship we lived in 2 different STATES and saw each other maybe once a month, but in the past several years have living together I've grown accustomed to seeing him all the time.

A blog that I read sometimes had a contest earlier this month for people to send in stories and/or photos of the best or most memorable costumes they've ever had. I didn't see the post in time to send anything (and I couldn't top the winner anyhow) but it got me thinking about costumes I've worn.

When I was little, my mom made my Halloween costume every year. I was a tomato plant, a princess, a clown. One year I don't remember what I wore but my sister went as a flower in a flower pot (an old lampshade frame covered in brown fabric was the pot) and she won the fire station's costume contest for her age group. Her prize was a My Little Pony puzzle, and I was So Jealous.

As I got older, my costume ideas got more unusual. In the fifth grade I decided to make my own costume - I was "Over the Rainbow" and drew the Oz characters on a mortar board, wore the most colorful and stripiest clothing I could find, and constructed a rainbow-shaped cardboard hat, painted like the rainbow. I think my dad helped by drawing some birds on cardboard that I cut out and attached to the top.

Unfortunately, the only photographic evidence of this costume that exists is in my fifth grade yearbook. And it's a b&w photo. Maybe someday I'll scan it.

In sixth grade, I decided to be Mac Tonight. Not Mac the Knife. Mac Tonight, from the McDonalds commercials with the guy playing the piano who had a moon head. My mom helped make the moon head, and surprisingly, a few people knew who I was. I was a gypsy, a spider, Scarlett O'Hara. In college, my costumes were mostly put together at the last minute and involved lots of makeup. I never did the sexy/slutty thing, though.

Then, in December of 2000, I saw the movie The Nightmare Before Christmas on a big screen re-release. I loved it. I loved Sally in particular. Then and there I decided to grow my hair out so I could be Sally for Halloween of 2001 - and I did! I rented the movie a few times so I could get it just right; I sewed that costume by hand, painted my face blue, dyed my hair red. It was a great costume. Since then, my costumes have been, for the most part, not as exciting. Dan and I dressed as Lucy and Charlie Brown my first Halloween in Colorado, Dan even going so far as to shave his head (save one lock over the forehead). Since then, I've been out of town for work most Halloweens so I haven't gotten much into costuming, save two years ago when I made Dan a Max from Where the Wild Things Are costume and I went as Pippi Longstocking (henna'ing my hair again).

I love costumes, and I love to dress up. The Dorothy costume this year was hand-sewn for my 23rd birthday party (a costume party, natch) and the only new part was the ruby slippers. I think they turned out pretty well, though if I ever intend to wear this costume again I should really get a different blouse. Dorothy-Busting-Out is not the best look.

The question is what Dan and I will do tonight, and tomorrow night. We have a lot of options but haven't made any decisions about what we will do. There are concerts, parties, pillow fights, and there is a slight possibility we'll get a few trick-or-treaters, though when they don't wear costumes I just get kind of pissed off. Because if I'm 29 freaking years old and dressed as Dorothy and you want me to give you some candy, you're going to have to do better than Crazy Normal Looking Kid Wearing Regular Clothes. I mean, even Adam Sandler was more creative than that.

(Most photos were taken on Sunday after we attended the Obama rally. Dan's got photos he took at the rally here.)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Even Weebl and Bob are impressed with Obama

To add to my husband's videos, here's another tasty link for you.

Mmm, pie!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Three down, two to go

Day of Odin: Spent all day (8-4) training here in Denver. Luckily we got out about an hour earlier than scheduled, so I had a chance to go to the gym. Then, me and my raging headache drove down to Stepford Springs. I had a fantastic meal (seriously, the place where we were has the BEST food) and got to bed at a reasonable hour and because of my Thursday meeting's late start, I got to sleep in.

Day of Thor: Beautiful day in Stepford surrounded on all sides by really expensive houses and people who make a lot of money and are very religious and are most certainly going to be voting for McPalin. I was allotted five minutes to present an update about my program (material that takes over 4 hours to present at a training) so I did my best and I think it went pretty well, though my heart rate is never that high unless I'm sprinting, so it was weird to feel it like that when I hadn't been doing any exercise whatsoever. I estimate I spoke in front of 200 people, which is about 4 times larger than the largest crowd I've ever addressed, and my news was pretty much all bad, so since nobody threw tomatoes at me I guess I didn't suck too badly. I snuck away during one part of the day to work out and two people in the resort's gym were wearing McCain/Palin tshirts. Alan Greenspan was eating his own foot on the teevee.

Later that afternoon/evening there was a going-away shindig for two people in my unit who are retiring, and after the early evening festivities a group of us decided to continue the party at the Golden Bee, a reconstituted 19th century pub where the beer is served by the yard, half yard, or pint, and where a piano man plays requests while the patrons all sing along. A good time was had by all; there was drunken singing and dancing and debauchery of all sorts, and this is the reason there were bees on my boobs (the staff at the Bee periodically toss stick-on fabric bees at patrons).

The shuttle returned me to the resort at around 11 PM and I figured I'd be sleeping shortly thereafter, but I couldn't sleep until almost 2. So that sucked.

Day of Freya:

Day 2 of a 2-day long meeting is always tough, especially when Day 2 is a Friday. Luckily, we finished early and I got home, unloaded, returned the car, and walked home by 4 PM. It was the end of a very, very long week and I was still feeling a little head cold-ish. Stepford Springs, at least the part where I was, is very beautiful this time of year, but the place gives me the creeps and I was so glad to be back in Denver.

I have another training on Wednesday this week, down in Stepford again, and then up north the week after, and then I am FINISHED. Thank Jeebus.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bees on my boobs

Story next week.

For now, this:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

How to complete a Halloween costume

Step 1:

Figure out what to be for Halloween. Realize you have a costume you've never used for Halloween (but did use for a costume birthday party 6.5 years ago). Pray it still fits. Try it on. It fits! Mostly. Your boobs have grown more than a cup size, so the blouse is a little bit tight in the chesticular region.

Step 2:

Realize that on the first go-round, the crowning glory of your costume didn't work out so well. Resolve to get it right this time. Decide to cover a pair of shoes with sequinned red fabric rather than paint and glitter this time; far less likely for moop (matter out of place, a Burning Man term) to occur this way. Obtain necessary fabric. Look through your shoes to see if any of them will suffice. Decide you need a new pair specifically for this venture. Look at Payless Shoe Source. Finally acquire cheap pair at Cross Dress for Less.

Step 3:

Assemble necessary materials for Operation Ruby Slipper. Not pictured: Hot glue gun used for finishing touches.

Step 5:

Make slippers. Get fingers all encrusted with hot glue. Get annoyed at Dan because he sent back the Wizard of Oz to Netflix so you can't pause the movie on the closeup of the shoes.

Step 6:

Get ready for party. Pin blouse closed. Attend Halloween party populated with a plethora of very small children (most of whom are not yet speaking) and adults who are, for the most part, not culturally American. Thus, when you arrive, you realize you have to remove your shoes, making your costume less obvious to the other partygoers.

Step 5: Have a good time. Marvel at the size of the small child of the hosts, recipient of this blanket. He's about 20 months old and nearly 3 feet tall, but doesn't he look cute in his costume?

Friday, October 17, 2008

I like pie.

That, right there, is my motto. I discovered it thanks to a link on a message board to weebl and bob. Nothing better than pie.

Last weekend, it was really, really cold. We harvested all our basil and tomatoes on Saturday night in order to get some use out of them because it was supposed to freeze. Dan made homemade pasta sauce and I baked an apple pie. Actually, I baked an apple pie and an apple turnover type thing because I prepared too many apples. For some reason, the apples all disintegrated (first time that's ever happened to me!) during baking and so the pie is more like an applesauce pie, but it still tastes really good. Here's how it went.

7 large granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1/3 cup white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
lemon juice to prevent browning

Prepare apples and toss with the other stuff.

This made too many apples for the pie so I decided to make extra crust and bake them into a pie pan-less pie turnover-y thing. Next time I'll use only 5 or 6 apples.

Crust (I winged it, increasing proportions of my usual pie crust recipe, and also using some whole wheat flour):

2 cups white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
whatever spices sound good (I used some cinnamon and some nutmeg)
5 1/3 tbsp butter-flavored vegetable shortening (I keep mine in the freezer)
1 stick cold unsalted butter
enough cold water to get it to stick together

Sift flour/spices together, then use a pastry blender to cut in fat until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add cold water by tablespoon and toss with fork until the dough all starts to stick together a little. This was hard to work with. There's probably a reason why you're only supposed to make 2 crusts' worth at a time (and I essentially made 3).

Divide into thirds. Roll out each third on a floured surface, adding flour to dough and rolling pin as necessary. Put bottom crust in deep dish pie pan. Add apples until pie is brimming. Add top crust and pinch sides to seal crust. Poke some holes in the top. With remaining crust, put remaining apples on one side of third crust and fold over the top, sealing edges with a fork. Bake both pies at 350 for 45 minutes or until top of pie is browning and it smells done.

Luckily, though I winged the crust and came up with the crazy turnover idea for the leftover apples, it turned out to be really tasty. I may start using whole wheat flour in my crusts from now on because the crust had a lot more flavor than when I've just used white flour.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Durango Photo Essay

I spent Monday driving seven hours to the southwest corner of the state, to a small city called Durango. I spent Tuesday conducting a training and taking photos, and spent Wednesday driving home.

Here's some of what I got. I love Durango; it is one of my favorite places in Colorado. It's touristy but you can tell that people live there. The community is closely knit. There's a college, a culture of outdoor activity, and some beautiful scenery. Also, they have some pretty fantastic restaurants.

Unfortunately, this time my room did not look like a brothel, but I made do.

The infamous Strater Hotel, with Old West-themed bar, restaurant, and decor. They claim Louis L'Amour wrote some of his books here.

I saw lots of people hunting on the way down and the town was swarming with men in camo. My favorite part of this sign: cats negotiable.

I took most of these photos on Main Street, some of which retains old-timey charm (rather than faux-timey charm)

The best place for breakfast, hands down. They serve Dan's favorite coffee in the whole world. This time I sweet-talked them into selling me 2 pounds of coffee beans and it totally made his day. Oh, and I think they're a brew pub, but I'm all about the pumpkin grill bread.

Never let it be said that Durango takes itself too seriously.

I took this one just for Jive Turkey because I thought she'd appreciate that somewhere in the world, someone gets paid for being melodramatic. It says so right on the sign!

Inside the Strater

Also inside the Strater. The place is full of old stuff. I liked this framed poster telling people to call their business contacts instead of write.

On the way back, we stopped near the summit of Wolf Creek Pass and I was able to take some photos. This one looks like a painting or something. You can see lots of aspen still golden amongst the evergreens.

Most of the mountainous areas we drove through had snow and golden aspens. Then we hit Alamosa and it was all dry scrub from there.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Day of One's Own

I took yesterday off. Mental health day, calling in well, whatever you want to call it: that's what I did.

It was awesome. I slept in late; I walked around the neighborhood taking pictures of fall; I knitted and watched movies and napped and cleaned the kitchen and made a delicious dinner. It was the bestest day evar.

Here are some of the photos I took.

Leaves in Colorado do funny things. Sometimes, a tree will gradually change. Other times, one branch will change before the rest of the tree. Sometimes it'll change from the outside in, or the inside out.

This is a city aspen (not to be confused with an aspen in the mountains) which is why it isn't bright gold yet, but when it turns completely I'll take another photo.

These vines grow all over my neighborhood and the colors are so amazingly striking sometimes.

Playing around with the settings on my camera, I managed a closeup that wasn't blurry eventually. I love the bright yellow pollen pockets on the bee's legs (you can see if you click on the photo).

This bush will eventually be bright scarlet red, but so far just the tips of the leaves have begun to turn pink.

This tree was unusual just because random leaves had browned amongst the summery bright green.

One of my favorite trees in Denver is a silver maple. They are all over the place, and this time of year can be a range of colors from bright green to yellow to red to dark purple - and sometimes you can get 8 colors on one tree. I didn't have much luck getting a good photo, but you can see a variety of color on this one.

These vines were just hanging out.

Someone planted six or seven giant sunflowers in the little plot between the street and sidewalk. As you can see, they're no longer sunny.

Our garden's last hurrah before this weekend's predicted freeze. You can see our pepper, our tomatoes, our pizza thyme, basil, thai basil, and about 10 volunteer marigolds (we only planted half the ones you can see here).

And two things I made since last Friday are blog-worthy: Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies and Thai Pumpkin Curry with noodles. So here you go.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies: Healthier and tastier than you might think

1/2 stick unsalted butter (that's 1/4 cup)
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup canned pumpkin (a little over 1/2 the can)
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 bag chocolate chips (one cup?)

Cream together butter and sugar until mixture lightens and is fully blended. Add egg, vanilla, pumpkin, mix until blended. Add dry ingredients; mix. Add chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoonfulls onto greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 for about 10 minutes or until they look done. These cookies won't spread so each one will be the size that you make it on the pan. Makes about 50-60 cookies.

Thai Pumpkin Curry with noodles

1/2 can coconut milk
1 cup water
1/2-2/3 tsp green curry paste
2/3 cup canned pumpkin (approx.)(this was leftover from the cookies)

Chopped veggies of choice. I used:
1/2 medium onion
1/2 medium bell pepper
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
20ish green beans, ends trimmed, chopped into 2-inch pieces
1 cup zucchini, one inch slices and then quartered lengthwise
3 really large white mushrooms, sliced thickly

16 thawed frozen raw shrimp, peeled and deveined, tail off
juice of 1 lime
handfull of thai basil, chopped

Rice noodles to serve 2

Pour coconut milk and water in medium saucepan and heat. Marinate shrimp in 1/2 lime juice. Add green curry paste and canned pumpkin. Stir and continue to heat, allowing sauce to thicken. Meanwhile, heat water for noodles and heat a wok, adding oil. Quickly sautee onions, carrots, bell peppers and green beans in wok with other 1/2 lime juice and a little rice vinegar. Add zucchini. Add mushrooms. Add thai basil. Add shrimp. Turn down heat and add coconut/pumpkin curry sauce. Let simmer while noodles finish cooking. When noodles are done, drain and rinse. Serve curry over noodles; it will be thicker than soup but not pasty.

Substitue chicken or tofu for the shrimp, but if you sub chicken cook it separately from the veggies and add it when you add the curry.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Because boob touching before marriage is SICK AND WRONG

Saturday was a day of colors: of gray, overcast fall skies; of flaming orange and red and golden trees as we drove up into the foothills; rivers of shimmering gold aspens catching the intermittent sunlight amongst the dark evergreens. I was kicking myself all afternoon for forgetting my camera. Then, because Dan's parents were out of town we got to use their tickets to the CU-Texas football game. The walk up to the campus was all black and gold (CU) and muted rusty orange (Texas), and someone had put bright yellow-gold t-shirts in the stands, particularly in the student section. Thus, halfway through the (terrible, awful) game, I looked across the stands and noticed the same colors I'd seen earlier: patches of gold amongst darker color. (Some took advantage of the shirts by throwing them down on the field to protest plays or outcomes they didn't like; the shirts were the same color as a yellow flag). I hadn't been to a college football game since maybe 2000, and the games I attended while I was in college helped me discover some of my migraine triggers (loud unrelenting noise, humans screaming, the acoustics of such in a stadium). I'll never sit in the student section at a game again.

But I digress. While I wasn't impressed with the way CU played (it was really, really unimpressive) or with the CU band (I think I'm spoiled by Cal's band, which was always great), I was impressed with the blowup doll that was tossed around by students and made its way onto the sidelines at one point, at which time the CU mascot put one of the tossed t-shirts on her. And I didn't see what happened to her then, though I'm sure she is living a long happy life in a pasture somewhere. Equally impressive was the running of the CU buffalo at the start of the first and third quarters when the team came out. They have a real, live young female buffalo that gets run around the field, surrounded by 8 or 10 handlers, and she runs right into a trailer. Apparently she's replaced every few years because each one grows up and gets mean. And then she gets to go live a long happy life in a pasture somewhere.

We had good intentions for the remainder of the weekend, but our errands took far longer than expected so the only room that got cleaned was the bedroom (which, admittedly, probably needed it the most). I counted over forty books next to my side of the bed and another 20+ on my nightstand, which are all now back on bookshelves where they belong, and we definitely need more bookshelves or to sell a bunch of books or something, because we are bursting at the seams with all our books. We also bought a vaccuum because the one some friends gave us when we moved into our current place never worked well and recently hasn't worked at all. Is it funny that buying a vaccuum made me feel more Old and Married than getting married did?

Monday I spent running around like a chicken with my head cut off at work, trying to get everything finished (copies collated and folders stuffed and emails returned, follow-up calls, you know, all that stuff) before heading up to my first training in Glenwood Springs. I left work an hour later than I'd planned so I got to Glenwood right at six, with no time to stop and take photos of the most amazing fall color I've ever seen in Colorado. Vail pass was just incredible, as I was driving through with the afternoon sun hitting the mountains covered in bright gold aspen just at the right time. It quite literally took my breath away, and I really wished I hadn't been driving so I could have just basked in its beauty. Maybe it's like that every year, but I've never driven that way this early in the fall (usually the aspens have already dropped trou by the time I'm getting up there) and so never seen anything quite like it. People say that the northeast has the best fall color, but I'll put Colorado's aspens up against their maples any day of the week.

I spent the evening with Dan's cousin and her husband who live in the area and were kind enough to entertain me for a few hours. I got slobbered on by some dogs and mostly ignored by a cat, saw photos from their wedding four years ago and talked a little politics and a little wine. When I got back to my hotel, I took a warm shower and got into bed, thinking I'd fall asleep right away. But that's never the case when I'm away from home, particularly when I'm staying in a hotel rumored to be haunted (it was a sanitarium and a hospital at various times in its life), and my eyes were dry and red as I watched my first ever episode of the Duggar show on TLC or whichever channel that plays on. In said episode, Oldest JimBob Jr. (age 20) flew to Florida to ask some chick he liked (also age 20) to marry him. Notice I didn't say girlfriend, because they weren't dating (apparently, in the Duggarverse you're only supposed to start dating/"courting" once you've already committed to marrying someone). Of course, he asked her father's permission first, and he met her with her parents at a restaurant with a whole bunch of balloons and, of course, a camera crew. Nothing says "special" like balloons. So she said yes, took off her purity ring, put on the engagement ring, and they shared an awkward sideways hug. No full frontal contact, since that would be too intimate. And of course, no kiss (they spent the rest of the episode talking about how they were saving that for the wedding day). The two drove back to Alabama together, chaperoned by two of her siblings, and they sure did a lot of hand holding and saying "I love you" and Future OfJimbobJr looked sufficiently Stepford for the role. At one point JimBobJr also mentioned how he knew to look for someone like his mother, and Future OfJimBobJr was enough like his mother to get a proposal out of a horny 20-year-old. So, you know, good for them, but NO KISSING OR EVEN DECENTLY HUGGING BEFORE THE WEDDING? Too far, JimBobJr. Too far.

Needless to say, after watching that I did not sleep well. I woke up in time for a hasty breakfast at my favorite breakfast place in Glenwood (Daily Bread Bakery & Cafe) and then conducted a training from 8 AM to 5 PM. Then I drove the nearly 3 hours home.

I am wiped out and seriously considering taking tomorrow off work for a mental health day, or at least a half day. I would have done it today but had too much to do for the next training which is down in Durango and to which I have to DRIVE (I usually fly) so I will spend all day Monday driving and all day Tuesday training and all day Wednesday driving home. Fall in Colorado, you are beautiful, but you are exhausting.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Food on Friday: Lazy ass edition

This has been a really tough week for me. I'm still not over the trip to Philly (in terms of body clock resetting and catching up on sleep) and I've had a very stressful few days of planning my fall trainings, conducting four-hour meetings, and hearing bad news (my counterpart at the other agency who runs the program with me is leaving her job immediately after we finish our trainings in early November - which is just about the worst time she could possibly do that. I'm happy for her, but at the same time - argh!). I left work early yesterday in order to take a nap, and just as I was falling asleep the landlord called asking if I would be home so he could retrieve his forgotten keys. Needless to say the nap never happened. Thankfully, we have seen the last of our rotten upstairs neighbors (a long story) and new ones moved in last night. Let's hope they're a bit better than the last ones.

Also, Adina posted what may be the most awesome photo of me in existence. My only excuse is the 3 drinks and sushi I had in her company.

So: food.

Monday, I reheated a delicious salmon chowder Dan made Sunday night in honor of our six monthaversary.

Tuesday, I made burritos. Granted, I did a little twist and cooked up some summer squash with the onions and peppers and ground turkey, and seasoned it with taco seasoning (and kept the beans separate). But still: burritos.

Wednesday, Dan made split pea soup in the crock pot so I didn't have to do anything except fish out the bay leaves and puree it a bit with the hand blender. I did make corn muffins to go with, though.

Thursday I had thought ahead and pulled a chicken boob out of the freezer in the morning. When I got home, I defrosted it in some cold water, and eventually I sat in front of the refrigerator trying to figure out what to do with it. We had some green beans that needed et, and I was really craving mashed potatoes. And mushrooms.

This is what I came up with:

Balsamic chicken and mushrooms over mashed potatoes with steamed green beans

1/2 chicken boob, chopped into bite-size pieces
6 or 7 mushrooms, roughly chopped
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 medium sized yukon gold potatoes, diced into 1/2 inch pieces (skins left on)
4 cloves garlic, peeled
splashes nonfat milk
1 tbsp butter
3/4 pound green beans
balsamic vinegar
garlic powder
lemon pepper

Chop up chicken, mushrooms, and onion. In a large nonstick skillet, heat a dollop of olive oil and add onions over low-medium heat, stirring occasionally (letting the onions carmelize a little). Chop potatoes and peel garlic; add both to pot of hot water and cover to boil. When onions have are soft and starting to carmelize, add chicken and a splash or two of balsamic vinegar. Season with some garlic powder. Stir/toss to coat chicken and cook over medium heat. When chicken is nearly done, add mushrooms. Trim ends from green beans, chop into 1 1/2 inch pieces, and steam, adding a little lemon pepper if you like. Poke potatoes with a fork. If they are softish, drain water and add milk and butter; mash. When chicken and mushrooms are cooked and green beens are crisp-tender, turn everything off. Spoon some mashed potatoes onto a plate; top with chicken/mushroom mixture. Serve green beans on the side.

I don't know what to call this thing but it turned out SO GOOD. I only used a few ingredients but everything turned out delicious. Next time I might let the onions carmelize a little more but I was in a hurry.