Monday, March 30, 2009

525,600 minutes...and counting

Yesterday was one of those glorious days that makes Colorado springtime worth waiting for. We ran all our errands on Saturday, and in the process ended up finding a great, cheap place for breakfast burritos, eating fresh donuts from LaMar's (a Colorado institution), and buying a pineapple. The sun was out, melting away Thursday's snow. We got all our chores done on Saturday so Sunday could be a day to play, and relax, and enjoy our first anniversary of being legally married people.

It was a day of spinach, mushroom, and goat cheese omelets, of turkey bacon and freshly cut pineapple. A day of leisurely couch lounging, of preparing for yet another snowshoeing adventure (Dan still had the shoes rented, as it was his last day of Spring Break, so we wanted to take advantage.) Of driving up through Boulder and Nederland and along the Peak to Peak highway, of the Brainerd Lake recreation area, of men on cross-country skis pulling children in pods on ski runners, of dogs of every sort. A day of exploring a snowshoe-only trail, well marked until we came to this sign.

Thanks, Scarecrow, that's really helpful.

A day of frustration, as the weather was cold-hot-cold-hot up there at 10,000 feet depending on whether the sun was out or behind a cloud. Of the snowshoe trail dumping us out on a road, and frustration that we had to slog along mostly melted snow for an hour before finding the snowsoe trail again. Of discussing the merits of oval vs. teardrop shaped snowshoes, and of reaching our destination (see top photo) only to realize it was far later than we'd thought, hurriedly scarfing down luna bars, and making the decision to walk (and posthole, depending on snow depth) the road back rather than take the more enjoyable but longer and more time-consuming snowshoe trail. Of homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookies in the car, utter exhaustion, and the desperate need for a shower before we went out to dinner.

It was a day in which every so often we'd look at the clock, and say to each other, a year ago right now, I was waking up. I was picking wildflowers for my bouquet. I was excited, nervous, happy, posing for photos. And then, at 11:48 AM Pacific Daylight Time (12:48 PM Mountain), we were married, groom kissing bride, husband kissing wife. We looked at photos from the wedding as we lounged on the couch, and at dinner we talked about all manner of things, but during our moules et frite, our salmon salad and halibut dinners, our creme brulee and chocolate mousse and wine, I kept thinking how lucky I was to have had such a wonderful day a year ago, and such a wonderful year since. At home, we removed our constrictive clothing to allow for food lumps, and popped the cork on our last bottle of prosecco left over from the afterparty.

"I am so tired," I said. "Me too," he said. "But even after everything we've done today, I'm not nearly as tired as I was a year ago right now." "Me neither," I agreed. It was the longest day, it was the best day, it was a great day, one of many we've had in the last 365.

Today I have been thinking about one of the readings included in our wedding ceremony: Union, by Robert Fulghum.

Look at one another and remember this moment in time. Before this moment you have been many things to one another – acquaintance, friend, companion, lover, dancing partner, even teacher, for you have learned much from one another these past few years. Shortly you shall say a few words that will take you across a threshold of life, and things between you will never quite be the same.

For after today you shall say to the world –
This is my husband. This is my wife.

World, he is my husband. And I am his wife. It's been a banner year.

(photo of us by my aunt Kiki)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Snow day: The Aftermath

We ended up getting about a foot of snow yesterday, all told, though most of that fell before noon. We had blizzard conditions for most of the afternoon and evening (high winds, whiteout, etc.) but the actual snow was powdery during that part of the day and didn't add up to much volume. We had a lovely time hanging out, watching a movie, napping, eating popcorn, and drinking hot chocolate. I got some work done on my latest baby blanket. And this morning, we both had to go in to work, though we'll both end up leaving early (Dan is already home).

I took my camera on our walk to the grocery store, but forgot to put the memory card back in, so didn't get any photos of the snow in progress - but I did take some on my way in to work, and then of the view out the window closest to my cube.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Contrary Colorado, Cute Kitties

Remember how, merely yesterday, I waxed rhapsodic about spring in Colorado? This morning, when I got up it was cold and dry outside. 20 minutes later it began to snow. 40 minutes after that there were three inches of wet, heavy snow built up on our back porch, and I stood at our front window watching the snow accumulate on the white-blossomed trees across the street.

My walk to work was far wetter and colder than it had been in quite some time. I held an umbrella over my head, which succeeded in keeping my head dry but the rest of me got quite covered in ploofy (yay! ploofy!) wet stuff. I snapped a few photos to compare with the ones I got one week ago today.

I stepped through the door of work, hands aching in my crappy gloves (the good ones were still in the car from this past weekend's trip), only to find that everyone was being sent home. Apparently, we're supposed to get over a foot of snow today, perhaps even more, and the conditions were absolutely wretched and unsafe and will probably only get worse. I'm the only one who walks to work, so I can still make it in even if there's three feet piled up, but I'm not going to say no to a snow day at home with my husband. One of the two people left at work by the time my hands warmed up to merely uncomfortable kindly gave me a ride home so I didn't have to walk back in the nastiness. There's warm chai in my mug, two cute yet confused kitties winding around our legs, and the ploofs are still coming down outside.

Speaking of cute kitties, here's something I've been meaning to post for a while. Our cats have very different habits and different personalities, and I've caught each one doing something endearing recently.

Case in point: Petra loves to sit in things that are just Petra-sized. A box lid on the floor will soon have a small black and white cat perched inside. This was some packaging that came with the router when we got our very own internets last month, and Petra wasted no time in depositing herself inside.

Loki is our lap ho. He is especially pleased to help when one is using a laptop, and will likely drape himself over both hands and arms, sure his assistance with ball-warming and hand-pinning will be welcome.

Finally, I finally got around to getting their most interesting behavior captured on video. Each of them developed a trick in order to get a kitty treat - neither of them were trained to do so, yet each one does something unique. Dan was kind enough to edit the video down for me (the original had each cat doing a trick and taking a treat three times).

Also, this is why I will do my level best never again to live somewhere with white linoleum in the kitchen. This is what it looks like when it's CLEAN.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Taken on Monday, 3 days after I took this photo.
Things I have been looking forward to that are nearly here:

The arrival of spring (it's here! or nearly so)

The arrival of Spats Turkey (April 1, baby, come out then!)

A weekend at home to do around-the-house stuff and be lazy (I've been away every weekend in March so far!)

Getting started with practices for my work softball team (!)

Our first wedding anniversary (Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!)

My cousin coming for another visit (this time, to check out the city and the graduate school she'll be attending this fall!)

Also, an update on Project Hott:

I have, thus far, successfully avoided eating any chocolate or other candy at work for over two weeks now. Perhaps a bit of my caloric deficit was offset by the consumption of chips and cookies this past weekend, but then again the FitLinxx machine at the gym said I burned over 2000 calories snowshoeing on Saturday, so it's at least a wash there. I don't know that I can really feel any difference in my clothes yet, but I've been making an effort to change up my gym activity, pushing myself harder on machines than I have in a while, and I think my stupid leg is finally better enough that I can start running outside more regularly. It's only been ELEVEN MONTHS, geesh.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Mud Season

This weekend brought a long-awaited trip up to Julie and Steve's condo in Winter Park, a ski area in the mountains that's less well-known than many of Colorado's winter sport offerings. We'd been planning for several weeks around their schedules and were looking forward to getting in some good snowshoeing and relaxing and spending time with our friends who we hardly ever get to see during the months of December through April.

We made it up to Winter Park by around 6 PM, narrowly missing Friday afternoon traffic. To get to Winter Park you go up Highway 70 into the mountains, and then take highway 40 north over Berthoud Pass - over 12K feet at the summit, I believe, and then descend a couple of thousand feet into the valley. The WP area has two different ski/snowboard areas: Winter Park itself and a smaller, more independant-style one called Mary Jane, both of which we passed on the way to the condo. We settled in for an evening of good food and good company, partaking in tasty beverages and a screening of Big Fish.

Saturday, after a hefty breakfast, Dan and I headed out on our snowshoe adventure, hiking a trail we found in a borrowed guidebook. It wasn't especially well-marked but enough people had used it since the last snow had fallen (which, judging by the snow conditions, had been quite some time) that it was pretty easy to follow. From the very beginning, we saw lots of evidence of beetle damage and beetle-caused tree death, which was quite sad. Our trail started (STARTED) at nearly 11 thousand feet in elevation and we probably ascended close to another thousand during the uphill portion of our hike. It turned out to be a great hike, but wicked challenging (there's not much oxygen up that high!).

Dead tree macro

Pine cone macro

Despite the difficulty, we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, and Dan's four snowshoe mishaps in deep, slushy snow that led to his right leg being trapped up to his hip didn't spoil his good mood (thankfully!). It turns out that I'm pretty coordinated on the ol' 'shoes and I didn't have as many issues (part of the problem, we think, was that the rented snowshoes Dan was wearing didn't seem to be strapped correctly and he wasn't getting the full benefit of the surface area of his right shoe).

On the way up

I wonder what this looks like in the summer

The culmination of our hike ended in reaching a milestone described in the guidebook as a dead tree that resembled a telephone pole. This was right about at tree line, and the snow was patchy in this area, so we found some rocks to sit upon for a while and eat a snack before heading back downhill. It took us a lot less time to get down than it did to go up (probably because we didn't have to stop, rest, and catch our breaths every thousand feet).


Pole detail

The hike continued up this way, but we were done ascending for the day. Note the lip of snow at the top; prime avalanche danger.

We made it back to town in the late afternoon, and prepared for the evening and the next day by making a grocery store run. We had dinner with the group (Julie, Steve, another couple, and another friend = totalling seven of us, plus an 11-week old Spanish Waterdog pup named Bailey) at the friends' condo and afterward most of us watched Pineapple Express while some of us (read: me) fell asleep halfway through.

The difficult thing about staying overnight at 9 thousand feet is that the air is even more dry than we're used to, and has far less oxygen so one's sleep isn't as sound as one might like. I dreamt all night about unquenchable thirst and so the next day, rather than snowshoeing again we opted to just tailgate in the parking lot at Mary Jane while most of the others drank beers between their ski runs.

View of a run from the parking lot at Mary Jane.

Bailey and dad's legs

We saw lots of dogs, lots of skiers and boarders on the slushy shiny runs, and spent hours trying to get Julie's new tiny cheap grill to function (yet another example of You Get What You Pay For), during which time I got too much sun, drank too much girl beer (it turns out 2 is too much at that altitude when all I've had to eat is potato chips and cookies), and didn't drink nearly enough water or put on enough sunscreen. Ultimately, it was a fun afternoon and a fun weekend but I was glad when we got home and got to sleep in our own bed. You can sleep on the most comfortable pullout couch in existence, but ultimately it's still a pullout couch.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Signs of spring

I snapped a few photos on my way to work this morning, documenting some of the things that tell me spring is officially here. March is usually one of our snowiest months and in years past crocuses have popped up through snow banks; daffodils through muddy patches, but this year everything is dry (and relatively warm, too). The trees have taken their sweet time about the blooming and the budding, and today I finally felt like my favorite season is truly underway. (I'm still kind of hoping for more snow, though.)

Also, last night we had a wonderful time with our friend Chris and his friend (who he's really here to visit). We know Chris through the same message board we know each other, and once upon a time we were all caught up on one another's lives. Now we communicate through Facebook status updates, and it was lovely to have an evening to spend with someone who's known us since we met (he lives in Oregon). We enjoyed his friend as well, and they have big plans for his visit, so I'm glad he was able to squeeze in an evening with us. For dinner I made guacamole as an appetizer and prepared fajitas (various bell peppers, onions, chicken), chopped zucchini and asparagus to be sauteed, and cooked rice and refried beans. When Dan came home he seasoned and cooked the mass of veggies and poultry. Tortillas were heated, cheese was grated, lettuce was shredded, and we all enjoyed a Mexican-ish feast. For dessert I made strawberry shortcake - quick, easy, and representative of one of the simple pleasures of spring.

Strawberry Shortcake (serves 4)
2 cups strawberries, washed, chopped
1/2 pint whipping cream (you will have leftovers)
2 tsp powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/3 cup milk
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 450F. Mix dry ingredients for shortcake (flour, sugar, baking powder) and cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add milk and egg until just mixed, then plop into 4 shortcakes on cookie sheet and flatten to 3/4 inch high with the back of a spoon or fork. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden, let cool. Meanwhile, wash and chop strawberries. Whip cream with powdered sugar and vanilla. To serve, cut shortcakes in half lengthwise and layer with strawberries in between and on top. Add generous dollop of whipped cream to the top of each.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Deaths, weddings, births, and ploofs - four life milestones

Things that are on my mind recently:

How I am far more bothered by people dying relatively young in accidents (Natasha Richardson, of course) than by people dying of old age or dying of diseases. Accidents are unpredicatable and scary, but there's not much you can do to prevent them. I do my best to prevent illness and disease, but short of encasing myself in a bubble for the rest of my life and never being able to experience the world again, I'm just going to have to chance it. I'm really sorry for her family, though.

How even people who consider themselves to be nonconformist and easy-going can get all worked up about wedding planning, especially when looking at other people's wedding porn (tm Ariel of Offbeat Bride). I confess to being this way myself to a small degree, but knowing the constraints of time, budget, and space, I never let myself get too worked up over stuff other people were doing for their different and/or unusual weddings. Ours, quite frankly, ended up being far more traditional than I expected but there were enough quirky touches to make it our own, I think. I remember posting on Hillary's blog while she was still working out the last kinks of wedding planning, trying to reassure her that honestly, nobody will notice if the flowers aren't exactly what you were hoping for. And you won't notice, either. It's hard to look back and think that reassurance from anyone who's already gone through the whole wedding rigamarole would have helped matters for me, because you don't really know until it's all over. I hope my comment way back then helped Hillary, and I hope that in the hypothetical future when I am hypothetically doing things for weddings, I'm able to impart a bit of serenity.

That I know a whole lot of people who are currently in the last stages of gestation and will be giving birth soon. (JT, holla!) Am currently working on yet another blanket for an April arrival, and will probably do a hat and booties or something for a friend due in May because I just don't think I'll want to be doing blanket knitting once it really warms up.

That we just went through the warmest, dry-est winter I can remember since I moved to Denver. We've hardly had any snow at all and it's been mostly in the 50s and 60s for all of February and March. What the hell, Colorado? Where's all my snow? I only got to see ploofs ONE TIME this year. ONE TIME ploofspotting is not enough for my necessary ploof quotient. WHERE ARE MY PLOOFS? (I do realize that having written this, the universe will hear my hue and cry and we'll get another March blizzard that dumps 2 feet of snow downtown or something.)

And tonight, we're having an out-of-town friend over for dinner who we haven't seen since New Year's Eve of - 01 to 02 I think? Should be fun!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A blanket for Spats Turkey

Once upon a time, my pal Jive Turkey went and got herself all knocked up. This was a long-awaited occurrence, and I was so happy when she told the internets the big news that I wanted to do something for her and for Husband of Said Turkey. So I decided to make a blanket for the baby-to-be that became known on her blog as Spats.

Just after that, a new issue of the online knitting magazine went live. In it was an amazing pattern for a baby blanket called Op Art, and the example shown was in black and white. The pattern was designed by someone who had studied infant visual development and was intended to be visually interesting for babies. I found this to be fascinating and decided to make this pattern (albeit in more interesting colors yet maintaining the dark/light contrast) for Spats. I found this gorgeous soft yarn in a pearly white and wine color, not too Christmas-y but still with the visual contrast to make the pattern functional in addition to cool-looking.

Then, one of Leah's friends went and made the same blanket for Wombat so the blog world had seen the blanket. That blanket was black and white, so mine would be different, but I was glad that I'd decided on this pattern for Spats and not for Wombat!

When it came time to actually start the blanket, I was, to put it mildly, a little confused by the directions, which say to use two circular needles - something I'd never done before. After about six false starts I gave up and just started the thing on double-pointeds, transfering up to circulars as it slowly got bigger (the blanket is knitted from the inside out, with increases evenly spaced each quarter of the way around). At one point I had over two hundred stitches on one long circular and was running out of space, so I knew I had to switch to two, but I had no idea how. Solution? I scoured the internet for other people who had made the pattern to ask advice. I found some videos on youtube showing a two-circular knitting technique. And finally I had the courage to give it a try myself - and it worked! Yay! It was like wrestling badgers, but it worked. I never did figure out how to knit the pattern mindlessly; I had to count every stitch I knitted to make sure I'd be increasing at the right places and even marked my place verbally to Dan whenever he'd say something to me so I wouldn't forget and have to recount.

The directions call for much thinner yarn and a smaller gauge needle, so I knew I wouldn't be making the entire thing according to the pattern. I learned a lesson with Wombat's blanket; larger blankets might be nice for later but babies need small things if they are really to be useful. I didn't want Spat's blanket to get too big, so I finished up at about 450-odd stitches, bound off, and called it a day. Blocking was challenging; the pattern called for wool yarn which I can't use (allergic) so I'd used a lovely soft machine washable acrylic but acrylic is far more difficult to block into shape (blocking is the process of getting a finished garment or object wet, stretching it out to size, and letting it dry that way). I usually block the things I make even though they're less likely to change shape because it does help even out stitches and makes things look nice and finished, but unfortunately what was supposed to end up a square will probably be forever kind of an odd shape. Oh, well; I think it looks pretty cool the way it is. What do you guys think?

I took photos in the morning before I mailed it last Thursday. Someone didn't want to get out of the bed.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Silver and Gold

These past couple of weeks have been a relative whirlwind of social activity for me, starting with the trip to LA last weekend for OF's birthday (the party, plus the time spent with Monkey). Then on Tuesday I had a lovely lunch at Benny's with Jess of DuWaxLooLu, a new Denver resident - we'd been planning lunch the week before, but I got sick and she got busy so it was put off until Tuesday. It was very nice to meet her after exchanging emails for a few weeks, and I'm excited to see her new house as well! It makes me happy to be able to share the things I love about Denver with other people who might love them as well.

And this past weekend, I turned 30 years old, and I got to hang out with another Old Friend, someone I hadn't seen since, oh, April of 2000. Ladies and gentlemen, Brian Foster helped me celebrate my birthday. It was really interesting, particularly because since I hadn't seen him in nearly 10 years I had no idea what he might look like or how he might have changed. But I needn't have wondered; he was exactly like he's always been - same outfit (dark t-shirt, cargo shorts, black sneakers, zip-up hooded sweatshirt), same crooked smile, same sense of humor. The biggest difference was that now he seems more social and outgoing and truly happy, rather than an angsty college student who mostly just liked to play Magic (the gathering). Also, I kind of doubt that we'd decide chewing on rocks would be a good idea, like we did when we were 5. It was great to reconnect with an old friend who felt like home.

But the best part of this weekend was that I got to spend two days hanging out with Leah and Simon and Wombat, which was everything I could have hoped for. Wombat liked me (yay!); Leah and Simon liked me (yay!) and even trusted me to hold their kid a whole bunch, and I got to see Dan hold hold his very first baby (Wombat liked him, too) and it just made me so happy that I finally got to meet my Internet Nephew. Welcome to the world, little boy; I can't wait to see you grow into a person.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Hey, so that's the color of the inside of my belly button!

As I sail through the last hours of my twenties (only 48 to go!), I find myself thinking about the past 10 years and how I've changed, physically, mentally, emotionally. I feel like I began my 20s in such a different space as compared to how I'm ending them that if I were to go back and tell my 19-almost-20 self, "Self, these are the things that you will do and see and experience in the next ten years," I wouldn't have believed myself. I've been all over the world. I've met the love of my life, and married him. I've seen an African-American man elected to the presidency. I've gone no farther with my education past a bachelor's degree. I've moved to Colorado. I've grown pretty happy with who I am and where I'd like to be. And I've changed shape so drastically (up 2 cup sizes since I was 19, for example) that I have about 3 articles of clothing from my teens that still fit (and I don't wear them, because they're too damn short - styles have changed, my friends, oh yes).

Every so often I like to take stock of myself. I stand in front of the mirror and look at myself, see what I look like, but also see how I view myself, for these things are very different. I'm much happier with my skin, and happier with my boobs, and happier with my physical capabilities (I can climb 14ers and snowshoe for hours and I ran in a marathon and I can lift a lot of weight). But I'm really quite unhappy with my appearance, and this was brought strongly to my attention this past weekend when I wore a dress I'd made a year before to fit me and it was uncomfortably tight. And then I saw the photos other people took of me and how much THICKER I am through hip and thigh (and belly, let's be honest). Though I haven't written about it in a long time, I've been faithfully spending 5-7 hours a week in the gym (this means most Mondays and Wednesdays I go twice) plus at least a couple of hours of some physical activity on the weekends. My meals are, for the most part, healthy and of proper proportions for my nutritional needs. So what gives? Why am I gaining weight (and it's not just muscle), when everything I'm doing says I should be losing?

It was time to take a much closer look at my habits. I am a creature of habit, as are many people, and I have addictive tendencies that I am aware of and do my best to curtail. When I get to work in the morning, the first thing I do is fill up my liter-sized plastic Black Eyed Pea cup with water. At 10:30, I pay a visit to a coworker who keeps a candy jar at her desk and grab a couple of pieces of dark chocolate (especially if I'm particularly tired that day, since caffeinated beverages seem to affect me so strongly). At 11 or 11:30, I have a piece of string cheese or fruit. Between 12:30 and 1:30 I go to the gym. When I get back, I refill my water and eat my lunch. At 3 or 3:30, I have more chocolate. When I get home (some days after my second gym session) I have a protein snack, a couple of pieces of turkey lunchmeat and 5 walnut halves. And then I eat dinner. After dinner, there might be a tasty beverage or hot chocolate or something dessert-ish, though not every day.

At my office, we don't have trash cans at our desks. Our building is very green-aware and we are encouraged to recycle almost everything - so food trash has to be deposited in special trash cans in our kitchen area. I keep my candy wrappers in a little container at my desk and when it's full, I empty it into the kitchen recepticle. I hadn't emptied it in a while and when I did so on Monday, I looked at all those wrappers - all that chocolate I'd consumed, that I didn't need. No wonder I was gaining weight. Even with all the exercise, there's no excuse for eating as much chocolate as I have been for the last six months. So I stopped.

This week, I ate no chocolate at work. And you know what? Once I told myself that it was a habit that needed breaking, I broke it. No problem. I haven't changed anything else - still keeping to the same workout schedule, same food intake, etc. I wonder how long before I notice a difference. I'd like to be a hott 30-something, not just a hott 20-something, and want to make sure I'm in really good shape before Project Give Dan's Grandma a GreatGrandchild begins.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Third Decade

On Friday evening I flew into LAX and Monkey picked me up and took me to have some delicious Thai food (mmmm, tom yum soup. Mmmm, spicy noodles.) I hadn't seen her since shortly after our wedding last year, so we were up late catching up and my cold was still coldy and I was still getting dizzy spells and I was all gross and coughing all over her place. No wonder Julius (her cat) was afraid of me!

In the night, Julius put on a concert for me, which I found lovely but would have preferred hearing during daylight hours. I have a natural affinity for orange kitties and find him delightful but it wasn't the best for my beauty sleep. snerk.

Saturday I woke up at 7 AM and couldn't fall back asleep, so I read until Monkey woke up, and we had some breakfast, ran a few errands, and went to see Watchmen. Usually, Dan and I see comic book movies together but I knew he didn't want to wait until I came home to see it, and I knew Monkey wanted to see it, so we went. Afterword we did some girly shopping at H&M and had sushi and I got to try pinkberry for the first time. I felt enormous and uncomfortable around so many skinny people walking around old town Pasadena, but chalked it up to being in LA, where nearly everybody has body issues.

The original plan was for Monkey to drive me to House of Oldest Friend, wherein a small group of her closest friends would go to dinner before the Big Party. 30 minutes before we headed over there, OF called me and told me the plan had changed and that we should go to the house where the party would be instead (also known as the Heat House because it was featured in the movie Heat) and meet everyone there. So we climbed all the way up a big hill to an amazing house and meet two giant doggies. OF wasn't there yet (and neither was anyone else but the house's occupants), and Monkey left me there to help set up for the party (she came back later). I helped Dave and Jayme move furniture and rugs, change out bulbs in the cool lamp fixture, and took photos of stuff. And I waited.

After that, I waited some more. I called Dan to chat for a bit and the cake arrived. I called OF to see what was up, and she said she was about 20 minutes away, so I went to do my hair and makeup while the house was still empty and quiet.

Arrivals by OF's friend Sarah, OF and her parents, and a few other folks brought me out of my hair-curling reverie and I went out to present her with her surprise birthday blanket. (She liked it, hooray!) I returned to finish primping and pulled out the four wraps, four pairs of gloves, three sets of jewelry and two pairs of shoes I'd brought as possible accessories for the dress OF had brought for me to wear (a dress last seen nearly a year ago that I'd made for her to wear in our wedding). After a few minutes of consultation and discussion, the accessory decisions were made and I spent a few minutes getting dressed.

I went with the green pearl necklace Julie had made me for our wedding, the longer white kid gloves (made in France! probably 60 years old!), the thin light green wrap, and the new silver shoes I found at DSW on clearance ($12!). My hair was curled. My makeup was done. I felt hott. I wish Dan had been there to see me, because he would have given me That Look and it would have made me feel even hotter.

A few last-minute projects were completed, and then everything was ready. I snapped another photo of the skyline as the beef sizzled on the taco truck and my mouth watered, hoping they would soon cook the chicken so I could eat dinner. And when it was ready, boy was it tasty! The taco truck guy and I chatted about Mexican food and Rick Bayless and love for cooking while he prepared my chicken tacos. "I make all the sauces," he told me, "and the one in the middle there, the spicy one? That's my own recipe." I wish I had gotten a photo of the taco truck, because it was awesome.

The evening went on, and drinks were consumed, and more people arrived. I was the fanciest one there until a couple wearing masks, tux and sparkly red dress showed up, and then a girl in a flapper dress with peacock feathers, and suddenly all those party poopers who came to a Birthday Ball in jeans must have felt a little out of place. There was mingling and there was singing happy birthday and there was red velvet cake, and a toast and speech by the birthday girl, and then the dancing began.

Somehow I managed to stand, walk, and dance in spike heels for several hours (a first!) but eventually they came off. After there'd been dancing for quite some time, OF announced the winners of the prizes: best duo, most valuable partier, best male, and then....I won best female! Me! I couldn't have done it without the fancy dress and the shoes and most especially Julie's grandma's gloves (thanks, Julie's dead grandma!)

Everybody danced for hours, and drank for hours, and it was 1 AM and I was about to keel over (having had little sleep, been up since 7 AM, and still sick) so Monkey and I bid adieu to those who were left and I gave OF an extra hug and we headed back to Monkey's place. It was the best birthday ball I ever attended, and I even got a Major Award.

Sunday, I was groggy from the NyQuil Monkey made me take (it was probably necessary; my cough was terrible) but managed to wake myself up and help Monkey make brunch for me and a few other people she knew. I fried the homemade paneer for the saag paneer; I hand-blended the spinach and wiped out the idli molds after the first batch came out. Mostly, I watched Monkey cook (while she intermittently called her parents to ask about ingredient ratios) and enjoyed the spicy smells. We had a great brunch (nothing better than a brunch with samosas AND mimosas) and hung out until it was time to take me to the airport.

I flew home, completely wiped out, and reflected on my whirlwind LA weekend, on turning 30 with my oldest friend, and remembered the last time I was in LA for OF's birthday: the day of the LA marathon, when it was 95 degrees and I only made it halfway. Luckily, the weather was mild and beautiful and the view was amazing and OF had a great party. Complete with Major Awards.