2017 So Far: Constant Family Illnesses and Political Shitstorms

Oh, hi. Hello there. I am out of practice with blogging, but let’s see what happens here:

I was laboring under the illusion that I would suddenly have all kinds of freedom and autonomy when the twins started daycare in January and I don’t know whether to laugh or weep at how wrong I was. Parents, I know y’all know what I am taking about.

So far, the babies have experienced: norovirus (twice), RSV, Hand Foot and Mouth, and various respiratory viruses resulting in several hard-to-treat ear infections. (They now have ear tubes, so fingers crossed that pattern is over.) From the twins, I myself have caught the noro, RSV, and various colds, resulting in sinus infections, bronchitis, ear infections, and pneumonia. My husband has been similarly affected. It has not been pretty.

So basically, this is how daycare works: we pay daycare as much money as we pay to our mortgage every month, but much of the time the kids are too sick from GERMS THEY PICKED UP AT DAYCARE for them to actually GO TO DAYCARE.

ANYWAY.

We’ve had at least one child home sick every day this week. Fine. Not like we have jobs to go to or anything.

GOD.

So in addition to being sick and caring for sick people and barely — just barely — managing to perform my full-time job at a proficient and productive level, I have had time for … approximately nothing. It’s fine. Whatever.

I don’t even want to get into it, but also politics lately are sapping any emotional energy I may otherwise have had leftover. I’m sad and disappointed and anxious and suspcious and bubbling over with pure, white-hot, brain-melting RAGE.

I’M FINE.

In other news that has happened since the last time I posted:

I have been officially promoted at work to the highest rank possible for my position (to take effect when fall semester starts) and received a college-level teaching award. Not to brag, but I guess I’m pretty all right at my job.

I joined Biggest Blogging Loser, a friendly weight loss/good choices competition among my online lady friends and it helped me stay motivated to lose about 15 pounds from January-March. We just started a new round this week and I’m hoping to lose about 15 more, which will put me back at my pre-pregnancy weight. (The only problem being, of course, the constant family illnesses and political shitstorm are both driving me to comsume too much comfort food and wine.)

I’m back to hitting pretty decent paces on the run, which has me feeling good about my fitness and is a nice reminder that fitness and weight are not necessarily the same.

I have about 150 final exams to grade and then I will be done with spring semester. Deep breaths.

We are planning some summer travel, hopefully to include a visit to my friend on the gulf coast, a visit to in-laws in Iowa, and maybe a stop in St. Louis to see another friend on the way back.

Had to run an errand on campus, so these little bunnies got to run around on the grass for a while. 🐰🐰 Lew + Ella. 💙💗

My children are gorgeous, amazing little maniacs who keep it dialed up to eleven at all times and I love them so much.

 

Pumpkin Patch and Halloween

We have been enjoying the fall lately. Here in Alabama, the weather is still regularly in the mid-to-upper eighties, but I think we’ve had two or three cooler days so far. See evidence below: I actually wore a jacket to the pumpkin patch!

Four of Us

This was my first time visiting an actual pumpkin patch on an actual farm (as opposed to buying my pumpkin from a giant bin in front of the grocery store). It was a really pleasant day to stroll around and enjoy the fresh air and take pictures. I’m sure we’ll do it again — the babies were still too little this year to enjoy some of the kid stuff they had available (pens of baby goats & pigs, a big slide, hay bales to climb on, etc.), but they’ll have a blast next time.

Mom & Eleanor & Linus
Dad & Eleanor & Linus

We came home with a couple of pumpkins for the front porch (which we didn’t carve — I’m just not that into carving, plus they last longer if you don’t) and the strong desire for some pumpkin muffins, which I made. Successful outing.

Halloween was really fun, too. I mean, can you EVEN?!

file-nov-04-1-07-50-pm

I can’t. Can’t even.

I’d been feeling all this pressure to come up with some really cute thematic twin costume and I kept coming up empty. Some year we’re going to do Luke & Leia for them and Darth Vader & Padmé for us, but we figured that’s a better idea for when they’re older. This year, we just didn’t come up with any ideas we really liked. Ideas that were suggested and then vetoed: lobster and chef, shark and surfer, bee and flower, etc.

At one point, we had nearly decided on ordering a matching pair of pumpkin costumes from Amazon, but we decided to sleep on it. The next day, the pumpkin costumes we liked had sold out and every other pumpkin costume was either not available via Prime (and wouldn’t ship until November) or was not in their size. THWARTED! Everything else we thought was cute on Amazon was crazily overpriced (like, $40 or more PER COSTUME, which is insane).

In desperation, I checked the Halloween aisle at Target and happened upon the elephant and the giraffe. Guess what Wubbanubs they happen to have and love? An elephant and a giraffe.

THEY COULD DRESS AS THEIR BINKIES, YOU GUYS. And so they did.

Trying the costumes on them for the first time was one of my best parenting moments so far. Each of them was absolutely DELIGHTED by the sight of the other twin in costume. They just looked at each other in amazement, grinning and giggling and eventually trying to grab each other’s faces. It was hilarious and adorable and so, so sweet. They’re the best babies.

On Halloween evening, it was 88º and I was wondering if we would regret the warm, plush costumes, but the kiddos did great and didn’t seem to mind at all. We went out for pizza and then explored the downtown trick-or-treat, checking out people in their costumes and hanging out with a few friends who’d also brought their kids. There were tons of adorable costumed babies being pushed around in their strollers and the whole thing was fairly delightful.

Next year, I suppose we’ll do the neighborhood trick-or-treat. Our neighborhood is really perfect for it (sidewalks, lots of families, pretty safe), but it didn’t seem like a good fit this year. Honestly, I just didn’t feel comfortable knocking on doors to basically just ask people to admire my kids and not actually collect any candy. E&L are still too little for candy and it would have felt like collecting candy for ourselves. Well, it would have ACTUALLY BEEN collecting candy for ourselves. Which, yeah, I like candy. But I have a job. I can buy my own candy.

 

 

 

Thanks & Mission Accomplished

We finally got to have our Thanksgiving dinner, and the food turned out great! It was also really nice to have my dad and brother here for a couple of days (even though my brother knows how to get on my last nerve like nobody else in this world can). I felt really happy and grateful to be in a position to invite them to stay with us, and to cook for them, and to have the time to spend together.

Yayyy!

I was really proud of my pies, I have to say. I’m sure I should act all cool and like it’s no big deal ’cause I, like, so totally bake this kind of stuff all the time so whatever, but no. Damned proud of my pies. They both got mostly eaten (though a couple of slices remain, hooray!) and the crust was complimented several times by my brother. Quite happy!

Dinner was fantastic, too. CW basically worked his butt off all day in the kitchen because he was in charge of the turkey, the mashed potatoes, and the green bean casserole. I jumped in there for the last thirty minutes and threw my Celebration Roast, sweet potatoes, & parsnips in the oven to roast and I outsourced the cranberry sauce to my brother, who I knew could make a good one. So I basically sat around all day drinking Bloody Marys, occasionally asking CW if I could help with anything, and reminding everyone that I’d spent the entire previous day in the kitchen making pies, so it wasn’t like I was being lazy or something. Poor CW burned the hell out of his arm on the top of the oven (he’s OK), but otherwise he pulled everything off without a hitch and the food was delicious.

Dinner was had! Happy Thanksgiving!

The only drawback to the weekend was that our big dinner was yesterday, which was Saturday, and today is Sunday, and tomorrow — as one might predict! — is Monday. I desperately wished all day today that I could somehow turn back the clock and make it Friday instead of Sunday. I’m not one to get the typical “Sunday Night Blues,” where you dread going back to work. I really like my job and I don’t mind going back to it. The problem today was that my normal Sunday tasks, which usually involve prepping for Monday in the form of class activities, lectures, reading, emailing, doing laundry, grocery shopping, and generally organizing my life, were far, far less appealing than usual.

If I could have planned the ideal day for today, the day immediately following my big Thanksgiving meal, it would have consisted of the following: eating pie for breakfast, lounging on the couch in PJs with coffee and the dog and either a new book or an old favorite Christmas movie, having Thanksgiving leftovers for lunch, taking an afternoon nap, going for a run through the fall leaves right before dusk, taking a hot shower, drinking a cold glass of wine, and then setting about preparing some more Thanksgiving leftovers for dinner, followed by some more lounging on the couch with my husband and perhaps staying up late watching too many movies and eating another slice of pie.

Dusk run

Fine, fine. I got to do a lot of those things. I did lounge on the couch with coffee and a book for an hour or so; I did have Thanksgiving leftovers for lunch; I did go for a run through the fall leaves right before dusk, take a hot shower, and pour myself a glass of wine before I sat down to write this post. I also, in the midst of all that, found the time to do laundry, plan class activities, catch up on email, create a Prezi for my lecture class, and plan and organize my next week of work and other tasks. Okay, fair enough. I suppose the day has been equal parts productivity and relaxation.

I should also mention that, as today is November 30th, I have officially completed my NaBloPoMo effort, successfully posting once a day, every day, for the entire month (uh, except November 1st, because I started a day late). It has been really nice — and also, at times, really challenging — to post here once a day. There were certainly days when I found myself without anything I really wanted to say, but I still made myself open a WordPress window or app and write some words down, even if I didn’t feel like it was that good or interesting or important. I still did it. And I’d like to say thanks to all of you for reading along, commenting here or via Twitter, and giving me little nods of encouragement. It really helped!

I’d like to continue regular posting, but I’m not sure how exactly I’ll do it or what that might look like. One thing I enjoyed about daily posting this month was that it somewhat diminished my need to feel like every post was something significant. I knew a lot of the things I wrote here were nothing of the sort — and I kinda liked that. The pressure to think of something significant to write is often what holds me back from actually writing. I like feeling freer to write insignificant things. I don’t really think daily posting is right for me long term, but I’d like to post maybe 3 times a week, at least. It will prove difficult to do this in December, for sure — I’ll have final exams and grading, which is always a hectic time, then traveling for at least ten days at Christmas time. But I’d like to try. For one thing, I still have a couple of questions submitted by friends and I plan to get to them — so I’ll see you back here soon.

Family Thanksgiving is Here, Mostly

Today is the day we’re making our big meal and hanging out with my dad, step-mother, and brother, and then watching the Iron Bowl. It should be a pretty nice day.

As you can see by what I had to amend above, my step-mother did not show up after all. I discovered this when my dad and brother pulled up in front of our house with just the two of them in the car. I’m not totally shocked. I only ever gave her 50-50 odds on coming in the first place. She didn’t come to my wedding, see (but in that case she did use the online RSVP form to warn me), or to Christmas when I hosted here a few years ago. She doesn’t like to leave town, or the house, much.

My dad says it’s because she’s very introverted, but (and I say this as someone who is ALLL the way over at the I end of the I – E spectrum) it’s obviously something more than that.

We are not close and haven’t ever been, although we do get along fine — the only reason we don’t really know each other that well is that she and my dad met my senior year in college, right before I moved to Oregon, so I’ve never lived in a house with her and have only spent brief time with her around the holidays. But not on any holidays I’ve hosted, AHEM, because she won’t come to those. Fine. I’m not broken hearted about it, but I am somewhat…insulted.

One more thing and then I’ll finish complaining about this: my invitation went out to everyone. My dad and brother both talked to me about planning, both of them generally using the term “we,” and never specifically mentioned my stepmother by name. They also did not mention that she wasn’t coming. She didn’t mention it either, obviously, since she didn’t ever reply to my invitation or contact me via any other means. So, basically, if she is completely ignoring my communiqués and not even doing me the courtesy of a regretful decline, how long am I obligated to keep inviting her to things? Because I am about done.

Winter is Coming (and Other Good Things)

Grrrreetings, friends!

I’d hate to jinx things, but I feel like I am on the mend. The new meds I got at the doctor on Thursday seem to be helping, and my cough has turned from crazy, incessant, uncontrollable attacks into something slightly more controlled and productive. Never mind the fact that last night I woke up and had a horrible coughing fit that led to my unwilling ejection of a piece of leftover wedding cake from my stomach. Sure, that wasn’t fun, but on the whole I feel like things are improving. I will return to good health! At some point!

In other news, I am just really ready for the holidays this year. I’m of course excited about Thanksgiving, as I’ve kept mentioning, but Christmas! Winter break! Cold weather! Snow? Bring it on.

I am already itching to bust out my holiday lights and paper snowflakes and pine cones and appropriately scented candles. I think this year I am going to splurge and buy myself some Voluspa candles. They are so pretty and smell so amazing. Yup. That’s it. I’m doing it. Someone please alert me when they have their winter scents available. (For some reason the “branche vermeil” scent is $45 on Amazon right now and I’m assuming that reason is that it’s last year’s leftovers? And when they have more supply the price will go back down?)

I think I’ll go ahead and set the Christmas wheels in motion right after our Thanksgiving celebration. Never mind that we won’t have time to get a tree that weekend (see family-related delay of Thanksgiving until Saturday). I won’t need a tree in order to start Christmassing this place right up. I feel happy just thinking about it.

Here in Alabama we’ve finally gotten some genuinely cold weather in the mornings (in the 30s, I believe) and I am so enjoying it. Winter is my favorite. I think people often assume I’m complaining if I come in from outdoors and yell, “DAMN, IT’S COLD OUT THERE,” but no. That’s a cry of joy you hear.

When the weather stays in the 80s well into October, it’s easy to feel like there may never be relief. Winter may never come. Perhaps this is how life is now; perhaps in moving to the Deep South, one has given up any hope of ever feeling a bracing wind or smelling snow. But no. Winter is coming.

Even if it doesn’t snow down here, we’ll surely see some in Iowa this Christmas, where we’ll be traveling to visit my in-laws. Christmas is the only holiday break long enough for a substantial trip up there, so that’s become our standard holiday plan (my family at Thanksgiving and/or spring break, his at Christmas).

I love traveling up there to take part in all of the big-family activities — visiting aunts’ and uncles’ houses, little nieces and nephews coming by to go sledding in the fields, and of course the caroling. I come from a smaller, more scattered family, so I never grew up with this kind of tradition going on. It’s so lovely.

That said, I also somewhat long for a future time when we can stay home for Christmas and maybe have our families come visit us. I feel like that’s the kind of thing you can expect only after you have kids, though. (So basically I only want to get pregnant for the following reasons: to not have to clean the litterbox anymore and to have an excuse to stay home for the holidays. I kid. Mostly.) Really, I just think it would be nice to set up our Christmas tree and such and then be able to stay here and enjoy it throughout the season, rather than having to leave it for 10 days and come home to a dried-out bunch of kindling.

Either way, though, I am ready for the season. I’ve just got to get through two more weeks of classes and a week of final exams. I can almost see the twinkling, pine-scented, egg-nog-soaked finish line from here.

In Which I Blog About Two of the Things I Said I Wouldn’t Blog About

I really don’t want to blog about being sick — but damn. I’m in the middle of a daily blogging challenge and thanks to the virus that will not die, I have basically nothing else going on in my life. I am phoning it in at work and at home and the highlight of my day is going to bed early with Harry Potter.

As my top-ten list yesterday indicates, there’s a lot of stuff I feel like I don’t want to blog about. In the interest of not blogging about being sick, though, I guess I’m about to blog about two of those things now. Here goes: Potatogate 2014 and Family.

First of all, let’s talk Potatogate. This is CW’s and my third Thanksgiving together as a couple. I can’t remember the exact dishes we made last year and it looks like I failed to take a photo of my plate. I must’ve been off my usual foodstagram game that day. Two years ago, photographic documentation reveals that I ate Celebration Roast (the Field Roast people’s answer to tofurkey), mashed potatoes, roasted fall vegetables including sweet potatoes and carrots, cranberry sauce, and green bean casserole. And pie, of course.

And this year? As you’ll recall from my previous post on the matter, we were talking about making turkey/tofurkey, mashed potatoes, roasted fall vegetables including sweet potatoes, something green such as green bean casserole, cranberry sauce and pie. Pretty similar.

CW and I had casually thrown out these ideas during a couple of early conversations on the matter and I’d begun a menu/list that’s now hanging on the fridge. So then last night, imagine my surprise when my husband acts shocked that I’m planning to make roasted sweet potatoes, tells me he thinks we can’t have both sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes because it’s excessive and redundant, tells me he doesn’t think of sweet potatoes as a traditional Thanksgiving food, and claims we have never had them before in our two previous Thanksgivings together. Huh.

During the conversation, I asked him what his top three most essential Thanksgiving foods are — the favorites that you have to have to feel like it’s really Thanksgiving.

His: turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole.

Mine: pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes.

No reason we can’t make all six and each have our top three, right? Together, that sounds like a pretty great Thanksgiving meal.

But my husband, he also tells me, “make what you want, but if you make sweet potatoes, I’m not making mashed potatoes.”

Okay then. I’ll just make sweet potatoes and if you want to forego one of your favorites that’s your thing, right?

But then, this feels less like a recipe for a Thanksgiving meal and more like a recipe for him to resent me for taking away his mashed potatoes. Even though I’m not doing that.

And see, I’m almost stubborn enough to be okay with that in the name of having my sweet potatoes.

HOWEVER, I also like mashed potatoes. If I were allowed to add a fourth favorite to the above list, mashed potatoes would definitely be it. I’ve always had both for Thanksgiving. I always remember both being on my table, whether with family or friends — I don’t consider having two types of potatoes excessive or redundant at all.

For one thing, one’s a creamy, savory starch; the other is a sweet, crispy-on-the-outside fiber. Different colors. Different textures. Different flavor profiles.

So anyway, I take my indignant self to Twitter and confirm with my friends that in no way is it wrong to serve both sweet and mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving. Everyone agreed with me — or perhaps was too frightened of Angry Potato Lady to disagree. Heh.

But Potatogate 2014 is not about whether my gang of Twitter ladies agrees with me, really. It’s about things more important than that — the spirit of the holiday, family, togetherness, gratitude. All of that. And also, stuffing my face with as many different types of carbs as physically possible.

So there will be potatoes, y’all. There will be sweet potatoes. There will be mashed potatoes. You get potatoes. And YOU get potatoes. EVERY-BODY GETS POTATOES!

I will make it happen; MARK MY WORDS.

Did I mention, by the way, that we will be eating this excessively redundant potato-riffic meal on the Saturday after Thanksgiving? Mmmmmmyeah. That’s happening. My brother either didn’t or couldn’t get Thursday off work, so he’ll be working Thursday night (he’s an RN at a hospital and works third shift) and then he and my dad and stepmother will be driving down Friday morning, getting here in the late afternoon.

With this constraint, we’d originally talked about eating the big meal Friday night, but on second thought, that doesn’t seem like a great plan. CW and I don’t want to spend the day cooking alone and waiting for them to arrive so we can eat. We’d rather have the whole family hanging around and talking and drinking a beer or a glass of wine while we spend the day cooking and having fun. So it’s going to be Saturday.

I can’t say I’m not a little hassled by that, but we will make it work. We’ll have to do the back to school prep for Monday before they get here, so we don’t have to stress about our classes or grading over the weekend. It’ll be fine.

To keep traditions and family connections, sometimes you just have to make it work. This year, that means eating on Saturday. And this year and every year after, so help me dog, that will mean making two types of potatoes.

Spring Break in Tennessee (with Bob Weir)

We traveled up to East Tennessee to visit my family for a couple of days over our spring break, and then went to Knoxville and Nashville for one night each to see Bob Weir and Ratdog perform.

Cloudy Smokies

If you know my husband, you know his deep love for all things Grateful Dead — we’ve seen Furthur together (Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, and others) and last summer, when we went to see Bob Dylan, Wilco, and My Morning Jacket, we were treated to a surprise guest appearance by Bob Weir. I guess Bob Weir is becoming something of a spring/summer music thing for us.

I’m not as big a fan of the Dead as CW is, but I enjoy the music and the scene and am happy to join in something he really loves. Two nights in a row might admittedly be more than I’d typically sign on for, but it turned out to be a really fun time.

We headed up to see my family first, and stayed a couple of nights with my brother, P. He has two fat, fluffy dogs who are both very sweet, but who will NOT stop following people around and panting frantically.

My brother's dogs, gazing up at him adoringly.

As much as I love dogs, I was ready to scream about all the hair and spit and the unceasing motherloving panting. The weather was cold, so we didn’t get out for our planned hiking excursion, but we made do. Plenty of food and beer will soothe the antsy soul, that’s for sure. We went out for a great lunch, and then P. also orchestrated a huge feast for dinner that included not only burgers (and veggie burgers) and kebabs on the grill, but also pulled pork BBQ, roasted potatoes, baked beans, and some other items I might be forgetting. Dude knows how to eat.

[72/365] Peter

New Belgium Spring Blonde

My dad and his wife joined us, but did not want to be photographed. You will have to imagine them in the background of these pictures.

On Friday night we headed down the road to Knoxville — not far from my hometown — and made our way to the historic Tennessee Theatre. In the neighborhood, we found a bar with a Grateful Dead art show going on: plenty of good beers, posters, and photos to peruse.

Scruffy City Hall

[73/365] Tennessee Theatre

Unfortunately, I did not wind up bringing my real camera into the theater for the concert (I was worried I wouldn’t want to deal with an extra item), so all my photos inside are Instagrams. Please let me tell you, though: the inside of the Tennessee Theatre is really something. It’s ridiculously opulent, especially when I think of its origins as a movie theater.

Soooo, not a bad concert venue!

Mirror goofing

Sorry for the insta-overload, but this place is beautiful!

Birdsong

We had a lot of fun exploring and looking around before the show started. The band was good Friday night (though I preferred Saturday’s show), but I wasn’t feeling very well for most of the first set. Something about the beers or dinner didn’t agree with me, so I basically had to sit down and sip a soda and keep it together until I felt better. Womp, womp.

Favorite songs of the night: “Tennessee Jed,” “Birdsong,” “Dear Prudence,” “Goin’ Down the Road.”

Saturday took us farther down I-40 to Nashville. We did the same thing there: found the Ryman Auditorium and then just explored the area on foot for a while before the concert. Downtown Nashville is full of a bunch of tacky tourist traps (cheap watering holes with flashy signs selling bottled domestic beer for $6 each) and the fact that it was St. Patrick’s Day weekend only made it seem worse. I’m sure there are cooler places to be in Nashville, but we didn’t want to drive anywhere, so we were stuck in this one main area. We weren’t into the tourist/St. Paddy’s bar scene, so we just walked around a bit. I got to take tons of photos, and then we had dinner before the show.

CW on the Bridge

View from Capitol Hill

Ryman Auditorium

Ryman Auditorium

CW in the Pew

Pew K

Saturday’s show was my favorite of the two. The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville is another great historical venue — it used to be a church (and still has its original pews), then it was the home of the Grand Ole Opry, now it hosts bands like Ratdog (and Widespread Panic, who had performed the night before and who I used to see frequently in the 90s). We wound up sitting behind a cute engaged couple, one of whom was an Auburn alumna and the other a current Alabama student — the very model of “a house divided.” We chatted a bit about Auburn- and Alabama-related things. It’s funny how you can establish rapport with strangers right away just based on these topics.

[74/365] Bob Weir and Ratdog

At any rate, the show Saturday was such fun. I had my real camera with me this time, and people were kind enough to let me up to the stage for a couple of minutes to take photos. Whenever I have that opportunity at a concert, I try not to be in people’s way for any longer than absolutely necessary, so I just squeezed in at the front of the stage and snapped five or six quick ones and then went back to my pew.

Favorite songs of the night: “Uncle John’s Band” and then basically the whole second set — “Deep Elem Blues,” “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” “Friend of the Devil,” “Dark Star,” “China Cat Sunflower,” “I Know You Rider.”

We were so worn out after the second show night in a row that we basically passed out as soon as we hit the hotel bed. Sunday morning we got up early to the sounds of pouring rain, not so happy to be facing a 5+hour drive back home. CW (chivalrous and kind man that he is) did most of the driving, even though it was supposed to be my turn, because he knows how stressed I get when driving in a rain storm. I took over later on, when the skies cleared, and we made it home just in time to do all our school prep, laundry, and shopping for the week.

Oh yeah, that’s right: back to work. Heading in on Monday morning, in another rainstorm, before sunrise, with no coffee (I forgot the almond milk at the store and I refuse to drink black coffee) — well. It was not my ideal re-entry to work life. But you know what old Bob [Dylan] says:

I’m a-goin’ back out ‘fore the rain starts a-fallin’
I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
Where the people are a many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
And the executioner’s face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I’ll tell and speak it and think it and breathe it
And reflect from the mountain so all souls can see it
And I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
But I’ll know my song well before I start singing
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.

Oh, Brother

My brother Pete came to visit me this past weekend for a little sibling hang-out time sans parents. Without our dad around, we were free to stay up late and watch violent movies with lots of cussing! It ruled! Actually, he is almost 30 now, and we are for the most just a couple of slightly boring old people. This did not stop us from having some fun, of course.

The Friday he arrived it was an absolutely gorgeous day, so of course we had to have lunch downtown and then stroll around the scenic campus:

Beautiful day for a walk on campus.My brother and the lilypad pond

It was kind of funny, because he had forgotten to tell our dad that he was coming to visit me (they live in the same town and therefore see each other pretty regularly), so I texted Dad the picture above and was all, “Surprise, look who is in town!” and Dad thought that was my patio in the photograph. It is not. I wish.

We met up with CW and had drinks and dinner, which involved both Manhattans and soju and a ton of really spicy Korean food. It was delicious. The next day was tinged, however, with regret. That dinner was spicy, I tell you.

Manhattan Time.What if I'm instagramming my beverages tonight? WHAT IF I AM?
Latergam from Friday's dinner

Speaking of food, prepare to be jealous: Pete can eat probably more than double the daily calories I consume and yet he is not overweight. He’s an RN in a cardiac unit and therefore is on his feet all day, plus he works out, but still, picture this: We go to a coffee/sandwich shop for lunch and he peruses the baked goods selecting several. The counter girl asks him, making sure she’s got his order right, “So that’s the muffin, the bagel, the cinnamon roll, and the cheesecake…?” To which my brother replies, “And a salad.” Yes, he ate all of those things for lunch. It is baffling. “AND A SALAD,” HE SAYS. “AND A SALAD.”

And yesterday's lunch atop the Overall Co.

(Above: the charming rooftop seating area where we lunched. I refrained from photographing the food.)

We spent Saturday evening grilling on my patio — the guys had steaks and I had a veggie burger — and drinking interesting beers. Check out the cork from this bottle of Chimay:

12/12

Yes, that’s my birthday on there, for whatever inscrutable reason. I took it as a good sign.

Sunday we did a little local hiking in the state park:

Trails

Fallen Tree.Brother

Flowers

Humid as the inside of a dog’s mouth out there, but beautiful. I guess we worked up an appetite, because after that, someone (not me) ate an entire block of Tillamook cheddar with crackers as one of his lunch courses. Why didn’t I get that metabolism, I ask? Life is so unfair.

Christmas

Apparently, three days and three nights is the maximum amount of time I am able to spend with my family in Tennessee without getting into any arguments. Which means I am now back home and able to reflect on the nice things I did while up in Tennessee:

[357/365] I only turned around where the trail was flooded..There were a family of geese.
The creek was high..I saw an abandoned putt-putt course.
Funny signage from the Greenbelt in my hometown, where I ran this morning.I went for a wonderful run on the Kingsport Greenbelt, a paved trail in my hometown that connects different parks and neighborhoods, and is long and flat and pretty. It’s one of the few flat places to run there, actually, as my town is in a very hilly/mountainous part of Tennessee. It had been so rainy that the creek was really high and parts of the trail were flooded out, but I managed to see some lovely sights, meet a family of geese, discover an abandoned putt-putt course, and enjoy the signage that reminded me distinctly of something you’d see in the parks of Pawnee, Indiana. (Seriously, if you’re not watching Parks and Rec, get on that now.)

Dinner!I also left on a good note after Christmas dinner, which my brother and I cooked and which came out wonderfully if I do say so myself. I forgot until after eating that marshmallows are not vegetarian (they contain gelatin) and I should have skipped them, but I guess I am not perfect. The gift exchange went well and I think everybody was happy with what I chose for them.

Driving off into the Sunset (Sunday)I had been planning to stay over until Monday morning and then drive home in the daylight, but I decided to leave after dinner on Sunday. I still made it back home by 10:30 pm even though I left right as the sun was sinking low. A road trip in the dark is not my favorite, but I tried to enjoy the quiet roads and the prospect of my own couch and bed awaiting me.

Scenes from my Drive. Blurg.It was much better than the trip up there a few days before, which had involved over three hours of driving through a blinding, furious, torrential downpour that actually followed me northeast on interstates 40 and 81. How rude.

Egon and I were both pretty exhausted after the stresses of travel, and we slept in until almost 11:00 yesterday morning. It was glorious, as I’m sure I don’t need to tell you. Today has felt pretty self-indulgent, too: I started out with Body Pump class at the gym and then a quick run. Nothing better than doing something good for yourself first thing in the morning, whether that’s much needed sleep or a workout: each one has its own time. Body Pump, if you don’t know, is a group strength training class where you do a routine of weight-lifting moves set to music. Normally I love this because the music, instructor, and other people in class are all very motivating. I don’t need much motivation to do cardio as I just plain love running and biking — but when it comes to weights, I need all the help I can get, so this is a great option for me. But can I just mention that it drives me absolutely insane when the instructor and/or the other class members can’t keep time with the beat correctly? As a former marching band nerd, I take offense at any human’s inability to work within a 4/4 time signature. BUT ANYWAY.

Continuing my self-indulgent day, I watched some Vampire Diaries (I’m just getting started with season three), read a bit, and then went TV shopping. I’m buying a flat screen HDTV after getting to use W’s for a long time and seeing how much better it is than my old, crappy, 19″ tube. It is seriously nice, y’all. He’s been generous enough to leave his TV over at my place since Egon came home from the hospital and had to be crated 24/7 — we just stayed here all the time and it was better to have the nicer TV for a lot of reasons. The ability to play BluRays and stream Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon is, in a word, awesome. But I need to give it back to him soon, so I’ve been shopping around for my own smaller version. Thanks to a couple of gift cards and some money I received, I was able to get a 37″ model (which I got a great deal on because I ordered it online). It feels quite silly and materialistic indeed to be getting myself something so, well, excessive, but I think the enjoyment will be entirely worth it. It should arrive the week of January 2. Hooray!

So how was your Holiday weekend? Do you have any incredibly indulgent gifts about which to boast? Shocking tales of family conflict? Please do tell!

Happy Holidays

Greetings, friends! Christmas is almost here — are you ready, if you celebrate it? I am ready! The one thing I haven’t done yet is mail out holiday cards, which are I guess going to turn into New Year’s cards instead this year as I am so hopelessly tardy on that. On the bright side, this means that if you’d like to be on my card mailing list, there’s STILL TIME! Because I am SO BEHIND! So just email me your mailing address (kateoblog at gmail) and I’ll send you a little how-do-you-do.

In all other respects, though, I am ready to Initiate Holiday Action Sequence. I’ve got gifts for my family all figured out and bought and wrapped. Oh yes indeed! I spent last night wrapping gifts and drinking some (wait for it) pink champagne. It was doing business as “sparkling rosé,” but come on now. I was feeling silly and festive and that just happened to be what went down at Kroger as I was faced with the selection of sparkling wines. That pink bottle made its merry way into my basket. Don’t judge.

Oh, Champagne...

Anyway, I have the guy’s present worked out, too — despite the cruel fact that some certain retailers to remain nameless had a great sale going on and then ENDED the sale the week before Christmas just to prey upon the desperate last minute shoppers who’d be willing to pay full price. Well, they didn’t get me! I found a competitor stocking a similar product at a much better price. Look, I’d tell you all about it but he 1) hasn’t opened the gift yet, and 2) knows about this blog, so you’ll just have to remain ignorant for now.

Wrapping

Ribbon.Stack

Anyway. I’ve got a table full of festive presents that, sadly, can’t be placed under my pretty tree because, let’s face it, that’s just dog entrapment right there. My suitcase is also packed and ready to go. What’s that? Yeah, I’m fixin’ to head out of town tomorrow morning, up to East Tennessee to visit my family. I’ll be up there until just after Christmas, and then back here in time to decompress, celebrate New Year’s Eve, and then recover in time for the new semester.

Spikes
[359/365] Berries

Christmas 2010

I normally look forward to snow in Tennessee at Christmas, as it happens almost every year. Last year, in fact, it started to snow while we were at Midnight Mass, and when we came out of the church it was all drifting down beautifully and magically and it was perfection, I tell you. This year, I don’t expect to get my snowy wish granted — the forecast is showing temperatures in the 50s and 60s, only slightly cooler than the 60s and 70s we’ve been seeing here in Alabama. In December. I tell you what: I do not approve of this bullshit. It is supposed to be winter, you know, and not only winter but Christmas! Well, you can’t win them all, can you?

I hope you all have just a wonderful Christmas (and/or a great weekend)! Eat good food, sleep in, hug your friends and snorgle your pets. Happy holidays!