Sunday, December 31, 2017

2018 Resolutions

A look back, a look forward.

Last year I wanted to schedule things like...

personal trainer sessions   CHECK

swimming lessons   CHECK - AND DIDN'T LIKE SWIMMING

monthly massages   CHECK

15-30 minutes of yoga a day   INFREQUENT

monthly cultural event with Amanda   DIDN'T HAPPEN BUT A LOT OF OTHER STUFF DID


Sunday suppers and reaching out to new people   CHECK (but not as often as I'd like)

A check-in with my 2017 personal growth projects:

// Shoot Along camera course. I didn't do a single one! Bah!

// Swimming lessons. I did five lessons which isn't enough to become a proficient swimmer but is sufficient to realize you'd rather be lifting weights, playing tennis... really anything that doesn't involve wet hair + winter nights.

// Read at least one book a month. I read fourteen books this year. Met my goal though my second, more ambitious goal was 25 books -- one book every two weeks plus one when traveling, etc.

// Surprise: those 20 pounds are still there.

In 2017 we travelled a lot (San Antonio! Kentucky! Italy! Chicago! San Diego! Portland! Charleston! Phoenix! All over Texas!)  In 2018 I want to devote my time (and our money) to our new home. For the first time  (I'm always thinking about where to next?), I'm thinking about making this place our own, rather than inhabiting it like the peripatetic hermit crab I've been. Segue to my projects/goals for the next year:

🏑 House projects: In the next six months I want to 1) raise our sunken living room 2) turn the bar into a pantry 3) do the girls' rooms 4) furnish the guest room. The first two are in the very early planning stages with a design firm. The third and fourth I'm going to brainstorm over the next weeks in order to accomplish over an upcoming vacation week. Upgrade the toddler beds, (hire someone to) paint the walls, decorate. So far this unicorn bedding is the front runner; I like the colors, they like the print. Should they share a room? Free up the other for a guest room, an office, an art area for them? Any advice? 

🎟 Re-boot of monthly cultural event with Amanda.

πŸ“· The Shoot Along course. I have all the 2017 lesson emails. Wouldn't it be great to learn some photography basics and have a year of portraits to show for it? Especially if you've already paid for it?!!

πŸ’» Blog more frequently. This is my diary, photo dump, mindfulness practice, and gratitude journal.

πŸ“š Read 25 books. One every two weeks plus an extra -- seems doable! 

πŸ’ Throwing an achievable one in here: wear the jewelry that I have. I haven't changed my earrings in six months.

🍎 Lose weight. It's hard to do. Meal prep, mindfulness, bye bye carbs.

⏰  I've been getting more efficient at work yet am dismayed by the amount of time I get with the girls in the evenings -- don't get to the gym -- don't seem to have any downtime at night. My solution is to wake up at 5:30 every day and either walk to work (35 minutes from our house), go to the gym, or do a home workout if Luke isn't around to take the girls to school. I used to get up at 4:30 regularly to get to Alamo 180. I can do this! I want to feel strong again.

I'll check in with these in three months. Happy New Year!

Resolutions 2011 // Word of 2012 // 2013 // 2014 // 2015 //  Summer 2015 and Summer 2015 eval // 2016 // 2017 // 2017 summer

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Christmas in Elgin

The last three days of my vacation we headed to Elgin for our friends' annual Christmas party. (Here's our visit last year - the girls have changed so much!)

On Thursday I brought lunch to Amanda at the Novel Neighbor and stocked up on sticker books and a Highlights hidden picture book for the trip. I also checked out several picture books with CDs at the library. They happily stickered away.

Stopping for lunch at their favorite, "Old McDonalds".

Fun in Elgin! We ordered in Mexican food for dinner and the girls played. And played.

And played. I love how completely zonked C looks here.

The newest addition to the family, Uma the Bernadoodle!

A light dusting of snow the day of the party. We went to see Coco, which was beautiful and so clever. The adults were moved by the themes of death, dying, aging, and memory and Clementine liked "the rainbow dragon cat!" That's a Pixar movie for you: come for the incredible animation, stay for the emotional gut-punch.

As it happens, Mike - my lifestyle guru - bought a sous vide machine almost the same time I did and used it for several of the dishes at the party --> beef tenderloin crostini

Shrimp with Old Bay seasoning

This year,  Brett and Elise brought their baby!

The Night Before Christmas and presents from Santa and Mrs Claus. Josie's gift was this reindeer (selected by me) and when I asked her what Santa brought she said cheerfully, "a goat!"

As the party wound down I snuggled in with the girls to watch the Robin Williams version of Jumanji and finally, somehow, all of us fell asleep somewhere. When Josie woke up next to me she smiled and snuggled close and gave me a hug. She's such a love bug.

Doughnuts and breakfast sandwiches before the long drive home.

With the sticker books all stickered and not much interest in the audiobooks, the girls watched Lady and the Tramp and Moana. Their favorite quote from Moana is, "really, a blowdart? In my butt cheek." which becomes, "Willy? A bwodark? In my butt cheat?

Restorative Sunday night dinner of 10 cent ramen topped by 6 minute egg, sprinkled with cilantro and scallions. The next week I would be on call and the band would arrive from Texas - all of us back to work.


Catching up with late November...

GAGA! It was an incredible show.

Pre-Thanksgiving with all the cousins! We took family photos too.

The girls have been referring to their cousin Ava as BABY AVA since she was born. Seeing her on this visit, Clementine said, "She's not a baby. I'm just going to call her Ava."


Brett and his mini me Isla.

Popsicles and Ava in the very first pair of Hanna Andersson pajamas that I bought for C.

Babies in the SHU.

I had a week of vacation which started with two days of feeling crummy (allergies) and then plenty of time to putter around the house and try out recipes and use my new sous vide circulator!

Sunny side up eggs in my new favorite skillet. Functionally nonstick!

Making biscuits.

Clementine's drawing of the biscuit-making.

Taken by C.

Dancing to the Frozen record.

On Thanksgiving I found out my great-grandmother was a tattooed lady! Here she is with her son, my grandfather and Clementine Frances' namesake, Thomas Francis.

C and I made almond brittle brown butter ice cream for Jenny. The leftover brittle was my Thanksgiving contribution and the leftover brown butter has been improving everything (green beans,  ravioli...)

C copied the letters for the construction paper (above) and when she was done she said, "that looks like a giraffe!" So she drew in the giraffe and named it Jenny (it doesn't show up in this photo but she wrote YNNEJ on its back).

Playdate with the neighbors.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Darndest Things

Mommy and Moi

Luke and Clem were looking at a picture in Highlights and she said, "I like those cruss-taunts."

Luke: What's a cruss-taunt?

C: Cruss-taunts. I had them with was like a hotel but not a hotel and a whole bunch of people were there. I had a cruss-taunt and I liked it.

Luke finally figured out that she was talking about croissants that she had at our friend's high rise condo ("like a hotel but not a hotel") five months ago.

Mirror Mirror

Clem to Josie, after they got dressed for their first playdate with the neighbors: Josie, you look cute! (dashes to bathroom mirror, runs back into bedroom) I look cute too!

Peas and No Thank You

Me, urging Clem to eat her peas: They're good. They're sweet! I bet if you close your eyes they taste like Skittles!

Clem: (closes her eyes, chews slowly) They taste like... the same pea.

Practical Magic

Clem: I keep asking the fairy for my old magic wand and she only brings me chocolate.

Big Box Store

Josie, to Luke during checkout at Walgreens, gesturing to the cashier: She is a girl. She has a vulva... she has a (growling for emphasis) BIIIIG VULVA.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Kitchen Confidential

We moved into our new house! I'm looking forward to cooking again after a relative drought AND I've attended two four-day meetings recently (Charleston and Phoenix) -- too much/too frequent restaurant food makes me long for simple meals of fried eggs and bacon, lots of veggies, the iced coffee I like, and unfettered access to sparkling water.

Here is a list of food-related articles I've bookmarked or checked out recently:

Chewy.cheese.puffs.   Milk Street's pao de queijo. Though I am still somewhat upset over Chris Kimball's departure from ATK.

Slow cooker, Southern style  I want to try the Thai chicken soup and duck confit recipes from Hugh Acheson's new The Chef and the Slow Cooker.

Save the date for my first annual BYOM (bring your own molcajete) queso party inspired by Lisa Fain's new book Queso!

Best cooking advice from Epicurious

Been looking for a black sesame ice cream recipe after having it in Montreal and in Florence (still looking for an olive oil ice cream recipe - had that in Portland!)

Gadgets   I probably have all of these useful unitaskers (Serious Eats). You know what I ordered today? A jalapeΓ±o corer! How else am going to make bacon-wrapped, cream cheese poppers for the crowd at the queso party?

And gizmos aplenty  Getting closer to ordering that Internet sensation, the Instant Pot. Kenji Lopez-Alt wrote a review of multi cookers and the Instant Pot (available with Bluetooth!) is the best buy fave; the Breville is the best overall (but $100 more).

Spicy! Noodles!  Eager to find some time to make this Chinese noodle dish.

Pour-over coffee  Anyone have a Chemex? They and most everything else is 20% off at Sur La Table today. Luke returned from SATX raving about the pour-over coffee he had a friend's house.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Italy: Trip Notes and My Pics

Italy 1 / Italy 2

Trip notes from my phone:

Saturday: worked out with Courtney , fender bender on 70, delayed out of STL, had to sprint across Chicago O'Hare after receiving text that the plane had left. Luke, cool and collected the entire time, I was frantic

4/30 Landed, harrowing taxi to hotel, dinner at T'amero, walked around Oltrarno

5/1 woke up at 1030, paninis at corner store, crossed river, found bus station, took bus to pizzale michelangelo, back to our neighborhood, needed coats and bought glasses for luke on way to hotel. With coats, ventured back out, had pizza. Walked around, had dinner at Gusta (gorgonzola gnocchi and wild boar tagliatelle) , more walking, dessert at Il Santa Benivore (Banana cake with coffee pudding drops. Luke had chocolate cake with apples)

5/2 add hotel breakfast, walked to David museum, figured out the line situation, saw the David and musical instruments, resumed bus tour, went home for ibuprofen, went to uffuzi gallery. After gallery, walked home and rested for a bit, then went to pick up glasses. Had drinks including first gin fizz at a restaurant in the Square and tried to get pizza but it was full. Walked to il santi benivore and sat outside. Met couple from Arizona. Had charcuterie with fig mostarda, fillet with bone marrow, pasta with spicy sausage (nduja)

5/3 breakfast, boboli gardens, la Specola, gusta pizza, Susanne arrives!, dinner in santo spirito

5/4 Santa Croce, coffee and prosciutto / mozz in square. Luke bought leather coat. Tried to see costume exhibit at palazzo putti; closed. Palazzo jams. Walked to piazza Cesare beccharia. Food tour with Omar. Walked home to SS in rain. Drinks and dinner in SS at gusta - steak with cheese and arugula.

5/5 bike tour! Breakfast at hotel, walked 4 min to we like tuscany. Guide: Freddy Doorley, prince of Tuscany. Russian Kristina and colorado couple Joe and Casey. Luke almost puked after first hill. Wine and bruschetta at villa. Home via ponte vecchio - terrifying. Took long way home, bought liquor and flatbread from nearby shops. Crossed bridge for Perseo, saw Kristina. Walked home, getting chocolate and home fragrance. Downtime in room. Found little osteria again, l'arrosticini, had spaghetti with tomato and creamy pesto sauce. Back for terrace drinks then second dinner at Tamero (plus margarita for cinco de mayo) and luke played the piano there. Old bose speaker. Improvised mic stand with music stand. Said aufweiderzhen to Susanne. We shared melted Brie with roasted vegetables and Susanne had pico cacio e Pepe, so good we went back for it on Sunday.

5/6 Bologna food tour. Took high-speed train. Giacomo lead the tour. Also showed us the original university of Bologna. Took train home. Took a nap at the hotel. Got a flatbread. Raining so we picked up umbrellas at the hotel and walked around downtown until dinner time at club culinaria. Purchased snow globes for the girls and a leather make up bag. Met a salesperson named Melissa from California who told us how cheap it is to live in Florence. Had a hard time finding the restaurant. Had smoked buffalo mozzarella with eggplant, rye tagliatelle with mushrooms, beef carpaccio, rabbit casserole, and potato ravioli with wild boar sauce. Pumpkin cake (without pumpkin pie spice) and cannoli with candied orange. Walked home and fell asleep. Did deep dive into etymology of barbecue. It's not what Luke thought.

5/7 took bus to Siena. Walked around siena had lunch at a traditional Tuscan place. Ordered special without being sure what it was. On the bus met Sandy and Lin, from Phoenix. Newlyweds at age 76 and 71. Lynn is very into mathematics and atheism and Sandy sells antique jewelry. They met at the senior center playing pool, and this is Lin's first marriage. She made him wait for months before they held hands but they were married. Walked around siena including a long walk to train station. Walked home from train station and had first to dinner at tamero - because we were repeat customers and Luke had played there, they gave us glasses of Prosecco and a surprise slice of cheesecake with mixed berries. For dinner we had pici cacio e pepe and sauceless pizza topped with mozzarella, mushrooms, and ham. Had second dinner at osteria santo Spirito with a small scoop of semi Fredo alla fragola in between. Second dinner: risotto with zucchini and heart of Parmesan / spicy spaghetti that wasn't spicy at all. Not in the mood to walk, eat, or drink anymore. Went back to our hotel room and watched Maria Bamford special Old Baby. Luke started watching ascension. Made plans to watch Medici* when back to US Netflix.

*The Medici show is terrible.

The fender bender on the highway on the way to the airport. Traffic was moving slowly because of rain. All of a sudden Luke said I think he's going to hit us! and indeed, this elderly man clipped our bumper at less than 20 mph. No one was hurt. His car was untouched and our bumper was crushed but the car was drivable. All was well (of course the car didn't start after a week in the garage but that's for later...)

First meal.

Dark chocolate and black sesame gelato. Delicious! But the best gelato by far was on our food tour in Bologna.

Record store by the Duomo.

Luke brought a tiny keyboard.

Hotel breakfast: scrambled eggs, cheese, meat, filled croissant, and coffee that somehow tasted better than any other coffee ever.

Boboli Gardens.

Strawberry semifreddo was maybe my favorite dessert of the trip.

At the zoological-anatomical museum La Specola

This is a wax model from the 18th century!!!!

Terrace jams.

Bike ride around the Tuscan countryside, stopping for wine and snacks at a vineyard. The last 10 minutes were through the throng of traffic and crowds in downtown Florence and it was the most terrifying 10 minutes of my life.

Luke noticed this piano at a restaurant next to our hotel - improvised a mike stand out of a music stand - played for the crowd. Fact: all humans love Don't Stop Believin'.

Train to Bologna.

Food and history tour with Giacomo, erudite, jocund, and utterly charming. He wrote his master's thesis on Porgy & Bess.

Happened upon this exhibition in Bologna. Wish some pieces had been for sale!