Thursday, December 30, 2010

Smell you later, 2010!

What have I been doing with the waning days of the year? Watching trucks on youtube with Joe, eating out of the pantry while the farmers' markets are closed, keeping Natalia's cat company, and listening obsessively to this song.

And let's not forget Read Out 2010! I never made up for the slow start but with one day to go I'm 4/6. I know what I'm doing tomorrow... I'll meet you with a final report next year.

As for this year, I am not sorry to see it go. Between my job woes and not getting to travel much, 2010 didn't give me much to write home about.

But I DID accomplish my one resolution!

I also made perfect latkes, took my first trip to Tahoe, chaired my first sacred harp convention, fangirled over the census, attended the most tempestuously awesome wedding ever, inadvertently created a monster, and rode my bike a lot.

Happy ringing out the old and ringing in the new, everyone.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Thanksgiving 3/3: Am I still talking?

I can't remember what else I was going to say about Thanksgiving at this point, other than to post some miscellaneous pictures.

1. Ahhhh yes. The Art Institute.

By which you know I mean The Thorne Rooms!

A few of the rooms were decorated with period holiday miniatures, for the first time ever. This was of course the perfect opportunity to inflict Rebecca's Complete Guided Tour on my mom... you may remember my dad had this dubious honor last year. We did all the European rooms, ate our smuggled snacks at the fancy new cafe, then did all the American rooms. My mom is now converted to the wonders of my all-knowing guide book, with its gorgeous 15-minute exposure full page photographs and design history and anecdotes about bibles you can actually read and clocks you can actually wind. Mwa ha ha.

2. My flight on Sunday wasn't until the evening, so my dad and I found ourselves with the afternoon to kill and the previously mentioned perfect fall weather. So we headed out for a short hike in local favorite Thatcher Woods, a forest preserve alongside the Des Plaines river. (That's pronounced "DESS PLANES" for all of you east coast liberal francophones, by the way.) Shockingly, I don't think I'd been there in more than a decade! I think I recall a sophomore class council trip to pick up garbage?

Busy beavers!!

3. So, growing up, my south Oak Park hood was hardly rough, but it wasn't exactly a posh destination. The closest commercial strip had a decidedly fading-small-town-main-street vibe to it. You had your local grocer's, your butcher shop, your christian video store. My friends and I wore down the pavement walking to the Avenue pharmacy to buy the early 90s equivalent of penny candy. Sometimes we'd stop in at the laundromat on the corner of van buren and oak park and buy grape pop from the vending machine.

The butcher was the first to fold and the video place the last. The fabled pharmacy sat empty for years and was recently leveled into a parking lot for the grocer, which survived to stock organic produce for the young hipsters who live in the newly renovated apartments with solar panels on the roof. And when I'm in town the corner-that-doesn't-smell-like-laundry-anymore is always a good opportunity for me to tsk in nostalgia at the signs of the times. But until now, it's merely enjoyed several modest reinterpretations as coffee shops. Look, it finally graduated to a full on bar and grill run by former Oprah producers!

But where will I buy my grape pop?

Read Out 2010!

Mmmm, unemployment. All the time in the world and no money to spend it on. Well, there's always the printed word to curl up with, right? And boy, is the to-read pile getting scary around here. I'm in the middle of two books, but neither are quick finishes - one is in Spanish and the other is a non-fiction tome. I have a stack of requested books from both Oakland and San Francisco libraries - no renewals. AND I have another stack of books I brought home from Chicago, thanks to early Hanukkah presents and giving some love to old bookshelves.

photo by m glasgow

So on Saturday I challenged myself to a read-a-thon. An average of a book a day til the end of the year! That's 7 books to pad my skimpy booklist this year. So far, well, I'm 0/2. I made some progress but didn't finish anything. Time to put on the coke-bottle reading glasses and get serious. I'll keep you posted.

Hey, anyone care to join me in Reading Out 2010??? 5 reading days left...

Meanwhile, I've been pumping myself up with year end booklists and podcasts. I don't think I've read one book published in 2010! (Uh oh, I smell a bonus challenge!) Tell me, dear readers, what was your favorite book of the year?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

christmas in ca

Another christmas eve with natalia! Please note her festive sweater with "Feliz Navidad" adornment.

Joe, in true form, was more interested in putting his presents back in the stocking or chucking them into other containers than he was in opening them.

A giant stocking teaser. To see the size of these things, and for more on Joe's new fleet of trucks, check out Inder's blog.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

His stocking was hung by the heater with care

Actually it's technically a heater/air conditioning unit. Don't worry, Santa still found it.

I bought R a mini-tree this year (the nice gentleman at the tree lot carved it himself out of a bigger tree) and my mom sent me a boxful of family heirloom ornaments (in my family, heirlooms include a plastic Homer Simpson wearing a Santa hat). Just look at that Christmas morning smile!

R did some hasty wrapping of my presents this morning, using the first newspaper-like thing he was able to fish out of the recycling bin. The irony is not lost on me.

Gathering my booty.

And last but not least, please take a moment to appreciate one of the presents that Santa left for Richard. It's a ROBOT TEA INFUSER, PEOPLE. A ROBOT TEA INFUSER. I don't use the word "hero" very often, but I may be the greatest hero this holiday has ever seen.

Merry Christmas to all!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Thanksgiving 2/3: blogging about home is like biking about architecture?

One of the things I was really looking forward to this Thanksgiving was tooling around on my dad's fancy bike again. Man, does that feel good in between non-stop holiday binging.

The weather was icky and cold at first, but finally the Sunday after Thanksgiving dawned a perfect fall day. As I rode through the golden afternoon light, I swear every family in town was out raking leaves before the snow came, it was positively Norman Rockwell. I'm not actually sure if such an iconic image exists, but you get the idea. Oh yeah, that's what I'm talking about!

(Warning: I've been reading too many bike blogs and drooling over the test rides and gorgeous photography. I'm sort of channeling that here... just minus interesting bike knowledge and a fancy camera. Apologies!)

My dad is luckily not a huge guy, so I can ride his bike without feeling like I'm going to topple off. But where's my step through frame?

Besides being a men's bike, this Specialized Tricross is SUCH a contrast to my vintage Raleigh. It has exponentially more gears, first of all! I just threw it in something that made it feel like work. Whereas mine is solid steel, this has an aluminum frame with carbon fork. Mine is ever so reliable, but ponderous to get going and then is quite sensitive to any steering. The Tricross is delicate but actually steadier. It feels almost spring loaded and then floats along the ground, practically under its own power. It's really screaming to be ridden with no hands. Which is a good thing, because I'm not used to drop bars! The angle was actually very upright, not aggressive at all, but the distance of the handlebars was a bit much - well, duh, the bike is just too big for me! But it was a pleasure to ride for a short distance and it seems perfect for my dad. Because I'm a meddlesome kid, I keep encouraging him to use it for more rides around town and not just sporty leisure riding - it's designed to handle both.

Speaking of urban cycling, having ridden a lot more around Oakland and San Francisco in the last year, and kept my eyes open for bike culture in other places, I was so curious to see how bike-friendly Oak Park is these days. As kids we used to ride everywhere, but I don't remember there being any kind of safety awareness - other than lots of nagging to wear my helmet. Well, it's no Portland, but there's certainly way more visibility! There are bike lanes and bike routes and lots of signs to remind people that cyclists share the road. Even in the cold I saw a good representation of serious commuters with panniers and all.

My mom lives just a few blocks from all the Frank Lloyd Wright homes. I took an impromptu bike tour/photoshoot. Enjoy!

The Home and Studio, where all the foreign tourists were starting their walking tours.

333 Forest Ave. Right about here a mom and young son passed me on a tandem.

318 Forest Ave.

6 Elizabeth Court. Until I passed it I'd forgotten that my friend lived here in junior high. I actually had several friends who lived in FLW homes, which made me fairly jaded. They're not that comfortable on the inside, you have to buy fancy period furniture or what's the point, and you have to get historic approval to, like, fix your roof. Plus, you have silly people taking pictures on your lawn all day :)

Design aside, if you haven't read Loving Frank yet, well, hadn't you better hop on your bike and pick it up today?

Marley was dead: to begin with.

After hitting the snack table at singing tonight, I have christmas cookies running through my veins. I can't get enough of Carolyn's pfeffernusse, but I didn't exactly argue with the guy who told me that my cookies were the best he'd had all season. (I posted the jam thumbprint recipe over on that other blog.)

Other signs of the season? Inder's mom came to town with crocheted stockings for each of us! They are comically large. There will be pictures. Tonight we decorated our beautiful fluffy tree. Last night I listened to the beginning of A Christmas Carol while writing the last of my christmas cards. I started out with a public domain version, but it just seemed a shame to waste Dickens on an American accent. So then I got all excited about Patrick Stewart's version. Everyone promises that you won't miss anything for the abridgment. But right off, he cut out that fantastic doornail digression about how "the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile!" I may have to actually go to the library if I want a decent unabridged recording. Well, for free. Have I mentioned that I just quit my job and have no money and it's Christmas? Yes, I may be able to work up to a good Humbug!

Friday, December 17, 2010

8 from ATX

1. A somewhat ungodly portion of my December free time has been or will be spent drinking large amounts of alcohol with people and/or singing traditional Christmas carols. Season's greetings, y'all!

2. R recently bought himself a tube of Colgate tri-color toothpaste, which means that now every time he brushes his teeth it's preceded by a "So... how many colors does YOUR toothpaste have?" To which I am forced to shamefacedly reply, "One." And then he nods smugly and proceeds to squeeze a little more onto his toothbrush.

3. Another one to file under Okay Fine, Sometimes Texas Is Sort Of Everything Massachusetts Thinks It Is: "Fresh off of his bizarre 'terror babies' tour, [State Rep. Louie] Gohmert has previously said that expanding the Hate Crimes Act would lead to widespread necrophilia, pedophilia and bestiality and that health care reform would force Americans to use contraceptives against their will, just like a non-existent government program to 'put condoms on wild horses.' Gohmert was also very concerned that sexy Miss USA lingerie photos would lead to 'economic chaos,' adding that men dressed similarly in garter belts would be protected under the expanded Hate Crimes Act." Ladies and gentlemen, American democracy at its very, very finest.

4. I need a new bookcase for our bedroom (storing books is my responsibility, since R fails to see the point in buying books... unless you're going to use them for something practical, like propping up the ancient laptop so it can ventilate properly or burning for warmth in the winter) and I've 90% decided to actually buy a new expensive pretty well-crafted piece of wooden furniture to fill the need. This is terrifying because a) I might have to actually go somewhere besides Goodwill to accomplish this, b) I have an inexplicable fear of any furniture that's too heavy for me to pick up under my arm and run out of the house with should the need arise, and c) I have such a glaring lack of financial sense that I'm really only partly convinced that investing $200 in something that will last 50 years is cheaper than spending $40 on something that will fall apart in three years. I wish that was more of a joke than it actually is.

5. Look at Carly's beautiful scarves! Don't you want one?

6. I finally made a decision about my future! Sort of. I think I may be applying to UT's social work grad program for spring 2012. Which means we'd definitely be staying here until 2014, at which point I would be qualified to do exactly the same things I already do, possibly for $5000 more per year. Again, I wish that was more of a joke than it actually is. But I'm excited about it, and it also means that with Rebecca heading to clown college library school, this blog has the potential to turn into the best thing since Back to School. You know you're excited.

7. Okay, these are up for a limited time only (since I try nobly to refrain from posting unclothed pictures of other people's babies on the internet... but sometimes it's hard!!!). One of the presents we brought back from Ecuador was a hat for our favorite tiny Austinite, and J&J sent us a couple of shots of her posing with it. I'm pretty sure our entire vacation was worth it just for these photos:

8. We've finally reached that time of year when our uninsulated house lets in the chill instead of the hot, and my pajamas consist of long underwear, flannel pants and 3-4 thermal shirts. A few more weeks of this and I should be fully recovered from my annual summer heat PTSD! Just in time for spring...

Hope everyone's having a lovely December! And remember, kids, hold off on all that necrophilia and bestiality until the Hate Crimes Act is actually passed. Just a public service announcement from your friendly neighborhood blog.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

On the 11th night of Hanukkah...

Yes, you read that right. We lit 11 candles last night. Hanukkah was extra miraculous this year to accommodate our schedule. It's never happened before and I'm sure it will never happen again, but I fried the PERFECT latkes. You know, that legendary light texture that sort of defies being created by large quantities of oil. mmmmmm. Well, I'm a latke traditionalist, but my guests were actually more ravey about the keftes de espinaca - even Joe ate something green for once :)

And the biggest hit of the night?

That's right, it was the Hanukkah banner kit that Richard got me for early-fake-Hanukkah. Tacky craft projects, they really tie a party together.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

don't forget to eat your hanukkah cheese, ladies...

image/post brought to you by wikipedia (king of the universe, who has sanctified us with its trivia...)

I'm sneaking a little Hanukkah celebration into our world cultures theme at school. Basically we're going to admire my Israeli map beach towel, eat gelt, and make our own dreidels! Of course I had to look up the hebrew letters and what they mean for the millionth time. I love that in Israel they sell them with a different fourth letter, changing the acronym to "A Miracle Happened HERE." And if ever there was a custom this household could get behind... "There is also a tradition of eating cheese products on Hanukkah that is recorded in rabbinic literature. This custom is seen as a commemoration of the involvement of Judith and thus women in the events of Hanukkah..."

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Speaking of crying babies...

My mom asked me to post this. Guess who?

Friday, December 03, 2010

Thanksgiving 1/3 - approximately 3428756 calories consumed

I also made a Thanksgiving visit to the ancestral homeland! Unlike Katie, I don't have a demanding public to entertain - there's no extended family there, just the parents, and not a SINGLE friend I keep in touch with these days. But somehow I squeezed in enough excitement that this post has turned into merely the first in a trilogy. Or maybe it's just that my blog prolificacy (?) is directly proportional to my level of procrastination.

Anyway, I may not be itching to move back, but damn I eat well in Chicago. I'm always wined and dined at the best new spots in town - this time it featured vegan, small plates new school Mexican, and brunch at the cheese shop. Thinking on it, ALL had seasonal menus featuring local produce. It's so awesome to see other places besides California rocking sustainable foodie scenes. And in true chicago style, it's noticeably less precious.

OK, my dad totally called me on being one of those people that takes pictures of their restaurant food, but hello, I had to prove the existence of a ROASTED CAULIFLOWER SANDWICH!!! Genius.

Honestly, I would have been perfectly content to stay home and eat out of my dad's pantry - he's the one who gave me the preserving bug, and now seems to have caught it back from me. Just to give a hint, our last meal featured roasted tomato/red pepper soup (one of his DOZENS of frozen pints!), pasta tossed with homemade pesto (also frozen), and salad with the last of the stored summer tomatoes (farmers market, chilled on back porch.) I also admired my mom's extensive container garden and ate some of HER stored tomatoes (garden, picked green and ripened packed in newspaper)!

And I haven't even mentioned Thanksgiving! I had my first tofurkey and my annual pie bliss. The Bridge family wins points for being serious brussel sprout lovers. Next year I'll bring double. Recipe: Roast with oil, salt, and pepper until caramelized. Drizzle generously with maple syrup.

Me + new grandma Sue + Lydia (1 mo)

I love how Nick and Katie are all "Are you REALLY taking a picture of our screaming baby??"

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The world is smaller than a needle's eye...

So I spent last week in the northeast. This involved eight breakfast, lunch, or dinner dates; three states; five children; two dogs; two grandmothers; staying up until 2am with the help of several enablers every night; a Thanksgiving dinner; a sing; nine boxes of adolescent ephemera; a gay movie; a walk in the woods; and so. Much. Dessert. In short, it was everything a visit to the northeast should be. Except maybe three weeks too short. And way too far from Texas. If you live far away from me, whether or not I saw you last week, please note that I'm loving you HARD this December to make up for all the time we don't get to spend together. The world is just too big.

Monday, November 22, 2010

In which Rebecca is awfully wholesome. And Joe likes jars.

Yesterday I actually did every single thing on my to-do list, including getting up at a reasonable time, cleaning several rooms, and hosting a canning workshop! Phew! Normally I would have to follow that amount of productivity and socializing with being disgustingly lazy for at least 24 hours. But today I biked to alameda in between rainstorms, made some jam gift tags, roasted beets, and now I'm looking for thanksgiving activities to do with the kids. (Thanks, sfusd, for scheduling furlough days for incredibly random times instead of say, the friday after veterans day or the rest of thanksgiving week.) Ooh, I totally want to make this! I know I grumble about work, but unlike most programs we have a pretty good supplies budget. I mean, I can actually get reimbursed for making a turkey out of fruit!

So, yes, the cranberries have been sauced. More coverage and recipes on the jam blog.

Don't let this video fool you - Joe's very experienced at putting on the two piece lids on and taking them off. He'd just rather pop the button. (Or, you know, put just the ring on and then stick his little paws directly into the jar. That's also popular.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Full service library

OK, so I got this mysterious package in the mail yesterday. Upon closer inspection, it was from... the Oakland Library?

I opened it to find a work folder I've been missing for the last month. OK, that was nice of them. It had my address in it, but I'm a little confused that they a) they bothered to mail it instead of maybe checking my library info and calling me. And b) it's not just sitting in a lost and found bin full stop. But that's not actually the weirdest part. I give you the full contents of the box:

Yes, the cash-strapped Oakland Public Library, which was just closed on Friday due to budget cuts, spent $5.72 to send me random old books. John Grisham, anyone?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Mom it's broken...

So, I may not be the MOST cranberry-sauced obsessed cook around (am I the only one who remembers Adam Carolla ranting about it and giving out his homemade recipe on Loveline?) but I'm doing a good impression of it lately. My cranberry sauce canning workshop is next weekend. OK, maybe "workshop" is a fancy way of saying that I'm going to put up some sauce with the help of a few singing friends, but that hasn't stopped me from getting way too excited about it. If you're not following By the Spoonful on facebook, you're about to miss out on a weeklong retrospective of cranberry sauce Americana. Just sayin. Here's the teaser...

"Cranberry sauce a la Bart!" Oh, innocent second season Simpsons.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Point of order

Please note: In that incredibly annoying way I have of always obliviously posting within 12 hours of Rebecca... well, I seem to have done it again. Only this time I actually checked to see if she'd posted first (the way Richard is always telling me I'm a bad bad friend for not doing), and so instead of making my post jump on top of hers, I reset the time to make it appear right under hers. All this is to say, please keep scrolling. Thank you, and good night.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

O that I knew the secret place

I may be back from Texas but somehow I feel even more on vacation. Tuesday/Wednesday was a blur of last minute voting decisions and various crushes of people (election day, dia de los muertos, giants victory parade.) Now I'm catsitting for Natalia, whose new place is just a few minutes from work, so I'm staying over here to cut out my commute and do my best impression of city living. Today I got a SF library card (I took advantage of the Mission branch's spanish language collection and checked out more Christie in translation!) and ate pupusas and asian pears at the farmers' market up the street. Let's just ignore the part where I worked in between there, ok?

Backing up to actual vacation. My head is still buzzing with the cooper book. The singing was starting to look reminiscent of western mass - three babies who were born since I was there in January! Not to mention the older kids who did a fine job of leading. Twas lovely to see the usual Austin gang as well as a crowd of visitors from Portland. Much tex mex was eaten. I was showered with presents for 3 nights of hanukkah! Texas mosquitoes are evil. Finally watched some baseball on Sunday night. (On mute, because nothing is worse than listening to baseball announcers fill time. We turned the sound on for God Bless America and promptly wished we hadn't.)

On Monday I finally dragged out my cell phone and remembered to document something for posterity:

On our way to pick Katie up from work, we took a short walk by the creek. Here's Richard and the scenic... power plant.

Hello, guitar sculpture.

Kicking back with a Topo Chico.

Anniversary cookie!! Happy 2 years of being married and confusing texans by not going downhill!

This cookie kept taunting us by looking like an ice cream sandwich but not actually being one on a hot day. Not that it stopped us from devouring it.

After lunch, with a few hours before my flight, we remembered that we don't actually know what to do for fun that doesn't involve the above. After much discussion we ended up playing hearts in Zilker Park. Which, when followed by an impromptu wade in Barton Springs, made for a surprisingly respectable Afternoon Out in Austin.

Can't wait til February when Richard and Katie make their Triumphant Return to California!

Now if you'll excuse me, here are my plans for the rest of the evening:

K&R Relive Rebecca's Year Abroad Part III: Quilotoa Loop

The third and final installment! In which our heroes are yuppies and spend four days at a beautiful eco-lodge. (But Rebecca told us to!)

Lupine beans are a big crop in Ecuador, which means pretty lupines everywhere. Raise your hand if you can't ever see lupines without thinking of Miss Rumphius.
This, my friends, was the view from the mirror above the sink where I washed up every morning. I know right?????
This is Richard riding a horse. Her name was Lluvia and he loved her more than life itself. I kept looking over and he would be adorably patting her flank and stroking her mane. It was almost, but not quite, enough to make me forget about how I hate horses with the fiery hatred of a thousand burning suns.
This is me on my horse. In case you are not adept at reading my facial expressions, this is a fake smile of rage and terror. And we hadn't even started riding yet. It was contorted in some variation of this look (though generally with less fake smile and more rage and terror) for the entire four hours we rode.
This is the view when you're sitting on the (composting) toilet. It's a bad exposure, but out the window are miles of rolling mountains and cloud forest. The little garden is full of herbs and flowers and the sink drains straight into it (biodegradable soap, natch). I can only assume there are hundreds of photos with this same view posted across the internet by former travelers who stayed here. It's a pretty excellent way to pee.
Inside the cute 3-floor dorm where we stayed (these are the beds across from ours. Ours looked much the same, only trashed with our belongings from the second we arrived until the moment we left).
R, swing, balcony.
Lake Quilotoa. It's actually even bluer than this, if you can imagine.

Okay, I swear you've heard the last about Ecuador out of me. Onward!