Six months later. . .

I love how I’ve just let that whiny post of mine hang out there, all mocking-like. Ok, fine, there were other fish in the sea, and all’s well that ends well, and home sweet home and all that jazz. We found a different house, a much better house, and we bought it.

And then about 12 hours before we took possession of it, we learned that strategically hung artwork had covered giant holes in the wall, holes made by having the built-in stereo components ripped out, allegedly by a previous owner, never mind the fact that we were sold a house with a stereo. Also, there was garbage everywhere, the central vac didn’t work, and lots of other stuff was wrong. And we were unhappy. And lawyerly threats were made, and words may have been spoken in a cold but firm tone, and certain people’s reputations may have been rightfully disparaged (not by us, of course. We would never. But if we did, it wouldn’t be defamation, because it would all be true.) But, we persevered, and then our parents showed up to save the day, or days, as it were, because it took a solid five of them to finish moving and fixing the holes and painting over nine of the fifteen hideous wall colors tarnishing the walls of our new home and unclogging sinks and rehanging doors and anchoring cabinets and so on and so forth.

And then we began commuting. The first week we had not found our commuting groove, and there was some discussion of whether the house in the suburbs had been a big mistake. But by the second week, we’d learned about parking ramps and carpool lane flow and how long it takes the other person to get out the door after several warning shots are fired. And commuting, to my big and pleasant surprise, became a rather relaxing transition between home and work.

And then we skipped the country for awhile, because a person can’t turn down a free trip to Europe, no matter how unfortunately timed it is. As it turned out, it was very fortunately timed in the end, because we needed a hiatus from home ownership. It was a bit trippy to go from our condo full of boxes to a roomy house to the tiniest French apartment you can imagine on the 5th floor of a walk up, all in the span of three weeks.

And now we spend our weekends at Home Depot, buying azalea bushes on clearance and mulch and a wheelbarrow that turns out not to fit in our car fully assembled, despite my insistence that it would. And paint. Lots and lots of paint. We knocked out another awful wall color in the past couple of days (and almost knocked out each other in the process–note to selves: we need to pick a project foreperson from now on each new big job), so now I think we’re down to just five ugly paint colors that need covering. We have lots more projects percolating, when time and money allows, but for now, we’re just feeling good about improving something that is really ours (well, the bank’s, but kind of ours).

So, important question of our time: are chevron curtains too trendy? And will I still be able to buy them if the debt ceiling isn’t raised and the government remains shut down?


Posted in Family, J & A, Moving, The Estate, Travel | Leave a comment

Love the One You’re With

Might as well just get this out of the way right now: this is a post about a first world problem.  I found a house I wanted to buy, and Jeff sabotaged us, and so did our real estate agent, and somebody else bought it instead.  And now for the past two weeks I’ve been critically assessing every house for sale in a 30-mile radius and hating every damn one of them.  I can’t get over the house we lost.  Then when I really get down, I start reminding myself that this is the whiniest thing ever (perhaps even on par with when our friend said, on a reality TV show, “I’m just a guy with $800,000 who can’t find a house.”  As you can imagine, that was the money quote [PUN!] that they played over and over again throughout the 30 minute show).  I mean, I could be homeless or living somewhere dangerous or dealing with roaches.  Or even just have to share an elevator with a much greater proportion of douchebags, like at my Arlington spot.  Unrelated aside: The NYT printed the word douchebag in an article this weekend, which made me rather gleeful.  All that said, I don’t know that I’m ever going to find something I like as much as that last place.  Related aside: ever hear the adage “happy wife, happy life”?  Or how about “if momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”?  Or maybe even “Yes, dear”?  Cause apparently Jeff has never heard any of the above.  If there is anybody out there who could teach him those things, that would be awesome.  I would probably even pay you.

So, today, in an effort to cheer myself up, I’m trying to appreciate our awesome condo instead.  Things I like about the condo:

  • walking distance to both our jobs
  • great neighborhood
  • great views
  • great proximity to a very nice grocery store
  • TWO indoor parking spots (take that San Francisco!)
  • the crushed ice our freezer makes and dispenses
  • no snow shoveling needed
  • excellent fireworks views
  • free and decent work out room
  • fancy counters/cabinets
  • rental insurance is way cheaper than homeowner’s insurance
  • surprisingly sound proof for a multi-unit living situation
  • cheap cable situation
  • cheap utilities
  • low risk
  • rental bikes right outside
  • very quick street plowing by the city due to being on the main post office’s truck route

Ok, when I get down to discussing post office routes, I know this blog is getting boring.  Time to go find me some ice cream, meet up with my BFF, and vent some more over this house situation.  It’ll work its way out of my system, eventually, right?

Posted in J & A, Minnesota, Moving, Our homies | 1 Comment

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

I said I wasn’t going to post about the holidays, but I found some cute pictures and decided I might as well put them up here for posterity.  And also, it’s starting to snow, you know, in April.  Because that happens here.  UGH.

So, without further delay, here are some snapshots from Thanksgiving, Christmas, and a New Year’s Eve photo.  Here’s hoping 2013 starts warming up, and fast.

Posted in Holidays, Minnesota | Leave a comment

Damn. We’re hungry. But only until tomorrow.

Jeff and I have started the 5/2 diet, whereby we eat normally 5 days per week and eat between 500-600 calories 2 (non-consecutive) days per week.  It’s apparently all the rage in Britain.  This is our second week.  The first diet day of the first week was rough.  Actually, both days were pretty bad, because we were just eating frozen Smart Ones meals for lunch and dinner.  This week, I got smarter and had a Subway sandwich for lunch and a chicken sausage/steamed veggie/scrambled egg concoction for dinner.  But we were still hungry, so we just ate a bunch of carrots and celery.  Because really, do vegetable calories even count?

The diet is intense for those two days per week, but I always feel pretty good the day after a diet day.  Also, it has given me a much greater awareness of how lucky we are to be able to eat as much as we want, whenever we want.  People are starving in other parts of the world, and probably even right here in our own city, and here we are, pretending to be hungry because we normally eat too much. Now that is a first world problem if ever I heard one.

Diet days do cause grumpiness and sleepiness and other odd behavior (such as having vigorous internal debates with myself as to whether I really need 5 plain almonds or whether I can get away with just 2 or 3).  We tend to go to bed early, but I’m not sure if that’s because we are actually tired or if we just want the day to end faster.  The odd thing is that upon waking the next day, I’m not hungry at all, and can usually extend the fast until 10 or 11 a.m.  I’ve also become a lot more appreciative of what I’m eating on other days — I think I enjoy food more — and more aware of the calories I’m eating generally.

I’m not sure how long we’ll keep this up.  Maybe just another week, maybe the rest of our lives. Now if you’ll excuse me, it is way past my diet day bedtime.

p.s. That donut picture in tonight’s previous post was TORTURE.

Posted in J & A, What we're eating these days | Leave a comment

We slept in Seattle. And ate. And went sight-seeing. And ate some more.


Finally, I’m blogging about Seattle.  I know, I know, you have been on the edge of your seat.  This is a pretty important post, because I think after it’s done, I’m just cruising right past Thanksgiving and Christmas and moving into 2013.  Not that they weren’t interesting (we hosted Turkey Day again, and we celebrated our first Christmas actually together, in person), but once a person gets this far past the holidays, it just doesn’t feel right to bring them up.  It might delay Spring, and that would be awful.   

Anyway, as you may recall, Jeffery was lucky enough to score himself an all-expense paid trip to Seattle during his Price is Right appearance.  Well, we made that trip happen in October, and we had a wonderful time.  If I had to sum up Seattle in one incomplete sentence, it would be: rainy, boozy, delicious, friendly, and holy mother of God, cheap books!  Seriously, there is a bookstore that had hundreds of brand new books (and not just crappy ones either) going for $5.  I think we came home with 17 books, which is ridiculous since we have converted to e-readers, for the most part, but we could not help ourselves.

We also had an interesting spa experience that concluded with a supine pedicure.  This was amazing in theory, but in practice, the tiny pedicurist had the hands of an alligator wrangler.  My shins had bruises, and that is not a joke.  It hurt so much, but I couldn’t bring myself to say anything.  This is one of my most annoying character flaws — although I can be a super assertive B on the job or at home, when I am at restaurants or in massages, I can’t ever speak up for myself.

But the donuts!  The donuts, pastries, and cupcakes in that town are divine.

We also visited a museum devoted to rock and roll, which was well done albeit overpriced.  But to make up for it, we toured the library, which was outstandingly designed and also free.  It is stunning what having a successful tech company in town can do for the culture.

The highlight of the trip was our visit with one of Jeff’s BFFs, his lovely wife, and their delightful daughters.  If somebody could guarantee that Jeff and I would have such smart, imaginative, funny, and gorgeous kids, we’d sign right up without a moment’s hesitation.  We got to carve pumpkins and eat a truly delicious meal that I am still thinking about, a spicy, sausagey, tomatoey pasta dish that was right up our alley.  I wish we lived in the same town as these peeps, because I feel we would make a really good friend couple match.  And I don’t mean that in a creepy way, but rather, we could all hang out or get dinner or go to an event, and it would be just as fun for me as it would be for Jeff.  Perfect friend couple matches are hard to find.  Anyway, I guess I will have to settle for occasional blog comments and biennial visits, although they have left the rainy city and are moving somewhere even more exotic: Indiana.

We had a great time, and seeing these photos again have brought back some wonderful memories!

Posted in J & A, Our homies, Travel | Leave a comment

That time my dad and I saw the first African American president get sworn in

Forgive me for straying from catching up on last Fall, but today is an important day for America, and I need to get down some memories before they grow ever fuzzier.  First, I vaguely recollect my grandmother telling me oh, about a decade ago, that one of our great-greats attended one of the Lincoln-Douglas debates and brought back a clock or a key or something to commemorate the occasion.  I hope that memory is accurate, because if so, over 150 years later, that guy’s great-great attended the inauguration of America’s first African American president.  Four years ago, my father and I watched history unfold in the flesh when we attended the first inauguration of Barack Obama.

Now I try not to be political on Facebook, because I get offended at being accosted by people’s politics there, but here on the blog, I’m going to take the risk.  So, if you are a resolute conservative, you should probably look away, because I’m about to make you mad.

On that day, January 20, 2009, the best moment for me was when the previous administration got into the military helicopters and flew right on out of the Capitol.  I jumped up and down and cheered. The intense joy and relief I felt in that moment is indescribable.  And while I recognized how historic and momentous the day was for our nation to have voted in an African American as president, it was seeing Bush et al. leaving that meant the most to me then.  Now, four years removed from the eight dismal Bush years, I am able to better appreciate the significance of the occasion.  Back then, however, the significance took a back seat to the happiness I felt about our nation changing course.  The Bush administration was opposed to almost every value I hold dear — women’s rights, gay rights, environmental protection, protection of the Constitution and our civil liberties, help for the poor and middle class instead of the rich, I could go on and on.  So seeing someone elected who ran on the promise of Change! and Hope! truly gave me hope.  Here was an incredibly talented and intelligent person who I could believe in!

Four years later, I think we’ve all grown up a bit and lost some of that naivete, the president included.  It would be a few more weeks until we understood the economic catastrophe he had inherited.  And it would be several months before he began disappointing us liberals by failing to roll back all of the civil liberty violations that Bush had instituted.  But overall, he has done some real good for this country, and would it be foolish of me to think that he can do just a bit more this next term?

But back to Inauguration Weekend 2009.  I managed to score tickets by requesting them in my dad’s name through the SD congressional delegation.  He managed to score enough time off to make the trip.  We had a thrilling few days visiting the Capitol to pick up the tickets and museum-hopping to pass the time and warm up.  We went to the free concert held a day or two before the actual inauguration and had a ton of fun.  The energy in D.C. was electric.  Riding the escalators at metro stations, people would spontaneously start up a rousing “Yes we can!  Yes we did!”  I have a distinct memory of consulting a map while in downtown and having perfect strangers approach to ask if we needed help with directions.  People were so happy and hopeful and helpful.  We were all friends then, every last one of us.  The night before the big day, we put on our fanciest clothes and went to SD’s Inauguration Eve party.

And then we headed to my office, to camp out in a file room on air mattresses, because we weren’t sure we’d be able to make it across the river in the morning.  We passed a restless few hours before waking around 4 or so to start putting on layers.  I think I pulled four pairs of pants on.  We waddled our way down Virginia Avenue towards the Washington Monument in the wee hours, before the sun had even begun to make an appearance.  We saw many others trudging too, along the way.  After what seemed like a surprisingly short time, we were on the Mall.  Giant lights on cranes were up and running, and the sudden light was almost blinding.  On we went, until suddenly, we met barricades.  Turning, we tried to go another way and then another, only to realize we’d been boxed in, nowhere near the place where our better tickets allowed.  That is when my dad almost became the only person arrested at the Inauguration that day.  He had a heated exchange with police decked out in riot gear with big guns.  I pulled him away to a friendlier cop I’d found who took pity on us and let us through an opening in the fence.  We squeezed through, and then had to snake our way through a crowd who was none too pleased to let anyone pass.  People starting sniping at each other, and the friendliness of the preceding days was replaced with annoyance and anger and maybe even a little fear.

Finally, we made it to the gate where we were to enter our section, but it was still closed.  We got in line, only to watch people opening littering, cutting in line, and committing various other manners atrocities.  I was indignant, until it became clear that we would have to become one of them and cut the line too if we had any chance of getting in.  It was embarrassing, but necessary.

Around 6 a.m., we’d found our spot, just behind the first set of giant TV screens.  And that was when it hit me.  We had to stand there 6 more hours before the thing would start!  While we were moving, it hadn’t been so bad, but stationary, the cold starting seeping through the layers and into our bones.  A few hours in, my dad stubbornly sat down.  I was so worried he would get trampled.  The people around us weren’t very nice about it either.  We weren’t allowed to bring any liquids, so we had a few clementines each and a granola bar for sustenance.  Every few hours, my dad would make me have an orange, just to keep from getting too dehydrated.

Finally, the main event got underway.  We all cheered when Gore appeared on the big screen and booed when nasty people were shown.  Cheney and Lieberman tied for the biggest boos.  Our standing neighbors and we became a little friendlier then, trading jokes and jibes, and when Obama took the Oath, everyone went crazy, including us.  Stupidly, I was trying to film the podium, but my lens couldn’t possibly have zoomed enough.  I managed to get a few shots of the people around us hugging, and you can hear my dad and I whooping it up too.  Then came the address, and we passed around my dad’s binoculars to our neighbors.

Finally, it was all over, and that was when I had my next depressing epiphany.  I’d been counting down the hours until the Inauguration, but I hadn’t factored in the leaving.  It was immediately evident that we wouldn’t be going anywhere for quite some time.  Luckily, the helicopters took off right about then, which cheered me up considerably.  But then we just started our long, cold march back.  We stopped and sat on a bench for awhile, but it hurt so much to stand up and start moving again that we decided not to stop anymore.  Finally, we made it back to my office, where we went inside to thaw, use the restroom for the first time since 4 that morning, and  get some water.  The news had dire reports about our chances of catching a metro back, so we decided to set out on foot.  We walked across the Potomac and then managed to force our way onto a train at Rosslyn to make it the last mile and a half to my place.

We were fairly haggard when we arrived in the late afternoon and could barely muster the muscle power it took to sit and watch TV (I’d Tivo’d the broadcast of the inauguration, so we finally got to see what was happening on stage while we were so far away from it).  Around 7:30 or so, I managed to take a shower.  It was the greatest feeling ever.  My dad summed things up nicely when he said, “I’m glad we did it, but I don’t ever want to do it again unless you’re the person taking the Oath, and I get to sit on the stage.”

Today, watching the coverage on TV, I was just a tad bit wistful, but I’d be lying if I said I wished I was there.  You’d have to pay me a lot of money to go through that again.  But I’m glad for America that we elected President Obama to a second term, and I agree with my dad, I’m glad we were there to watch history be made.  More than that, I’m proud that I was there.  Someday, maybe my great greats will read this and be proud that I was there too.

Posted in Family | 1 Comment

The ol’ stomping grounds, full employment edition

In September we returned to our beloved city with the killer views, San Francisco.  Jeff had been back a couple times since we moved, but I hadn’t.  It was definitely bittersweet.  How many times had I flown into that airport on the Bay, trying to keep my excitement from getting the best of me during the last few minutes of being separated from my long distance love?  And then there was the time we flew in together, as a newly minted family, to start our married life in an apartment atop the city.  The views were breathtaking, and so was the walk to get there.  There was the restaurant where we had our first date (during which I was so nervous I hardly ate, and Jeff was so nervous, he overshared).  Here was the intersection where Jeff gallantly saved my life from a speeding car.  There was the place I studied for the first Bar Exam (MN), and there was the place I studied for the second (CA).  But not all the memories were happy.

There was the street where Jeff’s company died a painful death.  Et tu, Brutus?  And there was the place where our friends used to live.  And here was where I networked my way through coffees and informational interviews but got nowhere quick.  And there was where we bought the paint that we lugged up the hill, only to have it turn out to be the wrong color yellow.

Despite the flashbacks around every bend, we buoyed our spirits with the knowledge that this time we walked around with full health insurance, healthy 401(k)s, and enough money to take cabs and eat out without even a twinge of guilt or fear.  This was made even easier by the fact that Jeff had been flown out on corporate America’s dime, our hotel was paid for, and he also made a little spending money.  (He organized and hosted a large and famous hackathon in advance of a major tech conference.)  The first night in town, we took advantage of our relative wealth and ordered a second carafe of wine at dinner.  HORRIBLE IDEA.  But I digress.

I was so proud of Jeff’s amazing work on the hackathon.  It was a quality event, and he had rounded up terrific sponsors, outstanding judges, and more competitors than there were spots.  I loved seeing him in action on the stage — crappy phone photos below to give you just an idea of the scene.

In addition, I got to hang out with one of our favorite people, Dr. Ayman.  Not only is he a famous research scientist, he also played guitar at our wedding, and served as a terrific shirt model and fellow deep dish pizza consumer during our trip.  We have since begun testing his new deep dish recipe here at home, and I am feeling hopeful about our deep dish future for the first time since the move.

Our hotel had views that rivaled our SF apartment’s, and even if the conference people spelled Jeff’s name wrong, at least I still got to see his name in lights.  The attendees hung on his every word.

And, when we returned to Minnesota, I didn’t feel as sad as I expected.  Fall was in the air, and fall in Minnesota is a spectacle right up there with hilltop Bay views.


Posted in J & A, San Francisco | Leave a comment

Yardstick Atonement, and later, a yard of kettle corn

First, can I get a round of virtual applause for finally figuring out how to get photos to show up next to each other in a grid??  You all are in for much less scrolling.  And before you go crediting the web developer in the family, it was all me!  Well, me and Google.

Ok, so, I’m going to start making these posts shorter, or otherwise we will never move into 2013 and prove the Mayan prophecy right after all.  Here we have photos of moi with my free yardstick and my paid for yard of kettle corn, fresh out of the kettle.  So darn piping hot, I could hardly hold the bag.  And where does one find a gloriously free, high quality, wooden yardstick AND a yard of kettle corn fresh out of a kettle?  Why, the State Fair of course!

Last year I introduced Jeff to the State Fair and was dismayed to find he did not care much for the animal barns.  Clearly, he is not the great-great-(great?)-granddaughter of homesteaders.  So this year, I got smart and invited a real live farmer’s daughter, my mom.  My dad came too, but he apparently decided drinking beer with Jeff and accosting strangers about chislic was more fun that seeing horses do a veritable half time dance team routine (the Homesteader gene skipped a generation, obviously).  So, after loading up on team cheese curds, the menfolk and womenfolk went their separate ways, and then the menfolk got really lame and took a bus home.  My mom and I, however, came home hours later, victorious.

Our first priority was getting me a free yardstick.  Last year, I walked around for hours trying to get a damned yardstick, and when I struck out, I was crushed.  I may have pouted for months about it.  And my mom may have even brought a storebought yardstick in her trunk to give me in case we failed in our mission, but happily, we found not only 1 but 2 free genuine wooden yardsticks.  I really owe it all to my mom, who approached a stranger (yes, I too notice the weird theme developing here with my parents and strangers) with a yardstick to find out where she got it.  So, with Operation Yardstick accomplished, I marched us through several subsidiary maneuvers: the art gallery, the crop art gallery, the sculpted butter heads gallery.  Along the way, we saw an awkward 4-H Glee-style performance and visited the Angus barn, just to help my mom feel at home.

Then we scored in a major way — Horse Show Awesomeness unfolded before our very eyes.  This was even better than when I saw the Miniature Horse Show last year, which is truly saying something.  First there was essentially a Car Fire Drill race involving unloading, saddling, riding, and reloading horses.  It was over before we knew what hit us, and incredibly fun to watch.  Then there was the horse dance team competition, which involved riders of all ages doing a really complexly choreographed, long routine.  Entrancing.

Finally, we left to find more food, and accomplish my second-to-last objective: deep fried pickles.  Then, on to our final objective, kettle corn, but first, a detour to get some of the famous chocolate chip cookies that my mother decided was a total commentary on capitalism and Fat America.  While we waited for the cookies, we got to hear Pat Benatar sing her two most famous hits (the arena was just across the way, and the sound carried well), “Love is a Battlefield” and “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” which was really lucky and also surprisingly good.

Finally, we strategically waddled out of the Fairgrounds right past the kettle corn stand.  Bliss.  And we only had to walk about a mile to the car.

Next year, the boys are just staying home and drinking on the cheap, and my mom and I are planning our entire day around the horse show.

Posted in Family, Minnesota | 1 Comment

Birthsary Trip To Cabin Country or Better late than never

So, after last year’s fun but overstuffed anniversary dinner, I was looking forward to celebrating our second anniversary as a seasoned pro-level wife.  Sadly, I was hunkered down in a hotel room surrounded by boxes. . . and not of the present-filled variety.  But that reminds me; I do get some pro-level wife points for hiding not one but two anniversary gifts in the house for Jeff to find while I was at trial.  The second anniversary is cotton, and I got him two of the Old Man-style cardigans that he likes so well.  Here is a photo he sent me modeling one while I was at trial that day:

I had to leave the house at 6:30 a.m. on his birthday to head back to trial, so I missed most of his birthday too.  I did score more pro-wife points for hanging up these before I left:

Two days later, my birthday rolled around.  I started a blog post that night.  Here are the first couple of lines:

“Today is the worst birthday I’ve ever had.  There.  I’ve said it.”

I have a flair for drama, I know.  But it really was a horrible birthday.  I woke up to NO STREAMERS!  TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE!  On the way home from work, I really let Jeff have it over that, only to open the door and find that he’d come home over his lunch hour and hung streamers.  So, good save, but really, next year, I better wake up to streamers.  My entire life of birthdays has involved streamers upon waking, and I am not about to settle for less.  Then we went out to dinner at this yuppie hipster place where you have to wait 90 minutes to get a table (we went and got ice cream while we waited, which was a good move), and it was so dark in there you could barely read the menu.  Then the food arrived, and it was total “meh.”  Expensive meh, too.  The worst kind.  Thankfully, my parents mom, grandmas, and Jeff’s parents had sent me cards and gifts, so at least I could dry my tears on some checks.  Seriously, thank you, Grandmas!  Those cards have never been so appreciated because. . . wait for it. . . my own dad forgot my birthday!!!!!!!  No calls.  No texts.  No cards.  It was at that low point that I wrote the sorry lines reprinted above.  Dad, if you’re reading this, and I know you are, you should probably plan to send me a half birthday card this year, just to try to start making up for it.

But, I survived, and a week or so later, Jeff and I went on our first trip Up North as Minnesotans say.  Actually, Up North really means Duluth and further, I think, but since we went north of the Cities, I’m just going to count it anyway.  Jeff planned a weekend getaway for us at a lodge, and it exceeded our expectations.  We had a huge room (which was really like the top floor of a house) complete with jacuzzi tub and fireplace, a lake nearby, a spa, and also a restaurant that replaces all “S”s on the menu and signage with “Z”s instead.  E.g., “Try our zuper-zized pizza with tomatoez and extra cheeze!” It drove Jeff crazy, but I kind of got a kick out of it, especially since the place had a parking lot for boats.  Apparently, when you’re rich and own lakefront property in cabin country, you just boat to dinner instead of drive your car.  We also enjoyed the local radio station, 107.5 The Power Loon.  (Read that in the voice of a really steroided out weightlifting radio announcer, and then insert a sound effect of a loon warbling sort of like a turkey.  Then imagine some classic rock playing.  It was awesome.)

The trip was my birthday present, and my birthday present to Jeff involved a homemade game of Price Is Right.  He had to come on down as the next contestant, bid $1 to get called on stage, then handily won at Plinko.  The showcase showdown followed, and although he didn’t win $1000, he did make it to the showcase, where he won the grand prize. . . an all expense paid trip to Seattle!

All in all, it was a great end to a rough month.  We decided we needed to take more trips together.  We’ve taken two since, to be blogged about soon.  For now, I’ll leave you with this taste of summer, on a cold and snowy December evening:

Posted in Family, Holidays, J & A, Our homies | Leave a comment

Love and marriage (and driving)

In early August, just before my trial started, we headed to SoCal for Jeff’s second cousin Johnny’s wedding to a lovely lass named Christine.  They make a good couple for a lot of reasons, but one is that they look alike.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get a good photo of the two of them together head on, but here’s an ok shot of the bride compared with a shot of the groom from Jeff’s and my wedding:

Half of Jeff’s extended family got smart and migrated from Ohio to California 30 or 40 years ago.  Jeff’s youngest brother also lives in the area, about an hour south of where everybody else was.  We ended up spending about half of the trip in the car driving between his brother’s house and the rest of the family’s homes/wedding locale.  During these car trips, Jeff finally appreciated the planning and foresight that I bring to our little family, which made the trip worth it right there.  Also, the rehearsal dinner was awesome:

The wedding was great too, but we were too busy having fun to take a lot of photos.  Here is one of Jeff’s brother and his new fiance:

As we say in Minnesota, awwfercute!

It was fun to hang out with Jeff’s brothers, despite their bad influence on each other.

The morning after the wedding, I had to catch an early flight back to Minnesota and the trial.  Jeff stayed a few days longer, which was good, because then I didn’t have to feel bad about being left out of family photos like this one (which they totally do to me even when I’m there!):

Oh well, I can’t help it if I’m still too much “wald” and not enough “Ben.”  In any event, nobody knows how to rock a makeup mirror shot like me.

Fun fact: I’d forgotten my gold jewelry at home, and silver didn’t match my dress so well.  I ended up finding those earrings and the necklace at Wal-Mart during an emergency run to buy Jeff boxers, as he had inexplicably forgotten to pack his underwear.  I think the jewelry cost less than the package of boxers.  I still wear them too (the jewelry, not Jeff’s boxers)!

All in all, a lovely wedding for the happy couple, and fun family time all around.

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Gin and explosions.

Slowly but surely, I’m continuing to belatedly blog about our summer.  Eventually I’ll catch up to real time, especially since nothing much happened for most of September and October around these parts.

Every year at the end of July, Minneapolis has a summer festival.  To be honest, I have no idea what it involves, because the only part of it that has ever mattered to me is the fireworks show.  Years ago, my parents happened to be in town when it happened, and we  ended up watching the spectacle right near where, years later, Jeff and I now live.  I remember it as the first time I’d ever seen “3-D” style fireworks.  Sometime after Jeff and I started dating, I told him that Minneapolis had the country’s fourth largest fireworks display (as I’d read it somewhere the year my parents and I went).  He scoffed and told me that every place claims to have the 3rd or 4th largest something, because it’s impossible to prove wrong.  It is now a running joke for us.

Now that we live right along the river, a few hundred yards from where the fireworks are launched, I told my parents they had to come back and watch again, this time from our balcony.  In anticipation of the main event, we went out to dinner at one of the city’s most acclaimed restaurants.  We ordered G&Ts for the table while my mom was in the restroom, only to have her return and pout because apparently Tanqueray isn’t good enough for her. *She* only drinks Tanqueray Ten G&Ts now.  Somehow, she managed to choke it down.  She perked up after the food arrived, the best part of which was the butterscotch budino dessert.

We returned home in time for the show, and the fireworks did not disappoint.  I had a boss one time who told me that there were few things in life that she felt she was truly passionate about, but skiing was one of them.  The day I attempted skiing was one of the most physically painful of my life, so I kept my mouth shut.  But I’ve decided I’m passionate about fireworks.  I just love them.  And I especially loved watching them from the comfort of our balcony, which had the most perfect view imaginable.

(Photos by Jeff, of course)

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Our Visit to Colorado, Or Why Don’t We All Live In Colorado And Bask In Weight Loss And Beauty?

In late June, I spur-of-the-moment decided that we absolutely had to get out of town over the Fourth of July.  The question was where to go, and since the Fourth fell in the middle of the week, the answer was easy: to visit my brother who works weekends and is therefore only available to entertain on weekdays.  In record time, I had conferred with him, Jeff, and booked flights.  Trevor was kind enough to get us a sweet deal on the hotel adjacent to the former-hotel/converted apartment complex in which he lives.  The TripAdvisor reviews were troubling, but for once, I had boots on the ground.  Both Trevor and Michael (a former hotel employee!) assured me that the property was certifiably bed bug free and actually quite nice.  And I’m not going to lie, the price was amazing.  Now, if it was just a few yards further from the train tracks, or if the train didn’t insist on blowing its whistle directly outside the window at 3 a.m., the situation would have been pitch perfect.  As it was, it was still quite excellent.  And the customer service could not be beat.

But even better was the company and the scenery.  We flew into Denver and had the best rental car customer experience that we can ever hope to receive in our lifetimes.  Although, come to think of it, we did get a really crappy “new Beetle” car which had some issues with cruise control and seat movage, but on the other hand, its brakes worked well, which became important later.  Our drive from Denver to Steamboat was gorgeous!  Colorado is really the jewel of the United States, and I can see why Trevor never wants to leave.  I didn’t want to either.

Upon arrival in Steamboat, Trevor and his off-the-hook dog, Obi (whose name might actually be spelled “OB” but which I prefer to spell in the StarWars way in order to avoid unfortunate tampon connotations), greeted us upon our arrival.  Obi’s vet was nice enough to say he’s not a pit bull so that he can have a roof over his head, and we all slyly looked the other way, but you be the judge:

As it turns out, pit bulls get a bad rap.  Obi is the biggest baby you have ever met in your life.  He needs to sleep on a king-sized bed with blankets on top of him.  He whines when you have been sitting in a room too long without talking to him.  He also has large footprints, by which I mean that when he goes cruising past you at warp speed on a treacherous mountain pass, you probably won’t fall off the cliff, but nobody would be surprised if you did.   But aside from jumping all over us and possibly rendering Jeff infertile, he was a very sweet pup.

Trevor was an excellent host, and it is only a matter of time before we impose upon him again.  He brought us to all the hot spots in Steamboat, including a bar along a creek that sells powerful-strong drinks, a brunch locale that serves cinnamon buns the size of a basketball, a Beatles-cover band Fourth of July extravaganza, a free ski-lift ride up the mountain to see the range in all its glory (and the one percent’s mansions), a hike that ended abruptly upon lightning sightings (and possibly his sister’s alarming huffing and puffing. . . the altitude, you know!), a terrific barbecued Fourth of July feast on Trevor’s portable grill, a burrito joint with an indescribably delectable sauce and unimaginably bad art work on the walls, and best of all, a surreal trip to the hot springs, at night, with no light (artificial or moonlight), and a misting of rain.  Jeff and I keep asking each other how we had gone that far in life without visiting a hot springs, which is now among Earth’s greatest wonders, in our opinions.  It was like swimming in a hot tub, in the middle of the mountains, surrounded by nature, and possibly a nude dude who hit on Jeff but not me (clothing was optional, but I assure you that we were suited up).

We also had the distinct pleasure of meeting Trevor’s ladyfriend, Shannon, who is a delightful, kind, smart, hard-working and very pretty girl who merited the Ashley Stamp of Approval.  One thing (of many) that I like about Shannon is that she totally keeps Trevor in line but in a subtle, non-obnoxious way (something that Jeff will tell you I have not mastered), and what I liked about watching them together is that they treat each other very respectfully.  That is inspiring to me.

Our trip came to an exciting and memorable conclusion when we all drove to Denver to attend a jam band show at the famed Red Rocks outdoor concert venue.  We drove our rental, as we needed to fly back the next day out of the Denver airport.  Trevor and Shannon drove Trevor’s car, which merits a brief aside.  Trevor’s car was the dustiest, dirtiest, filthiest thing I have ever seen.  He was lucky in that I did not find mold, but I did find everything else, including approximately $17 in spare change and enough dirt to keep that character in Charlie Brown in dust clouds for a decade.  Obviously, I could not let him continue living that way, so off we went in extreme heat to vacuum that sucker out.  He was not amused, but I prevailed.   That is what big sisters do best.  Shannon was thrilled (another reason I liked her).  While being chauferred around by Trevor later, we learned that he has never changed his windshield wiper blades, which led to an extreme case of metal-on-glass scraping whenever it rained.  We distracted him whilst at a nearby shopping complex, and Jeff secretly bought new wiper blades and installed them before we’d even left the liquor store across the way.  Trevor later admitted that Jeff had probably saved both his and Shannon’s life.

You see, on the way to Denver, we encountered sheeting rain, while driving on mountain roads that screamed, alternatively,  “fancy car commercials for cars with excellent handling” or “Late Breaking Headline: Bus Plunges Off South Pass Ravine, Dozens Feared Dead.”  Of course I was driving when this happened, and in that hour and a half of white knuckling it, I am convinced I gained 56 new gray hairs.  Trevor and Shannon made it through unscathed, although we can only speculate what might have happened had Jeff not saved their lives with the new wipers.

Upon arriving in Denver, we checked into the hotel and ate at Chipotle (shockingly, T & S had never been to one – wha??).    Then we proceeded to Red Rocks, where the fun was about to begin.  After waiting in line approximately 30 minutes to get inside, the sheeting rain found us again.  Within seconds, we were soaked to the bone, within a minute, it felt like we were wearing clothing that had been through the washer but had skipped the spin cycle.  Worse, ominous lightning was striking all around us.  We hightailed it back to the rental, where Jeff promptly lost the keys to the car.  Finally, Shannon told Trevor to go back to the hotel (which she might have done just to score points with me, in which case, she scored bonus points).  We dried out, and an hour or two later, those freaking scumbags put the concert back on!!!  So we couldn’t get a refund.  Trevor valiantly suggested going back, but by that point it was 11 p.m., and we had an early flight the next day and needed to drive another 45 minutes to our own airport hotel.  We said a sad farewell and left, ONLY TO HAVE THAT FREAKING SHEETING RAIN FIND US ONCE AGAIN.  It was like the dreaded herp, only worse, because I was driving and convinced it would not end until we did.

Magically, that little Beetle just kept on chugging, and we survived, only to wind up at a beautiful, quasi-new Hyatt near the airport where the rooms were junior suites.  We dutifully hung up our clothing to dry and fell into a sleep coma.  The next morning, I enjoyed some Hallmark TV (an old movie starring a teenaged Jennifer Garner) before we packed up and headed home.

On the way, we both commented that we needed to leave town more often, and we definitely needed to visit Steamboat again, and soon.  Thank you, Trevor, Shannon, and OB for a fabulous mini-vacation!  I’m so glad we didn’t die!

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A midsummer night’s weird dream

My dad was in town at the end of June, which was good, because he wouldn’t have believed the events of the weekend if he hadn’t witnessed it first hand.  The weekend started out weird and just kept getting weirder.  Thursday was normal enough, except for watching the actor who played BJ on MASH give a lecture about abolishing the death penalty.  We went to a minor league baseball game Friday night and got more than our money’s worth, as it took 13 innings to end (with a homer that landed in a hot tub).  We then witnessed a pig wedding (don’t ask) and lots of fireworks.

Saturday, however, is when things got really strange.  We left my apartment to walk over to the Guthrie, which has great views of the city.  Halfway there, we realized strange happenings were afoot.  People were walking around in head-to-toe neon spandex outfits, and ribbons were being unfurled from the bridge down to the river.  We decided to investigate, and it turned out to be some sort of summer solstice event.  We’d polished off a bottle of wine before heading out, which made the scene all the more surreal (and funny).  There were even some Wiccans dressed in white pouring something into the Mississippi.

We finally made it over to the Guthrie, only to find that it was closed for a private event, that involved people wearing costumes.  In June.  Dad posed by this guy instead.

Later, we went to get ice cream and passed by a murder scene.  That was a downer, but it really wasn’t any of our business, so we kept going and enjoyed salted caramel deliciousness.  A weird, fun weekend.

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Summer, we hardly knew ye

“Oh the bitter winds are coming in, and I’m already missing the summer.  [Minneapolis] is cold, but I’ve been told, I was born to endure this kind of weather.”  –Slightly modified lyrics of “Emmylou” that are all too appropriate today, the first chilly day of fall.

I have so many posts partially composed, but I didn’t get to finishing a single one.  The summer of 2012 will go down as my “lost summer,” I think, as it consisted of gearing up for a trial, having said trial be postponed, gearing up again for trial, going to trial, and recovering from trial.  I’ve said before that trials are aptly named, and this one was no exception.  It was challenging and grueling, but instructive too.  And although it didn’t turn out exactly as we’d have liked, it wasn’t exactly a loss either.  But was it worth my summer?  In some ways yes — I’ll finally make my hours, I learned so much, and it was more interesting than most work days — in others, no — I haven’t seen my grandparents in months and months, my friends were neglected, we didn’t get to take a real vacation, and poor Jeff was wifeless on our anniversary and most of his birthday.

That said, looking back, we made the most of the time we had.  In the next two weeks, I’m hoping to belatedly blog about the fun summer events we did partake:

  • My dad’s impromptu June visit that began with a baseball game that went too long but ended with a hot tub homer and morphed into a Wiccan mid-summernight’s eve festival (the weekend, that is, not the baseball game.  Although that morphed into a pig wedding.  Seriously.)
  • Our fabulous (and death-defying) trip to Colorado to visit Trevor, perhaps the most memorable Fourth of July I’ve had since Michael was born
  • Our box seats to The Fourth Largest Fireworks Event in America*, preceded by the discovery that my mom is a major gin snob
  • The trip to Cali for Jeff’s cousin’s wedding (also known as the “Lack of Foresight in Driving” trip)
  • A belated birthsary getaway to Cabin country, complete with The Price Is Right: Birthday Edition and the Reztaurant That Hatez The Letter S And Drivez Jeff Inzane
  • My Parents Experience The MN State Fair, or My Dad and Jeff Sit Around Drinking Beer While My Mom and I Experience the MN State Fair (And I FINALLY Score Some Yardsticks)
  • Our mail-order couch finally arrives.  Yeah, that happened.  And yeah, you should be jealous.  Four words: shipped free with Prime.
  • Our triumphant return to San Francisco in which I get the SF smackdown but rise to the occasion (while Jeff continues being famous and well-loved)

Stay tuned!

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Life lessons from my Dad

“If I teach you kids one thing in life, it should be that the beverages go into the cooler first, then the ice.  Beverages first!  Then the ice!”

Upon driving past an outdoor basketball court with a kid shooting hoops, “There’s a kid getting better.”  *pointed look*

“Life gets better after high school.  The popular kids in high school are having the best time of their lives right now, but then it’s over for them.  Your best times are still coming.”

“Marry someone who adores you.”  See also, “Don’t get married until you’re 35.”

“It’s not that much per month, I’d otherwise blow it on fast food, but someday, I’ll take a vacation with it.” (on his investment club contributions)

“People who swear can’t think of anything smarter to say.”

“You have to be nice to your siblings, they’re all you have.”

And some other, less quotable but equally important lessons he has taught me:

  • how to do a quality paint job on a house (inside or out)
  • how to iron a shirt
  • that you can feed your kids potato chunks boiled in skim milk and covered in Velveeta and call it “potato soup” and they won’t know enough to call you on it for at least a decade
  • Letterman is way funnier than Leno
  • try to include a joke early in a speech.  Related: it’s all in the delivery.
  • TV is pretty awesome
  • Neil Young is too
  • hockey is terrible
  • there is truth in solid Democratic values
  • you can’t beat The Man, but you can refuse to let The Man beat you.

Thanks, Dad!  I basically agree with all of the above, although I’m still waiting on this elusive investment-club funded vacation of which you speak.


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