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Monthly Archives: November 2010

Before the food coma sets in

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This year I am thankful for…

…a house that has no shared walls with neighbors, a garden that offers more fruit that we can ever hope to eat, and a kitchen big enough to contain all my cooking tools and ambitions.

…a family that, no matter how crazy they drive me, acts always out of love.

…a husband who has “had my number” for more than five years (only one-plus of them married, but you know what I mean). I’m glad he’s on my team.

…a cat who provides both entertainment and warmth.

…a group of friends who, no matter the time or distance, are always there.

…DVR. Tivo more so than the crummy DirecTV ones, but really anything that lets me watch the shows I love and skip the commercials.

…the internets– the source of much of my news, entertainment, communication, and procrastination.

…Amazon Prime, for allowing me to skip the worries of shipping costs and delays, particularly for my Christmas shopping.

…the fact that I have the time and money to cook and experiment to my heart’s content.

…butter. Sugar. Olive oil. Flour. Cheese. Garlic, tomatoes, beans, tortillas, avocados, maple syrup, and all the other ingredients that make the sticky fingers, accidentally Microplaned knuckles, and smoke alarms worth it.

…travel, and the fact that it is possible to wake up one morning and, by the next, find yourself on the other side of the planet.

 

Here’s to a happy, healthy Thanksgiving that is filled with love, laughter, and more food than anyone should reasonably eat in one sitting.

My grownup Christmas list

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I grew up in a sharply divided household when it came to gift-giving. On the one side, I had a brother that began compiling his list of demands wish list around July; on the other, I had a mother that took great glee in tracking down and neatly wrapping the perfect thing that the recipient didn’t even know she wanted. Personally, I was always uncomfortable making a list of items that I wanted for Christmas– I had survived my entire life without That Single Magical Item, so who was I to be demanding things? (Seriously, I don’t know how I had this much guilt about asking for presents as a child.) I was content to be vague (“I don’t know…books?”) and generally be pretty psyched on Christmas morning when I tore into a new set of belongings that had been selected with my tastes and preferences in mind. Gift-giving, to me, was more than fulfilling a wish: it was tapping into unstated wants and showing that the giver really knew the recipient.

Now that I’ve typed that out, I can see that it is at least partially crazy. How am I supposed to know what every single person on my list deeply desires? What if there really is One Big Thing that they really want? (I know that, if I had been a more normal child, I would probably understand this better. Alas.) I’m happy to report that a) I’ve found ways to work with those in my life who are list-makers and expect me to be, too, and b) I’m getting better at making lists myself.

When my parents divorced, I was in the position of having “two” Christmases; what this really amounted to was a semi-elaborate scheme in which my brother and I would spend Christmas eve and the early part of Christmas morning at one parent’s house, and the rest of Christmas day at the other parent’s house (now that I’m married, it’s a whole new…adventure, but that’s another post). Here is a completely unsurprising fact about my parents: they are completely different. In contrast to my mom’s aforementioned knack for picking the Exact Right Thing, my dad had spent most of his adult life working from a list (my mom is a “better happy than surprised” person), and he expected to be able to do the same now that he was shopping on his own. In an attempt to end up surprised when we opened gifts, I would suggest and try on so many things that I couldn’t possibly remember all the possibilities, and did manage to achieve a decent level of surprise when I pried open the Fed Ex boxes that he enjoyed covering with gift wrap. (He gets the packaging materials free from work, and gets a sick amount of joy from watching us struggle with the tricky openings. We earn our Christmas gifts.)

GP comes from a Christmas-list-making family– they even buy things for each other months in ahead of time, call it a Christmas gift, and are done with it. Now, for a “must be surprised!!!” person like me, this has taken some getting used to. MaGP is a great gift giver because she is well attuned to the things I like; she’s gotten me some lovely purses, great books, and one of my favorite kitchen tools. GP, however, requires a bit more guidance, so I’ve moved into the dad-method of gift-suggesting, creating a list so exhaustive that I can’t possibly know ahead of time what’s under the tree. And, so far? It’s working really well. He knows I’ll be happy with what he buys, doesn’t have to give in to what he sees as a crazy “this gift is an indication of how well I know you and how I feel about you” belief system, and I am thrilled and surprised when I get to unbox my new treasures.

Are you a Christmas list maker? How do you pick gifts for your friends, family, significant other…?

No room at the…um, table

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Thanksgiving, the “official” kickoff to the holiday season (tell that to my holiday iPod playlist, cynics), is just around the corner, and this year will be a bit of a departure from the cycle that’s been going on for the last fifteen years or so. Usually, my brother and I (and now GP, who realizes the foolishness of attempting to fly cross-country for a holiday like Thanksgiving) alternate years between the two of my parents, spending one year here in San Jose with my mom and stepdad (and other extended family members and friends), and the other in the Central Valley with my dad (and aunts, uncles, cousins, and assorted others). This happens to be a Central Valley year (trust me, I know the rhythm at this point), and I had assumed that it would be occurring as usual, with a schlep over the river and through the woods to my aunt’s house, where we would be met with more food than even a medium-sized army. However…

I get a call last weekend from my dad. “We’re having Thanksgiving at your place this year.”

“I’m sorry. What?”

“Yeah. Uncle ___ said there’s no room for us at their place.”

“Look, I’ll give you a call later. We need to talk more about this.”

Upon further discussion, it seems that Thanksgiving celebrations have been moved from the aunt’s house to an uncle’s house (my dad is one of four, there are three of them left, and he is no kind of host). There will be various and sundry guests at this uncle’s Thanksgiving dinner, but it seems that when it comes to the four of us (me, GP, dad, and my brother)…there is just no room at the table. I am, to say the least, a little flabbergasted. I haven’t seen these family members since our wedding– more than a year ago– and I suspect that there may be some mitigating circumstances (though I can’t fathom what they might be), but we’re soldiering on. We’ll drive out to my dad’s, I will prepare the meal, and there is a good chance that we will ring in the holiday season with a viewing of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

Who knew Thanksgiving could be so ridiculous? Can we not just agree to get together, gorge ourselves, and nap peacefully with our obese beagles (yes, there will be pictures of my dad’s precious dog) at our feet?

A real, live librarian

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Just about a week ago, my e-portfolio was approved. I’m taking another class this semester– research methods, which is turning out to be pretty interesting– but for all intents and purposes, I’m done. Done with school, done with the MLIS, and ready to be a grown-up-type librarian.

If I am completely honest, I don’t know that the e-portfolio was the most mentally challenging exercise– but I can say without a doubt that it was the best possible way for me to reflect on what I’ve accomplished over the past five semesters. This next bit will be boring for most of you, but stick with me: the compilation of an e-portfolio is one of two culminating experiences that is offered at my school (the other is a thesis, which I think we can agree is a little silly for a terminal masters, particularly in a very practice-based field). I knew from the beginning of the program that I would have to put together evidence that I had fulfilled all of the stated core competencies set forth by the school, along with a statement for each (there are fifteen in all), as well as a “statement of professional philosophy” and concluding statement. I put the whole thing together in about a month and a half; it was really the perfect task leading up to our London trip, as I was trying to set my sleep rhythm in anticipation of travel and had a lot of early-early morning time to work on things. I remember finishing my last few statements on a train between London and Blackpool, submitting everything online from our hotel in Blackpool. We came home, and I had a few small edits to make. I made them, submitted my final drafts…and that was it.

It seemed a bit anticlimactic, really. We were staying with friends last weekend, and I got the email: “Congratulations,” said my “advisor” (in name only, as his advice was limited to three statements…yes, seriously). And that was it. It was over.

So, now what? I’ve been an intern at the same place for nearly two and a half years: longer than I’ve been in school. They aren’t in a position to offer me a full-time job, and the job market for librarians in general is pretty bleak. I’m working all my possible connections, librarian and not, and hoping for the best. If you happen to know any eccentric billionaires who want to hire a personal librarian (my possibly-nonexistent Library Dream Job), hook a girl up! Until then, it’ll be all the resume-customizing and cover letter-writing that I can handle (yes, I’m working on building up my tolerance for both of these brain-numbing tasks).

Rule Britannia

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Over the course of the last, oh…month (yeah, sometimes I am a big blog-neglector), much has happened. But today, I realized that it was Wednesday, so we’re reaching into the themed days-of-the-week post bag o’ tricks and pulling out… Where in the World Wednesday! We got back from London about a week and a half ago, and while all the pictures have been dutifully uploaded to Flickr (as well as a smaller set to a Facebook album by GP– I’m on the “pretty annoyed” side of Facebook use right now, but that is another post), I want to share a little sampling of my favorites. Good thing I noticed it was Wednesday, right?

While we were in London, we stayed with friends (who are doing various academic things in and around London– one is a postdoc and one is pursuing a couple masters degrees) on the east side of town, which was really fun and interesting because it felt much more neighborhood-y than my previous stays near Russell Square, the West End, and Kensington. One of my favorite ways of experiencing any country is through food (surprise!), and this was no different. When in London, we had this breakfast a total of three (maybe four?) times:

Full fry-up at Gardiner's

What’s not to love? An egg with a yolk begging to be destroyed by perfectly crispy toast, beans for piling atop the remainder of toast, and proper back bacon (an important component of the bacon-egg sandwich that I would opt for the next couple times we visited this cafe). The sausage, I will admit, is not my favorite– I think there’s more bread/bread-like sausage filling in their sausages, so the texture was weird. But the tea! Ohhh, the tea. I floated away on a sea of tea when we were in England.

With so many museums that were admission-free (don’t worry, we always put a little into the “suggested donation” banks), I couldn’t resist dragging GP to a couple. On our first day, we hit the V&A, where he got into a staring contest with this enormous dog sculpture:

Staring contest

the British Museum, and the Tate Modern, where I became art in a fricking mirror that was mounted on the wall:

A mirror

Until finally GP had had his fill of art. Note the disdain for what is essentially a solidly-colored panel (what can I say, the dude’s not a Rothko fan, either):

Greg is unimpressed

Our friends kindly showed us around their part of town, which is home to some delicious salt beef (seriously, how did I not know about salt beef before? It is miraculous), adorable mini cupcakes (plum and lavender-flavored frosting) with a Chez Panisse connection,

Minis from Violet

and an urban farm complete with some immense ginger pigs, who I petted despite signs warning me not to.

Ginger pig!

We also passed by one of their local public libraries, which is cleverly named. (U.S. public libraries, get on this! It could be a thing.)

It's a library, really

Other wanderings around the city found us enjoying some lovely and typically British scenery…

Millenium Bridge and St. Paul's

Because GP is a roller coaster enthusiast, we made some side trips to Blackpool Pleasure Beach, home of what may well be the last operating steeplechase ride (and numerous other thrills and bone-jarring attractions)…

Steeplechase

…and Alton Towers, which has many more roller coasters nestled into the woods surrounding a hundreds-of-years-old estate.

I’m slowly climbing out of the post-vacation malaise, mostly with the help of copious amounts of tea and a renewed interest in the type of reading that so enthralled me as an English major undergrad (read: nerdier than I already gravitate toward). Tell me, friends: how do you get over the semi-disappointment of returning home after an awesome vacation?