Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Things I've Done (marked in bold)
1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band (Consorting with Papists!)
4. Visited Hawaii (every chance I can!)
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo (first time was singing "Let It Be" at the junior high talent show)
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris (in 2001--we stayed in an apartment in Montmartre for a week)
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Visited the Statue of Liberty (three times at least!)
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France (didn't get to the Louvre because we had a 4-year-old...)
20. Slept on an overnight train (in India)
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person (in 1981)
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community (also in 1981)
36. Taught yourself a new language (I once spoke German and Japanese, but didn't teach myself)
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo's David
41. Sung karaoke (constantly, in Japan!)
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance (from one hospital to another, when Chris was about to be born)
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris (actually, halfway to the top, but we walked!)
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching (does it count if I didn't see any?)
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma (they won't take my blood because my veins are too small!)
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check (sadly, yes, in college!)
68. Flown in a helicopter (over San Francisco Bay with my sister and my friend Jeannette--amazing!!!)
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial (very inspiring--one of the best memorials in DC!)
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle (does a motor scooter count?)
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible (never from cover to cover)
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chicken pox (and shingles!)
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous (Mary Tyler Moore and Al Franken)
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Read an entire book in one day
If you read this and enjoyed it, please leave a comment and let me know which ones of these you have done!
Monday, December 29, 2008
Corrigan is a writer who recently published The Middle Place, a chronicle of her father's bout with cancer and her concurrent battle with breast cancer. Since being posted on Youtube, this video has been viewed 1.3 million times...but today was the first time for me.
I'm a great believer in the power of love and friendship aiding us during the difficulties we face in our lives. The outpouring of support Mike and I have received during our own personal crises helped us survive and transcend our difficulties. Women are especially accomplished at providing this type of support, as Corrigan describes.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Nicholas loves balls, Bob the Builder, Teletubbies, and cars, but his first love? Fire trucks, hands down. As a clueless adult, when I hear a siren I don't pay much attention to it. With Nick around, though, a siren in the distance never escapes attention.
His day has been made if he sees a real live fire truck--or even better, a firefighter who hands him a sticker. Our friends Neal and Annette, who used to spend lots of quality time with Nick when they were here in Portland, took him on a field trip to a fire station this fall. He loved it. He was a firefighter for Halloween.
I had never noticed how many fire truck themed clothes, toys, and accessories there are available for little boys. (Yes, little boys...since all that sort of thing tends to be sadly very gender specific.) So this year was a three-alarm fire truck Christmas!
This boy is in FIRE TRUCK HEAVEN!
As always, we ate very well over the holidays. On Christmas Eve, we had a fantastic turkey dinner...with baked potatoes, this amazing Cranberry Sauce Extraordinaire, very yummy stuffing (also from AllRecipes.com, but I can't remember the name of it), and a wonderful apple pie from the Simply Classic cookbook (which is my one of sister and mom's favorite cookbooks, and I've finally ordered a secondhand copy for myself).
On Christmas Day, we had broccoli frittata, maple turkey sausage from Trader Joe's, oranges, stilton cheese, lox, and babka. "Seinfeld" lovers will remember the episode in which Jerry and Elaine go into a bakery to purchase a chocolate babka, but forgot to take a number...and meanwhile, other dinner party guests purchase the last-remaining chocolate babka first. Here is a brief clip, in case you've forgotten:
Yield: Dough for 1 large babka (I doubled the recipe), serving 16
Preparation time: 15 minutes, plus about 1 hour to rise
1/2 cup plain yogurt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup wrist-temperature water
1 1/4 teaspoons yeast (half a package)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
About 2 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1. Place the water in a medium to large bowl. Sprinkle in the yeast, and let it stand for about 5 minutes.
2. Whisk the sugar, salt, yogurt, egg, and melted butter into the yeast mixture.
3. Add 2 cups of the flour, 1 cup at a time, beating after the first addition with a large whisk, and after the second with a wooden spoon. Add approximately 1/3 cup more flour, mixing it in with your hands. As the dough comes together, you might need to add tiny amounts of additional flour--or nonstick spray--to both your hand and the dough to prevent sticking (keep the flour to a minimum so the dough can remain soft).
4. Knead the dough, still in the bowl, until all the flour is incorporated. You should end up with a soft, smooth, slightly sticky dough.
5. Clean out and dry the bowl (or use a second clean, dry bowl) and coat the inside surface with nonstick spray. Place the dough in the bowl, and spray the top surface with more nonstick spray. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel, and put it in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk.
Punch down the dough, and proceed with filling and finishing. (I left it out overnight to rise.) You can also refrigerate or freeze the dough at this point, if you don't intend to fill and finish it right away. (Wrap it in a sealed plastic bag.)
1. Chocolate Babka Filling
3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa
5 Tbsp sugar
1-1/2 Tbsp butter, softened or melted, for spreading on the dough
(Optional additions: 1 tsp. cinnamon, up to 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut, up to 1/2 cup minced or ground nuts, 1 Tbsp grated orange zest, or up to 1/2 cup minced dried fruit)
1. Combine the cocoa and sugar into a small bowl.
2. Form the babka dough into a rectangle, as directed under "How to Assemble and Bake a Babka." Spread the softened or melted butter over the dough, leaving a half-inch border all around the edges. Sprinkle the cocoa mixture over the butter. (If you have extra, save it for the top.) Scatter the chocolate chips and any optional additions over the cocoa.
3. Roll up the dough and finish the babka as directed. Sprinkle any leftover cocoa mixture over the top before baking.
2. Frangipane Babka Filling
1 cup whole almonds (I used 1/2 cup almond meal from Trader Joe's)
2 Tbsp flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt (scant)
1/4 cup (packed) brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup dried sour cherries (optional)
1. Place the almonds, flour, white sugar, and salt in a food processor, and process until powdery. (I just combined everything in a bowl since I was using almond meal.) Transfer to a bowl.
2. Add the remaining ingredients, and mix until thoroughly combined.
3. Use as the filling for a babka.
3. Poppy Seed Babka Filling
3/4 cup cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup poppy seeds
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
2 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp grated orange zest or lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla
1 large egg, beaten
1. Place the cream cheese in a small to medium bowl, and add the poppy seeds, sugar, salt, flour, and zest. Mash with a fork until well combined.
2. Add the vanilla and egg, and mix thoroughly. Let the filling stand at room temperature for about an hour (for the flavors to meld).
3. Use as the filling for a babka.
How to Assemble and Bake a Babka
1. Lightly spray a baking tray and a clean work surface with nonstick spray and set the tray aside. Lightly spray your fist with nonstick spray as well, and punch down the risen dough. Transfer it to the prepared work surface and let the dough rest for about 5 minutes.
2. Without handling or kneading, gently stretch the rested dough into a rectangle approximately 10 by 16 inches. If it's too sticky to handle, add a little nonstick spray to your hands or a very light sprinkling of flour to the dough.
3. Spread or sprinkle your chosen filling liberally over the rectangle, leaving a half-inch border of dough all around the edges. Slowly roll up the dough on the long side, gently pulling and stretching the dough over the filling. Pinch the seam tightly closed.
4. Carefully transfer the filled "log" to the prepared baking tray, seam side down. (Curve the babka, if necessary, to make it fit.) Leave it in a warm place for about 1 hour. It will rise only slightly. During this time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
5. Bake in the center of the oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the babka is lightly browned on the edges and feels hollow when gently squeezed or thumped. (For a lovely golden crust, you can brush the top with beaten egg 15 minutes into the baking.)
6. Remove the tray from the oven, and transfer the babka to a rack to cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Here are the boys, just up in the morning, getting ready to open their stocking presents and gifts from Santa, England, and Australia:
Here is Kieran opening his remote-controlled robot, which was the only gift he specifically requested this year:
It's called a Robosapien, and Santa got it on eBay...we haven't completely figured it out yet, but it's SUPPOSED to walk...we have figured out how to get it to burp, though!
Here is the brunch spread:
I made babka, from Mollie Katzen's Sunrise Cafe. My grandma used to make this wonderful poppy seed coffee cake for Easter, and babke is the closest thing I've found to it. However, this time I didn't have any poppy seeds, so I made a chocolate version and a frangipani version. I'll post the recipe soon.
Here's Nicholas in his new Rudolph shirt (from Grandma and Grandpa):
After brunch we had our gift-giving extravaganza. Mike's family laugh about how long it takes my family to open gifts. Traditionally, we've done "Spin the Bottle" with our gifts, and it can take hours. This year we didn't spin the bottle, but we do try to open them one by one so we can watch each other open them. (It is better to give than to receive, in fact.) Mike's family just rips into the presents all at once. Last year I think it took us about 5 minutes to open all of the presents in England!
Mike posing with two of his gifts--a scarf and a digital photo frame key chain
When the snow hit, I decided to take on a last-minute project for Christmas. I had procured, somewhere, a Sisters scrapbook, which had been in my gift box for quite some time. I decided at the last minute, a few days before Christmas, to fill in the scrapbook. 80 pages of theme-related pages about sisters. Finding and choosing photos matching those themes was the most difficult part of the project. Mom sent me a few, and I went through my many boxes of photos to find more. I did discover that we don't seem to have that many photos of us when we were in elementary, junior, and high school. It's either baby photos or pictures of us when we were in college and older. But I found enough. At some point I'll post some of them on my blog. At any rate, it turned out to be one of those projects that was way bigger than I thought it would be...and it was one of those once-or-twice-in-a-lifetime gifts. It was fun to do, but I was up until midnight the night before Christmas Eve working on it!
I received some fun and practical gifts: the most comfortable winter PJs EVER from Nadine and David and family--I never want to wear anything else!; a deliciously comfy winter robe, a guitar chord bible, tea, chocolate, and a diffuser from Mom and Dad; a book, One Year to an Organized Life, from Mike (which I had requested)--in addition to the new TV we bought for the whole family; and a beautiful handmade batik tablecloth and set of napkins, a wonderful dry measuring cup, and other stuff from Olga.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Christmas is over, although we are still celebrating. Tomorrow we will attend church after three cancelled services in a row, and then gather at my aunt and uncle's in Lake Oswego for a postponed extended family Christmas get-together.
In the end, it was a subdued but nice Christmas. It almost wasn't so because of three near-misses:
1. Nadine and David nearly didn't make it down for Christmas, between the dicey weather and their lack of traction devices. On Tuesday, David had to spend 4+ hours buying snow tires, only to return home and get ready to leave for Portland and while packing, have the car-top carrier freeze in a half-open position on him. Nadine called me on my cell phone (while I was racing through Fred Meyer buying last-minute provisions before the next storm came in), and we were both feeling panicky about the possibility that they wouldn't be able to come. She and the kids were waiting in the van for an hour before finally getting too cold and going inside...she and the boys were crying because they thought they'd miss Christmas in Portland, when David came in to ask if they were ready to go. He had fixed it, thank God! Had they not been able to come down after all that, we all would have been terribly depressed. Even though they didn't leave Puyallup until almost 6 p.m., amazingly it took them only 3 hours in the snow!
2. I nearly burnt my dear nephew's hair/ear at the candlelight services. When I was an adolescent, I badly singed my own hair because I leant over to say something to a friend (I'll never forget the smell and the amount I had to cut out!), and we all tell that story as a cautionary tale to our kids...to be careful at candlelight services. Well, I was holding Daniel on my lap with a candle, so there wouldn't be any accidents, and I leant over to retrieve Mike's candle for him (it was on the floor), and I snuffed my candle out in Daniel's ear/hair! Fortunately, he was fine...it was a bit hot, and his hair got very slightly singed (nothing like mine, luckily!). I think it upset me more than him! Nadine took him out to put some cold water on it, and apparently he informed her, "Aunty Marie looked really worried!" What a clutz I am!! And of course, it made me feel so much worse that it wasn't my own child that I had done this to!!! Thank God he was fine!!
3. The usually good-natured Gettel nuclear family (adults) had a Christmas Eve argument about apples. This is so unusual for my family that Chris was quite alarmed by it. Suffice it to say that we all could have behaved differently. Fortunately, we were able to put it all behind us and enjoy the rest of Christmas!
As I mentioned, on Tuesday the 22nd, we ventured outside into the snow again--only the second time I'd left the house since Saturday the 13th! I had decided that with all the snow, I needed a last-minute Christmas project! (Ha!) I decided to make a sister scrapbook for Nadine...and to do so, I needed to make copies of photos to put in the scrapbook. So one of our jaunts was to Fred Meyer to pick up photos. We also needed to stock up for the holidays, since the forecast predicted a fresh wave of snow and ice on Christmas Eve.
After our extended family gathering was postponed and we planned to get together at my parents' house for dinner, we were all hoping to go to our own church on Christmas Eve. (We are never able to do so, because the services coincide with our family dinner, so we typically go to a neighboring church, St. Luke's, instead.) However, our Lutheran-Catholic community, Mission of the Atonement, cancelled its Christmas Eve services because of the weather, so off to St. Luke's we tromped (or drove, that is). It was easy to see how much bigger St. Luke's is than our own little congregation, because their parking lot had been perfectly shoveled by some dear souls, whereas the Mission of Atonement parking lot remained blanketed in snow yesterday when we drove past. Apparently St. Luke's NEVER cancels its church services because of inclement weather. (I'm guessing their pastor lives nearby, which probably helps.)
With the exception of the previously mentioned candle accident, and the fact that Nicholas had not had a nap and was completely wired as soon as he saw his beloved cousins (I took him out into the lobby during the sermon, during which he ran circles around me for a good 15 minutes!)...it was a nice service. St. Luke's is more traditional than our church, but they have incredible music. (Very important to a good Lutheran soul like me.) Also, Christmas is not Christmas without a candlelight service. When I was a kid, our pastor used to call the 11:00 p.m. candlelight service the "pajama service," and actively encouraged the kids to come in their pajamas.
Years ago when Mike's family was visiting for Christmas, I called around to some Catholic churches to find a candlelight service. I thought that Mike's family might prefer to go to a mass rather than a protestant service. I specifically asked whether it was a candlelight service, and the secretary at St. Clare's said, "Yes, we have candles." Well, let me tell you non-Lutherans out there...having candles on the altar is NOT the same thing as having a candlight service. You must each have a candle in your hand and sing "Silent Night." Of course, the Catholic version might be safer for pyromaniac aunties like me...
Here were are at church (who was that tacky woman taking photos???):
Mike and his mum--who was so glad to get out of the house at last!!
The pyromaniac herself and the boys
Chris sitting with his friend James (one of his oldest friends--they went to preschool together) and James' dad, David
Kieran in his fancy duds, which I had to BRIBE him to get him to wear (I told him I'd pay him a quarter, and then when he said no, I said "how about 50 cents?" to which he replied, "How about 10 cents?" Deal! I used to make bargains like that with my younger sister!) Later on I kept telling him how handsome he looked, and at first he was delighted...but then he announced that he was EMBARASSED. Then I started to tell him how un-handsome he looked, which made him beam! I tried to get my sister to tell him that too, but she refused...
Grandma England holding the sleeping Nicholas, who fell asleep after his racing in circles during church...
Cute Cousins Daniel and Kieran
With the "unhandsome" one...
Kieran and Chris
Thursday, December 25, 2008
As I wrote last week, when I first heard about Obama's decision to have Pastor Rick Warren offer the invocation at the inauguration, it made me admire his ability to be inclusive and accepting of people of different viewpoints. I felt that a lot of bloggers comparing Warren to being anti-semitic or racist was overblown and exaggerated.
Okay. So I should have done my research.
The amazing Rachel Maddow (she and Jon Stewart are, hands-down, the two best political commentators around) just did a story highlighting Warren's defensive posturing given the recent publicity, calling those who are calling him homophobic "Christophobes." Oh please.
He also vehemently denies comparing gay marriage to incest or pedophilia, even though Maddow shows an interview where he did just that.
I have not withdrawn my admiration of Obama for the bridge-building thing, and in fact, his decision has only served to shine a negative light on Warren in the end. My guess is that this might have been a very rare case of the Obama team not thoroughly "vetting" all of the skeletons in Warren's closet.
Here's the clip:
The blogosphere is steaming with angry discussions back and forth on this topic. Warren is not helping his case by coining the term "Christophobe" when people express disagreement with him.
He finally confessed that he'd been eating them. He cannot resist an open bag of chocolate chips, apparently. Hmph!
Kieran and I bought some chocolate chips recently, thinking we'd do some chocolate baking, and determined to keep his daddy away from them, he rigged this booby trap:
After 10 days straight of snow and below-freezing weather, I'm really done with the white Christmas dreams. We survived Christmas without any car crashes or other mishaps, but the snowy weather certainly dampened the pre-Christmas celebrations a bit.
We had planned a number of holiday events for which one must procure tickets in advance, such as a Nutcracker Tea and Breakfast with Santa and Bob the Builder, and everything was cancelled. Church was cancelled on both previous Sundays and on Christmas Eve. A holiday lunch at work was cancelled, and our extended family Christmas Eve celebration has been postponed to brunch this coming Sunday.
And as of the day before Christmas Eve, it appeared that my sister and her family might not make it down to Portland for the holiday. It was dicey and day to day...they had planned to come down on Monday, but it then continued to be stormy, and then it appeared that Wednesday would be the best day, but then the forecast changed to say that Wednesday would be the worst day of all...so then they planned to come down on Tuesday...however, they had to buy snow tires. My brother-in-law went off to purchase them and it took him over 4 hours to buy them (long story). By the time he returned home and started packing up the car, the car-top carrier froze in a halfway open position. It took him over an hour to fix it--as it was getting later in the afternoon and the temperatures dropping, and it really appeared that their trip was not meant to be. That would have been really incredibly depressing if they hadn't been able to come. But hallelujah! He was able to fix it, and amazingly it took them only 3 hours to drive down. The main roads seem to be okay; it's the unplowed and unsalted side streets that are really dangerous.
Here are some photos of our snowy yard and neighborhood:
These are from last week, when the snow was not as deep as it is now:
The backyard, last week
View from the front window--that branch is usually not so low, but it was weighted down with snow and ice
This car is buried even more deeply now!
I took these photos on our drive to Fred Meyer on Tuesday (only the second time I'd been out of the house in the previous 9 days!):