Friday, December 30, 2005

Last year's crazy list

Remember last year's absurdly ambitious list of things I was going to do in 2005? My goodness, how some of my friends mocked me for this. As they should have - it was a mind boggling list.

Well, here's how I did:
  • 22 out of 39 items on the list actually did happen in 2005.
  • Another 5 were taken care of by moving to a new house instead of remodeling the old one, so I count those as effectively done too.

Not bad. Still, this year's list is going to be much shorter, and much more specialized. Can't post it yet thought - some of it's secret. What I can tell is tht it will involve a trip to Italy, and keeping the blog up again, and finishing a quilt or two, and some other fun stuff. And that aside from a few things like that I'm going resolve to be a little less big-project driven this year. Maybe I'll resolve to take regular naps. That seems about right.

Here's the item by item accounting of the goals for 2005:

  1. MOVED – SO DIDN’T HAVE TO: Redo the kitchen before the end of the year.
  2. MOVED – SO DIDN’T HAVE TO: Add a small bathroom in the back of the house.
  3. MOVED – SO DIDN’T HAVE TO: Redo my vegetable garden raised bed so it’s narrower and I can easily reach and work all of its area.
  4. DONE: Get a really good automatic watering system set up. Grow tomatoes.
  5. DONE: Go to France in April and have an amazing time.
  6. DONE - Take a “French for Travellers” class with Brett.
  7. DONE: Take a beach vacation.
  8. DONE: Continue to read obsessively. I don't think I could actually read any more than I do, so I just want to maintain my already overly high level of book consumption.
  9. DIDN’T KEEP THIS UP: Keep a running list of everything I read.
  10. DONE, AND THEN SOME – MOVED MOM AND DAD HERE IN JULY, AND VISITED IRA AND KIM: See family - see Mom and Dad, see Dana, bring both Andrew and Nick up to Seattle in the summer for a week. See more of Marilyn, Mike, and Art.
  11. DONE: Finish that project at work that’s been running for almost three years now and move on.
  12. NOT DONE: Take two months off to garden and read and think about what’s next.
  13. NOT DONE: Take two writing classes.
  14. NOT DONE: Start writing non-blog material regularly. Submit something for publication, somewhere.
  15. BASICALLY SORTA DONE: Keep the blog going. Gain more readers.
  16. DONE: Have folks over for dinner once a month or so. Experiment with new recipes and come up with a handful of new company dishes – good things to whip out for larger groups of people. Develop some new specialities. Continue to explore recent Moroccan kick, as a start.
  17. ONLY WENT FOR A MONTH - Go to yoga once a week, down the street.
  18. BASICALLY DONE: Nurture my existing friendships and fan a couple of developing ones.
  19. SHOOT – DIDN’T DO THIS: Get back in touch with my friend Jenn, from college. Actually use the email address from her Christmas card.
  20. DIDN’T DO THIS: Go to Maine with Brett, if he goes to the reunion.
  21. DONE - Take a day off for the NW Flower and Garden Show in February and actually get down there instead of just saying I’m going to and then not making the time.
  22. NOPE: Volunteer with the NW Perennial Alliance at least a couple times.
  23. NOPE: Compost more of our food waste. Collect rainwater. Make less trash somehow.
  24. DONE: Get the chimney cleaned before we burn our house down.
  25. NOPE: Grow some pretty flowering vine up the telephone pole out front.
  26. DONE: Help make Brett’s 40th birthday a good one for him.
  27. MOVED INSTEAD: Survive remodeling the house with marriage intact.
  28. DONE: Keep up my regular workouts with Ben.
  29. NOPE: Take part in NANOWRIMO 2005.
  30. DONE: Understand our finances better – what’s where, how to get to it, etc.
  31. DONE: Make a little bit of money off my remaining sellable options.
  32. DONE - Get Cassie all better from her thyroid condition.
  33. DONE: Learn two new Bach pieces on the piano.
  34. DONE – ALMOST WEEKLY: Visit our sushi place as often as possible.
  35. MOVED INSTEAD: Decide about ripping up the deck, and if we end up doing it get the topsoil brought in and conditioned for 2006 growing season.
  36. DONE - Spend a weekend away somewhere snowy in January or February, snowshowing.
  37. DONE - Camp more than we were able to do last summer.
  38. NOT DONE: Get the project house remodel underway, with Snapdragon.
  39. DONE: Visit Portland or Vancouver or both.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Life of sloth

I must admit, I could get used to this life of sloth. Brett and I have both been off work this whole week plus last Friday, and for once instead of zooming by, our free time seems to have slowed down and passed at a crawl. And it's great! I could get used to the sleeping in until nine, the leisurely time to cook nice dinners, the fitting in of workouts in the middle of the day, the time for projects like quilting, the waking up and deciding what you want to do each day.

This morning the twice-a-month housecleaner guy was coming, so I headed out early with my laptop to come lurk in a corner table at Herkimer's Coffee, coffee nirvana in my neighborhood, and am taking the opportunity to force myself to catch up on the blog. After which I'm going to stroll the six blocks home and then maybe go shopping. Or see a movie. Or who knows.

Maybe I'll just nap.

This Year's Ugly Cookie Party - Year Six

Ok, finally, belated, here's a little bit of the highlights from this year's Ugly Cookie Day party!

For those of you just joining us this year, Ugly Cookie Day is a longstanding holiday tradition with me, dating back to at least college when a boyfriend and I tried to make nicelooking decorated cookies and discovered we weren't very good at it. Much more fun to just give up on that pretension and make messy or even ugly cookies. And thus, a party idea was born. My girlfriends and I in Seattle have been making ugly cookies for six years now - and each year, the bar gets higher.

Here are this year's cookie ladies - left to right, Jacki, Robin, Erica, me, and Kim:


Plus new friend Kate, seen at the far right here, who won the award for best ugly cookie of the evening (see below):


And plus Bina, who I ended up with no pictures of, because she left early - but this was a special year for Bina, who has grown up with us over the course of this party and is now off to college. We're not sure if we'll see her again at an Ugly Cookie Day party or not, but have tasked her with the process of carrying this party forward into the world as she goes off to live her life. Here's a picture of her from last year:


Our cookies now span from the simply ugly to the unusual - including...

...pop culture references, such as Rosemary's Baby:



or Tom and Katie:


...television icons



...literary references, such as Moby Dick:


...unexpected twists on standard shapes and holiday themes - note that this moose is really a gingerbread man turned upside down:


...politics (George and Condi):


...cautionary tales about what happens if you put your tree too close to your fireplace:


...and pastiches of multiple cookies that tell a story, as in Shark Attack, Kate's creation, voted most successful ugly cookie of 2005 by the cookie ladies:


And finally, just to prove we aren't hopeless, here's the year's nicest looking cookie, by Bina:



If you'd like to see more, the full slide deck is here.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The new tropics

Here in the Pacific Northwest, it's a balmy and temperate 53 degrees today. FIFTY THREE! Two days before Christmas! I enjoy fine weather as much as the next person, but I don't find it Christmas-y to only have to toss on a light jacket before going outside. Into, may I add, the torrential downpour that's been falling for going on four days now that could be inches and inches of lovely fresh snow, keeping us off the roads on anything faster than a sled and making it impossible for anyone to go to work.

This just fits with my theory that global warming is going to turn Seattle into the new tropics.

If I wanted a warm and cozy Christmas week I'd live in California. Where's my snow?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Ok, so I'm slow

I haven't quite gotten the cookie pictures together yet. I did process them all. Next is putting them into the right order for the slide show, then generating that (which only takes a second), then uploading them all despite my crappy and unreliable connection (only Brett gets good internet connectivity in our house), and then I'm all set to blog about it. Which should be... any day now. Friday for sure, if not before that.

I should've had a lot of free time this week, but I keep spending it on things like going to see Pride and Prejudice for the second time, trying to finish the Christmas cards, spending time with friends, etc.

Where are my priorities? :)

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Cookie Eve

It's Ugly Cookie Eve, meaning of course that tomorrow is sixth year of the Ugly Cookie Party. Today I made six dozen more cookies, plus the three or four dozen I made a few weeks back. Given that Erica is also bringing a batch, we should have ple-e-e-enty.

To break up the monotony of making that many cookies, I made three different recipes - one from a recent Cooks Illustrated that claimed to be the significantly best, most non-spreading cutout cookies ever, one with cardamom that were supposed to be scandinavian in origin, and one just basic sugar-cookie-with-grated-orange-peel I found on the Web from a nice lady in Indiana.

Honestly, while Cooks Illustrated's recipe (oddly without eggs or almost any liquid at all except for cream cheese) did indeed produce cookies that held their shapes perfectly, they were no better in that department than the other two - all of them were flawless in that respect, enabling me to pack the cookie sheets full and get it all done faster. (Yes, you can fit eight stars, six snowmen, an elephant and two gorillas on one sheet.)

The cardamom one tasted like shoe leather; frosting may help. The best tasting? Indiana lady. Scroll down to Christmas Cutout Cookies on the link above.

I was also happy to find white dragees at Larry's tonight, perfect size for eyeballs. I'm sure those will come in handy. And pink ones, perfect for, well, pinkeye, among other things. Oh, what will the winner be this year?

You'll find out tomorrow.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Fa la la

Last Sunday, we got back from Jacksonville, schlepped the cat to surgery, caught a few hours sleep, went back to get the cat from surgery, and then trekked out to get the third annual Zalkan household Christmas tree. For me, it's more like my thirty-third tree (there were a few years I missed in there in my early thirties). For Brett, it's numero tres of his entire life.

He has adjusted nicely.



In the last couple years, I've been getting into these less full trees - sort of spindly and old fashioned with lots of big spaces between the branches for hanging things in. They're not the kind of trees I'm used to, but they have a nice homespun feel to them. This one, however, was a little smaller than we realized. Even with the big pointy topper on it, it's still a good foot and a half shy of the ceiling, and its stem was so small that we had to go out and buy an entirely different tree stand in order to get it to stand up securely. Then I went crazy winding ribbon around it. Then I realized it was so small that I could only fit about half of my ornaments on it. But still, I love it. Isn't it pretty?

I have way, WAY too many ornaments.

Aside from that, I've only done a few things around the house; Christmas came too fast this year and caught me unprepared - much as I fantasized when I first moved in about the Christmas decoration possibilities of this house, I didn't end up really getting it together this year. I did drape some garland over the fireplace:
b

And I got all Martha on the dining room light fixture - a little swag, a little ribbon, a little bit of matte red balls. Looks nice, I think.


My semi-expansive santa figurine collection is upstairs gracing the bedroom. (Poor Brett. "There's a fat man in a red suit looking at us," he muttered the next morning, having not noticed the collection the night before. "Actually," said me, "there are twelve of them.") My snowman collection is downstairs. But that's really it.

Now if only I could say I had any idea what to get Brett for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Poor Max


"Poor Max" has been our refrain for the last few days. We got back from Jacksonville to discover that Max had an abcess; he needed minor surgery that very night and is now stuck living with a big plastic cone around his head and no way to bathe himself. He can only eat from tiny bowls that are smaller than his head, or he can't reach them. And he can't itch his owie.

He's also living in the spare bedroom in the basement, when he'd prefer to be outside.

Last night we let him up into the living room for a while, which he enjoyed, and then Brett felt so sorry for him that he slept in the basement with him all night.

Poor Max.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Frost

After our first frost.



Frost on cabbage plants, on the front porch:

Saturday, December 03, 2005

What Brett and I did on vacation

While family-visit vacations are something that it's fashionable to groan and moan about, I have to say that we had a heck of a good time in Florida this past week. Brett's whole family converged on his younger brother Ira's family for a long overdue visit, the first time we've all gotten together since our wedding in 2003. In the hands of a sitcom writer this could be the recipe for all sorts of comic hijinks, but in reality it was perfect. We didn't want to come home when we left - and no matter where we are, be it family-related or other travel, we always want to come home.

What made this trip so great was that we did very little - no trips anywhere, no sightseeing, no planned outings or events. Instead, we just sat around in Ira's living room and played with the toddlers and talked and ate and enjoyed each other for the three days we were there, and it was excellent. Sure, I'd like to see some alligators eventually, and St. Augustine sounds like a cool place to visit, but there will be other longer trips for that. For this trip, everyone just got reacquainted, or (in the case of our youngest nephew, Matthew) acquainted for the first time.

What we did do was play with little people. Which involves things like playing with bouncy balls:



...and putting small folk into buckets and tipping them over time and time again, to their tongue-protruding delight.



Really, this is incredibly relaxing! Everyone should try it. You should also have relatives like Ira and Kim, who are so incredibly laid back and easy to be around, who share their beautiful house with the whole extended family at once, and who just seem completely comfortable with themselves and with everyone around them.

Thank you Ira and Kim, and Art and Marilyn! It's nice being in your family!

Family portrait

Brett, Ira, Art, and Marilyn in front of Ira and Kim's tree in Jacksonville. Strong family resemblance, no?

Our beautiful nephews

More soon, but for now just a quick glimpse of our two favorite Florida boys:

Matthew, 22 months, in what we call the Charlie Brown shot


Joshua, 3 1/2, conferring with his father, in his Wiggles car

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Wiggles

I've spent quite a bit of time over the last three days with these young men, also known as the Wiggles.

And let me tell you, this stuff is catchy.

I found myself walking around today humming "Fruit salad! Fruit salad! Yum yum yum yum yum!"

This Wiggles Postgrad Web site says:

"The Wiggles always try to see things from the child's perspective. They have an understanding of children's development, due to their early childhood education backgrounds, and recognise that their main audience is aged six and under.

"It seems such a simple thing but it is more than just their simplicity. They are coming from where the children are at, and are very careful about knowing where the children are at developmentally."

Photographic evidence of me and Joshua watching, with Maggie the Cat looking on:

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