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Friday, November 30, 2012

Thanksgiving in a Nutshell

I don't know about you all, but my Thanksgiving was busy, wonderful, and filled with delicious food and friends/family.  Last year, when my mom had to unexpectedly fly out to Montana over Thanksgiving to be with my Grandmother, my dad sister were left in the lurch so they decided to join me and Ben at Ben's family Thanksgiving.  Everyone had such a great time that we decided to repeat the whole thing this year (including my mom this time)!  Yes, my inlaws are awesome and our families get along great.  It's amazing.

We joined Ben's parents and brother Simon, his aut Joan and uncle Dan, and grandparents Bud and Loey at Joan and Dan's home for food and drinks, and general merriment.  Ben and I took dessert duty again, and as usual I just had to make things way more complicated than they needed to be.  Instead of making three pies like a normal person, I decided to make a layer cake, a chocolate tart, and a crumble.  The crumble was gluten free for Ben's grandmother who suffers from celiacs.  I know.

On Wednesday night, I prepped the tart crust and made the cake part of the cake.  On Thanksgiving morning, I got up early and went for a 6-mile run and a hot vinyasa class to prepare the way for all of the food, and then got back in the kitchen around 10:30 to finish off the icing, tart filling, and crumble.

Pumpkin cake with salted caramel frosting and chocolate ganace - before the final frosting

Gluten free gingersnap cookies for Smitten Kitchen's pear, cranberry and gingersnap crumble

Dorie Greenspan's chocolate banana tart, with a secret Nutella layer at the bottom ;)

Once we were through with our baking extravaganza, we loaded all of the desserts and the dog into the car and took off.  What had been a very mild morning (perfect for a long-ish run) turned into a windy afternoon spattered with freezing rain.  We were glad to arrive at a warm, cozy house, lots of delicious appetizers, and drinks already poured!


Festive table decor
When it came time to load up on the main meal, I did not hold back.  This is plate 1 of 2, btw.  Joan made peas with cranberries and orange zest, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, squash with spiced apples, and of course turkey - and my dad brought his famous stuffing. 

We made the mistake of giving Sid a bite of turkey - which went over fine last year, but this year did not seem to sit too well in his digestive system :/  Let's just say Ben was up a couple of times during the night...

 Turkey plz??!?? I will not puke, I promise...

Men's mom and grandmother

Julianna and SIDNEY, with the two dads engrossed in some riveting dialog in the background

Brothers on the phone with out-of-town relatives

All the siblings!

The day after Thanksgiving was...the day after Thanksgiving.  Meaning, it is now socially acceptable to begin bombarding your home with holiday decor.  I put up the tree, and Ben put up some lights in the dining room and the hallway, and by mid-afternoon our home was looking downright festive!

In one of the great mysteries of life, the same exact number of light strings that covered the tree perfectly last year, fell woefully short this time around.  Luckily the CVS across the street came through in a pinch. 
Our tree topper is Hedwig.  It's pretty much the greatest thing ever.

Mini tried to help...or her version of helping, which mostly includes breaking things and hiding in boxes

Ben at work in the dining room

Ta da!

Hallway lights

On Friday night, Ben and I, along with several of my girlfriends, met up with our friend Katie and her boyfriend Jake at Marvel bar in Minneapolis!  Katie and Jake live in Chicago and were in town for a limited Thanksgiving engagement so we were excited to see them.

Emily, Katie, me and Amanda
While the drinks at Marvel Bar all looked delicious, someone was clearly reading my mind when they created The Islay Old Fashioned - an old fashioned made with Laphroig.  What manner of sorcery is this?!  I'm not sure, but I think I want more of it.
Plus a classy giant ice cube for good measure

The gents - Ben and Jake

The ladies again, plus Tessa and minus Emily

This last photo is from brunch with my parents at Keys in White Bear Lake - only included because a) Ben is adorable and b) the bejazzled red curtains in the background.  These are apparently up year-round...excellent.

Finally it's Friday!  Today my team had a 4.5 hour working was productive but long, and we were digging into some complex issues so there were times when all our heads were ready to explode.  Shots of (rum-free) egg nog may or may not have been taken.  Hotel California may or may not have played on repeat for the better part of an hour.  I can neither confirm nor deny these occurances.  The truth is out there.

Good thing it's Friday because my mind is clearly gone :)  Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Google Maps is probably trying to kill me

Yesterday afternoon, a few of my co-workers and I did a volunteer shift at Second Harvest Heartland.  Being the planful person that I am, I decided to print of directions both from work to Second Harvest, and from Second Harvest to my house.  This was not necessary, as it turns out, because Second Harvest is actually about 2 seconds from work, so driving home from their building was almost exactly the same as driving home from the office.

Better to be safe than sorry right?

Maybe.  So, I've encountered situations where Google Maps was slightly off in its directions (asking me to turn on a road that does not appear to exist, telling me to continue straight through what is clearly a dead end) but this time I actually did a double take.  I read over the directions a few times before concluding that yes, Google Maps had in fact just instructed me to make a U Turn on I-94.

I shit you not.  Please refer to visual evidence below.  If you live in the Twin Cities, you will notice that these directions make NO SENSE.

Exhibit A

 Curious, I zoomed in on the exact spot of the alleged U-Turn - right after you cross the river, somewhere between the Riverside and Cretin/Vandalia exits.  There is no possible way this could happen without crashing through a cement barrier and across several lanes of traffic.  Then, after making a 180 degree turn, I am somehow supposed to continue in the same direction I was already going, defying the laws of physics and and obliterating the time-space continuum.  West is east.  Down is up.  Nothing makes sense anymore after GOOGLE MAPS ASKS YOU TO MAKE A U-TURN ON THE DAMN INTERSTATE.

Not only is this highly illegal, I also would most likely die.  There are only two possible explanations for this nonsense:
1) Google Maps thinks I am actually James Bond
2) The internet has finally developed consciousness and is trying to kill us all

Luckily for humankind, I am not a lemming who blindly follows all instructions given to me by the interwebs.  I continued driving straight on the highway when my directions instructed me to do otherwise, and in a shocking conclusion I still ended up at my house.

In other news, it is now after November 15 - therefore, it is acceptable to start breaking out the holiday decorations.  I made no less than 3 trips to Pottery Barn on Sunday, and now our dining room table looks like this:

Why so many trips?  Well, one to scope out the goods and to mentally assess the damage against the budget I had made in my head.  A second one to buy stuff - and then I found myself wishing there was a 3rd height of candleholder, so I trekked down to Pier 1 to see if they had a shorter version.  They did - however, the circumfrence of the PB candleswas too large for the Pier 1 candleholders.  Sneaky retail bastards.  I see what you did there.
Anyway, I had to go back and get two more candleholders.

In other other news, wine and pasta are both delicious, and Salut is very dark inside.

I am working from home tomorrow, and have Thursday and Friday off - so it is almost time for the Thanksgiving baking to commence!  Ben and I are in charge of Dessert again and I have pumpkin layer cake, banana chocolate tart, and apple crisp on the docket for this year.  Overly ambitious?  Maybe.  Worth the effort?  Definitely.

Have a wonderful holiday weekend!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Autumnal Things

I've been admonished by several individuals for not blogging lately.  It is apparently how people "stalk" me "from afar" so I truly and deeply apologize for letting all the creepy stalkers down.

I feel like lately every entry is me apologizing for not's a vicious cycle.  I apologize for sucking, promise to write more often, then inevetably I do not write more often and have to apologize all over again.  Bleh. 

After thinking long and hard about this while brushing my teeth at work today, I have identified the following reasons why I am not writing as often:
  1. Stress.  I know this is such a lame answer but there has been a LOT going on lately.  I hope to write more about the stress at some point, because there are pertinent points to be made about life and yoga and whatnot, but it might be a couple/few weeks before that happens.
  2. I hate computers.  Now that I spend the vast majority of my day staring at a computer screen, the last thing I want to do after work is stare at a computer screen even more.  It was all fine in grad school, when I was staring at my professor while also having side convos with my classmates, but the end of the day I am computer-screened out.
  3. I'm a little unsure as to the direction of this blog.  Not that I really feel like it needs a direction, but I started this as mainly a food/recipe blog and have since become too lazy to write down and post my recipes.  I'll still try to post when the inspiration strikes, but honestly I think the real recipe creation is better left to the experts.  As a result, this will probably never happen again.  You're welcome.
  4.  I work 45+ hours a week, and when you add in yoga (5ish hours) running (2-3 hours), cooking, cleaning, spending quality time with friends and husband, there is just much time left for writing.
All of that being said, I really, really love writing.  My job basically requires me to communicate in bullet points, and having a blog motivates me to occasionally throw down a few complete sentences.  THROW IT DOWN.

OK I am clearly delirious.

I've learned some things lately, about life:

Thing 1 that I have learned:  Sometimes when you accidentally stick your neck out where it doesn't belong, good things happen.  I'm not really a self-promoter.  At all.  My single, recurring piece of 'constructive' feedback on my last performance review was that I need to be more assertive. Duh - this is not news to me. In the rare case when I do overstep my boundaries it is usually by accident.  This happened recently, and good things came out of it.  So I'm thinking I need to accidentally show up where I don't belong more often.

Thing 2 that I have learned: I need to get a damn handle on my existential crises.  The speed with which I go from "I don't understand this data" to "WHY IS LIFE??!??" is sort of alarming.  The thought process goes like so:
  • Can't understand the data in this damn spreadsheet after 10 seconds
  • Obviously this means that I fail at everything
  • My contributions are meaningless
  • How does this spreadsheet matter, in the grand scheme of all the things?
  • This spreadsheet is meaningless
  • What am I doing
This all takes place in the span of about 2.5 seconds, and then poor Ben has to deal with it when I come home from work and start rambling about my purpose in the universe while simultaneously trying to cut up a butternut squash. I  imagine that my holding a huge, sharp knife is not too comforting in this situation.  Anyways, this is meant to be funny, not to make you feel bad for me.  Spreadsheets ---> existential crisis.  This is the way of the world.

WOW.  We have gone down a path here.  This is not what I intended to write about at all.


Here are some pretty photos of autumn in St Paul.  A couple of weekends ago we had one of those perfect, mistly fall weekends so obviously I took pictures.  Oh, also I finally bought a new battery charger for the DSLR (the old one vanished on one of my many travels this spring/summer) so expect photo quality to improve drastically in the near future.

Also this browser is the worst and will not let me change the size of my photos.  I'll fix them later but for now, all of these pictures are going to appear annoyingly huge.  Deal with it.

This is when they tore the street up and we couldn't park in front of our house for several days.  It was lovely

Either ghosts or Sherlock Holmes should probably appear at this point

Pretty Colors
 Also, this little gem just opened up down the block from us.  Macaroons are basically impossible for me to resist and now that they are 2 seconds from my home, I'm not really sure what will happen.

...and here is a random shot of my family having dinner at Everest on Grand - probably my favorite neighborhood dinner spot.

I am also proud to announce that I have gotten my parents hopelessly addicted to BBC Sherlock.  It's kind of adorable yet also somewhat terrifying.  The most terrifying thing is probably that Series 3 won't air for another year, so I have to endure 12 months of listening to my dad 'predicting' how the cliffhanger will resolve.  Awesome.

That is all for now.  See you again soon I promise!!
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