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Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas Eve & Christmas Day [in photos]

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday week, and if you celebrate Christmas I hope it was as full of love, laughter and good food as ours was :)

Making Christmas Eve Dinner
...behold, my cooking face

Dinner at Chez MacKenzie (our place) with my parents

Holiday decor

Ready to Bach and Roll

After 2 services and the Bach, this was the extent of my capabilities

Christmas morning - opening a special MacKenzie scotch from my dad

The two greatest books ever written

Obligatory photo in front of the tree

gift from Ben ~ a lovely mug from Mammaste

More gifts from my awesome husband

...and yoga books from my parents, yay!

I gave Ben this dashing he just looks ridiculously scottish all the time

Merry Christmas, peace and love to you and yours <3 div="">

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas is coming...

HOORAY!!! Christmas is my absolute favorite holiday and has been since...forever ~ the snow, the lights, trees, baking, music, family, everything I love wrapped up in a bow with time off from work as an added bonus. One of my fondest childhood memories is decorating the tree with my dad. We would put on the lights (well, he would...I was too short), hang all the ornaments (this I actually did help with) and when we were done, we would sit in the living room with some hot tea or hot cocoa, and just look at the tree, taking up half the room, shining and colorful. It might sound boring, but when I was little it felt magical.

 I work the rest of this week, as well as next Monday and Tuesday but then I am off for a WHOLE WEEK. My agenda during this time includes:

  • Choir. Lots of choir. We have an evening service on Saturday, a three hour rehearsal with orchestra on Monday, and two services + a special performance (Bach!) on Christmas Eve. I am also singing in 2 small ensembles this year (a sextet and a trio) so I've been putting in some time on the side, it's been a while since I had to sing over an orchestra. Like...many years. Haha.
  • Caroling! Ben and I are going caroling on Sunday with some friends from choir. I haven't been caroling in years so I am pretty pumped about this...although, it is supposed to be cold this weekend. I'm sure we will survive.
  • Baking. You bet your sweet buns I will be making at least 85 batches of cookies over the next week, time to stock up on butter I guess.
  • White Elephant party. One of my favorite traditions is the "Nasty Christmas" party my friends and I throw every year. 
  • Watching/reading Harry Potter!! Ben and I started a tradition last year of watching all 8 HP movies between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We just watched Order of the Phoenix on Tuesday, so Half Blood Prince is queued up for this weekend. We also bought the new paperback set and I'm hoping I can plow through a re-read over break. We shall see. 
  • Yoga (as always)
  • Running (as always)
  • Collaging. It's been a while since I made a yoga collage (2 years ago I did Shiva, and the year before that I did Kali). I have a great idea for my next one, I just need to pull all of the materials together. Can't wait :)
In case you were feeling sad that you can't make it to my stunning choir performances,
here is a sexy photo of me in my robe, with my dad. You're welcome.

Delightful cookies from last year's Nasty Christmas

Example of an appropriate Nasty Christmas gift
Last year's haul - rubber duck headphones

2011's creative efforts
And now, the moment you've all been waiting for (or not)...Christmas Survey! I found this on Janae's blog and thought I would re-post even though it's old.
1. Favorite Christmas Album/CD/Song?
Favorite tracks: 2, 4, 10, 11, 12, 13, 31, 38, 41. Mostly stripped down, minimalist but new takes on classics. My fave.
2.  Run on Christmas morning or take the day off?
I will probably either run or practice yoga on seems more appropriate maybe.
3.  What do you usually eat on Christmas morning?
Pancakes! For years, I have been in charge of coffee and pancakes on Christmas morning...I think it just happened one year and the tradition stuck.
4.  Favorite holiday or Christmas tradition?
Harry Potter marathon. Baking with my dad. At one point, my whole family (dad's side) used to congregate at our place for Christmas and we would all sing carols around the piano on Christmas Eve. It got pretty out of control, especially the 12 days of Christmas which basically became a challenge to see how far over the top we could take "five golden rings"...I think I have a video of this somewhere. 
5.  Real tree, fake tree or no tree?
I prefer a real tree, but we have a fake one. My cat likes to eat any plant within her reach (which is everywhere) so, real tree is out unfortunately :(
6.  Christmas pajamas… yay or nay?
Oh, for sure yay. Absolutely.
7.  Where do you spend the holidays?  Your own house, your parents’ house, extended family, in-laws, friends?
Christmas Eve is full of choir nonsense, so we usually spend it with my parents and we spend Christmas morning with them as well. Christmas day we meet up with Ben's family.
8.  Food that you always have during the holiday season?  Favorite Christmas food/treat?
Spritz cookies! And unlimited hot cocoa.
9. Open presents all at once or take turns?  Stockings… yes or no?
Take turns. Stockings = YES but my parents are scrooges, so I may have to take stocking stuffer duty this year. Surprise, bitches YOU ALL GET COAL.
Kidding...kidding. They will all get delightful treats in their stockings. And maybe also coal.
10.  Favorite Christmas(ish) movie?
Miracle on 34th Street (the original)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Book of the Week: A Wild Sheep Chase

"Body cells replace themselves every month. Even at this very moment. Most everything you think you know about me is nothing more than memories."

I am a huge Murakami fan. I absolutely recognize that he's not everyone's cup of tea but...if he is your cup of tea call me; we'll talk. This is Murakami's first widely published novel and the fifth one I've read (after Kafka on the Shore, Windup Bird, 1Q84, and the nonfiction What I TalkAbout When I Talk About Running) and I've fallen completely in love with his particular, quirky brand of magical realism. Reading a Murakami novel is like floating around inside someone else's strange and slightly creepy dream. AWSC is part detective novel, part sci-fi, part quest/self-discovery and (and this part I was kind of unprepared for) part horror. 

There's always a sense of the eerie and foreboding in Murakami's novels, but this is the first time he has genuinely FREAKED ME THE F*&% OUT. Ben can vouch for that at one point I yelled AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!! and threw my book onto the coffee table like it was a hot potato, because I was so creeped out. Anyway, if you are looking at venturing into the wonderful and weird world of Murakami I would highly recommend A Wild Sheep Chase...although I'd maybe say start out with Kafka on the Shore or Wind up Bird Chronicle (KotS is probably not his best, but it's a good introduction to his style. WBC is maybe his most critically acclaimed novel, but it is a bit more of a committment).

Yay reading!
Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

I have no idea what I'm doing and neither does anyone else

There's a reason I don't write very much on here about my job. Well, two reasons.  First, a lot of what I work on is confidential, and second, it's just not that interesting to most people. It is interesting to me though, on multiple levels; the first level being "hey this project is interesting," and the second being "hey, how did I get in this position where I am driving technology when my background is in music and marketing and I have literally no IT experience?"


There's a scene in the movie The Avengers when they're off to battle space robots in New York City and Black Widow says to Hawkeye, "this is monsters and magic and nothing we were ever trained for." I basically understand that feeling, minus the impending apocalypse and high probability of death. 

Most of my meetings with IT feel something like this:
IT: “OK so, if we connect the snagglefrozz jenkins witch to the dukenheim, we’ll have a daily woggle. Sound good?
Me: Um. Probably?
IT: But unless we upgrade the jam shizzle, it will not be luminous.
Me: K.  So that’s….bad?
Me: good?
Me: I don’t know
IT: It would also cost 5 trillion dollars.
Me: OK then no. No jam shizzle upgrade.

Or sometimes this:
Me: Hey so, did you get a chance to submit the thing I need  in order to finish my work, so that I don’t lose funding for all of my Q2 projects?
Guy: No. I need more details.
Me: I thought you said I had answered all of your questions, but go for it, what else can I do for you?
Guy: I need to know what types of things you need in the web service.
Me: OK… you mean like, categories?
Guy: No, types.
Me:…like, is it a liquid, a gas, or a solid?
Guy: No. Like, is it a tiger.
Me: Ah ok. So, is it a tiger or is it a lion?
Guy: No. Like is it a tiger, or is it a tomato plant.
Me: Oh OK. So, animal, vegetable or mineral?
Guy: No. What types.
Me: Bengal tiger? White tiger?
Guy: No. The types.
Me: Are we playing 20 questions right now?
Guy: No.
Me: …..
Guy: ….
Me: Seriously, just tell me what you need and I will get it for you.
Guy: I need to know the types.

I also receive a lot of maddeningly unhelpful email responses:
Dear Billy Jo,
I heard that you are the resident expert on Jabberwokys. Our IT team is installing a new Jabberwoky trap and they need to know the expected volume of rogue Jabberwokys. I know the number will increase as we onboard more clients, but can you please send me a ballpark estimate of what you’re seeing right now, so I can pass it along to our trap architect?

I’m don't know the exact number but I’m pretty sure it is less than eight billion. I guess it depends on the number of Jabberwokys that want to be trapped.
Billy Jo

I'm not really sure how to wrap this up other than to say, now you know what my job is like and hey we have a 4 day weekend coming up! Time to catch up on sleep, lots of yoga and delicious food with my family. Happy Tuesday!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

This one is mostly about music.

This post is light on photos, long on tangential randomness. Hooray.

1) Opera
Ben and I went with my parents to see Arabella at MNOp last Saturday. The music was lovely (I have a soft spot for Strauss having sung a bunch of his art songs in college) and the singing was amazing. The opera itself was basically 1.5 acts of exposition, followed by 1 act of stuff happening. I have constructed a plot summary to save you some time; you can thank me later.
- Girl sees boy, girl falls in love with boy
- Girl's sister is pretending to be a boy because...being a girl is expensive apparently?
- Boy sees photo of girl, falls in love with girl
- Father approves of boy because he is loaded
- Father arranges for girl and boy to meet at party later that evening
- They are at the party, yay!
- Girl and boy finally meet, fall madly in love, become engaged. Girl promises to meet boy at door with glasses of fresh water every day because he will own her now. Yay?
- Due to a giant misunderstanding based on things he overhears and never bothers to verify, boy becomes convinced girl is cheating on him, gets completely blasted and starts macking on other girls at the party.
- Boy confronts girl. Girl insists she is not cheating on boy, but boy is unconvinced. Hilarious hijinx ensue.
- Misunderstanding is eventually cleared up. Boy is embarassed, as he should be. Girl forgives him for some reason. Love songs and sexual innuendos about glasses of water ensue.

At least we clean up well!

2) Movies
We went to see Thor: The Dark World last Sunday and I super loved it a lot. Just straight up entertainment which was exactly what I needed after seeing the *very* well done but also incredibly difficult to watch 12 Years a Slave last weekend. Also I think Loki is now my favorite character in the Marvel universe - morally ambiguous loose cannon with a some sass thrown in for good measure? Sign me up.

3) I like running to sad music?
Some people run best to fast club music because it pumps them up. I, on the other hand, seem to need a sweeping string section and some emotional torment to get me going which is probably why I listened to this song at least eight times on my Tuesday six miler. I can't explain's kind of emo and sounds like something I would have loved in college, but I seriously cannot stop listening to it.

4) I like running
Speaking of running - even though I seriously question my sanity when my alarm goes off at 5am, by the time I am outside watching the sun come up I'm just excited and grateful, and remember why I do this to myself three times a week. It is 100% worth it.
This is why I get up at 5am. Right here.
Thanksgiving is almost here!! Time to start decorating for Christmas, I just bought about 60 feet of pre-lit garland from Target and two boxes of Candy Cane tea. In choir, we've started rehearsing for our Christmas concert which features the Bach Magnificat in D this year. If this doesn't make you feel  full of joy and the Christmas spirit, then you are wrong:

The end! Hope you are having a great weekend.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Randoms, and the joys of stress baking

Please observe the super healthy breakfast I made for myself and Ben on Saturday...and yes, we demolished half of the pan by ourselves in under an hour. It's cool, you don't have to tell me how awesome and impressive we are. We know.

APPLE CRISP! Favorite of fall baking
On Sunday, my mom came over after church/choir and helped us rake leaves in the backyard. There were a LOT of, a whole lot. The maple tree on our neighbor's property (the same tree that is infested with carptenter ants that like to invade our attic) drops most of its leaves into our backyard every fall, and we rake and dispose of them. Delightful.

Ben and my mom, hard at work. Don't worry, I was helping too :)

The fruits of our labor

This has been a rough week at work. I don't really want to get into it (also, can't really get into it, nondisclosure and legality blah blah blah) but Monday and Tuesday were especially stressful. Luckily, Monday is was saved by some quiet reading time and an amazing yoga class. Most Mondays I head to my favorite coffee shop and relax with a book and a beverage (this time, mint tea) and then head to my favorite yoga class at 7. Currently I'm reading this book which is fascinating and also terrifying...I'm only about 1/4 of the way through but so far I highly recommend it.

Class was PERFECT and exactly what I needed. I do love to push and challenge myself in my yoga practice, "do the thing that scares you" and whatnot. But there is a time and a place for that, and there is a time and a place for...not that. There are poses that actually do make me feel fear, and I will pretty much only ever do them if forced (visvamitrasana, he full form of vasistasana with the leg up, and upavistha konasana), and also poses that are not scary but are definitely confrontational (urdhva dhanurasana, dhanurasana, pinca basically backbends) and these are great and beneficial poses. But some days I'm like crap, this entire day has been confrontational; can I just do some hip openers and stretch my hammies and do my favorite arm balances? And on Monday the answer was YES. For the record, this is my favorite pose.
Tea + Book + Yoga = happy times

At some point during the day on Tuesday I consumed five mini Milky Ways in a fit of blind rage and sent Ben some very violent and probably concerning text messages about punching people in the throat. Luckily, I did not punch anyone and instead channelled all of my stress into a batch of ghost cookies which I then decorated with pink sparkles because why not. And I ate them while watching Sleepy Hollow and New Girl, so I immediately felt one billion times better about life.

The products of my rage

Today I worked from home (again! yay!) because I had a coffee meeting in the morning near my house. Since you've all now seen what I look like on a workday when I can't be bothered to put on real people clothes, I figure you're all dying to know what I look like on a normal day at the office. Ta da:

Blazer and Tshirt from H&M
Pants from J Crew
Shoes from Target
And no I'm not wearing socks, my ankles are actually that white
If you're wondering what the heck is that thing in the bottom right hand corner of the above photo, the answer is obviously, a bust of William Shakespeare wearing my blue wig from Halloween. Duh.

Working from home is about 80% less stressful than being in the office sometimes. I get just as much done if not more, but it just feels easier to keep everything in perspective and remember what is really important in life. I think that right now, I need the occasional WFH day for my sanity, and because I have trouble keeping frustration and disbelief from showing in my facial expressions WFH days also keep my eyeballs from freezing permanently into this position:

This is the face I make after 1 hour calls with IT

Saturday, November 9, 2013

May the best you've ever seen, be the worst you'll ever see

Fall has definitely arrived in St Paul - actually I think winter is well on its way to arriving. The trees haven't quite figured out what's going on yet, so some of them have already dropped their leaves and some are still green. It's very odd.

Anyway, it has been a fun and super full week over here! We finally started rehearsals for our Christmas concert/service; this year we're singing the Bach Magnificat in D. I first sang this piece a few years ago, also for Christmas I think and it remains one of my favorites largely because it has a rockin Soprano II part. I am selfish :)

Thursday I did my usual early AM run followed by coffee - I usually go to Rustica because it is sort of on the way to the office and they have AMAZING coffee.  They also have yogurt/fruit/granola cups with greek yogurt and their homemade granola...they are super good and I basically dream about them. Since it is usually pre 7am when I swing by, they may or may not have the yogurts out yet, so whenever they do have them I get irrationally excited.

A little bit of heaven in a cup

That night we went to a Laphroig event at the St Paul Hotel!! I have been looking forward to this for SO LONG. In case you were not aware Ben and I are both huge fans of single malt scotch whisky. Ben actually gave me a bottle of scotch as a wedding gift. What can I say, the man knows me well. Laphroig is actually the scotch that started it all for me. I first tasted it my senior year of college - my friend offered me a sip of his, so I took one and proclaimed "huh. This tastes like a cigar". And then I immediately demanded to know where I could get more. Thus began a beautiful friendship. I would not say it's my favorite anymore but it was definitely my 'gateway scotch'... I do not mess around.

So anyway when Ben got a notice in the mail from St Paul Grill that there was a Laphroig EVENT taking place with a legit Laprhoig rep from Scotland, he asked if I wanted to go and I responded YES ARE YOU KIDDING. And he was like dude settle down. Sometimes I think I scare him with my exuberance.

(p.s. I really hope this doesn't make me sound like an alcoholic. I actually do not drink much at all, and when I drink whisky it is only in very small amounts...hence why Thursday night was...ineresting.)

Bounty of gift bags!

I was Ben's 'plus one' ...for some reason I found this deeply amusing

Starting the evening off right with a cocktail!
This would have probably been fine, had it not been followed by six pours of whisky

Bagpipers to usher us in to dinner and to...set the mood I guess?

After we had all finished our cocktails and appetizers, we were herded by bagpipers (I am not kidding) into the dining room, where we were given more food (bread, cheese and some preserved meats/sausages/etc) and five varieties of Laphroig to taste while we listened to the presentation Simon, the Laphroig rep, tell us about the history of the distillery and the island of Islay.

From left to right: 10 year, Quarter Cask, 18 year, Cask Strength, and Triple Wood
After a cocktail and five scotches, I was feelin pretty good when SURPRISE they brought out a sixth scotch for us to taste. The Cairdeas was aged in bourbon and finished in a port cask for 15 months. Port  aged or finished are my favorite - it imparts a deep flavor and sweetness to the whisky that I really like.

Love this photo
As it turns out, the appetizers and bread/cheese plate were not nearly enough food to soak up six fancy places make me somewhat uncomfortable so I demanded that we swing by Falafel King to even things out. Nothing rounds out a classy evening of appetizers and charcuterie quite like some fried chickpea deliciousness eaten on the couch while giggling uncontrollably.

The next morning I...did not feel awesome. Lucky for me, literally my entire team was on PTO (my entire team now being me, my manager and one other person and an open rec. Long story.) so I worked from home in my PJs for a couple of hours while drinking tons of water. At 9:30 or so, I decided I should probably wash my face and put on real clothes, and roll into the office for some afternoon meetings. P.S. how much do I love casual Friday...

Sorry corporate America, this is all you're getting from me today.

Don't worry, I put shoes on eventually
As I was heading out the door, I went to grab my favorite scarf only to find that it was already in use. This is what I get for leaving my hats and scarves on pretty much any flat surface in our house.

So, guess I am wearing a different scarf today.
After all meetings for the day had wrapped up I headed BACK home to finish a few's kind of amazing how much you can get done when everyone you work with is out of the office. I heated up some leftover butternut squash soup for a late lunch (made from this recipe) and watched Pitch Perfect while I worked on a presentation.

Better than the office, fo sho
I still managed to make a hot yoga class in the evening, came home and quickly showered before heading to Overflow Cafe for a gig my friend Keith was playing with the band Flowerstalks. I had never been to Overflow before but I really like it! The space was big but still cozy, with a fireplace and tons of comfy couches, and a half second floor. They had great food and the coffee drinks looked delicious (I did not have one because if I drink coffee in the afternoon/evening I cannot sleep...).

Thai chicken wrap from Overflow
They also had board games so Ben and I played a round of Scrabble. I probably beat him ;)  

Anyway, moral of the story is don't drink on a Thursday. I will leave you with this lovely Scottish toast:

May the best you’ve ever seen
Be the worst you’ll ever see;
May a moose ne’er leave yer girnal
Wi’ a teardrop in his e’e.
May ye aye keep hale and hearty
Till ye’re auld enough tae dee,
May ye aye be just as happy
As I wish ye aye tae be.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Things! Also Halloween!!!

Happy Halloween!!! I can't believe it's been over a month since I've just to get up to speed, here is a random list of what we've been up to for the last few weeks:

If you'd have told me two years ago that I would one day run 10 miles in a race, I would have laughed in your face. Actually a year and a half ago, I probably would have still laughed in your face. Until recently I was convinced that I hated running...then some coworkers talked me into running the Warrior Dash and the rest is history. Anyway, here's a photo of Ben and I before the race (hopefully I will not get sued for snagging this does have PROOF written all over it....)

Aaaand one from after the race (courtesy of Ben's dad) looking SUPER AWESOME and not at all tired or sweaty.

Unsurprisingly, Ben smoked me by about 10 minutes...I finished in 1:26, he finished in 1:16. Speed demon, that man. Anyway I spent most of the rest of the day eating, including a delightful feast of poutine, burger, and more fries at The Happy Gnome. "But wait," you say. "Isn't poutine also fries? Why did you order fries again after you already had them?" You know what...stop. Just be quiet.

I've also become a fan of the early morning run. Occasionally I'll drag myself out of bed at the ungodly hour of 5am and drive to Lake Calhoun or some other picturesque location to get in a few miles before work. The best parts of this are 1) the sunrise and 2) getting coffee occasionally some granola and yogurt from Rustica. 

Totally worth it

I've been blond for 12 years, but have been thinking about going darker for at least 4-5. The only problem is, I chicken out as soon as I get to the hairdresser but this time I DID NOT CHICKEN OUT. My stylist was nervous about making too drastic of a change right away though, so she took out most of the blond but otherwise pretty much left it alone. I love it. Next time I'm going all the way.

Plus, nobody can make blond jokes at me anymore.

Desiree Rumbaugh was in town last weekend for a three-day workshop and it was amazeballs. One of the things I love about Desiree is that each of the three times I've studied with her, she focuses on one key principle that you can apply across your practice. The last two years it's been an evolving approach of integration before expansion (last year 'RIBS BACK' this year 'INFLATE THE SERRATUS') and it's been so helpful for me. I tend to get lower back stuff in certain backbends, and in standing crescent oddly enough...but not last weekend so now I have some additional tools to integrate into my practice. Super amazing. One of these days i'm going to go on a yoga nerd tangent on this out. 


Some leaves

Some more leaves
Carving pumpkins in Chicago with Kristin


Ben had his costume planned the day we saw The World's End in the theatre. Or rather, I planned it for him as soon as I saw Simon Pegg's character. "Hey," I said. "You have a coat like that! And you have a scruffy beard like that! And you could slick your hair back and wear aviators!"

Gary King rides again
Ben as Gary, and our friend Chris as ...a G-man? I think?? Basically he went as himself but with a fedora.

I had no idea what I was going as until literally 10 minutes before walking out the door. All I had to go on was a blue wig spontaneously purchased at Target about 1 hour before the party, and...yeah that was pretty much it. So I decided to make our evening an homage to Edgar Wright and went as Ramona Flowers.
Not my real hair.

Ben and I at the party
I also did some karaoke to the Backstreet Boys, which Ben took a video of but I think I will spare you...

If you are a decent human being, you have hopefully listened to Cabin Pressure by John Finnemore. If not, you are probably unfamiliar with the game Traveling Lemon. Basically, one player hides a lemon somewhere and the other person has to find it. When the second player locates the lemon, they re-hide it and the first player has to find it and then re-hide it. Ad infinitum.

One day, without warning I put a lemon in the shower, and sent Ben an email informing him that the lemon was in play. He thought I was joking...I wasn't. He found it pretty quickly, and re-hid it in a new location. One of the rules of Traveling Lemon is that the lemon has to be in plain sight (not in a drawer or cupboard or anything), and after a couple of days I grew suspicious that he was cheating because I had looked EVERYWHERE and had yet to find the lemon.


On Monday afternoon, my mom came over for tea. The first thing she said when she walked into the dining room was "Um...did you know there's a lemon on your chandelier?"

Well played, Benjamin. Well played.

I think that's all I have for now. Hope you're having a wonderful week and HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!
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