Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Young Dustin Picasso

Well, well. My Fi has done it again! He's landed a role in another community theatre production. Some of you may remember that I mentioned he'd tried out for and got a part in "Communicating Doors" which ran at the CEC (Columbia Entertainment Company) for two weeks (weekends, plus Thursdays). It was very cool and fun and we made some super fantastic friends from the experience. Now D has landed the title role in Steve Martin's play "Picasso at Lapin Algire" (Spelling may be off-we don't have the script in his possession just yet) and to top it off, some of our friends are in it with him! Namely, Ben (who is currently writing a novel and is one of the friends we made when D was in his last CEC production) and Eli (who is dating our good friend Beth). It's a very exciting endeavor and yet another example of the array of talents my Fi possesses. Let me give you a sampling of how similar D and Picasso look:

See what I'm talking about? Weird, right?

At any rate, D has to kiss a girl or two in this one...which, at first, didn't sit well with me, but I couldn't say that to him. I needed and wanted to be supportive of his creativity and if I were D and had all the talents he had, I'd want to express them in every arena possible. Not to show off or to feel good about myself, but to keep myself stimulated. It's frustrating to have a lot to offer the world, but lack the resources or outlets with which to display it. However, D does not think this way. He is Mr. Modesty himself (seriously. People at karaoke request songs from him. As in-strangers put in a song and say "Hey-I just put this song on the list cus I really want you to sing it, man. You're really awesome." To which D tries to back out or find a way (sincerely, too, not just faking it), but, inevitably, caves. Most likely it's because the person who has requested the song is bigger, scarier, drunker and may, very well, be packing heat.) At any rate, it doesn't pain me to say that D is BURSTING with talent and those of us who know him know what I'm talking about. 

In this play Picasso is a playah (holla at me, bitches!) and he hooks up with chicks left and right by saying (imagine a sexy, Spanish voice): "I want to draaaw you." (I've added the extra "a's" for emphasis). And the ladies love him, love him. Fo-shiz. No sooner is the audience introduced to this player than he's making out with a waitress in a bar who has a boyfriend who, consequently, owns the bar (or at least bartends there). This is a true testament to my fiance's talent. D is no longer a player...hasn't been in years (don't hate-we all go through our phases) and it's just incredible to watch him move from charming, talented, artistic, sensitive, modest, loyal fiance to sex-fiend, womanizing, artistic, egotistical male-whore. Amazing!

At any rate, I've spent part of the evening talking him into taking the role because this looks like a super fun play and it will exercise his other outlets of creativity and, yeah, he'll have to kiss some ladies, but I think if Angelina Jolie can handle Brad Pitt making out with a few dozen women, I can handle D kissing some women a few dozen times. No big...if it were, I wouldn't be marrying him.

Heads up, folks! This play only runs one weekend in March-the weekend with the 14th in it-so be prepared to buy your tickets and cheer on Dustin as he brings the young Pablo Picasso to life before our very eyes!


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What we do When we're Sick

D and I have been sick. Go ahead-groan if you've been around us cus it def. means you'll be getting sick, too. This sickness knows no bounds.

So yesterday, he ran me a nice warm bubble bath complete with candles and tasty aromas and I changed into clean, non-sick pjs and it was great. Then D tucked me into bed with the space heater murmuring me to sleep and Bogey at my side. Bogey thinks it is his job to care for me and since this is the first time D has been the one to really take care of me when I'm sick, Bogey felt pretty territorial and didn't like sharing his responsibilities. Every time D came to the bed, Bogey would jump out from beneath the bed and growl at him. It was cute that they respected each others territory and assumed their individual responsibilities. Here is a shot of Bogey caring for me:

It's a bit on the blurry side, but you get the picture.

Soon, though, my disease infested my caretaker and before I knew it, we were both on the couch, bundles up, sharing a box of tissues, eating soup from Panera (I was so stir crazy I had to get out of the house! So I went for meds and soup), and watching the first season of 24. D had never seen it before and I own it, so what better time, right?

Sometimes, now that we don't have cable, I forget how much I like the show 24. It's so dynamic. We have had an ongoing discussion in our house about television characters and the actors that play them. For example, Hugh Laurie plays Dr. House and he is simply magnetic. The character is incredibly diverse and multi-faceted, which draws watchers to him, and he's full of character flaws, which makes him human and dislikable, yet he saves lives and has this quirkiness that forces you to like him! The question we kicked around for a while was: Could anyone, any actor, have played House in such a way that he'd be just as intense of a character as Laurie's portrayal of House? 

We decided against it. I don't think they could've cast someone else in the role that would've been better than Hugh Laurie. Especially considering Laurie plays all the instruments House plays (which brings up the idea of art mimicking life, of course). He is originally of British descent so his accent is learned rather than natural and, therefore, the very way he speaks his lines is affected by his acting. An American actor wouldn't have to inflect in the perfect way Laurie does because he would take his "American dialect" for granted in a way Laurie does not. Another actor may not be as musically inclined or trained in theatre like Laurie is. It's hard to imagine that Dr. House without Hugh Laurie would be as dynamic.

But on the other hand, there's Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer. Dustin mentioned to me tonight that when he thought of Sutherland as Jack Bauer-bad ass, CTU government agent, running around breaking rules and kicking ass, he couldn't imagine that Kiefer Sutherland was playing a character on a hit television show with that character as the lead. Strangely enough, I imagine D had the whole Three Musketeers-Kiefer in mind. You know, the one who ran around in tights with a bow and arrow? The Kiefer who got ditched at the altar by Julia Roberts? (Does anyone else get the feeling I know way too much about Kiefer Sutherland?) Although he always had a kind of "bad boy" rep, he dated Julia Roberts aka-(in the 90's, anyway) America's Sweetheart and that's just a hard label to break. Sutherland didn't do much of note following that. He may have been a bad boy, but his antics didn't break headlines (not enough to land him on one of those shows like "I Love the 90's" on Vh1 or any other time capsule shows like that). He was sort of a B-list actor, though I totally adored him after The Three Musketeers and would lay in bed at night when everyone else had fallen asleep, skipping from station to station on my little sister's pink LA Gear radio, waiting for the theme song from the movie to come on....
.... ... .... ...
....... ........ ........
C'mon! You must know where I'm going with this by now, right? "All for Love" by the original scratchy-voiced, male singers themselves: Sting, Bryan Adams and Rod Stewart!

When it came on, I quickly hit the "Record" button (I had a blank tape in there, just waiting for this moment) and swooned while listening and imagining it was really Kiefer Sutherland singing that song and he was really singing it to me...just for me at that late hour of the night. It was conceivable-that he'd sing the song, not the other part. He, too, has a scratchy, hoarse voice, similar to the one I've been getting during this sickness when I have to speak for long periods of time (phone to my mom, lecturing in class today)...exactly like Sting, Adams and Stewart's voice. Anyhow, I was a kid and pretty sure my discovery by a big-time Hollywood agent was imminent. Lofty ideas were my forte. Far be it from me to think that Kiefer Sutherland was legitimately out of my reach. I assumed it was only a matter of time.

And time, did, reproduce Sutherland as Jack Bauer-an even more exciting character than whatever Musketeer he played. I had forgiven him his inability to sing and his disappearance from the limelight by the time 24 aired. In fact, I didn't even care about the show when it first came out. I had no time for t.v. or actors and hadn't had a crush on a celebrity since, well, since my Three Musketeers love affair with Kiefer Sutherland never worked itself out. That and the fact that my agent-in-shining armor never showed up while I hung around outside of Spencer's. Plus, I write creative nonfiction...there's no room for falsities in what I do (that's the other genre: fiction, I think they call it). Being in touch with the real and the truth of it are the tools of my trade, not the daydreams I had as a child.

Now you may think that comes off as cynical, but while D and I watched, it occurred to me that no one could play Jack Bauer like Kiefer Sutherland, either. When I first started watching the show, I hadn't considered whether the actor makes the character or not. In truth, I think lots of people could play Jack Bauer, but I don't think they'd have me as an audience member. It's not that I think Kiefer is hot or that he's still single because I am his misplaced soulmate (though fifteen years ago, I might've fantasized that was the case-kind of like when Julia ditched him-I was pretty convinced it was because the Fates couldn't bear to keep he and I from unifying purely and without earlier, mistaken blemish-ahem-aka-Julia!). It's not even that I think he's this fabulous actor with a true talent for complexity and diversity of character or that Jack Bauer is soulful or deep. It's that I think he's a bad ass who, on his days off, would smoke and drink and hang out with his buddies. It's that he could easily be Kiefer Sutherland's alter-ego. For example, when McFarlane Toys Inc. sent Kiefer the prototype of the Jack Bauer action doll they made, Sutherland tortured and burned the doll with friends of his during a night of drinking and hanging out. Supposedly, when they awoke the next day, the doll was a puddle of wax but his clothes hadn't burned up...which Sutherland thought was pretty cool. McFarlane, however, failed to tell Sutherland that the toy was the only one they had, the prototype, information that may have come in handy before the doll was tortured and burned. Needless to say, this doesn't sound too off the cuff when you consider the things Jack Bauer does on the show. Kiefer merely reversed my earlier statement and, unlike Laurie's character House imitating Laurie, Kiefer (life) imitated his character, Jack (art).
Is there a difference?

Why not? Maybe it's necessary for one entity to overtake the other or for there to be a merging point. If I were Kiefer Sutherland, I'd want to be as bad ass as Jack Bauer...and if I were Jack Bauer, I'd totally want to have that raspy, hoarse Kiefer Sutherland voice. Sometimes I wish I could just invite Kiefer/Jack (they're becoming inseparable from one another...see that happening there?) into my classroom to get my kids talking. After all, interrogating with a side of torture is certainly one of his strong points.

At any rate, it seems some actors make the character and some characters make the actor. While I love Kiefer and will probably always harbor a soft spot for him in my heart, he's no Hugh Laurie and Jack Bauer is definitely no Dr. House...but I love the show and I'm looking forward to finishing up the first season with Dustin, who is a growing fan, as well.

I leave you with this conversation from yesterday...a taste of the other questions we pondered while watching the magnetic Jack Bauer.

D: Who would you be more afraid of interrogating you-Jack Bauer or Batman?
Me: Batman. Definitely.
D: Why?
Me: Cus Batman wouldn't kill me.

Further, we wondered:

If Jack Bauer were Lost, could he get off the island in 24 hours?

(Can't do that with Dr. House, now can you?)


Coming to a television next season: Dr. House meets Jack Bauer. 

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Haley and the Return of the Blue Fairy

For most people, the glorious weekend is coming to an end, but for me there is still one day left. That's right, I don't teach until Tuesday...woohoo! I love a week's worth of work being crammed into two days. Nothing nicer than a two-day work week! Especially because I'm totally a snot-nosed, sneezing, sniffling, sleepy, red-eyed sickface. That's right, now it's full blown, all out attack of the sickies. But I have D here taking care of me which is super sweet...before I get too detailed about today, let me back up to Friday.

Friday, D and I hung out and had our tasty dinner (which I already blogged about), then moved onto making these incredibly scrumptious Banana Spring Rolls. The fat content is pretty low in these suckers, but the sugar and calorie content, not so much. However, I figured we deserved a treat since I've lost about thirteen pounds since leaving NY and coming back to MO and I feel pretty good about that so far. So, I whipped up a Banana Spring Roll for each of us as a means of enticing D into learning how to make them, as well. Here's my version:

I know! You can see my years in the service industry skills paying off, right? The hearts in the background made of chocolate syrup. They were better before I moved the plates and the spring roll went flying...but the powdered sugar was a carefully thought out plan, too! All for aesthetics, of course :)

But they were so good, I got D interested in making here he is performing step one: rolling half of the banana (sliced down the middle) in the spring roll wrapper with a sprinkle of brown sugar doused in with the banana, as well.
Here he is grilling it on the stove in a pan. The recipe called for lots of butter in the frying pan, but I cut it down to just enough for crisping purposes.
Here he is taking his spring roll making VERY seriously, of course.
And here we are tasting the final product...he approved of his version, too, not just mine. Way to go, Fi!!!
Then we went out and caught the movie "Bride Wars," which was a lovely way to do something wedding, but not stressfully wedding, related. It was quite cute and quite predictable and exactly what I needed to be excited about the wedding and less stressed about life. Speaking of which, our Save the Dates came in and we are addressing, stamping and send those puppies out this week (finally!). It's all very exciting! D and I spent a lot of tonight putting them together and will, hopefully, get them out by Tuesday-ish. (Also...I have to say "Save the Dates" instead of "STDs" which is the acceptable acronym for obvious reasons. I can't bring myself to call them "STDs"...could you?)

Saturday, I spent the morning waiting for D to write his blog for the Missouri Review. We were supposed to play racquetball at one, but since he needed to get the blog done and at 1pm he wasn't finished yet, I decided to head out for a run without him. It was ridiculously cold and I didn't wear my gloves (dumb!), but ran a fantastically hilly 3.25 mile loop. When I say hilly, I car rolls down the hill backwards cus the damn hills are so freaken steep and there's a stop sign at the top of one of them (who does that, right? Really dumb!). I mean, these are hills that bike riders get off their bikes and walk up...exactly. They're bad. I was super proud of myself for running the hills with no trouble, but really wanted to run longer than 3.25 miles. I couldn't because the final hill, the one right before our house, is a total killer. I couldn't fathom running by the time I got to the top...I just wanted to fall on the grass in our lawn and wait there until a neighbor let Dustin know to come out and collect me.

However, it felt awesome to run like that. When I got back, D had just finished up his blog and we headed over to the rec where I did some arm-work and then we hung out in the hot tub for a while. We investigated the two saunas: one with steam and one without and I thought I'd pass out in the steamy one. Have you ever been in there? Seriously. It's painful. There was an old man reading a library book in there...and how he could see the pages, let alone the words, is beyond me. I could barely see my own hands and, eventually, had to get the hell out of there. The old dude sat there, though, he was there before us and was still there when we left. I have NO idea how people can just sit in there like that. It had to be at least 100+ degrees in there! The heat was literally painful! The dry sauna was so much more bearable. 

Then we took the dogs to the dog park where they, luckily, didn't get into fights or run away (ok, they were fenced in and couldn't get out if they tried, but they're sneaky little canines and could've found a way out of they really wanted to! And...ok, ok! There were no other dogs in the park when we got there. They left as we arrived. And no jokes about my fur-babes scaring them away!). And to add on to our already busy, and growing busier, day, I played Wii-Boxing for the first time. I'd seen Lance and D play it earlier in the week, but was sort of intimidated by the whole nunchuck idea and how aggressively they punched the air. But, yesterday, I caved and tried it out. Much to my surprise, I was actually pretty good at it and went through about four rounds before my entire body started weakening and fatiguing. It is one HELL of a workout, my friends. I am literally sore all over to the extent that it feels like my Wii-opponent actually socked me and not a virtual version of me. I'm in pain. Really. Still.

Last night, Beth's friend Haley was in town for a wedding. When they were finished, they grabbed a few friends and swung back to our place. Always a good time. Haley, it turns out, is a loyal Dustin and Neesha Save the World reader, although we didn't know it until last night. I was beyond flattered, to be honest. Occasionally, someone will tell us they read our blog, but it always surprises me just how loyal people are. The conversation turned to our Gossip Girl-toned blogs, and Haley said, "I don't know what UTHers are, but I love it anyway!" to which Steph replied, "Upper-Tate-Hallers!" and it flattered my to no end to see that they enjoyed what we were writing and new, even, the acronyms. Awesome! Plus, Haley is super fun and we definitely do NOT see enough of her. She was nice enough to let D keep his car in the parking lot of her apartment complex when he came to visit me last year. Such a lifesaver! And at that point, I'm not even sure I'd ever met Haley! Needless to say, we were thrilled to hear she was coming into town, even before we knew she dug our blog! But, thanks, Haley! That made my night! (Pictured: Beth, Haley, Me)

This was just the event D and I needed to test out some of our new games. You see, D got me "Gossip Girl" the board game for Christmas and we haven't had the opportunity to play it yet because it demands more than two people, so we took this opportunity to cast our game choice on others. Essentially, the Gossip Girl game is a less-risque version of "Never Have I Ever" that we used to play as a drinking game in college. "Never have I ever...hooked up with someone in this room..." if you did it, you had to throw in a "$100" dollar bill (like in college, if you did it-you had to take a sip of your drink. If you were the only person who drank, you had to tell your story). This game didn't have the consequence of having to tell your story, thank God, and we all had a good time playing, except Beth. We think she was afraid it was going to be more scandalous than it was...hopefully, she came around to it by the time it ended.

We had the extra-added bonus of having some extras over, as well. Our friends Steph and Meg came over to play games, too, as did two friends of Eli's (Beth's bf): Zeke and Bob. The thing is, Zeke and Bob were not their real names, but I was drunk enough to believe they may as well have been their names so they stuck. Meg came up with Zeke and I think I misheard poor Bob's name. We knew those weren't actually their names, but it seemed ok to call them that and they were good natured about, hence, their names went from "Seth and Tom" to "Zeke and Bob."

To the left is a shot of Zeke and Eli (on the right) in our living room (see our new t.v. on the mantle? Our first couple-purchase ever! Just bought from Best Buy last week). Bob is not pictured. Somehow I couldn't find a pic of the two of them together: Bob and Zeke, that is (which begs the question-can one exist in the same frame as the other? Weird). The boys totally got into Wii baseball. Guys seem to have this thing with seeing who can hit the most "homeruns." I know. It screams innuendo, right? I wonder if they're trying to make up for something by swinging the hell out of the Wii remote and watching the numbers for just how far the baseball travels. Hmmm. (If anyone's counting...D won :)

Overall, it was a good time that only got better when the fairy costume came out. Yes. I said it. The fairy costume.

Some background on the fairy costume: Two Halloweens ago I got a fairy costume and wore it out to a bar the day I got it. Yes, this is a good time to mention it was about five days before Halloween or, maybe, a week...but who keeps track of these things? Anyhow, it was a blue fairy costume with giant sparkly wings and I totally loved it from the moment I saw it. I wore the crinoline under it and tights, heels...the whole nine. And I coaxed a buddy of mine to go out bar hopping with me while I donned the fairy costume. I know-who does that? Long story short, I met this very old man with a very sad story who asked me to please grant him a wish. He asked for happiness and it nearly broke my blue-fairy heart. You can read the full story on that one over on my myspace blog if you're interested...but the costume was awesome. When I walked through blacklights, it lit up. Not all bars were "Fairy Friendly" that night since it wasn't exactly Halloween, remember? But my love for the costume grew strong.

I wore it two more times that year. To the left is a photo of me and part of my friend Danielle at a Halloween party that year. She was Strawberry Shortcake. This was full-out fairy costume. See the possibilities of this baby and why I love it so much? Below is a photog of the fairy costume in full effect last night...note, it doesn't even need the crinoline, curly hair and blue eye shadow to work it's magic. Amazing. Not many costumes work that hard all these years later. And, trust me when I say this, this costume works it, baby.

Last night, the wings were sitting in the corner of the living room and, before I knew it, the costume came out and there we were, living it up in the glitter of my wings. Haley was totally in favor of the fairy costume and all I needed was the slightest bit of egging on and I was more than happy to slip into my blue fairy getup (as you can see). I didn't bother taking my jeans off, and threw my pink cardigan back on before tying on the wings, but I think it made a nice fashion statement...don't you? Thanks for the encouragement, Haley! (Not that I needed much, but without you, I might've sidestepped the fairy costume til everyone left!) 
I swear, I really don't get to wear this often enough. Luckily, next weekend there will be a Ladies Night, which means some other ridiculous, yet fun outfit to dress up it won't be too long before my desire to costume-ize my attire will be satiated. Whew! What is it, cowgirl night, Meg? Better start seeking out a ten-gallon hat and some boots. Any other suggestions?

After Wii games, a random card game (I don't even know what they were playing, actually, or where the cards came from), Catch Phrase (which nearly always ends in a fight), Gossip Girl and the fairy costume, we called it a night. 

When everyone left, D and I popped in "Mean Girls" and I passed out on the couch. Today, I rose to a throbbing, ailing pain in my head and throat. No siree was it a hangover, but a double shot sickness coming at me full force. We were supposed to meet Beth's little group for lunch and had invited our boy Ben, who we haven't seen in WAY too long (that's for you, Ben, if you're reading!), but I was too sick to get out of bed (which was so sad for me). D brought me back an extra large Sweet Tea from McCallister's (lunch spot) and a broccoli-cheese soup (my fave). I drank lots of yummy peach tea and stuffed two sandwiches into my belly by day's end. We also managed to watch Iron Man, Mean Girls (with commentary), Juno and the first dvd of the second season of 24. Good stuff...especially since I haven't seen any of this season of 24 just yet (NO CABLE!).

Now the sneezing is back and I have to seek out something without sudafed (it kept me up most of last night) to help make me feel better.

Hope you all had a fab weekend...and look forward to more exciting, less "three day catch-up of events" blogs as soon as we get, well, all caught up with life. D has a hilarious story about some girls he over heard talking in the sauna...Gotta love being around the undergrads.


Friday, January 23, 2009

Hooker Mascara and Vegan Food

Dustin and Lance like to tell Bogey (my oldest fur-baby on the right here-->) that his mascara is running. I think it's funny, but kind of mean. All dogs have tear ducts that run like this, but it's more prominent on white dogs, of course.

However, today while getting ready to leave and play racquetball, D, while playing with Bogey and petting his little yoda head says: "Bogey, you look like a crying hooker."

Ha. I thought I'd pee my pants, but, instead, we went and played racquetball and D barely beat me. This means I'm getting better. We've been playing consistently for about a week and he, in the beginning, whipped my butt and I would, in turn, get incredibly sore about it. I was never a sore loser before, but I'm not used to performing so poorly. I attribute it to being out of practice. So it felt pretty good to give him a run for his money today. When we came home, we were both pretty hungry (I begged D to stop at Schnuck's so I could get some harder-to-find groceries) and I whipped up a vegan stir fry using Quorn Chicken Tenders in place of tofu or meat. I've read that vegan diets are the best healthwise for a person, which is why I'm incorporating it into our meals as much as possible. It's not based on a feeling of not wanting to eat animal products. This may sound gross to ourveg/vegan readers, but we're fine with eating animals-especially if they came from the sea. We've both been vegetarians at one time or another, but we've come to terms with our eating habits and feel at one with our carnivorous meals. We're just not fine with being fat. (Don't hate!)

Last night, I prepped breakfast for this morning because I just knew I wasn't going to want to get up and make breakfast for D this morning, but I wanted him to have something good since he had to teach at 9am. So I whipped up a animal-bi-product-drenched- Scrambled Egg White and Veggie Casserole which had a mixture of some veggies we had on hand: broccoli, spinach and tomatoes, namely. I've been using a lot of pepper and onions in our meals and I think he's getting a little sick of them so I opted not to toss them in, though I ordinarily would. I ground some fresh pepper in there and whipped up 7 egg whites and one full egg (scrambled style), then mixed it all together in a small casserole dish and stuck it in the fridge. This morning, I popped it in the oven for 20 minutes at 400-degrees while D got ready for school and, voila! A super tasty meal for 6 (so there's plenty left over for the weekend hang-over heatup cure). I added a dash or two of Frank's Hot Sauce because it is incredibly tasty for a hot sauce (I love that it has a peppery taste rather than just a 'burn your mouth off and render your taste buds useless" taste). All together it was 77 calories a serving, 4 carbs, 2 fat and 11 protein. Not to mention it was filling and scrumptious.

Tonight, we had the quorn stiry fry which, essentially, consisted of our veggies: brocc, carrots, two cups of the quorn tenders, a small can of mushrooms, a can of cut baby corn, half a cup of chopped yellow squash, a small onion, four Tbl of sweet and sour sauce and half a cup of cooked rice for each of us. Basically, I just cooked up the veggies, added the Quorn, half a cup to a cup of water, the sweet and sour sauce and simmered away. When it was close to done, I tossed some premade veggie spring rolls in the oven that we bought at the store. They were also strikingly good for us and kosher. Four little spring rolls made up a serving and they were incredibly filling little suckers. Dinner was 343 cals, 65 carbs, 3 fat, 14 protein. There were, at least, six servings in the pan so we've also got plenty of that to eat up later this weekend, too.

Tomorrow, Beth's friend Hailey will be in town and they will probably head over our way, with Beth's bf Eli, to hang out and play Wii and have dinner. Since D and I have been missing our Ben Hedrick and Co. a lot, we're hoping to weasel some playtime out of them, as well! It's stacking up to be a busy weekend, my friends.

Although, it will be an unpleasant one for me if my throat doesn't feel better I'm off to consume some Cap'n and Coke with D-Diggity-Bones. A little numbing never hurt!

Hope you're all well and having a fab first day of the weekend!


PS-I should say, though, I am in desperate need of some new fantastic bread recipes. We do NOT have a bread machine and I am not super crafty with the yeast. It never wants to rise for any and all advice you might have, I'll take! Esp. if it has to do with zucchini, wheat or honey.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Plans and No Plans

Time is somersaulting by like a trapeze artist. It's true. 

Between hitting the gym as much as humanly possible without killing myself and still getting tons of work done for comps and preps for classes, there is little time to stop and enjoy the day. Today, however, was an exception.

For whatever strange reason, we were granted a brief reprise of our autumn weather and I basked in the 60-degree sunlight all over campus from my office building to class to the next class to the rec and back to my car. I'm not sure it could've been lovelier. 

The rec was sort of a bust since D and I planned to play racquetball, but couldn't because all the courts were reserved. A week ago, this wasn't an issue since the students weren't back yet and we could engage in racquetball playing as much as we wanted without having to reserve a court. Now-not so much. So we reserved one for tomorrow and trudged back out into the sunlight. No big-D's chariot (the scooter) awaited and glided me back to my car. 

We planned, then, to go for a nice long run on the Katy Trail (I was thinking somewhere in the 6-8 mile range), but after my lunch (oh, my friends, I made the tastiest saag paneer in the world last night, thanks to Steph's Christmas present: Didi Eammons' incredible Vegetarian cookbook!) which was saag paneer wrapped up in a Flatout wrap followed by my Fage-which is still holding strong in my staple-favorite food category-with a touch of wheat bran, dried cherries (I read in Runners World cherries are good for relieving soreness) and granola. I honestly think that is pretty much my favorite thing to eat in the whole wide world. However, when I finished, I was beat and had 0% motivation to go running as opposed to D's fleeting 60%, so today was my day of rest (Beth, Liz...etc...I took your advice, just not yesterday!). And I literally rested by falling asleep.

Before I knew it, some unexpected plans hatched. I had canceled drinking-at-the-Fugue-plans with my Liz (my head is still bothering me...can you believe it? And I can't shake this fatigue for anything in the world!) and Lance and Em showed up with dinner for four! Bacon, cheddar burgers and a hankering for grilling 'em up! So we did. While they grilled, I whipped up my planned dinner for D and I: black bean spicy burgers and no-fat potato chips! I have to admit, I've been stealing some tasty, mostly vegan recipes off of other websites I'm addictively searching for recipes, so I don't think I can technically reproduce them on here...? But if you're interested, the burgers were a hit and the potato chips were an even bigger hit! And how can you beat NO FAT??? Amazing what a microwave and thinly sliced and salted on four-minutes, stopping once to flip the 'chips', can do :) (See what I did there???) I wasn't sure how D would feel about the black bean burgers. I wasn't sure exactly how I felt about them, but when he finished his regular bacon cheese burger and his first black bean burger only to add another little black bean patty to his plate, I felt pretty damn good about it. So good, I ate another myself!

I'm not sure if I've mentioned that Dustin and I are also pretty obsessed with this website called SparkPeople which keeps track of our calorie intake and fitness each day (as long as we put the info in), but we both love it and religiously track our progress as the wedding day approaches. I came across this website while reading the blog FittingBackIn . Though, come to think of it, I'm not sure how I found this blog, but I can tell you it appeals to me because the author is very practical, nonpretentious, witty and, well, normal. She has a very relatable life so I like to peek in on her blog and see what she's reading or what she's eating, how her daily issues are going (apartment problems, missing her husband, looking for a new house, work...etc.). It's like reading one of those books that was enjoyable, engaging and fun to read. If you're in the mood for something like that-I suggest you visit her blog cus it's a good time and some of her quirkier comments totally remind me of my saavy sister. That, by the way, was a totally unsolicited plug and unexpected. 

Anyhow, the important thing is...if I hadn't stumbled across her blog, I don't know how long it would've taken me to find SparkPeople so I'm grateful for that. It has become somewhat of a game for D and I to see how many calories we've had in a day as opposed to how many SparkPeople thinks we should have based on our age, height...etc. It's fun to see what we've done in a day and a nice, easy way to keep track of your eating habits if you're trying to be conscious of them. (There's my plug for SparkPeople, too!) :)

Moving along, dinner was great, the company was even better and we all enjoyed a few cocktails (which succeeded in making me even more exhausted) while being entertained by the Wii playing. We discovered "boxing" tonight and what the numchuck is used for: boxing, as it were. Let me show you what it looks like to watch someone Wii-box in your living room.

And below is what it looks like to watch two people watching a person Wii-box in your living room.

It was wonderful to have Em and Lance over. Especially because I've been feeling a bit anti-social lately. I think it's the stress and fatigue and the sudden cooking obsession (seriously, if you catch me in the grocery store-keep walking. I have a really hard time concentrating on conversations when I'm grocery shopping. I'm so sorry. It's so sad and weird! Emily can attest to that!) Hopefully, we will start a Thursday Night Hang Out tradition with them since they're pretty fabulous.

And, hopefully, this weekend will bring about more interactions with more of our friends that we haven't seen since before Christmas break! We miss you guys (you know who you are) and talk about you all the time. If D doesn't answer his phone, try me!

Thank God it's Friday. Hope it's a good one!

PS-If you're of the praying mindset. Please keep a friend of my oldest brother, Amit's, in your prayers. His friend's 26 year-old wife passed away the other day very unexpectedly during a fertility treatment that caused her to bleed to death. As you can imagine, his friend is devastated and everyone is quite shocked and upset. I'm sure they could use thoughts and prayers at this time in their lives. Thanks, everyone!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Spring Semester has Sprung

Dustin is sitting at the kitchen table in a jacket, jeans and button down shirt He also has on his black Sketchers and is flipping through some papers with a pen in his hand and a Mountain Dew at his fingertips. 

I am seated in a cozy, but dreadfully orange, rocking chair in the corner of the living room where the Christmas tree used to live by the fireplace (which is lit) with laptop in my lap, coffee on the table beside me, still donning my pajama pants and t-shirt.

If you look closely at the photo, you can see the vacuum standing to D's right and a racquetball racquet resting on the tabletop. These are signs, as well, and all of them are pointing to the start of Spring Semester 2009! That's right-the vacuum has been abandoned more than halfway through its use; the racquet has been removed from the bookbag it resided in just days before this photo and Dustin is back to chugging caffeine in any form it comes in.

As for me, it's Wednesday and I don't teach on Wednesdays so, instead, I'm doing comps. work and trying to get some preps done for my two classes tomorrow (mentally on the preps, literally on the comps work).

This semester has brought some rather disconcerting situations along with it. First, when I arrived back from NY Dustin informed me he thinks that the house was being cased by burglars due to the spotted oil marks in front of the mailbox and the fact that a car with a broken fan belt (he knew this because he heard it) parked in the driveway one of his first evenings back while he sat in a, mostly unlit, room with the curtains pulled watching House online. After a few minutes of hearing the car, he pulled back the curtain, spotted the car in the driveway and it, promptly, pulled out and headed to the main road where it stopped, spoke briefly to a waiting car, which then had to turn around and face the main road, and departed. Weird, right?

Luckily, D came home when he did. It's not that there's really anything worth stealing in my house. Seriously. No tv (except the one with bunny ears which will be worth nothing at all after February without that digital box), no game systems-aside from the first ever Nintendo with cartridges, no money, no jewelry, no nothing. There's furniture, but I don't think that'd be stealable without drawing attention. Clearly, they didn't start casing the house early enough to realize the people that are in and out of it are poor students with nothing to offer a thief.

Then this other strange thing started happening. I started to catch my teeth locked strongly together in the back of my mouth. I noticed it because they were so tightly locked that they actually caused pain in my jaw. It would wake me up in the mornings. I'd notice it while I was walking around the house trying to get it cleaned up or while reading. Out of nowhere, my mouth would start to throb and I'd realize I needed to slacken my jaw, especially in the molar section, to release the pressure my teeth were causing. There's no real medical issue here to explain it. The explanation is really quite simple: stress. 

My mother used to grind her teeth when she slept at night. Since I never slept much as a kid, I could hear them grinding together even when I was in the hallway outside of my parents bedroom. Eventually, our dentist had to give her something to wear so she wouldn't ruin them and do permanent dental damage. It turns out, this is really quite bad for you. I don't grind so much as I lock, very firmly, and I do it while I'm awake. However, recently, I've found myself waking up at around 5-5:30am because I feel so stressed out and my teeth have begun to lock together and cause pain...again.

When I explained this to my parents, they sounded baffled: "What do you have to be stressed about?"

I know this means they're worried. I know, more than that, it means they might not completely understand how stressful, scary and exhausting comprehensive exams are. My mom said..."But you've been preparing for a year!" And I realize this is true, but try explaining to her that I have four questions to answer, 150 books I've read to inform my answers and only five pages apiece to answer them in! Changes things, doesn't it? Think it over and you will see what I mean.

So my poor teeth are suffering as is my sleep. Occasionally, I can distract my thoughts. Like last night, for example, I think I exhausted myself into a good night's sleep because the two nights before that I had, a grand total of, about 8 hours of sleep. (I told you. I keep waking up at 5ish and don't fall asleep to at least midnight, but usually 1). No jaw lockage this morning when I rose. No stressful thoughts that woke me before the sun. It was nice.

But now, there's coffee and reading, writing and revising...more coffee, relaxation after my hour at the rec...then a healthy dinner. Maybe vegetarian. Still thinking it through.

Anyhow...we're back!

Now is the time for school work. I look like a doctoral student for the first time in all four of my years here at Mizzou: bookbag, giant baggy clothes that portray just how fatigued and stressed I am, armloads of books, computer, pen in hand constantly! I've been reading these other blogs written by students who are starting back this semester, too (not my students, people I've never and, probably, will never meet) and they're stressed to. Aaah, to be an undergrad again.


PS-A little GG update. Word on the street, UTHers is that A. Parker will be gracing us with his presence in just over a month's span of time. No wonder the rec center is full of spritely blonde ladies working their abs and toning their scantily clad bodies! I should've known it wasn't for the meathead gents pumping iron and grunting in pain as they complete their bench presses. Keep checking back for more A. Parker sightings at your one and only source for gossip on the UTside.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Start with Soup

I was searching for something in google, when out of nowhere the title: "Start with Soup"glared back at me. It felt like someone was trying to tell me something about how to combat the cold weather and snow. While soup is nice, and the last time I went to the grocery store with Mom, I lifted the lid of each of the soups they had to find out whether their scent piqued my interest (none did), today I preferred Williams-Sonoma hot chocolate from my Christmas gifted hot-chocolate maker. In the end, I had neither soup nor hot chocolate.

We've been seeing a lot of snow and today I felt so stir-crazy I almost went running in it, but, instead, opted to get my church on with Connie so I could get out of the house. In an unusual twist of fate, I drove and found that the roads and pavement were quite clear, just saturated, which meant I probably could have gone for a run, but lost my luster for it when we came home. Maybe it was all the white Bogey hair on my coat that I proceeded to remove, piece by piece, during the homily that changed my mind. At any rate, by the time we arrived back home, all I wanted to do was work on my syllabus and eat some yogurt. Unfortunately, the yogurt didn't quite pan out (turns out my dad digs fage, too!), but the syllabus did and I completed the whole thing, weekly schedule of readings and activities, as well, all before dinner time.

Also, I slipped in a little registry browsing whilst watching CSI with my parents (who are getting to the age where they ask me to please not run on the stairs. I partially want to remind them that I'm still young and fairly limber and that my hip won't break easily if I slip, but I don't want to remind them they're getting older and, by saying that, I'm fairly sure I will. More than that, I don't want them to know I recognize the fact that they're getting older. I want them to remain as young as possible for as long as possible, even if it is just at heart.) Anyhow, in my idle registry browsing, I stumbled across a "kitchen torch" which showed a picture of a small, hand held, flame-throwing torch being held up to semi-charred vine-tomatoes on a wire rack in, what could only be (I attribute this assumption to the name of the product) a kitchen. I sort of wanted it, but it reminded me of the time I left the oil to heat on the stove in a pot and forgot about it, only to remember just in time to see it burst into flames and shoot monsoon-sized waves of smoke throughout the house. It took Dustin's smarts on putting out electric fires and my running around the house opening all the doors and windows for us to stop coughing and the fire to go out. It didn't do much for the smoke alarm, which alerted us just a little too late that something was a rye. But they always do, don't they? Either they alert too late or they alert without cause (because the batteries are running out, of course!).

I opted not to register for the mini blow-torch, though it promised lots of charbroiled fun. I dig my house and would like it to remain in tact. Who knows if Dustin will be home the next time I almost set the place on fire?

My advice to you all, when the weather is crappy, like they're predicting it will be tomorrow, and keeps you from heading home to see the love of your life: start with soup. It won't take you home, but it sure is comforting and it beats pining for Greek yogurt that you ran out of and couldn't find a replacement for at the store two days ago. Trust me on this: soup.


PS-I miss you, D! Hopefully the snow will let up so I can head your way. I think the house must feel lonely with only half of us present! xo

Friday, January 9, 2009

Another Birthday and an Unexpected Restaurant Selection

I got up this morning and ran three miles in 24 minutes. I haven't run that fast in a year. Sure it was flurrying, but with my new running tights (don't make fun, bitches! They're warm!) and coat, plus my favorite Saucony running shoes, I was good to go. The main problem with running when I visit my parents is that it's not runner/biker friendly like back home. There are no sidewalks or paths for me to stay on  directly outside of the complex they live in, so my best bet is to run through the townhouse community and around each of its courtyards two times. Ordinarily, this takes me about thirty minutes-a nice leisurely run, but today, I ran my pants off (alright, so it's a hyperbole! I was still wearing 'em when I got home, but not for long!). I was so pleased with myself when I climbed the stairs to my parents' townhouse until I felt like I very well might throw up the two cups of coffee I downed before leaving the house. Luckily, both of my parents were on different phones when I felt my stomach turning and my father shoved the third into my hand so I would answer it leaving no time to succumb to my  stomach's unhappiness.

But, enough of that. Who's up for a recap of the last few days?

We've been getting slammed with snow on and off, but Monday we were snow-free and I headed to White Plains to catch up with Carrie, one of my bridesmaids, to check out bridesmaid dresses and to hang out. It was a day nothing short of wonderful. We walked, took the train, chatted and found two dresses that we both loved for her bridesmaid attire. When we left the fabulous loft-like bridal store, we headed back to the train, but got distracted by a carousel which we couldn't pass up. Since Carrie hasn't posted any approved photogs yet, this is going to have to do. I think she looks glamorous...sort of like a celeb turning the tables on the paparazzi, don't you agree?

I suddenly recall having posted about this day already. Woops! Sorry all...let's just call it an excuse to post a pic of Carrie and the carousel :) We had a blast!

Tuesday, we were iced in. Literally. The weather was nothing short of a nightmare and my dad's poetic description serves best to describe it: It looks like glass. So we all bummed around, read, watched CSI and SVU and Law and Order (you were totally hoping for another abbreviation on the last one after those first two, right? Sorry to disappoint!). I don't know what will become of me now that I'm so used to cable! This holiday has spoiled me. Not to mention both D and I have learned just how much we both love the show House! What will we do without him in our lives??? 

Wednesday we were stuck inside again-more crystal weather. We ordered pizza and didn't shower all day.

Alas, today was clear and it was my Aunt Barb's 46th birthday. After running, showering and finally figuring out how to use a flat iron for curling my hair (pics to come), we took off for the restaurant. Little did I know we were headed to the exact restaurant I worked at on and off through college and for, at least, eight months between college and moving to Pittsburgh for my masters. 

Cosimo's is closest to my heart of all the places I worked. Whenever I left for a new endeavor, that inevitably fell through, they always had a place for me when I came back, even if they didn't need more staff at the time. I was lucky to have them and I learned a lot in the clips of time I worked there and gathered a tremendous amount of writing material, as well. Some of my favorite stories stem from my days at Cosimo's-meeting the Young Republican Group's president whose face I laughed in and turned away from when he tried to kiss me and instead got my ear, the Secret Admirer flowers and stuffed monkey I got on Valentine's day-left in my car only moments after I arrived at work (freaked me out-like someone was watching and waiting for me to pull in and park), all the stories and people I met while bartending, the Christmas parties we had when the kitchen staff would get so drunk they'd almost fling their dancing partners (usually us wait staff) into the buffet table...and the list goes on. Good stuff. Mostly, though, they were family. The same familiar faces greeted me tonight that I knew over six years ago now ('could it really be that long?' we asked ourselves as we embraced, reminisced and said our "hellos"). In a way, it was sad that some of them "never got out," but, still, I was glad for their sincerity, their genuine care, and, most of all, their consistency-proving that 'home' is a place you can always go back to.

So we got our own special table in the banquet room of the restaurant and top notch treatment. The room was private and isn't ordinarily opened unless there's a private party or a holiday going on. My Aunt Barb is the one to the back right in the pink sweater. Beside her is my UJ, Mom, U. Teddy, Papa, me, Cousin Jamey and Aunta Rah (Aunt Ronnie). 

(Fun fact: Aunt Barb shares her birthday with her father, my grandfather-Rocco (Robert, but Rocco was his legit birth certificate name). 

We started out with a toast to the birthdays and a nonstop eating fest. While Cosimo's hasn't really changed, the menu (at least the dessert menu) has...and it was fabulous.
We bombarded Aunt Barb with cards, tequila shots (it's her drink of choice, just like my brother Amit) and food. I had some calamari and focaccia (they all had antipasti and bruschetta, too, but both had balsamic-which I can't have for allergy reasons), the grilled chicken pesto penne for dinner, a dessert they called the "Vesuvius" (think thin chocolate ganache bottom, tiny drizzled layer of caramel on it, cheesecake, layer of chocolate mousse and more chocolate ganache on the edge...ouch! It was sooooo good I thought I'd go into cardiac arrest from all the sugar right then and there), a dirty martini (which in Cosimo land  is served in a full martini glass with an extra two drinks in a glass of ice with a strainer) and an "Irresistible Kiss" coffee with two kinds of was Bailey's, but by then I was a bit too tipsy to remember the other. And of course, they all came and sang and she made a great, big, top secret wish that I hope will come true. Aunt Barb was still fairly young when we were kids. For a while, during my childhood, she and my Grandma lived with us on the top floor of our old Victorian house (it was originally the attic, but was redone into an apartment when they decided to move out of Queens). I still can't see her any older than the 22 year-old she was when first moving into our house. I suppose part of me never will.

Then, we packed up all the leftover food, handed it Jamey's way (there was so much food and no way I needed to pack in more carbs tomorrow after the Carb-fest we had tonight...I have a
wedding gown to squeeze into...remember??? You all know I'm not usually THIS obsessive about nutrition and fitness) and posed for a few pics before heading home. The one here on the right is of me and Mario-who used to be my manager and still is the manager at Cosimo's. We are standing in front of the brick oven where they make pizzas and just at Mario's shoulder, that small visible rectangle, is a memorial to Cosimo DiBrizzi who owned and created all the Cosimo's. He was a partial owner of my Cosimo's (the one we're standing in), but passed away the year after I moved on and seeing the photo and plaque dedicated to him was the first I knew of his death. Of course it surprised and saddened me, but he'd be proud to know how spirited the place still is. As for me and Mario, I'm ducking down because he's rather short and asked me to duck so he didn't feel "like such a shrimp." :) How could I say no? This guy has cleaned and bandaged my bloodied, cut finger before (bread station-sharp knives...I was in a hurry. We cleaned the whole thing out, though, and they bought a metal glove so it wouldn't happen again!)From left to right, again: Aunt Barb (the birthday girl), Jamey, Mom, UJ, Me, A. Ron, U. Ted, Papa. I think we were mostly laughing in this pic (cus most of us were drunk...only my dad and Aunt Ron drove so the rest of us could rest on our way home and relax, knowing we were in sober, safe hands).

My mom's side of the family is mostly Italian, so you can imagine what our feasts and holidays are like (if you're a regular reader, you saw the NYE dinner pics!). Here's a small taste of our good-byes. 
Don't look at drunk me being a cheeseball if that's at all possible...check out the endless hugging in the background and my U. Teddy waiting his turn while UJ waits for U. Ted to pay attention and give him a hug! It's, essentially, an endless cycle of hugging and good-bye-ing. This may be the last time I see my A.Ron, U.Ted, A. Barb and cousin Jamey until my wedding! Though I will see UJ and A. Patti (who couldn't come tonight, sadly enough) on Saturday when Mom and I go back into the city to look at gowns for her. I am enjoying all this family time! Can you tell?

And in Wedding News...D found an awesome videographer named Cathy Evangelista. I figured out what gift I think I'm going to give D before our wedding ceremony (you know, during when we don't get to see each other. I hope you weren't being perverted when you first read the "gift" part! This is a PG-13 (at worst) blog!). I ordered part of the BM's gifts, mostly picked linens with Connie, checked out more flower options, saw many of the dresses my ladies will be wearing...and there's more, but I'm so tired now I can't remember. And, trust me, it's been nonstop wedding for the last couple of "iced in" days, too!

That's all for now! Tomorrow: maybe more running and wedding stuff . Saturday-Mother of the Bride gown shopping. Sunday-Missouri-bound. Hope you're all well and have settled back into work smoothly (if you're back to work!).


PS-D, if you're reading this: what do you think of this shirt on Jamey? My cousin wants to know. He and I had a good ten minute discussion on it. I think you'd dig it because it reminds me of one you have only in a different color. Love you and miss you and see you Sunday!!!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Columbia and NY

Today I went to White Plains, met Carrie, then walked to the train and took it into the city. God, how I miss doing things like that when I'm back in Missouri! While we walked, I tried to explain Columbia, Missouri a little, but found myself saying things city-folk just don't quite grasp. I almost have to relearn the norm for being back in NY and found myself remembering how when I first moved to Columbia much of what I'm about to write about Carrie's (and many of my other friends and family on the east coast, really) astonishment was my own, as well.

1-Carrie's idea of a mall means there are at least three to choose from, each with at least two levels, all within a five minute drive. One chooses their mall based on what they want to accomplish there. For example: the ghetto-locale comes complete with a DMV and Asian food market. The other two malls boast everything from Tiffany's to Pottery Barns to Nordstrams. Columbia offers a small mall with a growing new outdoor one just a short distance away (where Macy's is located). There is only one story in our mall and one can go from the ever-useful and general goods aisles of Target to Express (which has been in a rut lately, I might add) and all the college-geared clothing stores: American Eagle, Abercrombie, Hollister...etc.

2. Where Carrie lives (outside of the city) and where my parents now live (also just outside of the city) a person can walk to the train station, a bar, a corner store and most other necessary stores should they want or need to. With a train station, though, the world is your oyster. Once at the train station, we could decide whether we wanted the Express or the local, whether we wanted to go to Grand Central or Penn Station...etc. In Columbia, I must drive, bike or run no less than three miles everywhere (this is personal, though, based on where I live being a personal choice. I could live closer to one, but not ALL of the places at the same time) including the mall, the grocery store, school, a bar, a corner store or liquor store...or any store, actually.

3. We ate dinner at a tasty place named Sam's and Carrie can create lists of other equally wonderful places within a decent distance of where she lives. If pressed, there's always the quick train (really, really quick!). As Dr. Andy Hoberek said, "I've found two places in Columbia where I can find good food, otherwise I'd prefer to just stay home."

4. "Downtown" is immeasurable here; in Columbia it's four blocks.

5. In the middle of our walk today, we stumbled upon a park complete with an ice-skating rink, carousel and giant Christmas tree. In Columbia, I stumble upon the homeless more frequently than NY anymore and admire the giant wreaths that were put up in pieces on some of the buildings downtown.

I could go on, but you get the point. Sometimes, I feel like I'm explaining what it's like to live in an alternate universe because, having grown up in NY, we all sort of take for granted that everywhere is at least similar to what we see as normal-until we're faced with what we view as unimaginable. I love that their are thousands of places to find wedding gowns and bridesmaid gowns and clothes and boutiques and restaurants...I love that I can walk for blocks, which equal miles, in NY just to get somewhere without realizing just how long I've been walking and, most importantly, that it's all flat and not a crazy series of steep hills like where I live now. I love the people and how they'll leave you be, if that's what you want, or engage you in convo if it's not.I love that I can take the train and easily blend into the rest of the crowd of people bustling down the sidewalk and dangling their toes from the edge of the curb, just waiting for the light to change. It's a nice place to be if I cherish my anonymity.

But I love that I can run to school in Columbia and force myself up those treacherously steep hills, that theres room for me to ride my bike on the sidewalk or in the street without worry that someone will hit me. I love that I can get my fruits and vegetables in season and fresh from spring to early fall at the Farmer's Market three days a week. I love that there are mountains to climb and caves to spelunk and gardens to grow. I love that I live in a house that isn't crammed into a tiny space, enveloped on either side by other imposing homes and families and lives. I love that I met my fiance in Missouri and some of my very good friends...and that I'll finish my education here and start my career. I love the little places and stores we find and that there are a few wonderful little boutiques that remind me of being in NY. Oh, and how could I forget, the Katy Trail...I simply adore the Katy Trail. I love that, for better or worse, Missouri has given me a home.

When Carrie puts pics up, I will post at least a few of our day together. It's been too long since I've seen her and we always have a wonderful time together. Aside from finding her a gorgeous bridesmaid dress, we rode the aforementioned carousel, walked about three miles (I should've worn my GPS watch!!!), had a fantastic dinner, enjoyable train rides and a great time, overall.

Thanks for giving me a day, Carrie! Now go post your pictures so I can steal them and put them in the blog!


PS-If you're a Gossip Girl awesome was tonight's comeback episode? Oh, how I missed you GG! It's been a long holiday break (one whole month and then some since the last episode!) without you. Please don't go away for so long anymore. I felt like Blair anxiously awaiting the return of Chuck!

PPS-I also had a luxurious run this morning before heading to White Plains to visit Carrie, plus with all that walking, I feel awesome. You should all go out and run three miles tomorrow.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

...Never Let it Fade Away

When I was in high school, the elementary school kids from our feeder school used to come up to our school in the wintertime for gym class. (They wanted to play basketball, I suppose?) Anyhow, when the kids were lined up in the breezeway and I had to pass by them on the way to the cafeteria or music class, a distinct sweet smell of innocence emulated from them into my nose. It wasn't like a huge sniff of baby powder or Johnson n Johnson No Tear Shampoo/Conditioner, but more like what a brand new baby smells like when you finally get to hold it for the first time. At the time, I didn't know it was the scent of a newborn since I didn't really know any newborns, but now, having the birth of my three nephews and niece under my belt-having held them just moments, hours old in my arms, I know that scent well. I think I decided that the scent of innocence begins to wear off as we get older, but when condensed-like the group of elementary school children huddled in a group in the breezeway-it's as strong as if holding a brand new baby.

I think of this now because the babies I know are getting older. When Jack-o was born (my cousin Lindsay's son), I watched them baptize him in the church, his reddish dusting of hair soaked to a dark ginger in the holy water. He has since had the most angelic face I have ever seen outside of paintings. There is a crisp, unblemished white to his skin with a blush of pink in his cheeks, clear blue eyes and a mop of dirty blonde hair. He is kind and sweet and funny. He 
has boundless energy. When I spent time with Jack over New Year's Eve and day, he taught me how to play "Crazy Eights;" he beat me at Connect Four about half a dozen times; we played the "You're Getting Warmer" game, tag, and the card games "War" and "Garbage." He piled all of his toys and blankets on me and even shared his two favorite stuffed animals "Puppy" and "Beary," which I'm told is a big deal.

I spent lots of time with Jack talking about school, friends, his role in the wedding, games, family...everything. It broke my heart to say "good-bye" to this little man. He's still only six-the age when he hasn't become mean or jaded, doesn't yet know what's considered "cool" or "uncool," the age when he's still into hanging out and playing innocent games with his Aunt Neesha...the age when he'll let me take pictures of us together like the one to my left and he'll still kiss me and hug me a dozen times when we're together because he's not a pre-teen yet and he's still in the super-affectionate-innocent phase.

Last night was my ten-year-old nephew Milan's night. I was eighteen years-old and at the hospital when he was born. I was still finishing high school when they brought him home and settled, screaming baby and all, into the bedroom next to mine. He was my alarm clock for the last three weeks of my senior year of high school and my first ever nephew. The first to sit in my lap and ask a dozen questions, to eat the whipped cream from the top of my cappuccino, the first to want to jump in bed with me if he was scared...the first for most things you can imagine.

He and my cousins, Gauri and Vidisha (also bridesmaids) came for dinner and Milan got "The Complete Guitar Hero World Tour" as a belated Diwali gift and remarked, "All of my friends wanted this game but none of them got it!" He talked about football players-by name, mind you-and what sports are his favorite to play: football, basketball, lacrosse, soccer. In that order. He told me he "grew out of taekwan do," but was still into "Club Penguin" (an online Second Life-type world of penguins that represent kids that parents have to sign their children up for). He asked me to sign up for Club Penguin so we could "hang out" (which, I guess, means he hasn't entirely outgrown me, right?).

He just got braces and doesn't even mind them. He wants to quit playing the piano, but knows one day he'll be glad he knows how and he's, currently, learning how to play the French horn, as well. Who is this kid??? Although, he never played like Jack does-with cards and dress up. He never had 'blankies' or played the hot/cold game. Instead, he liked train sets and go carts. He's loved birds and has a pet cockatiel named Russ. He's always loved birds.

He used to call all the time to chat or to tell me how Marathi school or a sport he was playing was going. Lately, the calls are less frequent and I lamented to his mother that I thought he was growing out of me now that he's pre-adolescent. She responded, "Oh no. He wants to call you all the time. I just tell him he can't because you're so busy. He'd call every day if I let him." Don't misunderstand, he still calls and leaves me messages on my cell phone sometimes, but now he's started to call me "Aunt Neesha" instead of "Neesha Maushi"-the Indian equivalent of "Aunt" which he grew up calling me. I don't correct him. It probably wouldn't be cool of me to do that and I'm worried about losing my cool in my nephew's eyes already. It's just a matter of time before someone tells him getting a PhD makes his favorite aunt a nerd. Then what will he think of me? My brother Kiran used to say he thought Milan was going to be "a huge dork that gets teased a lot." He has the potential to be a huge, bullied, dork, being brilliant (no exaggeration there) and all, yet he has made a choice that reminds me of the moment in the movie Spanglish when Paz Vega and Adam Sandler are discussing Paz putting her daughter in the same private school his daughter is in. He says that one of two things will happen if she does: she'll either be the weird kid or she'll fashion herself to be like everyone else. They think it's best to root for their children to be the weird ones, but Paz's daughter makes the choice to fashion herself to be like the others and ends up growing more distant from her own mother. 

Before Gauri, Milan's mother, left with him and V last night, I told her, "Next time he wants to call me, just let him. Any time. All the time. I always have time to talk to Mil."

Tonight's child, I can't claim for my own. Nya is in no way related to me, though I've known her since she was two-she's nearly four now. Instead, Nya is the god-daughter of a nurse that used to care for my grandmother. They both came to have dinner with us tonight and have come for holiday dinners in the past.

Nya is quieter than most children and deliberate in what she says and does. She is not liberal with her hugs or affection and when asked if you can have a hug, she will often say "no" unless she likes you. When she does say "yes," don't expect her to hug back, she just means "Yes. You may hug me" and steps into your open arms. 

Since she was two, she has wanted to take pictures with my camera, but until tonight her coordination failed her and the camera would nearly drop out of her hands so we didn't let her do it alone. The fact that she wanted to take pictures so much and was finally able to do so thrilled me. So I gave her my camera and the following is a montage of the photos she took in a five minute span of time. No alterations have been made and no one helped her. I did title them, though, according to what she said about them when we discussed her photos.

Photo One: Dessert and Flowers at the Table, and a Glass of Milk 
Photo Two: A Plate of Num-Num Cookies
Photo Three: an Angel, Some Sheep that Say "Baah," A Horse, Cow, Camel and Donkey

Photo Four: Close-Up on Lance-(the Female Turtle Inappropriately Named)

Photo Five: The Baby
Photo Six: "I Wanted a Picture of You"

They won't stay this way forever, as I can already see based on how they've changed over the last few years, and they certainly won't continue to see the world through close-ups and cares, the way Nya showed me she did, and so I try to get as much "kid-time" in as possible when I'm home, why I give them as many hugs and close sniffs as I can while I'm near them, because one day, they'll be embarrassed by hugs and kisses and they will have learned how to roll their eyes. I get as much of them in and pay as much attention to them as possible because one day, even if I do get them all together and put them in one huddle they won't smell like innocence anymore, their wonderment and opinion of their aunt being cool will have faded and the bloom in their pink cheeks will have rubbed off entirely.

I guess, the point of this blog is: I just don't want to forget how truly innocent and untainted they still are and how lucky I am to have them in my life. That goes for my niece Genevieve and godson Jacob-I just haven't seen them this break.

Happy fourth day of the New Year (going on the fifth!)


Friday, January 2, 2009

First Installment of "Things We Hate and Why"

Phone Calls From a Bar

D and I hate it when people call to chat from a bar. It always makes for a weird situation. Let me give you an example:

"Hello!"  says caller.
"Hello?" says me (mind you, thanks to caller ID I'm aware of who's on the other line, but because it's so loud on his or her end of the phone-because he or she is at a bar-I can't hear them and am, therefore, uncertain as to whether it is, in fact, who I think it is or if it's a friend of his or her's who has gotten hold of his/her's phone and is now calling me on it to play a joke).
"Hey. It's me. What're you doing?"
"What?"Ordinarily, this is the moment where I start raising my voice, too.
"WHAT ARE YOU DO-ING?" caller shouts.
"I'm hanging out at home. Going to bed soon."
Now I'm yelling, too, and at this point in my life I've figured out that I can speak using my 'indoor voice' and be heard just fine since there is no background noise coming into the caller's ear from my end to muffle my speech, but I've already forgotten this and have resorted to yelling back. "I'M GO-ING TOOO BED-uh!" (the "be-duh" is for emphasis on the "D")
"Ohhh. I'm at the bar with (insert two familiar names and at least one unfamiliar name here). We're playin..."
Having remembered about the indoor voice I go back to it, "You're playing what?"
"Insert indecipherable word here."
"What? I can't hear you."
"Insert indecipherable word again."
About to give up and now sitting exasperatedly on my bed, "What?"
Pool! Yes! I know that one. "Pool?"
"Yes, pool."

And so the convo goes. We having a sneaking suspicion everyone hates this, right??? Anyhow, it frustrates me for a variety of reasons. One is the obvious one above. Two is that I, too, would like to be out at a bar somewhere on a Friday night but can't be because I have spent the day running errands or some such foolery and am now too tired to find someone to go to a bar then I'd need a ride home or to be the DD, plus the friends I have who aren't married would want to leave themselves open to be approached by guys and I don't want to be a wingman (wingwoman?). You get the point. It's just not ideal. Have I mentioned yet that, really, I hate that it sounds like the person calling me is having a really great time while I'm hanging out with my fur-children? See what I mean? Kinda makes my life look a little dull all of a sudden! Those of you who have been in this position (I'd venture a guess it's many of you, right?) know what I'm saying.

But wait...don't confuse this with drunk dialing and leaving messages. My friend Cady leaves the greatest drunk messages ever. They go something like this:

"Neesha. It's Cady (pronounced: Caddie as a joke from Mean Girls, of course). When I woke up this morning my pants were in the kitchen, my shoe was in the bathroom sink, my other was in bed with me and I couldn't find my glasses. Have you seen my glasses? I had them on in the pictures I took from last night, then all of a sudden. Well. They're just not there anymore. I'm glad you didn't answer your phone so I could just tell you this. I miss you. Let me know if you find my glasses. I'm going back to bed."

See what I mean?

She has the system down to a science, too. It's just about formulaic: she calls and leaves the messages either so late that she knows I'm sound asleep and won't answer my phone even if I do hear it or she calls so early that she knows I won't yet be awake. I love them so much I save them in my voicemail so I can listen to them whenever I need a good laugh or just miss Cady-she lives in Pittsburgh :(

To sum up: Loud bar calls where conversation is expected from us if we answer the phone-BAD. Drunk dialed voicemails-INVITED and AWESOME. It makes us (me) feel thought of even when you are a bit tipsy. Sign of true care and friendship, right?

Thanks for reading our first installment of "Things We Hate and Why." Keep an eye out for the next one entitled: Second Installment of "Things We Hate and Why."

Hope your New Year is still going splendidly!


PS-Cady, if you're reading-it's time for a new message!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year, New Adventures

Happy New Year! Last night, my family gathered together to celebrate New Year's Eve together. I should mention that this was the first time we've all spent New Year's Eve together like this since I was about 17 or 18 years old (for those who aren't good at math, like me, that's about eleven years!). When my grandma got sick years ago, my mom and her siblings had different ideas on how she should be cared for. Needless to say, their different opinions got in the way and divided them ever since. They hadn't spoken in about ten years or so when they began again a little over a year ago. I like to remind them that I had faith, despite their stubbornness, but mostly it just makes me happy to see that they no longer need me or anyone else to bridge the gap between them (I used to try to keep in touch with all of them, even though they weren't speaking, to make a resolution easier for them when it finally came about). Now they are close on their own. THey speak daily...all of them. It takes my mom about an hour to get through talking to each of them individually. Maybe more. But the old tradition was for us to go to my uncle's, have a huge dinner, open Christmas presents,  drink champagne and ring in the new year. This year was the first, and possibly the last since my parents are planning to move permanently down south, family new year celebration in a long time. Here is my family:

Papa, Jack, Aunt Patti, Uncle Teddy, Aunt Honey, Aunt Ronnie, John, Mom, Aunt Barbara, Jamey (tall one in the back), Liddy, Me, Uncle John.

We opened presents, ate three courses of extremely artery clogging food, had drinks, caught up on stories, shared old family stories, watched Dick Clark's New Years Rockin' Eve and toasted in the New Year together. Instead of trying to fully recap, let me show you what a typical holiday with our entire family looks like:

The night began in the kitchen with presents, drinks and appetizer-making.

Aunt Patti and UJ have a super cool kitchen-incase you can't tell. It seriously looks like something straight out of a magazine. Yellow is a warm color and  most of the kitchen is yellow (obviously) with some hints of red here and there. They cook like fiends. So much, in fact, my UJ had a larger deck made so he could have huge barbecues and picnics out there in the summer. It's like nothing you've ever seen!
UJ made the antipasto with Jamey and Mom looking on. It consisted of a layer of lettuce, Genoa salami, prosciutto,  roasted red peppers, tomatoes, olives, hard boiled eggs, provolone cheese, mozzarella, marinated artichoke hearts, olive oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Aunt Patti made stuffed mushrooms and sausage bread with cheese. We had regular Italian bread and hot Italian peppers...then we moved on to dinner...
Oh...and, of course, there was wine, too!

This was our first course on the right...before we move on.

Dinner consisted of gemelli pasta, sausage, braghioli (braccioli...I can't figure out how to spell it, but it's pig skin stuffed with herbs and egg and stuff...I almost threw it up when my Aunt Honey made my try it), meatballs, pork spare ribs without the bone and beef briskets, bowls of fresh ricotta cheese, escarole with garlic and oil, more wine and bread. Whew! And then it was midnight (yeah, it took that long) so we took a break from eating and had a champagne toast with Dick Clark. 

Uncle John and my dad waiting for the ten second countdown. They have been watching Dick Clark's New Year's Eve since before Ryan Seacrest was even born. Before Dick Clark had his stroke...before, well...before I existed, at the least. One year, the year Dick Clark had his stroke and couldn't host the show, my hilarious Aunt Ronnie got drunk at our house, said she couldn't believe it was going to be a "Dick-less Rockin' Eve," then tried to take an open champagne bottle home with her, but ended up making my Uncle Teddy stop on the highway for her to get sick out the door of the car. She hasn't had a New Year's like that since (thankfully!) and, instead, she was the designated driver last night and NO ONE got sick! Once the toast ended, presents commenced...

To the left, we've got the present openers. Mom, Aunt Honey, Papa, Uncle Teddy and Aunt Barb...

Aunt Honey is the oldest living relative on my Mom's side of the family. She's 76 and sharp as a tack! If you're coming to the wedding, watch out! She will not hold back...and she loves her wine!

Of course we had dessert then...ricotta cheese fried balls rolled in powdered sugar,  chocolate pound cake, rum cake, strawberries (for good measure, of course!), brownies, cheese cake and honey balls...aka Aunt Honey's balls (well, she made 'em! and got a kick out of that joke!). 

Needless to say, we were more full than any other human beings have ever been. Lots of love, drinks, food, jokes, stories and new memories. We missed my sibs (Amit, Seale, Kier and Sar), as well as my niece and nephew, and,  of COURSE, my Fi (who was in Cape with his Mama ringing in 2009, too! Family everywhere!) who I got to speak to exactly as the ball dropped Eastern Standard time and less than a minute after it turned midnight Central time! Even two times didn't make up for us being so far away, but soon we will be back in CoMo bringing you more new and exciting 2009 adventures. We hope you  stick with us!

We had a fabulous time ringing in 2009 and I hope everyone else did, too! Tell us your stories! What was your favorite part??? Tomorrow...Day One of 2009...and the gluttonous indulgence continues.

Happy New Year! We wish you health, happiness and prosperity!