Sunday, June 17, 2012

Golden

In honor of my approaching half birthday, I'm going to share with you the story of my golden birthday.

Growing up in Minnesota in the 80's golden birthdays were a big deal.  You got a better party on your golden birthday, you got better presents on your golden birthday, and you got to lord the fact that it was your golden birthday over everyone.  It's actually unclear to me in retrospect whether other kids actually got different celebrations for their golden birthdays or if it was just the talk of the playground.  But in any case, as children those of us with an especially early or late golden birthday bemoaned the unfairness of our plight in life.

Now, if you are not a Midwestern child of the 80's and you were not involved in the planning of my birthday shenanigans, you're probably sitting there wondering what the heck makes a birthday golden.  I (and Becky too) had assumed that this was common universal knowledge, until I started announcing that mine was approaching.  Both because I thought it was funny, and also because I probably have some subconscious childhood scars from all that playground bemoaning, I was pretty pumped that I was finally getting my turn.  That is until my announcement was met with blank stare after blank stare.  After many a conversation and many a google we learned that this is almost exclusively a phenomenon of the upper Midwest.  For the uninitiated, a golden birthday is when you turn the same age as the date of your birthday.  I turned 29 on the 29th of December. 

Whether my family remembered my complaints from childhood or just thought my adulthood bemoaning was funny is still unclear to me (well, clearly Becky is in the later camp as she sadly missed my childhood, but the rest are unclear), but for whatever reason they played along and created a great birthday celebration for me.
They ordered a custom iceberg cake for me from the baker my sister loves, and decorated it with penguin holiday ornaments that apparently my mother had been saving for years in anticipation of just such a cake.  You can of course see the number candles - I think 29 individual candles would melt the penguins' playground!
You can also see that most of my presents were wrapped in gold paper, plus there was gold plastic silverware and gold plates and gold Hanukkah gelt for snacks.  In addition to the awesome train tour (documented on a golden scroll) that we recently enjoyed, Becky gave me several golden gag gifts: gold batteries, gold handwarmers, and cheap golden Christmas ornaments.

They also may or may not have forced me to wear a tiara for the present opening and candle blowing out.
 In addition of course they took me out to a delicious dinner at a restaurant called 3.  I enjoyed filet mignon, and Becky ate lobster macaroni and cheese she's still talking about.  The rest of the family ate food they enjoyed too, but six months later I can no longer recall.  Although we love the little boys dearly, in order to facilitate adult conversation my family was even thoughtful enough to hire a babysitter for the dinner portion of the night.

Thank you Jen, Sean, Mom, Dad, and Becky for  planning and executing such a wonderful golden birthday celebration!  There will be no more bemoaning regarding this once-in-a-lifetime experience!  Now what will they do next year when I turn 30???  Muhahahaha. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Backyard Envy

After our whirlwind day on Saturday, our Sunday plans mostly involved some grocery shopping and hanging out at home. As I was browsing the sale flyers (I am my mother's daughter after all) Sunday morning, I commented to Carrie that Target had all kinds of patio furniture on sale. Her response was something along the lines of "Yeah, okay, we'll just move our kitchen table out of the way and turn the kitchen into a patio."

Fast forward to the afternoon, which we spent listening to several of our neighbors enjoying Mother's Day cook-outs on their backyard patios. And then despite earlier trips to Pathmark and Trader Joe's, we found that we didn't have all the ingredients for a brownie recipe we wanted to try, so I went to Pathmark again. Somehow, the potato chips on sale were the last straw of backyard envy, and I resolved that we should do this thing.

So I got home from the store, declared to my amused wife that we were gonna make a patio, and then set about bewildering the cats by moving the table and chairs. Fortunately we've moved and cleaned things enough lately that the cats didn't seem to interpret this as a sign that we were packing up to leave them for a week, which is usually their concern.

At last, behold our patio!

We ate some chips, sipped our sodas, enjoyed our corn dogs for dinner, and topped it off with ice cream bars. Food tastes better on a stick, am I right?

Our patio even included an adjacent "lawn", aka a plastic container of cat grass, of which the cats have eaten very little.

Cricket and Piccadilly pretty much just figured we'd set up our seats to watch the birds outside, just like them.

We haven't gotten around to moving the table back yet, so tonight we also enjoyed our salad and gnocchi in the "great outdoors" of our backyard. What can I say, we're crazy people. Someday we'll have a house and a yard and a patio, but at least for now we're able to crack ourselves up making a fake version!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Trains, Pies, and Bowling Balls

This Saturday was a day I have been anticipating for a very long time.  Years ago we read about the fact that the NYC transit museum occasionally runs exclusive tours of the long-closed City Hall subway station.  I was intrigued, but unwilling to pay to join the museum and then turn around and pay again for the tour.  But, knowing that I've always wanted to go, Becky bought a family membership to the museum for us as a birthday gift to me this year.  (Yes, the birthday that occurred 5 months ago that I haven't blogged about yet.  I know.)  And this Saturday was the big day!  We put on our sneakers and charged our camera batteries and took off as local tourists.
The station is located only about a 30-second subway ride south of the current Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall station.  It has been closed since 1945, partially due to its proximity to the current station, and also due to its extremely curved platform.  The regular subway runs through the station (at the end of the 6 line, as it loops back to start back uptown again) but usually the lights are off and the train doesn't stop.  So we rode a regular train, but it stopped in the old station and the guide hauled out a walkway to allow us to cross the huge gap created by larger modern subway cars and a very curved station platform.
The stations is tiny, but also really gorgeous.  Apparently at the time of the subway's creation there was a movement called "City Beautiful," which promoted the idea that public spaces should be beautiful in order to uplift people during the time that they're in public spaces.  As the guide pointed out, contrast this with the modern Penn Station.  Point taken.
There's a lot of gorgeous tiling and leaded skylights.  The skylights were tarred over during World War II in order to avoid making the station a bombing target, and seem to have never been completely cleaned off.  But you can imagine what they must have looked like when the station opened forty years before that.
I particularly liked the original light fixtures.  The guide let us know though that the station would have originally been much darker (despite more light from the skylights) because lightbulbs were much weaker back then.
After the tour we were hungry.  We attempted to go back to a Bosnian restaurant we tried once several years ago and enjoyed and had been intending to back for a long time.  That is, until we learned that our intended restaurant is now permanently closed.  Hmph.  Apparently we should have used our wallets to express our enjoyment of the restaurant rather than just idly discussing it at home.  Instead we ended up at Pie Face, a newish Australian pie restaurant. 
Yeah, that's way too much pie for two people to eat in one sitting.  But we wanted to try so many flavors!  We got a traditional meat, a thai curry, a bacon egg and cheese, and a chicken and mushroom.  Yum.  The only downside was that they didn't have any tables or chairs, so we ended up on the steps of some nearby office building.

Refreshed, we were ready for more fun.  So we headed to Frames to use a Groupon that was about to expire.  Frames is located in Port Authority, which is the dingy building we travel through every time we go from New Jersey to New York or back again.  I knew they had done a big remodel, but I honestly wasn't expecting it to come out so nice.  They were playing good music with the music videos on big screens over the lanes, shnazzy full wait service for overpriced drinks and appetizers, and comfortable lounge-y seating.  Because we were pretty full of pie and not wanting to spend a fortune we opted to share one chocolate martini.  And, of course, we bowled poorly.  Isn't that half the point?  The huge group of kids apparently enjoying a pre-prom party next to us seemed to think so too.
 I'll leave our Sunday antics to Becky.  I hope you all had as enjoyable Saturdays as we did!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

30 x 30 Books

Carrie's books:

1. Inheritance by Christopher Paolini
2. Food Rules: An Eater's Manual by Michael Pollan
3. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
4. Catching Fire
5. Mockingjay
6. Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
7. I'll Fly Away: Further Testimonies from the Women of York Prison by Wally Lamb & co.
8. The Girl in the Garden by Kamala Nair
9. A Painted House by John Grisham

I'm a bit off pace.  In my defense, Inheritance took me a really long time to get into and does have like 900 pages.  But I'm kind of lame and need to step up my game.

Becky's books:

1. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
2. The Good Daughter: A Memoir of My Mother's Hidden Life by Jasmine Darznik
3. The Tiger's Wife: A Novel by Tea Obreht
4. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
5. Food Rules: An Eater's Manual by Michael Pollan
6. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
7. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
8. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: A Novel by Jonathan Safran Foer
9. Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
10. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
11. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
12. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
13. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
14. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
15. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
16. Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
17. Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights?: Fitness Myths, Training Truths, and Other Surprising Discoveries from the Science of Exercise by Alex Hutchinson
18. Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
19. When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present by Gail Collins
20. On Beauty by Zadie Smith
21. The Girl in the Garden by Kama Nair

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

30 x 30 Recipes

As part of our ongoing 30 x 30 project, here are the new recipes we've tried so far this year!

1. Parmesan Sage Pork Chops
2. Cornbread Stuffed Pork Chops (from Betty Crocker)
3. Fried Mac & Cheese Balls
4. Szechuan Chicken with Cashews (from Creme de Colorado)
5. Chocolate Cupcakes (from Hey Cupcake)
6. Breakfast Pizza
7. Broccoli Brown Rice Strata with Cashews (from Creme de Colorado)
8. Wild Rice Sausage Casserole (from MSUS Church Cookbook)
9. Gooey Chocolate Chip Sandwich Bars
10. Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
11. Vegetable Lasagna
12. Green Velvet Cheesecake Bars
13. Key Lime Cheesecake
14. Apple and Pear Crisp
15. Thai Peanut Noodles
16. Brown Rice & Lentil Casserole
17. Graham Gems (from Becky's mom's cookbook)
18. Banana Muffins
19. Banana Oatmeal Bread
20. Cheese Grits (recipe from the back of the Trader Joe's package)
21. Potato Waffles
22. Strawberry Cream Cheese Muffins
23. Black Bean Burgers (from How to Cook Everything)
24. Lentils and Potatoes with Curry (from How to Cook Everything)
25. Quinoa Mac & Cheese
26. Potato and Feta Gyros
27. Poached Eggs (What, that's not a recipe? Well it's still the first time I made them.)

Monday, May 7, 2012

A day at the beach

We've been really craving a vacation lately, but going on vacation right now is not in the schedule or the budget.  However, last weekend we decided to try to fulfill this desire with a mini one night vacation in our favorite shore town.
Becky reads on the beach.
The Jersey Shore Roller Girls were having a bout versus the Philadelphia Roller Girls.  You may remember our last (and only) encounter with roller derby, which we declared a good time worth repeating.
If we're being honest the roller derby itself was less entertaining than it's New York cousin, with fewer fans and too many bouts started with kneeling and hand holding (are we playing red rover??).  It was really interesting though to finally see the inside of the Asbury Park Conventional Hall, and they definitely get extra points for the opening and half-time band:
 I asked Becky what the connection was between bag pipers and roller derby.  She replied, "quirky."

Speaking of quirky, we had to stay in a new bed and breakfast because the one we traditionally stay in was not yet open for the season.  The new b&b featured a sort of African-ish theme and included this lovely piece of decor:
    
close up

 This creepy monkey lamp threatened to eat Becky in the middle of the night.  I valiantly offered to save her when she expressed concern at the beginning of the night, but sadly I slept through the actual attack.  You'll have to sit on the edge of your seats, wondering if she survived, until she graces this blog with a blog post.
Just kidding, here she is being attacked again the very next day:
On the way home from "our" part of the shore we stopped to tour the country's oldest lighthouse.
What's a good vacation without a little history lesson and climbing 10 stories worth of winding metal stairs?  We're so cultured.

Well, it cost a lot less than the week at an all-inclusive Aruban resort or the week of volunteering at the Sri Lankan elephant orphanage that we were dreaming about, so it will have to do for now.


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Back in time...

Yeah, I know. It's been a long time. We're actually doing somewhat better on the rest of the list than we are on the blogging item, but I'll save that for another post. Probably a few months from now.

Last weekend we went up to visit my sister and brother-in-law and our nephews. We hadn't seen the boys since Christmas and we had grown ups only plans for Saturday night, so we took Friday off and turned it into a long weekend.  Matthew and Thomas skipped daycare to hang out with us!

We took them to the children's museum, where I masqueraded as my sister in order to get us in on their membership. Success! The little boys hardly noticed that the museum was mobbed due to school break. Like a good little future nerd, Matthew insisted on dressing himself in a Harry Potter t-shirt that is several sizes too big for him.
Dr. Matthew
We also took them to the mall and enjoyed some lunch.  At two the mall escalator is apparently as good as any other ride, but lots cheaper!  Apparently we did a very good job at tiring them out, but most especially Thomas, who fell asleep with a piece of pizza in one hand, a fork in the other hand, and his head on the plate.
Sleepy Thomas
On Saturday afternoon we left the little boys with Sean's parents and headed to Old Sturbridge Village to make an old-fashioned dinner.  Becky and I got assigned to the pastry table, so together with another couple we were in charge of making rolls, apple pie, and a dessert called floating island.  Becky was nice enough to let me take charge of the pie crust, due to the fact that several months ago I declared pie crust to be my domain.  But this project required four crusts which had to be rolled three times each, so we all ended up taking a few turns.  
Me rolling some pie crust
Jen (with others) manned the vegetable table and helped with winter vegetable soup, beets, cabbage, and macaroni and cheese.  And Sean was part of the meat table and helped prepare curried chicken, roast beef, and coffee.
Sean and his chicken
Everything cooked over the fire or in a fire-warmed oven, and there was no electricity in the building.  We prepared and ate by candle light.  While we were waiting for some of the food to cook we ventured out to a nearby restroom.  Jen and Becky stayed toasty warm in these cloaks.
Over the river and through the woods
Delicious, filling, and educational!
Aaawww....
Instead of driving back that night we stayed at a local B&B with hot tubs in every room.  We put on our swimsuits, uncorked our Asti, flipped on the fireplace, and giggled a lot.  Thanks for a great weekend family!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

30 x 30 List


We're a little late for a New Year's resolutions post, but who here is surprised? Both of our birthdays fall right around the New Year, and it seems that we are both rapidly approaching the mature age of 30 in the coming year. With that, I give you our joint list of 30 by 30 goals/our resolutions for 2012.

1. Go on a vacation
2. Try 50 new recipes (count as of 5/6: 19)
3. Go to the gym 100 times each
4. Move to a new apartment
5. Finally get all our name change documents in order
6. Get a trophy in each cup on Mario Kart
7. Read 30 books each (count as of 5/6: 7 for Carrie and 12 for Becky)
8. Write a new blog post at least once/week (Ummm....)
9. Go to Delaware
10. Scrapbook our wedding
11. Make a honeymoon photo book
12. Go camping
13. Learn/Improve Spanish
14. Learn to can something
15. Go to the Coney Island Mermaid Parade in costume
16. See the rest of the American Museum of Natural History (overachievers--we're MEMBERS now!)
17. Go to a concert
18. Donate more to charity
19. Volunteer
20. Get our pixy advent calendar all set up before December 1
21. Read at least two journal articles or book chapters/month for professional development
22. Incorporate a new gym activity into exercise routine
23. Have one computer-free evening/week
24. Host a party
25. Buy more local produce
26. Clean out and donate some of our old stuff (still more to go though)
27. Use our Netflix subscription
28. Redacted
29. Redacted
30. Redacted

For the record, the redacted items are probably not nearly as interesting as you're imagining; they're just things we didn't want to share with the entire internet.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

2011

2011, And the Next Day style, for posterity.  
And also to catch you up on the last 6 months of non-blogging.  


January
Yay Becky Day to kick the year off right.

There was a snow day, and we finally finally finally went to Coney Island in the snow!

We continued a NYC restaurant week tradition.  Yum, undercooked steak.

February
We celebrated Valentine's Day at home, planning our honeymoon.  It may have been the only computer-free evening of the year.

Becky got her festive on with a green-and-yellow themed Superbowl party.  There was a ratio of approximately 15 food dishes per guest, but in fairness there was only one guest.

We celebrated the anniversary that is not our anniversary anymore with delicious BBQ.

We went to Massachusetts to visit the family.

March
We bought honeymoon plane tickets!

We played NYC tourists.  Yay spring!

We visited the nephews for 2nd birthday festivities, and also one other time for some reason I can't even identify.

April
We celebrated Easter in Massachusetts with my family (including my parents who flew in).

On a silly weekend jaunt we visited the borough where I now work, for the first time ever.

We enjoyed spring, and rented a tandem bike in Central Park.

I started my first group at work - a successful 12-week parenting group, which had the side effect of preventing a week of vacation.

May
I had surgery to have my gallbladder removed.

We traveled to Wisconsin to celebrate the end of Becky's dad's time in a position at his church.

Becky's job got reclassified, in a small but positive acknowledgement that her job entailed a whole lot more than her job description let on.

We did a lot of contemplating our life goals and priorities.

My sister and our nephews came to visit us for a fun train adventure weekend.  We enjoyed the weekend, but the train trauma may last a while for the three of them.

We spent a weekend at a bed and breakfast we adore on the Jersey Shore.

June
Jen and the nephews came again, this time sans train trauma!  We were the crazies at the beach.

At the end of June we departed for our Greek honeymoon!

July
We continued to enjoy Greece (including complete non-acknowledgement of the 4th of July), said a few days of hello to our old favorite London, and flew back to reality.

We went to the beach several times, and generally tried to enjoy the short summer that we were offered this year.

We contemplated moving to the city, seriously enough that we actually viewed apartments.

Becky had a job interview for a job she was not seeking, but in the process discovered she really wanted it. 

We went to Massachusetts.

We went to a balloon festival!

August
We finally got our acts together to go to a free Friday bike rental on Governor's Island.

We went camping upstate with my college roommates and had an awesome mini-reunion weekend.

We huddled at home for a weekend and watched the weather channel, because a hurricane was supposedly heading directly for us for the first time in decades.  OMG, tape the windows!  In the end it rained a lot and everyone else got hit worse than we did.

Very unexpectedly my supervisor asked me to interview for a promotion.  

September
Becky started the new job that she had not been seeking!

We traveled to Wisconsin again, this time for a long weekend to celebrate the wedding of one of Becky's cousins.  

We again visited the nephews and their keepers for Labor Day.

Jen and the boys came back to visit us again.  We went to the beach again, even though it was freezing again.

October
My promotion became official, and I gradually started the obnoxious new driving commute.  Despite the commute, I was and am thankful for the opportunity.

We rented bikes and biked along the Hudson, and visited the Atlantic Antic street fair.

We celebrated Halloween by meeting up with friends at at a friend's apartment.  Becky went sans costume (plans were developed last minute) and I revived last year's bee costume.  I'll probably be wearing that thing forever, so everyone should get used to it.

We resumed an annual tradition and spent a weekend in Vermont (put on hold last year due to wedding planning) with my sister and brother-in-law and our nephews, this time for the first time at their cabin.

November
Although Becky needed to go out of town for work on our anniversary we managed to make it a fun romantic get away anyways.  We spent a night at the gorgeous hotel where her event was being held, relaxed in the outdoor hot tub, and enjoyed fall colors, room service breakfast, and each other's company.

I spent a week at Thanksgiving in Minnesota with my sister and brother-in-law and nephews, and Becky flew out mid-week to join us.  Just after I left her, she managed to earn herself an ambulance ride and 12 stitches.  It only figures that this would coincide with probably the longest we've been apart from each other since the Belize/Israel adventures of 2008.

December
We continued traditions of viewing the NYC holiday sites, and a quirky Hannukah celebration with our good friend Kara.

We did the crazy Wisconsin for Christmas, then Massachusetts for my (supremely important golden ) birthday and New Year's thing.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Vacation Mania

Welcome to 2012 everyone!

We're freshly home from holiday vacation in Wisconsin and Massachusetts and settling back down into the "real life" that 2012 brings us.

This was the third (well, technically fourth, but Salzburg was different) Christmas that Becky and I spent together, and the third year that we managed to spend time with both of our families despite the 1,000+ miles between their various homes.  I fear the pattern and good luck may not hold forever, but for the past three years we've spent Christmas with one family and "fake" (aka "2nd") Christmas at New Year's with the other, and alternated which family got real Christmas.

On Christmas Eve we flew to Wisconsin to join Becky's family for the start of our vacation.  (Apologies to any friends or family reading from Wisconsin who we didn't see - there was too little time and too much holiday celebrating to make it work this trip.)  We got dressed up fancy and went to the Christmas Eve service at Becky's childhood church, then home to relax and wait for Santa.  Her youngest sister, Jen, was home the whole time we were, and her middle sister, Angie, and her fiance, Ian, were home from Christmas Eve through Christmas evening.  Which means that everyone was able to be there for present opening and the all-important-in-Wisconsin viewing of the Packers game.  The rest of the week we spent relaxing, reading several Christmas books, and watching the 8th season of NCIS.  And eating too many Christmas cookies (Carrie Krispies, Rice Krispie Rides Again, and Krispie Next Generation!).  Not to mention of course some more quality time with Becky's family!

Mid-week we flew from Wisconsin to Massachusetts to join my family for my birthday, New Year's, and a "second Christmas" celebration.  I'll save the birthday shenanigans for a future post, but suffice it to say that my loved ones made a good time out of making fun of me for being obsessed with my golden birthday.  We continued with too much delicious food and lots of reading, used many many plants to protect our homes from zombies, and spent a ton of time doting on our nephews.  Plus occasionally acknowledging the adult members of the family.  When necessary.  (Love you guys!)  We rang in the New Year with Asti and chocolate cheesecake and televised viewing of Times Square.

And then we boarded a train that zoomed us back to reality.  Goodbye Santa, goodbye Christmas, we will miss you and look forward to seeing you again next year!  Please keep the snow at the North Pole and do not send it to New Jersey.