Saturday, November 19, 2011

More Adventure than I Anticipated

Today started off nicely enough. We met up in the Village with some friends for a surprise early birthday brunch for one of them. We went to Jane and had their famous Vanilla Bean French Toast--delicious and ridiculously filling. After brunch, we split off, with Carrie heading to the airport to fly home this afternoon and me heading home, stopping at a post office on the way.  The walk from the post office to the bus station is where things get interesting...

For those of you who've never lived in a pedestrian- and tourist-heavy city like NYC, you probably won't understand my frustration. I was walking in Midtown and got stuck behind a huge group of extremely slow-moving tourists. As I have done hundreds of times before, I swung out to go around them. As I was passing the group, the person next to me suddenly moved left, pushing me into a standpipe (explanation here) next to the building. My leg caught on a screw protruding off of it, and I heard my jeans rip as I went flying through the air and landed face-down on the sidewalk. At this point, I was embarrassed that I'd fallen, pissed off that I'd ripped my favorite jeans, and my hands hurt from catching myself. Then I stood up, looked at my pants, and realized that it wasn't just my jeans that had ripped. I'll spare you all the disgusting details, but I had about a 3-inch gash in my leg and it was pretty deep.

Had I seen this injury on anyone else, I would have thrown up. The fact that I didn't, and the fact that it didn't hurt AT ALL makes me think I must have been in shock. Someone passing by got out a pack of wet naps from her purse and handed me one. I sort of looked at her, looked at my leg, then looked back at her...and then she handed me a handful. Someone else ran to the deli next door and grabbed a stack of napkins, and I did my best to apply pressure with my random assortment of paper products while trying to figure out what on earth to do. A man walking past asked if he should call 911. I debated for a minute because it wasn't really an emergency, but at the same time I had no idea what to do. Carrie was on her way to the airport, I could tell that I needed stitches, and I couldn't think of where the nearest hospital was or how I would go about getting there.

So the stranger called 911 while I sat down on the sidewalk, finally realizing that standing on my injured leg probably wasn't doing anything to help the bleeding stop. Two police officers showed up a few minutes later, and the ambulance arrived a few minutes after that. They loaded me onto a stretcher (which felt RIDICULOUS given the relatively minor injury I'd had, but whatever) and I got to take my first ambulance ride.

While in the ambulance, they cut the rest of that pants leg so that they could wrap a bandage around my leg, at which point I was like "oh crap, what am I going to wear home?" The paramedic said something along the lines of "Well, someone's gonna have to come pick you up so they can just bring you something else." Um, yeah, easier said than done. At the same time, Carrie was texting me about her transportation woes in getting to the airport. (I still haven't heard that whole story--the conversation kind of shifted gears when I responded with "Fyi, I am fine, do not panic, but I am in an ambulance right now." and then proceeded to tell my story.)

Fortunately, two of our lovely friends came to the rescue. They'd been shopping in Soho post-brunch, but as soon as they heard what was up, they stopped to pick up some pants for me and go to the hospital as quickly as they could. By the time they got there, I was all stitched up and almost ready to go. I ended up with a total of 12 stitches. Having made it to age 28 without stitches or an ambulance ride, I got to do both! In the same day! The only downside was they didn't turn on the siren--apparently I wasn't a real emergency or something.  But they did have the lights on, so I guess that counts for something?

The doctor also pointed out as he was stitching me up that I'll probably have a scar since it wasn't a clean cut. Oddly enough, that hadn't even occurred to me until that point. It's mildly annoying, but I guess I'll have to give up my dreams of bikini modeling.

I shudder to think what the co-pays for the ambulance ride and ER are going to cost me even with good insurance, but for now I'm going to focus on just being glad I have insurance. And as a bonus, I now have lovely new pair of purple lounge pants. Other people might have thought that my outfit of red long-sleeve t-shirt and purple lounge pants didn't match, but I happen to think it's a lovely color combination!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Vikings v. Packers liveblog 2011


Becky: Did I miss kick-off because I was making a yogurt parfait?
Carrie: We should liveblog this. I’m starting with you missing kick off.
Becky: I didn’t miss kick-off, we just saw it.
Carrie: WHAT?? This always happens to me.

Becky: How’s the liveblogging coming?
Carrie: Ooh. Oops.

Skype conversation with the nephews while the game played in the background. They were showing off their Halloween costumes. Highlights from the conversation included “I got a long tail” and “I got a big tummy.” Also, a few trips to the imaginary playground, and Auntie Becky and Auntie Carrie calling each other from the imaginary playground on the TV remote controls. Who needs TV when you have silly aunties on Skype? Oh, and apparently the Vikings scored while we were playing pretend.

Becky: I know what’s wrong with this game. I’m not wearing my sweatshirt! ::runs to put on Packers sweatshirt::

Carrie puts on her lamey non-Packers sweatshirt. Apparently her internal Minnesotan feels conflicted. No sign of purple though, thank goodness.

Score at half time 13-17. Boo. C’mon guys, the quarterback is a rookie!

Carrie: Oooo, I like their uniforms, those blue guys!

Becky: go go go go go!
Carrie: Go go….wait, no, stop. Whatever.
(In my defense, I did declare before the game that I was rooting for both teams – that’s allowed, right?)

Becky: My bread isn’t going to make itself you know.
Carrie: I know, my wife has to make the bread.
Carrie: Your guys apparently got 17 points in 4 minutes or something. I don’t even know how they did that, we must have missed a touchdown.

Brief break for shaping of cheese bread (hopefully in the style of Stella’s Hot & Spicy Cheese Bread). In the process, Carrie manages to spray Pam on Becky’s Green Bay Packers sweatshirt.

Becky: Well now I have to take it off and wash it. But if the Packers lose, it’s all your fault.
Carrie: Um, your guys just scored again I think. Wow, we are really sucky football fans.

That may be true, but we are excellent cheese eaters, and that’s what really matters, right?

Carrie: The Packers did that thing where they kick the ball to the end.
Becky: Put that in the blog.
Carrie: Not the field goal one, the other one.
Becky: Put that in the blog too.

Carrie: They can just quit?? Well that was anticlimactic. I didn’t even know the game was ending.
Becky: It’s a little bit ironic that you missed both the beginning and the end of the game because you didn’t know what was going on.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Blogging Fail

I keep staring at my blog reader and seeing our last post here fade further and further into the past.  It finally switched to "two months."  First the excuse was honeymoon preparation, and then the honeymoon itself, and then... who even knows.  One thing led to another thing, and blogging fell by the wayside.  And now it feels like there should be something monumental to say to get back on the blogging wagon.  But after several weeks of resolving to blog again soon, I guess it really comes down to just doing it. 

Since we last blogged:
*We spent two weeks in Greece and London
*We visited my family in Massachusetts
*We went camping upstate with my college friends
*We rented bikes on Governor's Island
*We rearranged the living room, including purchasing a new bookshelf
*We went to the shore a few times, and tried a new ice cream place
*We (especially Becky) worked way too much
*We pondered life changes, like jobs and apartments and schools, obsessively
*Probably a lot of other not blog worthy events

So, we're all caught up, right? 


My mom asked for some honeymoon stories, so hopefully we'll get back to a few of those.

The blogging drought has been accompanied by a picture taking drought.  I'm sure there are a few, but Becky has her camera with her while she's lamey-cake working right now, so I'll give you a few Greece pictures in case you forgot what we look like:

 And this is the two of us plus my college roommates swimming upstate two weeks ago:
Hopefully some of you are still out there, and hopefully it won't be two months until you see us again!

Monday, June 13, 2011

They came!

Guess what, to our wondering eyes, appeared in our mailbox today?  Our new passports!  We bought our honeymoon plane tickets months ago.  It seemed logical that we should purchase our honeymoon plane tickets in our married name, and we figured that we had several months to request the new ones.  Enter procrastination, and applications sent much later than we planned.  We were beginning to fear that they would not arrive before our trip, which would pretty much be an epic disaster.  In the back of my mind I was afraid that what we had read about dealing with the same-sex marriage and the name change (i.e. that it was completely uncomplicated) would turn out to be completely false.  But it was true!  They're here! 

The to-do list for the trip is getting longer and longer as the trip is looming closer and closer and it is starting to get scarier and scarier.  I keep adding things to the list rather than just doing some of them.  Events that I mentally associated with the trip, such as the ending of the parenting group I've been running at work and the start of the summer weather, are suddenly happening.  Thankfully the State Department is keeping pace with the calendar even if my brain is not! 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Summer, whether the weather likes it or not

My sister, Jen, and our nephews came to visit us again this weekend.  Jen reports that the travel was much smoother, thanks to her choice of riding in the car rather than the train.  While we were driving around on Saturday the boys demonstrated what Jen told us they did for most of their awake time on the drive to/from home: "bus! bus!  my side!  big truck! my side!"  They are both absolutely enamored with cars and trucks and things that go.  At one point Thomas was looking at a photo of the boys and their aunties and he pointed at the car-shaped play structure in the background and said "truck!" as if it was obviously the most interesting portion of the photo.  Matthew still frequently refers to a car or truck as a "vroom," which is quite cute.

We had all kinds of outdoorsy water based plans, but the weather forecast was calling for upper 60's and raining.  This was particularly disappointing after we endured a long work week of boiling 100 degree weather.  The forecasted temperatures came true, but the rain held off enough for us to summon our inner hardy Midwesterners and complete our plans anyways. 
Saturday we visited our favorite beach.  We were almost the only people at the beach, and definitely the only ones who were daring to venture in the water.  The tide was just right for toddlers, with a very shallow and calm area along the edge, where the water was actually fairly warm.  Thomas didn't seem to care at all that it was overcast or cold, and plowed into the ocean with a glee that only a toddler can muster.  Matthew was more cautious, several times wanting to spend his time on the "sandbox."  But he loved to fill up his bucket with water, carry it a few feet onto the sand and dump it out, and then repeat, over and over and over.  
Thomas and his toy truck
Matthew and his bucket
We changed clothes, warmed up, and blew bubbles on the boardwalk.
 While we were waiting for a lunch table we happened upon a vintage car show.  Thomas learned the word "engine."  Thomas was still a bit cold from the swimming, so we ended up draping my sweatshirt over him to help him warm up.  The boys also showed off how much they love holding hands right now, with adults or with each other.

In the afternoon we went to a place Becky found on the internet called Kidz Village, which was one part indoor playground and one part children's museum.  There was a series of themed rooms, such as the diner, the grocery store, the hair salon, and the construction room, filled with tons of kid sized pretend play props.  Plus of course the giant playscape with tunnels and slides and climbing platforms.  I think Becky and I might have had more fun climbing around in there than Matthew and Thomas did (two year olds are too young to go themselves you know!), although they loved it too.  At one point I was following Thomas around and he went down a slide before me (which incidentally resulted in a few scary moments where we couldn't find him), but while I was still at the top a little girl gave me that snotty wannabe pre-teen girl look and asked "aren't you a little old to be in here?" 
Sunday we returned to a sprinkler park/kiddie pool that is close to our home.  Long-time readers may remember our visit there last summer.  Once again it was chilly, and once again we were the only people playing in the water.  And if I thought that Thomas was happy to be at the ocean, I don't even have words to describe his excitement for the sprinklers.  He was sprinting through the sprinklers giggling and squeeling with his arms spread out.
We also spent plenty of time hanging out at home, playing with Mr. Potato Head, and enjoying some adult beverage after the boys went to bed.  I almost can't believe how much easier is has become to manage the boys in our not childproofed apartment.  Last summer having them play inside for even a few minutes was stressful, between protecting them from our stuff and protecting our stuff from them.  Both of these recent weekends they've been so well behaved and had a good time with the toys we offered them (plus of course the ones their mom brought from home).  Hanging out with Jen was fun as always too, but my apologies Jen, but your sons make for cuter blogging!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Health Insurance

Can I just vent about health insurance for a few minutes?  Of course I can, it's my blog.

I received a bill today for my co-pay for the surgery I had a month ago.  I was expecting this bill, so that's annoying, but the way life goes.  I was also expecting the hospital to be attempting to bill my insurance some ludicrous amount and then accepting it when my insurance offered three cents in return.  But nonetheless it is shocking to see the actual numbers.  For the whole surgery shabang they charged my insurance $11,329.  On the day of my surgery the hospital billed $600 for two iterations of a blood type test (do they really do the same test twice?).  My insurance paid $2,730 total.  Furthermore, in the past 60 days (i.e. including pre-op blood work and screening and such) doctors have billed my insurance over $30,000.  And you know what they've paid?  Just over $5k. 

Now, of course, I am glad that I did not have to pay anyone $5k, let alone $30k.  Compared to these numbers my copay is insignificant.  I am thankful that I have health insurance, and I know that many people are not so fortunate.  But is this bizarre system really the same system that health care reform opponents are so determined to fight to the death to defend?  Are these numbers based on anything?  If I didn't have insurance would they actually be billing me these ludicrous amounts, and I would therefore be paying several times more than insured patients?  Or are these numbers just pure fiction and some uninsured discount would appear? 

I know that health care costs money.  I know that it is a major issue that some people don't understand that it is an expensive commodity.  I'm sure that the medication I received and the cost of the operating room and the services of the surgeon and the anesthesiologist and all of those things genuinely cost a lot of money.  But why is the price for them something that is determined by a complicated closed doors political negotiation between my insurance company and some Medicare government employees and the hospitals and probably the CEO of  Exxon Mobil? 

These questions are rhetorical, although I'm sure some of you reading know more of the answers than I do.  I'm not well enough informed to have a strong opinion on the health reform that passed or most of the alternative proposals that were made or may be made in the future.  But I think the current system is ridiculous and I have no idea why health care reform opponents suddenly became so enamored with their current health insurance companies, because personally I'm convinced that mine is out to get me.  (They already got my gallbladder!) 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Badger State

My apologies again for the lack of blogging recently.  We keep resolving to do better, but the follow through has been lax.

Last week we spent the holiday weekend jetsetting our way to visit Becky's family in Wisconsin.  I am told that Wisconsin is not everyone's dream weekend getaway, but for us it's always fun to go to the Midwest.  Sunday was Becky's dad's final Sunday as choir director at his church, after many many years in the position.  Becky's mom threw a party for him and invited several surprise guests - including us!  If our traveling had gone as planned we would have arrived at Becky's parents' home just after 10pm.  However, due to "weather" (definitely not holiday traffic or airline or air traffic control error!) our plane didn't even take off from New York until around 11:30pm.  We surprised a very sleepy pajama-clad Becky's dad at 2am.

But we are not ones to let a short vacation go to waste!  Despite our exhaustion we hauled ourselves out of bed early Saturday morning in order to drive to Madison.  Motivation: fresh local cheese curds!   The only place we've found in the tristate area to get cheese curds is Trader Joe's, and while decent, they cannot compare to the fresh local variety.  Madison has the largest farmer's market I have ever seen, which covers the entire block around the state capital building.  Like any farmer's market there are fresh local vegetables and organic crafts.  There is also an over representation of delicious baked goods.  Unique to Wisconsin though are the dozens of cheese shops, most with plentiful sampling options. 

On the way in we stopped at Michelangelo's Coffee House.  I got fair trade coffee; Becky ogled baked goods (but chose to save space for the market).  Yay for cute little independent coffee shops!  My friends and I used to frequent several of these in the Twin Cities back in high school and breaks home from college, but I haven't found (admittedly nor have I looked very hard) around here to love. 
Bad photo of me in front of the capital
We ate and bought an excessive amount of cheese curds and toasting cheese.  Becky's coworkers have fallen for them, so now whenever she (or her fellow Wisconsinite coworker) goes home cheese curds must be brought to work.  By the time we made it around to Stella's we were already quite full.  The crowd/line around the stand was enormous, and we debated skipping the spicy cheese bread.  But the power of the crowd overcame me and I declared that whatever that many people were willing to wait for must be good.  Miraculously, soon after we joined the crowd, a truck full of fresh steaming spicy cheese bread arrived.  This bread is magical.  It is like challah and cheese curds all rolled together in one doughy amazing ball.  I declared it the best thing I have ever eaten, and I think I might stand by that.  
Doughy insides of mostly consumed hot & spicy cheese bread.
Madison still felt alive with the memory of the recent protests.  There were signs plastered in the windows of the capital, people passing out leaflets, "union thug" organic onesies for sale, and a People's Brat Fest in opposition to the usual Brat Fest sponsored by Johnsonville (a supporter of Scott Walker).  I think it renewed Becky's sadness that she wasn't able to be in Madison for the protests, but it was fun to see the spirit is still alive.  Hopefully this will translate into some political change.

On the way back to Becky's parents' home we stopped at a favorite non-farmer's market bakery, Greenbush, to pick up chocolate sour cream donuts.  Yum.  We were too full to eat them immediately, but they were as heavenly as ever when we got to them. 
After our whirlwind trip to Madison we headed back to Becky's family.  We helped a bit with the party preparation and lounged around with her family.  Saturday night we ate at an Italian restaurant and were able to order Chicago style pizza - another of the very few foods we have found to be unavailable in New York. 

Sunday we had a lovely time hanging out with Becky's family and family friends, celebrating the final choir Sunday.  Becky joined the choir, as she usually does on Christmas Eve (I guess this is a benefit to being related to the choir director!).  After church Becky's mom hosted a potluck party for the choir and all of the special surprise guests.  That night Becky and one of her sisters and I played ping pong, which gave me a splendid opportunity to show off my spectacular lack of coordination.  Monday we packed up, said our goodbyes, and jetted ourselves back to life in the big city. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wedding Wednesdays: Wedding Week Insanity

As Carrie has already told you, we did all of our on-site planning in short bursts in the months leading up to the wedding. We tried to do as much as we could ahead of time, but there were still lots of projects that ended up needing to be done at the last minute. Looking through our to-do list now, I'm a bit overwhelmed by how much we (with the help of many family members!) were able to accomplish in that time.

Our wedding was on a Saturday. We flew in on Wednesday afternoon. (Note to future brides planning from afar: if you can spare the vacation time, give yourself more time than this.) Our first stop was to pick up the rental car, which led to semi-awkward interaction with the rental car guy while Carrie filled out the paperwork:

Rental Car Guy: So what brings you to town?
Carrie: Um, our wedding.
RCG: Oh....blah blah blah try to upsell rental car crap...would you like to add a second driver for $$$ per day?
Me: I thought your company's policy is that spouses and domestic partners are free? (Yes, I had a printout from company's website if needed.)
RCG: Wait, are you already married?
Me: Yes.
RCG: Oh, okay then. Well if she (looking at Carrie) trusts you...

We then went on our merry way to pile our stuff into the tiniest, cheapest rental car ever--I had no idea that factories are still making cars without power locks and windows. But fear not, we had Sirius satellite radio!
Seriously, the window has a crank? Seriously?
The airport timing worked out such that Carrie's grandmother was arriving around the same time, so we picked her up a few minutes later and were off. Carrie and I still had a bunch of errands to run, so we made a quick stop at her parents' house and then headed out to buy last-minute supplies. One of the projects still TBD was the card box. Our plan was to pick up something at Michaels that we could decorate, but that plan failed when Michaels didn't have a single box of an appropriate size. Fortunately, a helpful employee directed us to the nearby HomeGoods store, where we settled on a black leather box that needed some alterations but would do. I am terrified of hot glue guns, so this entire project became a bonding moment for Carrie and my mom (with a bit of help from Carrie's dad). Sadly, it appears that despite their painstaking efforts, we don't have any pictures of the process or the finished product. This is actually sort of a theme from those few days--apparently running around like crazy people does not inspire one to meticulously photodocument the experience. We did have a relaxing dinner that evening at a Mongolian BBQ restaurant that was one of Carrie's favorite restaurants back in the day. It's hard to go wrong with DIY stirfry assembly.

In those few days, we had lots of last-minute paper projects to tackle--table signs, other random signs, and what would quickly become my nemesis: place cards. We had everything all set up ahead of time. The formatting was done, the mail merge was done, so it was just a matter of feeding the sheets into the printer and then hand stamping them. It turned out that the stamping was the least frustrating part of this process. The first few sheets printed fine, and then suddenly we had all sorts of problems. There was weird gray fringing. There was smudged printing. There were parts missing of some letters. We played with the printer settings, we shook the toner cartridge, we put in a new toner cartridge, and the gray smudginess was still there. At this point we were out of blank place cards despite having bought twice as many as we needed, and I was Freaking. Out. My mom went off on a trip to Staples, which involved her talking to a couple managers and going to multiple locations around the Twin Cities metro area before she found the cards in stock. And while she did that, Sean took apart the printer a bit and cleaned some parts so that once my mom finally returned victorious from Staples, we were able to print the rest. Oh yeah, and all of this involved me running laps back and forth between the computer that had Publisher on it and the printer in a different room. I think that may have been the only exercise I got that week, so it was probably good for me.
Me at the printer. I think the expression on my face is "Carrie, why are you taking my picture? Can't you see that I am freaking out here?"
Fortunately, Thursday evening also involved a wonderful treat: dinner at Lindey's Steak House. It's a very old-school steak place that Carrie's family occasionally visits for special occasions, and apparently wedding preparation was a noteworthy occasion. Stuffing ourselves with steak and potatoes seemed like a good antidote to the earlier stresses.

Friday, of course, brought more stress. We had planned for mani/pedis for us, our moms, and whomever of our bridesmaids were around and interested. Despite the fact that we'd scheduled an appointment for all of us, the nail salon was rather understaffed, and we ended up being there for several hours.

All of us pretending to read magazines while I'm trying really hard to suppress a giggle.

Under the dryers
We all had fun, but it was time we hadn't really budgeted for, so the rest of the day got rather hectic. Basically, we got home from the nail salon at around the time that we were supposed to be dropping off favors, place cards, etc. at the reception venue. But not only were we not ready, there were still a few random signs that needed to be made and the kids' favor bags needed to be assembled. Oh yeah, and as of this point, we hadn't even started putting together our photo slideshow; the photos had been scanned but still needed to be sorted, put in order, and set to music. And we needed to be at the rehearsal in just a couple of hours, and not only did we all need to get ready for that, but I needed to pack for the next couple of days because I was spending that night at the hotel (yeah, we're traditional like that). Carrie started the slideshow, Jen worked on the kids' bags, and I ran around like a crazy person. I'm not even sure if I was doing anything useful--I may just have been flapping my arms and making scared noises.

At one point I definitely started hyperventilating because the menu sign wasn't sized to fit right with a double matte in the frame we'd bought for it. Yes, the menu sign was where I finally lost it. The menu sign. People had already picked their meals ahead of time--this was just a courtesy at the entrance to tell them what the sides would be, etc. In other words, it was totally unnecessary, but I couldn't see that at the moment, nor could I think calmly enough to be able to handle fractions and recalculate the size. Fortunately, at this point Sean jumped in. It turns out that geeky guys are perfectly suited for measuring and aligning a beautifully double-matted menu sign. And while he did that, I finished off our list for the venue and started loading all of our paraphernalia into the car.

Carrie and I pretty much showed up at the venue in a whirlwind, dropped the bubbles, favors, place cards, signs, and whatever else happened to be in the car (I'm surprised we didn't leave them the spare tire). We were hyper-organized (and mildly paranoid about the idea of something not going perfectly as planned), so we had a list for them of everything we'd brought and where it should go, as well as a diagram of the venue with table names, high chair placement, and labels for where all our stuff should be. We talked through that list at about 90 miles a minute, then ran out the door and back to Carrie's parents' house to get ready for the rehearsal, which it was quite clear that we were going to be late for. I know that this is somewhat to be expected at weddings--lots of things don't start on time. But I really hate inconveniencing people, so I was having all kinds of stress thinking about our nearest and dearest sitting at the church waiting for us. Apparently though, these things don't start without the brides, so they were all mingling happily when we arrived.

This post has already gone on far too long, so you'll have to wait until next time to hear what happens next (I know, crazy suspense, right?) But what I couldn't really capture here was A. what a blur this whole time was, and B. how much of it we couldn't have done without our families. There were all sorts of other things happening that I haven't written about here, in part because I don't even remember who did them, but they got done. Dresses were taken to the cleaner to be steamed, lunches were made, the church was set up, and all sorts of other things that I wasn't involved in. Oh, and in case this wasn't enough insanity, there were two toddlers running around the whole time. It was certainly not a calm, quiet way to go into a wedding, but does that ever happen? I may not have reached a point of pre-wedding bliss, but we spent those days surrounded by family and friends who were willing to join us in the frantic frenzy that was necessary to make our wedding happen.
One of the little men, being as helpful as he could be. I think we all wanted to join him in that nap.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tornado Country

The vast majority of people I know who grew up in the Midwest have strong memories of a shared childhood fear: tornadoes.  It wasn't until I'd left Minnesota that I discovered that other children did not have tornado drills in their schools, where they were asked to duck and cover under the desks or beneath the coat racks in the hallways.  Several classrooms in my high school were in an area of the school that was intended to be temporary, but ended up sticking around for several decades.  An amusing memory from high school includes a teacher announcing that although the official recommendation upon a tornado warning was that we duck under the desks, if we happened to see her running for the [solid, concrete] bathrooms we should feel free to follow.  In Minnesota, every child learns that if you are out driving in a tornado warning (or in sight of a funnel cloud, though I have never actually experienced this) you should get out of the car and lie in a ditch. 

I can't find the post offhand, but I think we've written here previously about the strange New Jersey use of sirens to signify snow days rather than tornado warnings.  In Minnesota (and Wisconsin) a piercing outdoor siren undeniably signals that it is time to drop everything, grab your pets and a radio, and run for the basement.  You may be stuck there for an hour or more, and you will spend much of the time contemplating whether you should huddle under the most structurally sound portion of the house and whether it would be safe to sneak upstairs and try [fruitlessly] to catch a glimpse of a funnel cloud.  This was a several times per summer ritual.  I remember once when my friends and I were out for a walk in the rain and the sirens went off.  We were several blocks from home, and instead of running for it we knocked on the door of an almost-stranger and asked to cower in their basement.  This seemed semi-normal at the time.  Because we grew up with a shared fear of tornadoes, and so did those people, and so did their children.

Supposedly they do have tornadoes out here in the East.  One weekend last summer my sister and her family were visiting us.  We had just enjoyed dinner in a restaurant, and Becky volunteered to take our overtired nephews outside to burn off a little energy while Jen and Sean and I finished up.  A bit later I followed them outside, and noticed a vaguely familiar green tinge to the sky.  On a whim, I glanced at my smartphone and actually bothered to check the "severe weather alert."  It said "tornado warning."  Becky and Jen and I shared a moment of muted panic.  There were no sirens announcing it; New Jerseyians were carrying on as if nothing was happening.  But you can't take years of Midwestern training out of us.  We rushed to a nearby supermarket and waited out the warning.  Sean, the non-Midwesterner among us, was a bit bewildered about what all the fuss was about.  Because he did not grow up with the constant specter of tornadoes hanging over his head.

There have been awful tornadoes in several parts of the country recently.  The worst hit places are far from either of our childhood homes.  But this weekend there was a tornado that touched down not far from my parents' home.  The pictures bring back strong childhood memories of that intense tornado fear.  I am thankful to live in a part of the world where this fear can be muted, and I am thinking of all the people in the South and Missouri and Minnesota who have lost loved ones or are dealing with damaged property.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Accidental Tourists

We spent this weekend at home without visitors, and without any major plans.  Friday night we went with Kara to dinner at a Mexican restaurant in the city that was tasty but a bit more expensive than menupages lead us to believe.  We were intending to see the movie Bridesmaids together afterward, but when we arrived at the intended theater we discovered that it was sold out.  Who knew this movie was so popular?  Apparently everybody else did, but not us.  Instead we split up and went to our respective homes.  Becky and I watched the season finale of Grey's Anatomy.  We took a long (years??) break from this show, but got sucked back in by the musical episode.  Marketing success I guess!

Saturday we did all the cleaning/errands/etc.  We also accomplished several of the little things that have been sitting on the to-do list forever.  I have no idea why we procrastinate on things that take two minutes, but somehow it always seems like there's a long list of them that we don't want to do.  You know, things like "e-mail the cat sitter about the honeymoon" and "tape the box shut on the swimsuit you need to return."  Are there classes we can take to learn how to stop procrastinating on this stuff? 

In the evening we had the stay-at-home version of date night.  We ate steak (a rarity around here!), worked on that deliciousness Becky already posted about, and watched The Tourist. 

On Sunday we went into the city to be at-home tourists.  But sadly we didn't get to meet Angelina Jolie or Johnny Depp and we did not get to steal 744 billion euros.  Too bad too, because the dollar is doing very little to get me excited to spend euros in just a few short weeks.  Thankfully my excitement is strong enough to sustain itself!  While waiting for our friend Stephanie and her daughter to arrive at our meeting point in Bryant Park we happened upon free outdoor ping pong tables.  I have no idea who comes up with this stuff.  But, due to the drizzly overcast weather, we were able to entertain ourselves with no wait. 
We then enjoyed a leasurely lunch at an umbrella covered table, followed by a ride on the carousel.  Yep, three adults and one toddler.  Got a problem with it? 
There's a cute little outdoor kids "reading room" right next to it.  Which, apparently, you can spend several hundred dollars to rent for your child's birthday party.  New Yorkers are seriously a little bit weird.  Nonetheless, it was fun to enjoy for free.  There's also a cool little outdoor bar in the park that we want to go back to sometime.  I had no idea there was so much cool stuff in there. 

When we were tired of getting damp we headed inside to the 100th birthday celebration of the New York Public Library.  The main branch of the library is one of those famous buildings that I've admired from the outside but never quite gotten around to going inside.  It's gorgeous!  I love old buildings, and if I had a time machine I would definitely travel back to pre-internet days and see what the library was like then.  Of course it's a good thing that information is more readily accessible now, but there must have been something really special about going to a huge gorgeous library when it was the only way to possibly access certain pieces of information. 
They had a storytelling festival going on, with some really talented storytellers.  Several kids in the audience were really absorbed by it, but Stephanie's daughter was much more intrigued by the folding chairs in the auditorium.  They were obviously not designed for the weight of children, and kept trying to fold up with the children still sitting in them. 

We also explored the children's center and by chance happened upon something that has been on our to-see-in-NYC list since the beginning: the original Winnie the Pooh stuffed animals!  No flash photography was allowed, but you can see here Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, Tigger, Kanga, and of course....their friend the otter?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Pan de Mallorca

I wandered into Starbucks the other morning in search of a pastry for breakfast. Normally they probably wouldn't be my first stop for breakfast (as a non-coffee drinker), but I remembered that I had a couple dollars left on a gift card and that therefore my pastry would be free! I was intrigued by a roll they called "Mallorca Sweet Bread" and decided to give it a go. It was soft and chewy and covered with powdered sugar. In short, it was delicious. Unfortunately, like most mass-produced baked goods, it had a hint of chemical aftertaste, so I set off to do better.

A quick search led me to this post from The Noshery (unrelated sidenote: the homepage currently includes a recipe for "Runny Egg on Creamy Bacon Polenta", which is now added to my must-try list.) What I learned from her post and my other internet research is that mallorcas (or pan de Mallorca) are a popular Puerto Rican sweet roll based on ensaïmada, a traditional bread from the island of Majorca.

I debated halving the recipe, but Carrie talked me into making the whole thing with the reasoning that we would likely eat more than one at a time (we both have an intense sweet tooth). I'm glad that we have plenty of leftovers, but if I'm making these just for the two of us again, I'll definitely go with a half batch--these rolls are big! We also may or may not have eaten quite a bit of the deliciously sweet dough in the process, but we still had plenty for twelve large rolls. The dough is definitely on the stickier side and was a little difficult to shape because of that. Carrie also wants to make sure that I give her full credit: she was quite helpful and skilled at shaping the rolls. (She was also quite helpful at eating the excess dough in the bowl. :))

Unfortunately, I didn't start on this project until close to 8:00 last night, which meant they weren't going in the oven until nearly midnight. I got a little impatient and put both pans in the oven at the same time. As a result, the ones in the pan near the bottom of the oven got a little overcooked on the bottom, but they're still tasty!

We sprinkled a couple with copious amounts of powdered sugar and ate them immediately.

This morning we filled two with cheese, heated them up in the oven, and powdered sugared them. Delicious! Unfortunately we didn't have any ham, so we couldn't try them with ham and cheese as is apparently traditional, but I have a feeling we'll be making these again. If nothing else, it gives Carrie a good reason to play with her beloved powdered sugar shaker!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Miss me?

Well, of course we had good intentions.  We were going to bring you a Wedding Wednesday.  And probably a Random Thursday.  And some random article/life commentary in the mean time.  I'm tempted to tell you that these things did not materialize because we were caught up in living our lives to the fullest (or perhaps repenting?) in anticipation of today's zombie apocalypse.  That would make for a pretty good story.  Maybe I could tell you about how we called in sick to work and spent the week checking things off of our bucket lists, like Becky's dream to skydive or my dream to ride a jetski.  These activities would be far less enjoyable with zombies wandering around.  Especially in New York City, because there's a hell of a lot of cemeteries in the outer boroughs.  

The truth, however, is far more mundane.  Neither of us arrived home much before 9pm any night this week, and by the time we drag ourselves through that long of a day and the commute, blogging feels unrealistic.  Somehow we can manage most of our other internet socializing from our phones and work computers, but not blogging.  Thankfully though, early reports from around the world indicate that (surprisingly enough) the zombie apocalypse is not coming to pass.  We had big plans to liveblog the rapture, but now it seems like that would be the world's boringest liveblog of us doing errands and cleaning the house.  Due to the postponement of the apocalypse we will have plenty of time to check off some of those bucket list items, and hopefully also to write for your bloggy entertainment.

I'll leave you with a plea for fashion advice.  My work dress code is relatively casual, but I fear I've been pushing it a bit lately on the casual side, so last weekend we did some shopping.  I found a shirt (for a good price) and decided to buy it, despite Becky's assertion that it was the ugliest shirt she's ever seen.  Or something drastic and negative like that.  But now I'm having second thoughts about buying this shirt despite my wife's strong objections.  So I'm opening it up to you, faithful internet friends.  Should I keep the shirt?  Let me know in the comments.  Please ignore the goofy pose, I wasn't fully intending to post these on the internet when we took them.
Close up of my chest.  What fun.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Summer Kick-off 2011

We spent a very lovely three day weekend kicking off summer at our favorite B&B in our favorite Jersey shore town.  Several years ago we were approaching our first summer living in New Jersey and, being beach lovers, figured we should take a trip to the shore.  We found a campground to use as a home base, and spent a weekend exploring various towns described in our guidebook. 

We fell in love with one town in particular, called Ocean Grove.  It's chock full of gorgeous Victorian homes and cute little shops, has a non-commercial boardwalk all along the ocean, and the whole town smells like beach.  Ocean Grove quickly became our getaway place, and we go down for daytrips several times each summer.  We found an adorable B&B that serves delicious hot breakfast (the specialty is cream cheese stuffed French toast casserole!) and has off-season rates and a 3-for-2 deal in May.  Last year we weren't able to go due to the cost and time of wedding planning trips (though we did haul a friend there to take our fake e-pics there last April and spent a week there with my family in July), but this year we continued what has become an annual May tradition.

Last Friday we later calculated that we walked nearly eight miles, as we checked to make sure that all of our favorite places were still there.  The shore was abuzz with people getting ready for the summer.  Beach storage bins were freshly painted and lined up to be set out, lifeguard stands and playground equipment were piled and awaiting beach placement, and everyone seemed to be out and about getting their summer homes set up for the season.  I'm happy to report that no one pulled out the plug on the ocean in the last several months of our absence:
A wave surprises Becky.
Happy hour by the ocean!
The only disappointing change is that a bakery closed, but I do suppose time marches onwards.  Thankfully our favorite ice cream shop is still thriving.  Here's Becky with a peanut-butter-twirl filled waffle cone:
On Saturday we tried out a new activity: horse racing.  We had never been before, as I'm fairly certain that Midwesterners do not partake in this sport.  But we're almost always up for new wacky adventures in sporting so we decided to give it a shot.  I hope we weren't inadvertently supporting animal cruelty, although Wikipedia tells me that unfortunately we may have been.  I honestly had no idea that there would be so many people.  Apparently large groups of friends/families/co-workers/who knows who rent out whole areas of picnic tables and bring in picnics and barbecues and coolers of beer and settle in for the whole day.  We purchased a program to try to get our bearings, and ended up placing $14 worth of bets.  We won back $2.60. 
There was a bit of a marital snafu when Becky wanted to bet on a horse that would have won us a few dollars and I instead insisted on betting on a horse that won us nothing.  But overall, the horses were sleek and the hot dogs were familiar (at one funny point I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with not knowing what we were doing and I declared that we needed hot dogs because I had eaten a hot dog before).  Becky declared that her favorite moment was when, after we had been at the track for about an hour, we finally spotted a horse and I said a bit too loudly "look, there's a horse!" 
We also spent plenty of time relaxing in the B&B, including reading Harry Potter (yes, the treasured books fresh from the Harry Potter trunk!) on the porch:
Becky claims she's "having fun in my mind."
And plenty of time wandering on the beach, sticking our toes into the still frigid water:
Although we somewhat jokingly agreed to call this the start of summer, I am eagerly awaiting the warm summer weather and the warming of the ocean that will allow us to return to Ocean Grove to swim!!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wedding Wednesdays: Dress Shopping Surprises

I wasn't feeling particularly inspired to write a regular recap post this week, but fortunately Carrie's mom suggested an idea for a post related to wedding dress shopping. For those of you who only had/have one bride in your wedding, be glad that you get to avoid this issue!

Carrie and I decided that we both wanted our dresses to be a surprise. Given that we normally do and choose just about everything together, keeping our opinions on dresses secret was no easy task. There were many evenings of both of us sitting on the couch with our computers angled away from each other so that we could look at dresses online without the other seeing. In addition to that, we both did much (in my case, all) of our dress shopping the weekend that we were in Minnesota in May. With the whirlwind of things happening that weekend, we also had to schedule appointments at some of the same stores in a way that we were sure to not run into each other in the process.

We had considered the possibility that we might fall in love with the same dress but figured it was unlikely since there are thousands of dresses out there and we are different people after all. But just in case, we agreed ahead of time that our moms could compare notes on dresses and at least warn us if we were picking the same one. I don't even want to think about what the negotiations would have looked like if that had happened...

Fortunately, we did not choose the same dress, but we did come rather dangerously close! In retrospect, our moms must have been cracking up when they were comparing pictures after our crazy day of dress shopping.

For your viewing pleasure:
This dress was my back-up plan in case Carrie happened to pick my first choice.

Carrie, sporting the same dress

Another dress I tried on

Carrie's actual dress (so pretty!!!)

This was in Carrie's top 3 (she actually had the consultant convinced enough that she was going to buy it that they let her take pictures despite a no-photo-unless-you're-buying policy.

My actual dress. Yes, the neckline is literally the only difference.

That last one was definitely our closest call. The store that I bought it from (Wedding Shoppe in St. Paul) was my last stop of the day but had been Carrie's first stop. I explained to the consultant that Carrie had been there earlier that day, so after I tried on this dress, tried on a few more, and then went back to this dress and declared it the one, she went and grabbed Carrie's paperwork from that morning. She then came back into the fitting room looking sort of stunned and dragged my mom out into the hallway. She tried to pretend like they were doing a good job of hiding it from me, but I'm not an idiot and knew that Carrie had either been interested in the same dress or something shockingly similar. But the advantage I had over the consultant was that Carrie had already sent me text messages at lunchtime saying that she'd liked a dress there but it wasn't her first choice. There were definitely a couple of tense days while Carrie figured out what her first choice was before I could actually order the dress, but obviously it worked out great in the end. To those of you who know us in real life, I'm sure our similar taste is no surprise, but I'm glad that we didn't both want exactly the same thing!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Auntie Blogging, or choo-choos and school buses

My sister Jen and her adorable sons Mathew and Thomas came to visit us this weekend!  They rode Amtrak in to the city and left Sean at home to work on the house.  This seemed like a great plan for Jen to have an independent adventure weekend with her vehicle-loving children (big truck!  choo-choo!) and for everyone to get to spend more time with the adoring aunties.  What is not to love about riding a choo-choo to New York City?  Well, apparently a lot, when you are an over tired and over stimulated two year old.  Jen had a rough go of it on the way in, and was quite relieved to have help wrangling her toddlers when they arrived.  Thankfully Matthew and Thomas had a much better time during the visit than they did on the trip to get here.

Friday night we all headed to Shake Shack in Madison Square Park.  Jen and I took the boys to the playground so they could run off some of their energy from being cooped up on the train, while Becky took one for the team and waited in the famous line.  You really do have to be a bit patient to be a New Yorker, which I seem to have grown accustomed to, but am often reminded of when people come to visit.  All five of us enjoyed our burgers, fries, and custard, and the weather was absolutely perfect for eating outdoors.  Unfortunately given the aforementioned circumstances on the train, none of us were with it enough to pull out a camera on Friday, so you just have to take my word for it.

Saturday we spent the morning and early afternoon hanging out at home and at another playground much nearer to our apartment.  For so-far childless adults we managed to come up with a pretty good showing of our toys (is it odd that Mr. PotatoHead is part of our normal knick knack selection?), plus of course a bunch of their toys from home.
Auntie Becky plays with toys
Matthew at the top of the slide...
Matthew at the bottom of the slide...
Thomas insisted on trying on Auntie Becky's rain boots.
This meant that we were able to let the boys nap at home, which I think may be key to avoiding two year old meltdown.  Jen also fell asleep in her efforts to get nap-resistant Matthew to sleep, and I decided that the end stages of my surgery recovery would be helped by joining them.  Becky apparently threatened to draw sharpie mustaches on all of us while we slept, but thankfully she thought better of it!

We then headed in to the city for the late afternoon and early evening.  Matthew and Thomas loved the "school bus" that we rode to get in, and also loved watching all of the different types of cars and trucks and buses going by.  They live in a sort of distant suburb/small town/semi-rural area, so the sheer amount of vehicular and pedestrian traffic in New York was extremely exciting but also a little bit overwhelming for them.  Even at our apartment, which is in a neighborhood we think of as very quiet, we can often hear police/ambulance/fire sirens.  Thomas was surprised to hear them and wanted to rush to the windows to watch the "fire truck!" go by.  Unfortunately for him this is often not something visible from our windows.  We also must have sounded like such silly tourists endlessly talking about the subway as "the choo-choo" for the boys, but we were trying to talk up trains for their return journey, and also....they are tourists, so why not enjoy it, right?
We rode the ferris wheel at the Times Square Toys R Us flagship store (no decent pictures, but Becky and Matthew and I were on the other side of the car):
And then we got sandwiches to-go from PB&Company and ate in the park.  Some random strangers actually came over and asked if they could take their picture with the boys because they were looking so cute.  Complimentary of course, but still, who does that?  Odd.  The boys were unbelievably sticky by the time they were done.
We went home and watched part of the first movie that Becky ever saw in a movie theater: Follow that Bird, the 1985 Sesame Street classic.  Still accessible today!  I was a bit dismayed by its less than complimentary portrayal of social workers and much to Becky's dismay playfully threatened that I won't let our kids watch it.  Mathew and Thomas went off to dream land after such a busy full day, and the adults stayed up to chat and drink Asti and eat dessert.

This morning we had an informal Mother's Day brunch (with mimosas!) for Jen, played of course, and then shepherded everyone back to the train station and wished them luck on the return journey.  We haven't gotten the whole report yet, but from a few quick text messages it seems that it was rough but not as bad as Friday.  Poor Jen.  But everyone made it, and we absolutely loved having our very favorite visitors this weekend!
Happy Mother's Day Jen!
We spent the afternoon relaxing, recovering, and of course wishing our own mothers (and my grandmother) Happy Mother's Day!