Monday, October 24, 2011

People Are Awesome: Part I.

As most of you know, my aunt passed away this month. We just recently returned from traveling for the funeral, and since then I've been working a lot, Kathy quit her job, oh, and we're constantly trying to figure out how to afford our life. You know, whatever, just STUFF HAS BEEN HAPPENING. However, it occurred to me this weekend that in the midst of everything this month, we have been blessed by some really awesome people being in our lives who are being especially awesome. 

While death in general always forces you to appreciate the art of being alive as a whole, one of the best things (if you could say that) about celebrating my aunt's life was fully realizing and appreciating how many lives she touched and made better. And I think just her memory will continue to make lives better.

Sometimes, particularly at times like these, I start thinking about all the people I know and how we are all connected in so many different ways and the breadth and depth of it all is just startling. And a whole bunch of other cheesy stuff I don't know how to say. And while people can really suck, I often feel overwhelmed at how wonderful people can actually be.

I also sometimes feel this way when I am drunk and/or listening to really good music, whatever makes me abnormally honest and perceptive. I think about all the people who will be at our wedding and I feel so overwhelmed I want to cry and cry and cry with gratitude. Being drunk is generally a better time to feel these types of emotions than when dealing with death, but either way, it is important. I feel that I am not articulating any of this right. If I had an editor, he/she would tell me to scrap all of this.

To get to the point, events of this month have suddenly made me want to start a new tradition of pointing out and documenting particular people who are being particularly awesome at a particular moment in time to me. Every list will be an incomplete list, and each list will actually be almost more for me than necessarily for the people I call out, but they deserve to be called out regardless.

1. Kim & Cliff. Let me tell you about Kim & Cliff. Our friends from undergrad in Boston (Kim + Kathy = roomates for life), they also lived in Oregon briefly when we moved here and then moved away for a few years and then just moved back. Wait, was that confusing? Just go with it. Anyway, they actually don't live in Portland but in Eugene, which is an hour and a half/two-ish hours away. However, they came up  literally only hours after I talked to them about my aunt, and offered to stay for five days at our house taking care of our animals while we were away. The best part about friends like this is there's not even a moment's hesitation. Like just bam, we are going to help you 'cause that's how we do. Like I said: people are good. And on top of that, they had their amazing dog Rudy (LOOK AT HIMMMM) staying here as well and  they helped train our own chronically dog-phobic dog more than anything we have accomplished in three years. What? And then they came up AGAIN just a few days later to go to a party with us. They are pretty much the nicest people in the universe.

2. Various members of my family. In particular, my brother and his wife spent way too many hours in the car to pick us up from and take us to various airports. These treks included driving through various boroughs of New York City, New Jersey, and rush hour in Washington, DC. Bleck. But again, they never complained once about any of it. They also introduced Kathy to her first ever Wegmans experience, so that's pretty special.

And then let's talk about how my mom is pretty much single-handedly remodeling  her huge house by herself. As in, oh yeah, I just redid all of the ceiling tiles by myself and am scraping off wallpaper and moving furniture and making blueprints even though I work 40+ hours a week and take like four different dance classes, whatever.

Also, even though my dad never really talks about himself like ever, he has been Doing A Lot of Stuff, and while he talked about my aunt being selfless in his eulogy he is pretty selfless himself and one of the least judgmental people I've ever known, and I wish I could help him more somehow. He always knows the right things to say, and he is just an overall good guy. You know?

And Sara is real happy because she's a-gonna get married, and that makes me happy, and Dave hugs so hard, and they're both just so smart all the time. I'll probably never know as much stuff as they do but I'm okay with that, and I'm glad they do.

And last but not least, my smart and hilarious cousins Jen and Jodi, along with my amazing grandmother, dealt with everything with a special brand of grace, humor, and strength that I would like to achieve some day. They are all so special.

3. Ashley. We had only met Ashley like two or three times in our lives a year or two ago but already felt like she was One of Us from pretty much the first moment, well because she is. It was one of these first few times of hanging out with her at Sarah's house in Oregon City, I think it was, that we were like, "Wait. This is only the third time we've actually hung out? That doesn't make sense, cauuuuuse I think we've been friends for years." Even though she lives in Seattle we've gotten to see her a few times this month and I mainly wanted to include her because I have to explain how this lady greets you the first time she sees you, whether it's from across the room in a restaurant or as soon as she opens her door to meet your tired faces. It sounds like this:

"AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!" This is accompanied by lots of jumping up and down and hugging and continued screaming. Every. Single. Time. It is the best way to be greeted, ever, and it also makes all and any bad feelings go away, immediately, and somehow, magically, everything is fun.

We have a few other friends who were the original friends of Ashley and they scream-greet in the same way (Meredith and Zoe I'm looking at you) and if we are all together the screaming is obnoxiously unstoppable and amazingly glorious. However, Ashley is particularly good at it. I feel bad for people who have not experienced an Ashley greeting in their lives.

4. Matie. So Matie is really more of Kathy's friend than mine, but let's be honest, I wouldn't really have any friends if it weren't for Kathy, so, it's all the same. Or something. Also, I know I just joked about how little we knew Ashley before we were friends4life, but let me tell you a story. We have known Matie for less than a month--or I have anyway--and she is flying out from New York to visit us over New Year's Eve. And okay, maybe she just wants a vacation and maybe she just wants to visit Portland because who wouldn't, it is awesome, but I'm preferring to think that somebody likes us so much after pretty much just meeting us that they are spending lots of money to come see us. Because that is a better story. This is particularly nice because 1) I love visitors with a fiery passion, 2) This will be the first year ever in the history of life that we won't be on the East Coast/with family for Christmas, so it'll be great to have something to still look forward to over the holidays. In fact, I am pretty much ready to go get our Christmas tree and just have it all happen right now! I think the Christmas lights in this picture are influencing this feeling. By the way Matie, I stole this picture from your Facebook, hope that's cool. I didn't know which picture you would prefer so I felt a lot of pressure, but this one shows your hair real good. 3) New friends are awesome, and as I just mentioned, Matie has amazing hair. It is almost as amazing as our friend Grey's hair, but my love for Grey's hair is so strong it may be hard to beat. However, maybe they can meet when Matie visits and then they could have a hair-off. Although I'm not quite sure what this would entail.

I also want to include Florence (+ the Machine) on this list, but she is not actually my friend, although I feel like she is. But she has been a big part of this October. So thanks anyway, Florence!

This is probably the best idea for a blog post I've ever had. I'm already excited about writing Part II and then part III and IV and until I don't know my Roman numerals anymore. I can't tell you who'll be on those lists, but I bet you they'll probably be awesome.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Holidays at Aunt Anita's house.

The road to Aunt Anita's house.

My Aunt Anita's old house in Greentown, Pennsylvania was a magical place. Not the new house in Greentown in Tanglwood Lakes, with the big ceiling and fun kitchen floor and high backyard deck, although that house feels warm and cozy and wonderful as well in the way that Anita makes things warm and cozy and wonderful. 

Andrew & Anita.
Andrew & Aunt Anita, Tanglwood Lakes.
But I'm going back to the Greentown house dangerously close to Newfoundland, up Brink Hill. Other than my loyalty to my own house I grew up in, this was the best country house in the world. It was a big white house with a stone porch, a romantically long green lawn stretching down to a small road, the entrance to the driveway meeting a fence and a sturdy line of dark pines. The combination of the big lawn and the line of trees made the place feel open and secluded all at once. I remember everything about the inside of the house feeling dark, but in a warm and comforting way, except for the kitchen, which at the far end of the house was long and narrow and full of windows and light. 

There were steps down to a terrifying stone cellar, and an equally dangerous curved staircase upstairs to my cousins' bedrooms, which, when I was in elementary school and they were in high school, felt like a distinctly Cool and Old world I couldn't enter. There was Dusty, the best crotch-sniffing golden retriever there ever was. Or was he a golden lab? Regardless, one of those perfect American dream dogs. There were couches arranged around a fireplace where actual fires were normally burning, at least in my memory, and a small TV that usually had an Eagles game on. 

The backyard was also sprawling, and when you walked through some evergreen trees that marked a border of the property, there was a small neighborhood pool. This pool is so hazy in my memory that I almost wonder if I'm making it up. But in my hazy memory, I remember there never being anyone else there except for us and some old wrinkled Italian men retired from New York. I think there was a slide.

Anytime I read a good description of a good country house in a book, a lot of the times I picture it being this house. It was magical.

I may have mentioned before that being the child of divorced parents was especially awesome around holidays because you got to celebrate--and more importantly, eat--twice. Mornings spent with mom, nights spent with dad. Holiday mornings on my mom's side were either celebrated at our own house or at Aunt Barb's, or of course at my grandparents' house when they were still around; holidays nights on my dad's side were always at Aunt Anita's. For me, holidays were always a frenzied swirl of constant family and food. It wasn't until I left for college and started talking to more people and living outside of my own small bubble of existence that I realized not everyone has such a wealth of family at their fingertips, and such a wealth of good family at that, and I started to understand what an amazing deal I was given.

As the years went on, as people got older and busier and we weren't always all together and Aunt Anita graduated to the Tanglwood Lakes house, the Second Meal at her house in the evening became more of a leftovers snackfest. We heated up casseroles, made sandwiches out of leftover turkey and ham, plopped ice cream on leftover pie, and snacked on grandma's fudge or at Christmas, mom's cookies she always sent over with us.

But at the Brink Hill house, way back when, for Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, there was always a full meal at the long table in the dining room. Even though my brother, sister and I had just stuffed ourselves silly at another relative's house hours earlier, and we'd already consumed what satisfies most people for an entire day, we settled in and once again passed around rolls, buttery potatoes, corn, some type of meat I usually only picked at unless it was covered in barbecue sauce, and on and on to dessert. Each holiday was a true, ridiculous gastronomic feat.

What I remember best about these meals at Anita's is how long we would stay at the dining room table, even after all the food was done. Anita, grandma, my dad, Jen, Jodi, Jeff, Sara, and me. We would often sit there for hours upon hours as the night got later and later. Once you moved into the living room and sunk down on those couches in front of the fireplace with the TV on, the conversations and stories could of course continue, but the comfort of the room would suddenly make that enormous amount of food you just consumed actually connect with your brain and your synapses and you would increasingly feel the need to sleep--and then not eat, ever again. But at the dining room table, you could talk for hours.

When I thought about writing about these meals I tried to remember what exactly we talked about for so long. I don't think it was always politics, as it so often was in the later Holiday Snacktime Years, although it could have been sometimes. Anita was one of the fiercest liberals I've ever known, in the way one has to be fierce when one lives in a small town full of diehard Republicans. There was probably a good amount of family storytelling, telling stories about the lakeside resort my family used to own, White Beauty, or re-telling stories from past holidays, or telling new stories from the last year. But then, I realized--duh. We did what my family has always done.

We talked about food. We talked about food for HOURS. We talked about food when we were eating food and when we were sick of eating food. We talked a lot about how much we could talk about food. Growing up in my family makes me now automatically judge anyone who isn't that into eating. Do you know there are people out there who quote unquote "forget to eat"? Not having time to eat during a busy day is one thing, but forgetting to eat is pretty much unacceptable. You can't forget to eat when you are constantly thinking and talking about food because food is AWESOME. 

While there's not much about me other than my last name that makes me appear authentically Italian, I feel that those hours spent talking about food around the dining room table at Aunt Anita's make me automatically more Italian than most of the cast of Jersey Shore.

Aunt Anita is also one of the world's most remarkably talkative people, and she could make a trip to McDonald's into at least a twenty minute story. In particular, I remember there were a few different times that we brought up the question, If you could bring one food with you to a desert island, what would it be? This question could spark an at-least two hour debate.

I was always the littlest kid at the table, and most of the time, I hardly spoke during these hours of conversation. One, it was hard to get a word in edgewise, most of the time. Two, I did feel like such a little kid that I felt most of the things I had to contribute, if anything, would sound stupid. But it was okay, because I would just laugh, which probably helped burn off some of the five thousand calories I had consumed that day. One of the only things we did better than eat was laugh. Sometimes, when I'm around really funny charismatic people now, I feel the same way I did around my family most of the time back then: they must think I have absolutely no personality, because they're so hilarious and amazing the only thing I can do is laugh, and then pause to catch my breath before laughing again.


When you go through a language arts education graduate program as I just did, you are forced to do a lot of somewhat BS reflection, let me tell you, and a lot of things like "reading autobiographies" where you're forced to come up with a cute and moving story about who helped you learn to love reading. While I've always been blessed to be around voracious readers such as my mother and part of a family full of teachers, my story always came to a snippet of a memory extracted from one of these meals at Aunt Anita's.

I was small, and we had finally faced the hard task of getting our butts out of the chairs and clearing off the table. While people were cleaning things up and retreating to the living room to check on the Eagles game, Anita sat with me in the nook in the kitchen under those big curving windows and read with me. We read Hop on Pop. One of those naturally overly-enthusiastic teachers whose genes I don't actually possess, she was one of my biggest cheerleaders of my nerd-dom from the first book I read and the first terrible Richard Troll story I wrote. I don't know why I remember reading Hop on Pop with her after Thanksgiving dinner so well, other than for the fact that after all that hubbub and laughter and talk at the table that I quietly absorbed, for once, I got to talk, and somebody wanted to listen.

I feel grateful I got to tell her this, about writing about Hop on Pop and her old kitchen in numerous grad school papers, last fall at my brother's wedding. She obviously didn't remember it but was glad I did, and we laughed about it being such a weird little thing for me to remember. And then we talked about some good books we read that year. And then we probably talked about food.

Monday, October 10, 2011

5 Songs I Like--no, LOVE--Right Now.

So. Life has been full of some tough things, recently. (At the same time that it's been full of joyful things! Oh, Life, you confounding thing!) I don't know if I'm dealing with these tough things that well, but, to help distract me, I thought I'd write about music instead, because that always makes me feel better.

1. Shake It Out, Florence + The Machine
Okay. I know I just recently mentioned my favorite song of all time, and for sticking-with-my-guns sake, I'm sticking with my guns on it. But I have to say. The very first time I heard Shake It Out, it blew my mind so much that I immediately thought, THIS IS THE BEST THING I HAVE EVER HEARD. I know all the cool kids on the internet are freaking out over this song so it's almost old news to freak out about it at this point, but OH MY GOD. That first night I listened to it (and credit is due to Shelby for telling me about it) I had to listen to it a hundred times, and then I had to listen to it a hundred times the next day, and the day after that. This four plus minutes of music LITERALLY GIVES ME CHILLS. Let's be honest, this entire entry should just be about this song, because, because. IT IS THE BEST THING I HAVE EVER HEARD. I haven't had a single song knock me down like this in, uh, years? The only thing I want to do with my life is listen to this song over and over. It is so magical. I don't even understand how you create something like this. Jesus Christ. Oh my god it is so good. Is this enough about this song? I don't think so. SHAKE IT OUT SHAKE IT OUT!

2. Hair, Lady Gaga
This blog is seriously lacking a full entry about Lady Gaga, because I have so much to say about her. But I'll say her new album and me are finally starting to really get to know each other, and while I know it's almost completely full of songs that are supposed to make you want to dance, my most frequent reaction to them is crying. Is this weird? I think this is weird. Seriously, Born This Way makes me cry almost every time because it is so monumental and amazing and the fact that such a song can exist now and be played on dance floors across America makes me want to bawl my eyes out. That said, I think the best song on the album is undoubtedly this one. It is so strikingly personal and universal at the same time, telling her own story while reaching out to freaks everywhere. It is so crazy empowering and beautiful I can't even handle it. Hence, why I cry almost every time I hear it. Living as free as your hair, Ms. Gaga, is an ideal we should all live up to.

While I really love the studio version (the dramatic drum beat chorus near the end? Shut up, so good), the video is one of her acoustic performances because all of her acoustic performances are always freaking remarkable. And even if you don't want to listen to the whole thing, you should watch until 2:23 or so, when she completely stops the song to put a TURQUOISE WIG ON HER OL' BALD HEAD. What a fucking rock star. Oh, my weird emotional state allows me to curse more, so get ready for it. 

I love both of these above songs SO MUCH PEOPLE. SO MUCH. I almost made this entry just about them, but then I realized I really like a bunch of other songs too, and I like the 5 Songs format so much. But. These two. THESE TWO. Okay, moving on.

3. Down in the Valley, the Head and the Heart
WARNING: We are completely switching gears here, people! Completely! If you were tempted to get out your Lady Gaga CDs and dance for awhile, I completely understand, but now you should make yourself a cup of tea and find a warm blanket and a nice porch in the country to sit on and listen to the Head and the Heart. This song hits the most perfect folky lonely pitch, the best folky lonely pitch I have heard in a long, long time. I would have been even MORE all over this shit than I currently am if I was myself in high school or early college. This jam would have been in my Discman over and over again. Like all great songs, this is also a beautiful building song, and my really favorite part, what really makes me love it, is the build up to 2:10, when they start this bridge:

I know there's California
And all of the places I ain't never been to, but
Down in the valley
With whiskey rivers
These are the places you will find me hiding
These are the places I will always go
These are the places I will always go.
I am on my way
I am on my way back to where I started.

Oh my goodness it is lovely. And let's be honest, any song that mentions "whiskey rivers" is a song I'm going to like. I know the band is from Seattle (which means I should really invest in perhaps seeing them live in their hometown sometime), but this bridge makes me want to move to the South right now and tramp through some real good Eastern forests full of crunchy oak leaves and pine needles.

Although, The Head and the Heart, just to let you know, I have been to California and Oklahoma, and while California is definitely a place you can pine for, you really ain't missing much in Oklahoma. 


4. Death of Autotune, Jay-Z
OK, Head and the Heart people, put your cozy scarves and mug of tea away now and get ready for Brooklyn, y'all. OH WHAT IS THIS LIST RANDOM ENOUGH FOR YOU YET? I love this whole album (okay, mostly) but this song is a clear stand-out. I'mma gonna say this is simply one of the best rap songs I've ever heard. Although let me also say, I freely admit that I know nothing about rap, so, that statement probably means nothing. But this is my blog so I can say whatever I want.

The guitar riff in it is GENIUS and impossibly catchy and badass, I love the moment of silence, the soaring sax that joins in every now and then is awesome. And it's hard not to love a song with so many winners of lines. Such as,

I know we facing a recession
But the music y'all making gonna make it the Great Depression.


This ain't a number one record
This is practically assault with a deadly weapon

UH. UH. UH. And let's discuss how beautiful the transition on the album is from this right into Run This Town. Bad ass, or baddest ass?

5. Someone Like You, Adele
OK, OK, we're done with Brooklyn now! We're ready to hide under the covers in bed all day and cry, aright! OK, so everyone likes Adele, it's almost boring to mention it, but there it is. Before this song started getting a lot of play on the radio it was on a playlist at work and when I was working by myself at night whenever it came on I had a habit of playing it OVER AND OVER at least a few times, because it just seemed like a really good soundtrack to scrub dried syrup off of countertops to. This habit may or may not have caused every customer in the store to consider slitting their wrists, but OH WELLS.

The thing about this song is just how NICE Adele is in the whole thing at the same time that she's so sad. Most songs about lost loves are angry or regretful or SOMETHING, but this one is like, logical and good-hearted. "I wish nothing but the best for you"??  REALLY, ADELE? This song would be so much less heartbreaking if you weren't such a good fucking person!

Also, Adele is way hot. Right?

On that note, I'm out. Thank you, music, for being awesome. I'm going to go listen to Shake It Out until I pass out!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

October Goals.

Guys! It's been grey and rainy all day! I just took Toby out for a walk and wore inappropriate shoes and my feet got soaked! And I am in love with it! It finally feels like FALL! October is the bestest month! 

+ Get rid of our Bank of America bank accounts and open local ones, probably at Rivermark. Bye bye, big corporate banks! I may not be able to occupy the streets, but I can take my money away from yo' ass!

+ Pay off my bills. I got behind again this month. :\ Which always just makes them harder to pay off. :\

+ Once they're paid off: get my film pictures from our East Coast trip developed.

+ To renew my education spirit, I want to finally subscribe to Rethinking Schools and VOYA.

+ Also, so I can make my own opinion once and for all, finally see Waiting for Superman.

+ Another hopeful indulgence once bills are paid: get a tune-up for my bike, as well as getting mudflaps installed.

+ More nerdy education/library stuff: start reading some books for upcoming winter Mock Newbery and Mock Printz Award workshops! I want to participate in both workshops and actually read all the books for each this year.

+ Email my advisor about library practicums. Email University of Washington about MLS.

+ Espanol! I'm going to get back on that train, people! Goals: finish current chapter in Harry, finish up to Chapter 30 in workbook.

+ If time allows, go on at least one hike with Kathy.

+ Also, make the time to go to at least one pumpkin festival. Pumpkin festivals in October = essential.

+ Be able to put my entire transcription work check this month to a wedding fund.

+ Start keeping track of all of my expenses on that really boring spreadsheet I used to have, again.

+ Make four new meals.

This is going to be a good month.


I turn 28 today. [Although I'm technically posting this on the 4th, I wrote it on the 3rd.] This is a good thing, since I've been telling people I'm 28 for pretty much the entire time I was 27, so it's good to be able to finally get it right. Let's be honest, ever since I transcended the age of 21, I've had a hard time remembering how old I am. I constantly have to turn to Kathy to confirm what the right number is when somebody asks. This is the conversation that normally happens when meeting new people:

Me: "I'm 28!"
Kathy: "No, you're 27."
Me: "Oh! I am? Okay."

As a side note, yesterday when Kathy and I were in the car we had the bizarre/delightful experience of hearing Blink 182's "What's My Age Again?" on the radio, and I had a frightening moment of clarity when I realized that, at the time that song came out and we both listened to it on the radio every day, the age 23 that Mark Hoppus so angstily sings about seemed pretty old. But now, 23 seems real young! And I thought, WHOA. WE'RE OLD!

OK, I actually don't believe we're that old. Just Mark Hoppus is.

For my birthday I'm allowing myself a lazy morning, to be followed by a long shift at my unimportant job. However, I really can't complain about this truly unexciting day, since the weekend we just had in Seattle was so awesome. But, in order to make it a little more meaningful for myself, I'm enacting a new Blog Tradition, of recalling my favorite things that have happened over the past year since last October 3rd. A best of the best of the year 27. Because truly, there is nothing I like better than some good old fashioned nostalgia.

So here we go, 27!

#1. My brother and Mary's wedding in Virginia. Hard to believe this was only just a little less than a year ago. Yay for familial happiness!

#2. Two musical events at the Schnitz: Sufjan Stevens with Zoe and Ashley, and Lauryn Hill with Kathy. Totally different, but totally awesome. Getting to see Zoe again for the first time in a long time--and making those videos with Andy--was another highlight.

#3. Student teaching at Lane Middle School, Portland Public Schools. Their faces are really crudely blacked out here so I don't get sued, but, man. I only cried a few times. I made a fool out of myself a few other times. But overall, it was great. I miss these kids something fierce.

#4. Actually cooking more, on a more consistent basis. It's surprisingly satisfying (and delicious). Also, starting to do the majority of our shopping at New Seasons.

#5. New friends/Vet Tech stuff. Oh God, don't I have any better way to describe this than "new friends"?! Gross. Anyway. It's also hard to believe that Kathy only started her Vet. Tech. program a little over a year ago. But through that, she/we have met so many wonderful and important people, especially Scott and Kelly, who have become an incredible support system for Kathy, and consequently, me as well. Also, the weird condensing of this picture makes it looks like Kathy is crying in a really scary way, but she in fact is laughing in a really awesome way.

  Also, let's remember how everyone Kathy knows now through her program all own REALLY AMAZING DOGS AND I LOVE ALL OF THEM. Also, let's remember that time we got to go to her school and HOLD BABY LAMBS.

#6. Tues-Weds in Seattle with Ashley and Meredith. Wow, well, I haven't been that drunk in awhile. Also, let's discuss how Ashley and Meredith are the best. The best. So really, this list should include anytime we got to see Ashley and Meredith, ever. And considering Meredith technically lived on the other side of the country, we got to see her a lot. But Tues-Weds will live in infamy (in our memories. Like just ours).

#7. Camping at Mt. Hood. I have been dreaming about camping again ever since we got back.

#8. Finishing my masters in education from Portland State. Okay, a lot of it wasn't really that exciting,  and I feel like I got kind of angsty and defensive in classes a lot, but, the real highlight was meeting this guy. An endless champion of kids, I want to remember him and all the things he said whenever I have my own classroom or my own library. Seriously. This dude is the man.

#9: Fun visits from fun people, including Reiko, my mom, my dad and Cheryl, and others. Having people visit us means that 1) We get to hang out with fun people, who like us so much they paid money on plane tickets to see us, which is pretty remarkable, and 2) We get to take time off of work to do fun Pacific Northwest-y things, which is pretty much our favorite. Every visit this past year from people was awesome.

#10: Watching UNC basketball with/going on hikes with/making pizza and/or drinking beer with Matt & Ellie. They're in California now. :( Oregon (that means us) misses them a whole bunch already.

#11: Pumpkin patches and holiday dinners with Erin & Grey. Half of this duo is also no longer in Oregon now. We miss her, too. :\

#12: Preggers! On my mom's side of my family, where prior to this year there were no grandbabies for our parents yet, suddenly three people are pregnant. Meaning that by October 3rd next year when I write about my 28th year, there will BABIES. Like, BABIES! Babies that I will actually care about! I still don't quite fully understand this concept but I think it is both scary and awesome!

#13: That ridiculously awesome vacation we just took. Including amazing times in New York,  amazing times in Connecticut for my cousin Greg & Andrea's wedding (yeah, another wedding! Get over it!), and amazing times in Boston. I may or may not have already mentioned this awesome vacation a hundred times since we got back. Even though I've only blogged like three times. Somehow I feel this has happened. IT JUST FELT LEGENDARY PEOPLE.

#14: Starting to actually plan our own wedding. Oh, what? Are you tired of me talking about weddings? Too bad! Because guess what? Planning your own wedding is FUN! Who knew!

Of course this can only ever be a partial list; there is simply too much that life packs in for you in 365 days. I mean geez, life. Way to be indescribably full of yourself, every single year.

That means you're up, 28. Let's do this thing.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

September Goals: Review.

+ Not go TOO over-budget on vacation. Get to hang out with everyone we want to see!
Hey, well, I don't know about that budget thing, because I think we forgot that we were visiting some of the most expensive places that exist in the country. BUT, we did get to hang out with so many people! We saw Jill D. and Joe, and Keegan, and Lou, and Stacy, and all of my freaking amazing cousins and siblings and mommy and family, and Allie, and Sam and Steve, and Siobhan, and Kerri, and wowzers, just a lot of people. But even with all that, we missed out on seeing Nick, and Aileen, and Carey, and Manda, and other people I'd like to see next time.

+ Get back on the Spanish train, hardcore.
Right. The Spanish train choo-chooed for about three days, and then came to an abrupt halt. Need to refuel for next month.

+ I feel like I was only a half-assed PDX biker in August, so I want to get more disciplined this month. So: I'm only allowed to drive to work ONCE a week, every other day I should be biking. And each week I go to the library to volunteer, I should either be biking or taking the bus.

+ Save $1,000 towards the wedding. This is a big goal, and will probably require me to be a transcribing fiend once we get back. Also, do all those wedding things I said I'd do last month: website, save the dates, dress stuff, etc. Also, after visiting Boston--get our ceremony site nailed down.


I did, however, finally, finally make a wedding website. And I absolutely love it. If I do say so myself.

+ Stretch more. Once a day.
I've actually been pretty good at this. It's a small thing, but it feels good.

+ Be better with what I shove in my face at work. I can only drink water or unsweetened iced tea during my shifts. No bringing expired pastries home. Bring and eat own snacks on breaks. Keep frappuccino sampling to the bare minimum.
I'm going to give myself a 80% on this. A solid B-. I was good at only drinking water or iced tea while there, although I did indulge in a couple fancier drinks just on my off-work time. No pastries were brought home, and I was better at not drinking 20 frappuccino samples a shift. However, with all the pumpkin goodness coming around (see how it slays me: here and here), it was hard to refuse a whole bunch of bites of pumpkin bread and other good stuff while there.

+ Read three children's/young adult books.
Fail. I read Graceling by Kristin Cashore, which was wonderful, but that's it.

+ Start planning something fun for both my birthday in October and our anniversary in November.
Yes to the first part! We headed up to Seattle this weekend so that I could attend the Northwest Conference on Teaching for Social Justice (I wrote about my experience at it last year here when I was feeling really rah-rah about things, and this one was also just great and rekindled a bunch of my rah-rah emotions). Kathy came along so we could stick around Seattle for the rest of the weekend to get some fun meals and in general just enjoy a mini-Seattle-vacation as a birthday present. And we got to drink beer  and eat Mexican food with Ashley, who is the awesomest. It was a great weekend. All around win.

Still haven't made a plan for something fun for November yet, but I really want to. But we have time.

+ Go see the swifts!
Check! And we got to see Grey at the same time! Awesomeness abounds!

Hard to see, but there are thousands of little birds here!

+ Hopefully get to hang out with Kim & Cliff when they move back to Oregon!
OMG they were just here a few nights ago and we ate thai food and drank beer together, and then they headed to Eugene. AND OMG WE GOT TO MEET THEIR DOG. AND OMG EUGENE IS SO CLOSE. OMG I can't believe they're back. It is such a wonderful thing.

+ Make three new meals.
Check, although there's only one I'm truly proud of.

#1: Due to the busy-ness and financial restraints of this month, I tried to get creative with a bag of quinoa we've had for awhile. This was a garlic-lemon thing that I threw some spinach and some fresh cherry tomatoes from our garden on. The cherry tomatoes FROM OUR GARDEN were the most exciting part--we planted one little plant that's seriously produced so many of these things:

Growing something yourself and then eating it is seriously the best thing ever.

I also made another quinoa thing with black beans, corn, and onions that I didn't take a picture of. Both dishes were decent, and hearty and healthy, but overall just tasted kind of eh to me. Basically, I really like quinoa, but I don't think I've figured out the best ways to cook it yet. Any quinoa recipe suggestions?? I would love them.

Man, what a sloppy lookin' picture!

#2: Balsamic bruschetta chicken. This was the one that I was proud of--the only real, satisfying full dinner type of meal I accomplished this month. It was also pretty easy to do, especially since Kathy helped me chop up all the tomatoes (one of the most horrible things to chop, in my opinion). We used some more of the cherry ones from the garden, and also one or two bigger ones, along with a Willamette sweet onion, that I all got super cheap from the farmers market. Let's be honest--I got a couple tomatoes, an onion, and a mini-pumpkin at the farmers market for $2 one day and it was like, the complete highlight of my week.

#3: Baked pumpkin oatmeal. So super simple I don't know if it should count, but yeah, this was real good and a kind of genius solution to what to have for breakfast for at least a week. Also, this is almost shockingly fulling, so when you break some off for yourself to heat up or just eat cold in the morning, you really don't have to take that much. Since I'm a sweet tooth, I think I would actually up the cinnamon and brown sugar a bit next time I make it.

Also, I mentioned last month that I had leftover pizza sauce that I had made for a recipe then. And this month our friends Scott and Kelly just conveniently had a pizza-making party, where Scott made a bunch of pizza dough and we brought toppings. In addition to the sauce, to keep it cheap, we just brought some mozzarella cheese and a few snips of fresh basil from our kind-of-sad-at-the-moment basil plant. And many other peeps were able to partake in our massive amount of leftover sauce. So none of it went to waste, we ate delicious pizza, and didn't have to go through that whole time-consuming project of making our own dough. So win!