Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Our annual funny-face Olive Garden dinner

Tom's mother and brother finally arrived in Seattle from California after a weather-related travel nightmare that lasted days -- including, unfortunately, Christmas Eve in an airport hotel and Christmas day in an airport terminal.

We celebrated Christmas late, but as Tom reminded us, Christmas is a season, not necessarily a particular day. Since Nana and Craig come to visit every year at this time, we've developed a few traditions, among them our annual family dinner at Olive Garden. (Another is our annual Sauerbraten dinner -- which will be on New Years Day this year, but which we're already beginning to cook tonight. Stand by!)

Of course I was snapping photos throughout the evening and when I reviewed them I thought, 'Dang, none of these turned out very well.'

But attitude is everything, right?

The pictures themselves might not be anything special -- but they're special in their, uh-hum... "specialness."

Here's a rare photo: Elisabeth and Aleks together. Until recently, they really weren't all that close. But in the last year or so, they've become really good friends.


This is Peter and his Uncle Craig, Tom's brother. Craig looks like his normal, pleasant self, but Peter... Geeeeze! Like a lot of guys, Peter just freezes when you point a camera at him and ask him to smile. Actually, he doesn't simply freeze; he goes oddly in the opposite direction and gets a look on his face that makes you wonder if you should call the authorities!


Just for balance, and to show you that Peter is anything but weird or scary, here's a picture taken of him earlier in the day when he went skiing at Mt. Baker:

baker 007

See? Totally harmless!

Still not convinced? OK, fine!


I told you. Perfectly angelic. Be still, my maternal heart!

OK, so what's the next picture in the batch? I really have no idea. Well, lookie here!IMG_0625

No comment. (Is he holding his fork like a pitch fork, or is that just my imagination?!)

Elisabeth is Nana's first grandchild and the two of them have a special relationship. Nana has lots interesting stories to tell about her past. I'm trying to convince her to start a blog, but alas...! (Not really.)


Then Tom took the camera, stood up and pointed it down at me as I sipped my wine. If I were 25 years younger, I'd make this my Facebook profile shot simply because of the weird angle (because you know, all cool Facebook profile photos are shot from weird angles):


Then we handed the camera to the waitress and she took this shot of all of us, to document our 2008 Annual Olive Garden Post-Christmas Family Dinner. A good time was most definitely had by all us funny-faces! IMG_0627adjust

Our next annual tradition will be our Family Sauerbraten Dinner on New Years Day. I'm positively salivating already!

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Analyze This

These are the only two books that live in our master bathroom.  What does that say about the man who put them there and reads them both regularly with great devotion?


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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Dear thnow: pleeth thaw!

It's been almost two days since snow last fell and the Seattle region now has a nice, slow thaw going.  It warmed up slowly and only slightly, and the rain came down softly instead of in a flood-producing torrential downpour, so we're well on our way to normalcy (normal/icy?) again.

Everyone in the Puget Sound is on their way back to normal, that is, except for us in this same little rural pocket that had to wait nine days to have the power turned on after the huge windstorm two years ago, while we were in Hawaii

Streets in Seattle are now clear and the little snow that's left is melting quickly.  Redmond still has some snow piled on sidewalks, but basically it's back to normal too.

And then there's us, way out here in Woo'ville.  This was the scene in front of our house this afternoon as we were headed out (or attempting to head out) for a quick shopping trip in town.  If we hadn't been wanting to get out of our driveway, seeing this plow would have been a sight for sore eyes!  IMG_0603

No worries, though.  A big virile man with a shovel lives here!


No sooner had Tom dug us out that we saw this coming around the corner again: 



And then we were contending with this: 


I opened the car door and this is what greeted me -- snow almost coming into the car!  IMG_0619

And I'm supposed to go to work tomorrow for the first time since all this weather hullabaloo started on December 16th!  The thing is, with snow only still really being an issue in a few small pockets around the Puget Sound, will my boss really believe him if I tell him I'm still snowed in?


And really, after two weeks stuck at home, cabin fever has begun to sink in and even a trip to the office is sounding quite adventurous right now.

My car is still at the bottom of the driveway completely covered in snow... car snow

...so I think I'll ask that big virile man to drive this helpless maiden to work tomorrow.  By New Years Eve, this should all be behind us.  Unless there's another storm on the way. 

There's not, is there? 

Because that really wouldn't be funny at all!

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Will there ever be journalistic substance on this blog again? (Alternate title: How growing up in Berkeley in the 60's helped shape who I am today.)

I used to actually write posts of some literary substance. Not great substance and nothing more than flailing aspirations of some level of poignancy, but I strung words together and formed a few thoughtful sentences in a few of the thousand-plus posts I've written here.

Now I post pictures and write a few captions.

I'm tempted to say that the culprit is the demanding job that sucks all brain power and creativity out of me, but I know that nothing can dim a committed, passionate writer's desire to write.

So much for commitment and passion, eh?

My dear friend and office mate, Rebekah (yes, mother to these adorable kidlets) knows me well.


(Yes, we're like a couple of high school students sometimes... even though she's -- gulp -- closer to Elisabeth's age than to mine!)


But I digress. (And now it's becoming clear to me why there's little literary substance to this blog anymore...)

Anyway... Rebekah must have known about my severe case of writer's block because she gave me this book for my birthday last month:


(See? There I go, posting pictures again!)

It's a "do-it-yourself autobiography in 201 questions." A whole book of meaningful writing prompts! This is the sort of things I've loved since I was a kid, and Rebekah must have known that.

So let's dive in, shall we? I opened the book to a random page and this is what appeared:


Let's go with this one: "This is another big news story from when I was young."

That one's easy. Berkeley in the 60's. People's Park. War protests at Cal. Those were all parts of my day-to-day life when I was a kid. Mom taught German and Comparative Literature at Cal and my oldest brother Michael was a senior in high school so he was, of course, completely caught up in the social and political happenings around him.

In 1969 I was twelve and in sixth grade.

Here -- I'll even embarrass myself by posting a photo of me at that most awkward of stages. I always wore this paisley blouse backwards because I thought it looked cool that way. It was my own little form of protest, I guess... and it must have been horribly uncomfortable. And to add just a little more coolness, I threw on those Berkeley beads. Groovy, eh?


(Notice that I still haven't written anything of substance and I can't seem to tell a story without pictures? I'm definitely graphically afflicted!)

So in 1969 I was twelve and in sixth grade and so embarrassed to be living among a family of hippies. I lived in this family...

DSC02649Photoshopped ...but more than anything I wanted to live in this family:

Dick and Jane

So you can imagine how mortified I was when we got a call in the summer of 1969, saying that my 17-year-old hippie of a brother had been rounded up with a bunch of other People's Park protesters and taken to the Santa Rita Detention Center. As my parents quickly gathered their things to pick up their rebel son (which, for hippie parents like mine, was probably more of a boastful badge than an insult), I remember them commenting that it was a good thing he wasn't already 18 and actually arrested, instead of simply "detained."

Of course, if he had been arrested, maybe he and my other brother wouldn't have ventured to Altamont later that year, where things got really bad! (But that's another post for another writing prompt. Hell, I can't even seem to stick to this one!)

I can't remember much about my brother coming home with my parents that night except that they seemed more annoyed, like parents called to the principal's office, than angry or concerned about their son's future.

I don't think any of us really understood the magnitude of what it meant to live in Berkeley in the 60's, especially with such close ties to Cal. We were participating in history, simply by living our lives, and it would only be in retrospect that we'd understand the immensity of that opportunity.

Which makes me wonder, why hasn't a feature film been made about People's Park? After all, it really did symbolize the entire peace movement of the 60's. If people are interested in the story of Harvey Milk (great film, by the way), wouldn't they be interested in a feature movie about People's Park? Hell, just profile my family -- the feisty, motorcycle-riding mother who taught at Cal and got completely into the movement (in spirit more than action, though... because she and her generation were considered "too old"), the father whose proper German roots combined with the radicalism of the time to create an interesting philosophical dichotomy, the hippie brother(s) who couldn't embrace the movement tightly enough, and the white sheep of the family (me -- and to some extent my younger brother), who wanted more than anything to just be normal and live in a normal American family somewhere other than Berkeley and some time other than the 60's.

Of course, I've now come to fully appreciate this "big news story from when I was young" and realize that it helped make up the tapestry that was stitched together over the years to shape me into who I've become.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

The upside of record snowfall: finding your long-lost septic tank!

I printed this photo, put it in a Ziploc bag, and nailed it to the the side of the house because when a septic tank emergency occurs, you either need to find it really fast or -- worse -- it's glaringly obvious where it is. IMG_0599

Let's hope we only encounter the former...  

It's kinda gross, actually, to think about why there's no snow here. 

(My blog has now sunk to new lows: actual potty-talk.  Please forgive me.)

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas from Seattle -- still buried under gobs of the white stuff and recently back from the depths of darkness

In other words, it's been snowing for eight days solid... and the power was just restored.

Let me just say right now that menopause has its perks. When the temperature in the house was in the 40's and everyone else was freezing cold, my own personal heating system, my reliable hot-flash-0-matic, worked perfectly. Every 20 minutes or so, the ol' lady furnace jets would fire up and I'd warm up nice and toasty. I swear, if the power had been out much longer, I'd have had marshmallow skewers poking at me from all directions!

It's been a few days since I've tormented you with endless "Seattle's Arctic Blast of 2008" photos. Just when you think you've gotten rid of me and my camera with that clever power outage ploy, I'm back with more!


(Click out now if you've had enough of my endless Snowy Seattle photos.)

Still here? Cool.


On Christmas Eve, Elisabeth and I took it upon ourselves to trudge to the store through the snow (uphill both ways) to pick up some desperately needed provisions.

Well, that's not entirely true. We decided to take Shasta for a long walk and pick up a few things that we needed.

OK, wanted.

OK, fine -- we wanted an excuse for a long snowy walk.

Headin' out, on the street -- well, on the snow covering the street -- in front of our house:


Elisabeth decided to slide down the hill on her butt -- which Shasta thought was just hilarious.



Even at almost 25, I still think of her as my cute l'il girl:


As we got to the intersection (and this isn't even a busy one), we could see cars' effects on the environment. Somehow the stuff they spew becomes pretty obvious when there's white snow to sop it up:


We realized, as we walked along this little country road, that the trees above us were downright dangerous, as every few minutes we'd hear cracking sounds, followed by a falling branch!



Be careful, Mr. Snowman! If you hear cracking trees, just duck and take cover. Or, um... not.


These people thought their trash would be picked up as regularly scheduled. Dude, some people in the Pacific Northwest are going on week number three without trash pick-up!


This deep slush and these potholes are nothing compared to what them city-dwellers in Seattle proper (as opposed to us rural hillbillies) are dealing with!



Not wanting to risk life and falling limb, we decided to walk along the main roadway, where there were snowplows...


...and busses!


Elisabeth opted for a short rest, but Shasta just wanted to trudge ahead. IMG_0435

The store! In the distance -- civilization! Provisions -- finally!IMG_0445

Or not:


And actually, when you think of it -- aren't provisions in the eye of the beholder? I mean, so what if they didn't have much milk. We can do without milk if we have to. But what we can't do without are... A DOZEN RED ROSES!




We took our sweet time walking back from the store, stopping at the library parking lot to play a bit:

By the time we got home, it was snowing hard and getting dark -- a perfect Christmas Eve. I wanted to play the old audio tapes of the Bavarian Christmas from her childhood that Mom had given me before she died, but they're so old now and so filled with audio pocks and scratches, that the music can hardly be heard anymore. So instead, I put on a Vienna Choir Boys CD (much to the kids' chagrin, but I'm sorry -- some thing are sacred!) and we had our traditional Bavarian Weisswurst and Kartoffelsalat Christmas Eve dinner. (No cameras allowed, by decree of my family!)

Once a year, on Christmas Eve, Mom's favorite day of the year, I light the candle that we bought in Munchen a few years ago, the one I call "Omi's Candle." I tear up and get all mushy on the inside when I light it once a year, but on the outside I just quietly light it and let it burn during Mom's favorite 4 hours of the year, the sacred hours of 4 PM to 8 PM on Christmas Eve -- the hours of "beschaerung" -- or, as I thought it was called as I grew up, "be-sharing," which is another word for the time the family spends together, lights low, Christmas carols on the "stereo," and exchanging gifts.


After beschaerung, Tom and Elisabeth baked apfelstudl and kipferl cookies from his mother's delicious stash of Christmas cookie recipes from her own childhood and her own European heritage. Delicious!




We woke up on Christmas morning to no power. Within two hours, it was freezing cold (no, not literally!) in the house... so we went outside to document the record Seattle snowfall and then to play!


car snow




IMG_0519 IMG_0555

When we came inside, it was most definitely time to light a fire.


(Yes, Tom made the fireplace -- over a period of two years. We love it! Do you see the face in the stones?)

Actually, it was time to make TWO fires -- that one downstairs, and this one upstairs: (Yes, Tom made this fireplace and mantel, too. Think we should keep him around?)


And now, it's time for Christmas fondue (which I might photo-chronicle... or not). But for now, I'll leave you with a Christmas wish of happiness, health and good cheers -- and US a Christmas wish of melting snow, warming temperatures and no flooding!


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