Six Months In

So married life is pretty great. So great, apparently, that I haven’t had any time to update this blog? It’s the only excuse I have, but do know that I’ve been writing a lot in my head. Fat lot of good that will do this, though. Can blogs collect digital dust, like an unopened journal on a shelf?

(Side note: That sounds like a cringe-worthy opening line for a novel. Related side note: McSweeny’s has a fun post of famous opening lines for novels reworked for the modern age.)

But I’m back, or at least I’m going to make a more conscientious effort to be back. There’s a lot happening around the homestead (renovations! new fences! plans for the basement! piles of laundry that need to be put away!) that I want to share in future posts. But first, wedding photos!

I probably look at these at least once a week, and there are hundreds I could post, but instead I’m only going to share three of my favorites:

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I love the way I’m looking at Parker in this photo. This was part of our first look, and we had written small notes in cards. If you look closely, you see that the one I gave Parker has a flame (lovingly) hugging a marshmallow. Not even one of the most best most serious moments of my life will stop me from getting a silly card. 

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I’ve had this weird goal in life to one day be part of a photo that is good enough to be a stock photo in a frame sold in stores. THIS is that photo, and better than any damn stock photo I will ever see. Period.

 

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As you can see, our love of dancing knows no bounds. A friend of ours taught us some choreography for our first dance, and from this moment on it was hard to keep us off the dance floor. 

Even though I keeping saying this, our wedding was the best wedding I’ve ever been to. It had everything: the love, the laughter, the food (well, for some people. We ran out. Oops!), the drinks, the dancing. There’s something to be said about getting married after seven years together: everyone there knew us and knew us well. The love I felt from everyone was palpable and, honesty, overwhelming at times. It was an amazing weekend, one that I went by far too fast.

Since September, life has been a whirlwind: traveling to see our families for the holidays (Thanksgiving in Georgia! Christmas in New York!), followed by a month of friends visiting nearly every weekend, then I went on my fifth trip to South Africa (crazy!), Parker traveled overseas for his work, and all the while talking about getting to work on the house and then finally doing something (new fence!) this month.

But even though it’s been busy I’m thankful. These past six months (Parker: “Six months?! We missed our six month anniversary!?”) have been filled with lots of laughter and love, as well as the crazy realization that I’m married and I get to call Parker “my husband.” However, I’ve decided that when anyone asks us how long we’ve been married I will be responding with “We’ve been together for xxx years”, taking into account the 7.5 we were together before the wedding. Because dammit, those days count! With our dating anniversary in May (eight years!) and our wedding anniversary in September, we’ll have plenty of time to continue our “X Things for X Years” tradition. I’m looking forward to seeing what our “Eight Things for Eight Years” adventure will be!

The weirdest part has been adjusting to my new last name (which wasn’t that bad of a process to do, to be honest) and working on my signature. Everywhere around the house there are pieces of paper with my name new name in various forms– print, cursive, whatever you call my combination of print and cursive (prinsive?)– that would make one think I was some seventh grader with an epic crush.

I’ll be posting more this week about various projects around the house, as well as the very memorable Christmas I had (complete with food poisoning, head lice epidemic and eating squirrel). .

 

 

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Eight Pictures for Eight Months (Now With More Pictures!)

Hi.

<waves sheepishly>

Hello.

So time got away from me pretty bad there. I mean, I was doing so well about posting, and then suddenly so-so, and then BOOM I’m gone forever. Like a ninja.

Which wasn’t my intention, I promise. I just got super distracted by everything else happening. I thought about writing in the blog and I can’t tell you how many unfinished drafts I have* written up.  But instead of making tons of excuses (there really aren’t any), I’m going to sum up the past eight months in a photo series, because a picture is worth a thousand words, right?

(Side note: there’s a great little movie on Netflix called Words and Pictures that deals with this concept between a highschool Art and English teacher. I enjoyed it and you would to. You love Netflix anyway, so you might as well check it out).

*Turns out I only had six drafts. But I have over twenty in my head!

November:

YosemiteThanksgiving

Glacier Point! Totally worth the drive.

Parker and I spent Thanksgiving in Yosemite, which we did the first year he moved out to California. Road trips with Parker are the best, as they are filled with junk food (gummy bears! pirouette cookies!) and podcasts. We binge-listened to Serial, which is amazing and, if you haven’t already listened to it, DO IT. Then do yourself an even bigger favor and watch the SNL Serial Christmas skit.

Next time we go to Yosemite I’m vowing that we camp in the park. The past two trips have been at an amazing lodge right outside the west entrance (thanks, GroupOn!) but we’re ready to do some serious camping from here on out.

December:

Shooting

I would have DIED without this twenty year old parka.

SO MUCH HAPPENED IN DECEMBER. It’s hard to find one picture to do it justice, so I’m settling on a picture of a new experience: shooting.

December was jammed packed with quality family time. Parker and I spent Christmas with my family in Orlando, complete with a pinterest fail an attempt at Rudolph pancakes for my niece and nephew, many Christmas movies, a walk through the Osborne Light Show at Disney World, and much cheer and merriment.

Post-Christmas was with Parker’s family in upstate New York, which was bitterly cold compared to Orlando. So cold, in fact, that I had to borrow with ankle-length parka pretty much anytime I went outside. We went shooting one frigid day and here I am holding the only evidence that I can aim. It was a fun experience and there’s a lot of ranges out here in San Diego (turns out there are some SoCal residents that are intense about their guns) that we may try out at some point. The smile you see in this picture is one that was frozen (literally! haha!) to my face for the duration of both of these trips.

January:

JanCADecor

A reminder that my love of cheese knows no bounds.

January is always a pretty quiet month*, especially coming off the busy holidays. Parker and I focused on the house for a little bit (like mounting this awesome cutting board to double as decor) and hiring some tree trimmers to deal with our ever-growing palm tree.

*Facebook tells me that I did nothing in January expect take this photo and watch Parker eat chicken wings so spicy that I was concerned for his health. The chicken wings were called the “Deer Hunter” wings, so we should have known that no good would come from eating them.

February:

FebPacking

I pack like a boss. Why? Because that duffle is packed with donated sports uniforms and the rest is for me for TWO WEEKS. 

I always feel like February is a blur of a month. It’s already short, and add to that a two week trip to South Africa and the whole thing is WOOSH!, gone. This was my forth year going back to South Africa and I’m already planning on going back for a fifth year.

God bless email and Skype. What would I do without them?

March:

NOM NOM NOM

NOM NOM NOM

March was Parker’s 33rd birthday and the continuation of a our new favorite pastime: Modern Times brewery, laser tag, and sushi. While we didn’t get sushi the night of his birthday (instead it was God-awful Del Taco. NEVER AGAIN!), we’ve been doing the laser-tag/sushi for a while and we love it. It helps that all of these establishments are within walking distance of each other.

So if you come to visit, we’ll most likely take you on the Beer-Lasertag-Sushi combo tour. You know you want to!

April:

AprilBillMurrayParty

A Very Merry Bill Murray Birthday Party (not pictured: all those that left at a reasonable hour).

April was a great month*. I turned 30 in April and had one of the best themed parties to date: a Very Merry Bill Murray Birthday Party. Everyone had to dress up as a character from a Bill Murray movie, so of course I chose the Stay Puft marshmallow man from Ghostbusters (by far one of the most comfortable outfits I’ve ever worn to a party). The outfits were fantastic and the company and games were even better. A very memorable night, indeed!

*April was also a great month because that’s when the new Star Wars trailer came out, and I’ve been watching it about once a week since then.

May:

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Photobooth strip from a friend’s wedding in May! A photobooth will be making an appearance at our reception.

By this point I had totally fallen off the bandwagon to run the Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon (oops), but May was a great month. To celebrate our 7 year anniversary, Parker and I embarked on a “7 Things for 7 Years” adventure over the course of the weekend. We went to a Padres game, got a zoo membership, got the Explorer Pass for all the Balboa Park museums, ate lunch in the park, and saw They Might Be Giants at Belly Up in Solana Beach. This is a tradition we’re going to hope to continue, especially now that we’ll have two anniversaries: the day we started dating (May 3rd) and the day we get married (September 25th). The idea, we think, will be to do our “X Things” between those to dates. So as we hit 10, 15, 20, 30 (!) years we’ll have to do x number of those things in that time span. Wish us luck!

June:

JuneYosemite

Parental selfie!

Hello, summer! Well, at least at the end of June it was summer for me. My parents came for a nice long visit and we spent our time getting to know Sequoia National Park and Yosemite pretty well! Yosemite is definitely different in the summer (hot! crowded!) but much more alive than in the winter. It was a great trip and we clocked nearly 1500 miles on the rental in one week. This trip also marked the beginning of a National and State Park-filled summer. Woo!

July:

JulyMollysKnob

This place is called Molly’s Knob. That is all.

July was spent traveling back and forth from East Coast to West Coast and back again. We spent a week cabin camping with Parker’s family for his dad’s 60th at Hungry Mother State Park (which got its name from a very depressing story), and I met a lot of Parker’s extended family for the first time.

We spent our days hiking, avoiding the rain with board games, eating lots of food, and hitting up the beach in the afternoons to soak in the rays and jumping off the diving board platform in the middle of the lake (which, interestingly enough, is so old that it was grandfathered in to the current park and will remain in operation only until it falls apart).

Bonus Picture! 

JulyComicCon

Indiana Jones never leaves his hat behind.

Last year I won a free one-day ticket to Comic Con (which I spent waiting in line for the X-Files 20th Anniversary Panel– worth it!) and this year Parker surprised me with tickets for both of us. Instead of waiting for hours for the big-name panels, we spent our days checking out some of the smaller panels (like one on Indiana Jones) and hitting up some favorites, like The Oatmeal and Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim (the highlight of which was the panel for the Mike Tyson Mysteries. Note: Mike Tyson is insane and hysterical).

August (now with more pictures!):

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The bridal shower was hosted at Dr. Bombay’s Underwater Tea Party. I loved it, of course!

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Back in Athens with L and E! We were a coven of witches, obvs.

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Surprised by my San Diego ladies with a cooking class at Sur la Table. A perfect start to a very memorable day!

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The bachelorette concluded with drinks (!!!) downtown with more friends

August has been a month of celebrations, for sure. A whimsical and wonderful bridal shower at a tea shop in Atlanta with close friends and family, followed by a relaxing weekend in Athens with my two best college friends (also bridesmaids!), and another bachelorette in San Diego, filled with cooking classes, delicious food, and drinks out on the town. I’m certainly not one to shy away from the spotlight (duh), but it’s taken me a while to get used to being showered with this kind of attention. Luckily I have such wonderful family and friends that they’ve made everything really fantastic!

It’s been a year since Parker and I got engaged and, looking back, I know I’ve been hesitant to talk about the wedding on any form of social media. I’ve posted a photo here or there (addressing invitations, Parker getting his suit altered) but I’ve been pretty mum about it. I didn’t want to be one of those people who talk about my wedding nonstop for a couple of reasons. First, many of the people that would be reading the details aren’t actually invited, and that seemed wrong and boastful. Second, I want some of the day to be a surprise for people that do come!

Wedding planning has been really smooth sailing, thanks to the Internet and my kickass wedding planner who lives in Virginia (where we are getting married). I’ve pretty much followed my gut reaction on nearly everything to do with the wedding, from hiring vendors (my photograph and DJ are spot on and I heart our officiant) to the decor and food. People keep asking if I’m stressed (no), excited (yes), nervous (nope), and giving me lots of unsolicited advice like “you won’t eat during the reception, but make sure you hydrate!” Ummm…do you not know me? I will eat ALL THE FOOD. My wedding planner is making sure of it.

Some bonus August pictures!

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My entire family (pictured, though Aidan is probably off running around somewhere) took a trip to the Smokey Mountains, our old stomping ground.

Parker and I FINALLY got around to redoing the closest adjacent to the kitchen. It involved a lot of cutting, sanding, painting, and staining. Worth it!

Parker and I FINALLY got around to redoing the closest adjacent to the kitchen. It involved a lot of cutting, sanding, painting, and staining. Much much better.

Tomorrow is the end of August and I’m hoping that I keep up with this blog in a more timely fashion. The countdown to the wedding is 26 days (!), but only one day until I start cold-calling people that have yet to RSVP.

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October, In Four Acts

Open: Karen sits on the patio and has just cracked a second plastic adirondack chair upon sitting down. She doesn’t take too much time to notice, mainly because Sean Connery is bombarding her with fervent and not-so-adorable drool and is about to knock over her tea and a pla—!

Whew. That was close.

Karen: I can’t believe it’s been two months since I last wrote on this blog. Because that means that it’s November (!!!) and somehow I blinked and I am here, making pickles, drinking tea, and staring blankly at my computer wondering where to start. Where have you been? You might be wondering. Or How is the wedding planning coming along? or Why did you decide to name that cat Sean Connery? See this post.

Honestly, it’s hard to know where to start, which is why I’m really just going to briefly mention the month of September and jump right into the busy coming and goings of October.

September saw the loss of a friend of mine, Nate, while he was on deployment. I hope to eventually honor him with a much longer piece that speaks to the love and laughter that filled his life. I came to the blog numerous times in September to write about him, but I just couldn’t (and still can’t) find the right words or energy. But I know I will write about him one day, but today is not that day.

(For those that are interested in learning a little more about Nate, this article does a great job describing his love for his family and work and this one covers aspects surrounding his death. This weekend The Girls ran a race in Santa Barbara and all had matching shirts dedicated to him, which makes me smile).

Even though I felt like I had blinders on for most of September, there were moments of significantly important wedding planning. We chose our date and our venue (September 25th in Norfolk, Virginia!), looked at Save the Dates, and hired a wedding planner. I definitely don’t want this blog to devolve into a “wedding blog,” so if that’s the case please slap me and tell me to get back to talking about anything else, like those pickles I previously mentioned (I got the recipe here).

The best way to catch you up on life here in sunny San Diego is by telling you the tale of October, in Four Acts.

Act I: Orlando in October

Even before we started the Half Marathon at Disneyworld last November we all knew we would be back again for another race. The whole RunDisney concept was just too ridiculous and fun not to do again. This year we decided to tackle a different race: the Tower of Terror Ten Miler. Between less money and less miles we thought for sure it was going to be a win, especially since the Food and Wine Festival had just started. It’s a win win win!

Except for the fact that Parker and I hardly trained at all. Oops! I seem to have fallen off the running bandwagon for a bit there and as I’m typing this I probably haven’t run in three weeks. Eek. Alas! It was a fun race (mainly because Kevin kept cracking jokes the whole way) and it wonderful to spend time with family (Kiera celebrated her 1st birthday!). I think next year we’ll go back to the Wine & Dine race. Yeah, it’s pricer, but you get to run through more parks and end the race with food and alcohol. Of course, someone did suggest just going to Disney and skipping the race entirely, but where’s the masochism fun in that?

A well deserved nap the day after the race.

A well deserved nap under the monorail the day after the race. It’s also pictures like this that make me realize how pale I am.

Excited to eat and drink around the world at EPCOT.  It's the only thing that got me through the race.

The sheer excitement on my faces says it’s time to eat and drink around the world at EPCOT. It’s the only thing that got me through the race. (Parker is enthused.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Act II: Engagement Party

Almost as soon as I was back in school one of my coworkers, Antoinette, offered to host an engagement party for me and Parker. To be honest, I was really flattered and confused by this. Did I have to do anything?  Is this normal for work friends to host an engagement party? How many engagement parties does one typically have? What is the proper etiquette here?

If there’s one thing that television and movies have taught me about weddings is that there is usually proper etiquette to follow (I keep reflecting on Father of the Bride and Bridesmaids). The guidelines (rules?) of wedding etiquette, however, are pretty lost on me. One thing I know I didn’t want was presents at this engagement party. We are still at a loss on what to register for anyway, so people’s presence (get it?! presents, presence. Haha!) was good enough for us. And man, Antoinette pulled off a great gathering and we’re so thankful. She hosted us at one of the Ballast Point locations where we had a huge part of the outdoor patio all to ourselves and we also got a tour of the facility and tasters! It was a great evening and even better to see so many different groups of our friends come together to celebrate.

What better way to kick of our engagement than with good friends, good food, and good beer?!

What better way to kick of our engagement than with good friends, good food, and good beer?! 

Between booking the date and venue and the party we certainly feel caught up in the “we’re getting married!” excitement. My wedding planner in Virginia, Christine, is freaking awesome (recommended by a friend of mine who got married at the same location) and has set me up with a dope wedding planning site. Parker and I just purchased our Save the Dates (high-five for less than $40 thanks to a DIY option from VistaPrint!), and we’ll be looking at photographers and entertainment by the end of this month. Woot!

Intermission:

I would love to show you the mash up of this song that is synced with a 1989 aerobic dance video, but it keeps getting taken off Youtube for copyright infringement. But seriously, if you have time you need to search for that video because it is everything that is great about the Internet.

Act III: Visitors from Virginia

Happily and wonderfully two of our friends from Virginia have moved to San Diego! Parker lived with John for a while in Norfolk and he recently got a job out here and made the move with his wife, Molly, and their Great Dane puppy, Luna. They stayed with us for almost two weeks and it was great. Family style meals, cook outs, Luna pooping on the floor… (the last one just comes with the puppy territory). But a lot happened in that short time: Molly got a job during their stay with us, John got a new car, and they got a place to rent. I think this good fortune just reinforces how magical a place like Southern California can be (and I’m okay with that).

Together again.

Together again.

Act IV: Seriously, Like, the Busiest Weekend Ever

The Schedule: Robotics Tournament, Coworker’s Oktoberfest, Beer and Music Festival, and a Halloween Party. Waking up on Saturday morning was like waking up for a long marathon. I knew that we would have to manage our time, and our appetites, well. But really, these are the conditions in which Parker and I thrive.

We’re not planners, per say, but when circumstances arise that necessitate planning we are damn good at it. We had transportation and routes covered (car to Robotics and then beer fest! Trolley at 2:30 to downtown!), our outfits laid out (one for Robotics, one for Oktoberfest and Beerfest, and another for the Halloween party), and a pretty good understanding of how much food and beer we should consume (carb up! choose quality beers over quantity!). The latter worked out pretty well, but by the time I got to the Halloween party I was so full that I could barely eat those three helpings of kielbasa before grabbing another beer.

So from 8am to 11pm it was go time and we did it all. It’s been a while since we’ve been that busy and I forgot how nice it is to get out the house. Granted, I’m loving the X-Files marathon we have going on Netflix, but this day made me realize I need to get out of the house more.

Final Scene: 

Open: Karen is now inside the house, sitting on the couch and thinking she should have been wearing sunscreen while she was outside. She is also wishing it were colder so drinking the rest of the tea didn’t make her uncomfortably warm.

Fall in San Diego makes me really far removed from the rest of the country. While I see everyone else bundling up in jackets and adorable scarves, it’s still sunny and in the 70s year. Without the passing seasons I lose track of time easily, which is why I still find it hard to believe we’re into the second week of November. I desperately miss the fall weather, the changing leaves, and the smell of an approaching winter. Those smells and sights don’t happen out here (though I can drive a couple of hours to get them). As a result, I tend to get nostalgic around now and listen to a lot of Ben Folds, make food that doesn’t go with the weather (chili!), and wear scarves that I have to take off by 10am. Alas! I’ll just live vicariously through everyone else’s photos on Facebook.

I’m going to try to be better about updating the blog. I remember posting nearly once a week when I first got out here and I want to get back in that gear. Writing is therapeutic and fun for me, so I’ll try to bust out more stories and experiences for you all. Some potential posts for you to look forward to:

1. The formative education I received by growing up in a woodsy backyard, something that we don’t have here. Also, an attempt to answer the question Did anyone else throw left over food into the backyard like we did? 

2. Digging out the front yard to replace the waste line. There will be many photos and I’m sure I’ll be wearing a homemade hazmat suit.

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A Memorable Summer, Indeed

I want to start wearing a t-shirt that says just the following, in order:

Oh, thank you!
Yes, we’re very excited.
Probably in the summer.
Most likely on the East Coast.

Being engaged is fun. Parker and I have already made the tinkering-man-cave-esque-room our Wedding HQ, complete with a large cork board and white marker board that we got from the college section in Target. And yes, I did think about the whole “look at all of us here in Target, starting new chapters of our lives!” It would have been the perfect setting for a musical number, staring Hugh Jackman and Amy Adams.

Here’s what we do know:

we know what specific drinks we want (two custom cocktails before the reception, then just beer and wine!)
a general idea of where we want (East Coast!)
a very rough guest list (yay for family and friends!)
and we’ve got the beginnings of a playlist that we want whatever dj/entertainment to play (most of which is wonderfully trashy pop songs that we listened to a lot when playing kickball!).

But a date? A venue? Those are things that we haven’t been working on with as much voracity. But now that I’m back into the routine of the school year I’m going to start carving out time to focus on those kinda-sorta-important items.

But aside from answering questions that the tshirt could answer, the story everyone wants to hear is The Proposal. I’ve said it so many times that writing it out is actually going to be a breeze, so here it goes!

We’d been traveling all summer and our last trip was out to upstate New York to spend a week with Parker’s family at a friend’s old lakehouse/cabin on Caroga Lake, a pretty sleepy town about an hour away from where he grew up. Most of his family was there (11 kids, all ten years old and under! and 9 adults) and the days were filled with boat riding, canoeing, swimming, face painting, fire building, riding bikes, and lots and lots of eating.

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caroga1

The goal of most days was to get the kids up and moving around (maybe so they would be tired later??) and, seeing as this was the second year the family had stayed here, they scheduled in the days activities a mile hike to the top of a little mountain that overlooked the lakes.

The hike was great: moderately challenging (in that the kids were constantly try to run ahead of everyone and arguing over who was “in charge”) and really beautiful (everything is so freaking green!).  When we get to the top there’s this tall fire tower observatory, but I just tell Parker that we’ll let everyone else go up first and we’ll explore in the meantime.

caroga5caroga4

 

 

 

 

 

Once all the kids were down we head up and of course I hit my head at the top (Thinking back, I’m pretty sure everyone at the bottom was quiet and waiting so they probably heard my string of expletives. Oops!). After snapping a couple of photos I decide to take a picture of everyone on the ground.

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See the corner of that banner there? The one that is obviously asking a question? Yeah, I didn’t notice it at all. I know what you’re going to ask. How did you not see that?! or Are you blind? Well, to be honest, I just see things selectively. I was so focused on getting a shot of the group and all I thought was Huh, that’s funny that Jeremy is taking a photo. I wonder why? and Man, everyone looks so happy! Look at those smiles. 

And it’s as I turn around to show Parker the photo that I see him taking out the ring from a little cloth pouch. And it’s as he’s getting down on one knee that I start wildly giggling. He asks, I say yes, we make out, and then I hear from below “If she doesn’t say yes this is going to be pretty awkward!” It’s around this time that Parker asks if I saw the banner. “Banner? What banner…?” So of course imagine my surprise when I actually see it for the first time.

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I’ll never know how I missed that, but it was still a great surprise nonetheless. When we got back down his sisters showered us in Coors Light (like I said, it was a bit of a sleepy town) and we toasted with much better beer in hand. The kids were hysterical, saying things like “We had know idea!” (thank goodness) and “want a green wedding ring when I grow up!” It was memorable and wonderful.

It was definitely a great day and exactly what I wanted, without knowing it’s what I wanted in the first place (guess I’m going to marry the right guy then, huh?). We celebrated afterward with ice cream and card games. A very memorable summer, indeed. Now we’re looking forward to planning an even more memorable wedding!

caroga10

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No Chef in the Chef’s Salad

This is going to be a story about a defining moment in our house. It involves a dinner, a scam, “raising the roof”, blood, and above all an earnest performance on the part of all parties involved.

This story is about the SaladMaster.

Last October Parker and I voluntarily participated in an event that most people would go out of their way to avoid: an in-home cooking demonstration. It wasn’t until later that we learned it was actually meant to peddle outrageously expensive cookware.

Somewhere out there I can hear one of you rolling your eyes and thinking “Duh.”

Granted, we didn’t know when we put our name in the raffle that it was a scam. Everything about the Cooking 4 Life booth was right up my alley. The company had tasty food samples, promoted healthy cooking, had a location you could take classes at, and was giving away a free in-home cooking demo to a lucky raffle winner. The thought of someone coming to our newish home to cook us dinner sounded ridiculous (in a good way) and I wanted in. It would be like watching a cooking show, but live! And I love me some cooking shows. I couldn’t help but kept think “Would they be charming like Ina? Loud like Paula? Annoying like Rachael?”

So imagine my delight when I get the call that we won. (Note: I now realize that everyone “wins”).  We set a day and a time and that was that. All the food and cookware would be provided, I would just need to supply counter space and plates, etc. Easy! Done! Upon hanging up the phone I looked at the reviews on Yelp in order to get an idea of what to expect and the words “SCAM” and “OVERPRICED COOKWARE” and “WELLNESS REVOLUTION” were jumping off the page. Eyes wide, I grab Parker and we start reading.

Earlier I said that this was the story of a defining moment in our house, and that moment started here. As Parker and I finished reading the reviews we decided, giddily, that we still wanted the demonstration to happen. This decision reaffirmed that Parker and I are absolutely on the same page in terms of what kind of home we want to create together. We want a home that is filled with people and and all kinds of memories, and that included inviting a stranger to cook us bland food in expensive cookware that he or she was going to try to sell us (at least that’s what the reviews said). We had just finished sitting through a timeshare presentation and had come away with two free hotel stays and we were riding high off overcoming the scammer. Bring it on! we thought.

(Side note/sad lesson: If you are going to sit through a time share for trips, make sure you actually redeem them in time).

To say that the demonstration exceeded our expectations is an understatement and I’m still disappointed to this day that I didn’t take any photos.

Our “chef”, let’s call her Amy, is one of the most earnest people I’ve ever met. About 25, she was obviously new to the company and seemed pretty out of her element. NOT Ina, I told myself. I immediately took pity on her and Parker and I both decided that we were going to be very attentive participants. In retrospect, this was possibly the worst thing we could have done, especially after the SaladMaster Incident.

Amy lugged in a massive suitcase filled with the cookware and food and she quickly set up her station, which included a flip chart binder filled with information about how the cookware was going to be part of our WELLNESS REVOLUTION. Looking back, I think the flip chart represented the worst part of the presentation. Because Amy was still new and hadn’t gotten the spiel down she would often lose her place in the script and just resort to reading directly off of the charts (or, worse, would trail off and remain silent for about five seconds too long). Amy’s presentation was also riddled with rhetorical questions like “Can you put a price on a human life?” which compelled us to say “No!”, lest we be faced with more long silences.

The whole idea behind the in-home cooking demo was to showcase how great the cookware is and how no additional oils or fat are needed to cook anything. Yet the real star of the show was the SaladMaster. Not only could the SaladMaster cut my vegetables into any shape I wanted (thanks, various attachments!) it would also decrease my time in the kitchen, and “who doesn’t want less time in the kitchen?!”

Aka the shredder.

More dangerous that it looks.

 

It’s clear that just as Amy kept forgetting her spot in the script she also forgot how to attach some pieces to the SaladMaster. Watching her struggle with incredibly sharp blades was like watching an impending train wreck: you want to look away but you can’t, knowing the inevitable will happen and it will be awful. But alas, she got the cone on and started to furiously shred some cabbage, a lot of which landed on the floor or the counter, not the bowl.  And granted, while I too would just pick up the cabbage off the counter and put it into the bowl, it’s disconcerting to see someone that’s cooking for you do it.

And then suddenly my worst fear was confirmed. While Amy was furiously spinning the handle to get through some particularly thick and difficult carrots that she’s shoving into the rotating blade she cuts her finger. But man, she didn’t even miss a beat. “Oops! We don’t want any chef in the chef salad! Haha!”

No. Just…no way. At this point Parker and I look at each other thinking, “She’s done. There’s no way this is going to be good.” My “Here, let me get you a bandaid…” was emphatically answered with “No, no! I’m fine! See? I’ll just use this paper towel.” While the cut was small, it wasn’t small enough to not see some blood slowly seeping through layers of paper towel. After picking out potentially tainted cabbage, she kept shredding like nothing happened and decidedly ignored the bandaid I placed among the pieces on the counter.

Amy was trained well. This is the exact set up she did with the veggies.

Amy was trained well. This is the exact set up she did with the veggies AND she didn’t get any blood in them! Good job, Amy.

After the SaladMaster incident Parker and I silently decide through glances and telepathy to take mercy on Amy and we became the most encouraging and supportive participants ever. It was either that or watch her slowly self-destruct and dammit, I had a dinner I still needed to eat. The rest of the demo went by pretty fast, but there were some stand out moments that should be covered before the scam came into full effect. Some highlights:

Amy trying to separate frozen chicken thighs by banging them on our counter and then finally following my suggestion of running the pieces under water to break them apart. It was here that she asked us to “raise the roof” in celebration of cooking a healthy meal, which we did enthusiastically. Because of the pity.

Mmm...nothing like frozen chicken cooked with no seasoning.

Mmm…nothing like frozen chicken thighs cooked with no seasoning.

Her telling us horror stories of teflon, like the time a couple’s pet bird suffered from the fumes from teflon coated cookware in the form of it’s beak shifting on its body. (I kid you not). We responded with “Wow, that’s some story” and “I’ll have to look into that!” because there was nothing else to say at this point and we were already 1.5 hours in.

Amy telling us that this is a part time job she recently started, and that she’s an engineer for a big company in San Diego. If I had water in my mouth that would have been the moment I would have comically spit it all over the floor in shock. Parker looked appalled.

Amy demonstrating that different cookware imparts flavor on our food. This was, by far, the most effective part of the presentation, though not horribly scientific. My stainless steal pot versus a teflon pot versus the fancy cookware. Heat up some water and add some baking soda and voila! Instant taste test. Whereas my stainless steal held up okay, the water out of the teflon tasted absolutely terrible. (Her fancy cookware was perfect, of course). Our girl Amy was well trained on this part of the presentation and we were oddly proud of her.

When the food was (finally!) ready 2 hours after Amy’s arrival, we sat down to a pretty sizable feast. Salad, veggies, chicken, and chocolate cake (made, ahem, from a premade mix). All made from the fancy cookware, all terribly horribly bland. The justification for the lack of seasoning was something along the lines of “We want you to really taste the food and how well the cookware blah blah blah”, which did not stop either of us from pouring salt and pepper onto everything.

What was Amy doing while we ate, you wonder? Instead of taking the time to clean up her items like the reviews on Yelp said the “chef” would do, she decided to sit with us and keep presenting with her flip chart binder (there were a lot of charts). If an unsuspecting “winner” of the cooking demo didn’t recognize that this was all a scam earlier, they would certainly see it now:

$10,000. That’s how much the cookware set cost. Ten. Thousand. Dollars.

 

I almost laughed out loud but I saw how earnest she is. I gently but firmly tell her I’m not buying that and, undeterred, she showed me more “affordable” sets as low as $4000. Nope. Not buying. Who in their right mind would buy cookware for $3,000? How does she even think we have this kind of money?? Ah, that just brought out the financing services option. When I finally looked her in the eye and told her I was not going to buy anything from her there was definitely a shift in her demeanor. Amy kind of steeled her nerves and said “Well…can you at least play along?”

Yikes.

Just when I thought the level of potential awkwardness couldn’t get any higher Amy ups it by asking me for ten friends that she can call on do to a demonstration. Uhhh…hell no. Absolutely not. For one, I’m not a horrible friend and two, I don’t hate anyone that much. After shooting down the second most ridiculous request I’ve ever been asked by a stranger in my own home, she thanked us for listening to the presentation and proceeded to start cleaning up while we finished eating. The thing is, we were pretty much done. I for one don’t stop eating when someone talks to me (I’m not that polite) so I just looked at Parker wide eyed while glancing back and gesturing to Amy. What do we do? and This is weird now! were met with shrugs.

So we did what anyone in our situation would do. We helped clean up, though at one point I did wish she would dump all the dirty $1000 pans into her giant suitcase and roll out. There was lots of idle chitchat that I can’t remember anymore, but by the time Amy was done cleaning we had clocked in 3.5 hours with her and it was 10pm. Though she was bummed that we didn’t buy anything, she thanked us as she was leaving for being so nice even though she messed up at a couple of parts. After she left we sat on the couch, shell shocked at the evening’s events and wondering if what happened had been real.

I heard from Amy about four or five times after that and I managed to avoid most of the calls (thank goodness for her out of state number!). She kept leaving voicemails reminding me of my free cooking class at the main store and wondering if I have any friends interested in the product. I never called back and I still haven’t brought myself to go to the store.

I still see Cooking 4 Life booths at lots of events and I always find myself telling our story about Amy and the SaladMaster. I wonder if she is still out there, doing cooking demos in the evening and peddling $1,000 pans. I like to think that she got better at the gig and became more confident in her presentation. At the very least, I hope that she stopped injuring herself and making people “raise the roof” in their own home.

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For You a Rose in Portland Grows

I’ve discovered the perfect Halloween outfit, courtesy of the trip we took to Portland in April. To be fair, I’m constantly thinking of what would make a good Halloween costume (Parker’s hair is getting long enough to be Doc from Back to the Future, and I’m secretly always looking out for an orange vest…), but this is just pure gold. If I was a guy living in Portland I would be all over this.

I saw it after our visit to the Japanese Gardens as we were wandering around the then-dormant rose garden. I had recently learned that Portland is known as The City of Roses when we came across a statue of a man dressed similarly to Bert in Mary Poppins I understood how seriously the city takes their roses. Lo and behold, a Royal Rosarian:

Top of the mornin’ to you!

There’s a great article about the Rosarians here but, in essence, they are ambassadors to the cities beloved roses. From their website: “As Ambassadors of Goodwill and Official Greeters for the City of Portland, Royal Rosarians welcome visiting dignitaries from around the world and host hundreds of out-of-town visitors each year.  Known as men and women who represent the outstanding character of the citizens of Portland during the Portland Rose Festival, members march in parades here and throughout the world, promoting the Rose as the Queen of Flowers and Portland as the Rose Capital of the World.”

This. THIS would make a fantastic costume. And the whole idea was even more sweetened when I read the plaque at the foot of the statue: “For You A Rose in Portland Grows.” Talk about a fantastic pick up line! I brainstormed with Parker and his cousin, whom he were visiting, about the whole idea and the latter figured he would need actual roses to help make the outfit come alive.

However, the outfit isn’t without risks. What if he were to use the pick up line, give the girl a rose, and then she rejects him? Does he take the rose back? No, we thought, that would be wrong. (Unless it was the last rose, then grab it quick and run.)

Changing a flat is really a one person job, right?

Changing a flat is really a one person job, right?

The Royal Rosarians is just one of many reasons why I enjoyed the trip to Portland. The city itself is beautiful, if a bit overcast. There was so much nature within the city and just a quick 30 minute drive outside. We went an explored a waterfall (whose bridge had a giant whole in it created by a falling boulder!) and we would have seen more of the Columbian River Gorge, but we were so absorbed in the beauty that we didn’t see the rock nature left in the road.

Interestingly enough, a couple of people stopped by to chat while Parker was changing the tire. They were straight out of Portlandia, I swear. Dreads, reeking of pot, and very personable. It made me like them instantly.

But Portland isn’t quite like it’s shown in Portlandia. Yes, we did run into a feminist bookshop that looked like it was from the 90s and yes, we did see plenty of people with plugs in their ears riding their bikes and yes, we may have waited in line for 30 minutes to eat at Pine State Biscuit (but not Voodoo Doughnuts, which apparently the locals don’t think is that good).

My favorite part of the trip is easily the Japanese Gardens, which were BEAUTIFUL, and SmashPutt, an annual artist-created-designed-engineered putt-putt course where you have to sign a disclaimer saying you won’t sue if your injured. SmashPutt was fantastic, if not loud. Between having to maneuver through a room with fog and motion-sensored beams of light, to shooting golf balls out of air canons, we had a blast.

I want this to be my yard.

I think this will work nicely as a front yard.

Just looking at it is relaxing! LOOK AT IT.

 

Indoor minigolf makes sense in a place that always has a fine drizzle outside.

Indoor minigolf makes sense in a place that always has a fine drizzle outside.

I call this the "1980s family room hole." Complete with nintendo!

If the designer of this one wanted me to be depressed by the 1980s lighting and furniture, they did a great job. Parker is focused on the nintendo and is unfazed by the upholstery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Selfie at Mount Hood

Ain’t no selfie like a Mount Hood selfie.

How can something be equally beautiful and terrifying?

Not a terrifying ominous cloud that I had to ski through. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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10 Months, Six Months, Six Years, 1 Hour

Ten Months

It’s been roughly ten months since we moved into the house. I was thinking about this last night as I was getting ready for bed and looking around the room. Some things have changed (we got a bedframe! like the kind real adults have!), but it’s mostly the same. We still have yet to get curtains on one of the windows, and my shoes still get piled up in places where I always trip on them.

But other parts of the house are coming along, albeit at a snails pace. That big push we made after our move in to the housewarming party was productive, and then we just…stopped. I’ve put up paint samples on the bathroom walls and bought a rug for the main room. In short, we haven’t done really anything since December. And there are so many projects I want to work on, the yard being at the top of my list. And the basement. And the trees. And the closet. And…

What have we been doing for the past six months? I feel like this running program as sucked away my life on Friday and Saturdays (Fridays because I’m in bed by 10 and Saturdays because I’m so tired after the 7am or 6:30am long run). And then Parker was volunteering at my school, and then we went on some trips…

I love this little house and I love what we’ve done to it, but I can’t wait for summer to hit so I can devote more time to it.

Six Months

It’s been six months since I started running with San Diego Track Club. And while I started off following the running schedule with due diligence I really started slacking off mid-April. Between tweaking my hamstring and out of state trips I missed doing the really long runs with the group. I tried to do them while out of town, which ended up being a huge mistake most of the time and not that productive. For one, I was supposed to run 20 miles the weekend we were in Virginia for a wedding and I didn’t even get near that (too much wine and cheese at my former coworkers, plus 84 degree heat and 90% humidity. Ugh).

You would have thought that six months would have been plenty of time to train for a marathon, but it’s not. Physical training is important, but emotionally there was no way I could push myself. Everyone else I talked to have these deep intrinsic motivations: running for a friend with an incurable disease, running in memory of the death of a parent, running for recovery, running for their kids, running for hitting that PR. I don’t have any of that, and I wish I did. I’m just…not motivated. The idea of doing a run that long is just sounds tedious and I wish it wasn’t.

When I made the decision a couple of days ago to run the half marathon instead I felt so much better, like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I feel bad for ditching my friend, who has done an amazing job with her training, and I do feel bad for pulling back when I know I could have pushed myself more. But pushed myself with what, I had no idea. There’s always next year, or some other marathon somewhere else. Until then I’m going to look forward to the half on June 1st, knowing that it’s going to be fun and knowing that the training was still productive and helpful.

Six Years

May 3rd marked six years with Parker. I remember on the morning of my parents 30th anniversary asking my dad “what’s it like?” to which he replied “comfortable.” I can’t remember my mom’s reaction, but I remember thinking that his reply wasn’t very romantic and wasn’t very great. In retrospect I’ve realized that comfort is incredibly wonderful. It’s nice to find someone that I can be myself around (for better or worse) and who will put up with my crazy. Especially when I’m hungry.

One Hour 

In an hour I’ll be hosting a book club gathering. Is this what happens when you get into your late 20s? Book club? I wish I had been a part of these earlier! And it’s been really fun expanding my social circle and merging different friends together. Kickball has helped a lot with that, and I finally feel like I’ve got a steady core group of friends out here. I  of course went all out and made some Indian food, and I’m a bit chagrined to admit it might be because the author of the book is Indian and she mentions it with enough frequency that I was craving it for a while (We’re meeting to discuss Mindy Kaling’s hysterical book “Is Everybody Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)).

And that’s the update on my life thus far! More posts to come, including Spring Break in Portland, a trip to Virginia for a wedding, and that time we let a girl come to our house to cook us food as part of a healthy eating program and it ended up being a scam to by $10,000 cookware.

 

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