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Britta: So I tried to make icing and even though I softened the butter like the recipe said, it’s all lumpy with butter chunks despite beating the daylights out of it. I hate baking. Why can I cook but not bake?

Tom: Well…I think that’s pretty common – people being good at one or the other. Baking is science and you don’t like science.

Britta: What?! I LOVE science. I was a total science nerd in school. Biology, Botany, Zoology…

Tom: Not that kind of science. Baking is chemistry.

Britta: Damn. I hate chemistry.

Tom: *puts hands in air and shrugs while grinning (a little too smugly, I might add) *

And I grumbled all the way to the baking aisle at the grocery store where I picked up pre-made, smooth icing. If only Sophie had asked for a nice risotto for her birthday dessert…we would have been set…

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I tend to get just a teensy stressed out around the Christmas season. Gifts need to be bought, or made. There are cookies and treats to be baked for neighbors, friends, and teachers. Decorations to hang up, events to attend. This is why I ignore Tom when he mocks me for starting my holiday planning in August. This year though, even though I did start planning early, I managed to get behind and have spent the last two weeks trying not to have an anxiety attack. All the traveling we did this year was wonderful, but that plus a lot of visitors means your To Do list gets pushed back further and further.

Just this last week I have:

  • Sewn so much that it even exhausted the dog.

  • Had dinner with friends visiting from Utah. I hadn’t seen them since my wedding (even though we keep in touch on-line) so I forced them to take a picture with me, despite being in horrible lighting. That dinner made me realize once again that there are some people you will always be friends with, no matter where you live or how far apart your time together is. Funny side note: the girls were completely blown away by the fact that Randy’s boyfriend is named Tom. As Sophie said, “DADDY is Tom! We have TWO Toms?!” To think!

  • We attended Ella’s pre-school Christmas program. It was awesome. The kids all dressed up as Christmas trees and sort-of sang, sort-of yelled some songs. You can see one of them here, and the re-creation of a few (at home – in pj’s – with Sophie’s help, of course) here.

  • Started the first of several batches of anise drops. Made less boring (you have to beat the batter for at least 10 minutes) by my stand mixer and the iPad. I remember the years when I did those babies by hand – that was a labor of love.

(That’s not a filter, Jonny  – I know you were thinking it – it’s just my awesome kitchen lighting, creating that 70’s glow. And hey, Marty – I’m reading your blog there!)

  • Mixed in to all of that was more sewing, knitting, finishing and trashing pottery projects – all for gifts. And I’m not done yet, mostly thanks to some mistakes with clay that were partly my fault and partly out of my control. What does an anxiety attack feel like again? Oh yes, there it is…

In case all of this sounds a little Bah Humbug to anyone, I have to say that on the other end of all this, I have two little girls who completely believe in the magic of Christmas. Their faces light up so easily at any hint of the day to come and it really is catching. Their joy balances out my anxiety nicely. I am looking forward to Christmas morning almost as much as they are. Now if only I can get these last projects done…anyone want to keep me company in the sewing room?

Awesome. Next year I’m teaching her how to thread a needle – looking cute doesn’t get the projects off my machine any faster.

(P.S. – I finally put pictures from Wisconsin up on flickr. Did I mention I’m not exactly on top of things lately?)

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This Guy

He’s a keeper.

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A couple months ago I had arranged to exchange overnight kid-watching with Beth so we could both have some alone time with our spouses. Tom and I decided to make New York City as our destination since we’ve never been sans-kids. After we finally made it to the city and obtained some sustenance at Marty’s Fortress of Solitude (a.k.a. Papaya), we were ready to hit the town.

  • Walking on the streets of NYC without kids is awesome. Although I have to admit that sometimes you can use the stroller to your advantage when needing to push through a crowd.
  • Times Square is getting less appealing and more annoying the more I come to the city. Why on earth would you sit on a stand of bleachers in the middle of the road? I must be hungry again – I should have picked up two Papaya dogs instead of one – hungry = grumpy and grumpy = annoyed at tourists even though I’m a tourist myself.
  • Dinner will be at the Mesa Grill with Tom’s work partner and his girlfriend. I really hope Bobby Flay lives up to his Iron Chef status. It’s been too long since Steph’s dad cooked us Mexican food and I’m having a severe craving for some southwest flavor.
  • Liam picks us up on the corner of 8th and we head down Broadway. Liam drives like a cab driver. I try to not freak out and distract myself with conversation of pop culture and art.
  • We arrive sans-accident and I take a deep breath as we sit down and order drinks. I get the cactus margarita. Delicious.
  • After some discussion, we order our food and get to the conversation. It’s nice to pretend like we could be friends with Liam and Anna. Except they don’t have children, and we do, so we will most likely see them once a year if we’re lucky. But – still – adult conversation with interesting topics and no food being thrown or temper tantrums happening under the table by said children is definitely a welcomed luxury.
  • The food arrives and I am in heaven. Stuffed squash blossoms, cremini mushroom quesadilla, Chile relleno, grilled corn with aioli and lime…oh my. And a second cactus margarita for good measure.
  • I’m insanely full but a little sad we didn’t leave room for desert. Ah well. Liam and Anna have an early day so they drop us off at a bar in the Flatiron district that is supposed to have interesting drinks.
  • The bar does have interesting drinks – but is also full of single people. Single people at a bar are mostly just annoying. Especially when they are in their 20’s. We leave after one round and head to the Old Town Bar. Much better. We end our night with a drink, a walk, and a subway ride.
  • We sleep late the next morning. No kids asking to use the iPad or make them breakfast. ‘Nuff said.
  • Our Wicked tickets are for the afternoon and we are certainly in brunch territory once we are ready to go. Where to eat? Tom stops while walking towards 8th and looks at something on his phone. A few minutes later we are in a cab and his only clue as to where we are going is “french fries.” I am stumped.
  • We pull up to the address and I stare dumbfounded at Les Halle. Anthony Bourdain was the head chef of Les Halle for years. We have been watching No Reservations for years. I hope their fries are as good as they claim.
  • The brunch menu has just begun. I am so excited I feel like I have a current going through me. I can see into the kitchen. The kitchen where our favorite TV chef spent hours toiling over a hot station, pushing delicious plate after delicious plate through the doors. I decide to keep my mushroom theme going and order the omelette with wild mushrooms. It comes with a side of fries.
  • Our coffee is served in a small French press at our table. To a coffee snob, this is a good sign. I am certain the food will be fantastic.
  • The omelette. Fantastic. The fries? One of the best things I have ever tasted. Ever. I leave incredibly happy. This husband of mine – he’s a keeper.
  • We decide there is time to make a stop in SoHo to check out Purl – the yarn/fabric shop I keep tabs on through their blog.
  • I am in a heaven of a completely different kind. I want to hug the entire store. And bring it home with me. Everything. Even the things I don’t know how to use – I want it all. I settle for a few skeins of delicious yarn and we are off in the rain, headed for the subway that will take us to Wicked.
  • I have no idea what to expect from Wicked, but the theater is lovely and our seats are incredible.
  • I love Wicked. LOVE. ‘Nuff said.
  • We take our souvenirs and head home, walking through Times Square. I’m still annoyed at the tourists. Maybe I’m hungry.
  • After a rest, we change and head down to Chelsea to meet up with Marty.
  • Read previous post. Marty is awesome, we had a fantastic time. Also wish we could hang out with him more than a couple times a year.
  • Slept in again. ‘Nuff said.
  • A subway ride after checking our bags at Penn Station takes us back to Chelsea. I vote for breakfast at the local diner where we can sit in the open-air, watching people walk by. Meh. The food is okay and the service is slow. We grab snacks at the Starbucks across the street and walk to the High Line – a park made on top of an old, elevated rail line. It is beautiful and the only negative would be the lack of time we had before we left.
  • Back at Penn Station I’m slightly alarmed at the extremely armed guards walking the halls. I know the date (9-11) and why they are there, but I find myself more nervous than comforted.
  • Souvenirs are picked for the girls and before we know it, we are back on the train, headed for home. It was a trip I will never forget, with an amazing partner. I’m determined to repeat it again in the not too distant future.

(Pictures will appear on Flickr soon)

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Related side note: We were in NYC for the tenth anniversary of 9-11. I did not plan the trip that way – it was a coincidence. I will never forget that day, 10 years ago. Despite living in Utah, it was obviously a devastating day for all Americans. However, to be perfectly honest, I was much more comforted that life in NYC was continuing even though security was very high. You could still have breakfast at a diner and spend time at a park, use public transportation, go to a show, or sit in those damn bleachers. The city was not at a standstill, and that made me feel safer than any guard with an AK47. Yes, I’m grateful, extremely grateful for our  servicemen/women – but I’m also incredibly grateful for a sense of normalcy on a day that held so much fear in the past.

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While I figure out how to say anything about our child-free trip to New York City besides, AWESOME! – I thought I would post pictures from our adventure with Marty. If you remember, Kari and I met up with him in May – back then I was very grateful to Tom for watching the kids so we could go out, but also sad he had missed out because I knew he would really like Marty – they like so many of the same things: The Beatles, mustard, snacks – I could go on. But I won’t. Instead – here are the pictures from our adventure.

After we finally arrived at Marty’s. We may have gotten lost once, and also there is a Bermuda Triangle in front of Marty’s apartment that wouldn’t allow my phone to work so I could let him know we were there. Apparently it’s just an AT&T Bermuda Triangle though because we finally tried Tom’s phone and it worked the first time.

After a few pre-dinner drinks and Snacks! (a custom popcorn mix this time – don’t try it at home – Marty is a certified snackologist, in case you weren’t in the know) we headed out to dinner at Veselka, a Ukrainian restaurant.

We had a great time pestering Marty with questions and listening to all his stories. He’s had a much more interesting life than I have – although I’m pretty happy some of those stories haven’t happened to me because I’m not sure how he lived through some of it.

I had the mushroom barley soup and the lamb burger with sweet potato fries. Everything was fantastic but the best part was the roasted red pepper relish – I need to try to make my own version.

Next on our agenda was a stop at Manitoba’s bar. Tom and I listen to Handsome Dick Manitoba on Sirius’ Little Steven’s Underground Garage. (In case you didn’t know – I didn’t – he was the lead singer for The Dictators, a NYC punk band.) Tom really wanted to check out the bar, especially since Marty said Handsome Dick will sometimes be there. But first – we had to make a quick stop at Ray’s Candy Store for a chocolate egg cream. Ray is featured on Marty’s blog frequently so it was fun to meet him (my favorite part was when he said he found a woman to marry but she didn’t cook so he needed to find someone else – and how proud he was to show us the picture of the day he became a citizen, just 4 weeks ago). This was my first egg cream – it was delicious and a steal – $3 for a large cup that he kindly split for our group.

Once we made it Manitobas, we found that Handsome Dick was indeed there, and he commented on Marty’s Gumby bag, so we all started chatting. Marty is friends with some people Handsome Dick knows so he kept the conversation going and we got to hang out with him for a good half hour or more. He was really nice and even though his bar was so crowded I felt like I was going to suffocate (he was hosting a roller derby team after a match) we were more than happy to go in and order a drink each before calling it a night.

Thanks again, Marty, for a great night. We look forward to next time, after dark!

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New Ride

I get very nervous when Tom ignores birthday gift requests and does his own thing. We don’t want another floor-mat incident after all. But Tom is very good at surprising me when I’m at my most suspicious – he’s very sneaky that way. No, I did not get the jewelry I asked for – but (and that’s a big BUT) – I did get Peggy Sue:

Isn’t she pretty? I love her so. Even though I’ve already gotten lost (thank you iPhone with GPS for pointing out I was about 4 blocks away from home and had made two giant circles – stupid non-grid system for roads) and my legs feel like they are going to fall off every time we go on a ride (we have a lot of hills here – A. LOT.) I just want to give her a hug and fill her basket with daisies. Oh yeah – I went there – sappy Hallmark sentiments for my bike. Wouldn’t you?

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A Survey

Last night I sat down with the girls to make a Father’s Day card for Tom. I asked them to list all the things they loved about Daddy and this is what resulted (I helped with Sophie’s sentence structure – it took a little prodding to figure out exactly what she meant but I think we got it right):

  • ‘Cuz he always gives us horsey rides (Ella & Sophie)
  • He gives me apples and popcorn and cheese (Sophie)
  • He gives me whatever  I want! (Ella  – hmmm…I wonder why he is her favorite?)
  • He likes my feet! (Sophie – I have no idea…)
  • He helps me play the Wii (Ella)
  • Daddy is REALLY good at reading books (Ella & Sophie)

Your girls couldn’t have a better Dad – love you, Babe.

 

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On a sad note, my Grandpa Hunt (we weren’t technically related but he and his family took in my step-dad when he was in High School and have been Family ever since) passed away a few days ago. I mostly remember Grandpa sitting in his recliner, watching TV – but he always had a wonderful smile ready for you, and if you sat too close, your ribs would be counted until you were laughing so hard you thought you would pass out. I also remember visiting his gun shop and as an adult, am astonished at how patient he was – we were always blowing on those damn duck and elk calls – it had to have driven him crazy, but he never said a word. We will miss you Grandpa.

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