Monday, October 31, 2011

He's 60, 60 Years Old

My dad turns 60 today. He is this balanced hybrid. A mix of extreme goofiness, laughing at his own jokes, spontaneous, child-like enthusiasm and jazz hands "watch me, watch me" mixed with this incredible work ethic, this sense of duty and responsibility, and a self effacing modesty that seems ironic but is absolutely real. He is a balance of devoted and ridiculous, intimidating and hilarious, depending on the day. He is flawed and imperfect, with incredibly high expectations for himself and sometimes others. And I love him in huge quantities. He inspires me. He makes me laugh, sometimes at him. Dogs and children are drawn to him. It could be because he gets down on the floor to their level and waves at stranger's babies in restaurants. (Unless they are crying, he "hates" crying babies in restaurants. "It's so rude. We never let you guys do that in restaurants when you were little. We just got up and left.")

attack of the spider roll. photo Joe SandsThe dog whisperer

He is willing to throw himself into new things with a passion and intensity that is legendary. The perfect description of this is that Dad and I took a cooking class a couple of Saturdays ago. This is his current passion and he showed up with a special composition notebook just to takes notes for this soups and stews class. And falling back on his accountant ways, it was a composition book filled with graph paper. And he took notes, lots of serious notes as the chef explained in his rolling Louisiana drawl how to make a dark savory roux. Dad jotted it all down. Just in case. And then we made little jokes under our breaths throughout the class.

He has taught me to do my homework, work hard and be willing to laugh at myself when necessary, which is often. He can be a little scary. He is driven and focused and goal oriented. To get on his calendar takes a concerted effort because his help and his time are a hot commodity. But he is one of my biggest fans and favorite heroes. The man needs a cape and a mask. So happy birthday, Dad. I sometimes still want to sit on your lap and have you read me just one more story. But I'll take watching copious amounts of HBO and eating cookies with you instead. 

 He always makes her laugh

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Come Over Here, My Little Latke

There is nothing more boring, save maybe C-SPAN at 2am, than a lazy blogger talking about how out of the habit of blogging they've gotten. So prepare to yawn. I'm that lazy blogger. Not lazy per se. More like full blown swamped at work and ok, lazy and head-cold filled and deadline nuts. I'm forcing myself back here though, since posting one lonely time in the entire month of October is just embarrassing.

I have posts in my head. They just seem to swirl around up there instead of finding their way out of my fingers and onto the screen. I get home from work and I'm tired. So are you, right? I think this is a fairly common condition. So if I plan to ever blog consistently again instead of watching the Real Housewives of Whoreville and getting sucked into the couch when I get home I need to keep my brain engaged after work. Wait to drink the Pumpkin Hard Cider as a reward for writing an actual post instead of popping it open while cooking dinner and thereby drinking away all my desire to accomplish anything other than removing my pants, followed by going to bed at 9pm. I realize that this phrase makes me sound like I have a bit of a drinking problem or that somehow one hard cider increases my sexual promiscuity and sleepy/pantslessness. This is not entirely true. Entirely.

Sweet potato latkes and salmon with spring greens

I haven't even cooked anything fancy and delicious in the last couple of weeks. Last night instead of making basic grilled salmon, baked sweet potatoes and a green salad for dinner I stepped it up a notch. Joe has an obsession with Photograzing over at Serious Eats (don't visit this site unless you plan to lose a few hours of your life) and he sends me recipes via email nearly ever day, sometimes several times a day. I have a special Google folder in my email just for these recipes. It's ridiculous and adorable and excessive (rather like the height of his hair right now, epic) and mildly irritating when you are hungry. Anyway, this recipe looked perfect and just complex enough to be rewarding but not too daunting on a Wednesday. Joe got the meal rolling by grilling the salmon and getting the latkes started while I diligently walked on the treadmill in the basement, watching Liz Lemon do something hilariously stupid and sadly relate-able.

I did doctor the recipe in a couple of ways including MORE CHEESE because this is always a good thing, and because the potatoes were taking so long to cook, too dry according to Joe, I poured some of the Pumpkin Cider I was drinking right in there. It was a sacrifice, but I was willing to make it for the latkes. I cooked off the alcohol but that spicy, fall flavor stuck around. And can I mention, cold latkes for lunch the next day? Still pretty fantastic. I might start celebrating Hanukkah style in December just to partake in these babies again.

Here I am, stepping it up for you, dear reader. Ok for us, because having never made potato pancakes before I fear we might be considered unsophisticated and somehow anti-Semitic. I've remedied that. I've remedied the heck out of that. Because you know what? Sweet potatoes mixed with cheese and then fried in a bit of butter are amaaaahhzing.  Plus who doesn't like anything with the word pancake involved? And I got to use the word Jarlsberg several times which is my second favorite cheese name to pronounce after Havarti.

So success! I managed to string together words into a blog with actual photograph, work out, refrained from watching the Real Housewives of McMansionville USA, devoured healthy salmon over salad and decadent cheesy sweet potato pancakes made from scratch with husband whose butt I only grabbed twice during our little cooking session, managed to keep on real pants until 11:30 pm bedtime and remained mostly sober. I'm back!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Narcissism and Jello Salad

Why, hello there. I took a bit of an unscheduled hiatus over the last couple of weeks. After a full month of trying to blog everyday and mostly succeeding, I needed a break. The chance to shut down that observational writer part of my head for a little bit and just do stuff without the delightful pressure of thinking about what to share today was much needed. Somehow I both love and loathe this blog. I love writing and sharing and making people laugh or feel connected or grossed out, whatever, and the chance to record some of the fantastic, mundane or just mildly amusing daily experiences that I get to have in my sweet little life.

And then I loathe it too. Or maybe loathe is too strong a word. No, it's loathe. But it's more that I loathe how sometimes, ok, often, I do something or go somewhere or spend time with friends or family or work and I think, "that's a perfect blog post," or "I could never write about that though I really really want to," or "No, readers would find that too boring." I don't want to see my life as a series of blog posts. I don't like feeling so narcissistic that I've turned this lens on my life for other people's enjoyment. This isn't a reality show. I don't want to rate the value of each of my experiences by how many comments or page views each post receives. So I needed a break.

And it's been a pretty great two weeks. Good stuff happened. I lived it and talked about it and felt it first hand and second hand. But I didn't write much, not even offline. Work has been busy too and that always makes me come home a little tired and a little disinterested in packaging up the day to share here with glossy photos and a sense of humor. It makes me want to sit on the couch and eat homemade soup and watch the Real World. So I did that too. But I missed you. So I'm back.

What 's been going on over here in the last couple of weeks? We took another fantastic trip to Madison. An unusual occurrence since we were just there over Labor Day and we usually space trips out a bit more, but with the birth of our baby niece in August and then the first Nebraska football game against Wisconsin, we had to go back, had to! And I also had the pleasure of meeting one of my favorite bloggers/online friends and now real life "I've shopped with you and mocked our husbands together" friends, Emily of And Her Glow Has Warmed the World.  I've got a whole post on that one coming.

One of my best friends gave birth to her second daughter, Miss Katelyn. We are thrilled for Tara and Mike. We got to spend a lovely evening just hanging out at the hospital, bringing dinner for the new parents, passing around Kate and oogling her chubby edible baby cheeks, those perfect little toes and her rosebud mouth. Yes, she might have farted in my hand about 8 times, but who cares? Look at that yawn. Kate looks like a tiny doppelganger of her big sister, Madeline. Kate and Maddie are going to be adorable double trouble for their parents, but Tara and Mike are such a strong team that they've got it all under control.


I got a title change and raise at work too. Not so much a promotion as recognition about how much my job has changed since I started here four years ago. That's always a nice feeling. That sense that someone notices you've been learning, focused and stretching your skills to meet new goals. Plus my new business cards look pretty spiffy. Business cards always make me think of that scene in American Psycho where all the suave, smarmy 1980's yuppies whip out their cards and start dissecting the attributes of each, constantly topping and trouncing each other over these tiny pieces of paper. While my business cards are the standard nonprofit light cardstock, I dream of creamy linens and the perfect font. Someday. And I promise I have no intention of chasing anyone with a chainsaw, I just appreciate that flawless sleek font that helps communicate exactly who you are when you hand it over. And I like Huey Lewis.

I joined Weight Watchers too. Today actually. Nothing more to say here. I just want a solid plan and some support. I've had success with that program in the past. And I've heard they've changed their point system and mixed things up a bit, so I look forward to attending my first meeting next week. (I hate meetings though I have promised to attend at least for three months. I always remember going with my mom when I was a kid and it just seemed like unhappy middle aged women complaining about their husbands and sharing recipes for jello salad and taco soup. I think they've made some changes since then, I hope.)  Either way I might have some killer jello salad recipes to share here, all under 100 calories and filled with shredded carrots and the retro flavors of the 1970's.

I cooked a bit this week too. I made a butternut squash soup that I kind of cobbled together from 3 different recipes. As Joe said "It tastes like fall." And I'm having some for lunch today with some other yummy leftovers. I made some banana bread for a work potluck which tasted just fine, but nothing spectacular. Anyone have a recommendation to share on this one? I tried Paula Deen's recipe this time and as usual it was too greasy. Paula tends to equate flavor with butter or oil and sometimes that's just not right. I also tried the first recipe out of our new Ruhlman's 20 cookbook, a roasted chicken, which I am determined to perfect since it is simple, delicious and makes at least two or more meals in our house. This recipe was slightly too salty (my fault,) but extremely juicy so I may just dial back the salt a bit. The skin was perfectly crispy and brown if not raising my sodium intake for the day to high blood pressure levels. This cookbook is kind of amazing. It's like taking a cooking class with a very articulate, imperious chef and I can't wait to read it cover to cover.

I read two books, one fiction and one nonfiction, which I will detail later, both were set in WWII and yet couldn't have been more different. Though they both had ridiculously violent murders in them. It seems like everything I've been reading lately is a little on the gruesome side. Probably time for my annual reading of The Little Prince to lighten the mood.

I think that catches us up! Tomorrow we head to Omaha for a family weekend to remember and honor Joe's stepfather's dad, Fred, who passed away a few weeks ago. The entire extended family is coming together from as far away as St. Martin, to gather, spend a few days together at a hotel, share memories and stories and ice cream (Fred's favorite) and remember what an amazing man, father and husband Fred was. This is an eclectic, fascinating and loving clan and I'm happy to be an extended part of it.

So what have you been up to lately?

All photos by Joe Sands, my all time favorite photographer/person.