Crunch Time

Yes, it is one week before Christmas. Yes, I am having my parents over for the holidays starting this Friday. No, the house is not yet completely clean and you cannot set foot inside the guest room--literally. No, the Christmas tree is not yet up. No, I have not yet finished my "Christmas card" post.

To qualify to criticize me, however, you must first compare the amount of recent messages in both your work and personal email inboxes with mine, take a look at my to-do list, and then add to that the fact that My Awesome Boss's last day was last Friday. If you still feel that my inability to adequately prepare for the holidays is disgraceful, then feel free to post your disapproving comments here.

My weekend was spent:

  • deep-cleaning the house (4 1/2 rooms down, 2 1/2 to go)
  • waiting in line at 4am for a Wii (denied yet again, but finally got two remotes and nunchucks!!)
  • looking at house floorplans
  • coloring the new kitchen design that Alex CAD-ed for his parents (it's really hard to tell windows from cabinets if it's in black and white)

And here's a photo that I'll always treasure, not just because it's of Valerie and of myself, but because it showcases Edward-in-Rare-Books's unique talent for capturing a person's personality in an image. Thanks, Edward, for posting this priceless image to the library newsletter so that all 100-something employees can point and mock and wonder why on earth someone hired me for a professional position.

My heartfelt thanks this week go out to Valerie, for being such a great boss and good friend with a listening ear, and to Kelly of McKinney Best Buy, for calling me the instant she found another nunchuck controller. My best wishes go to Kristen as she applies for a UNT position--which is a bit selfish, as well, since I'd love to have her around again.

This post has been sponsored by the letter "A."


TV Will Rot Your Brain Out, Kid

Last night was the night of terrible TV. Okay, the Gilmore Girls episode we watched (the last episode of Season 4, "Raincoats and Recipes"), wasn't terrible overall, but the end with Rory and Dean... let's just say that I hate Rory a little right now. And I'm really mad she messed up the moment when Lorelai was going to tell her about Luke. Dangit, that kid!

Then we watched Duplex, the only redeeming aspect of which was the fact that it proved that I have an uncanny sense for quality (or lack thereof) in movie trailers--and also that, once again, ComingSoon.net's reviews tend to be pretty right-on.

To cleanse our brains, we watched a new episode of Smallville... ouch. It was more like "A Very Special Episode of Smallville: Immigration." I don't care what your side is on the immigration issue, there's no way you could have enjoyed this episode. I've seen a lot of shows with mysteriously-absent foreign accents, but this kid didn't even try to pretend he came from Mexico (to... Kansas?) only weeks earlier. Which he explains--naturally!--by saying he watched a lot of American TV. Honey, I've watched an indecent amount of Telemundo, I've lived in two Mexico-bordering states, and Mexican food is my default cuisine, but that doesn't mean I can say "Donde esta el bano?" with a perfect accent. Or without hesitation.

I'm sorry--usually I don't judge a naturally-cheesy show like Smallville so harshly, but two of the best three characters (Green Arrow, Lois, and Cloe) were absent, leaving it a lack-luster, Clark-heavy episode. I'm hard-pressed to say if the most painful lines were Clark's wooden discussion with the border agent, or the so-predicable-I-actually-uttered-it-first dialog between Clark and Lex--the same exact conversation they've had for at least four episodes this season, and a couple from last season.

Green Arrow's going to be the only reason to get this season on DVD, let me tell you. Speaking of which, here's an interview with our new intrepid hero.

It's no big surprise that CBR readers, like myself, like Hiro Nakamura best on NBC's "Heroes" --64.11% at the moment!

And now for CBR's discussion of "Heroes..." The writers claim to know all about solutions to the time paradoxes and Eden's persuasive power not-so-revealed, etc. I do really love the reader-proposed theory that since Sylar can detect "broken" people, he would have known if Jackie didn't have powers, therefore she did, meaning that Peter actually failed to "Save the cheerleader, save the world." (Yes, it's the cheesiest tagline ever. I'm just sayin'.)

Okay, I'm really dense, because the writer pointed out that many of the names have something in common: Isaac. Matt. Peter. Gabriel. Micah. Eden. Nathan. Biblical names, huh? Iiiiinteresting.



TGIF = Tired, Gosh I'm Frazzled

Okay, I finally wised up. After four years of failures, I've decided I'll just post my Christmas letter here, instead of trying to print a letter / email a letter / create a webpage for it. Sheesh.

I'm worn out--it's been a week of meetings, lunches out, farewell parties, and a dizzying list of things I'm realizing need to be taken care of. And have I mentioned that I haven't yet put up our Christmas tree? At this rate, if it's not up by Monday, I think I'll have to resign myself to its absence. Shameful as that is, considering it's a pre-lit tree that I don't plan to otherwise decorate.

I feel like curling into a little ball on the couch under the warm, warm blanket and sleeping through the rest of the winter. But I'll have to get up tomorrow to work and get my haircut, so something tells me my plans won't last.


Traditiooooon, Tradition!

(You've got to sing the title with the "Fiddler on the Roof" soundtrack in mind.)

I thought I'd write a little about Christmas family traditions, since it's getting to be that time of year. As a kid I just assumed that most families did what mine did during the holidays, but now I find it interesting to hear everyone else's traditions. Hey--feel free to add comments about your favorite holiday tradition!

In my small family of three, we centered a lot of the festivities around Christmas Eve, which was fine by me. This is because 1) I have always been by nature an impatient person, 2) not believing in Santa meant that most of the presents were around the tree before Christmas morning anyway, and 3) most importantly, Christmas Eve has always been more magical to me than Christmas morning. This is because it's dark, so you can see all the twinkling lights, and it's hushed, and there's anticipation in the air for the morning to come. Most of my favorite Christmas memories are of the evening before--like several years ago at my in-law's house. Alex's sisters were putting their then-infant children to bed, so he and our brother-in-law Frank and I were playing with these tiny radio-control cars around the Christmas tree. It must have been around midnight, and we had to giggle really quietly so as not to wake the kids, and I just felt like I was a ten-year-old trying not to wake my parents. It was great!

My parents and I had this tradition where one of us would read the Christmas story from the gospel of Luke--which I have always found is the most beautiful version of that story, all that great language: "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed..." Then we would each open at least one gift--in some years we'd open every gift but one, and open just that and our stockings in the morning. I loved how delightfully forbidden that felt!

Alex's family has several neat traditions that I've come to love, as well. One that has been transferred from the kids to the grandkids is that of opening one small gift each day for ten days before Christmas. They're usually small things like ornaments or toys, but it's just such a fun idea. Another tradition is that each person receives a new set of pajamas, and they get these on Christmas Eve, so that they can be worn that evening (I'm usually the only adult who still wears them Christmas morning when opening gifts, but I think after six years that the family's now fully accepted that I'm just a big kid).

And while we're on the topic of tradition, have I ever mentioned The Lizard Game on this blog? This one tradition fully encapsulates the weird hilarity of my parents, myself, and Alex.

The Lizard Game started when I was in eighth grade, attending Bracken Christian School. BCS held a fair each year--I can't remember why, now--and that year Dad and I played the game in the kindergardners' booth (I think it had to do with plastic ducks in a wading pool, but don't hold me to that). Our prize was a small, rubbery, lavender-colored lizard with a suction cup on the bottom, the type of thing you'd get from a vending machine for a quarter. I thought it was really odd--what the heck were you supposed to do with a suction-cup-lizard?--and the following morning, I found the thing firmly stuck to my bathroom mirror. Dad didn't say a word, so I grabbed the thing and hid it somewhere in his bathroom--I think it was his toothpaste drawer, the first time. Since then, for 15 years now, we've been hiding this lizard and its kin. For the first probably four years, we never talked about it, just found new and bizarre places to hide it. I think the first comment I ever heard about it was when Mom called to tell me that Dad was completely startled to find the thing in his shoe. I'd stuffed it in the toe, and the lizard being of a very squishy consistency, apparently Dad initially thought that the dog had left something less-than-desirable in his footwear. Heh, heh.

The first lizard was lost sometime during my first year at college, and was soon replaced by a similar one--no suction cup, though. He's appeared in many forms since--he's been color-photocopied and mailed more than once--and now there is a whole legion of lizards hiding in my parents' house and my own. I'll find them sometimes months after my parents have visited, on the top edge of a painting, or a high shelf, or a drawer. Upon being startled out of my wits by my mother's clever placement of a particularly large lizard in my washing machine, I retaliated with one in her toilet-tank (Alex disengaged the flush to be sure she'd check the tank). We find them in our luggage, in mailed packages, in lunchsacks. Alex has, of course, fully embraced the game and come up with some quite clever hiding places.

And I wonder if my parents ever found the one I stuck in the coffee grounds bag in the freezer... two years ago. (Hi, mom!)


"I Failed You, Senator"*

*Sorry, it's just that anytime I've heard the word "senator, " for the past four years, that line haunts me. And yes, working in GovDocs, this happens a lot.

I listened to an hour of the Gates Confirmation Hearing with the Senate Arms Committee yesterday, and found it unusually compelling for a) a hearing, and b) a political gathering on c) the radio, where you can't distract yourself from the chatter by wondering what on earth that senator's wife was thinking when she bought him that tie. Then again, I think it's simply further proof that either a) I'm getting old very quickly, or b) this job is interesting me in things I didn't care about before, considering that I now not only will talk politics--one of the few topics in conversation that I used to remain absolutely silent on (out of mixed boredom and fear of conflict)--but I now seek out opportunities to do so, and regularly start discussion of political topics with my husband. My husband, who is similarly becoming interested in all this stuff, which is part of the reason that I suspect my interest isn't due solely to my job--since he tests office software for mobile phones, and the Iraq Study Group's upcoming report will have no direct correlation to his position. Hmmm... not that I know of, anyway.

Unrelated Banter
We had a farewell party this afternoon at work for my Awesome Boss, who leaves in a week and a half. It was a good party--great spread; yum!--but of course I'd far rather she didn't leave at all. Sigh...

And here's the link to my final presentation for my Online Family Archive in my Digital Libraries course. I plan on cleaning up the records, getting better (and lots more) images, and exporting them all in XML to use in a database of my choosing (or, if I'm insane enough, my own design).

Geoff Klock's asking for your 10 favorite comics/graphic novels list--not of all time, or the best, just your "most-fun" list at this moment. Here's mine:
  1. Neil Gaiman's Stardust
  2. Fables: Legends in Exile
  3. Digger (vol. 1 / 2)
  4. Powers: Who Killed Retro Girl
  5. Batgirl: Year One
  6. Death: The High Cost of Living
  7. Persepolis
  8. all of Frank Miller's Batman work
  9. Lone Wolf and Cub (currently on vol. #2)
  10. Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics / Making Comics (I know, I cheated!)
Nintendo's Wiimote Warning: Do NOT sling your Wiimote across the room. To which I reply: Uh-Duuuuuuuuh! This person obviously didn't get the warning, and this gal might want to take heed.

You want these shirts.
You know you do.

Pop-Culture Junkie

Just to show you how sadly DVR- and cable-dependant Alex and I have become, I must relate Sunday morning's crisis. Alex turned on the TV to watch a quick home improvement show before going out to work on plumbing for the building--perhaps this was to psych himself up? Anyway, the TV flashes this message eerily similar to Windows' infamous Blue Screen of Death, in both message and color: Some of the information on your DVR has become corrupted. Please delete all content.

Now, to understand the utter panic this instilled in both our hearts, and the insane shriek of rage I let out, you must first know: we have half a season of Stargate on this DVR. Six episodes of Battlestar Galactica that we have been hoarding for a Real Weekend. And the two last episodes of Heroes. Plus untold scads of DIY and History Channel shows. I suddenly became fully aware of how important cable TV is to my life, and I just wanted it all back, magically!

Luckily, a little of the old power off/on trick and what I presume was a magical combination of buttons that Alex punched, it was restored. But we're suddenly afraid to trust it. And wondering just how soon we can schedule that BSG day.

Speaking of Heroes, we did watch both episodes Monday night. I'm not saying that it's not still cheesy nor increasingly filled with disturbing time paradoxes (Hiro gave Charlie the phrasebook?). But the last two episodes have revealed that as slapdash and predictable as the pilot made this show seem, there was actual forethought given not only to the overall plot, but a mildly complex back-story, as well. I'm not saying it's not incredibly coincidental that everything important happened to all eight characters exactly six months ago, but whatever--it's television, not epic poetry. A point that was brought forth beautifully in one of the lines of the latest episode when the super-villain, a former clockmaker, who says of his power--understanding how other people's powers work--"I know what makes them [significant pause]... tick."


Simultaneously watching Gilmore Girls Season 4, however, produces a weird reaction between persisting in seeing Peter Petrelli as a moody, rebellious teenager, and Jess as a power-mooching hospice nurse. It's disturbing.

After the DVR crisis was averted, we came across MTV's "My Super Sweet 16," which for those of you fortunate enough not to know about, is a reality show about ridiculously wealthy kids and the elaborate shindigs (and tantrums) they throw for their sixteenth birthday. We couldn't decide whether to laugh or vomit when this young princeling of a rap company uttered, "I get everything I want... but I deserve it." He was thrown immediately into a depressed panic when he found out that no, in the state of New Jersey you can't enter your party with two tigers on leashes. That just ruined his whole grand entrance idea, let me tell you. He substituted an entrance on camel-back with twenty African dancers preceding him, but I'm sure it just wasn't the same.

I wonder how many years it will be before he hates his parents for giving him everything he wanted?

Playing Catch-Up (Not Catch)

School's done, and now I can finally blog all the thoughts I've kept pent up in random wordpad documents for the past week and a half.

Thanksgiving Holiday
Alex's first-cousin-once-removed, David, came to my parents' house in San Antonio, and we joined them for a fun three-day holiday. During that time, we:Then we came back and worked on the building, and I dubbed myself the Insulation Queen (to the tune, of course, of Abba's "Dancing Queen"). And had to take two sick days thereafter because I didn't wear a dust mask.

And in the mail: a collection of 50 martyr stories told by various comic artists. Hagiography and graphic storytelling: a bizarre pairing made in my kind of heaven.

Last Weekend
The use of a dust mask this go-round averted further insulation-related misery on my part, although Alex couldn't handle his mask for long and thus suffered, sadly. At least neither of us took sick days as a result, this time.

I spent Sunday working on my school projects--just like old times, before I graduated! Alex went shooting with our friend Brandon (the boardgame geek, not the Star Wars geek), and then they came back to the house and we all played Carcassone the City (which I beat them both at--woohoo!), and Mykerinos (which I was horrible at, but found interesting). We had much fun, but also much sadness, as Brandon is soon moving to Seattle.

And as for the rest of what happened on Sunday... we suffered the Great DVR Crisis. You can read about it in a post I'm titling, "Pop-Culture Junkie."


Starr's Not-So-Chicken Tortilla Soup

I'm currently eating the leftovers of this on my lunch-break:
  • 2 large cans diced tomatoes (drain one can)
  • 2 cans corn (drained)
  • 2 cans black beans (drained)
  • 1 can green chiles (with juice)
  • 1/2 to 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1 red onion, chopped (can use green onion also/instead)
  • chopped peppers to taste (optional)
  • 1 lb pre-cooked sausage OR 1-2 lbs. frozen/fresh chicken breasts

season with:
  • garlic pepper (liberal)
  • chili powder (2-3 dashes)
  • lime pepper (3 dashes)
  • taco seasoning (slightly less than garlic pepper)
  • (mix together; total amount should equal about 3-4 tbsp)

Place ingredients in crockpot and cook for 4-8 hours (on high if using chicken).
Top with shredded cheese, sour cream, and/or plain yogurt.
Eat with tortilla chips or rolls.


Gingerbread Waffles

Since I haven't backtracked yet to this weekend's activities, I'll give you a "taste" of them by posting this scrumptious recipe we tried. Fair warning: it's yummy, but it took over an hour and five people working in the kitchen. Labor-intensive!!!

Gingerbread Waffles
makes 12 waffles
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup molasses (when we ran out of molasses, we substituted honey for the remainder)
  • 1 cup milk (add more milk to use same batter for pancakes)

Ginger Cream Topping
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped crystallized ginger (we substituted 1 tbsp ground ginger, because the crystallized ginger kept clumping together)
  • pre-chill a mixing bowl in the fridge or freezer

To prepare waffles, combine flour, baking powder, spices, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Ad egg yolks, molasses and milk. Stir in flour mixture. (At this point the mixture may be refrigerated overnight.) In a separate bowl with clean beaters, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold into the batter. Bake according to manufacturer's directions in a preheated waffle iron (add more milk to thin batter if making pancakes). Waffles may be kept warm in a 200 degree oven on a cake rack placed over a baking shet. Dollop with cream topping before serving. Goes well with cranberry compote.

To prepare topping, combine cream, sugar and vanilla in a chilled mixing bowl. Whip until mixture forms soft peaks. Stir in ginger. Refrigerate until serving time.

Kristen & Tihleigh, I know at least one of you has got to try this. You're my bakin' gal-pals.