28 February 2010

February 2010 (ii)

I guess more happened in February than thought.

Valentine's weekend continued with promises of food. Jesse bought collard greens & turkey legs - because those are things I love & haven't had in years. It's one of those meals I only want from my grandma. But Jesse was going to try when he got home from work. I was excited. Then he started telling me his plans. He was going to follow a recipe that called for things. I don't know much but I know my grandma does not add sugar, red pepper flakes or garlic. As carefully as I could, I tried to butcher Jesse's recipe. I called my mother & we agreed white people get points for creativity. I usurped the collard green project. Jesse & I agreed they would not taste like my grandma's but that I would be less disappointed with mine that with his. His flexibility is one of the things that make him great.

Naturally I had no idea what to do. But it's actually not that difficult. I washed, rolled and chopped the greens. I seasoned them with salt & pepper, then put them in the dutch oven, where they simmered for a few hours. In the interim, Joel continued with the soul-food theme and made cornbread from scratch.



Cornbread concoction.

I made rice, because as far as I'm concerned, that's what goes under collard greens. Jesse arrived from work with flowers (!) and we ate. Everything turned out really well and I promised not to wait for another special occasion to have it again.

I planted seeds that turned into sprouts. I bought the seeds three or four years ago from the dollar section in Target. I never planted them, but kept them and even moved them from Nevada to California. I'm not sure what pushed me to finally plant them, but I did. And sometime in February, they sprouted. I was tickled.

We went to Ikea. I can count on one hand the times I've used my car in 2010. So each occasion is noteworthy. We needed another dresser and some shoe cabinets. We went there with a list. We went there with a budget. We went there minutes before the store even opened. We were there for 90 minutes. We did get the three things we wanted plus some bowls we needed. We also went to Target and spent a gift card my mother had sent for Christmas. I went home & got to assembling. Jesse & Joel did help, by putting together the shoe drawers.

It should be noted our trip to Ikea had been planned but forced to happen ahead of schedule. Jesse & I were planning to rearrange our room. I thought we had details left to be sorted, but Jesse went ahead and moved things while I was at work. And then he called me when he got stuck. He had done the heavy lifting (read: easy moving) but had not considered the things placed in corners or under other stuff or that could go in one place but not another. Those were the things that greeted me when I came home one Friday night. And a trip to Ikea was necessary for success.

I like to put things together. Jesse doesn't like to be tied down by instructions. So I'm the household builder and I'm okay with that. I assembled the two shoe cabinets but didn't have time for the dresser because Jesse & I had a date. We went to Luna Park to use another Christmas gift card, this one from Ben & Jess in Cincinnati. Luna Park is a nice place and I would both recommend it and go again. The food was excellent. Jesse had the cioppino and I had chicken on jalapeno cheddar grits. I was also forbidden (by Jesse) from taking a picture so you'll have to go there to see it. But he talked about the grits for days - they were that good.

Back at home, There was more assembling to be done. As I was shifting from "date" mode to "work" mode, I noticed something amiss with my flowers. It was as if the grim reaper had touched a few of them. They were sitting on top of the stove (because the red looked good with the white stove as contrast) and Joel had cooked them. He used the oven and not only was the water super hot, the flowers that were nearest to the vent were crisped. Tragic. Kind of funny, but mostly tragic.

No rest for the full & focused.

I got back to assembly and enlisted Jesse & Joel to again assemble drawers. We watched the Olympics, complained about the coverage and kept watching. I stayed on task and by the end of the weekend, our furniture was assembled and our bedroom was fully rearranged. I was exhausted, but rewarded with what seemed like more space. There were no "before" pictures and I was too tired to take "after" pictures. But trust me: a feat had been accomplished.

20 February 2010

February 2010 (i)

You would perhaps guess a lot happened in February, since I didn't blog at all. But judging by my pictures (which shape a lot of my story telling) it wasn't terribly interesting.

Jesse turned 28. And whereas I want to document everything having to do with my only special day, he does not. I got him an All Clad Saute pan. Yes, it's something he wanted. Joel got us all tickets to see Roastmaster Jeffrey Ross who was performing in North Beach. Jesse's birthday was on a Friday, which meant he was off and I had to work. I don't remember what he & Joel did all day, but I don't think it was very exciting. We went to the gym that Saturday morning. I made BBQ wings & sweet potato fries for dinner that evening. The show was that night. We had a good time and (I think) were all kind of hungover the next day. Unfortunately Jesse had to go to work.

Joel & I threw a Super Bowl party for ourselves. We decided on pigs in a blanket, nachos (with two blends for dipping) and a sweet tea with peach schnapps and bourbon. It was a lot for two people but that didn't stop us from eating everything in sight. I made some banana bread for Jesse (as it was still his birthday in my mind) and he went to sleep. I suppose he was pleased.

We had a great Valentine's Day weekend. We both contributed and I think that made it more fun. There have been times when I left it all to Jesse. Some of those times were more pleasing than others. This year I did not feel the need to add pressure. I made pancakes. They weren't heart shaped or anything, but they weren't whole wheat either. I started using whole wheat flour a while ago to make the pancakes healthier, and they're still good. But white flour is lighter and tastier. So I switched it up. He loved them, even though he didn't realize why. And then our adventure began.

We went to store, bought a bottle of wine and some raw, shelled, sunflower seeds, and started hiking up every steep part of Telegraph Hill. We were on a hunt and while I didn't know our prey, I could tell Jesse was quietly excited to happen upon something. But that never happened. We were looking for the wild parrots. Apparently he & Joel (on some bro-mantic occasion) found the birds and Jesse wanted to show them to me. But he didn't remember exactly where he had seen them. And one steep hill in San Francisco looks like any other steep hill in San Francisco. And parrots are birds. They don't need to stay in one place. And just as I had felt Jesse's quiet excitement, I felt his disappointment. He suggested we give up & go home.

We went up...

... and we went down.

Going home seemed silly to me. It was a really nice day. We had a bottle of wine and I had seen some great views while he had been racing up and down steps looking for birds. I told him to stop and smell the allergy-inducing flowers. And he did. We went to a park, drank our wine, then went to our favorite neighborhood bar for nachos. They're really good nachos. We killed a little time then went to a taping of Important Things with Demitri Martin. It was my first time as part of a "live studio audience." It was cool at first, but we were really thirsty by the end. It worked out though, because we had a cooler full of food packed... back at home.

Jesse had thought to bring the cooler with us earlier. It's great he didn't because those hills were bad enough with just wine & sunflower seeds. We spread our feast of turkey sandwiches out on the bed and inhaled them. Jesse had made turkey sandwiches with (I think) Swiss cheese, bean sprouts, and mustard. There were pineapple chunks (because I love them) and tiny cupcakes.

The cooler.

My sandwich.

I love tiny things!

Thus concluded date night. I think we had planned to watch a movie with Joel afterward but were just too tired. That was alright by me. I had found our romantic adventure most satisfying.

06 February 2010

Back at The Foodbank

We're creating a tradition. For the second consecutive January, a group of friends and I volunteered at the San Francisco Food Bank. I suppose there's nothing really special about that, but I'm all about stability these days and it's nice (at least at this point) to have something I do "once a year." I'm sure if I thought about it, I'd realize I should volunteer more. Or I'd think twice about craving stability. At this moment though - in this frame of mind - I am happy to be starting a tradition.

There were seven of us. As is our nature, we were originally running late, then arrived exactly on time. Our task: sorting oranges. I don't know from where they came, but there were thousands of them. We were to keep the ones we would eat, and toss the ones we wouldn't. It sounds simple enough, but it's not. I would eat a lot of oranges that someone else wouldn't. And my standards would be lower if I needed help in the getting of the fruit. The whole thing became personal. I now imagine we should have asked "is this fit for human consumption?" Instead we (at least in my sorting group) asked "what circumstances would push me to eat this orange?" Naturally there were those we wanted to eat right then, those we'd eat if we hadn't eaten in a day and those we'd eat if we had been stranded for two weeks. And then we imagined the food bank clientele, and the possible realities that could have sent them to the food bank in the first place. Yes, we over thought everything. I really think it's just what women do. The men sorted a lot more, a lot faster than we did.

Joel, Jesse & John (men) sorting, packing & deciding.

Tracy, Marbella, Dani, Wen & Kelli (women) thinking, chatting & negotiating.

Marbella & Dani became our new friends. They're 8th graders who were volunteering for their confirmation hours. It was an intimate view into the lives of teenagers. One was sad her mom wouldn't let her bring a boy to a dance. The other didn't care about the dance because she had tickets to a Nick Jonas & The Administration concert. We talked about school and sexting and peer pressure. We adults realized we don't know how to have age - appropriate conversations. And we of course saw some bizarre oranges.

It would be inappropriate to share the ways in which we were holding this orange.

We sorted from 12:30 to about 2:30 or 3:00 and we were exhausted. It's a sad sign of the state of us yuppies. Our feet were sore. Our backs hurt. We were hungry & irritable. Clearly none of us were cut out to work in assembly lines. It's pretty pathetic if you think about it. So let's not.

Take one. Marbella & Dani were leaving & most of us realized we were taking a picture,
Tracy could not resist the wave.

Take two. I suppose it was my responsibility to tell the picture taker I wanted us to be centered underneath the food bank name. But I didn't. But you get the idea.

Our reward for our good deed was an afternoon out. We went to Palomino, where happy hour is served all day, every day. We ordered everything on the menu at least once. I got a free margarita after finding a piece of glass in one I had already started drinking. We left for home sometime after 8. Jesse & Joel went out. I'm pretty sure I went right to bed. Here's to being stronger next year.

04 February 2010

Giant Lemon

I like lemons. I used to eat them as a child. Some might say that explains my tart disposition. Earlier this year, I found this monstrosity. I had to have it. Someone grew this in their backyard. They brought it to my job as a way of getting rid of it. Fortunately I was there to seize this opportunity. I mean look at it. I'm sure it's the largest lemon I've ever seen.

I cut it open and (as predicted) it was mostly pith. Still, the part that wasn't was delicious. I spaced this lemon over several cups of tea and had no complaints. I just wanted to share.

02 February 2010

Tulum & Xel-Ha

We decided to do more than drink, eat and splash for our last full day in Mexico. By then Jesse had gotten about as much sun as he could stand. And if we hadn't gone on an excursion, we would have had to spend the day inside. So we boarded a bus for a two-stop trip to Tulum & Xel-Ha.

I'm not sure of the current size of the existing city of Tulum. We toured the ruins right up against the coast. Our tour guide explained a bit about the Mayan language, the (apparently still plentiful) Mayan people and even that often misread Mayan calendar. She brought us to the ruins through the entrance for guests, instead of the entrance for sacrifices. We learned about the Mayan class system, work ethic and life expectancy. It was an highly informative half hour.

We were out there early and not bothered by the other crowds. We then walked through the ruins on our own. There were even steps down to the beach. Personally, I thought it disrespectful to get half naked and splash in the shadow of what was once part of an empire. I just did not think it was a good idea. I didn't have to keep Jesse away either. He had found other entertainment.

You can gather my opinion of the "throw rocks at iguanas" plan from the look on my face. Jesse was undeterred. He continued to chase and (in my opinion) harass that iguana even after said iguana scurried away. It apparently could not be helped.

Jesse on the altar for sacrifices. I'd like to note he dresses himself.

We left the ruins and boarded the bus for more hands-on learning at Xel-Ha. I can't compare it to anything else. If I had to label it, I'd call it a conservation water park. But I know even that paints an inaccurate picture. I'll describe what I can.

Waiting to get into the park.

First compost bin I'd seen.

Confiscated sunblock & other lotions.

Xel-ha is all about preservation. We were given wristbands instead of tickets. Our lotions were confiscated and replaced with natural sunblock that wouldn't affect the marine life. Gone were the folded paper maps I remembered from trips to parks past. The maps were up throughout the park. After our first glance near the entrance, we headed to the buffet.

Our admission included all you could eat and all you could drink. We were on time for the end of brunch and the start of lunch. That meant extra buffet variety. And then it was time to swim with the fish(es). We rented snorkel gear, put on life vests, and (I slowly) got into the water. Naturally I panicked.

I couldn't touch the bottom. And even if I could, I was wearing flippers, so I wouldn't have been able to stand there. I was not in control and I was not comfortable. Jesse - my mountain of support - was happily flipping away with his silly face in the water. Logically, I knew what I had to do. But it seemed stupid to throw my face into the water and kick my legs. Eventually Jen from the wedding group helped me. She held my hand and showed some fish who were swimming around us, ignorant of my internal turmoil. Thus, I became a snorkeler.

I saw lot of fish and swam right on top of a stingray. He didn't seem to mind, but I suddenly remembered Steve Irwin and wondered if this stingray was going to wake up angry. So I started to kick. But I wasn't moving. I was caught in a current. I was all alone, with a stingray possibly chasing me and only a waterproof camera to protect me. I let the current take me. I grabbed on to a mossy bridge and (while Jesse watched from the shore) Jen helped me kick my way to safety. She's great.

Pictures from the underwater cameras have not yet been developed. I mean who develops pictures in 2010? Eventually, this girl. But not yet. Jesse got to jump from a rope. He also jumped from a ledge. I road a bubble down the river. We did more snorkeling and I saw manatees. We had a great time and while none of us swam with the dolphins, I did get a few pictures of them being awesome. We did eat again and drink some more before going back to the hotel for dinner. We had our last group meal at a seafood restaurant where I had the best non-nugget meal of the trip: seared tuna.

Squirting lime on the giant lobster.

We sat through a stage performance of show tunes, then went back to the Star Wars club that night. I was exhausted, but it didn't matter. It was our last night of vacation and we were obligated to stay up late and take our last opportunities of irresponsibility. We were successful.

01 February 2010

Riviera Maya: Football

The mood changed after the wedding, for several reasons. I think for Ryan & Kelsee, the tough stuff had been done. Their crazy idea of having friends & family attend a wedding in Mexico had been a success. And everyone else who had come for the wedding was suddenly in Mexico with nothing to do. Not at all a bad place to be. So the morning after the wedding, we went to the beach.

Jesse frolicked and I entertained myself by counting mosquito bites. I would (after coming back to the states and attending a blood drive) learn I was at (a slight) risk for Malaria. Quintana Roo (where our resort resides) is not considered a "safe" place. Malaria never crossed my mind when preparing for this trip. Then again, neither did mosquitoes. I have to wait a year from the date of my return to donate blood. That's fine. I'm rejected every other time anyway. This will just save me a trip.

Living the dream

I also got intimate with my camera, playing with its settings in an attempt to get artistic results.

First in black & white...

...and then in high color.

I joined Jesse in the water for a little while, but the waves were abusive. He was still having fun but I felt like I was under attack, getting walloped by a salty foe with ninja-like skills. Eventually we went to the pool, where the water was cold and the hot tub was colder. We found the rest of the group there and after watching some ridiculous games and making a few trips to the swim up bar, the dudes hatched a plan.

All flotation devices were irreparably harmed during the making of this memory.

The group broke for dinner. Back in our room I found the housekeeper had put the rose petals I pilfered from the reception to use. She totally earned her tip, based on towel creatures alone. But there was little time to appreciate it all. We had a football game to watch. It's not every year the Vikings get close to going to the Super Bowl. And there was no way a mostly Midwestern contingent was going to miss the game that decided it all.

Food. Communication. Booze.

The karaoke bar was re purposed for Americans that day. There was a projection screen and popcorn, although we could not order food. We watched the game with Mexican announcers, who seemed to be really into it. I'd say there were easily 40 people there to watch. And that made me smile. It was the second time in my life I had been out of the country for a major football event. It's like an instinctual calling; "you'll find your compatriots waiting for you." There are few people who can say they watched the Vikings send the Saints to the Super Bowl from a resort in Mexico. We are among that group and that makes me feel special.