Blog Archive

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Cross Your Fingers!

Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh!

Dave has an interview tomorrow with an accounting firm right here in Davis. It is everything he's been hoping for (meaning that it is everything his current firm is NOT: it is in Davis, he can bike or walk there, it's a small firm, they have REGULAR working hours, it's a tax firm instead of out-of-town audits, etc.). Basically, it is the perfect, dream job for my dedicated, hardworking, overworked husband.

So... please keep us in your prayers tonight and tomorrow (if you're that sort of person) or do whatever little ritual you do when you want/need something to go well: keep your fingers crossed, do a little dance, knock on wood, whatever. (We'd both really appreciate it!)

Seriously, if he lands this job I just might burst with happiness! I don't know what I'd do if he were actually home for a 7pm dinner every night rather than, say, 11pm. And him not traveling to the boonies, leaving me at home alone for weeks at a time? Well, it'd be like I, married! =o) I love my hubby so much and I KNOW he deserves to work at a firm like this. They'd be silly not to hire him.

Ok, I should finish my foods homework so I can go to the all-you-can-eat sushi dinner I've arranged for my graduate group tonight. Bye!

Upcoming Trip to NY

I can't wait until May 14! That's the day we'll be flying off to Troy, NY to see Edward graduate with his masters in computer science. We'll be there for about a week, during which time we'll eat a lot of yummy food, play video games, snuggle with my fur-niece (Emmy), congratulate Edward on a job-well-done, spend too much money at the pet store with Allison, and take a cheese making class. I'm especially excited about the last part...I get to learn to make CHEESE in my very own kitchen. And I'm not talking about making cream cheese or yogurt (those are fairly easy). I'm taking about making cheddar, mozzarella, and the like. If you know me at all, you know that I love cheese.

I read about this class in the book Animal Vegetable Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver, last summer and have been dreaming of taking it since then. I suggested it to Dave when I first heard about it and he nicely remarked at how far away it is (Massachusetts). Ha! Luckily, it is only 2 hours away from Edward's house. I convinced Edward and Dave to take it with me, while my mom (who is much less excitable by cooking than I am) will hang out in the pet-friendly hotel with Emmy. She will, of course, want to eat some of our cheeses when we get back.

My guess is that I won't be able to contain my excitement during this class--I know I'll be that annoying know-it-all student in the class who keeps asking why things work and then suggesting reasons (based on physical chemistry, of course since I'm taking a food science class this term called Physical and Chemical Changes in Foods). Those know-it-all people usually drive me nuts, but I gotta make my daddy proud (and my professor) and apply my knowledge (while stuffing my face with hot, fresh mozzarella balls).

Monday, April 28, 2008

Old Becomes New

Dave and I love refurbishing old furniture or changing something general into something for a specific application. Our latest project was to turn a free-standing wine rack from a thrift store into two smaller racks that fit in the small bookcases that we refurbished. At some point I'll sand off the crusty finish on the racks and put on a fresh new coat of lacquer.

Wine rack before:
And now it's all chopped up and made into new racks! Doesn't Davie do such a good job?

These book cases came free with the couch set we bought on Craigslist last summer--they were uuuuuuuuugly. The lady had stained them the same blue color as the couches and the edges were all rounded and boring. I had Dave add some moulding to the top and bottom to dress them up; then I painted them crisp white to match the trim in the dining room. We affixed them to the walls (like good earthquake-conscious Californians) and now they look all pretty. Especially with the cute baskets that I bought and now with wine racks. (Although I'm going to return those baskets...they were like $17 a piece! I liked them so much that I bought them anyway, knowing well that Dave would convince me to return them. They'll stay long enough for me to measure them (since they fit perfectly on the shelves) and search online for cheaper versions.)

Here's what the book cases (we have two of these) looked like when we got them. I realize you can't really see the book case in this picture, but you can tell that there's no pretty trim at the top and bottom and they are blue. I had to apply like 5 coats of white paint to cover that dark blue stain. They look very snazzy now, if I do say so myself.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Time Flies!

Whew...time sure does go by fast when you're having fun...or when you're just busy.

A few weekends ago was our sister-in-law's birthday party--it was a carnival style party with a real dunk tank, kettle corn, and a hands-free donut-eating contest! I brought her three bouquets of yellow flowers in popcorn bags (the idea being that the flowers look like popcorn...). The party was super fun, even though Dave had to work so I went alone.

Later that night Dave and I went to our friends', John and Christina's, housewarming party. The food was excellent (homemade pizza, raqulette, salad, John's wine--he's a winemaker) and the people were fun. We spent the evening chatting, catching up, and blowing fire with John's brandy and a torch made of paper grocery bag. You know, all the usual things you do at parties. They live in a second-floor apartment and I'm sure the tenants across the courtyard enjoyed the pyrotechnic show. (This is not me, by the way--this is Christina's friend, Tara.)

The, last week Dave's nephew, Bear, came down to stay with us during his spring break. I should explain his name: Bear is one of his nicknames, his real name is Larry (or Lawrence, if you want to get technical) but we mostly call him Nephew. Since all his uncles and their spouses call him Nephew so often his own parents sometimes goof up and accidentally call him Nephew. Anyway, he and Dave had a grand ol' time last week playing lots of video games and biking to campus to meet me for lunch between classes. Bear likes to cook and he made some fried cheese things for us one night. Yum. He also likes to eat so I had an excuse to cook some yummy stuff for him. Since the poor thing lives up in Gualala where variety and food don't ever appear in the same sentence, we made sure to treat him to some of our favorite ethnic foods. On Wednesday we trekked out to Sacramento with Mike and Bernie for Indian food. What a friggin disappointment! Bernie had chosen the restaurant based on all the positive reviews she read online. But this place was not only shady, it was GROSS. Dave and I realized that of the 100s of times we've eaten Indian, we've never had bad Indian food. Sure, we've eat bland, boring, not-spicy-enough Indian food--but never bad, gross-tasting Indian. This stuff was pretty revolting: the chicken tikka masala sauce tasted exactly like Chef Boyardee ravioli sauce...from a CAN! Ew. Anyway, we profusly apologized to Bear for introducing him to nasty Indian. We promised to take him to a delicious Indian place...just as soon as we find a place like that in the Sacramento area. (Otherwise we'll have to take him to the bay area since there are dozens of superb places there.)

The ice cream man came into our court so I ran out to meet him. We really enjoyed our Bomb Pops:
On Friday we took Bear to Lake Berryessa so we could play in the water with the dogs. The place was empty since it was a weekday...and the water was coooooooold. We slathered on the sunscreen and ran straight into the lake. Then we ran straight back out and laid in the sun. The dogs, however, fetched the ball from the water for a solid hour. On our hike in and out we walked past a fallen log where a rattlesnake was hiding. On the way in, the dogs chased it, then backed up FAST once they heard the rattle. After that we put them on make-shift leashes (the arm of my sweatshirt and Dave's belt). On the way out it rattled at us again, despite the dogs being leashed. It was a little creepy--we kept thinking about how we should have been a little smarter and worn plants and hiking boots (rather than shorts and sandals).

Saturday was Picnic Day at school. This is a huge, campus-wide open house/party day. TONS of people come to see all the demonstrations that each of the departments puts on for the public. There's food everywhere, bands playing, kids and dogs running all over the place. It is really fun. (It is also notoriously a drunken event for all the undergrads and quite a few of the graduate students. Last year Dave and I avoided Picnic Day like the plague; we left town because we just didn't wan to get caught up in all that. Two years previously we'd come to Davis for a wedding on Picnic Day and also took some time to look around for housing since we were going to move here a few weeks later. When we went downtown that afternoon for lunch, all the restaurants were packed with drunk college girls and there was even puke on the sidewalks. What a great impression of our new city.)

This year we steered clear of the drunks and toured the animal science barns instead. With the dogs, of course. Potatoes had never seen a horse or a cow before and he was totally enthralled. Using all his concentration, he gave them the "border collie" stare, trying to scare them into noticing him. It was really funny. Bear, Dave, two dogs, and I walked all over campus that day. By the time Michael fetched us from In-N-Out that afternoon we were pooped. The boys were having allergy attacks and my feet hurt (maybe I shouldn't have worn flipflops on a day like that). That evening we took Bear to a sushi place. He'd never had sushi before, and he really liked it.
Improvements on the house are coming along, if not slowly. Dave's been off this week and he will also have next week off. So far he's laid the new flooring in the master bedroom and is ready to do the hallway soon. After that it'll just be the living room and then we'll be..........done with the flooring project! While he was installing the flooring yesterday I babysat for Teo again. He slept most of the time, but we did play for about an hour. He's not a fan of tummy time, but he's getting pretty good at rolling to his side to reach for toys when he's on his back. Today was less fun for me because I had my long day of statistics--starting at 9am it's 1.5 hour of lecture in the morning, followed by 2 hours of "mandatory" office hours, and then stats lab in the afternoon. Everyone attends office hours to get help with the homework assignments. And during the 2 hour break between that and lab we're all at our desks working on the assignment. Ick. By 3pm my brain is completely fried from all that math.

We're off to Gualala this weekend to deliver 10 boxes of honey bees to Dave's dad. Then we'll go to my late aunt Grace's memorial luncheon in Santa Rosa on Sunday. Busy, busy...but at least it isn't statistics!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Recent Culinary Attempts

I made my first lemon meringue pie about a month ago; while I was making it, I thought "I wonder if I could make an orange pie this way?" I looked online and found an Orange Meringue Pie recipe that I decided to try making for my friends' party last weekend. Since we're at the end of citrus season, I decided also try making a lime pie (not a meringue type, though). For each pie I used fresh fruits, making sure to cook-down a good amount of orange juice to intensify the flavor (compared the obvious unique/intense flavor of lemons and limes, oranges' sweetness overwhelms their distinctive orange-ness).

The lime pie was a simple Key Lime type pie...except with normal limes. Since I didn't look at the recipes before I went shopping I had no idea how much lime juice I'd need for a single pie. Not much, it turns out. I think I bought like 12 limes and used only 4. I guess I'll have to make some more pies. Or limeade...yummy.

I took all 3 pies to John and Chirstina's house-warming party on Saturday. It turns out that the orange and lemon pies didn't "set" very well so they were sorta runny. Luckily they tasted pretty good! The orange was very slightly bitter from the orange peel that I added. I didn't add much because I knew that the bitterness could be a problem; I have to admit, though, the bitterness sorta worked with the flavor of the pie. This is perhaps because when you eat an orange you ultimately end up eating some of the bitter white pith. So maybe that slight bitterness really made the pie authentic. (Next time I make the orange variety I think I'll use blood oranges so the filling will be a dark reddish cool would that be?)

One of the people at the party gave me a hard time because I apologized for the texture of the runny pies and then apologized for the slight bitterness of the orange pie. He scolded me, saying that when I dis my own food it makes other people find fault in it, too, whereas if I praised my creation then other people would realize how wonderful it is. Well, I think that's showing off. Plus I usually don't think my foods taste so good that they need showing off; after all those hours of cooking/tasting/smelling something for so long they've often lost their appeal for me by the time we sit down to eat it.

For example, a few weekends ago I had a craving for Pepperidge Milano Cookies so I spent a good 3 hours making some. I found a "copy-cat" recipe online. Well, I thought I did. It turns out that these cookies were basically butter cookies, not light and delicate like Milanos are supposed to be. To get each cookie the same shape and size so as to facilitate the slathering of melted chocolate between them, I had to measure-out level teaspoons of dough and then roll them out into little log shapes. Because the butter wasn't so soft by the time I'd measured out all those little teaspoons of dough, I had to hold each one between my palms for a few seconds to warm it up enough to roll. A few seconds can really add up when I have about 398343202309327324 little pieces of dough to roll out. Seriously. It would be so much easier (and yummier) to find--or create?--a lighter dough that I can pipe into pudgy lines directly onto the cookie sheet.
So after all that I couldn't even eat a whole cookie. All I wanted to eat after 3 hours of fake Milano-making was something savory and spicy, not sweet and buttery. Even though the cookies were too rich for me (and not at all like the Milanos I was craving), Dave and Michael took pity on me and ate some of them. Ummm...I mean all of them.

Last Sunday Dave had to work (grrrrrr!) so I occupied myself by harvesting all the remaining beets from the garden. We ended up with 5 more 1-gallon bags of greens in the freezer but only 6 more pints of beets to pickle. There was another pint or so of beets that I could have pickled but they were very fibrous and tough so they ended up in the compost pile instead. We had two varieties in the garden: standard red beets and Chioggia beets, which are pink and white stripped. I kept those separate to show of their unique color. Sadly, the pink disappears when you cook them so they just look pale in the jar. I can't wait to taste them in about 6 weeks. Lucky for me Dave hates pickled beets. Well, he claims to. He also used to hate fresh tomatoes, any kind of Brussels sprouts or zucchini preparation, green olives, stinky cheese, and spicy lettuces like Arugula. Then he started dating me. Now he likes all of these foods. So I'm sure it is just a matter of time before he starts eating all my pickled beets.
That's all for now! Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 14, 2008

More Prayers for Donna

Tonight my brother-in-law, Michael, and I drove to San Francisco to see our sister-in-law, Donna, who is back in the hospital. We heard from our niece on Sunday that her mom was suffering from an infection from her recent surgery and had to rush to the hospital with a high fever. She's being pumped full of antibiotics and will hopefully be back home in a few days.

On Mondays I have class until 6pm so I had to rush home on my bike as fast as my heavy cruiser would take me. We met at the house, made a quick stop at Nugget Market for delicious deli sandwiches and cupcakes, and then hit the road. It was amazing how little traffic there was--we made it to SF from Davis in less than 1.5 hours. We ate our sandwiches in the car while I drove. When we got to Vacaville I suddenly felt like I was going to barf. I pulled over on the freeway for a quick breather. Michael gave me this sideway look that said "Julie, don't you dare puke on me."

I don't know if it was nerves about going to the hospital or if my stomach was just reacting to eating quickly while driving after not eating anything for 9 hours (I really should eat more often during the day...). I remember when my dad and I went back to Tennessee to see my grandpa in the hospital in 2006; I got nerves so badly that I threw up in the hospital hallway. Since blood and needles don't bother me I never expected that I'd be one of those people who gets nervous in hospitals but I'm beginning to accept that visiting people in hospitals makes me queasy. I just don't like seeing the people I love suffering. I guess my mind copes by making my body want to barf. Lovely.

Once we survived the hectic-ness that defines City driving, we found a parking spot right in front of the hospital entrance. At the elevator we scanned the directory listing to see which floor we needed to go to. Her room was in the 400 heart sunk when I saw that floor 4 is the intensive care unit. But when we got to her room she was all smiles and eager to chat with us. We told her that my pooches were down in the car and that we seriously considered sneaking them inside (well, trying to...I don't know how we'd EVER succeed in sneaking two border collies into the hospital!). Donna would have LOVED to snuggle with Potatoes in her bed...and he would have loved it just as much. I brought Donna some treats to enjoy while she recovers in her bed and watches TV: mini candy bars, Starburst, and mini wax-dipped cheeses (she and I both LOVE cheese). I asked her how the food was in the hospital and she said "not bad." Tonight they served her poached salmon, fresh asparagus, and chocolate cake! Yum!

Michael and I had a dual purpose tonight: to visit Donna and to fetch our nephew, Bear, from the hospital where he was hanging out with his mom for the day. He's on spring break (it is his senior year in high school) and will be spending part of the week at Michael and Bernie's house and part at our house.

Before we left to go back home we all had those delicious cupcakes to celebrate Bear's birthday, which is today (his even had a candle...but of course we couldn't light it in the hospital).

Now we're back home and the boys are playing shoot-em-up video games in the living room. I am so thankful that Michael agreed to go with me tonight--I'm not sure I could have survived the City driving (or my sudden nerves along the way) without him. So, please pray for Donna! She's an amazingly strong, loving person. Where she gets the strength and courage to fight this cancer I just don't know. I really hope her infection subsides and that the rest of her recovery goes smoothly and quickly.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Happy Birthday Davie!

Yesterday was Dave's 26th birthday...and we celebrated with his favorite dinner and a yummy chocolate cake. I left school around 3:30pm so I could make a quick stop at the Food Co-Op to get some white chocolate for his cake. He requested a chocolate cake and I'd dreamed up this idea of putting pretty curls of white chocolate on top.

His favorite meal in the whole world is "green pasta" (i.e., basil pesto with TONS of garlic) with fried fish and tartar sauce. Last summer when basil was practically free at the farmer's market we made and froze about a dozen small jars of it. His idea of good pesto is about 1:1 basil:garlic (on a volume basis) with just enough olive oil to hold it all together. This is some spicy, intense stuff! I prefer to add a handful of hard cheese to the mix, too, like pecorino romano or parmesan. His family usually just salted their individual servings of pasta rather than add salt or salty cheese ahead of time. Cookbooks warn against freezing pesto with the cheese already added; I don't know why because I've done it and it tastes fine to me. I couldn't tell if there was already cheese in the pesto last night after it defrosted, so I added another handful...for good measure. (How can you got wrong with extra cheese in anything?)

The fried fish was some cod that we caught and cleaned ourselves last summer with Dave's dad. The one day we went fishing on his dad's small aluminum dingy wasn't a good day for fishing at all. The wind picked up after only 30 minutes, which put all of us only a heave away from barfing over the side of the boat. By the time we decided to head back to the beach we had only brought in like 5 fish. On calm days when the ocean is mirror-flat we've been known to catch 18 huge fish in only two hours (that's the limit for three adults). I dried the fish on paper towels, dunked it in egg wash, dredged it in peppery flour mixture and pan friend it until it was brown. YUM.

Dave's oldest brother, Larry, makes the best tartar sauce ever. I don't know what proportions he uses (he probably doesn't just guess as you go) but these are the components:
  • Mayonnaise
  • Yellow mustard
  • Dill pickle relish
  • Garlic powder
  • Lemon juice
  • Black pepper
  • Dried dill
For his birthday cake I made a delicious dark chocolate cake, which I made into an "espresso" chocolate cake. I got the recipe from (I love this website and I even registered for it. My name on there is "Jewissa."). A pastry chef commented on this particular cake recipe, saying that it was really good and could be improved/altered by using any flavor of juice or coffee instead of the boiling water that is mixed with the cocoa powder to melt it. I used double concentrated instant coffee instead of plain water. It turned out soooooooooo good.

Because this was a triple layer cake, I decided to quadruple the chocolate buttercream frosting recipe that I have. Good thing, too, because I ended up using almost all of it! The texture of the cake was fabulous, slightly moist but not soggy or sticky. The frosting was pleasantly sweet, but not too buttery and you could definitely taste the chocolate-y-ness. I should have used two white chocolate bars to make the "curls" (more like flakes...) instead of one; I didn't have enough to cover the sides of the cake, which was my intention. I decided to just sprinkle them on top instead.

These pictures don't flatter the cake at all; you can see the edges of the individual cake layers here. I was worried the the frosting would be too dry to spread well and I may have overcompensated by adding too much extra milk. Next time I'll make it slightly drier so it will stay in the crevices better so the sides of the cake are straight. At least even ugly cakes can still taste good!
Okay, I should get to lab so I can start an experiment before my food chemistry class. More on that class later. Thanks for reading and have a fantabulous day!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

A Better Friend

**I wrote this blog entry last Thursday on my computer...I couldn't post it because our internet was not working. It was my fault: when I plugged the DSL modem back into the phone jack once we were done working on the office re-do, I didn't realize that there's a difference between the "DSL" jack and the "phone" jack. Dave figured it out...and ta-da! I am now connected.**

Ever since we moved to Davis (back in the Fall of 2006), I’ve noticed that I haven’t spent as much time as usual with my close friends. For the most part I can blame that on being in a full-time graduate student—the time-consuming classes, lab work, studying, plus the level of stress that often makes my evenings a time to simply crash. But I can’t blame it all on being a student. In fact, most of my best friends are in graduate school right now, too, and they seem to make time for friends. So that’s no excuse. I finally realized that my asocial behavior was due to two huge life changes that coincided with entering graduate school.

The first big change was that Dave began working as an auditor for one of the “Big Four” accounting firms. We were so na├»ve when he landed this position; we didn’t understand the implications of working for this sort of an international company. Before his first interview we made a list of all the questions he would ask to ensure that this position would be the “right” fit for him. Our queries included:

“How much travel is to be expected?”

“Is this a family friendly company? Are allowances made for family events? Does this firm offer medical/dental/vision insurance for entire families?”

“How does this firm encourage work/life balance?”

“Is there a career guidance program within the firm? Are employees reimbursed for CPA classes/exams? Are employees given time to prepare for the exams?”

The answers were roughly as follows:

“Not much.”

“Of course! Of course! Of course!”

“All of our offices are equipped with an exercise room for employee use—we encourage all our employees to stay fit. We also promote doing volunteer work, such as Habitat for Humanity, which is something family members can participate in, too.”

“Each new hire is assigned to a “mentor” employee who will help them during their first year. There are annual reviews which help employees climb the corporate ladder. If you pass the exams, you will be reimbursed in full for the cost of the CPA prep classes and exam fees. Yes, there is adequate time for exam preparation.”

Well, those are canned answers, likely drafted by some outside contractor whose job it was to help the firm sound well-rounded and likable. This is what the interviewer SHOULD have said if he were truthful:

“You should expect to travel a crap-load of the time. You should warn your wife and children that you will only get to see them on weekends for the first part of every year because we’ll make be sure to schedule you away on business trips for at least 5-8 weeks running. This will bother your wife, but that’s okay with us. You’re an exception to the rule, having a wife at home. Most of our employees are single, eager, and straight out of college. They don’t have a care in the world except for work. So traveling all the time for them isn’t an issue.”

“We don’t have to encourage work/life balance: we make sure our employees work so much that they don’t have a life outside of their jobs…so there’s balanced needed!”

“Our mentors encourage you to work too much so they can justify why they, too, work so much. Your first year is the least strenuous in terms of hours worked. The second year there will be more demands on you (and more hours expected out of you), and it gets even worse the third year. Most people don’t stick around after that—since we’ve sucked the life blood out of them. Employees don’t get to work less so that they can study for their CPA exams. We just say that so people will come work for us. But we really do reimburse people for their exam expenses.”

So what is all this have to do with why we’ve become asocial? Because Dave’s job is plain ol’ depressing. He comes home sooooooooooo late every night that by the time he walks in the door all he wants to do is eat and then fall asleep. Literally. There’s no time for exercise (he adores playing indoor and outdoor soccer) and no time for hobbies. You know how on tv shows the cheerful dad character will come home from work while it is still light outside and have time to help little Jimmy with his homework before taking the dog on a walk or mowing the lawn? None of those dads must work for Dave’s firm! Not having him around makes me feel lowsy. Not being able to cook dinner for him also makes me feel lowsy (If he works more than 10 straight ours he’s entitled to $16 in dinner money…so he just brings food home most nights).

This “lack of Dave” during the week compounds itself on the weekends. I get VERY selfish with Dave by the time the weekend rolls around. I don’t want to share his attention with anyone else. And all he wants to do is work on the house. We’ve actually declined hanging out with friends on the weekend because we didn’t want to waste any of our “together time” on other people. How lame is that? It is pretty obvious that something needs to change.

Dave and I already looked a 2008 calendar and have chosen a date for him to leave his firm, with or without another job lined up. His happiness, his health, our happiness as a married couple, and our desire to be more social are so much more important than a regular paycheck (at least for a little while…). This date is something to work towards (he needs to find another job; in fact he’s already working with a recruiter) and it is something to look forward to. After we made the decision we both breathed a huge sigh of relief and smiled.

I would just like to point out that I’m writing this blog entry at 10pm on a Thursday night…and Dave’s still at work. He didn’t get home until 11:45pm on Tuesday night…Grrrr!

Moving on…the second big change since starting grad school is that I’m sorta bored. I’m one of those born multi-taskers. If I don’t have at least a few activities to juggle then my efficiency in my single task plummets. In high school I worked at Alden Lane Nursery, baby sat, had a paper route, was active in several school clubs, and participated in too many church activities (youth elder, youth deacon, youth group leader, pastor-seeking committee, lay reader, etc.). And that was all on top of regular schoolwork, having a steady boyfriend and a HUGE group of friends that I hung out with constantly. But I really thrived—mentally, academically, socially.

Towards the end of college my interest in chemistry and my grades vastly improved when I began baby sitting at the church every week, was a nanny, worked at an in-home childcare center, was a geriatric caregiver for a handicapped old lady, was the president of a club, and took a lot of advanced classes and labs. It was hectic but I really did thrive. Somehow I use my time much more efficiently when I know there’s a limited time for a given task. I guess I need to create pressure for myself to get my work done. But not just “done,” done well and done happily.

During these times I forged really strong relationships with friends that I cherish more than anything (you know who you are!). We hung out at our schools, with our families, went on short trips, went on loooooooong trips. Lately I’ve had an ach in my heart for these people. (Isn’t it weird that being busy increases my efficiency and makes me more social?)

For the last year and a half my only real task has been to take classes and work on some minor tasks in my lab. Blah! I think I’m bored. Luckily my grades haven’t suffered but my interest in lab’s research isn’t as intense as others in my lab. (This makes me a little sad because this research is why I’m in grad school.) I’ve started baby sitting for Teo and Alex and that makes me really happy. I think I’m going to become more proactive in finding family to sit for in the evenings. I also offered to take a more active role in my graduate group (I’m currently one of the social chairs) to initiate some major changes in the way our program recruits, trains, and retains new students. All these things will keep me super busy and I expect my passion for chemistry to flare back up.

Even the few baby sitting gigs and officer duties I’ve acquired in the past month have made me crave my friends more. What a weird, complex thing my social needs are!

Anyway, I realize that being a good friend is a two way street: I need to not only accept invitations to be with friends but I also need to invite my friends to be with me. Part of me does get jealous when I hear my friends talk about all the stuff they’ve done together while I wasn’t there, and sometimes I feel out of the loop when I’m the last one to learn about major news. But that’s just life, I suppose: we can’t all be the first to know. All this being said, I don’t feel all the guilty about my recently asocial behavior. I come from a long line of asocial people (I’m sure you can figure out which side of my family…) and so does Dave. It is key that we are inherently asocial as opposed to anti-social. The prefix “a” means “without” while “anti” means “opposed to.” We just don’t need to have our friends around us all the time; to feel satisfied in life we don’t need to participate in purely social activities all the time. Some people just fall apart without direct contact with their social network—we’re just not programmed that way.

My friends are gems: I really don’t know what I’d do without them in my life, it’s true. We can go without seeing each other for months, but the moment we’re together again everything picks right back up. And that’s really something to cherish.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Bon voyage, Mari!

I had to say goodbye to my friend Mari this week. She and her husband (a now their baby boy, Alex, too) live down here for 6 months of the year for her to take grad classes; the other 6 months they reside up in Alaska where she's a toxicologist. This time, however, they won't be back in Davis for 9 months. It sucks--I'm really going to miss them!

On Sunday night we took our station wagon and trailer over to her rental house to load up all her stuff so I could take her to the airport the next morning. Her husband had left the day before to drive their jam-packed car up to Seattle where it will be loaded onto a barge and shipped north. When we got there she had almost everything packed; stroller and bike were disassembled in enormous boxes, ski equipment in a long bag, various pieces of luggage. The trailer we currently have is on loan to us from my dad. It isn't the ideal trailer for loading up luggage since the side boards are only about 12" high. But we made it work. (Dave and I love working together to pack and tie down odd-shaped cargo. I think that's one of the reasons we've never hired movers or gotten help loading our own possessions. On our weekly Home Depot trips we enjoy the challenge of getting all our odd-shaped project purchases into the trailer safely and securely.)

Since they were only taking the essentials back with them, Mari let me rummage through all their leftovers: power cords, camping cookware, Rubbermaid storage boxes, Christmas lights, canning jars, collapsible compost bin (yeah baby), etc. I love thrift stores, garage sales, and the like so I was happy to take these things off her hands. =o)

She and Dave worked on applying some wood stain to the front door before we left where one of her dogs had scratched. While they did that, I hung out with Alex. He's just over 4 months old now and is at that age where it's all he can do to prevent himself from grinning to death. He gets so worked up with his intense smiles that he just overwhelms himself. It is so cute! (He's also at the age when his mouth is like a leaky faucet; I was soaked with drool by the time we left.)

Isn't Alex such a cutie? Look at how much he's grown since my "Happy New Year" post (I'm holding him in front of the tree).

The next morning I was at her house just after sunrise to take her to the airport. Lucky for us, the airport was pretty empty and we were able to park right across from the entrance. Unlucky for us, the trailer tail lights weren't working so we had to be careful not to get a ticket. Mari was sure to alert me when she saw a sheriff ("Julie! Don't hit the breaks until he can't see the back of your car!").

There was no way the two of us could take everything in one load into the airport. She had to make like 5 trips back and forth from the check-in booth to the car. I stayed at the car and untied all the stuff in the trailer, and tended to Alex. The airport folks were surprisingly nice about the whole thing, considering that airports these days are generally very skeptical of random luggage being left around. They let her stash everything by the door until she got it all in there. People were definitely starting at us as we tried with all our might to man-handle those enormous boxes onto the dinky luggage cart: two petite girls wrestling all this cargo and obviously in a hurry. (We arrived only an hour and a half before her flight...and that was before she got it all hauled inside, inspected, negotiated the extra baggage fees, and got the dog loaded, inspected, and paid for.

Oh, right...did I mention that we also had Mari's 80 pound dog, Animal, with us, and his GIANT shipping crate?

Things could have gone really wrong at the airport, but they didn't and I'm glad. It'll be great when Mari, Matt, Alex, and their dogs return in January.

Prayers for Donna

Today our sister-in-law (Dave's oldest brother's wife) is having her second mastectomy surgery. She was diagnosed with breast cancer back in 2004 and had her first operation then. She's been through the whole deal: intense chemo, hair loss, terrible side effects, surgeries (with more to come). Today's surgery is her first step towards reconstructive surgery.

Please keep Donna and her entire family in your prayers. I have confidence that everything will go great today. She's quite the trouper! I really look up to her strength and courage.

We're going to take BART into SF tomorrow afternoon to see her. On Mother's Day she will join us for Sacramento's annual Y-ME breast cancer walk around the Capital. I did it last year with my mom, my pooches, and my other sister-in-law's (Bernadette) family. It was super fun. If you'd like to sponsor our team--called Divas and Doggies--or walk with us I would be so grateful! I'm going to make matching pink shirts for everyone (dogs included) in our team.