Blog Archive

Friday, December 21, 2012


I don't know about you, but normally I'm positively itching to walk out the door the last day before vacation, a weekend, or holiday break.  Well, I was up until last year.  There's something about being fully immersed in a satisfying job that makes you actually want to keep working.  This week I worked as usual and even found myself offering to come to campus to work on some stuff for the course I'll be TAing for next term (a class about which I know practically--and theoretically--nothing).  Like, I wouldn't mind coming in on Christmas Eve to review the syllabus and website with the professor, who said she'd be working through the holiday on the course.  Crazy.

It helps that we were on vacation last week.  And by "we" I mean Dave and me.  No Eddie.  Although, we did invite Edward to come once we were there so while we weren't on a solo trip, we were child-free, which was quite nice.  I already posted pictures on Facebook and I have a Picasa album I can share with you if you like, just email me or leave a comment.  (After combing through and annotating 200 pictures I've lost motivation to write up a blog post about the trip at this point...but I will soon.)  The trip was amazing and I'm so glad we went where we did, for the reasons we did, and when we did.  The author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People advocates for time off to "sharpen the saw."  I couldn't agree more.  It was recharging, uplifting, relaxing...and calorific.  Mmmm, I love cheap eats.

So going to work this week was sort of nice; I liked getting back to my data, my samples, my plan.

My building, however, was dead.  I only saw people from two separate labs other than myself, all day.  My goal for the day was to pack 1/3 of my samples into tin capsules for total nitrogen analysis (something that should have been done in the summer but I checked the "carbon only" box on the form instead of "carbon and nitrogen" box...doh!).

So this is what I did all day...while listening to about 5 episodes of This American Life from 2001.

Even if I forgot to eat lunch, it wasn't a bad way to spend a rainy, freezing cold day.  And at the end, I helped my friend Danny water some stuff in the greenhouse before he drove me home.  Eddie was napping so Dave couldn't come fetch me and with the buses on break service who knows when I would have been able to get home.

The Mayan calendar ended today...but the world didn't end.  I thought about making some doomsday cookies to bring to work but I didn't have a flame shaped cookie cutter and as it turns out not enough people were at work to enjoy them anyway.

I hope everyone has a safe, fun, delicious, relaxing, and just-a-little-chaotic (too keep you on your toes) holiday season!  It's here!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

San Diego: Part 3 (AKA Santa Barbara)

To wrap up our San Diego beach vacation, my mom, Eddie, and I drove north to Santa Barbara on Tuesday morning, October 3.  We met up with her grad school friend, Janice, at a Shoreline Beach Cafe, a cute little on-the-beach diner.  This place was perfect for Eddie because it not only had outdoor seating, but it was actually IN the sand and the restaurant provided sand toys for kids (and posts on which to tie up your dog if you brought one).  It was hot and we sat in the sunshine, soaking up the remnants of summertime.  (The food was pretty good, too.)

Then we drove up to Goleta to stay the night with some friends.  This was Eddie's favorite part of the trip because we stayed with Jonah--his bestest friend ever.  You remember Jonah, right?  I used to swap-sit with his mom, Morgan, before they moved for her new post doc position at UCSB.  These sweet boys of ours picked right up where they'd left off a year ago: playing, running around, talking our heads off, playing dress up, reading books together.  It was so awesome for them to be together again.
Sweet boys.
They love each other so much it's just adorable.
Morgan and Kristin made us a picnic dinner, which we ate at the beach.  We stayed at the beach until it was too dark to see where the boys were running off to, so we packed up and went to get ice cream at McConnell's.

After baths and stories, we tried to put the boys to bed.  Jonah usually sleeps with his moms but wanted SO BADLY to sleep in his actual room with Eddie, who had his own little mattress to sleep on.  So after a while, Kristin and I both ended up in the room, cuddling our respective boys to sleep.  I could hear Jonah whispering to her that "Eddie is STILL MOVING!"  He thought it was weird that Eddie twitches and rolls around until the moment he actually passes out.  Haha.

The next morning we had a yummy breakfast (minus the weird vegetarian soy bacon...) and everyone piled into their respective cars to take off. It was a super short visit with them, but I'm so glad we stayed there instead of at a hotel.  They let it slip that they might be getting a baby girl placed into their family the very next month...I was good and kept my mouth (and fingers) motionless on the subject until they posted pictures of baby Sofia on Facebook after Thanksgiving.  I can't wait to go down again sometime and meet her!

My mom, Eddie, and I met up with my good friend, Justin, and a local park.  Eddie played and ran around while we chatted about...well, a lot.  We were there for nearly 2 hours I think but it felt like 10 minutes.  I wish we could have spent all day with Justin.

Our drive back to Livermore was uneventful, if you count Eddie having a tantrum in Burger King while we got a milkshake as such.  We made pretty good time so Eddie and I decided to hang out in the garden with my dad for a while before taking off for Davis.  And of course we picked and took home a huge basket of veggies (his summer garden was still going strong).

So...that wraps up our fun beach vacation. I hope we can make beach vacations a regular thing.  We'll be living in Gualala but it's not that kind of beach, you know?  

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Prav's Wedding

A few Saturdays ago, our very best college friend, Pravin, got hitched down near Los Angeles.

Originally, Dave and I had planned on taking Eddie with us so we could visit Disneyland during the first part of this week.  But after tallying up all the travel expenses we would have incurred by the end of 2012, the budget was getting redder and redder.  Not good.  So we decided to hold off on Disneyland until next year.

I know, I know.  Most of you are going to say that we should wait anyway for Disneyland--wait until Eddie is old enough to remember the experience.  Blah, blah, blah.  And part of me agrees with you.  But there are a few reasons I think that's bunk.  And I'm sure these reasons all center on the fact that my family never "did" family vacations when I was small.  Sure, we went to Alabama to my grandparents' farm every few summers to visit.  These visits were absolute heaven for Edward and I.  Ouf, my heart actually aches that I can't take Eddie there for the same experiences we had.  Lordy we were smothered in love (and gravy) while there.  But we never did the typical suburban middle class vacations that alllllll my friends got to have--the beach, the cabin in the snow to go sledding, Disneyland, camping at National Parks, you name it.  I didn't go to Disneyland until 8th grade.  And it was with another family!

I want Eddie to have those classic family vacations his whole life.  He deserves it.  It opens up his world while he's too young to care about gender/age stereotypes.  True, he may not remember every little thing he does on those vacations, but they do certainly impact his little life in big ways: new flavors, new sounds, new sights, new actions, new people.  I mean, just because a child doesn't remember you being "nice" to them when they're small doesn't mean you'll be a jerk until--what--age five when they will probably remember your actions and words and then you'll start being polite and treating them like a deserving human?  Uh, no.

He's also at that age when he throws himself into whatever interests him without even knowing about gender stereotypes.  We all know he looooooooves dressing up in glittery, lacy princess dresses.  And I wanted to take him to Ariel's Grotto for breakfast so he could wear his costumes and meet The Princesses.  Too soon he'll learn from mean boys at school that boys don't like pink and princesses are for girls only.  It'll break my mama heart to see his confusion and then his new-found preferences for only boy-approved toys, colors, and pastimes.

So, no Disneyland on this trip and that makes me sad.  But as you'll see, Eddie had a fantastic time with Miss Amanda and Friend Tim.

Dave and I took off Thursday morning, November 15, after packing the car and dropping Eddie off at daycare.  We drove down south, stopping that night for a 7:30 pm showing of Skyfall in Santa Clarita, perfectly timed to avoid much of the traffic on the 405.  The movie was awesome, as were our popcorn and Raisinettes treats.
Apparently, it was the Twilight premier, as evidenced from all the old ladies wearing ridiculous, bedazzled character clothing.  Barf.
Eddie spent the night at daycare with Cassie while we stayed our first night in a crappy Torrance Days Inn hotel room.  The saving graces of this particular hotel were that 1) the a/c stayed on all night long (rather than cycling on and off) so it was fantastically cold in the room, which is how we like to sleep; and 2) it was situated in the same building as an Indian restaurant, our favorite cuisine.

Friday morning we headed off to Wildflower Cafe for breakfast and a long chat over our coffee.  I dropped Dave off at the hotel and then I walked around some shops nearby before we pigged out at the Indian buffet downstairs.
Handsome man, delicious breakfast.
That evening we attended the wedding rehearsal at the venue since Dave was a groomsman.  Rain was a major threat so the wedding party practiced both outside (preferred) and in.  Then we headed over to Bucca di Beppo for dinner.  Afterward we went to a bar--and by "we" I mean the groom's entire party.  His parents even came to the bar.  Heehee, so cute.  The last bit of our group had just checked into the hotel so they joined us, too.
Us at the venue, La Venta Inn, waiting for the rehearsal to begin.
Prav, Anthony, Javi, Matt, Devin, and Dave, with the groom's parents in the foreground.
It was soooooooooooooooooooooooooo fun to have the "whole gang" together again.  Despite children, weddings, moves, careers, etc. the guys all picked right back up with their old shenanigans: quoting South Park and Super Troopers, picking on each other, and reminiscing about their dorm and apartment days (many of them lived all together in both places).  Ahhhh, I missed those guys.

Sunday morning we picked up Kaitlyn and Brady for breakfast and ate at CJ's Pantry.  The food was good, but of course, the company was even better.  K and B have a 5 and a 2 year old and was it was awesome to talk to them about everything under the moon, including our kids' antics and everyone's jobs and stuff.  Kaitlyn had to run off to buy a dress for the wedding, so Dave and I headed back to the hotel to get ready.  I had to repaint my toes, iron Dave's shirts (two, I brought an extra because you just never know what he'll spill down his front), and figure out how to wear the new makeup I'd brought.  We watched a lot of Food Network while we did all that stuff.
Scallop eggs Benedict?  Heck yes.
Prav asked us if we could come to his hotel at 1:30 pm to pick up all the guys and shuttle them around for pictures.  Miracle of miracles, we were on time.  I wasn't in my fancy dress yet because I didn't want to risk getting it messed up, but Dave was all dressed up and ready to pose.  Of course, the groom never knows what's going on so we ended up waiting for a loooooong time in the hotel lobby for Prav to even show up! The valet parking guy allowed me to park my van in one of the coveted spots right out front, which was awesome since it was raining buckets.  Eventually, I just went chatted with Brady in the hotel bar.
Dave, why aren't you smiling?
The wedding party in the hotel lobby.  Isn't Grace, the bride, lovely?
When Prav arrived, the groomsmen went up to his room to stage pictures of him getting ready--I guess so there'll be matching pictures of the bride getting ready?  It seemed weird and Dave confirmed that it was.  In fact, the man of honor kept joking about how many more times he'd have to unbutton and rebutton Prav's coat for all these damn pictures.  Haha.  At about 3:30 pm everyone was ready to drive up the hill to take some more pictures.  The bride was standing in the drizzle, holding up her gown, while her bridesmaids shuffled stuff around in the rear of their car to make room for her.  She finally just asked if she could ride with us.  Of course!  We're in a minivan!  We can hold 6 brides plus the driver!

So off we went to a pretty arched building and a ridiculous fountain to stage some photos.  I was dispatched to take pictures with Javi's camera since the photographers (all 4 of them) seemed to have taken a wrong turn somewhere.  Eventually they did show up.
Trying to arrange photos before the rain got worse and ruined the bride's make up and hair.
A close up shot of the fountain where the wedding party had some pictures taken.  Heehee, isn't this fountain hilarious?  
The wedding had to be done inside since it was pouring rain by 5 pm.  Although a little crowded, it was really nice with the fire place and candles. Prav told us later that he was roasting and sweating being so close to the fire.
I took this picture just before the wedding began.  Check out that dark cloud just looming over the wedding venue.  Good  thing rain is lucky on your wedding day, right?
We were seated at a table with all our Saint Mary's College friends, so dinner was obviously a hoot.  My salmon was scrumptious, mostly because it was topped with a green olive tapenade...mmmm.

After eating and many toasts translated between English and Chinese, we all headed to the dance floor and stayed there until 10 pm.  Because the venue is in a residential area, the music had to stop that early.  Phooey.  So we all headed back to the main hotel and met up at the bar.  Those of us who are parents and had to travel back home the following day were soooooooooo tired by midnight so we only stayed for a little while before crashing.
Exhausted from dancing, chatting, and celebrating.
Dave and I headed off toward home at about 8:30 am Sunday morning while the newlyweds took off for their honeymoon in French Polynesia.  I hope they had tons of fun!

We didn't want to stop for breakfast so we got fast food and hit the road.  In Manteca, we did all our Thanksgiving Costco shopping so I wouldn't have to do it with Eddie during the week.  You know what's crazy?  I was confused and though that Thanksgiving was the 28th, not the 22nd so I was sort of scrambling to get things organized food-wise on our drive back up north.  Oops!

We came home to a happy Eddie and a tired Amanda.  She also babysat a fellow daycare kiddo, Insee, oat our house on Saturday morning. I know they had fun and I am so grateful we have her to watch over Eddie on occasions like this.
Amanda reports that the boys and dogs played pirates on our bed for quite some time on Saturday.
For each night we were gone, we left Eddie a small paper bag containing a piece of candy and a little note.  Apparently he loved the notes so much he insisted that they be taped to the fridge (where they still are).
It was a fun weekend away to celebrate with our friends.  This was the first time (other than my heart surgery) when I actually wished Eddie was with us...normally we like to be away from him for a little parent time alone.  But not this time.  Congrats to Prav and Grace--we wish you all the best!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Fall Meeting

Yesterday I presented my first oral paper at the American Geophysical Union's Fall Meeting.

Back in August when I submitted my abstract, I'd only just finished collecting all my data from this analytical method I'd created.  I wasn't sure I'd be able to get enough data analysis done by December, but it seemed like a good idea to push myself into it.  So with my friend Garrett's encouragement (he's my cheerleader at school), I submitted my abstract for an oral presentation.  I've never done a talk at a conference before, only posters, and I've never been to this particular conference before.

I didn't have a good experience practicing my presentation in my lab meeting the week prior to the conference.  My labmates were silent, offering NO help whatsoever. So that left my PI and our post doc to give all the helpful and teasing advice that I could handle.  Ug. I left lab meeting frustrated because I felt like their constructive criticism was hidden amongst unnecessary teasing about my color scheme choices (which turned out to be the exact suggestions on the AGU website!) and giving me a hard time about how my computer's ghetto operating system is incompatible with the departmental projectors so my animation wouldn't work, leaving me to manually fiddle with the plots.  I should have been more prepared and tried the Power Point with the projector beforehand, probably, but they could have at least been a little more empathetic (or simply shut up and only offer feedback about the content of my presentation!).  Gah.  When Dave picked me up for dinner that night he could tell I felt defeated.

The whole weekend I stressed over the organization of the slides and the interpretation of my data. I gave myself Saturday "off" and didn't even touch it until Sunday.  Monday I reviewed the presentation with my PI, who gave me a thumbs up.

He and Garrett asked me who else was speaking during my session, and I admitted that I didn't want to know, lest I become more intimidated.  I was not as excited as they were that I was the only student presenting--and out of 8 speakers, 3 were invited.  Sheesh.  Talk about intimidation.

Tuesday I recorded myself doing the presentation and watched the videos to see what I could improve upon.  Learning to speak more slowly is something I will always struggle with, no matter how much practicing I do.

Dave couldn't justify taking Wednesday off so I could go to the conference unhindered with childcare duties, so I had to do Mama stuff in the morning, drop Eddie off at daycare, bolt to the Amtrak station to buy my ticket, look for parking (scratched the right side of the van in the parking garage when I reacted to another car coming quickly into my side of the ramp), decide to park in a timed spot anyway and deal with a parking ticket, take BART from the Richmond Amtrak station, and then walk to the Moscone Center.  I wore travel clothes and changed once I got to the conference center, leaving me only an hour before my presentation (during which time I ate and uploaded my Power Point onto the server). Garrett and I chatted over lunch before I entered the session, where there were probably 80-100 people in the audience.

My talk went only "eh" on a scale of "I'm amazing" to "I suck" ("eh" being toward the sucking end).  I spoke too fast, was nervous for the first half, and then was hammered with 2 difficult questions (and 1 easy one!).  See, Julie?  If you'd learn to speak more slowly, then you'd take up more time and prevent the chances of having any time left for questions!  Lesson learned for next time.  =)  My friend warned me about a particular professor who would probably ask me some difficult questions, just to prove a point (that he's a badass scientist man), and indeed it happened.

I'm not happy with how my presentation went: I could have been a lot more clear in some cases, I spoke to quickly, and I don't feel that the awesomeness and implications of my method and data was felt by the audience. BUT--my personal goals for the conference were to a) present an oral paper just to say I've done it (and to practice the vital communication of findings, as all scientists should) and b) force myself into data analysis/synthesis to get the ball rolling on dissertation-writing.  So in those regards, my presentation was a huge success. 

Once my entire session was over, I met up with Edward who'd come in on CalTrain to hang out.  We got an early dinner at an Irish pub and then walked around for a few hours, sipping hot cocoa, looking at all the holiday decorations, and doing some window shopping. It was really nice to just wander around for a few hours, unhindered by the stress of a deadline or a whiny child.
The Starbucks near the conference center had a cute sign up for all us geeks.
I'd hired a baby sitter to pick Eddie up from daycare since I knew I wouldn't be able to get back before 5:30 pm.  So I texted him to make sure everything was going okay, and it was.

Garrett and I BART/Amtrak'ed back together, rehashing our experiences at the conference to each other.  Of course, our train was late so I got back to the house until after 10 pm, 30 minutes later than I had promised the sitter.  But the good news is that my car didn't get a ticket after all.  Woo!

So. I'm done presenting. I feel like I've done my piece--not that my PI has ever told me that I must present at conferences, but it's sort of implied.  Now the work really begins: to outline the dissertation chapters, visualize my data, write about the data, add some introductions/sweeping conclusions, format it all into a dissertation, and ring that graduation bell!  And that should only take a few weeks, right?  (, more like a year.)

But first, I have some relaxing to do.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

2012 Resolutions

Remember my resolutions from last year?  I'm sad to report that I have only accomplished part of one of them.  I did collect nearly all my data for my dissertation (just not the plant extractions, which will happen in early January). The good news is that knitting and selling stuff on ebay doesn't actually contribute anything substantial to my life.  But dang, I wish I'd finished collecting data earlier in the year so I could have prepared those two manuscripts.  It was a lofty goal in the first place, though. I guess I'll just have to bump up the number of completed manuscripts from 2 to 5 for this coming year.

Last year I didn't even send out Christmas cards because things got so dang busy that I never had time. 

I remember standing at my back patio door last year after Thanksgiving, watching the leaves fall from the trees.  Tired and nervous that I would royally screw up my big research project (on which the entire dissertation hinged), I sighed and thought to myself, "Well, at least we got Thanksgiving and Christmas out of the way so I can just concentrate on my research."  And then I realized we hadn't even come close to December 25th yet. Yikes.

This year is a bit different, with the big project behind me. Now I have loads and loads and loads of data to massage into a story...and then I can write about it.

I'm writing this with my arms perched on a huge stack of Christmas letters that are stamped, addressed, and sealed.  We'll pop them through the slot at the post office on our way to a friend's birthday party this afternoon.  Woo!  I feel super accomplished, even for such a trite thing as mail.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

San Diego: Part 2

To continue about our San Diego trip back in September...

Saturday morning, September 29, Donovan had scheduled everyone to "do" a Crossfit workout at his oldest brother's gym.  Joining Crossfit was on my "do when Dave moves back to Davis" list...but obviously neither of those things ever happened.  So I was happy to be able to try it, especially with a huge group of friends.  And it was just as awesome as I thought it'd be.  Eddie was being a royal pill, whining and throwing a fit because I wouldn't hold him while I worked out.  Kateri didn't do the workout and was very sweet to haul Eddie out the door to let me do my thing.  Apparently, he cried the whole time, even as she bribed him with lemonade and chips at Subway next door.  I really hate being watched while exercising, I guess for fear that I'm being judged and that I'm not doing it properly.  So I was sort of intimidated by the competition between our groups of two.  But...Skyler and I were on a team together and we beat everyone!  Woo!  We did some bar/weight lifts (I sucked at those), pull ups, and rowing.

Afterward, everyone piled into cars to take off for the beach.  We took Ahmik's kids along with us since he had to stay at the gym to work.

The beach was darn near perfect that afternoon: nice and warm from the late-season heat wave and no wind.  We all brought or bought our own lunches. Our family had some tasty Mediterranean food from a little shop right off the sand, where it isn't weird to order your food while only wearing your bathing suit (which is what Jennifer and I did).
Our beach area.
Eddie and Batiste playing in the sand.
Us Bowers.
Edward and Jennifer.
That evening we took Ahmik's kids back to our condo to get cleaned up.  The Jones kids treated everyone to dinner at a Chinese restaurant, where we ate the yummiest spicy scallop dish ever.  Ahmik's baby boy, Gavin, was NOT happy to be there so we all took turns walking that precious 3 month old around outside so his mama could eat her food.  The only way I could get him to calm down was by singing BINGO, except the EDDIE version I used to sing to Eddie ("There was a Mama who had a baby and Eddie was his name-y...").

Then we all walked down to the other end of the shopping center to party at the Crossfit gym.  Given the paleo diet fad at these gyms, it was funny that we were all drinking champagne and juice while eating cake.  Toasts were made, skits were performed, songs were sung, and stories were told. The kids ran around like crazy people, popping balloons with dry erase pens, and the adults sat around chatting.  It was a great time.
Party at Crossfit!
Kateri and Dale's actual 40th anniversary was on New Year's Day of this year, but we celebrated it that night.
Kateri and Dale celebrating 40 years of marriage.
On Sunday morning, Edward and Jennifer took off in a rental car to drive up to Santa Barbara for a wedding.  The rest of us went to the zoo.  Since we were a bit late, we just wandered around on our own and met up with everyone for lunch.

It was a hot day, but we had lots of fun seeing all the animals.  I was very proud of my mom and Eddie for walking around on their own the whole time.  Of course, we had the stroller for Eddie but he refused to sit in it...until he passed out late in the day.
Two Bowers and a Levie studying the zoo map.
Monday morning us Bowers met up with my friend, Leah, and her two kiddos at a park in Coronado.  I was in the same class as Leah's older sister in high school and we became 'friends' on Facebook.  Things like this are exactly why I love Facebook, blogs, and email--allowing virtual friendships to turn real.  Over the last few years we followed each other's lives: marriage, kids, home ownership, etc.  It was fun to be able to meet up and let our kids play.  Really, her kid played with me and Dave while Eddie busied himself playing with other kids' sand toys.
Leah and her kids.
After the park, us Bowers headed northeast into the hot interior to visit the Wild Animal Safari Park.  We were only there for about 3 hours and it was empty, given the heat and that it was a Monday.  Since we had nothing else to do and had already paid for the 3-in-1 park passes, it was worth going.  My phone was nearly dead by the time we got there, so I didn't take many pictures.

We got to see the racing cheetah and get a Slurpee before taking the last tram ride of the day.  The low angle of the hot sun made the tram ride a little uncomfortable, but I was happy to see the white rhinos (two of three left in the world!) and giraffes.  Afterward, we walked over to see the lions, who were right near the fence, making our view spectacular.  Eddie was so confused about why there was a Land Rover car in the pen with them...and then he was so surprised when a male cat jumped up on top of it:  "MAMA!  DAT KITTY LION ISN'T ALLOWED UP DERE!"

Passed out.  See Eddie's blue mustache from his Slurpee?
When we got home, we went to the beach one last time.  My mom and Dave walked down to a Mexican restaurant to pick up some food for us that night.  I had carne asada nachos made with fries instead of chips....sooooooo good.

The next morning, we packed up the condo and drove Dave to the airport for his flight back north.  My mom and I drove north to spend the night in Santa Barbara to see some of our friends.  More on that later....

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Post Thanksgiving Weekend

Friday morning we started out with a yummy breakfast before my folks headed back to Livermore.  Edward took Eddie and the neighbors to the park on their bikes and we just sorta hung out and worked on a few things around the house. 

That night we all biked to the shopping center for some froyo (I'd gotten a 58% off Groupon punchcard) and rented Brave and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  It was Eddie's first nighttime biking adventure and he did a great job--although I am very glad we had 4 adults so we could bike on all sides of him to sort of "herd" him towards the right side of the street (he's not really aware of right vs. left yet).  
I found a working red taillight on the ground at school. Dave attached it to Eddie's bike so he's road worthy!
Edward and Jennifer have awesome road bikes but Eddie sure thinks his bike is cooler, what with the bell, flag, and basket.
Eddie wanted Dadda to sit with him by the window.  So sweet, the two of them together!
We watched Brave with Eddie right when we got home, while munching on big bowls of cheesy popcorn.  I'd heard that the movie was a bit scary for little kids, but he did surprisingly well.  All week, he'd been telling us made-up stories about mean bears coming into our house and breaking things: "Once upon a time a biiiiiiig bear came into Mama's house and broke the coffeepot and the door and then Dadda glued it all back together."  So seeing the bears in the movie was pretty ironic.  I'm glad there was a nice bear and not just the scary one...I think that helped him stay calm during the movie.  Jennifer and I watched the other movie much later that night.  It was a cute story.
Eddie sure enjoyed having his favorite people at the house for the holiday.
Saturday morning we had another yummy breakfast, just before we all scooted out the door.  Edward and Jennifer hopped on their bikes toward Napa for a night on their way back to Mountain View.  Us Bowers had an appointment at the UC Davis Neurocognitive Development Lab--they had him wear a "special hat" and watch a show to determine where the blood goes.  The instrument wasn't working so he didn't do anything to record results, but it was still a neat experience.  I think we'll go back again this week to actually record him.  
As far as Eddie's concerned, the best reason to participate in all these cognitive studies is being able to play in the toy room.  He's been there about a dozen times over his life span and he never gets tired of playing in that room.
Then it was off to Target to get Dave a flu shot.  After that, the boys headed off to Mike and Bernie's to repair some faucets while I did some Small Business Saturday shopping and went to the library for a few hours.  Thanks to American Express' $25 credit when you shop at a "small business," I got a new USB-charged bike light for free.  Woo!  

The library was nearly empty and I loved it.  Usually the Main Reading Room is full to the brim and someone is always munching loudly (you're not supposed to eat in there), tapping a pencil repeatedly, or listening to their music too loudly.  But on this post-holiday afternoon there were only about 10 of us in that majestic room.  I got so much done, too!
Isn't this room fantastic?  
Sunday was spent doing chores around the house: I organized all my empty canning jars (about 100 of them) and the zillions of lids and bands, refilled the sugar and flour containers with giant sacks from Costco, did loads and loads of laundry, etc. Dave got the Christmas lights up on the roof and cleaned out the gutters, just in time for the rain that will come in tomorrow.  

That afternoon Eddie was in his room for quiet time.  He was up and playing the whole 2.5 hours: I could hear him on the baby monitor yelling, screaming, singing.  It was hilarious.  When I went in to get him "up," his room was a giant mess.  Toys and "pretty things" (plastic jewelry) EVERYWHERE.  He was a good boy and actually cleaned it all up while I helped (read: told him what to do while sitting on the floor).

We went out to Indian food that night and Eddie surprised us by doing SO well at the table.  I brought Memory, the card game, which occupied him while our food cooked.  He didn't like the mughlia saag (my favorite) but chowed down on rice, chicken tikka, and the lettuce garnish and plum sauce from our plate of too-spicy samosas.  I wasn't too pleased with the restaurant because we'd been told by another waitress on a previous trip that we could use our expired half-off Groupon any time since they always had coupons like that out.  That particular waitress was on vacation but our waiter that night was adamant that she and no one else could not honor an expired coupon.  We contemplated leaving but she comped us the samosas so we decided to stay.  I'll be writing a letter to the restaurant owner about the lying waitress. Also, I didn't feel too badly when I saw that Eddie had gotten rice absolutely everywhere on the booth seat.  It was like the rice exploded!  And he wasn't even that messy while eating.  

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Feasting 2012

To kick the day off, we all slept in.  Edward, Jennifer, and I went downtown on Wednesday night to a bar, where Dave met up with us for a late night drink.  My folks graciously stayed at our house with sleeping Eddie until after midnight.  Everyone except Eddie awoke very sleepy on Thanksgiving morning.

For breakfast I made some gluten free pancakes, two kinds of sausage patties, and a giant frittata using late season tomatoes from my dad's garden.  It was a delicious way to start a marathon cooking day.
This year, everyone helped cook something, which was nice for me since I usually end up doing 95% of the cooking.  I think I probably did only about 75% this year.  
Dave and Jennifer made the chocolate mousse.
Jennifer making mousse.
We had soooooooooo many side dishes that we could have completely skipped the meat.  Because of Edward and Jennifer's food allergies, we had chicken instead of turkey and everything else (besides the bread) was gluten free.  I really don't think anyone would have been able to tell it was all gluten free.  Here's what we made:
  • Roasted chicken
  • Yams
  • Stuffing (made with gluten free bread cubes, sausages and olives)
  • Greens (mostly from my dad's garden)
  • Two kinds of cranberry sauce
  • My dad's pickled green beans
  • My dad's fermented green tomatoes
  • Gravy (roux made with sweet rice flour)
  • Stuffed mushrooms
  • Broccolette slaw
  • Warm Brussels sprouts salad (the BEST way to eat this veg)
  • Green salad with apples and poppy seed dressing (given to us by the neighbors as a thank you for hosting their kids while they cooked)
  • Olive focaccia
  • Braided wheat bread
  • Olive wheat bread
  • "Pumpkin" pie with gluten free crust (I used butternut squash instead and you couldn't tell)
  • Apple pie with gluten free crust (as link above but made with pecans instead of coconut)
  • Chocolate mousse
With 7 people we didn't even finish off one chicken.  Who needs meat when you have so many side dishes?
Thanksgiving buffet, with more on the table.
I had hoped we'd eat at 5:30 pm and for the FIRST time ever in the history of me cooking a giant meal, we sat down a half hour early.  

My mom set the table with her mother's cross-stitched linens and my dad's mom's silver and china.  
The silverware was "polished" using my mom's grandma's aluminum pan.  Edward, Dave, and Jennifer were in charge of the silverware; they were really into it.  Unlike traditional polishing, which removes some of the silver metal (thereby wearing it down), this electrochemical reaction just converts the dark silver sulfide (formed from the silverware and sulfur in the air) back to shiny silver.  Ta da, so fun!
Chemistry in action!
Jennifer was so excited about this technique because she and Edward have real silver flatware as their everyday utensils and she doesn't want to have to polish it all the time.
Eddie was nap-free that whole day and he surprised us by doing quite well during dinner.  I almost let him watch a few shows while us adults ate our magnificent meal because I feared he'd be cranky and restless.  As my dad said, "it'd be better to be thankful he wasn't ruining dinner than to wish he wasn't at the table in the first place."  It made me laugh, especially when he offered to justify anything that way for me.  After getting up from his seat a few times, he settled down to eat, drink cider and milk from his own wine glasses, and tell us lots of stories about bears breaking into our house.  
Regaling Uncle and Auntie about some big bears.
Toward the end of the meal, Eddie trotted off to his room to get a stack of dress up hats for us all to wear.  

After Eddie was in bed that night, us adults settled into the living room with some dessert and a rented copy of The Expendables 2.  It was crap so I ended up going to bed at 9:30 pm, shortly after my folks headed back to their hotel.  I was exhausted from cooking all day and it was sooooooooooo nice to assume a horizontal position.
Shoot, everyone was exhausted.
The recipe was called "death by chocolate" and I believe it.  We omitted the chocolate cookie crust to make it gluten free and it was already way too rich.
If it looks like pumpkin pie, and it tastes like pumpkin pie, then it is pumpkin pie...even if it's make with roasted butternut squash instead, right?
I am forever thankful for my supportive and quirky family, my hard working husband, our incomes, the freedoms of our country, our rambunctious Eddie, our health, and much, much more.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!