happy winter solstice

Hmm, I guess in retrospect that was a bit of a downer post yesterday.  I mean I should clarify that I am really quite happy to be done with my masters and excited about being a librarian.  I think I just find it odd how quickly even big things in my life can feel like normal all over again.  That said I figure I would give you a little peak into some of the highlights of the past few weeks other than you know the work part.

Miriam can up for a visit and it was truly wonderful.  We watched two movies (one in the theater and one on DVD*) and while neither were what one would call “a quality achievement in film-making” they were both highly entertaining.  We put together two puzzles, listened to lots of Christmas music, ate yummy Italian food, went thrifting and generally obtained the perfect balance of sitting around being cozy and warm and venturing out to do fun things.

I went to the library and checked out a bunch of books for fun!  Several of which were the most recent volumes in the Fables graphic novel series.  I then proceeded to spend much of yesterday afternoon laying in bed reading them.  Ah the luxuries of vacation.

I also helped one of my housemates out in preparing flowers and decorations for a wedding at our church.  I have never really worked with flowers before and was kind of intimidated by the idea of doing so.  But in the end it was kind of fun.  See look, I helped make this:

Now I am only 2 days away from heading back to Goshen for a full week of fun, family and probably no falafel.  I think I might try to keep posting here through the end of the year and maybe even if I am feeling up for it taking a stab at updating my long neglected about page.

*And I will only tell you what they were if you promise not to judge! Okay, you just pinky swore right? We watched Knight and Day on DVD and despite being silly and cliche it was oddly hilarious.  I think in part because Tom Cruise is really only designed to do one thing and that is do the action star thing and he does it quite well.  And the other is not one that I am embarrassed to say that I liked, just maybe a bit embarrassed to say that I actually went back with my housemate yesterday and saw it in theaters again.  However now I can say without any doubt (not that much existed before) but don’t waste your money on 3D, at least not on Tangled.  But do see that movie at some point because it contains the single funniest horse ever animated.

day 3 – Outfit Post Wednesday

Technically I wore this yesterday, but I think this may become the usual for Wednesdays considering I don't get home until around 10pm thanks to my class. Click on through to Flickr for a few more outfit details if that strikes your fancy.

So this picture doesn’t really do this skirt justice, because it is this lovely shade of dusky purple wool (not brown like the picture implies) and I am just so tickled about it because I thrifted it back in March, which was just a little late for skirts and tights weather, so I have been waiting to wear it for oh, about 8 months.  Although I may have somewhat missed my window, because apparently it is supposed to be getting colder quickly, but to that I just say (with my fingers stuck in my ears) “I’m not listening, I’m not listening, I’m not listening”.  This is my preferred way of welcoming in the winter months (at least until that moment when the first snow turns the whole neighborhood into a gleaming white paradise).

Anyways I think I might try to take one outfit picture a week and probably post in on Wednesdays.  So we’ll see how long this practice lasts, but one should also rightly assume that all outfits not pictured are either sublimely coordinated and reeking of class, or assorted variations of cardigans and jeans, depending on how well you know me in real life.

some paragraphs that may or may not be coherent and update you on my life

Spring has arrived

I know that we are in the last few moments of April already, but is anyone else kind of confused as to how it is actually Spring already?  I know this may sound strange coming from a Midwesterner, who tends to see Winter as everlasting, but when I look at the trees that have managed to send out huge whole leaves in what feels like a few minutes, I am a bit flabbergasted.  I think this is related to my whole angsty aging nostalgia thing in which I can hardly believe that I am in my late twenties.  That isn’t too say that I have any problems with getting older, it seems like a good idea considering the alternatives, but at the same time I am not really pleased that life seems to be flying by at an ever increasing rate.  While it may seem like the passing of just one more season, I tend to view it as just one more example of how I WILL SOON BE 50.

Classes

Those are going pretty well, right now I am busy making myself all nervous because my book talk is tonight.  If you aren’t familiar with that term, that is where you do a quick teaser/synopsis/trailer for a bunch of books, and other wise attempt to persuade your audience (in my case middle school students) that they should read them.  If you are interested, head over to my GoodReads list to view all 10 titles.  However after tonight, I only have next week’s group project to finish up, before I will be done with Spring semester.  Of course, I won’t have that much of a break, seeing as my “Summer” class starts the very next week, giving me break of 5 days.

Family Weekend

The good news is that my break will overlap with the arrival of all family members for a brief weekend of togetherness.  In addition to getting excited about general family time, I am also using this as a motivation to finally get “the general mess of books that is occasionally know as my room” in order.  Thanks in part to said book talk and also general business (business for me almost always equals huge upswing in clutter), my room has been taken over by piles: piles of books, piles of clothes, piles of mail to be read, and piles of papers to be filed.  I don’t care if I am 26.5 years old, I have enough memories of “clean your room” grilled into me that parents visit=clean-up time 🙂

Plans

Despite the long awaited real break that will happen at the end of June (end of summer class, finish work, almost all observation hours done), I feel like so much of my life right now is getting things in order, jumping through hoops and balancing commitments.  Now some of those are fun things (i.e. trip to Seattle and Vancouver with Becca and week-long Boundary Waters trip with Zeb and high schoolers), others of them are less fun like finishing entire correspondence course before Sept 1, taking APT (the last one of those fun standardized tests I have to take for my degree) in June, finalizing observation dates, and generally KEEPING UP WITH LIFE.  I have discovered that when I am feeling stressed, my interest in doing any activities that require actual thought and input nose-dives.  So….

TV shows I have been watching on Hulu/Netflix Instant Watch

Old ones

  • How I Met Your Mother (what can I say, this show is legen…..wait for it…. dary!)
  • Chuck (comedy, action, improbably drawn out romances = check, check and CHECK)

New Ones

  • Human Target (pretty silly, but fills the simple actiony show void left by Burn Notice’s season finale)
  • Lies to Me (Becca totally got me hooked on this one and its available on Netflix Instant Watch, basically the main dude can figure how all kinds of things about people’s true thoughts and emotions based on micro-expressions, facial twitchs and gestures.  It’s kind of like CSI with less DNA and more psychology, so far I am totally hooked).

Photos

Oh and I finally uploaded and “titled” my pictures from the Washington DC Spring Break trip, go check them out if you are interested.

belated welcome to the new decade

Monday morning, post-coffee, seems like a good time to finally launch the second decade of this blog, or at least the second decade in which I have been blogging.  The problem with not blogging for a good long time is that when you finally do the backlog of “ooh I should write about that” is so long that you can’t actually remember any of it and are forced to sit there staring at your screen trying to think of something to say before going “gahhh!” and throwing a bunch of flickr pictures at everyone.

The holidays were wonderful and I actually mean that.  While of course I didn’t really want to go back to work after them, the time off was the perfect combination of bumming around, house time, church time, family time, friend time and extended family time.  Plus all during my two week break I knew that I had the single greatest change at my work situation waiting for me when I returned.  No small change, I knew that this alteration would totally change my day to day life and breath fresh air into what can occasionally be a slightly stale situation.  So drum roll please, I MOVED MY DESK.  Well actually, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, I actually just rotated the massive thing, but still the effect is great.  Instead of having my back to the entire reference room I am now at the perfect angle to see students, plus the rest of the library all while actually feeling like I have a smidgen of privacy.  It is definitely the best part of 2010 so far.

Despite spending almost an entire evening last week editing, organizing and uploading pictures from break, I still need to work on the Nafs reunion pictures and all the pictures I took of my uncles’ slideshow of my grandpa’s old photos.  However if you haven’t yet taken a look over there at flickr, I have three (newish) sets you should look through.  One is actually from January 2009, that I had never actually gotten around to uploading to flickr, but Jess added lots of funny captions, so you should go take a look at that one (start at the beginning of the set, so get the full effect).

Basically there are not enough bizarre photos of my already available on the web, so I figured I would add some more.

Plus I finally put labels and captions and such on my Brunk’s cabin photos, so go take a looksy at those too.  Once again, start with this photo and work your way through the set.

And finally a set that proves just how crazy awesome and full of cute babies the Hess family is, here is one with a few of my favorite photos.

Christmas

So I did indeed make it safely to Goshen on Christmas Eve, or by the time we drove 3 and 1/2 hours in the rain, early Christmas morning.  Despite getting really tired of driving in the rain, the ride was much brightened by the company of Becca and Roselyn, I am not sure I really would have been up for it if I hadn’t had folks with me.  And of course getting welcomed by both Jonathan, my dad (briefly) and Google (the best dog ever!) made it all worth while.

Since then it has been a long blur of games, eating, reading, sitting around, taking walks and entertaining ourselves by torturing Google with games of ping pong.  I guess I should probably explain that Google is the puppy dog that Jonathan and his friend Colin adopted this summer out in Colorado and my family got to dogsit for 3 days or so while Colin was at Camp Friedenswald.  A black lab mutt of around a year, Google is highly affectionate, smart and totally nutso about his frisbee, his pear and ping pong balls.

Christmas itself was a bit anti-climatic in that Tim and Charletta were only scheduled to arrive the next day so we saved gifts and the turkey dinner (My second in less than a week!) till Saturday.  So Jonathan, Mom, Dad and I entertained ourselves by (re)learning Puerto Rico and baking cookies.  I persuaded Mom that we should make a batch of thumbprint cookies, so this time we tried out homemade grape jelly and pear butter in addition to the more traditional apricot and blackberry.  I think grape was my favorite of this batch.

Saturday morning included a trip to E&S sales in Shipshewana (the store that Becca loves so much because it sells corn nuts) with my Mom and Becca.  After a frustratingly long attempt to pick up an order for the Harvest (a local co-op in Evanston), we purchased a random assortment of interesting items including dark chocolate Reese’s cups, discount Arizona tea, pistachios, and black licorice (for my Dad, who loves the stuff for some unknown reason).  Then we stopped by Yoders’s department store and I finally purchased a cookie dough scoop, which I had been wanting for several months.

That afternoon Tim and Charletta finally arrived after their snowy 6 hour drive from Iowa and so we opened gifts. This year we had switched to drawing names instead of just getting gifts for everyone. Dad had my name and so I received the book When Wanderers Cease to Roam: A Traveler’s Journal of Staying Put, which oddly enough I had just added to my hold’s list at the library. Apparently Dad and I had heard the same report on NPR, so I was happy to actually receive my own copy, especially because the book is full of beautiful watercolors and interesting projects/recipes/etc that I will probably want to look at multiple times.  Also Dad got me a gift certificate to Amazon, so it will be fun deciding which book/dvd/random kitchen appliance I will be purchasing.

Saturday evening we had our turkey feast for which I made the corn bread stuffing I had made for my feast with the Girls and my Dad baked a turkey in a paper bag.  An interesting technique that payed off with very succulent turkey meat, if a rather odd roasting experience.  Also my mom made this incredible cranberry chutney, so obviously we ate very well.  After dinner we attempted to learn Agricola (Jonathan’s gift for Tim), but all the turkey and the late hour meant that we only got to the end of the first stage.  But I didn’t actually hate it like I tend to do towards any new game I play for the first time.  We finished up the evening with an episode of Planet Earth and some more reading by the fire place.

Sunday was finger food breakfast at Assembly, so I got to see my old church and marvel at how some of the kids I babysit for are now graduating from high school!  It was wonderful to have a chance to reconnect with a wide variety of folks, which is always one of my favorite parts of Assembly, there are always lots of adults who remain invested in your life, even after you leave.  So when you return they are always eager for updates, even if they are the 1 minute version.  Plus I got to see their beautiful advent decorations, hear an incredible frank and beautiful sermon by Julia Keim and sing some great Assembly songs.

After church we had turkey related leftovers and then Jonathan persuaded us to do a group painting.  This is also something that he started doing this past summer with his friends Colin and Matt.  Basically everyone starts painting on one part of the canvas (or in this case piece of wood) and then after a while you rotate the canvas so that everyone gets a chance to paint on different parts of the canvas.  Sometimes things get painted over and other times different parts join up.  It was lots of fun and here are our results:

Thumbprint cookies, sometimes called Pits of Love

I had been meaning to make some kind of thumbprint or shortbread cookie with a little dollop of jam for a several weeks now, and finally got around to doing so on Tuesday.  While there are probably a hundred variations on this recipe, the one I used was my housemate’s favorite that she had in her binder of recipe clippings.  So I don’t know where exactly this one was originally printed, but here it is in all its amazing glory.

Ingredients:
2 cups flour
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup finally chopped nuts (I used a blend of almond and walnut and really liked that combination)
1 cup softened butter
1 teas. vanilla
Various jellies

Instructions:
Combine the flour, sugar and 1/2 cups of the nuts in a mixing bowl.  Cut in the two sticks of butter with either a fork or pastry cutter.  Add the vanilla.
The dough will be quite dry, but work it until you can form 1 inch balls.  Roll the dough balls in the remaining 1/2 cup of nuts and place on greased cookie sheets at least 2 inches apart.  Now the recipe claims that this should make 60 cookies, but I am either really bad at measuring 1 inch (which is most likely true) or it makes closer to 30.
Either way lightly indent the tops of each ball to make a small crater.  I found it helpful to use both hands for this, one holding the sides of the ball together and the other pressing down.  Then fill each small crater with 1/4 teaspoon jelly.  The recipe calls for red current jelly, but since I didn’t have any of that,  I used 4 different kinds, strawberry, blackberry, apricot and orange marmalade.  The apricot and strawberry ones were my favorite, but feel free to experiment.
Then bake in a 325 degree oven for 15-18 minutes.  I found that mine (maybe because of their larger size?) needed closer to 18-20.  Make sure you let them cool before eating, because believe me that jelly stays hot longer than the cookie itself.

Christmas Break, so far

Other than my cold knees, I am currently enjoying one of my favorite parts of time off or vacation in general.  I am sitting at the beloved Brothers K coffeeshop, with my lap top and and an almost finished latte beside me.  Jess is a seat away working on her laptop and outside snow is drifting down.  Other than the draft from the door, I couldn’t be much happier.  No deadlines to worry about, and I am not even sleepy because (thanks to the dose of Benedryl I took) I slept in till noon.  Of course thanks to our northernly latitude, it is already headed towards dusk, but we are already on the upswing of daylight hours and headed slowly and surely towards that summer equinox only 6 short months away.

I can hardly believe that tomorrow is Christmas Eve and my last full day of break in Evanston.  My plan for this year is to stay and see my church’s Christmas Eve pageant and then carpool a group of folks home to Indiana (including my cousin who I see all too rarely!).  Then it will be 3 days of home and the family, before heading up for a day and half of college friend reunion at Brunk’s cabin.  Then another day’s respite, before a trip into Pennsylvania in which we will spend all of New Year’s Eve driving.  Two days of extended holiday time: possible highlights include my cousin’s still very new baby Miles and a chance to see my cousins who are on furlough from their mission work in Malawi.  That brings us to another 10 hour drive back go Goshen, another 3 hour drive to Chicago and the start of the second half of the work year.

So enough of this talking stuff, here are some pictures of a few things I have been up too this week:

 

On Sunday evening, Becca, Jess and I prepared an incredible feast for ourselves, exchanged presents and watched the Christmas classic, Elf.

In addition to our amazing spread of side dishes, we also tackled the free turkey that Becca had received from her employers. We were pretty proud of ourselves for getting it properly cooked and everything considering our combined lack of turkey-roasting experience. However while preping the bird I was surprised to find that it was missing the giblet bag. Despite some very thorough turkey cavity searching, I couldn't seem to find more than the turkey neck. Of course it was only when we were carving the cooked bird that we discovered that turkey's have TWO body cavities. Who know?!

On Monday night, I went with Jess's family down to the Lincoln Park Zoo to see the lights. They didn't disappoint with their rather Dr. Suessian colors and generally incredible tackiness factor. Despite the cold, we had a great time wandering around looking at sleeping animals and crowds of happy people.

Erin was home from her first semester at college and so it was fun to see Jess and her doing the sisterly thing. Of course, in typical Iverson fashion they were very good at looking cute.

And of course I couldn't resist taking lots of pictures of Christmas lights, which if you are interested in seeing more of click over on the right sidebar to go to my flickr page.

the week before Christmas Break

While not a full out teacher (like some people I know read) there is something that makes the week before Christmas break feel like an eternity.  Knowing that there, at the end of the week, is a golden 2 weeks of no work and no classes is making my motivation to do most anything beyond nothing, really hard to combat.  However the highlight of this weeks has probably been working with Jess and Becca to perfect our super secret gonna be awesome Christmas cards.  There is something about having a project to work on that definitely helps the days go by faster.  Plus we are going to celebrate our completion of the cards by cooking ourselves a pseudo holiday dinner on Sunday night.*  But until then I think I will go back to my holiday countdown and just keep turning up my Christmas music.

*Thanks in large part to the fact that Becca’s employers gave her a turkey for Thanksgiving this year

it’s the most wonderful time of the year

You can tell a certain holiday is coming up, when your flickr contact page begins to look themed.

I don’ t know if that is completely true, but I do have to say the season of Advent is one of my favorites.  I have always loved Christmas lights whether they are the all out tacky displays you can find on the country roads around Goshen or the elegant tree lights along Lakeshore drive.  Plus there is Christmas music, which once again I have a taste for both the tacky and the beautiful, for example one of my favorite albums is Amy Grant’s Home for Christmas.  As a child I am pretty sure I almost wore out my family’s tape by listening to over and over again.  Also Advent was also the season I got baptized in, back in 2001, when the season was much darker due to the recent terrorist attacks and subsequent war.  I still remember those church services as some of the most meaningful events for me.

—-

It is amazing how easy it is to not bother blogging when you no longer have the daily compunction to do so.  This past weekend was both exhausting and incredibly non-productive.  I don’t feel comfortable going into details but I ended up doing some mediation between two friends, which left me really sad.  But as I keep telling myself, I volunteered for the task and so it is only fair to take the good with the bad. This exhaustion also led to me not getting a stitch of either paper I need to write this week done, and also being much further along in my watching of Alias season 1.

—-

However in the category of good things this weekend, I am now the proud owner of a Wii Fit Plus Board, which is slightly amusing in that I don’t own a Wii, so what I really own is a fancy scale with no display 🙂  This pretty awesome gift is a result of attending the Nintendo Enthusiast Party hosted by Erini and Rachel at a swanky loft in West Chicago.  I knew going into it was an advertising party aimed at hip young social media users (a category I am pretty sure I don’t fit in), but considering I was in no way required to do anything on this here blog, or even give them the address, I felt pretty comfortable going and accepting the pretty awesome swag.*  And I have to say I had a pretty darn good time, Becca went too and of course Erini was there.  It ended up being a super casual, low pressure lots of fun evening and so I have to say I think Nintendo Enthusiast are doing something right with their marketing, because thanks to their gift of a free Wii Fit (valued at around $100) I am actually considering getting a Wii**.

—-

Another amazing thing from the past few days was getting to attend a Swell Season concert last Thursday, however the awesomeness of that event needs its own post.  Also I should note that these little paragraphs are not intended to actually relate to each other in any way, I am just trying to wean myself off of constant bulleted lists. 🙂

*I should also say I see nothing wrong with people who choose to go down the advertising path, it just isn’t for me or this odd little blog.

**A possible current plan is to go with Becca and purchase one together after selling off one of our Fit Boards, but we will have to wait and see.

Pictures of Thanksgiving

I am sitting here watching the movie Once with my family, turkey broth cooling on the stove and so much food in my belly.  My parents and I totally kicked puzzle butt this afternoon, games were played, a walk to the lake was had and a most amazing Thanksgiving feast of course.  A giant turkey, two kinds of stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potato croquettes, two kinds of cranberry sauce, dinner rolls, gravy (two kinds), green beans and four kinds of pie, so obviously we ate well.  Because I am too full to think much more than this, here are some photos from today and yesterday:

Seats on the 147