Sunday, January 31, 2010

My 101

It's been AGES since I've re-visited my 101 list! I have checked off a few things, but not nearly what I would have liked to get done over the past few months. See below for my four-item progress . . .

101 things to do in 1001 days

Record family history (Create a family tree with my grandmother? Photos? Stories?)
Take Clay’s picture professionally at least once every 6 months
Make a will
Make a living will
Talk with Laura about Clay
Send a Christmas card to an estranged family member

Write to my grandmother
Attend services at three local churches
Volunteer in a way that’s meaningful to me
Go back to the gym – at least 3 times a week
Lose 10 pounds

Keep it off for 6 months
Train to run 3 miles without stopping
Try a yoga or pilates class
Go to the International Museum of Muslim Cultures
Go to the Smith Robertson Museum
Go to the Lauren Rogers Museum
Take an art class (pottery, painting, etc.) Check and check. Easely Amused helped me call bot this item and the next one done.
Paint a picture - Hey, it's no Monet, but it'll do, kwim?
Learn to play at least one song on the guitar
Write a food article and get it published
Write at least one poem or short story
Paint the front porch swing
Tile the master bathroom
Plant some flowering shrubs in the back yard and DON’T let them die
Plant an herb garden
Fix the patio table
Get a window shade for the baby’s bedroom
Have an energy audit done on the house
Paint the shed in the back yard

Paint the inside of the garage
Take Clay swimming
Drink wine in California
Ride in a helicopter
Ride in a hot air balloon
Go to Graceland
Go to New York City
Create a “great books list” and start reading (at least 5 books)

Create a “great movies list” and start watching (at least 5 movies)
Treasure hunt on Highway 49
Host a New Year’s open house party
Host a “dinner among the leaves” party
Host an Easter brunch
Throw a Kentucky Derby party

Celebrate the Chinese New Year - Just did this last night, and it was a huge success! I may add this to my annual enetertaining roster.
Pay off the last of my student loan
Buy some sexy new underwear
Attend at least one live concert

Go the fall flower show/festival in Crystal Springs
Visit a botanic garden
Learn more about the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict
Watch a meteor shower
Give blood
See snow
See the ocean
Adopt an Angel at Christmas - Clay and I did this together this year, and I found it immensely satisfying. Big fun, and Clay helped pick out the gifts. We both enjoyed it!

Go bowling
Pay for the person behind me in line
Do an anonymous good deed
Learn to bake a good loaf of bread
Go on a day hike
Write a letter to the editor of my local newspaper
Go on a vacation sans baby
Let Clay ride in the convertible with the top down
Perform in at least one stage production
Attend at least one Mensa meeting
Attend at least one college alumni event
Get back in touch with some of my college professors
Learn how to play poker
Learn how to shoot a decent game of pool
Make a real paella
Make a real sangria
Get a facial
Start taking vitamins again
Take mom to have her makeup done
Discover 5 new recording artists I really like and buy their CDs
Find a pair of sunglasses that will change my life

Find my signature fragrance
Take some pictures of leaves turning color in the fall
Set up and take some faux-tography shots of the baby
Write to Grace
Visit Grace in Oregon

Go on a picnic and eat food that I MADE, not food that I bought
Visit a dermatologist
Book a session with a personal trainer
Buy sheet music for a song I like and learn to play it on the piano
Learn to do a passable waltz
Bring the baby to visit my dad at work
Take a bubble bath
Light some candles just for us, when we DON’T have someone coming over
Make mint juleps and drink them on the front porch swing

Go ice skating
Preserve Clay’s foot and hand prints
Attain APR accreditation
Buy or make Clay a kick-ass Halloween costume
Give a gift that I made.

Send someone flowers for no reason
Begin using my wine notebook again and identify at least three new wines that I like
Buy a birdfeeder and set it up in the back yard
Fix the broken window pane on the porch
Spend an afternoon lying in the hammock

First day of the challenge: January 1, 2008
Last day of the challenge: September 28, 2010

Whooping it up, Chinese-style

We had our Chinese New Year celebration last night, and it was so much fun that I might observe it every year! We invited mom, dad, my sister Laura, and my sweet nephew Caleb over to help us ring in The Year of the Tiger. Booger was overjoyed.

I found some great decorations at Party City and our local Asian foods store. We hung pretty red banners in the den, along with red paper lanterns and shimmery gold ribbons that hung from the ceiling. We found cute little red takeout boxes to hold snacks, and we scored a wall decoration with a big tiger on it. We decorated the table with a bright red cloth and napkins, some gold chargers, and a cool Asian-inspired plant arrangement. I also found some joss paper, though I used it more to decorate than for its intended purpose. It's beautiful stuff.

Here's what we served:
Appetizers - We had yummy Asian snack mix set out in the takeout containers, and I could totally get used to noshing on that stuff all the time. It's full of little crispy rice cracker stuff, mixed with wasabi peas and other goodies. YUM. I also made a clear soup infused with scallions and mushrooms, and we picked up some of those pre-made, steam-at-home gyoza at the grocery store. These were all great appetizers, and very filling.

Entree - I made a chicken and veggie stir fry that we served over some long Chinese noodles I found at the Asian food store. Nothing more than garlic, ginger, chicken, red bell pepper, broccoli, and onion, seasoned liberally with sesame oil and soy sauce. I was going to add some of those baby corn cobs to it, but I couldn't find any at the store.

Dessert - We served hot green and white tea with some delicious almond cookies. (I'll post the cookie recipe later. Those cookies were a HUGE hit. Not a one of them was left at the end of the evening, and I made three pans of them.) We also had fortune cookies, and we all got a big kick out of each other's fortunes. According to mine, I will "enjoy good health" and "be surrounded with luxury." Brian's said that he was "going traveling" and would "come into a great fortune." (I'm considering that good mojo for our Vegas trip in April.)

We had planned to set off lots of fireworks after dinner, but it was sooooo cold that we skipped it. (And I went out yesterday morning and did a 5k in that miserable drizzle of freezing rain, no less. Huzzah for me!) Instead, we sipped our hot tea, contemplated our fortunes, and caught up.

I could totally get used to that.

Talkin' 'bout a revolution

Finally got around to watching Revolutionary Road last week. Dang. It's definitely a tough movie to watch (which strikes me as very Kate Winslet these days. Make a HAPPY movie, Kate!!), but it smacks of reality in a thought-provoking and almost gut-wrenching way.

Winslet plays April Wheeler, a stifled suburban housewife, opposite Leonardo DiCaprio's Frank Wheeler. In the 1950s, the couple marries and moves out of the city due to an unexpected pregnancy. Their dreams of living abroad, treading the boards, etc., are pushed aside to make way for the realities of life with two kids.

One day, April comes up with a novel idea - chuck it all and move to Paris. After some persuading, Frank agrees, and the two begin planning their adventure. As they do so, April and Frank are happier and more in love than they've been in a long time. However, another unplanned pregnancy dashes their dreams of living abroad, and their lives together crumble as a result.

This movie is a study of two things: social mores of the 1950s and the disintegration of a marriage. Both illustrations are fascinating. Performances are more than solid (Both Winslet and DiCaprio are masterful in some of the final scenes. ), and the careful recreation of 1950s suburbia is remarkable to observe.

Worth seeing, but not if you are looking for feel-good entertainment.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Year of the Tiger

Hubs and I are celebrating the Chinese New Year this year! From what I understand, the Chinese New Year is celebrated for up to two weeks in various ways. Since we are tired, old people, we are just picking one night that falls within the two week period to make fun Chinese food, observe a few Chinese customs, and shoot off a boatload of fireworks.

I found a bunch of cool paper lanterns at a local party store, as well as some other indoor decorations. Then, I went to a nearby Asian food market and picked up some cool foods to try, in addition to some neat-looking joss paper. Hubs and I have a set of chopsticks that we bought in NYC's Chinatown this past fall, so we'll be breaking those out, and I found some pretty red Chinese fans and fancy gold-wrapped candy (meant to look like an old form of Chinese money - for wealth in the new year) to give out as favors.

Any ideas on a main course? I've read it's customary to serve a dish containing long noodles, because they symbolize long life. What about some peanut/chicken/noodle/veggie stir fry? Thoughts?

I might do dumplings for the appetizer (popular for new year celebrations because, again, they are shaped like an old form of Chinese money), and with the noodle dish for an entree, we'd just need a light dessert. I know NOTHING about Chinese desserts. Anybody ever try something they thought was really good? I found an Asian almond cookie recipe online that looks promising. Does that sound like a yummy ending to dumplings and chicken noodle satay?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A slow, steady drip

For the past couple of days, the City of Jackson has been having a water pressure and potability problem due to widespread line breaks in the city water system. See, we had this freeze that lasted more than 70 hours. Not only did the water in the pipes freeze, but the Yazoo clay that surrounded the pipes did a fair amount of expanding and contracting due to the fluctuation in temperatures. What does that mean? No water for Jackson.

I'm lucky that I don't live there, so at least I have water for drinking, bathing, and other necessities at home. I do, however, work there. I couldn't care less about the coffee, but a girl does need to visit the restroom from time to time, kwim?

My office has allowed us to telecommute if need be, but I've had to be at my desk to do some things over the past couple of days. I've been managing by going out to lunch OUTSIDE the city limits, where I can enjoy a meal and use the facilities, then returning to the office and making do until at least 2:30 p.m. or so, when I either have to break down and use the portapotty (you read that right) or head home and telecommute for the rest of the day. So far, it's working for me.

Is it February yet?

Picasso? Not so much.

I went out to Easely Amused with a friend last night. It's this art studio where you join a class of other folks and basically follow instructions from the teacher to all paint the same painting. (I know, I know, it's totally suburbia. And there was a point there, when we were all tapping the water off our brushes, and forty little tapping noises mingled in the air simultaneously, when I thought, "Creativity by committee!! Aaaack!" BUT, I have to admit, I did have fun.)

Laura, the friend I took, just happens to have minored in art history. And her uncle is an artist by trade. So maybe I was hoping for some fun, snarky comments along the way. (Which I totally got, thankyouverymuch.)

So we all sit down in front of our identical canvases with our identical brushes and paints, wearing our identical aprons. And, following the teacher's instructions, we all paint. And here's the mind-blowing thing: everybody's painting looked completely different. I mean, yeah, we all had fields of poppies. And we all used the same colors. But other than that, it all looked different. Really different. It was kinda cool. In a way, it really proves how subjective art is, how we all approach it in a different way, from a different perspective, how we all have a slightly different idea of what we want the finished project to look like.

The class took about 2 hours, and it was a cheap, fun activity. I enjoyed painting and hooting over everything with Laura.

Incidentally, my painting looks like hell. Laura's looks great. No surprise there! I'm hoping, though, that maybe at least my mom won't think it looks awful. We shall see!

The illness carousel.

Since early January, booger has been on the infection ferris wheel.

Week 1 - Ear infection. Hubs and I don't usually take him to the doctor for this, but he was complaining of one other symptom, so we thought it might be something more serious than the garden variety ear infection. Soooo, I took the day off work and took booger to the doctor. The verdict? Garden variety ear infection. His low fever was gone the next day, and back to daycare he went.

Week 2 - Pinkeye. The poor little feller woke up Tuesday morning looking like a prizefighter. His little eye was crusted shut. Sooooo, hubs took the day off work and took him to the doctor. We got the eye drops, and he stayed home from daycare for THREE DAYS (Thank GOD mom was able to keep him for a couple of days.), until all the symptoms were gone and he was no longer contagious. Every time we administered the drops (and we had to do it three times a day for five days), we had to forcibly hold him down while he thrashed and screamed, "I don't like it! I DON'T LIKE IT!!" So not fun.

Week 3 - Ringworm. Seriously? A third week of infection? What ancient pagan diety did I piss off? Because, dude, I will totally sacrifice a goat to whomever if they will just remove the infection curse from my son. It's just a little round spot on his hand, but it warranted another call to the pediatrician (who, I'm sure, is getting caller ID so he can ignore my constant, desperate pleas for help), another quick trip to the pharmacy for an over-the-counter cream, and more doctoring for little man.

Is it February yet?

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Who am I?

Hubs and I saw Avatar last night in 3D. Wow.

Here's the basic plot line:
Jake Sully's twin brother, a PhD with dreams of space exploration, dies shortly before "shipping out" to explore Pandora, a remote new planet. Because Jake (a former Marine who's now a paraplegic) shares identical DNA to his brother, he's the perfect replacement for him on this particular space mission. Why? Pandora's atmosphere is toxic to humans. It is, however, inhabited by a humanoid race, called the Na'vi. In order to enable humans to operate in the planet's atmosphere, the government invests millions of dollars in an avatar program. The program creates alien bodies, which contain both alien and human DNA, so that human "drivers," who can link only to their customized avatar, can move freely on Pandora's surface.

Because Jake's DNA is identical to his brother's, he is the only person who can help the government recoup on the investment they've made in his brother's avatar. Only Jake can control this particular avatar body.

So, Jake ships out. He enjoys inhabiting his avatar, particularly because when he does so, he can regain the use of his legs. On his first scientific mission into the Pandora's dense jungles, he gets separated from his group. He is found (and saved) by Neytiri, who is the next spiritual leader of her Na'vi tribe. He is adopted, in a way, by the alien race, gaining their trust.

There are, however, darker forces at work. Humans are only on Pandora because they are in search of a rare substance which is key to solving Earth's energy crisis. And where is the largest deposit of said substance? Lurking underground, directly beneath the Na'vi home place.

As Jake becomes more and more enmeshed in the world of the Na'vi, he begins to doubt his mission on Pandora. He begins to wonder who he is really fighting for.

This movie is a technical wonder. Pandora is a gorgeous, brilliantly-delineated world. Bright colors, majestic vistas, imaginative animals and humanoids, it was truly beautiful to look at. As I mentioned before, hubs and I saw it in 3D. I really did feel that Cameron sprinkled 3D gems throughout, so I didn't leave the theatre feeling as if I'd paid extra and worn those stupid glasses for nothing.

Though the film has an environmental message, I didn't feel as if it was a "message film." It didn't feel too heavy-handed or preachy. Like most Cameron films, this movie is about plot and effects. As usual, Cameron does not disappoint. The movie is 2 1/2 hours, but doesn't feel too long at all. There is plenty of action, plenty to see. You get your money's worth with this one.

In the end, the movie is about identity. The word "avatar" is loaded - an alternate identity controlled by a user, a continuing version of the same entity, an incarnation of a Hindu deity, etc. Jake is a twin, so there are already some identity issues there. Twins grow up with more of a need to establish themselves as an individual than most people. And then Jake, who is a Marine, has to let go of that identity when he is injured. Later, he is summarily inserted into the Pandora mission as a substitute for his brother. Then, he establishes the identity of his avatar. As the film progresses, Jake begins to wonder who he really is. Though there are a lot of bells and whistles - effects, aliens, battles - the true story of the movie is Jake's discovery of self.

The only shortcoming in the movie, I felt, was a lack of character development on the "villain" side. Cameron is not known for creating films with complex characters. It's pretty much good vs. evil, cut and dried. I thought this film would have benefited from a touch more development on WHY the alien substance was so vital to the humans, what was at stake for them (besides just money). Ultimately, that would have made the entire film more complex. (As I mentioned before, though, Cameron is not known for doing this. His films are plot and effects masterpieces, not character studies.)

Regardless, that's a fairly small gripe, considering how much I enjoyed the movie. Do not miss this. Get to the theatre and see it in 3D. It's one of those movies that deserves the big-screen treatment.

Taking down the tinsel . . .

Well, today, we had our last Christmas celebration. I now officially will not be toasting Christmas again until December 2010.

Hubs' mom came and picked little man up yesterday for a sleepover. Brian and I had no idea what to do with ourselves at first. I cleaned up the house, did alot of laundry and watched some TV before realizing that we were completely free to go out to dinner and a movie. We supped leisurely together at Little Tokyo. (Remember my love of steamed dumplings? Their edamame and that chicken broth soup they serve is also wonderful, and the hot tea really hit the spot.) Then, we headed over the to Madison movie theatre to see Avatar in 3D (a full review later).

Then, after SLEEPING IN this morning (Praise Jesus.), we loaded up the car and headed over to our final Christmas celebration. We had a delicious pork loin roast, green bean casserole, creamed corn, dressing, deviled eggs, and then homemade banana pudding and peanut butter krispies for dessert. OMG. So, sooooo good. I ate a ton. I'm full, very full, and I may just have a little cheese and cracker for dinner.

We enjoyed our meal, exchanged gifts and somehow managed to avoid full toddler meltdown (because just WHO do you think had been skipping naps? Oh, yes.) before it was time to go home. I said a silent prayer that booger would nap when we got home, but it was not to be. We've all been grimly awake (despite reallyreally needing one, final holiday nap) all afternoon.

Now, booger is in the bath (getting ready for an early bedtime), and I'm propping my eyelids open with a couple of toothpicks.

So, at last, I can say to you all that it's been a truly wonderful holiday season. And I'm quite ready to eat nothing but fresh fruits and veggies for the next month. Oooof!