Archive for the ‘family’ Category

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Day 25 – Random Thought

November 25, 2011

As Thanksgiving usually is, yesterday and today have been full of food, friends, games and even a bit of shopping (but just to the more budget friendly local thrift store). I arrived midday yesterday into Chicago and have been enjoying the chance to catch up with a plethora of friends, many of whom are back in town for the holidays and my friend Kate’s wedding tomorrow! This weekend is making me thankful for the following things:
-sleeping in
-Becca’s crazy good pies!
-homemade stuffing
-blue skies
-playtime with 6 gorgeous kittens
-conversation after conversation with my much missed girlfriends
-the 5th Game of Thrones book to make plane rides go quickly
-the way walking up the steps of my old house makes me feel like I never left
-finding ridiculous faux fur coats in thrift stores
-getting hugs from and trading head rubs with Becca and Jess
-not being at work
-knowing that instead of heading home to Seattle, I get to head on to Goshen to see my wonderful family!

I hope you all are having great times with family and friends!

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Day 10 – Guest Post (the return of my dad!)

November 10, 2011

Well this guest post couldn’t be better timed seeing as I am home sick from work today with my second cold of the season (although this one is less congestion more throat on fire, weee!).  But instead of getting to hear me whine about being sick, here is a super awesome guest post by my Dad.  Enjoy!

Hi everyone.

Last year I thoroughly enjoyed writing my first guest blog here about Abby as an infant and small child. This year when Abby asked me again I thought first of writing about our train trip to Seattle to see her in October but then settled on writing something I was more excited about right now.

I’ve been somewhat obsessed about taking care of my body for a long time. I figure I’m only going to get one body and I’m not going to have it quitting on me over something I have some control over. So I exercise regularly, read about health related stuff and try to eat right. When I learned about 6 or 7 years ago that dark chocolate has some health benefits (when consumed in moderation) I started keeping a stash of Hershey Special Dark Chocolate bars at my desk at work.  Most of the time I successfully limit myself to a square at morning break and a square after lunch.  This takes some discipline because for me eating chocolate is among the top carnal pleasures in life.

My children and sometimes my wife scold me about not buying Fair trade but so help me the stuff is expensive. If I buy Hershey’s bars on sale I can get it at about $.20/ ounce and Fair Trade usually runs about $1.00/ounce.  My daily two squares are about an ounce so I’m talking the difference between a $50.00 per year habit and a 250.00 per year when consumed every working day. Somewhere deep in my psyche there is this notion that times could get hard so I better be careful with my money.  I don’t know if that comes from being raised by depression era parents or if it’s something in my Germanic DNA or a combination.

However the idea that I might be enjoying my chocolate on the backs of poverty stricken oppressed workers continued to bother me.  A couple weeks ago we visited Abby in Seattle and she arranged a tour of Theo’s chocolate for my wife and me.

David, Dad and Mom all ready for the Theo Chocolate Factory tour!

David, Dad and Mom all ready for the Theo Chocolate Factory tour!

After a great tour by an expert in all things surrounding the harvesting, manufacturing and history of chocolate we were allowed unrestricted sampling of all kinds of exotic and delicious chocolates. I thought I was in heaven. I also learned that most chocolate is processed using alkali. It says so right on the ingredients on the Hershey bars. This supposedly (yes, it might be part of Theo’s sales pitch) removes some of the health benefits. I also learned since that Hershey dark chocolate is only 45% cocao.  You have to do some research to find that – they don’t advertise it.  I enjoy dark chocolate right up to about 85% cocao and feel the flavor peaks between 75 and 80%.

So I started to search on the internet for some reasonably priced Fair trade chocolate. Most Fair Trade seems to also be organic. That might add some to it’s cost and probably is a good idea as well.  I couldn’t find any significant volume discounts on any of the bars.  But I did find Fair trade 65% cocao chocolate chips at Amazon for $.62/ ounce but you had to buy 25 pounds! I capitulated to the pressure and bought a box.  That comes out to almost $250.00 but they should last me 400 work days.  Unfortunately in my dithering about it I missed them on sale at just under $200.00.

We’ve already had a discussion at our house about what these chocolate chips will get used for. They are not to be used in baking – these are medicinal. 🙂  I’m going to keep them in the cold cellar to preserve their freshness and make it less likely that I will be tempted to consume a half a pound every evening.

One last problem to solve was how to divvy out one ounce a day.  I found out on the internet that 1 ounce of chocolate chips is about 3 tablespoons.  Here’s what an ounce looks like. I’ll take one day’s serving at a time in my lunch. I’m going to try very hard to eat them mindfully one chip at a time.
1 ounce of chocolate chips

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Day 6 – Photo Sunday

November 6, 2011

I think Photo Sunday will probably be my favorite part of NaBloPoMo (with the exception of Thursdays, my day off thanks to all my awesome guest posts), first because who doesn’t like getting to just post a photo instead of coming up with substantive words and second, I get a kick out of looking through old photos.  But for this inagural Photo Sunday post I thought I would put in a little more effort and make you all an animated gif!  This is from my parents’ awesome 2 week visit in early October.  I never really got around to writing up a proper re-cap post, but my favorite part was a our 3 day weekend trip to the San Juan Islands.  We drove around the islands, hiked a lot and ate really good food.  This photo is from the top of Mount Young and contains my favorite self-portrait in a long time, in which I use my self-levitation skills to attempt to get into place before the timer went off.  Enjoy!

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Happy Birthday Jonathan!

October 29, 2011
Jonathan B&W

My favorite younger brother

Today marks a very special occurrence, the celebration of the 26th anniversary of Jonathan’s birthday, or in other words a celebration of Jonathan’s ability to stay alive for 26 years and counting.  As you have probably picked up on this blog, Jonathan has always been one of my favorite people, whether it was playing pretend on a Big Wheels growing up or making cheese during Christmas vacations, or all the many crazy family adventures we have had, I have always found him to be hilarious and generally wonderful company.  Two years ago, I wrote up a post about my 10 favorite things about Jonathan and so I thought this year I would make a list of things I know that Jonathan likes

1. Jonathan likes to throw things and he also inspired my first animated gif

Click on the picture to see it action

2. Jonathan likes dogs

Jonathan's best friend

Jonathan brought his friend's dog Google home for a very memorable Christmas vacation and I think we all fell in love with the perfect search engine 🙂

Mathilde wins over hearts and minds

Click on this adorable picture to see a video of Jonathan and his new puppy Mathilde being awesome!

3. Jonathan likes to make things

Jonathan makes mittens

Jonathan made his own pair of wool sweater mittens this past Christmas

Jonathan and completed work

Jonathan is also very good at making amazingly gorgeous stone cairns

Jonathan and Dad do different crafts

When Jonathan comes home, he likes to go to the hardware store and buy things to make into other things, like this candle-powered fountain

4. Jonathan likes to be creative

Me and Jonathan

Jonathan introduced our family to the idea of group paintings and was the primary instigator in too our first family self-portrait

5. Jonathan likes to think hard

David is awesome!

Jonathan studies Physics and thinks about things that I can't even understand the definitions of

6. Jonathan likes to be outside

Jonathan: making everything cooler since 1985

Baby Jonathan during a trip to the Boundary Waters during high school

7. Jonathan likes to take trips with friends

Many moons ago, Jonathan and a bunch of his friends took a bike trip to Hell, Michigan and thankfully David recorded video and it is still alive on the web today.  This, my friends, is a must see!

8. Jonathan likes his family

Jonathan graduated

And we like him!

9. Jonathan likes to do things differently

Jonathan can braid his beard!

I think Jonathan's beard is another outlet for his own inner drummer

family tree

No explanation necessary

Jonathan models proper golfing gear

Golfer or Hipster, neither, just Jonathan's perfect combination of both.

10. Jonathan likes jumping

Diving into the Trees

Tim took this awesome picture of Jonathan during our family trip to the Boundary Waters

Jonathan sits on the temple

Tim also took this picture of Jonathan leaping over the Bahai Temple in Evanston

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Birthday season!

October 1, 2011

Well if you throw in Alex’s birthday from last week and the two recent birthdays of friends Clayton and Bryan and David’s birthday today and my mom and I’s birthdays next week, there has been a lot of cake.  I made my traditional Chocolate Wacky Cake with Instant Fudge Frosting and Raspberries for David’s birthday.  While it was good, I think the combination of new cake recipe (I left my good one back in Evanston), using a mixer instead of the food processor and using fresh raspberries instead of raspberry sauce, meant that it tasted just a little bit different.  But by far the best part of the evening has been playing round after round of David’s birthday pressent from Alex and I – Dominion.  While I know I dragged my feet quite a bit on this game and have kind of refused several invitations from my brothers to play it, I ended up finding it really fun!  Maybe it helped that it was almost entirely a group of newbies to the game, or what exactly it was, but now I like it.

And the exciting part is that my parents left on their epic Empire Builder train trip from Chicago to Seattle today and are probably currently making their way through the Twin Cities of Minnesota.  They arrive on Sunday and will be here for 2 weeks, which I am super excited about.  Now all I have to do is clean my room, check about bus tickets, pump the tires on my mom’s loaner bike, go to the library and possibly go bike shopping.  But seeing as it has somehow advanced past midnight, I should probably get to bed.

Have a good weekend, ya’ll.

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The High Cost of Botulism

June 23, 2011

The title of this post is mainly there to serve as both an example of the kind of conversations that happen when I spend time around my brothers and also as my attempt to claim the phrase for when I finally start that emo ska punk band (in which I would obviously play the viola).

Anyways, while it already feels like a quite a long time ago (thanks in part to two early morning trips to O’Hare aiport and a fun time hosting an old friend from high school), I figured I should talk a little bit about the awesomeness that was this past weekend.

Brought about Charletta’s long anticipated graduation with a Masters in Marriage and Family Counseling, this weekend included both a full complement of my immediate family and the presence of Charletta’s parents.  In other words, it was a grand ole time.  Highlights include hanging out with Jonathan for most of the day on Friday, during which we bought (and ate) fancy cheese, walked around downtown, and finally got drinks at the Signature Lounge.

Jonathan

Jonathan shows off his angelic side

Chicago haze

Chicago summer haze, at it's best

Other really fun times included a celebratory pizza dinner hosted by the Charletta’s parents at a local Italian restaurant and getting to can 8qts of strawberry jam with my Mom.

Charletta's parents in the middle

Charletta's parents are the ones in the middle

Saturday afternoon jam session

Not only is this jam yummy, but it actually set, instead of just forming yummy strawberry sauce

But of course the highlight was getting to see Charletta finish a long (and arduous) life stage called grad school.  Congrats Charletta, welcome to the Masters side of the family!

Jonathan, Tim, Charletta, Mom, Abby and Dad

Charletta and her rockin' robes

*Bonus Shots* A side by side analysis of two champion nappers:

Dad sneaks a quick napLina joins him

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First ever give-a-way winner!

June 1, 2011

It seems that Option 7 was the clear favorite with a total of 5 votes, so when I actually get around to finishing up the new and improved text, be prepared to see this over on my “about me” page:
Windy AbbyThanks to all of you who voted and managed to leave such lovely compliments, that was really sweet of you.  Anyways I went with the trusty Random Number Generator to pick the winner (and I figured I should have the screenshot to prove it) because……

CONGRATS Commenter number 6 (i.e. Dad!)! You are the lucky winner!  Let me know if you want the Amazon gift card or the 10,000 villages gift card.  Or alternately something at Nashbar?  Thanks again to all of you who entered, that was fun.  I don’t know how many of these give-a-ways I’ll do with actual prizes, but I could see doing more of the “win something random I found in my room” type of thing 🙂

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Time flies

May 20, 2011

I am not sure how the month of May managed to slip by so quickly, but here we are on the far side of the middle of it and only a week left of school for seniors and another 3 weeks left for the rest of us!  Spring seems to have also finally come to Chicago, after several false starts, the leaves are fully out and my favorite flower – lily of the valley – are in full bloom.  So I figured maybe I should give you all a little update on the past 16 days.

First (the big one) – I had another job interview last week.  It is for a small elementary school, just north of where I live (pretty decent commute) and it went really well.  However I wasn’t going to hold my breath seeing as this was just a screening interview, so I had no idea if I would actually get called back for the real deal.  But last evening I got a very awesome email and lo and behold I have an interview lined up for next Tuesday.  Of course the bolt of excitement this caused was quickly followed by some nerves, because not only is the a panel interview with teachers and staff, but I was told to expect it to go an hour to an hour and a half.  But as I keep telling myself, either end result gives me more practice at this whole job hunt thing.  That said, any positive thoughts you can spare on Tuesday morning around 10am would be greatly appreciated.

Second, I realized I posted on my brother’s birthday and didn’t even mention the fact.  However I did make a Flickr collection of some of my favorite pictures of him.  So you should go check it out.
Too cool for ordinary garbage

Third, my lovely Jess celebrated her 27th birthday with much aplomb and celebratory British applause.  We went out to dinner and then returned to her house for a lovely soiree with good cheese and fun games.  I took pictures, which you can view here.Jess waits to blow out the candles

Fourth, my housemate Sue finally graduated with a Masters in Nursing.  I went to her graduation and baked a cake for her celebration (which I had to miss, due to a prior engagement).  While I haven’t uploaded the cake baking pictures, the graduation pictures are here.

My favorite shot

Fifth – In just a few short hours I will be headed out to Michigan city for the 5th annual girl’s weekend.  Back in 2007, we did this in March (I think) and probably never dreamed that we would be doing with the same (or very similar) group of girls 5 years later.  As my Mom said when I was telling her about this, this is my sisterhood.

Family portrait time

Not pictured include Joanne (frequent attender, but sadly not this year), Katie (our first long distance attender, coming this year!), and many other awesome girlfriends, who while they have never made it for a weekend, are also a part of my sisterhood.

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A Saturday my parents would be proud of

April 30, 2011

So this morning I woke up for breakfast with the house at 8am and instead of heading back to bed afterwards, I changed into my grubby jeans and helped Penny sweep and clean the back porch and patio.  Then I swept the front porch and took pictures of Lina (the cat) getting a taste of the backyard (in the case of certain grasses, I mean this rather literally).  After lunch, I did indulge in a nap (and not my Dad’s 30 minute nap either, mine was closer to 1.5 hours), but eventually roused myself and dug my bike out of cold storage, filled its tires and rode it down to the Recyclery Collective.  There a friendly bike volunteer helped me replace my shifting cable and part of the housing, oil my chain and generally give my poor 13 year old bike a rub down.  Our efforts weren’t in vain because now my bike works smoothly and doesn’t slip as I bike.  Now time for a shower and then off to take photos at a 50th wedding anniversary.

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Some photos before Spring Break

March 31, 2011

So as you can see if you look back at my post from last weekend, I have had a pretty productive week so far.  While there are still a few items left, I am hoping that tonight and tomorrow will finish them all off, because I can’t wait to head out to rainy, 50 degree Seattle (fortunately the main attractions of that lovely city is not the weather :), or I feel I would end up being sadly disappointed).  But before I head out, I wanted to share a few photos that haven’t been brought to your attention.  First off all, a week ago last Tuesday, I made one of my favorite meals in a long time: Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Baked Dijon Tillapia and Roasted Asparagus with Lemon and Sea Salt.
Sweet Potatoes getting a bath

Slicing off the ends of the Asparagus

Honey Dijon Tilapia with Pecan crustAnd to top it off, we all enjoyed some nice crisp Hard Cider.

Finished Tuesday night dinnerThen this past Sunday, I had a wonderful time driving down to Lafayette with my cousin Emily to visit Jonathan and see the musical Spamalot.  The whole day was a lot of fun, but in the end I think my favorite part was spending 6 hours catching up with Emily.  Back at the beginning of 2011, Emily and I decided to make this year, “The Year of Actually Seeing Each Other, Because We Live in the Same City, Dangit!” and so far we are off to a really good start with our fourth time hanging out and it isn’t even April yet.

"See, I am very smart and know lots of physics, that is why I am blindly punching numbers on this calculator!"
There goes the enormous concrete statue
Emily also took a turn
Pretty points against blue sky
The Three Amigos