Monday, December 26, 2011

Virgin Turkey Tacklers

Don't you just love that title? It could mean so many things.... :)

This Christmas was the first Christmas for both Nic and I that we were away from our families. The way that we dealt with this possibly depression-inducing situation? We decided that we would basically cook and then eat ourselves into food comas. But have no fear, I had extra insulin on hand for us both!

I technically began weeks ago by baking about 15 dozen of three different kinds of cookies. Only two of those kinds made it to Christmas day. I took that as a compliment from my husband.

I woke up early Christmas Eve Day and made apple brown sugar and chocolate chip coffee cake for Nic. It was the definition of scrumptious.

Note: This very county patterned plate was my grandma's, and I think both she and my grandpa would have approved!

Nic then headed to work on Christmas Eve Day. I also worked...on plotting out the cooking time-line for the next 48 hours. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. With my time-line on the fridge, a cooking apron securely tied around my waste and a spatula in each hand, I was practically armored for battle. Let the cooking begin!

I spent 4.5 hours making, punching/kneading and watching my first ever batch of homemade dinner rolls rise. Seven cups of flour and several bruised knuckles (my dough decided to punch back) later and I had these beauties to serve to my husband...

We also had franks from Omaha Steaks wrapped in this homemade dough for dinner that night...unfortunately Nic was so hungry when he got home that I didn't get a picture of them before two of them met an early demise in the pit of his stomach.

On Christmas we started the cooking marathon early. Shortly after presents were opened I had the pumpkin pie in the oven. I was in charge of all sides and desserts while Nic took responsibility of tackling our 10 lb. turkey. We decided to make a root beer-glazed roasted turkey with rosemary, cinnamon and cayenne stuffed with apples and onions. My sole role in handling the turkey was denuding our rosemary bush for the 6 tablespoons of rosemary we needed. Our poor plant is very naked now. But its sacrifice was acknowledged with every "mmmm" that escaped our lips when we partook of this beauty:

Didn't Nic do a fabulous job??

The turkey was joined by sides of bacon-apple cornbread stuffing...

...and cranberry sauce (my first try and according to Nic the best he's tasted even though he doesn't particularly like the dish)...

...and of course we couldn't forget one of my favorite dishes: green bean casserole! I know, this very safe and canned side joins my love of hamburger helper...they just can't be explained amidst my love of everything exotic, ethnic, spicy and gourmet-fusion. Although, truth be told, we did mix it up a bit and use garlic cream of mushroom soup in the this casserole...

...and all together these dishes made the beautiful and boutiful spread that Nic and I shared as our first Christmas dinner together as a married couple...

God bless us everyone!

The happy couple (or, as happy as we could be with this sitting next to us while I insisted we get some pre-dinner photos together)...

Friday, December 23, 2011

Some of the Things This Wolverine Loves About Christmas

1. The moment when you realize that flour, sugar, and even some sprinkles are not only coating your kitchen counters and floors, but also your shirt, elbows, and hair. This situation is a natural result of cookie baking marathons. And trust me, having flour and sugar in funny places is WAY better than having sand in funny places!

2. The moment when you realize that you don't have enough cookie tins for all of the cookies you have made and/or received in the mail.

3. Having meaningful marital discussions over the proper way to decorate sugar cookies with your spouse.

4. The ability to know when your tree needs water by the more piney smell it gives off.

5. The chance to constantly rearrange the gifts under the tree for maximum aesthetic viewing pleasure.

6. The excuse to burn every candle in the house. At once.

7. The excuse to drink hot and sugary drinks at every meal.

8. The chance to show some Christian love to other harried customers in the post office. Also the chance to share a Christian smile while also showing that you will not lay down and die (or more accurately, be run over) by that crazy lady who just tried to steal a parking spot from you at the mall while visiting your husband and work.

9. Knowing every line in the Grinch song and always wondering why it's such a bad thing to have garlic in your one has been able to answer that one, by the way. It's right up there with the question of why store mannequins have very hard and prominent nipples. Sorry dad, I still don't have that answer for you yet!

10. The time and leisure to blow through 4 young adult novels in a week.

And there you have it, folks. Some of the things that have been keeping me ticking during my time off while my husband pulls 14 hour days at his two retail jobs. I tell yah, that Husker is a hard-working man! And I love him all the more for it.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Duh, Monday is Red, the Number Nine is a Diva, and the Calendar is a Three-Sided Rectangle

It's official. I'm a synesthete. Promise we can still be friends? Even if I told you that the number 2 is a goody-two-shoes and that Friday is blue? Maybe I should define synesthesia and synesthetess for you first.

Synesthesia is a neurologically based condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. For example, some synesthetes (those who experience synesthesia) smell different odors for each number, or hear sounds for the different colors. For a full explanation, check out Wikipedia's page.

I don't smell purple though. I have what's called ordinal linguistic personification and spatial-sequence, or number form, synesthesia.

My ordinal linguistic personification synesthesia takes the form of numbers having personalities. The basic personality traits are contained in the numbers 1-10 with subsequent numbers having personalities formed from the individual single digit numbers within them. Lemme break it down for you:

1 = Very mailable and easily influenced personality. No beliefs or convictions of its own.
2 = Goody-two-shoes to the point of wanting to slap it. Teacher's pet. Annoying perfectionist.
3 = Naughty toddler. Very mischievous but always claims it's too young to be responsible for its actions.
4 = The older mentor/version of 2 but minus the annoying part. A very law-abiding personality.
5 = Very unique and independent, like that person who can pull off wearing plaid with stripes. Marches to the beat of its own drum.
6 = Demure. Soft spoken. Feminine.
7 = My favorite number. Easy going and like #5. Very chill.
8 = The academic who wishes it weren't a single digit number. Wants to distance itself from the others, especially #7.
9 = The diva. Don't cross her because she can be a b*tch. 3 wants to be 9 when it grows up.
10 = The overseer of the lower numbers. Denies its identity as the lowest of the double digits. Conflicted.

Good so far? And so for me, the number 79 is a very strong personality number because 7 won't be manipulated by 9, but 9 isn't sure 7 is cool enough to be seen with.

My spatial-sequence or number form synesthesia is the strongest. To help you understand a bit better, here's a good video.

I see the days of the week laid out in an "L" shape with Monday at the top of the "L" and Sunday at the end of the horizontal line. But I'm always looking at it so that Sunday and the foot of the "L" are sticking up to my right and I read the days of the week side-ways (because they are written as if the "L" were facing like it is when you write it). The days of the week are in connected boxes and they are all colored. However, Saturday and Sunday are slightly longer boxes and part of Friday bleeds into Saturday. I think this is because I know I can stay up later on those days.

Monday = Red
Tuesday = Yellow
Wednesday = Purple
Thursday = Green
Friday = Blue
Saturday = Silver/Gray
Sunday = Gold/Brownish-orange

I also have a very specific spatial orientation to the months in the year. They are arranged in a 3 sided rectangle that is missing one of its long sides. I stand in place of one long side with December to my left, followed by January and February on the short side. March begins the long side opposite me followed by April-August with September beginning the short side to my right. The short side to my right stops with November and there I stand: in the corner of the short side with November to my right, a long gap and then December to my left beginning the other short side. Each month also has a color.

My number sequence is also 3-dimensional. It's at an angle to my left and continues at an angle going up and to my right in front of me. At 10, the line goes straight in front a bit, then at 20 it angles to my right again and stair steps up at each integer of 10 (20s, 30s, 40s, etc.). At 101 it turns the corner to the left at 90 degrees and each number thereafter is in that straight line to the left.

Years proceed in the opposite way. I see myself at the current year, with previous years stepping down to my left, with a slight kink at 1990 so that 1989-1900 bend slightly to the right. Then, 1700-1899 double back on the 1900-1999 line.

I discovered that not everyone has this spatial relationship to numbers, days, weeks, months, and years just this week when a colleague of mine, who teaches AP Psychology at the school I work at, described her lessons about synesthesia and mentioned these various kinds of synesthesia. I told her that of course my days of the week have colors and that I see them three dimensionally in relation to me when I think/talk about them. She diagnosed me on the spot in the cafeteria. I got to be her guest speaker the next day in her AP class.

Are you a synesthete? They claim 1 in 23 people are. I'm curious to hear your thoughts on this....

No Charlie Brown Christmas Trees Allowed

Ah, the first Christmas as a married couple. When two people attempt to make 20+ years of two different family traditions into something new and their very own. This could be a very beautiful or a very ugly new thing, depending on the compatability of the respective traditions.

Friends and family, have no fear. You won't hear any bickering in our apartment over white or colored Christmas lights on the tree (they're colored, of course), no arguments about a themed tree or one with a menagerie of beloved ornaments (it's a menagerie of ornaments, no question), and absolutely no disagreement about real vs. fake tree (I did a fake tree last year and about cried. Every day. So it's a real tree this year.) All of this agreement means we obviously did our premarital counseling homework.

But Texas did not do its "Ariel's necessities for Christmas" homework. The list is rather long (and it starts with the lack of snow), but for this post we'll simply focus on the adventure of getting a real, live, fragrant, Christmas tree in the Lone Star state.

My loving and understanding husband promised that we could go pick out a tree two days after we returned from our Thanksgiving trip to Nebraska. I was going to have my tree up and decorated before the first day of December! Things were off to a good start!

First stop that evening was Walmart for a tree stand. We checked out the pre-cut Christmas trees offered there and were appalled to see a total of 6 Charlie Brown Christmas trees (and I mean the Charlie Brown trees before Linus put his blanket around it). Observe:

I promptly turned up my nose and Nic and I proceeded to a Christmas tree farm. In Michigan you can find a plethora of them. In urban Texas you have two choices, both of which are at least 30 minutes away from where ever you live. No matter, my Ford compact gets good gas mileage. Spring Creek Growers, the five-time winners of Grand Champion Christmas Trees of Texas, here we come!

As we approached the farm, I noticed the two "farm hands" helping to bind and load trees into people's trucks. They are in t-shirts. Because it's 65 degrees outside. I zipped up my jacket and pretended to shiver. It made me feel better.

The nice lady at the information shack told us that we could go cut our tree or choose from the freshly pre-cut trees. We decided to check out the cut-your-own trees.

Here is Nic with the measuring pole so you know how tall you are cutting your tree. Apparently, Nic did not see the height markings on the pole, so half way to the trees he asks me "What's this pole for?"

I told him it was for pole vaulting over the trees.

After doing a very scientific and thorough inspection of the trees offered in the field, I declared them unworthy. You only had two tree choices: Leyland Cypress or Virginia Pine. Wimpy trees with not enough branch strength to hold paper snowflake ornaments or fruity trees with swishy looking needles with a poor excuse for pine fragrance.

Back to the pre-cut trees.

And that's where we met "the one." A six foot Fraser with buff and toned branches and a strong pine scent to make you (or at least me) weak in the knees.

Nic might have called it "tree fondling" but I called it "tree love at first sight." It was ours, it was meant to be. We paid for it, had it shaken and bound. Then we took it to our car.

Remember my Ford Escort, my compact car that gets great gas mileage? That's right, that was the only vehicle we had to transport our tree home. Observe the result of determination and Nic's mad skillz.

An older Texan passed us as Nic was loading the tree into the backseat and promptly told him, "Son, ain't no way you're gettin' that tree into that there car." Pa-lease, sir. Just because we're the only ones in the parking lot without a Ford F-150 doesn't mean we can't engineer the improbable. I've seen way more ghetto tree haulin' arrangements than this.

But we drove home under 45 miles/hour, just in case.

The only other bump we had while putting up our tree was discovering that we only owned (and could afford after the cost of the tree, the tree stand, the gas to get the tree..) one strand of lights for our tree. Be honest, does it look that ghetto?

Of course it doesn't because the flash always washes out the lights. Perfect. We can pretend.

The last thing I must mention about our tree is how much love is hung around its branches. There are several personalized and "our first Christmas" ornaments we received as wedding gifts and the skirt was handmade by one of my aunts. Both of our families are with us this Christmas season, even if they are hundreds of miles away. We love you all.