5 Years

Five years ago tonight I took this very blurry cameraphone photo on the dance floor at C Street:

E & Shane

If you had told either of us that night that five years later we’d be married, I suspect we would’ve laughed in your face. There was no ‘we’ at that point – just three friends ringing in the new year with cheap champagne, drag queens, and hundreds of balloons falling at midnight.

All across the web, people are reflecting on the last year – the good, the bad, the heartbreaking and hilarious. In 2010, we got married, as did several friends, and our nephew was born, as were the sons and daughters of many close to us. In 2010, we did a fair amount of traveling and ate a whole lot of good food, most of which was documented here. In 2010, our jobs were a mixed bag – one really good, one really boring. In 2010, we didn’t see enough of our families or our out of town friends, but we did grow new friendships here. In 2010, Shane took on mopeds, and I tended our garden.

As we enter 2011, we are profoundly grateful for each other, for our health, safety, security, and happiness. We are thankful that between us we have three grandparents and three parents, all in good health, and five siblings who are happy, healthy, and pursuing things that challenge and interest them. We have two cute cats who bring us endless joy (and a fair amount of frustration). We have a lot going for us, and we’re really thankful for that.

We hope that 2011 brings you more joy than sorrow, more sunny days than rain (unless you’re into that sort of thing), and many opportunities to be with the ones you love. If you aren’t with us in person, we are with you in spirit tonight.

12 Books #3: At Home

At Home: A Short History of Private Life wasn’t on my list, but since I was too wrapped up in it to read anything else this month, I’m going to count it towards my 12 books.  It’s my challenge.  I can do what I want.  Besides, it turns out that I don’t own The Accidental Tourist, so I was down one from my list anyway.

Let me get this out of the way: I love Bill Bryson.  Love him.  I’ve read In A Sunburned Country enough times that I can tell Bryson’s anecdotes as if they were my own.  I don’t feel as passionately about everything he’s written, but I am predisposed to enjoy his work.

That said: At Home is excellent.  After taking on science and history in his last big fat work of non-fiction, in this book Bryson restricts his focus to the four walls of his home – and the curious and complicated ways that the things we encounter in our domestic spheres came to be there.  With every chapter – each focused on a different room, feature, or appliance – I learned something new and more often than not found myself laughing out loud.  Among other things, I learned that:

  • Someone thought it was a good idea to burn lime for lighting, hence the term limelight – except that it is incredibly hot and dangerous.
  • Science isn’t really sure why whales produce spermaceti, the oil for which they were hunted – to devastating effect – right up to the 20th century.
  • A lot of really ridiculous British homes were built for no good reason, and many of them didn’t survive the agricultural and sociopolitical challenges of the 19th-20th centuries.
  • Thomas Jefferson wasn’t a fan of stairs, but he did have a set of double doors rigged up so that if you opened one, the other opened automatically.  It wasn’t until sometime in the 20th century that preservationists figured out how he did it.
  • Thomas Jefferson may not have invented French fries, but he is almost certainly responsible for them being described as such.

See what I mean?  The whole book is packed full of anecdotes and factoids, the sorts of things that will come in handy when you’re walking through a museum and happen across a photo of a man wearing bizarre sunglasses to protect his eyes against the Argand lamp, a predecessor of the kerosene lamp.  It’s fascinating, fun stuff, and I highly recommend it to anyone with more than a passing interest in domesticity, history, or anything tangentially related to either.

The Holidays, y’all

I could attempt to recount the things we’ve eaten over the last week, but really, you can probably imagine it.  You’ve been reading about our meals for a year.  You know that before we go out of town for a few days, we try to eat down the fridge, which is what we did on Wednesday.  You know that on special occasions like our anniversary or a Thursday, we like to have snacks for dinner, which is what we did for Christmas Eve Eve as we watched Love Actually and opened our gifts for each other.  And you know about the holiday excess we’re trying to avoid.

Festive Shane

We spent Christmas in Rockford with my family, including this handsome fellow who dazzled us with his crawling and his good looks:

Christmas Max

There was the traditional Christmas Eve corn chowder, more bland than it should have been, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed with the salt shaker and the most important spice. There were dozens of cookies stashed in the cold garage: gunk bars, brownies, chocolate coconut pinwheels, and sugars.

Mark and Evonne

We had German food for Christmas lunch – Mexican last year – sauerbraten and spaetzle, warm red cabbage, German potato salad, and an assortment of sausages. Somehow – perhaps thanks to the gym – we made room for Swedish pancakes at Stockholm Inn on Sunday, Beef-a-Roo, and cocktails and snacks at Garrett’s with Jenn.

Open wide!

And then on to Lakewood for a few non-holiday days with Shane’s family: tacos and Blizzards with his brothers, scones and excellent coffee at The Root after a visit to Trav’s funny gym:

Post-run olive scone at The Root

A visit to the Cleveland Art Museum, where we saw an incredible Damien Hirst piece made entirely of butterfly wings, followed by a tasty but cold and stressful lunch at Tommy’s in Coventry – I had tempeh salad, nom nom nom. Watching the Hawks win – or at least most of the game – over beers and food with the whole family at Buckeye Beer Engine. Time with kitties, cousins, and grandpa. And a couple of remarkable hot dogs at Happy Dog before heading home:

Happy Dog-14
Photo by edseloh

Among the toppings we tried were blue cheese coleslaw (me), marinated mushrooms (Orin), and habanero pickled red onions (Shane) – plus a really great chimichurri and a garlic-tomato jam for our tater tots.  I wish I had photos of any of this, but despite taking the camera everywhere with us, we only managed a couple of pictures of the cats.  I’ll try harder next time, promise.

Nike Free Run+

Totally got these with my Christmas money and have put in two 2 mile treadmill runs.  A few things I’ve noticed already:

  1. My calves and shins are sore in ways they haven’t been since I started running.  This means something, right?
  2. I’m also feeling something in my knees – I’m not sore, but am definitely experiencing different kind of percussion.  I don’t know if that means I’m nailing a midfoot strike or that I’m just getting used to the shoes.
  3. My feet are clearly different sizes, and this is much more noticeable when my shoes are more articulated.  It’s not bad enough to necessitate buying two different pairs of shoes, and I’m sure I’ll barely notice once I’m back outside
  4. Hooray! I have new shoes! For the first time in almost three years!

Also exciting: Shane got me a Garmin GPS watch thingy!  I don’t have any exciting data to show you since I’ve only run inside since Christmas, but I’m pretty hyped about it.

1221 Taco Tuesday

Oh hello, Taco Tuesday.  We meet again.  We are utterly devoted to you and your $1 tacos.  We had planned on leftovers tonight, but they could hardly compare to the promise of salty chips, sweet-savory salsa, and, oh yes, tacos al pastor.  Shane had four tacos –  chorizo, chorizo, al pastor and al pastor – which he did his best to enjoy slowly, despite post-workout hangrrr.  I forgot that the hard tacos are superior to the soft, but still enjoyed my shrimp, roasted veggie, and al pastor.

I’m really glad that after a year and change of bemoaning overpriced sandwiches, we found a very cheap favorite place to eat in A2.  A Christmas taco miracle!

1220 Sausages and Polenta

Sausages and polenta are our go-to healthy comfort food.  We’ve made them enough times this year to cement that fact – in the spring with canned tomatoes, with spinach for extra bulk, with cherry tomatoes from the garden – occasionally subbing meatballs for the sausages, but never leaving out the sauce or the buttery polenta.

There are few things better – or easier – to make on a cold and tired Monday night.  I suppose that macaroni and cheese from a box would be easier, as would throwing a frozen pizza in the toaster oven for ten minutes.  We certainly do both of these things often enough.  You do have to open a container of thawed tomato sauce and empty it into a dish, which you then have to place under the broiler.  While it’s warming up, you might need to give your sausages a few minutes in the grill pan – or, if they’re precooked, you might just need to open a packet.  Oh the arduous task of adding the sausages to the warming sauce!  Bring your water to a boil, then whisk in the polenta and reduce the heat.  Cooks Illustrated has a no-stir method, but you have to get behind their pay wall to access it.  If you’ve timed this all right, your sausages will be golden by the time your polenta has absorbed all of the liquid – this took 15 minutes or less tonight – and you can sit down with a delicious dinner.

Basic Polenta from Giada De Laurentiis (I’ve been halving the recipe, which makes enough for four)