Tuesday, January 31, 2006

more weekend: saturday

Saturdays lately have been full of domesticity for me (see previous challah bread adventures), while Isaac reads up on all the chemistry journals. This week, I decided to go in a different high-effort carbohydrate direction, and make some fresh pasta for us...

At my cousin's Christmas party, she happened to ask if anyone wanted to take her pasta maker. She and her husband received it as a wedding gift 5 years ago and never used it. Never mind that we also have wedding gifts which are taking up space in one of my mother's closets because we don't have room for them in our apartment. I impulsively (cousin Frankie I'm blaming you for this on account of the extra strong "sangria" you made) said that we would LOVE to have a pasta maker. Then I made Isaac carry the heavy electric pasta maker home on a shuttle bus across the George Washington Bridge and on the kind of creepy far north A line, and then on the crosstown bus all the way back to our apartment. Where the pasta maker sat taking up space and simultaneously silently mocking me. Isaac chimed in a few times, not so silently...

The Machine:
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So it was my duty to redeem myself and justify the 2 square feet of floor space this thing is taking up. Easier said than done. I referred to the manual. Okay, flour, salt, eggs, oil, water...then you put it all in the machine and mix it for a while. Then you need to check the consistency which can be neither too dry nor too wet. There must be some pea sized pieces, but not too many, and they even show you a black and white photograph of some perfect person's perfect pasta dough. I thought mine looked most similar to the perfect middle picture, so I told it to go ahead and extrude the pasta. (isn't extrude kind of a gross word?) But I was horribly wrong, and the machine started making loud popping noises. Then I had to scrape half of my way too dry pasta dough out of the 'extrusion chamber' (ick). But then I overcompensated and suffered the slow death of waiting for my now too wet pasta to be extruded (gross gross gross). Finally, it all came out. And I put it in the freezer.

And then I made "duck sauce". Not the chinese restaurant kind. The kind that we found a recipe for in our new cookbook Italian Slow and Savory by Joyce Goldstein. You might be thinking Joyce Goldstein doesn't sound too Italian...well, she's not, and she has another cookbook called Cucina Ebraica: Flavors of the Italian Jewish Kitchen. We got both of these for Christmas from Isaac's foster sister and they seem really good so far.

Here's the recipe in case anyone cares, it was in the SF Chronicle. I had already ordered a whole duck in preparation for this. I thought about going up the street to the higher end boutique food store, where I was sure that the sweet guys behind the counter would butcher my overpriced duck for me. But I thought I should get over my fear of whole raw poultry and do it myself. Once I got that thing out of the wrapper and reached in to pull out the neck bone and I couldn't find the stupid giblet bag, I realized that I was very wrong about that. I made isaac get up from his reading and cut that thing up. Then I went in the other room and tried not to hear the cracking of duck ribs and whatnot.

Too scary:
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I was going to put away the sauce for later in the week, but as it turned out, we were able to feast on it that night. Mai came over to practice the Prokofiev violin duo with Isaac, and brought her Australian friend Richard who is in town for a week. Then we all sat down and had the fresh pasta with duck sauce. The second I put the pasta into the water I became convinced that it was going to just dissolve, but miraculously it sort of held together, although it broke up a lot when we mixed it with the sauce. I guess it was too wet?

Anyway, that night was Lunar New Year's Eve and the next day I met Mai and Richard in Chinatown for some Chinese New Year celebrating!

Go Amy!

I just saw the Academy Award nominations list, and I'm so happy to see Amy Adams on the list for Best Supporting Actress. Her movie Junebug (and it really feels like HER movie) just came out on DVD! If you haven't already seen it, I would highly recommend that one too. If you remember, I raved about Ms. Adams when we saw this movie about 6 months ago...

So good...

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Monday, January 30, 2006

what a good weekend.

It started off great on Friday evening with a (what do you know?) well-attended Happy Hour. Isaac was getting hungry for hot wings and a doughnut around 7:30, which happens to be the time that they turn off the free beer, so we left...I behaved somewhat virtuously by eating only 3 of the deep fried wings which were so delicious and instead forced myself to eat the really awful and undercooked risotto I made last week. Then I remembered the brilliant idea planted in my head by Stacy - that we should go and see Brokeback Mountain. it was playing at 9:00 about 10 blocks away. Perfect.

I hope you get to see this movie really soon Stacy, and everyone else too, because it is amazing. If there is a show playing near you in the next half hour, you might as well just get up and go. Heath Ledger gave a completely gripping performance. From the second he appeared on the screen, I was completely sucked in. Even having read his good reviews I really didn't see it coming. He was kind of frozen in my mind in A Knight's Tale and The Patriot. I didn't even see the first one, it just looked kind of silly in the previews I saw. And the Patriot I found kind of unintentionally funny. That's probably because I see these movies with Isaac, and Isaac laughs through all the most gruesome violence.

But back to Brokeback Mountain. As well as having a brilliant ensemble cast (Jake and the women's performances are terrific as well), it's beautifully filmed, and I'm so glad to see Ang Lee back in the saddle. I was a big fan of all his movies and I was so disappointed in The Hulk. Although I suppose that during the Hulk and Brokeback Mountain both I was basically reduced to moaning into my fist by the end. But it was in a GOOD way in Brokeback Mountain.

Did Crash beat Brokeback for the Best Film award at the SAG awards? Or was that only an award for ensemble cast? Either way, totally wrong. I don't know how anyone could watch those two movies and come to that conclusion. Anyway...go see it!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Happy Birthday Rich! Happy Birthday Wolfgang!

My brother Rich's 21st birthday was on Wednesday! Happy Birthday Rich! Isaac had the cell phone with him that night, so at first I thought I would be unable to call home...but I hooked up our computer to Skype and left what I hope was an intelligible happy birthday message on the answering machine. I hope it was a great evening! Rich has been working so hard lately working at two jobs and still taking classes. He likes to keep busy...but still that's a lot for one guy. Anyway, I've been thinking of him lately.

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In other news, today is Mozart's 250th birthday. Lots of Mozart related stuff on the radio. I went to my faithful Itunes to check out what I have on there. Four beautiful string quartets, two piano quartets and all of his viola quintets, and then a little bit of Don Giovanni. One of the piano quartets was played by Tiffany, Mai Isaac and Li-Ling at their last recital. It's just lovely.

We actually went to a concert recently and saw this piece performed, and sadly, the performers were really not up to the task. I don't know whether they were hung-over or what, but they sounded like it. They couldn't even start together when required. These were supposed professionals, making their living playing this music! Granted, they improved a bit with another piece, probably something that's more comfy for them. But still, it made me appreciate my husband and his wonderful musician friends who played this Mozart with much more feeling and grace than the people getting paid much more to do it.

some random thoughts

1. I walked past the construction site next to my work building and got a super strong whiff of Cherry Chapstick. Then I realized it was coming from the portapotties. That's weird, I didn't realize that was an acceptable deodorizing scent.

2. Hey you, person who always butts in front of me in the line for cookies when you and I both know that I am just stuck behind the other person getting coffee, when I don't want coffee and I am patiently waiting to get my fat-laden cookie. Hey you. I don't like you.

3. Brian made me a CD for Christmas which is SO GOOD. In fact, it is so good that not only do I completely love it, but Isaac totally loves it. He won't really listen to any popular music, but this whole CD was a total homerun for him. I have never chosen a group of more than 3 songs that Isaac liked. All right, he didn't like the one song from Caroline, or Change, but he is generally very anti-musical, and anyway I LOVED it and I just got the CDs from the library today.

4. Isaac was shocked to hear that LaToya London was once on American Idol because when he first heard it he thought what a difference there was between that song and the performances he heard on American Idol (don't ask me where he was watching all this American Idol...I think he must not have a very big sample size).

5. I typoed when my jury duty is, it's really February 1st. That's pretty soon. I tried to get Isaac to volunteer for the same day as me, because he got his JD questionaire in the mail the next week. But he lost it. I keep telling him to call the jury duty hotline to confess before they come after him...

6. This weekend is Chinese New Year! Mai has a friend visiting from Australia and we are going to see the fireworks in Chinatown. We are fully expecting a super-crowded mob scene. But it will be fun to be there together, and then we will meet Tiffany and Li-Ling up at Lombardi's Pizza. Yay.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

the last pictures from our christmas vacation i promise

other photographic highlights of our trip to Arizona:

1. Isaac and his niece do headstands simultaneously.

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2. Baby niece dances to the music produced by Uncle Jim's old music machine. This is one of the old old machines with cylinders and the song was perfectly awful.

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3. Isaac's dad goes totally and completely grandchild crazy. This child could (and did) scream at the top of her lungs and he would (and did) still look at her with googly grandpa eyes. Very cute.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Still catching up on 2005.

I think I mentioned around Christmas that we were going to see the Grand Canyon?

Well, we saw it. Unfortunately, I forgot to charge my camera battery right before we went, so we were only able to take a couple of crummy pictures. Thanks to the guy with the Purdue baseball hat for taking this picture!

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But it doesn't really matter because the Grand Canyon looks nothing like this in real life. It's much bigger and cooler. We walked about 3 miles down on the most popular trail, Bright Angel. There was a LOT of donkey shit. Then at a few places, there was like a little pond of donkey piss. I held my breath at those places. I guess the donkeys are trained to "go" on command? Or is it like yawning, you see one of your donkey buddies go and you have to go too?

I guess that it is crude to dwell on these disgusting details when seeing one of the seven wonders of the world, but it was striking, and you can't really be looking at the view very much while you are walking since most energy is directed to not stepping in donkey poo, and not falling into the Grand Canyon.

The hike was the only part of the vacation where we had even a prayer of ending the day with a caloric defecit, so that is something too. On the way down I could feel my calf muscles clenching up so that I would not trip on something and fall into the Canyon (or poop). Pretty soon, my legs were shaking even standing still. It was kind of hard to tell how far to go down, because we did the less tiring part first and had to guess how we would feel after climbing back up a couple thousand feet. In the end we were really conservative and didn't go further than 3 miles down, to Isaac's disappointment. So we made it back up to the top at around 1:30 in the afternoon and had plenty of time to go to the IMAX theater down the road (that's the way to see the canyon, from a helicopter!) It seemed like a total fire hazard to me, the theater seats a huge number of people, and then you are all forced to go out one entrance so that you crawl through the packed gift shop on your way out. God forbid we should leave without spending a little more money.

So that was the Grand Canyon!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

next time I'll try to be less boring i promise

Hello, blogfriends, such as you are! I came back to my abandoned and incomplete post from Friday to find that all of my thoughts were now obsolete. I can say that I had a lovely Friday. Filled with enough chemical reactions to make me feel productive, but not so many as to interfere with the happy hour starting at 6:00pm sharp. V.G.

And I was going to say something about thinking of Stacy, but now that her nasty health scare is over, so I can go back to not thinking about her ever. Just kidding! So glad that everything turned out okay!

So, I've been domestic two Saturdays in a row. Both days I made challah, that braidy Jewish egg bread. It was fun! The first challah recipe came from one of my Christmas present cookbooks, Celebration Breads, which I totally love. It's full of all these weird breads that they make in Eastern Europe on Saint Whosit's Day, and the stuff that they make for Purim in Syria, along with all the expected hot cross bun type recipes.

Anyway, that recipe was good on texture and flavor (supposedly due to making a sponge with the yeast and flour before making the dough). But it needed more salt, and/or sugar.

The next one that I tried was from epicurious, and came out to be an enormous batch of two huge loaves. The dough was all climbing up my dough hook in the mixer. Much better in terms of salt and sugar, but I undercooked it a little bit. My thermometer is all un-calibrated and stuff. And also the challah got all burnt on the bottom. I think I'm using the wrong kind of baking sheet, but I'm not sure what I should try instead. Baking stone? Cast iron? What the hell.

Wow. Is there anything more boring than reading about someone baking bread? Oh well, here's a picture anyway!

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The other thing that we did over the weekend was meet up with Mai and Eric (cellist/underwater photographer/blogger Eric) for Indian food! Yay. They were going to be reading string quartet music with Isaac later and so I came along for my favorite part of such a gathering, the eating. I like to stay for the music sometimes too, but this time I just went and wandered around like a zombie in the Bed Bath and Beyond, ooh a futon cover, ooh a vacuum cleaner, before zombi-ing myself home and doing what? I think I updated Isaac's Ipod. All right I watched a little Law and Order too. Don't tell Isaac. He hates the TV. And the president. (does anyone but me know that VF song?)

But I'm getting totally sidetracked. Mai sent me pictures of our food so that I could illustrate my post about our evening. We went to this place Chola where I have been for the buffet lunch before. I really liked my buffet lunch and so I wanted to go back. The menu had some helpful annotations alongside certain dishes labelling them "must try". Well, if we must... So we had some Lata Shetty Lamb that was spicy and seemed to have lots of curry leaves in it (yum for fresh curry leaves). Also, there was a totally delicious Chicken dish with Mango. It was so good. Then we got a coupld of other things that I can't exactly remember. One was Spinach with lentils I think, and the other was...some kind of vegetarian fritters in a lot of sauce. Oh, this is where I could refer to the pictures! Here they are!

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Anyway, the most remarkable (read: bloggable) thing about this place was not the mixed bag of kinda overpriced food...but the way that the waitstaff insisted on dishing every single dish out to us. I think that this must be a signal by the staff that this is trying to be a good Indian restaurant, as it has happened at other nice Indian restaurants, but it is not so great when the servers can't actually reach the other side of the table because the tables are too close together, and therefore the waiter drips molten spinach/lentil mixture onto a guest's arm. Poor Eric.

All right, time to get home and come up with some more boring blog topics. I had a really good one about my own stupidity. Actually, that was like a whole list. Next time I'll have to make a note.

PS I got called for jury duty on February 9th!

PPS I've listened to that John Wayne Gacy song by Sufjan about 352 times today!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

khöömei, i don't actually know how to make those umlauts so thank goodness for cut and paste.

Looking back on my strangely perky (and parentheses-laden) last post, (by the way, did you like that? how I put parentheses in parentheses? I'm so funny) I realize that I should admit to you, I had a little vodka before going to the throat singers of Tuva concert. This is pathetic, because I was just sitting at home alone, eating broccoli and chocolate and baking my challah while Isaac went off to his chamber music rehearsal. I think this little drinky-poo might have affected my tone. So, sorry for any strangely perky and abruptly ending comments I might have made on your blogs too.

Anyway, the concert was a lot of fun. I was telling my sisters all about it last night. The name of the group is Huun-Huur-Tu, and it was made up of four guys dressed in some traditional Tuvan robes. I think the membership of the group actually has changed since this picture was taken, but here are the clothes and instruments. You get the idea.

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Throat singing or khöömei is (I think) about constricting one's "false vocal chords" to amplify the overtones that are present. There is a pretty good explanation of it here and here. You should totally check out the videos of Huun-Huur-Tu if you are the slightest bit interested in hearing what this sounds like. The one called Sygyt is of the style that totally blows me away.

The singing was really cool, and one of the guys in particular would introduce each song. I had a really hard time hearing him for some reason though, and English was definitely not his native language. So to me, the song introductions all sounded like they came over the intercom at a very strange drive-thru. Staticstaticstatic.......my country.....staticstaticstatic............ horses..............staticstaticstatic...............grasslands. So I'm not really sure what the songs were about. I think maybe horses.

Also, we happened to run into Cordy and Han (you remember them), and one of Cordy's super-nice friends who I met at Cordy's birthday last year. I guess that New York really is a small city of a few million people, especially if you and your friends like to go to weird concerts like this.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

first of all

I feel much better! In fact I felt much better on the day that I was complaining about being sick. That was yesterday, wasn't it? And lo, I drank many cups of water and tea (herbal, Nick, don't worry!) and I felt decent again. So that's good.

Today I did laundry and made my very first challah bread (pictures to follow). Isaac did some chemistry journal reading because he is trying to be a conscientious professor type. That is okay by me! I also watched an episode of Lost. I checked out the first season from the library but missed a couple of episodes in the middle, perversely. So I bought them from Itunes. Oh, Lost. I haven't seen any of the second season (and if anyone spoils it for me I will be forced to cut you, I'm sorry in advance) but I'm thinking about buying some episodes and catching myself up before I see something on Google News about someone that they killed off (that already happened once).

But tonight I'm going to meet Isaac on the West Side so that we can go to a concert of some throat singers of Tuva. I'd better leave now in fact. I think it should be fun! Can you imagine making two notes with your voice at the same time? I can't.

Friday, January 13, 2006

oh no.

I was hoping that the sickness would stay in my throat and not move on to the snotty stage, but it turns out I just have a really slow-moving cold. I have also now infected all coworkers. Well, except that one of them surely gave this thing to me, so not that person. But now I can't really stay home from work. For one thing, there's the happy hour tonight. Just kidding. But I guess I really will go to work, and try not to snot all over everything.

First though, some hot tea and a little blog reading.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

not all the christmas out of my system yet

Sorry...I can't let all these pictures go unposted. Can you just pretend that it is 2 weeks ago? I will try not to get any further behind so that I'm not posting new Year's pictures in March...

Our Christmas this year was different...my sister Beth and her husband went up to his parents' place for Christmas Day. So we had to do all the Christmas stuff on Christmas Eve. As kids this would have been our greatest fantasy. Present opening a whole 12 hours early!!!! As it was, we managed to go to Mass, come home and eat dinner, and only then were the presents opened. It's so much easier to wait when you are old. Here is our obligatory Christmas outfits shot. In front of a fireplace...where we have taken a picture every year for the last 28 years...fewer years for the other siblings of course.

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Now, look at my sister Beth's outfit. Isn't it lovely? She picked this up on the day of her interview for the great job she landed back in November. Oh, you can see it better in this picture.

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I asked her about the shirt, and she was like, "you know, it's just a basic shirt." A basic shirt? I think it looks like much more than a basic shirt, and the fact that she could pick out this outfit in a store on the day of the thing she needed the outfit for, makes me doubt that we share genetic material. To me, the only thing worse than clothes shopping is clothes shopping under pressure. I usually emerge from the store having paid an insane amount for a not very attractive outfit in the wrong size.

back to Christmas Eve! We got back from Mass and Isaac had already gotten the oven ready for the baked ziti. Yay. We did a fishy sort of dinner with salmon and shrimp cocktail. Lots of Italians do a seven fish dinner on Christmas Eve and this was our meager imitation. It was so delicious though. I liked it better than the ham we had on Christmas Day...but then again, I don't love ham.

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Then Katie and Russell's dog Baci shoved herself into the cat bed, which looks a lot like her bed, except her bed is twice as big. So cute.

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Then we opened presents...

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Isaac did an impression of an otter, as part of his gift to my sister Katie...

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And now he's doing the impression for you Internet! I hope you like it, and that you had a Merry Christmas!

another post from the past

I know it's really late for Christmas posts, but I have to say....Forcing my Jewish husband to wear a Rudolph nose gave me more pleasure than almost anything this past Christmas. OK, the present opening was pretty good too.

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sick, but not sick enough to stay home

So, all our houseguests are gone (bye Nick and Gina!) and then I got sick. :( I still have a sore throat, but it is well-controlled by painkillers at least. Now I'm back at work, and it's time to make up for that lost day. Ay.

This morning, something exciting is going on in our apartment. A bunch of men arrived at 7:40am to install new windows! Thanks, men. Isaac and I had already done a couple of hours of work moving stuff away from the windows, which is difficult since in a small apartment there is not much space away from the windows. We could have put everything into the bathroom, but that seems just wrong. So instead we did the best we could and put a couple of sheets over most of the stuff.

I was home sick in the apartment yesterday when the apartments one floor above got redone. The amount of glass, brick and debris falling from up there was kind of sickening. I wonder what the inside of the places looked like. We are preparing for a disaster site. It will be nice to have new windows though, since the current swing-out windows don't actually close all the way, and consequently let in a disgusting amount of NYC particulate matter. I don't know what that black stuff is, but it gets on everything! It has been a problem in every apartment I've lived in here, but this place is the worst.

Is this the boringest post ever or what? I've completely lost interest myself in the description of dirt, so I understand if you didn't make it this far.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

i know i'm SUPER behind

but if you haven't seen the SNL Narnia rap you really should. My dad saved it on his Tivo to show us.

Friday, January 06, 2006

book reviews - a little late

Apparently I started putting together this list last year before things got kind of crazy...These were the best books I thought for sure that I read in 2005. I have a list of the books i've read, but didn't actually write a date next to them.

My sources of book recommendations this year have really come through for me. Brian is always a good source. I still have at least two books on my "Brian List" to get to, On Beauty and The Line of Beauty. Then there's the bloggers, books recommended by and written by bloggers. Empire Falls was a great book recommended by hotbabe and I ended up giving it to my mom for Christmas. And finally I realized that I should ask my mother what she's reading every time I talk to her. Since she started using an exercise bike every morning, she reads at least 4 books a week I think. Mom came through with some great recommendations, especially the one by Mary Gordon, and all the Maeve Binchy books. Thanks to all!

Best books I read in 2005:

Best Nonfiction: I'm Not the New Me: Hilarious and sweet and the best memoir ever. It kind of made me want to join Weight Watchers too. Just so I can obsess over hidden salad dressing calories, etc.

Best Nonfiction finished just barely in 2005: The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court: Brian tipped me off to this excellent book about the Supreme Court between 1969 and 1975. It's completely fascinating. Seriously. There are so many things that I just take for granted, given my extensive (ha) knowledge of criminal law which is completely based on Law & Order, some mystery novels, and maybe a little Legally Blonde, and those things were decided by a teeny-tiny margin. Not to mention this book concerns the period when the death penalty was briefly struck down, and the Roe v. Wade and other abortion decisions. And it's so well-written as to be a complete page turner.

Best Three in Fiction:

The Underminer previously gushed over,

The Master, I read this a few months ago, and just loved it. Actually I heard about it from Brian, but then it turned out I read it before he did, and raved incoherently about it to him, but then he didn't love it so much. Weird how that happens. The book is about the life of Henry James. The un-Jamesian writing was kind of a shock for me at first, although of course why should it have been anything else? It's not a piece of fan fiction or a sequel to Portrait of a Lady or something. I just love the tenderness with which Henry is treated by the book. Even though his life is pretty much a restrained and sad un-life. The writing gave me the impression of overwhelming stillness, which sounds boring, but was really captivating. That's a really terrible review, so you should read some others.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince I don't have to explain this do I?

Best Trashy: Why didn't Jennifer Crusie come out with a book this year? That makes me sad. She's really the best. But this one was okay, Jamie (what could be better than a hot guy? A hot guy who is psychic.) I'm embarrassed to be writing this, but I feel I must be honest with my readership.

Worst Fiction book: The Birth of Venus - you might remember my review. Which is not the same category as....

Worst trashy book, which also happens to be the worst book I've ever read besides that stupid vampire one which might not count because I didn't finish it: The Royal Treatment. I actually finished this book, which has to have the stupidest premise in the history of the world. See, it's like, what if Alaska were really an independent kingdom, and there was a crown prince who was also a marine biologist, and he needed a queen....see? Stupid.

That's my list for 2005, even though most of those books didn't come out this year. I wonder, did any of those books come out this year?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Finally crossed the line...

Wow, I've been out of the blogging game for a long time. I hope that I can make a little comeback, though things are still pretty busy around here (see: my two week vacation of family fun and resulting work undone and possibly unhappy boss).

I just had to tell you all about a dream that I had over vacation. I dreamed that I was taking a plane from somewhere back to NYC. Our plane had to make an emergency landing in Paris due to some extremely serious mechanical problem, plane shaking all over the place, etc. But for some reason that I didn't question in the dream logic, I HAD to get back on this same plane to fly across the Atlantic Ocean and get back to New York. But I was sure in the dream that this plane was going to crash on the way home and I would die, therefore I was getting myself the most fattening and delicious last meal provisions in a very well-stocked Parisian cafeteria. But while getting buying my croissants and chocolates, I thought, this will make a great blog post though, if I don't die! The line into blog obsession has been officially crossed. Yay.

Hope that y'all are well! I missed you.