Saturday, December 27, 2008

Questions on Christmas

With Christmas gone, it is time to start putting all the decorations away. Or so I thought, until I was halted by Mac, who informed me everything should stay up until New Year's. But I want to start New Year's with a clean slate; I don't want the task of cleaning up Christmas hanging over my head! So then the question arises: When is the proper time to put away the holiday decor?

We agreed that the tree would stay up, and everything else could come down.

One of the first things to be put away was the advent calendar. According to Wikipedia, the ultimate source of information, :"The origins of the Advent calendar come from German Lutherans who, at least as early as the beginning of the 19th century, would count down the 24 days of Advent physically."

The article goes on to say; "The traditional calendar consists of two pieces of cardboard on top of each other. Twenty four doors are cut in the top layer, with a number ranging from one to twenty-four on each. Beginning on the first day of December, one door is opened each day, counting down the days remaining until Christmas Eve, from one to twenty four. " (Which is not counting down by the way. Somebody please explain the math)

Anyway, my family has always counted down on the advent calendar, starting with #24 and ending with #1. But we seem to be unique in this. Every house with an advent Calendar that I visited this year was counting 1 to 24. And all the store-bought ones have the big prize in #24, implying that #24 is to be the grand finale. I claim that the count down lets kids to easily figure out how many days left till Christmas, which after all, is what they really want to know. But I don't seem to be getting much support on this. Is there anyone who still actually counts down?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Meat Eating Vegetarian

For the last three years or so, Mac and I have been huge fans of Iron Chef America. In fact, we've seen almost every episode in that time frame (thanks DVR). The chefs create culinary masterpieces that make me salivate in my La-Z-Boy. And while the dishes are unique to each chef, it seems that the basic recipe for success has protein, and particularly meat, on center stage, with veggies as a supporting role. Even when the secret ingredient is a vegetable or fish, there's a lot of meat being cooked in that kitchen. And it works - everything looks delectable. During our viewership, I have joked to Mac that I would give up being a vegetarian if I ever got to be a judge on Iron Chef.

But this year, the idea of eating meat became less of a joke and something I pondered more seriously, especially as I began running with more intensity. I have been reading about athlete nutrition and I think I have been under-estimating my protein needs. I think I am still doing ok in that regard (fresh eggs from our chickens certainly help!) and I know I can be successful with my running and be a vegetarian, since I have been doing it since my sophomore year in college (15 years ago!). But still I kept chewing over my vegetarian choices.

My main motivation for giving up meat was health (environmental issues were a minor component). As I studied human disease, it became increasingly clear that avoiding meat is good for your health. And yet, I do recognize that humans were meant to eat meat: we have canine teeth, we can't synthesize some of the B vitamins that are almost exclusively found in animal proteins, and we are very inefficient at extracting iron from plant material. But vegetarians have lower rates of cancer, heart disease and obesity - the leading killers in our society.

For me, I think humans were meant to eat like the bear: lots of nuts, fruits, berries and fish, an occasional picnic basket, and a rare meal of red meat. But we've become like the tiger - gorging ourselves on meat and fat at every meal without a lot of veggies for balance. And so it would seem one could have a very healthy diet without avoiding meat entirely.

Which brings me to the present. I told Mac I wanted to go to a great restaurant in L.A. while we had his mom to watch the kids. On the advice of others, including another L.A. area chef, we choose Lucques. I figure these infrequent trips to foodie places will be as close as I get to being an Iron Chef judge. And so I decided to just order and eat what comes.

I started with the "sunshine" squash soup with bacon, cavolo nero, and amaretti crumbs. When it came there were chunks of fatty slab bacon floating on the silky soup. "Oh, you totally could have gotten that without the bacon," Mac commented. But I disagree - the bacon added a smokiness and a richness to the buttery squash puree that elevated the dish and served as a foil for the sweet amaretti crumbs. And to be honest, the bacon was just good. For my entree, I did have fish (grilled barramundi), partly because I do just really like fish, partly because a fish and mushroom combination is fairly unusual, and partly because I still really don't want to eat a big hunk of meat. But I had a bite of Mac's lamb as well as a large mouthful of my friend's stuffed rabbit.

I finished with a pumpkin mousse and pastry combo that was ok, but Mac had the most amazing dessert - "churros" with chocolate dipping sauce and dulce du leche ice cream. These weren't ordinary churros; as my friend Anne put it, these were "the veal of the churro world." The pastries had the lightest and fluffiest consistency with a coating that was both cinnamon-sugary and salty. This dessert in itself was worth the long drive from Mac's parents' house!

Dinner was great - just what I was hoping for. I ate and enjoyed (some) meat without guilt or worry for my health. It made for a memorable meal, but didn't really leave me longing to be a carnivore again. So I guess that makes me a meat eating vegetarian!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Our Final Christmas Celebration

By the time we woke up on Christmas morning, my sister and her family were long gone (Mac was nice enough to see them off at 4:30, I felt I had said adequate goodbyes the night before!). So Christmas day we were all by ourselves.

We spent the entire day lounging in Pajamas (or in Megan's case, a swimsuit cover-up that she prefers to pajamas even this cold!).

We opened the presents in waves, starting with the stockings, of course. Santa had a much easier time filling these huge stockings made by Mac's mom than I had anticipated!

Then a few gifts, some play time, a few more gifts, some breakfast, more gifts, until all of the sudden it was noontime and I was still thinking it was mid-morning!

Santa did bring those markers Megan wanted (a set of 20, not just 10 this time - the lucky girl!), but the big gifts were a kid's computer from Mac's parents and a new bike from my parents, which we've been test riding in the ping-pong room for now.

Both of Megan's big gifts were huge hits, especially with Liam! I had told everyone Liam wanted boy things to fill our void, but really he wanted his own kid's computer! So Liam got an extra present the next day, which was really a present for the parents to keep the kids from fighting anymore over Megan's! Merry Christmas (and Happy early birthday, Liam)!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

Since my sister's family had to leave super early to catch a (rescheduled) Christmas morning flight, we had our celebration together on Christmas eve. I was thinking of doing a nice fancy meal, but my sister has been trying to convert the family to "Mexican Christmas Eve" for many years, so we obliged and had enchiladas instead. Nothing says "Merry Christmas!" like several margaritas!

Liam scored big in the truck department this Christmas.

Megan likes all of her new clothes until she realized she didn't have anything new to play with that night.

We tried to conclude the festivities with the traditional reading of "T'was the Night Before Christmas" but we had to abort after the first page!

Afterwards we put the kids to bed, while the adults hung out in the living room. Megan spent the next hour and a half yelling at us every time we made any little noise: "Santa? Are you here? Mom, is Santa here?"

I finally went in to talk to her and she insisted she needed to see Santa. What do you want to tell him? I asked. "You talk to him instead," said Megan, remembering her fear of the jolly old guy. "Tell him I want new markers." I assured her that Santa already knew this and he wasn't coming until after she went to sleep!

Merry Christmas to all and to all a goodnight! (finally!)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Long Trip Home

We knew Oregon was hit hard with winter weather when we were in L.A. and we were surprised that our flight was still scheduled on time Sunday, since we knew the majority of flights into and out of PDX were cancelled. But indeed we took off as scheduled and landed on time, albeit in icy conditions. We arrived to find our car ensheathed in a thick cocoon of ice.

We eventually got the windows chipped free and the car warmed up (the kids rode without shirts on because we had the car heater cranked up so high to melt the ice!). The roads didn't seem too bad. We traveled slowly, but without chains (which Mac was smart enough to put in the car before we left). But soon it started dumping snow and visibility became a problem, especially with the encroaching darkness. We stopped to put on chains but realized this was no weather for traveling, so we called friends in Portland and invited our whole family over for a sleepover!

Monday morning we woke up to find lots of new snow, and plenty of ice, too.

We were able to drive fairly well (but slow) with chains and started the journey to Salem mid-morning. But we got news from a neighbor that our power had been out since Saturday, so we only made it as far as a Salem hotel. Initial reports on Tuesday were that our poer was still out, so we booked again for the next night and took the kids to an indoor play park to burn off some energy. Right around 11:00 we got word that our power was on, so we scrambled to check out and head HOME! My sister and her family were able to make it down from Portland that day, too.

We celebrated being home by playing in the snow!

The kids even got to do some sledding. We warmed up on the driveway first before tackling the big hill (our driveway was covered with plenty of ice, so this isn't really as funny as it looks)

It's good to be home!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

California Wrap-up

Friday we headed to the Arboretum for a photo shoot. Fortunately, the professional photographer did a lot better than I did! I'll keep my day job.

Saturday we got to have another Christmas celebration, first with Uncle Roger in the morning and then With Auntie Kendall, Dave and Jared in the evening! More great gifts (all of which I had to figure out how to get home!). That night I got to do a lot of packing!

Thursday, December 18, 2008


One of the highlights of our Southern California trip was a day at Disneyland with Megan. Poor Liam had to miss all the fun, but got to have a full day of Mamaw's undivided attention.

With running shoes and a hair clip, Megan made it to the bottom of the 40 inch height measurement - meaning we could take her on all the rides! She was a champ on Big Thunder and was thrilled with the speed, but was Not a fan of the dark. "Too many caves." Mostly she didn't like any of the "scary" stuff - like bat eyes and wolves. She tolerated all the other dark rides - like Snow White, Peter Pan and Buzz Lightyear - but she still wasn't a fan of the dark or bad guys in your face. So it'll be no surprise that Megan's two favorite rides were Dumbo and the Tea Cups. We skipped all of the extra scary rides (Pirates, Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain) this time around. Maybe next time!

In fact, Megan liked the tea cups so much, it didn't even matter that we only got a pink cup one of the four times we went on that ride!

Megan was super excited to see Mickey and we waited in line for 20 minutes or so, but just like Santa, when the time came she chickened out. So I got a picture of me and Mickey instead!

The other big thrill for Megan was the Disney parade. Megan beamed the whole time as Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Santa and all of the "princesses" ("except not Jasmine") waltzed by. Fortunately, we got to see it all again the second time around while waiting in line for the teacups!

Megan was a trooper all day and rallied till after 8 PM without a nap. One of the nice things about staying past dark is that we got to see all the lights that were up for the holidays. The It's a Small World ride even had a complete x-mas redo. Megan loved that the mermaids sang "jingle Shells!"

Monday, December 15, 2008

First Day in L.A.

Just one day after building a snowman, we were enjoying warm California sunshine. Pretty nice, especially sicne weather reports from Oregon included A LOT of ice and snow!

Sunday night we had the first of our many Christmas celebrations. This was Mac's family's traditional Christmas eve gathering, with the whole extended family, held one week early this year to include us and made even more cheery with some great eggnog!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

First Snow

Megan has been babbling on about snow for the last four months. So this morning when we woke up with a couple of inches of snow, Megan was elated. Nevermind that we had a plane to catch in Portland later that day! Time to go out and play! Liam got to take his first real romp in the snow, too.

When it comes to snow, Megan has a one track mind: SNOWMEN! It doesn't matter that we only had a few powdery inches at that point. So we made our dirty snowman, then hurried to get everything packed up. By 10 am we were in the car, destined for nine days in snow free L.A.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Dad's Weekend

While I was off running, Mac got to spend some quality time with the kids.

Fortunately, the annual medical society holiday party was that weekend, so Mac had something to do with the kids. Megan got to hang out with her friend Kate, and the little brothers had a good time, too.

Megan was pretty psyched by the free carousel rides...

But not so thrilled with Santa.

Megan had Mac relay the desire for new marking pens - she wasn't getting any closer! Liam, though, thought Santa was a pretty swell guy; apparently the way to Liam's heart is with a free jingle bell.

Megan's friend Kate had no problem with Santa. In fact, she had a whole list rehearsed! But she wasn't so sure about the carousel. Where do kids get these fears??

Even with the Santa fright, everyone had something to smile about!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

No Future In Arm Wrestling

This past weekend I went to visit my parents in Sacramento for the sole purpose of running the California International Marathon. Several other runners from Salem were there as well. Although we didn't travel down together, one of the spectating Salemites recognized me and snapped this photo right at mile 26, with less than 400 yards to the finish.

I forwarded the e-mail to Mac so he could put it on our hard drive.

"That's a really good picture!" he called me up to say.

I thought he was joking. "Are you kidding me? It is totally unflattering, I've got chocolate GU all over my shirt, and my bangs are plastered to my face with some serious hat head!"

"No. I am serious. You look really strong, especially because that is mile 26!"

Maybe the picture wasn't all bad. "Yeah, I like how big my bicep looks."

"What biceps?!?" Mac wondered. "You don't have any arm muscles. I just meant your legs!"

I also like the blur of my legs and the background - it looks like I was movin'! Photo aside - I had a great race, averaging 7:17 miles for a personal best of 3:10:36.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Meg and Liam

Two cute phots of the kids. Too bad Megan's got a sh*t grin. Hmmm - I wonder where she gets that.

Good Solutions

"Mom, I need new markers. These ones are getting all dried up," Megan says to me while coloring.

"Maybe you'll get some new ones for Christmas," I tell her.

"Can you call Santa and tell him I need some new markers?"

"Ummm..yeah, I will," I reply.

"Can you call him right now? I want to talk to him."

(I had to explain that Santa was too busy making toys to talk!)

Today at school Megan and two friends colored Christmas trees.
After school Megan held up two crayon tannenbaums. "Madeline gave me this one and Sophie gave me this one," Megan explained,"but I only made one Christmas tree, so I cut it in half and gave them each a piece."

Monday, December 1, 2008


My sister's family and my parents came up for Thanksgiving weekend. Since my parents didn't get here till late Thursday night, we had the untraditional curry steak and soup dinner that night.

We had our "real" TG on Saturday. Dinner was served about ten minutes after all three kids were down for a nap, which made for a lovely kid free meal (for which we were thankful!)

Mac loves my sh*t grin in this photo. I'm just being the happy hostess!

The kids got lots of attention, too. We went for a "hike" on the Croisan scenic trail. It went just slightly better than last year's Thanksgiving attempt with all three kids. Next year we might just be able to do the whole thing (half mile each way)!

We tried to take lots of cousin pictures, but none were super successful.

We finally gave up when the kids were too silly to even sit up straight any more.

And we took a trip to the park since it was dry (but cold!).

A Happy Thanksgiving!