Friday, November 27, 2009

the thanksgiving edition...

I have so much to be thankful for. So, so much. I can't even begin to think where I would be right now if it weren't for my amazing, supportive family, and my extraordinary husband.

I'm thankful for a tableful of friends and family.

Thankful that I got the chance to talk to my brother on his first Holiday away from home.

Thankful for jokes and stories that we've heard over, and over at the same dinner table for twenty years or more.

I'm thankful that I don't feel ungrateful. That I feel like I belong in the place I'm in right now. I am so unbelievably thankful to be where I am, with the people am I with. Every day it seems I take a peek at my life and wonder, 'is this where you thought you would be, is this what you want to be doing?' and I always, always think, 'YES!!' My life is an amazing life, and I wouldn't change any part of it...

It's the day after Thanksgiving. You might already be wondering why I'm in such a good mood right now and talking about love, and family, and how my life is so incredible...but, it's the day after Thanksgiving...and you know what that means!!

Christmas decorating!!

I don't know why or how it happens, but the minute you tear away the packing tape, your house suddenly reeks of Christmas. Cinnamon oozes out of the boxes, pine wafts past your nose, and suddenly it feels like Santa threw up in your house, spewing Christmas essence all over the walls and cupboards.

It's delicious.

We're the only one on our block to have Christmas lights, but I don't care. It makes me happy...

The wreaths are hung...

and our stockings are resting on the banister...

Glittering snowflakes are dusting the garland. Candles are lit in every corner. Twinkling lights are draped lazily, weaving in and out of faux evergreen, and chandeliers are seductively enveloped in garland.

This is the time of year that I wish I was still living at home. Wishing I still saw the familiar nutcrackers gracing the staircase, my own stocking, hand embroidered by my mom, nestled between my sibling's and clung to the fireplace, and a warm cup of hot cocoa made by my dad out of Nestle's and chocolate milk, extra thick and full of chocolaty goodness.

But, I have my own family now. A family that I have to provide these Holiday traditions for. A husband who longs for his mom as much as I do this time of year.

And so, we adorn our house with cheer and reminders of what our mothers would do. We make it our own, but still bring a piece of our child's heart into our adult home. We listen to "A Charlie Brown Christmas" soundtrack because that tugs his heartstring. And we decorate incessantly because that tugs my heartstring.

We laugh and hug, and laugh again, watching this, and this. We create our own memories and traditions, and we hold each other. Missing the absence of everything we've ever known during the Holiday season, but embracing the traditions we've started for our own little family.

And I remember, amidst all the glimmering lights, pine scented candles, and mistletoe adorning our home, this is a time to love.

It's a time to love deeper than you ever felt before.

mistletoe and
garland and
sparkles and
and pine scented candles
and santa's
and nativities
and red
and green
and giving
and getting
and traditions...

just force you to

love a little deeper.

Happy, happy thanksgiving everyone.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

the wonders and woes of widow's weekend...

I'm alone this weekend. I love my husband more than anything, but I long for this weekend every year. I get to do whatever I want, and it is so incredibly selfish of me, but it's rejuvenating.

This weekend, I promised to bury myself away in my house and write, and dream, and color.

This weekend is all about me.

I got my Netflix in the mail.

iTunes will be strictly playing my 'calm and thinking' music.

I went on my own hunting extravaganza and found my bright red nail polish.

My sketch pad is within arms reach at any given moment.

I get the couch and bed all to myself. I can sprawl out in odd, strange, and unbeknown areas.

I don't have to cook.

Two big novels sit in front of me just waiting to be cracked open.

And my parents even let me borrow their bus, I mean, blazer, so I could go anywhere I want, whenever I want.

It's just me, my puppy, and Carrie Bradshaw.
Girls weekend alone.

I am so excited.

I get home from work, and, since I don't have to worry about my husband needing to back out in the morning, I park across the entire driveway. There I was, taking up the whole dang thing, not a worry in my mind.

I unlock the door, greet my squirming pup, and turn on the heat.

It's late already, so I decide to relax in front of the tube. I put my Sex and the City into the player.

I'm hungry. Nothing to eat. Call Chinese.

My feet are cold.

Tired. So tired. Going to bed.

Get up at 5:30, take pup downstairs, morning ritual.

Go to work. Late.

Late, why?

Late, because nothing went as easily as previously stated.

I parked the car carelessly, all because I thought I had the freedom to do so, since I was the only one occupying it this weekend.
And it took me twenty minutes to back out of the driveway.

I didn't sleep well. I forgot to lock the door behind me, and didn't have anyone to go down in the middle of the night to double check.
I also forgot to turn the heat down.

Not to mention, I didn't sleep well, because the natural balance of my body kept waking me up warning me that I was ready to fall off the bed.
There was no barricade on my right side to prevent me from straying too far. I nearly rolled out of bed three times.

And when I was hungry and wanting to relax the night before?
I couldn't figure out the DVD player, and Chinese only delivers a $15 minimum.

I had to order $15 dollars worth of take-out food. That's almost four meals.

Lena, my puppy, was so incredibly annoying, that I couldn't relax at all. She kept whining, and pacing, and nudging, and it drove me absolutely nuts.
I let out an exasperated sigh.

But it fell on absent ears. There was no one there to interpret my anxiety and take the responsibility of letting her out.

Any time I tried to write, she was directly below me, chewing, and whining, and nudging.

She refused to walk up the stairs to bed by herself.
I had to carry my 50-something-pound wriggling Labrador to her royal sleeping chamber.

When I let her out the next morning, she refused to go outside. Instead, she just sat and cried.
I couldn't figure it out.

I finally realized...
I'm not doing it right.

My husband lets the puppy out every morning. Her routine is the only thing she knows.
And the only thing I know.
She eats first, and then goes out...

But, only he would know that.

I forgot how much I rely on him...

He would have known how to back the car out.
He would have investigated the bumps in the night, and made sure the doors were locked so his girls were safe.
He would have been on the other side of me, on the couch, or in bed, to make sure my feet had his spare body warmth or protect me from catapulting off the edge of the mattress.
He would know how to work the DVD player, and he would have eaten more than half the order I was forced to place for take out.
He would have interpreted my profuse sigh and dealt with Lena without dispute.
He would have carried her up the stairs, or used his deep, booming man voice to order her off the floor.
He knows her morning protocol and knows what makes our pup happy and content.
He knows what makes me happy and content.

I miss my man, everything is a lot easier when he's home.

Friday, November 20, 2009

we failed our soil test...

I am terrible at tests. Any test.

I guessed all of the answers on my SAT's (except English, which I miraculously scored 100%). I failed my motorcyclist test by getting the first four answers wrong, I refuse to take blood tests, and I wince every time I go to the eye doctor, worrying they might not believe I can't read the last line.

I am dreadful at science, history, and above all, math. I literally had to use a calculator today to determine how old I am. I'm 23. Apparently.

But, I guess I had high hopes when someone approached us wanting to test the soil on our property. I mean, soil and gardening is my thing. I love it. Whenever I'm in the garden, I feel like a woodland fairy creature , galavanting among the roses and perennials. I send secret wishes to the seeds I've started over winter, telling them to grow, and live, and produce. I gently place them in the ground and coax them into adulthood waiting for the day I can pluck their ripe fruit and toss them gingerly into my mouth.

Students from the university came by a few months ago, snatched a sample of our soil, and then sent it off somewhere to be tested. A few weeks later, the results were tucked between our front door, and I was shocked. Mortified.

Normal amounts of lead found in soil are around 400 ppm (parts per million). In the city, where all the older houses are, like ours, it's normal for them to be as high as 800 ppm.

Our levels are 2,156 ppm.

We have been advised to wipe our shoes extremely well, and take them off right away. No extended periods of playing outside, especially for dogs and kids. And definitely, don't eat the dirt!

I knew we were supposed to be careful with an older house, you know, don't eat the paint off the walls and such, but now we have to be cautious in our own backyard?

To quote some google search results:

"Soil with lead levels of 1,000 ppm or more is considered hazardous waste"

"Fetuses and small children, because of their rapidly developing nervous systems, are more sensitive to and suffer the most harm from lead exposure. Adverse effects include damage to the brain and nervous system, lower I.Q., behavior problems and slow growth. Adults may suffer cognitive decline, hypertension, nerve disorders, muscle pain and reproductive problems."

"By growing spinach for three months, researchers at the University of Southern Maine lowered the lead count in one garden by 200 p.p.m. Of course, the lead-leaching crop cannot be eaten or composted and must be disposed of as toxic waste."

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Spinach is my all-time favorite vegetable, and suddenly it's been turned into a "lead-leaching-crop"! 

What are we going to do!?

I really did not anticipate to fail this test. Mother Nature is my friend, not foe. But, I guess there are only a few options for us. 

Either we sell the house, move to the country, and have soil tests performed on every potential home.

Say, "Oh well!" and risk the health of our unborn babes.


play like this:

(Future family cavorting in anti contamination suits, a space helmet, and a bubble.)

Any suggestions?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

these things i love...

My tiny little family is a cuddly bunch. They break my heart in a million little pieces. And I love them.

Friday, November 13, 2009

the neck that turns the head...

Sometime after we were married, my husband learned a new phrase. I'm guessing it was after filling out legal documents or tax information, but I don't exactly know where he picked it up from. If I could retrace our steps during our quest to legalize our commitment, and prevent him from ever hearing or seeing these words, I would.

One day he just came home and proudly announced,
"Honey, guess what, I'm the head of household."

And that was that.

For months it went on, in a Tarzan-esque voice he would say,
"You, wife. Me, head of household."

I tried to explain to him that it means nothing, nothing to me. I said, I'm not going to iron your shirts or pick your wet towels up off the floor. You better get used to nasty, stinky, musty old towels, and learn to shop for especially stiff shirts. I'll cook for you, but only because I don't trust you to do it, and I'm not particularly fond of hot dogs and spaghettios. I'll do my share of the cleaning, but I get to pick what I want to do and you're left with the rest. This doesn't make me a bad wife, I'm just a strong, opinionated woman who can't be bothered by you. Now go away 'head of household'.

(the, 'i mean business look')

It seemed effective, he's been perfectly happy and content, even when wearing one solid color head to toe because he ran completely out of clean laundry. At any given time he can look like a stalk of asparagus, or something you wished you hadn't stepped in at the park. And I've been happy too, I cook when and what I want, and seeing him gobble it up within seconds makes me feel gifted, and appreciated (even if it's only because he's had frozen pizza for a week straight and is just thankful for real, substantial food.)

Husband and wife living in blissful harmony...

Until now.

Rockefeller Center put up their dang Christmas tree.
Our downtown has angels perched on every light post.
Santa has set up camp and a photo booth at the mall.


It appears that I blindly let my husband pull the head of household shenanigans on me! I've had a week to let this whole rule of waiting until after Thanksgiving to decorate sink in, and it's finally dawned on me. I've allowed my husband to make a ridiculous rule. Oh, I don't care if he makes rules, but ridiculous rules? When the rest of the world is basking in The Season? And if rules are meant to be broken, why can't I for the life of me seem to break this one?

I tried the Christmas sock thing, but I didn't feel like doing laundry every day. And really? You thought I was actually going to bake? Pfffft.

There are only so many times I can take credit for my sister's glorious baked goodies, and I'm pretty sure my free passes have run out.

I've declared war. This household will not be the same until I get some Christmas cheer up in here. I'm just going to be the biggest brat I can possibly be, maybe that will finally break him.

And if he has anything to say about it, well, I'll just tell him,

Talk to my blog, cause the face ain't listenin'.

(at least we got to test the lights, and hubby doesn't know, but I snapped this picture behind his back.)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Recipe: Garlic Chili Chicken

I'm going to try and share recipes from time to time, so here's one that we had last night. It was kind of spicy, kind of sweet, hard to explain, but really good. If you like to use spices (and lots of garlic) in cooking, this is for you, plus, it's super easy.

I currently only cook for two, so multiply this recipe to your needs. We had plenty for two, plus leftovers for hubby the next day for lunch.

You will need:

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 whole head of garlic, roasted
1/4 teaspoon allspice*
1/4 teaspoon pepper*
1/4 teaspoon cumin*
1 1/2 teaspoon chili powder*
1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
2 teaspoon oregano
pinch of salt
1 Tablespoon olive oil

*Use more or less to your liking

Before you start you'll need to roast the garlic. Heat up your oven to 350 degrees. Cut off the top of the garlic, keeping the papery outsides on, to expose the tops of the cloves. Drizzle it with some olive oil and wrap the whole thing in tinfoil. Leave it in the oven for 45 minutes, then sit back and enjoy the aroma.

When the garlic is ready, mix all of the spices, salt, and cider vinegar in a bowl. Take your roasted garlic and squeeze all of the cloves out into the bowl. Mash together with the spices to make a paste. Cut the chicken into small strips and place in the bowl of spices, turning the chicken several times to coat.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over low-medium heat. Add the chicken to the saucepan and cook until done.

I added broccoli to the saucepan after the chicken was done cooking and sauteed it together for awhile. Then I served the chicken on top of a bed of whole wheat thin spaghetti- it was great!

Let me know how you like it.

Bon appetit!

the answer is yes.

People always ask me if I enjoy working with my family.

How can I not when every day starts with big, warm hugs, and ends with sticky cheeks from kisses received by the one wearing far too much lip gloss?

Workplace gossip is juicier, and stories to tell date back twenty years or more.

Compliments and criticism are mulled over quietly by each member before being delivered, to try and be as sensitive and caring as possible (for the most part, anyway...) and years and years of trust and learning to communicate are a far better teacher than team building workshops or leadership training courses.

Hysterical fits of giggles are encouraged. 
Dancing in the kitchen is a must. 
Singing out of key is preferred.

Above all that, booty slaps are highly discouraged in all other work environments.

And that's not fun at all.

(As a side note, I could have sworn I saw Jon Gosselin today and I got way more excited about it than I should have. What is wrong with me??)

(It wasn't Jon Gosselin, in case you wondered...)

Monday, November 9, 2009

When the cat's away...

(They did this all by themselves. I had no part in it whatsoever.)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

my husband is a mean, horrible person...

I know, I my first post I said he was a handsome, wonderful man, blah, blah, blah...whatever. He's mean and cruel. But still handsome.

He hung our Christmas lights today. Our very first Christmas lights on our very first home. We decided to do it today because it was 70-flippen degrees, and nice and warm and sunshiney. So, what's the problem, you're thinking?

He won't let me light them.

Nope. He is laying down the law and won't let me light them, won't let me decorate the house with all the garland, glitter, and spicy cinnamon splendor that I wait all year for.

The rule is, I have to wait until after Thanksgiving, or, until the first major snowfall.

Typically, in Wisconsin, if you have a 70 degree Sunday, you will probably have a 30 degree Friday, but the forecast isn't looking so good. I know I should be grateful for the nice weather, and I wouldn't normally care if it's warm or cold, but when my happiness and merriment rely on the terrible weather we normally have here, it matters. It does.

It would have been better had I at least had a brief chance to witness the beauty of those little twinkling lights, but, we didn't test them. When we do test them, he's only allowing us to have them on for a few seconds, just to see if they do in fact work. Unless during those few seconds, the skies open up and let loose a torrential downpour of big fluffy flakes.

I tried all the arguments. I said, the lights are sad, and cold, and they can't see anything out there on the roof. It's the first time out of their box, their home, we need to let them know that they are wanted here and that they have fulfilled their life's purpose!

Didn't work.

I guess I'm just going to have to wait for a few weeks more, or pray that we get a nice snowfall. I've been sneaking peeks at the Christmas boxes in the basement while I'm down there doing laundry. I noticed a few days ago that one of them miraculously opened, and out sprawled a sparkling red tendril of garland. Today I looked and saw it had opened even more! I caught a glimpse of shimmering gold orbs, scented pine cones, and the trim of my Angel's skirt.

It's too much, I can't wait! I want to see evergreen and mistletoe! I want our homemade Nativity set unpacked and on display! It's too much to wait until the first snow fall! and I have to wait even longer to put baby Jesus in the Manger, he can't come out until Christmas Day!

What am I going to do!?

I know. I'm going to make Holiday cookies and tell my grinch of a husband that he has to wait until Thanksgiving to eat them.

And I'm going to wear Christmas socks every day until those lights can sparkle like their meant to.

(Un-lit Christmas lights...)

Friday, November 6, 2009

saying goodbye is hard to do...

Two things are often said about me and my family. The first is that we are 'close'. This is a huge understatement. We are close, but, we are so much more than that. My family, which consists of my dad, mom, sister, brother, and myself, are so close that when one person feels something, we all feel it a hundred times more. If someone pisses the other one off, you can bet we'll be on the phone with all other members of the family for an hour, or two. After we get done with the phone bashing, we proceed to email each other about it, call each other again, and then update our facebook statuses to show the offender that we mean business. If one is happy, we revel in it, laugh, celebrate, and cook huge dinners. If one is sad, we cry, hold one other, and talk about times when...

We have telepathic tendencies. Too many phone calls have started with, "Oh, I was just dialing your number..." or, "Wow, you used your powers again, I so need to talk to you right now."

We feel each other, and it is the most surreal thing.

The second thing that is often said about me is that I'm a 'crier'. Well, this is the most understated understatement in the history of them all. I cry all the time. All the time. And I love it. It's my favorite thing about myself. I cry when I'm happy, sad, mad, or when someone tells a joke (I get that one from my mom.) I cry when someone I hardly know is hurting, I cry when people sing, I cry in the shower, I cry when my dog is frustrating me, I cry at work (and often), I cry and cry and cry. I'm sure if you asked the people who witnessed my nuptials, they would say they weren't sure if I was happy, or mortified to be getting married. I was physically unable to give my husband, family, and guests a wedding toast. I just stood with a microphone in my hand and somehow managed to whimper out, "ttthhhhankkk youuu, *sob* soooo muchhh!" But, to me, it's the greatest feeling. To have such a release of all my emotions, at any given time, it truly is the only way I know how to express myself the best.

My little baby brother (who is a 6 foot, nineteen year old, and who used to be the tiny boy on his first day of school, pictured above) moved out of my parents house and all the way to Colorado this past week. He now lives approximately 1167.36 miles away from me.

We are devastated. It hurts.

I know, I know, he's going to have the time of his life, he's on an adventure, it's only going to be two months 'till you see him again...but, did I say, we're close?

Taking him to the airport with my mom and sister was the hardest thing I've had to do in my life so far. To quote my mom, it felt like ''our hearts were being ripped out". Our hearts had been ripped out. Ripped out, checked into baggage claim, tossed into cargo by the TSA, and strewn about amidst all the other luggage.

And I cried. Oh, how I cried.

He's moving to Vail, Colorado to be a ski-lift operator. He'll will be having the time of his life. This kid practically came out of the womb with a snowboard strapped to his feet.

I just keep repeating those things in my mind. He's on an adventure...time of his life...adventure...adventure...

The truth is, I know this. It's still hard, but somewhere, deep down, there's a fluttering bit of excitement. I am so utterly proud of this little boy who grew up beside me, teasing and taunting me, and loving deeper than all of us combined. He's the littlest one, he got all of the best traits.

I'm excited for him because this journey of his will be full of firsts. His first time living out of the house, the nest he grew up in. His first time kissing his momma goodbye. The first time actually taking advice from his daddy. His first apartment, his first roommate. His first accounts of full responsibility.

I'm excited for the day when he can't handle another frozen pizza, or 11 cent package of Ramen and calls our mom to find out how on earth to bake a chicken, and how, oh how, do you make those lovely dumplings? He'll cunningly convince a girl to make it for him, and for the first time in months, he'll get an itty bitty taste of home.

I am excited, thrilled, for my little baby brother.

You will have the time of your life. You are on an amazing adventure. We miss you so, but are more proud of you than you can ever possibly imagine.

As for me, I'm going to go cry now. And call my mom.

say 'hello' to my little blog...

I've been wanting to start a blog for awhile now, which is strange for me. I used to own a shirt that said, "no one cares about your blog". I thought it was hilarious.

Now however, I am intrigued by this online world of journaling, spilling your guts for the world to see, sharing stories, photos, opinions, or what you had for supper last night. A whole little community brought together by wires and electricity to share what matters to them most. There are a few blogs I ''follow'' written by strong, stunning women, and I've been overwhelmingly inspired by them, so I decided to try it myself.

Plus, I can't find that shirt anywhere, so it's as if I never even owned it.

I was so excited all morning to write my very-first-ever post. I tried all day to pay attention to little details so I would have something to write about when I got home. But, absolutely nothing interesting happened today. Nothing. After I walked home, I let my puppy outside, plopped down at the computer desk, turned on some 'thinking' music to get my creative juices a-flowin, opened, and stared at a blank screen. What to write...what to write...My fingers shied away from the keyboard and I thought to myself, "great. you spent all night setting this up, and now you can't think of a word to say. way to go failure." I let mind wander to my dog, outside hopping around in the piles of leaves, burying her nose deep, and chasing after the walnuts I heard bouncing off the roof.

I started to think that I should put this off for another day, a day when something actually happens. Something cool. When my phone rang.

"Hi, ummm, we have your dog..."  said the voice on the other end.

"What?"  says, you guessed it, me.

"We have her on our leash, we're on blankety-blank-street"

"I'll be right there!"

I flew out the door, leash and collar in hand, muttering curses along the way. I crossed one street, not it. I crossed another, a busy one, still not it. I went five blocks, crossing two busy streets to find my puppy on the end of a stranger's leash.

Now, five blocks might not seem a long way, but when you live near a downtown, almost any downtown, with busy streets and crazy people luring stray pups into their cars and homes (hey, you never know...) you kind of freak out. Especially us first-time puppy parents.

There she was, my little runt of a dog, wagging her tail ferociously, looking like she just went on the biggest adventure of her life. And, that she did, because she's not going to be left alone in the yard ever again.

So now, puppy is tucked away in her kennel, crying, howling, in fact, and here I sit with something to write about.

I'm Veronika. I have a handsome, wonderful husband, an amazing family, a big old house, and one little puppy.

This is me. And my ordinary life.

Pictured: Blog t-shirt.