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Showing posts from 2007

Lift Up Your Voice

How many kings step down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
And how many gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that is torn all apart
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?
This is the chorus from a new Christmas melody that has been making its way around the country this holiday season. It's absolutely beautiful both in sentiment and tune. You can hear the song on the blog of one of the band members here.

Christmas Vacation Day 4: Christmas

Christmas morning J awoke to discover that he had slept 15 hours. Happily, he felt much better.The two of us excitedly rifled through our stockings to see what Santa had brought us. He always brings us sweet and useful treats like chocolate and bubble bath. We played with the pups for awhile, had a quick breakfast (green chile egg burritos) and then got down to the fun business of opening presents. Our family and friends were very generous to us this year. J received a lot of dvd movies he wanted, clothes, his beloved weather calendar (from me), and an mp3 player he had his eye on (also from me). I received a lot of presents as well. One of my favorites was the 7th edition of The Professional Chef, sent by J's older brother and wife in Seattle. I simply adore the cookbook/textbook. It's the standard used at the Culinary Institute for training new chefs. So, in theory, once I work my way through the whole book I should be a quasi-pro. Another one of my favorite was the Fujitsu …

Christmas Vacation Day 3

By the third day of our vacation J and I were feeling pretty settled into our snowy accommodations. The pups had both finally oriented themselves to the deeper snow (Poor Jenna had such a hard time at first because she would sink way down and it was a struggle for her to walk/plow through the deep snow) and we were delighted to have another day of recreation together. In the morning we drove out to the White Mountain Cog Railroad to visit the museum and gift shop before our legendary ride on the Cog train. It was another spectacular event! Following a quick brown bag lunch we had brought, we boarded the train to ride halfway up Mount Washington. The tracks actually continue onto the summit but with world record wind chills it is just too cold for the workers to run the train all the way in the winter. In West Virginia, J and I had previously ridden a steam train that zig zagged its way up a mountain side. This, this is totally different- the steam engine pushes a passenger car straigh…

Christmas Vacation Day 2

Sunday morning J and I slept in, enjoying our vacation. When we finally dragged ourselves out of bed, I made a hot breakfast for the both of us (eggs, bacon, toast, apple cider) and then we were off adventuring. Our first stop was the White Mountain National Forest to do some winter walking. The forest is truly spectacular- over 880,000 acres of wilderness purchased and now maintained by the federal government. New Hampshire was in a selling pattern to raise cash, auctioning off a lot of state late to the highest private bidders (mostly logging companies). The feds became involved in the purchasing frenzy in the early 1900s with the passage of the Weeks Act. President Taft signed the Weeks Act into law on March 1, 1911. The law authorized the federal government to purchase lands for stream-flow protection, and to maintain the acquired lands as national forests. Initially, eastern lands along navigable watersheds were considered. As the years progressed however, the Forest Service acqu…

Christmas Vacation - Day 1

The alarm buzzed at 3:45am and as I slid over to J's side of the bed to turn it off I grumbled. I hate getting up early in the morning for road trips. I am *not* a morning person.We loaded up the last minute items in J's car-we had done most of the packing the night before- and then we were off on our Christmas vacation. I was so excited. A white Christmas was waiting for us in Conway, New Hampshire.The roads were easy and the traffic was light. It was a smooth trip all the way up to New England. We arrived at our cozy little cabin, unpacked everything and then ventured out into town to pick up groceries and to eat dinner. There is a smokehouse bbq joint that was highly recommended so we enjoyed dinner there and it was delicious. Moat Mountain Smoke House 3378 White Mt Highway (Rt 16) North Conway, NH 603-356-6381After dinner we put away the groceries as we listened to Christmas Carols on the xm radio (we got the indoor docking station just for this purpose) and then cuddled u…

Christmas Vacation Countdown

Friday December 21st was a great day for me professionally and personally. At the office we finished a major project team deliverable and I was still flying high from finishing my individual assignments on Wednesday- 2 more technical manuals/papers. Two of my coworkers brought me Christmas presents and that added to my holiday cheer. In addition, we had our annual Christmas party and work and J volunteered to drive to Rockville on a company errand so he was able to stop over and enjoy the festivities as well. It was great to finally introduce him to all of my coworkers who have heard so much about him over the past year but had yet to meet him until then. The food was great- Iranian cuisine, and I received a Starbucks gift card during the gift exchange. I got home pretty late from work [8pm] and J and I set about packing for the trip. It took us an hour or so to pack everything up, then we enjoyed a quick dinner before J went off to bed [he was driving first shift in the a.m.] and I m…

Random Bits of This and That and Holiday Cheer

Today we officially finished all of our Christmas shopping. It was a fun and stress-free shopping season. The majority of our gifts we purchased on Black Friday and the rest we purchased online, avoiding the crowds at the malls. Went to a Christmas party for the Women's Fellowship group and learned a new game called 'Mad Gab'. I wasn't the best at it but I wasn't the worst either. The food was good and the company was even better. One of my favorite friends, Irma, was there. She has a very infectious laugh and is always full of such joy and optimism. I really enjoy being in her presence. Church was very special on Sunday as a couple we are friends with had their little baby girl baptized and we all came up to the altar and gathered around her to pray. I'm a mushy girly girl so you know I cried. One thing I really love about the Christian Church is the pervasive sense of love that permeates throughout the entire congregation. It's nice to enjoy a sense of be…

Nine Pounds Down

So it's almost the end of the year and my progress is this: 9 pounds down since I rededicated myself to giving this weight loss plan serious consideration in the fall. Nine pounds isn't a lot, I know, but it's something at least and I've kept it off. It's especially a positive sign that I've been losing over the holidays while most people gain, right? Actually, 9 pounds conceptually *is* a lot. It's 36 sticks of butter. Ugh. Glad its off my bones!Keep praying for me. Little by little I will get there. Watching all the Victoria's Secret holiday commercials is really motivating me. I can feel the thin and healthy me just waiting to break out again and strut her stuff...

Gourmet Cheese and Artisan Bread

Saturday morning J and I worked at our church's food pantry. We served about 36 familes and it was a great experience. We are signed up for duty once a month.I don't know who has the job of soliciting the area grocery stores for their cast-offs but they do amazing work. We were handing out not just standard pantry fare of hamburger meat and chicken, but also quail, roast pork and filet mignon. There were the best brand names for fresh and dried pasta, roasted red peppers in fancy jars, and all sorts of ingredients for an epicurian's ideal kitchen. We had an entire line of gourmet cheese to distribute (brie, true parmesan, several varieties of blue, edam, herbed goat cheese, etc.), most $10-$25/lb, and a lot of that imported. Although I tried diligently to get the families to take their share of this amazing bounty and gave them easy ideas on how to use the cheese, a lot of them shied away from the cheeses they had never tried or heard of (They kept requesting American, whi…

On Pet Sitting

The hubby and I are pet/house sitting this week for my best friend. What an adventure. Her dog and our youngest dog Julia are thick as thieves. They run, play, jump, and romp together with boundless energy. Proving the nocturnal nature of dogs, they stayed up all night long last night [our first here] playing and making a rowdy ruckus through the house. Needless to say the humans did not get a lot of sleep! Then the dogs slept all afternoon, storing up their energy for what is sure to be a second night of shenanigans. Also, you've never seen anything till you've seen one double bed fit 2 adults, one 80 pound dog, one 50 pound dog, and one 30 pound dog. Talk about crowded!

Unexpected Biblical Lessons

Thursday was a day for making memories. A good friend was unexpectedly in need of some biblical pastoral counsel so I took the afternoon off work to journey with her to a man of God we'd been referred to see in D.C. A pastor at a Baptist church near Howard University (New Bethel), he was quite the wise man. His words were exactly what we needed to hear. I came expecting to provide support for my friend but instead found myself just as moved by his counsel as I hope she was. He spoke of God, our mission in life to allow God to perfect us (and how, when he's helped us to overcome one stranglehold, God will soon spur us on to dislodge the next- it's a long road to perfection), and the enemy who stands at the constant ready to distract us and disrupt the mission. He gave us practical and specific advice on discerning the word of God (be in the word every day until God's word is so familiar that no enemy of his can mimic it and lead us astray without us being aware of the d…

Parties and Shopping

I did it! I finally found a dress for this year's National Chamber of Commerce Holiday Reception. I wandered by it at Macy's today while shopping with my friend Rho (http://pi-girl.livejournal.com). I went onto Macys.com to find a picture of it to show you and in doing so discovered something interesting. If you buy the dress online and fit standard sizing [12 and below] you can pick up the dress, normally $109 on sale for $81. However, if you are plus-sized [14+] you can get the same dress, also normally priced $109 on sale for $71. This has to be a first in my experience- plus sized outfit by the same designer priced cheaper than the smaller counterpart. Odd, don't you think? In any case, I'm happy to report that in the store the dress was even more deeply discounted than either dress price online. Woo! Plus, Rho (COUPON QUEEN!!!) had a 20% off coupon and I got an additional 20% off for opening a Macy's account so the dress was really a bargain. This was actually…

Moroccan Chicken Stew with Apricots and Root Vegetables

Made this for dinner tonight and it came out delicious so I thought I would share. It’s full of fall/winter veggies, quite healthy, and under 500 calories per serving. Yay for eating delicious and healthy.It’s my personal adaptation of a similar recipe on epicurious.com…Servings: Makes 4 servings.Ingredients2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons dried thyme
4 skinless boneless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 large baking potato, peeled and dicedI large sweet potato, peeled and diced1 cup dried apricots
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes with green chile¾ cup white wine [we use the cheap wine in a box]
1 teaspoon cardamom
3 whole cloves 1/4 -1/2 stick of butterGarlic salt and pepper PreparationMix cumin and thyme in small bowl. Sprinkle chicken with spice mixture, then salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions; sauté until golden, about 5 minutes. Add garlic; stir 1 …

Travel Fanatics

Found this great travel site- Trav Buddy:http://www.travbuddy.com/jenniparksIt was recommended to me by my friend Tracy. It has a strong international membership and people on the site are very friendly. You can share travel ideas and reviews and find travel buddies and that sort of thing. I really like it so far. If you join, add me as a friend (the above link takes you to my profile).

Weekend Update

Sometimes I miss the "safe space" that livejournal provided to create locked blog entries. On the other hand, being prohibited from creating "tell all" entries online due to a lack of a protected forum in which to do so means that I must share these details in person with friends I lean on, bringing us closer together in ways that chatting online never could. Also, I know on some level that the "safe space" that lj afforded was merely an illusion- as evidenced by the repeated times that trust was breached by readers. So I will just vaguely express my feelings on the series of events I experienced last week in a simple summary- people can be pretty crummy and when you focus your life on what is right and good it turns your stomach just a bit when you have close encounters with others who  don't share this focus. A mixture of revulsion toward what they are embracing and sympathy for the life in Christ they are forgoing. I also want to reiterate that bei…

Ummm

My manager, who I just met for the first time in person (we work across the country from each other) basically told me I don't look a day over the age of 15. Is this flattering or should I be insulted? What specifically about me protects my true age from view? Is it the lack of caked on makeup and lack of wrinkles? (That would be flattering). Or is the distinct lack of sophistication and adult style? (That would be insulting). For those who know me in person, what do you think contributes from my appearance to my youthful (apparently) look?

Things that are on my mind today

Last night I saw Mist, the new Stephen King movie. It was ok. The plot narrowed in on a few key themes that were repeated throughout the movie- regret, guilt, death, fear, and base instincts of mankind. The movie ends with a sense of hopelessness and regret. I think there were also some subtle digs against the current White House administration and the war in Iraq but that could just be my own bias talking. He also picked on religion as well. Overall the story kept me riveted and the movie was fear inspiring without being too gruesome (still not safe for the little kids of course). One of the things on my mind today is the famous expression "what doesn't kill me makes me stronger". This is a quote of Friedrich Nietzsche. Do you think this sentiment is actually true? Do you think there is scriptural support for such an assertion or is it a case where man's accepted wisdom is off kilter from scriptural realities?Another thing on my mind is an article I read in the Wash…

Saving Money

This week I've been focused on saving money because I'd like to stretch our budget further to allow for more traveling. Here is a quick list of fast and easy things I did since Saturday to lower monthly/annual expenses. Perhaps some of the tips will work for you as well:1. Current cable bill was $54/month for basic analog cable. Called Comcast and negotiated a promotional rate- $39/month for digital cable PLUS HBO, good for 6 months. In another 6 months I will call back and negotiate again to extend promo rate. Savings over initial 6 months = $15/month*6= $75.2. Began conscientious driving. Less use of the stop and go braking by maintaining more distance between myself and the car in front of me. Also using cruise control on the highway to maintain better fuel regulation. Finally, keeping speed to 65mph or below (80mph as I like to go kills fuel efficiency). I was getting 25mph and I am now getting 29mph with the changes. That's about $6.40 a week in savings based on curre…

Thanksgiving Trip 2007 Day 4 and 5

Friday morning the crew (A and her hubby R, myself and hubby J) rolled out of the home of A's parents at 5am. You haven't seen attitude until you've seen Long Islanders in line at Best Buy at 5am for the biggest sale of the year. There was a lot of swearing, pushing, rushing, and at one point customers formed a human chain to stop new customers from entering the store ahead of those that had been in line since 2am. It was intense and a lot more physically aggressive than similar Black Friday sales events held in Virginia. After Best Buy we popped into Home Depot, ToysRus and Sears. A lot of great deals. The only thing that was disappointing was the sales tax. 8.6% for NY state and another 4 or 5 % on top of that for local taxes. Ouch! Some things I really don't miss about living in NY and sales tax is definitely one of them. By 9am we had completed 3/4 of our Christmas shopping for the year and we headed to a diner for breakfast. A quick breakfast and review of our pur…

Thanksgiving Trip 2007 Day 3 : Feast Day

This years Thanksgiving feast was like no other I've experienced before. Early afternoon J and I helped A and her hubby R and the rest of A's family setup for the Thanksgiving party. Every year her parents host a celebration gathering for their friends and family in the NY Russian community. The party averages 25-50 guests and features Russian cuisine, live music (courtesy of A's father and brother) and lots of laughter and joy. Although I would miss the traditional American turkey and fixins I looked forward to broadening my culinary horizons. I did not have any experience with Russian food prior to this event. We setup the main table in the party room upstairs with the main entrees...From left to right: (back row) seafood salad, cabbage turnovers, chicken dumplings, fried white fish, spiced chicken in crepes. (front row) pickled cabbage, onion/pea/carrot salad, beet salad, vinegar roasted pork,  2nd dish of chicken in crepes, 2nd dish of chicken dumplings.Turkey wings wi…

Thanksgiving Trip 2007 Day 1 and 2

One true test of friendship is the joint vacation. I’m happy to report that A and I passed with flying colors.Tuesday was a rough day. A lot of deadlines and pressure at work and to make matters worse, J’s car died and we had to have it towed to the dealer for repair. “Steering wheel lock malfunction”. A warranty issue, so it will be repaired free of charge, but still no fun to deal with. I had to take the VRE into work and the metro to A’s house in the afternoon. J met me at A’s house. We had dinner with A and her hubby (R). Fantastic food- baked chicken, fresh asparagus and pecan raisin bread that J brought from Wegman’s. After dinner the four of us packed up A’s car and headed to Long Island for the holiday. Traffic wasn’t too bad and we made it to Bayshore in less than 6 hours. A’s parents welcomed us with open arms and lavished us with a spread of tea, honey, cheese, bread, and pate. Once we had our fill of treats, we hunkered down for a nice sleep and said ‘Goodnight’ to our fir…

Life is what happens while you are making other plans

Note: Buzz, Michael, and Wild-r-f – I cannot reply to your entries that you leave on the lj site since the feed doesn’t allow anonymous comments and I don’t always even see them unless I remember to visit my feed entries there since I don’t get email notification when you’ve left comments there.If you want me to be able to answer questions you ask me in your comments you’ve got to click-through to the actual blog (link is always under the title of the entry) and leave your comments on the actual blog instead of the lj feed. So the plan *was* for J to take my car to work this morning, dropping off the pups at the kennel for boarding over the holiday on the way to work. I was going to drive his car to work and then drop it off at the dealer on the way to A’s house because the “steering wheel lock malfunction” warning light keeps coming on and causing odd problems such as preventing you from turning the car off, or preventing you from turning it back on. Late last night the light came on…

Men, be careful

Men, be mindful of the monthly hormone cycles of the females you love and live with, be they wives, mothers, sisters or daughters.Let me share with you my own ridiculousness from this weekend as an instructional tale. On Saturday could totally tell in my mind that it wasn’t me that it was my body having hormone issues but I still couldn’t help it. I just wanted to cry and fight. J happened to pull the sheets and blanket off of us because they were crooked and he went to fix them. He fixed them and then he pulled them back up onto him, leaving my side down, inadvertently. I was fuming! And freezing! I REFUSED to pull the sheets up myself though because *I* had not pulled them down and *he* ought to have to fix them. Of course I wouldn’t tell him either; I expected him to *know* he had uncovered me and to realize his oversight in not putting them back on me. Then when he didn’t notice I got all weepy and started to cry. Because now I was cold AND unloved and unnoticed. So I was shiverin…

The holidays are approaching rapidly

I had a fantastic weekend, as I hope you, my readers, did as well. Friday night I spent the evening with my friend M playing phase 10 at her house, and then J and I had a very late date night that consisted of viewing the new movie Beowulf at the theatre with friends. I did not like the movie at all. A lot of violence, a lot of sexual innuendo and no redeeming moral or otherwise entertaining values, presented in the CGI style of The Polar Express. Also in 3d (required special glasses). For what it’s worth, Angelina Jolie plays a convincing demon. Saturday J and I headed to Sam’s club in Woodbridge for their “Taste of the Holidays” event for members. Basically, a lot of delicious free food. After that we came home and cuddled and napped until it was time to head off to our church’s 3rd annual Ham and Oyster fundraiser dinner. My friend D came along to join in on the fun and we had a good time. It was nice to catch up with her and introduce her to folks at church. We barely had time to…

I admit it

I am a food snob. There, I admit it again. I don’t shun food (as my waistline sadly attests to) but I tend to feel frustrated with people who don’t live up to my expectations with regard to their culinary experience and tastes. In my defense, they’re not particularly high standards to meet. A few months ago I met a woman who rules out entire categories of food based on color- she won’t try anything orange or yellow. And she told me that her most exotic culinary tasting was…rice. Every other opinion I formed on this lady was filtered through the knowledge that she is a culinary ignoramus. Today I had a quick and healthy lunch at the Thai restaurant down the street. A woman and a young man (her coworker I believe) sat at the next table. She remarked to her guest that she was open to trying something new as long as it had familiar ingredients and was not at all spicy. First, why do people go into a Thai, Mexican, or otherwise traditionally spicy cuisine restaurant and ask for no spice? …

Important Technical Annoucement

For those of you reading this blog through a syndicated channel (such as on social networking sites like deadjournal or livejournal), please understand that there are two ways you can make comments:You can comment on the social networking site itself, by clicking on the ‘post a new comment’ link/button you see on the page. You can also reply to other people’s comments on the site by clicking ‘reply to this’ to one of their comments. However, using this method, I may not ever see your comment, since I am not an active member of any of the networking sites that my blog is fed to. Also, I cannot reply to your comments left on the networking site since I do not have an account to reply with. You can click through the link to my actual blogspot site (the link is always directly under the title of the post) and then leave your comment directly on my blog. So one extra click with this method but the benefit is that I get email notifications of these comments and can read/reply to them.

Another Thursday Morning

I am all kinds of agitated this morning. It took me almost two hours to get to work because of traffic. I don’t understand, absolutely *cannot* understand why DC metro residents have such severe trouble driving in the rain. Is everyone a transplant from the desert? What’s the story here? Normal amounts of rain (it is not coming down in sheets or buckets or anything serous like that) and they cannot handle it. Accidents everywhere. Drivers progressing at 5 miles per hour. And while I am driving and trying to stay calm by listening to happy Christmas music on XM 103 I am tortured with music by Manheim Steamroller. I can’t stand that group. I saw a dump truck in front of me at one point with a gigantic sign on the back which read “Don’t Push”. That’s exactly how I felt – don’t push me this morning.Please pray for my friend A. Her grandfather is undergoing serious surgery today for cardiovascular issues. Blogspot needs mood icons. Things to do this week:mail my friend M overseas her choco…

Thanksgivings past

Do you hold many happy memories from Thanksgivings past? This morning on the way to work I reviewed my Thanksgiving memories on my mental viewfinder. Out of 30 Thanksgiving holidays, only a handful stand out as memorable, and not typically for joyous reasons.

There was my first Thanksgiving away from home. I was 14 and attending school on the East Coast. It was cost prohibitive to travel cross-country for the holiday so my parents cooked up a plan for my sister in Alabama to pick me up instead. We had not seen each other since I was 9 and she had come to visit us in the Southwest. There wasn't much to talk about during the 12 hours drive to her place in Huntsville. For the Thanksgiving meal we dropped in on her local friends. I looked to the food for comfort from my feelings of isolation and homesickness, but even that missed the mark. There were no mashed potatoes! None! How does one *do* Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes??? Tears rolled down my cheek as I tasted my first bite …