Thursday, December 16, 2010

Old and New

Last night I didn't cook comfort food. That's because we were at the Christmas party for the organization that (as of this coming Monday) will be my new work home.

But don't worry. They served comfort food - San Antonio style. Which means fajitas! And there were Santa hats, and caroling, and lots of passion and optimism and idealism. I think I'm really going to love my new work home.

Today I will wrap up things at my current job. I've said good bye to lots of students and teachers and administrators. There have been sad moments. But my co-workers are also assembling a good-bye video for me, which I'm sure will be hilarious. If I can figure out how to do it - then I'll try to post it here for you. If it's appropriate that is.... and knowing my co-workers.... it might not be....

And in the middle of lots of changes - professional and personal - I'm looking forward to Christmas and the traditions and the stable things that come with this time of year.

I can already smell the cold mountain air where my family will be spending the last days of December and welcoming in the New Year.

I can feel the snow crunching under my skis. And I can picture Mr. San Antonio looking up at me from the bottom of the mountain as I slowly, cautiously, criss-cross back and forth down the mountain - watching fuzzy hats whizz by me, and anticipating the hot chocolate back at the lodge.

I can picture my family's faces as they open their gifts that I've carefully selected for them.

I can hear my nephew's giggle as we tickle him and make absurd faces and do whatever embarrassing thing we can to get his response.

Oh, Christmas. Yes, it is about the coming of our Lord Jesus, but it's also about the fact that He is still here with us - showing His face through our family and friends, and through the ways we can serve and love and embrace His grace.

And that's more filling than any amount of comfort food my fire breathing dragon can produce!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Comfort Food

In light of all that's going on with the family this week, I have done two things:

1. Cooked lots of comfort food.
2. Purchased stock in tissues.

Our little fire breathing dragon has really stepped up to the challenge. He's cooked vegetables and dumplings (and tried his best at cooking chicken to go with it... but I take full responsibility on that mess-up). He's baked muffins, and brownies, pumpkin-spice chickpeas, and (make-up) chicken.

He's watched dutifully as I made orange juice for my sick husband. And as I brewed coffee and stirred hot chocolate.

Tonight he will bake bread, and cook butternut squash soup.

Who would have thought that I would actually learn to appreciate, enjoy, even depend on my ornery pet? But in these cooler days, being able to here the "whoosh" sound of the gas turning on inside the stove, and feel the heat slowly nudge out the icy fingers of sadness and the coming winter.... well, it's down right pleasant.

(I'm sorry fire breathing dragon for calling you "ornery", please don't hold it against me....)

I've given myself permission to slow down. To curl up on the sofa with a book and the portable heater aimed at my feet. I've ordered all my Christmas gifts online so as not to give myself a headache at the stores. The Christmas music has been turned on, but only as long as it makes me smile. I've worn Mr. SA's pj shirt and my favorite sweat pants too many times in a row without washing them.

And whenever I see an old man or woman I smile. And say a prayer for them - for any loneliness or sense of loss they are feeling this season.

As for the tissues... I lied when I said I bought stock in them. But as an insider secret... I'd say it would be a wise way to expand your portfolio this month. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Flying Beaver

I've always enjoyed story telling and writing. Growing up I wrote plays and enlisted my brothers and sister to be the actors. We would memorize lines, perfect our staging, gather props and costumes, and give my parents the best (and only) seats in the house.

When I was even younger I used to sit with my Grandpa and tell him stories of "The Flying Beaver". At the time I had a hand puppet in the form of a beaver. Now, you've probably conjured up an image of a cute, furry, whiskered animal laying on it's back cracking shells open on it's belly. I can assure you that this beaver puppet was not cute, was not soft, and didn't crack shells. It was brown and mangy with a scuffed up nose. And it was the hero of all my stories.

At our wedding my Grandpa stood up and told everyone about the days of "The Flying Beaver". He said that I would always get the beaver into a world of trouble. He'd be dodging evil squirrels, and angry dogs. He'd lose things, and get injured. But anytime it looked like Mr. Beaver was about to be done-in, I would look at my Grandpa with big wide eyes, raise my finger in the air and say, "But, then!" and would continue the story with a miraculous escape or brave maneuver to Mr. Beaver's benefit.

How often in life do we wish that a simple "But, then!" could alter the course. Change an outcome. Prevent the unexpected. As my Grandpa lies unresponsive in a hospital bed today... and as our family clutches cell phones, and gives extra long hugs, and constantly whispers prayers. Oh, how I long to cry out, "But, then!" and re-write this last chapter in my Grandpa's life.

And yet, I know that no magic words can remove the pain and sadness. The questions that arise regarding faith, and God's will... How it is that certain parts of life (that used to feel so important) now register as fuzzy and inconsequential; and how those things that used to get overlooked are now being shouted into the deep recesses of the heart...

Today, my heart will race whenever my phone rings. I will crave hugs. I will burst into tears at inconvenient times/places. I will say cliche things like, "he lived a long and full life"; and "we are so blessed by the time we had with him". I will lay my heart at my Savior's feet. I will cry out, "But, then!"...  and I will wait.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

New Job

It has been a full week.
Oh ok, it has been a full year and a half.
But this week has been more full compared to other weeks, and perhaps less full than a different set of other weeks.
And now I'm as confused as you are. But the only take away from my rambling is this: it has been a full week.

I've formally accepted a new job. I'll be doing the same kind of work, just for a different organization. I'm excited. Mr. San Antonio is excited. My current co-workers are excited. Because now it means they can crank up the Mexican music, and don't have to explain all their Mexican jokes to me. But I know they will also be sad. Because they asked me yesterday, "Who will tell us what it is like being white?"

I will also be taking a step down the totem-poll ladder in terms of office space. My first office right out of college was a corner office on the 13th floor with floor to ceiling windows on two walls. My current office has a window, into the library. My new office will be a shared cubby. But I've been told I can decorate it however I want.

I've been celebrating this upcoming change by spending my evenings drinking hot chocolate by our Christmas tree, ordering Christmas gifts, and creating something extra special for my Grandparents'.... but I won't be ruining the surprise on here!

And now I'm off to enjoy one of my final after school stop-making-out-and-don't-toss-that-freshman-in-the-trashcan afternoons.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas Party

A few weeks ago I enthusiastically announced to Mr. San Antonio that I wanted to decorate a gingerbread house while listening to Christmas music and smelling hot apple cider. He smiled sweetly and said, "um... ok." But I could tell his enthusiasm did not match my own.

So I thought, and scratched my head and plotted how to increase his interest.

And decided if I invited some other people over for a "gingerbread graham cracker house decorating party", then it would be "cool" and Mr. SA would be transformed into an arts-and-crafts enthusiast!!!

Ok, I admit, it was a bit of a stretch.

But by making it a competition with valuable prizes like frilly Christmas socks, and a reindeer headband, I saw Mr. San Antonio's inner architect and lover of Christmas traditions emerge!

I decorated our home. Prepared my dad's famous apple cider on the stove. Collected graham crackers (because I am not above using graham crackers in place of gingerbread), and cheap candy, and made royal icing.

We had a real life architect attend, and we all felt a bit intimidated. One of our younger guests quickly asked to be her partner. She might be young but she's not stupid. Their team won "best overall."

Above is our house. We were accused of having planned our house in advance. But I am sticking to our story, and use the fact that we placed a chimney (complete with stale marshmallow "smoke") directly above the front door as proof that we did not think this through in advance. I mean, how un-hospitable are we - to usher little gingerbread guests into our home only to have them roast on the open fire upon stepping over the threshold? 

The "house" above won "most original". It was actually built to be a prison. The tall structure in the back is the guard tower. The green gummy candy is the electric fence. What is hidden is the pastel pink gate with the snowman guards. Very intimidating. (Five points to you if you can guess which gender was behind this creation!)

And here are all the houses. My deepest apologies for the teeny tiny photos. My camera went on strike just as our friends arrived, and I had to resort to a camera on Mr. SA's phone. But don't fear. Mr. San Antonio is a lawyer and after mediation failed, he escorted my camera to the above prison.

Obviously our party brought out our true Christmas spirit. 

Here's to hoping your Monday does not include stale marshmallows,
The Pampered Bird

Friday, December 3, 2010

A friday recipe

It's Friday, and December, and 80 degrees outside, and tonight we're getting our Christmas tree, and I don't want to spoil Mr. San Antonio's weekend with the news that the best dinner I made him this week was snatched (partially) from a vegan website.

Please don't tell him. It would devastate him.

But please do go and make the pumpkin spiced chickpeas that were a significant part of the meal. They were so good that I had to make three batches of them in two days. And even at the end of the third batch I still had to tackle Mr. SA in order to get a few bites for myself. Here's the recipe from

Strawberry Roasted Chickpea Salad with Cinnamon Dijon Vinaigrette

Serves 4-6
8 c. spinach and/or field greens, washed, dried and torn into bite size pieces
1 batch Pumpkin Spice Roasted Chickpeas (recipe below)
2 c. strawberries, washed and sliced
½ c. dried cranberries
½ c. roasted almonds, roughly chopped
¼ c. fresh mint, chopped (I didn't include mint in mine, but it would probably be delicious!)

Cinnamon Dijon Vinaigrette:
1 t. Dijon mustard
3 T. apple cider vinegar
3 T. lemon juice
1/3 c. agave nectar or pure maple syrup
1 t. cinnamon
½ t. ground ginger
½ t. salt
1/4 c. canola oil

Pumpkin Spice Roasted Chickpeas
1 can of chickpeas, rinsed, drained and patted dry
2 T. maple syrup
1 t. canola oil (or oil of your choice)
1 t. apple cider vinegar
1/8 t. salt
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. ginger
3/4 t. cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl until evenly coated. Spread chickpeas on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for 25 minutes. Stir chickpeas every ten minutes to ensure even crisping.

If you choose to make the roasted chickpeas - please (for the love of your stomach) double the recipe!
The Pampered Bird

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Kilts, Flames, and a Stabbing

My dad's side of the family is unashamedly Scottish. You've heard me speak of my fair Scottish skin. It is something I am rather proud of. I'm proud of it because it's either that or cry whenever someone asks how long it's been since I've seen the sun.

Probably my favorite part about having Scottish heritage is the wearing of the family tartan. I requested that my dad wear his kilt at my wedding. He agreed, but only on the condition that I allow him to wear a normal tux while walking me down the aisle. He didn't want the attention on him (aka: the man in the skirt) instead of on his daughter. Isn't he the best?

But he did agree to wear it to the reception.

I can't remember what year it was... (I may have been 13 or 14) when I attended my Grandparents' Burns Night ( event at their house. We had relatives from Scotland visiting in California and it was winter, and it was appropriate that we celebrate Robert Burns - Scotland's beloved poet. I had no idea at the time that Burns Night is a rather elaborate affair complete with flaming haggis (, poetry reading, and kilt wearing.

For the presentation of the haggis - I was given the honor of carrying it to the dining table where all the guests were listening to my Grandpa's recitation of the "Ode to the Haggis". At 13 I was already 5' 9" but I didn't appreciate weight lifting and my arms were pretty weak. When my Grandma handed me the haggis, it was on a very heavy (but beautiful) platter. I wasn't worried, because the table was only a few yards away and I figured I could carry it that far. But just as I began to walk it to the table, my Grandma quickly called me back and said, "I need to light it!"

"Light it?" I thought.

Yes, light it. As in set it on fire. I carried the increasingly heavy, (and now) flaming haggis to the table and bent to place it in front of my Grandpa - but was quietly instructed to continue holding it while he finished the "Ode".

No problem, I thought.

But as the "Ode" went on, my arms grew ever weaker, and began to shake uncontrollably. And just at the moment when I thought the haggis was going to land in Grandpa's lap and set his kilt aflame, my Grandpa reached the climatic part of the poem. Following tradition, he pulled out a dagger, cleaned it, and raised it in the air. Then he brought it down, dramatically plunging it into the haggis and slicing it open from end to end.

The fright of having a dagger plunged into the flaming haggis that I held in my arms invigorated me enough to enable me to carry it back to the kitchen where it was properly sliced up and served.

The evening went on with more Scottish traditions. It was a special time to connect to my heritage. There was much merriment that evening, more poetry reading, and lots of kilts. But you can never have too many kilts in my opinion.

With love (and pride - I'm wearing my tartan scarf today!),
The Pampered Bird

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Family History

My Grandma called me yesterday to thank me for attending her 90th birthday party a couple weeks ago. I asked how she was doing and she said it's been very cold the last week. She lives in California. I reminded her that she grew up in North Dakota... she laughed and said, "well I hated the cold then too."

My mom has been heavily researching her family's genealogy and has been very pleasantly surprised by the amount of information that is out there. It's been fun for me to see the pictures and hear some of the stories she has unearthed. It feels surreal to hear my mom say, "You are a lot like your great-grandma in x, y and z ways." This has also sparked my dad's memories regarding his family and he has started sharing stories of his Grandma and her sisters, and has been able to point out traits in his relatives that he also sees in me.

One story that I will pass down to my children some day is the time (probably five years ago) that my Grandma and I walked down the street to the bagel shop. We ordered bagels and coffee and sat at a little table outside in the sun. Shortly after situating ourselves, a young man approached the table and said to me, "I'm sorry, I never do this, but I was wondering if I could call you sometime." I had never been flirted with in such a blatant manner and was not sure what to do. Thinking in purely practical terms, I informed him that I was on my way to the airport to fly back to Texas (with the implication that no one wants to start something long distance)...

But my Grandma interrupted me and started telling the young man, "You know, this is my granddaughter and she grew up here, and went to school here, and comes back to visit quite frequently..." He was (now that I think about it....) remarkably polite to keep standing there talking to us (well, mainly my Grandma who kept telling him all sorts of information about me) even though I had completely avoided his request for my phone number.

I always give the credit to my Grandma for the young man's willingness to approach me. Her beauty and poise must have given him confidence for what I will one day be (I hope!). Anytime I mention the bagel shop, her face lights up and she finishes the tale with great enthusiasm. And she always laughs at the end. A laughter that is full of merriment but also a little awe that she had been part of such an event.

Apparently I'm in a reminiscing mood. Tomorrow I'll share the story of Burns Night at my other Grandparents house. There is fire involved. And a stabbing. And kilts. You can never have too many kilts in a story. It's another memory that I will pass down one day.

But in the meantime, I'm going to enjoy the Texas weather... and see if I can do something about this bagel craving...


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