December

#336 Grad School: One Week

01 December 2016 // Eugene, Oregon

Just a little over a week left to go… you can put up with almost anything for a week! Though this week is going to really put that idea to the test.

Two major projects are running full throttle right now. Simultaneously, I have twenty pages of research to write and one exam to get ready for, all within the next nine days.

Grad school really wants to make sure that I don’t miss it too much, I guess.

#337 Grad Finale

02 December 2016 // Eugene, Oregon

Grad school: where if you keep responding to enough emails, eventually somebody gives you a degree. This time next week, I’ll be looking at an empty inbox.

In the meantime, I get to enjoy a weekend with my favorites. We were gonna go visit Santa at PetSmart, but then somebody found a very muddy dog park, and you can’t show up to Santa lookin’ like that.

#338 Amazon View

03 December 2016 // Eugene, Oregon

“I find students today much smarter and more competent than in my time, I also find them far more pessimistic. Occassionally they ask in dismay: Where is the U.S. going? Where is the world going? Or: Where are the new entrepreneurs? Or: Are we doomed as a society to a worse future for our children?

I tell them about the devastated Japan I saw in 1962. I tell them about the rubble and ruins that somehow gave birth to wise men… I tell them about the untapped resources, natural and human, that the world has at its disposal, the abundant ways and means to solve its many crises. All we have to do, I tell the sthudents, is work and study, study and work, hard as we can.

Put another way: we must all be professors of the jungle.”

–Phil Knight

#339 Welcome Mathis

04 December 2016 // Eugene, Oregon

Got to meet my friends’ baby for the first time. His snores were adorable.

Welcome to the world, Mathis. I hope you like it.

#340 Grad School: Final Week

05 December 2016 // Eugene, Oregon

Eugene’s looking a little Scandinavian today. A couple more tomorrows and we’re done.

One essay, the last two finals I plan to ever take, and grading exams for fifty students.

Alright, let’s do this.

#341 Whole Foods Eugene

06 December 2016 // Eugene, Oregon

Whole Foods is a dangerous place when your food budget gets tight. Especially that hot food bar. But here’s a game you can play next time you’re in.

Challenge a friend to get as close to one pound of food without measuring as possible. If you go over, you lose. Closest one to one pound flat wins and the loser pays for the meal.

This is on the opposite end of the spectrum from the Costco challenge.

#342 DWNTWN EUG

07 December 2016 // Eugene, Oregon

If finishing my Masters programs this week wasn’t tiring enough, we just saw three straight nights of Christmas parties. They were a blast, and they saved us a ton on groceries, but man, I am gonna go into my first week of post-student life ready for a bit of hibernation.

Here are some things making me happy this week.

Okay, so the obvious. Grad school done. Yay!

I also saw Arrival over the weekend and it was an amazing, clever, meaningful film. It’s a puzzle film in a lot of ways but it also had tons of heart and hope. It’s a great work of art.

And Deanna and I also picked up our first Christmas tree. I love living where these grow without effort.

#343 Grad School: Done!

08 December 2016 // Eugene, Oregon

I just took a two hour final. It’s rainy. Miserably cold and most people get to stay home today because of the snow. Not me.

But that doesn’t matter.

Because.

I
Am
Done
With
Grad School.

(Assuming I didn’t overconfidently just bomb that exam. But ya know.)

PTL.

#344 Christmas Party-thon

09 December 2016 // Eugene, Oregon

Tonight we’re going to our third Christmas party in as many days.

Mid December. What it do.

#345 Christmas Tree Farm

10 December 2016 // Veneta, Oregon

Did you grow up in a real tree or fake tree fam? I was raised with a plastic thing that hid in our garage for eleven months.

I always looked forward to the future when our Christmas tree would be a real one that I went to the woods to chop down. Didn’t quite chop this one down myself, but it is an actual tree, so that’ll be a good place to start. .

This Doug is totally dead on one side, so we had that face the wall and saved ourselves at least 40 bucks.

“The Christmas tree…where did that tradition come from? It sounds like the behavior of a drunk man. I can picture it now: ‘honey, why is there a…pine tree in our living room?’ ‘I like it…tomorrow…we’re gonna…we’re gonna decorate it…for Jesus…’”

–Jim Gaffigan

#346 Christmas Deck’d

11 December 2016 // Eugene, Oregon

Oh bargain tree, oh bargain tree.

Your diseases saved us money.

It’s our first Christmas tree since getting married, and now our house is now all properly decked out for Christmas. I like this look. Even our Baymax and Ron Swanson prints look so festive.

#347 Norwegian Potato Porridge

12 December 2016 // Eugene, Oregon

When I was planning out what meals to make over the course of the year, I mostly thought about seasons and what sort of foods go well as the weather changes. For the most part I did a good job. Then I realize I’ve gone really heavy into Scandinavian type foods the past few weeks. I must’ve gotten the severity of Oregon’s winters mixed up with Norway.

While I’m glad we don’t have as much winter harshness as the Nordic states, I’ll gladly welcome in some of their cuisine, as I did with this potato porridge. Came out a bit on the thick side, but when it’s chilly out, nobody complains.

I did do something right by adding bacon. Sometimes a starchy potato based meal just asks to be matched with a salty pork of some kind.

#348 Going Somewhere

13 December 2016 // Eugene, Oregon

“That morning, we might have learned a boring lesson about foresight and preparation. We did not learn such a lesson. We did not learn so much anything, actually. But we did remember, both of us having long ago imagined the best thing about growing up would be getting to eat candy whenever we wanted. And now, we agreed, we’d been so, so right.”

–Brian Benson

Picked up this book at the PDX Powell’s while I was going somewhere. (Little Rock, I think) I will read most any given book about people challenging themselves to some sort of unconventional journey. Biking the perimeter of Africa. Walking the Appalachian Trail. In this case, biking from Wisconsin to Oregon.

As you might imagine, the Northern Plains offer large stretches of nothing, and this book was pretty tightly focused on the two characters’ journey. Minimal flashbacks, spiritual themes, or side encounters with characters possessing crazy life stories. In most cases I’d like more of those.

To Benson’s credit, his writing is skilled enough to still keep me engaged and empathetic throughout the story. The agonizing Montana winds felt very real, as did the evolution his romantic relationship took on the road.

#349 Attack of the Frost Giants

14 December 2016 // Eugene, Oregon

They say that many Native American tribes have hundreds of words for different kinds of snow. And I understand why. Not all snow is the same. There is the nice powdery, fluffy kind that is on the ground in Portland right now, and there is this ice-everywhere attrocity that we’ve got in Eugene.

All through the night branches kept cracking and crashing down. A tree completely toppled onto the parking spot next to mine. Beignet wouldn’t stop barking with all the other dogs in the neighborhood.

The power went out, and the Wi-fi was out for the next fifteen hours. The lights shut off just as a character in the book I’m reading died.

When I woke up this morning I went on a little walk to see how bad it was and whose cars were spared. That Civic was completely landed on. A tree landed perpendicularly across six parking spots that I usually take. It looked like some ice apocalypse.

It was also a little pretty. But not too pretty.

#350 Loving

15 December 2016 // Eugene, Oregon

Thanks to all the ice and snow, Deanna and I got to enjoy a day at home and at the movies. Loving definitely makes my short list for favorite movies from this year.

Speaking of, here’s that list.

Arrival – It’s the linguistics-nerd, sci-fi puzzle film we never knew we needed. It’s Spielberg’s whimsy, Christopher Nolan’s inventiveness, and Terrence Malick’s visuals all tied into one story.

Loving – How perfect is it that the couple whose case ended up setting the Supreme Court’s ultimate ruling in favor of interracial marriage had the last name Loving? Obvious answer, it’s too, too perfect.

Zootopia – A second animated feature… but some of my favorite movies in recent years have been Disney/Pixar movies, so maybe that shouldn’t be so surprising. Those were some socially-conscious cartoon rabbits.

#351 5th Street Christmas

16 December 2016 // Eugene, Oregon

I’ve been paying more attention to the difference between Christmas music and Advent music lately. The latter focuses on waiting and a somber sort of hope. It’s why when I’ve heard sugary versions of Holly Jolly and Sleigh Ride (or Twisted Sister’s 12 Days) a few too many times, O Come, O Come Emmanuel really hits the spot.

That song, like many African American Gospel songs or East Asian and African standards, uses the pentatonic scale- one that creates a feeling of tension, unrest, and having not arrived. It’s like melodies speak on behalf of cultures or something.

Advent will never make complete sense to someone who hasn’t seen oppression or injustice in some way. The oppressed were its original audience.

The Book of Common Prayer led me to reading the well known “to us a child is born, to us a son is given” part of Scripture. “And the government will be on his shoulders.” What stood out to me, though, was the part that came right before.

“You have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.”

That is most definitely music our world really needs to hear this year.

#352 Hamilton-ish

17 December 2016 // Eugene, Oregon

This weekend, we treated ourselves to a showing of Hamilton! But since we’re really on a budget, it was a high school performance of Hamilton. And since the school didn’t quite have the rights to Hamilton, it was actually about 70% of the musical plus random other songs from Waitress, Rent, and Chicago.

About a year ago I fell in love with this musical. I wasn’t expecting everyone else to fall in love similarly, otherwise we would’ve been set to see it in Chicago or New York. But thankfully it’s massive success means that high schools are giving it a go. NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour mused that there would be some pretty awful high school performances of the show. This wasn’t one of them. The kids were pretty good. Of course, Oregon doesn’t have the diversity of Hamilton, but the show was a great time.

#353 Kahlua

18 December 2016 // Eugene, Oregon

Celebratory mood, anyone?

My second-to-last cooking challenge item for the year was none other than a batch of homemade kahlua. It turns out that this treat is way easier to make than it appears- just don’t skimp on the vodka because that’ll do most of the work.

I’m really glad I made this batch. Not just cause it was fun, but also cause I drink kahlua so rarely that the amount I made could stretch five years.

#354 Rack of Lamb & Garlic Mashed Potatoes

19 December 2016 // Eugene, Oregon

At the very end of 2015, I decided that my cooking skills could use some improvement. I liked to cook, and to eat of course, but there was so much I hadn’t made before. I wanted to know the exact impact an adjusted ratio would have on bread, what one more minute at whatever temperature would do to meat, and all that.

After Christmas I made a list of 52 different things to cook over the next year. Most were chosen so I could learn specific skills. I picked some just cause of the time of the year, or cause I really wanted to try making them.

Last week, I got to end the year off with a bang, making a rack of lamb using Julia Child’s marinade and topping it off with a wine reduction. I was thrilled when I cut into the center to find the exact shade of pinkish-red I wanted.

Here’s to challenging yourself and getting it done. Now to figure out something for 2017 in these next few days.

#355 Christmas Carons

20 December 2016 // Eugene, Oregon

Hey family, spoiler alert. Stop reading here and erase the image you just saw from your mind.

(Psh, I know some of ya didn’t 😏)

Man… I keep posting about my low budget lifestyle lately, but that is our truth. When your family is large on both sides but your Christmas budget is small… homemade gifts are a lifesaver.

Thankfully I taught myself how to make macarons earlier this year. They go for about $1.50 a piece at our patisserie, so a single 5 piece box would be worth $7.50. If I was more motivated, this could turn quite a profit. The knowledge paid off this Christmas though. Less than $50 for ingredients gives me gifts for 25ish people… and even more if I didn’t screw up a batch or two.

This was also my first time making macaron flavors other than dulce de leche and chocolate. I improvised and experimented with coffee ganache, red wine and chocolate, and mango… and I surprised myself with how well they turned out.

#356 Chicagobound

21 December 2016 // Eugene, Oregon

Yesterday was quite the day of transit for us.

We got up before five so we could drop Beignet off at the sitter. Then we took off to Portland early enough for some errands. We got to get lunch with @jessedmorris and @sunshinebucket at this adorable place, Mothers, in downtown Portland. Then it was off to PDX.

I tried to stay knocked out for as much of the first flight as possible to SFO so I could stay up for the second flight and get some writing done. We arrived in Chicago at 1:30 for a very chatty Uber driver to take us to our hotel.

At around 2:30 AM, we arrived, but realized we’d only had one meal all day. I ran out onto Michigan Ave. in hunt of a grocery store open 24 hours. Half an hour later we were splitting a 3 AM hoagie surprised that it was just that morning we dropped off Beignet.

#357 White City

22 December 2016 // Eugene, Oregon

Some of my favorite times are when it’s the two of us, doing some exploring. Sometimes it’s a new city. Sometimes it’s a familiar place. Sometimes it’s somewhere that’s familiar to one of us, new to the other one, and every landmark is also a personal landmark full of stories from before we knew each other. Some of these landmarks are buildings and statues, and others are sandwich shops and relatives houses.

Then we love meeting up with friends wherever we go. We’re cursed to always be far away from the majority of our friends, but blessed to be near a few friends wherever we wind up.

In other words, the past few weeks have been amazing.

#358 University of Chicago

23 December 2016 // Eugene, Oregon

In high school, I always thought I would end up in Chicago. I was in constant contact with Northwestern and University of Chicago and took a trip out my sophomore year to visit both those schools. I even had this elaborate fantasy image of leaving some cool Chicago coffee shop and looking back to see all my cool Chicago friends in the window.

Then when senior year came around, I just didn’t apply. For whatever reason. It’s like I forgot the school existed during the six months that mattered.

But, I ended up going to school in Santa Barbara and having the time of my life over there. And I even made some cool friends in coffee shops, including my wife.

We wandered around the University of Chicago’s Hogwarts-esque campus for a while, amused at the idea of how it was like staring into an alternate reality of the past.

#359 Christmas Eve 16

24 December 2016 // Eugene, Oregon

Took it nice and slow this morning getting out of Aurora. Loaded up the car and set off for an extremely easy two hour drive.

Got to the Quad Cities early enough to hang out and eat the whole rest of the day.

Also, Codewords is a real fun game. Would recommend.

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