Friday, December 25, 2009

New toys

Sylvia is now old enough to enjoy opening presents. Said enjoyment didn't last long enough to get her through the pile of presents we stacked before her unaided, but she did tear through the first few like a banshee and only had to be coaxed through the last couple. Well, and through the middle when she found the noise-making toy from Grandma Hasterok--at least until that toy quietly disappeared.

I'm not sure how we're going to get the new outfits, stacking toys, play phone, cookie cutters, and everything else my little girl accumulated back to West Lafayette, though I'd guess the post office will be involved somehow.

I knew what I was getting, thanks to my email address being on the account at B&H photo, but that didn't stop me from being very happy with my brand new 70-200mm lens. It's so cool. I put that thing on my camera and it looks like a serious camera, especially with the hood on. I only played with it a little bit today--Sylvia's VERY interested in the camera and getting pretty grabby--but I'm looking forward to playing with it more. In fact, for the LMPIA blog I've been attempting to run in my copious free time, I may have to dig up friends in the Lafayette area and ask if they'd be willing to pretend to be models for an hour or two so I and the other participants can play around and practice. I so wish I'd had this lens for Philip and Kelley's wedding. I did an okay job, but there were definitely some shots I wanted (like the ring exchange, the first kiss, and some better pictures of them holding hands, for starters) that just weren't possible with the kit lens. Sigh. I never knew I actually liked wedding photography until *after* I got married. I'll probably never do more than take pictures at weddings of friends and relatives, and I'll probably never be paid, but it sure is fun.

Anyway, I'll post pictures of Sylvia tearing through the wrappings when I can, I promise. This blog has far too many words, and far too few pictures on it of late.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Christmas

I think Sylvia's going to enjoy herself tomorrow.

Philip and Kelly picked up something for Sylvia while they were on their honeymoon and I wrapped it--twice--because Sylvia just needed to tear the paper off something and I figured their present, since it was still inside nondescript, opaque packaging (thanks to FedEx) that would be the best option.

My mom sang with Sotto Voce at the Methodist Centenary church for Christmas Eve services there, which we attended. I quite like going to Christmas Eve services anymore--it's a great reminder of the season and exactly what it is being celebrated--not just the return of light, not just the presents and the gathering of families and friends--also the return of hope, and the promise of an atonement for the evils of this world. It's such a lovely, comforting service, reading passages of such familiar scripture interspersed (frequently!) with familiar, beautiful music.

Most of the program at Centenary was music (which I really liked) and involved much audience participation (which I really REALLY liked). I haven't had many opportunities to sing Christmas music in the past few years, and I miss it. The last time I felt like I really dug into Christmas music was before I started grad school when I participated in the ward choir in my ward in Midvale. That choir was so great--and so inclusive--and we put on a program that had much of the same feeling as the services at Centenary.

After the program there was a small reception, including refreshments. I took cinnamon rolls to share with the other members of Sotto Voce. This morning Sotto Voce was on the Doug Wright show (and was definitely the highlight, I might add--the Santa they have was borderline inappropriate, and NOT funny) and I sent a pan of cinnamon rolls with my mom to share. She offered one to Doug Wright and he took the whole pan! In a way I'm glad though; my first batch turned into a bit of a "test run" figuring out how to bake them. The recipe says to bake them at 400, but then says 375 works better, but neglected to mention you have to bake them longer at 375, so I tried baking them cooler but for the same amount of time and ended up with somewhat underdone (though still tasty) cinnamon rolls in the first iteration (which includes the rolls I sent with my mom). So if you make those rolls, I do think 375 works better (they were a little dark baked at 400) but it takes longer and I'd bump it up to 400 for the last few minutes to get them nice and golden brown on top.

Since my Grandma Whitaker was also in attendance we took a picture with four generations from my grandma to my daughter. At some point when I can upload pictures again I'll have to put it up here to share.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Yuletide greetings

One advantage of having family who follow different holiday traditions is that you end up with a longer season to celebrate. Today being the first day of winter--and the shortest day of the year--my sister and her family celebrated Yule. And she kindly invited us over for a tasty dinner of ham, mashed potatoes, and stuffing, accompanied by my mom's knot rolls and followed by pecan bourbon pie and apple dumplings.

Now, I admit, I am not the best at following recipes. In fact, sometimes I downright suck at following a recipe. Today was one of those days. I managed to assemble the dumplings as instructed (mostly--I did put in two pieces of apple sometimes, and for half of them I used my mom's oh-so-tasty apple pie filling instead of fresh apples) but then it all went to pot. My mom was making her pecan pie and the first egg she added to the filling didn't temper right, so I volunteered to use that for my filling. I've made pecan pie before where the egg sort of cooks before it gets fully incorporated into the custard and it's worked out okay, so I just sort of whisked it a bit, added some vanilla, and went on my merry way, blithely ignoring the facts that 1) there was less butter than called for, 2) the pie filling had brown sugar, not white sugar, and 3) the pie filling had an egg in it. Even though it was a little light on the sauce, I went ahead and baked the dumplings. Boy, were they ever good. I love mistakes/experiments that work out well.

After dinner and at least a half-hour of opening presents we drove home. Strange man that he is, my husband sniffed my hair and decided it still smells of a tandoori oven. Now, the last time we had Indian/Pakistani food was last Thursday when we went to this little greasy spoon sort of in a sort of less than good part of San Francisco (place called Shalimar and ate ourselves sick on Pakistani food that was waaay too good. I mean, amazingly good food. The kind of food to dream about on cold, hungry evenings. Mind you, I don't mind smelling like good food, but it's been a few days since we ate there and I've washed my hair a couple of times since then, so for him to claim I still smell like a tandoori oven is a little disturbing. I hope the scent is just wishful thinking on his part. Maybe we need to find a little hole in the wall greasy spoon Indian/Pakistani place in Salt Lake to displace this olfactory hallucination!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Hockey sticks

Tonight, after a lazy Sunday afternoon, we took Sylvia to watch Grandpa Wayne play hockey. The game started late enough I wasn't sure if Sylvia would be happy all the way through, but as it turned out she was her normal charming self, and even went to bed very well for me (amazingly enough--though I did sing a couple of extra songs before putting her down).

Grandpa Wayne's team blew the other team out of the water, winning by 10 to 2. I think Derrick enjoyed watching the game, though he said it felt like everything was going about half speed. Perhaps when we're living nearer a city with a hockey team I'll get him tickets to a game so the game will feel like it's going the right speed to him.

Sylvia watched a bit, and I think liked seeing the men skating around on the ice (though I think she missed many of the finer points of the game). Mostly she walked up and down the stairs or begged for candy or gum. She had Reese's Pieces for the first time this evening and liked them enough we had to get a second handful from the dispenser for her. As a mom, I feel a little self conscious, maybe a little silly, keeping track of all of these oh-so-important "firsts." I realize they're really important to me as I watch her reactions and from them learn about my little girl and how she's growing and changing. I'm guessing I won't be quite as conscious of them with subsequent kids. Even so, I'll probably keep making note of them with Sylvia, even if they're as silly as a first hockey game or a first handful of Reese's Pieces.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Starting just after Thanksgiving life is always hectic. We left for Utah on the 3rd of December and have been going and going since then. I made a poster basically in two days, Sylvia ran around at Mimi's and at my Mom's, and then we left for San Francisco. AGU (the conference I went to this past week) was good, though I discovered a few things that annoy me--particularly people "correlating" data to other data (sun spot cycles, for instance) with no mechanistic explanation of why they'd be correlated. Oh, and if your wiggle matching requires you to draw diagonal lines between your wiggles--especially with different slopes--THEY DON'T MATCH. Many friends suffered through a much longer version of the abbreviate rant above, so thank you, friends, for listening to my rant.

We're back in Utah now. Sylvia was happy to see us--so happy she woke us up at about 4 AM to greet us. I guess she missed us because she's been very clingy all day long. She was very upset that we required her to sit in a car seat while driving.

So, I know what I'm getting for Christmas. Derrick bought me a very nice gift from B&H PhotoVideo, which happens to have my email address on the profile since we use the same profile to order stuff. So I got an email titled "ord-status confirmation" with a very large number attached to it and though, "oh no, did someone get our credit card number and buy something? That would suck right before Christmas when we're in Utah." Nope. Just Derrick. Thank you, dear husband, for the thoughtful, expensive, and no longer surprising Christmas present. At least I don't have to re-wrap it before sticking it back under the tree.