November 2008


While I keep reading of other offices that are easing gently towards Thanksgiving, and people who are already on planes to go visit far-flung family, my work has decided to schedule a huge! very important! requiring a tremendous amount of preparation! meeting for….tomorrow.  Wednesday.  The day before Thanksgiving.  Swell.

So people in my office are running around like crazy, everyone scrambling to finish projects, (or at least finish them enough that they can report at the meeting without looking like a total doofus).

I am no exception, since I have no fewer than FOUR things about which I am expected to present tomorrow.  (Upside of being a staff attorney: you get to work on lots of different projects with lots of different people.  Downside of being a staff attorney: you get to work on lots of different projects with lots of different people and are expected to be the one to write up all the summarizing documents and present out at big meetings.)

So it’s a leeeetle hectic around here right now,  and that’s unfortunately distracting me from my favorite thing to do in the week before Thanksgiving: plan menus.

See, my family are amazing, lovely, wonderful people, but we have some dietary restrictions.  Sister can’t eat gluten.  Father can’t really eat much salt or fat.  Mother (god love her) appears to not like flavor, and prefers all foods to tend towards the bland.

Since my parents live close by, tradition dictates that we eat at their place, which means my bland mom has control over the menu.  For her Thanksgiving, I try to plan at least two things that I can bring that I will love to eat but will be consumed by people other than me.  (Seems kinda rude to bring something that only you can/will eat.)  This year I’ll be doing roast asparagus and an apple-cranberry crumble with gluten-free topping.  Not bad.

But I dream about hosting my own Thanksgiving, where I am in charge of the menu, and can make whatever wackadoodle version of Thanksgiving classics I want.  This year, the menu would be:

Appetizers:

  • Spinach artichoke dip with homemade pita chips
  • Pomegranate salsa and tortilla chips (if you are looking for a delicious, different winter appetizer for Thanksgiving or holiday parties, email me.  Seriously.  This salsa is AMAZING.)
  • Crostini with brie, honey, and pears
  • Champagne Cocktails

Main:

  • Adobo Turkey with Red Chili Gravy
  • Stuffing made with actual onions and actual butter (this is the saddest one for me about our Thanksgiving- stuffing without onions and butter is a travesty.)

Sides:

  • Mashed sweet potatoes
  • Cranberry sauce with pear and fresh ginger
  • Brussels Sprouts Gratin
  • Popovers and homemade crusty wheat rolls (I like contrast.)

Desserts:

What about you all?  What are your favorites?  Any dishes you’re dying to try when you finally get control of Thanksgiving?  (Or is that just me?)

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There’s a store near my office which sells deeply discounted name-brand clothes.  While I don’t have the patience to regularly sort through rack after rack after rack of tops and skirts and pants to find the one gem, it’s a good place to go when you’re looking for (a) fancy party dresses, of which they have a nice and affordable selection; (b) designer jeans, which they have hundreds of; or (c) socks and tights, which are just way overpriced at regular stores.

The other day I went in there to look for a pair of jeans I could tuck into boots.  I absolutely refuse to pay a lot of money for skinny jeans, since I still mostly believe skinny jeans are an abomination but I am a slave to fashion peer pressure, and skinny seems to be what everyone is wearing these days, so FINE.  (I scored a super cute pair from Paper Denim & Cloth that were slim but not super skinny tight, and which only cost $20!  Less than the Gap! Victory!)

While I was there, I swung by the tights rack and picked up a very cute pair of dark heather grey “sweater tights” that were thick and warm looking, perfect for wearing in winter under skirts and dresses, and with boots.

This morning, I pulled on a dress, and got out my new tights.  I took off the wrapper, pulled them on and:

Huh.  It appears that I have inadvertently purchased leggings.

I checked the label again, and it clearly says “Sweater Tights.”  The word “leggings” appears nowhere on the packaging.  Nor the word “footless.”  Maybe I’m wrong, but to me “tights” implies “will cover your whole leg, including your foot.” Am I wrong?

Fortunately, I was planning to wear knee-high boots anyway, so I could just pop on some socks and go.  But now I somehow own skinny jeans and leggings.  What’s next, over the knee boots paired with a menswear vest and skinny tie? Formal shorts? Or, god help us, pegging my jeans?  Somebody save me!

I am home sick today, lying on the coach and moaning about how uncomfortable and miserable I feel with my nasty headcold.  The only interruption to this all-day snooze-and-whinefest was a brief side trip this morning to the doctor.  I’ve been having unpleasant ear-jaw-side of face pain for some time, and finally decided that I should get that checked out, and my appointment just happened to coincide nicely with my cold.

Truth be told, I’d hoped it was an ear infection, because ear infections are bacterial and can be treated with antibiotics.

Sadly, no.  I have “eustacian tube disfunction” which is a fancy way of saying “lots of fluid built up behind the ears so take sudafed.”  I also got a referral to an ENT for the jaw pain.   “It’s good you came in,” she said, “but it looks like just a build up and you’ll be fine.  Tough it out.”

Well, FINE.

Then!  Then!  As I was leaving, she said “oh my gosh, that is a REALLY LARGE zit on your temple.  That’s probably contributing to your head pain.  I’d put a cold compress on that when you get home.”

And then I died.  Thank you, doctor, for kicking me while I am down and pointing out my newly acne-prone skin.  I’m going home to tough it out on the couch with bad movies and junk food now.

Attention, ladies and gentlemen who live in cold climates! On this, the first truly chilly work day of the winter, I am here to offer some unsolicited advice about cold-weather attire.

At this time of year, I see a lot of new coats walking around on the streets. How can I tell they are new? Is it that they’re clean and fresh looking, free of stains and wrinkles?

No.

I can tell they are new because an astonishing number of people either forget or do not know that they should pull out the basting stitch holding together the flap at the back of the coat before wearing it out in public. I see tons of people walking around with their new coats bunching awkwardly in the back because the flap has not been freed from its basting stitch prison.

See, when winter coats get sent to stores, they’re often shipped with a loosely-stitched “X” holding together the two flaps at the back. This keeps the flaps from getting separated in transit and one of them getting folded or creased all wonky. It also helps the coats look pretty and hang neater on hangers and keeps them from getting tangled up with each other.

I have drawn a diagram to help explain what I’m talking about:

Helpful diagram, lovingly drawn by me

When you buy a coat and take it home, you should use a scissors and (carefully!) cut this stitch out before you wear it. If you leave it in, the back of your coat will bubble up funny over your butt when you walk, ruining the lovely lines of your new winter garment and distracting the person walking behind you on the street, especially if that person is me.

Now go forth and freeze your ass off in style, friends.

Today is, among other things, our third wedding anniversary.

We rang in our anniversary last night in our car, driving home from Michigan where we’d been working as poll watchers/legal monitors. We were frantically twisting the radio dial to find NPR stations as we drove down I-196 and then I-94, back to Chicago.

As we drove through Grand Rapids NPR called Pennsylvania, and we started to get guardedly optimistic. We were around Holland when they called Ohio and we started to feel pretty good. They called New Mexico, and Florida, and Virginia started to look good, and Indiana turned in the right direction, and by the time we reached the Indiana border NPR had called the election for Obama. We listened to McCain’s concession speech as we drove through Gary, and sped into Chicago as Obama was taking the stage. We parked by a friend’s house in Hyde Park, ran upstairs, and toasted with glasses of champagne as we watched the end of his speech. It was the first part of any election day coverage that we’d seen on tv.

While I feel a pang of regret that I did not get to experience the much talked-about CNN holograms, it was worth it.

In the precinct where I was working yesterday, there were 122 votes cast in the 2004 presidential election. Last night’s final count was close to 1,000. The poll worker who was running the tabulator machine asked each voter “have you done this before, do you know how the machine works?” and probably 3 out of 5 said no, they didn’t know how it worked, because it was their first time voting. Ever. Looking only at the young people and the people of color, first time voters were more like 9 out of 10. I watched people with babies strapped to their chests wrangling toddlers tangled in their legs as they voted. I saw some who were in ill health, for whom it took real effort to stand long enough to fill out their ballots. I heard a few quietly tell poll workers that they couldn’t read and needed someone to read their ballot to them. When I voted, I took my lunch break one day, walked a block to the county building, and was in and out in half an hour. These people had to work so much harder than I did to cast their ballot. And again and again, I heard them say the same thing: “this election is too important not to vote.”

I’ve gotten less than 9 hours of sleep over the past two nights. We stood for most of the 13 hours the polls were open in Michigan yesterday, subsisting on coffee and a few slices of the free pizzas Papa John’s dropped off for the poll workers. We drove more than three hours each way for less than 24 hours in Michigan.

I am, in short, exhausted. Emotions are running a little close to the surface. So you’ll forgive me for being sappy, but I’m tired and it’s my anniversary and so I’m taking this moment to say this: I feel profoundly grateful today. I’m grateful to have had the chance to witness first hand a small piece of the amazing thing our country did last night.  I’m grateful to live in a country where such things are possible.  And I’m grateful to live in it with someone who I love more than ever after almost 8 years together, someone who shares my passion for the issues that were at stake in this election, and who, like me, thinks that poll watching is an exemplary use of a vacation day. John, I should warn you now- I didn’t get you an anniversary present. (Sorry about that.) But I think somehow, even without presents, we’ll always remember our third anniversary and the pretty amazing thing we got to celebrate on the same day.