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December, 2006:

The Christmas Goose

For Jews, we’ve led a very busy Christmas season. First we had our faux-Christmas on the second day of Hanukkah in Chicago – when we traditionally exchange gifts, under the Christmas tree, with my dad and stepmom and siblings. (Nancy, my stepmom, is not Jewish – and there is a long standing, though somewhat odd now that I’m grownup and look back on it, tree tradition in my immediate family as well.) Then the last two days, the actual Christmas, we had both Christmas Eve dinner with Adam’s brother Daniel and his wife’s family, and Christmas Day dinner with my great aunt Lee, my grandfather Hank and his girlfriend Yvonne, and Lee’s niece and nephew Barbara and Dieter from Germany.

And so today I had my first-ever Christmas Goose. Apparently there is a tradition in Lee’s branch of the family whereby Barbara and Dieter come from Germany to spend the holiday with Lee and, while hanging out and enjoying both NYC and Lee’s country house, cook an absolutely fantastic holiday dinner. And apparently, for many years now, this tradition has involved goose. Tonight was no exception – two geese, in fact, with very German rotkraut (red cabbage), knoedel (potato dumplings) and beet soup (much to Adam’s dismay), among other wonderful dishes. The goose, which I was prepared to dislike (I don’t like wild-ish meat of any kind, though I do on occasion like duck), was really amazing – tender and moist and even a tiny bit sweet, while being decadently rich. The entire meal was astounding and I am still, four hours later, so full I can barely even write about food. Maybe I can convince Barbara and Dieter to adopt me for another holiday – perhaps they want to spend Memorial Day in New York as well?

Last night’s meal, at Daniel and Andrea’s home, was also really fantastic – salt-roasted beef tenderloin, scalloped potatoes, a very flavorful lemongrass/chayote soup, and hand-carmelized creme brulee for dessert. Followed by a rousing game of Scattergories – Raphaele and I came in only second, but Adam came in last. (Finally, I beat Adam at a game!)

All this on the heels of Thursday’s latke party at our house (sans Adam, sadly, who was Bright Night-ing in Providence), where Tamara, Marni and I fried roughly 75 latkes, nearly all of which were gone before the end of the night. My house still smells like frying oil!

This week will have to be a salad week. But it was so worth it!

Backtracking just a little– our trip to Chicago

I just wanted to backtrack a little– last week we went to Chicago to visit with Stephanie’s family for Chanukkah. Her family has a huge to-do about Chanukkah, with a traditional dinner, the traditional opening of the presents, and a lot of other events.

While we were there,we had a very busy social schedule, which was a lot of fun– a synagogue visit to the huge Chicago reform visit Sinai, where they worship on Sundays and on the second night of Chanukkah they lit all of the lights because it would be more beautiful… I mean, why not just worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster because you find it more festive? (And of course, the secret thrill of being touched by his noodly appendage.)

We also went to the first birthday party of Stephanie’s best friends daughter Lana. It was held at a traditional Russian banquet hall, which was in a strip mall area in the Northern Chicago Suburbs. The food was lavish, and the party was fun (although I don’t speak Russian at all, and that was the main language spoken. Lana translated all of the many toasts for us.)

I got some very thoughtful gifts from Stephanie’s parents, including some old clown posters that are going to look great in the kitchen!~– errr… well, my studio, if I can ever get it finished….

One of the things that was pretty interesting is that just about everyone at the big Channukah dinner had read our blog, and knew all sorts of details about the house that I’d forgotten that I’d written down. It was nice to be among our family and readers…

An alarming incident…and a thermostatic one also.

We had a disturbing alarm incident, where it turned out that the low battery signal from our third floor smoke detector may have been a faulty smoke detector, as replacing the batteries did not assuage the situation. We had ADT come out and replace the smoke detector. (Of course, everything worked properly when he was here) The technician, a burly guy with a thick Russian accent, kept on asking “Floor is original, yes? How old is house? What kind wood is that? You have big house.” Not sure if he was also studying for his real estate license, or just had an interest in old houses. Anyway, he was a marked improvement from the last security guys that we had here, who accidentally drilled through our thermostat line, requiring our heating installer to come back out and charge us money to replace it. Which leads us to the next little contractor incident:

It turns out that Eversafe Security, our alarm installer, which promised me that they would pay our heating installer his charge for fixing the thermostat, has not paid yet, even though it happened 9 months ago. We discovered that little fact the hard way, when our Thermostat didn’t seem to be doing what it was supposed to be doing. We called our oil company, who checked everything out and decided the thermostat must be defective. We called K & S (heating installer) to get a new one and they didn’t return our calls. The next day I got the unpaid invoice from them from March.

It looks like I need to pay that invoice and then try to collect blood from the stone that is Eversafe. The worst part is I no longer have a stick to beat them with– they sold our maintenance contract to ADT. I guess I am just going to have to call them everyday until they crack.

In the meantime, K & S eventually did come out (I wasn’t here, but S says that the guy raved about the house and what we’ve done, especially with the kitchen.) And to add insult to injury, apparently the guy from our heating company was wrong– the thermostat was not faulty.

Been busy with Bright Night, haven’t had time to write

I apologize to our readers who have been looking forward to updates about our Yonked existence. I’ve been subsumed by my work on Bright Night Providence, the New Year’s Eve Festival in Providence that I’m responsible for. This year has been the test year to see if I can run it from far away, and the answer is “Yes, it is definitely possible. It just takes even more energy!”

Most of my work for the festival (fundraising, artist-hiring, organizing) can take place just about anywhere. But you have to have meetings with people, and that means travelling to RI to do it. It’s about 3 hours there (less without traffic or stopping for gas or other errands) and I don’t mind driving it at all– although driving is more tiring than it should be. I get to listen to my ipod, the radio, and of course talk to the throngs of people I need to talk to to get the festival on track.

This year the festival is going to be very good– with a huge focus on magic and circus. If you are in the area, I suggest checking it out.

As for the Yonked house itself, well, let’s make a couple of more posts about that….

Liking the lights

On nights like tonight, when I come home and Adam is not home (he’s in Providence more and more, preparing for Bright Night, of course), I realize how thankful I am for our lights. It’s something one might really take for granted – having the right lights, and the right light switches, throughout the house. But because our lights were really hard-fought, and because I now feel safe and secure while walking up to, and through, the house, I’m especially appreciative.

Just the other night Adam and I were lying in bed, looking at the walls in the master bedroom and contemplating what the room looked like when all the walls had deep trenches running through them where the wiring was going in. (Yes, sadly, we do talk about these things in bed.) We remembered fondly how the old wonky light switch was hidden behind the bedroom door (on the wrong side of the swing), and how the weird pull-chain fixture hung right where what’s now the archway to our unfinished master bath. We waxed nostalgic about making decisions about power outlets. And we regretfully admitted that it would have been smart to run a DirectTV cable through the wall at the same time, so we could move the television to the center of the room.

But really, a few misplaced (or nearly missing – in the case of the sunroom, which we didn’t schedule an outlet for and had to have a handyman install, haphazardly, near the very end of the first wave of renovation) outlets are really the only problem with our electric. It’s a miracle that we’ve got what we’ve got, since we figured it out purely by instinct while in the throes of the dust and mess. Amazing that we have three-way switches so we can turn on the light at the bottom of the stairs and turn it off when we get upstairs. Amazing that there is an outlet in the pantry to plug the Dustbuster in to. Amazing that there are lights in every one of the closets on the third floor. And, it’s all especially miraculous considering that our electrician didn’t speak much English, and we speak no Spanish.

Willie the electrician, wherever you are, gracias. You did us good.

In which Adam wins the lottery….

So I received a new computer from Apple without paying for it…. ASK ME HOW!

I was fortunate enough to buy a reconditioned emac about two years ago that served me well, but about 1 month ago started having problems with it. It was having video problems, freezing unexpectedly, not working properly. I thought it was on its last legs, out of warranty, and I started thinking painfully about buying a new one. Fortunately, I did my homework– I checked out the APPLE website, and it turned out that my emac was on a repair extension list. But since they can’t repair them anymore since they stopped making them, they decided to give me a brand new one. In short, I win the lottery.

It arrived today, and it is in a word, awesome.

I had an 1.25 G4 Emac with 256M RAM, 40 gig Hard Drive, and a Combo drive.
I now have a 1.8 Intel Imac with 512M RAM, 160 Hard Drive, a combo drive, and a built in Isight camera.

Which means I can spend a good deal of my day being productive creatively, as I strive to make Bright Night Providence happen on a timely basis.

You know, like doing this:

Clearly the best use of my time!

Of course, having a video camera means that if I intend to use it, that means I’d better clean up the mess behind me– and maybe have to shave every day and get a haircut. Clearly, video isights are part of Apple’s secret plot to sell more razors!
I thought it was weird they were investing in Gillette… Now I know why!