Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

Cross-Country Connections: Together

December 29, 2011

Cross-Country Connections is a Biodork weekly blog entry dedicated to telling stories in pictures of three family members – me, my sister and Mom – living in very different locations across the country. Every week we choose a different theme and then take or contribute a personal photo that fits the theme. This week’s theme is Together.

This week is a little bit different. First – it’s late. Last Friday the Hubby and I left on holiday and didn’t get home until Tuesday. I started editting photos yesterday, and finally have my #$%@ together for CCC today.

This year we drove down to Woodstock, Illinois for the third annual Christmas Gathering At Aunt Leigh’s House. Aunt Leigh has a beautiful house with lots of rooms – enough to put up 14 of us on our busiest night!

Second, Mom, Erin and I didn’t take photos. Instead, we had the Hubby take a group photo of the three of us. We brought the CCC gang to one living room in a completely new location.

From Mom, me and Erin in Woodstock, Illinois:

Mom, me and Erin in front of the Christmas tree in Aunt Leigh’s living room.

And one more bonus shot. I was pleased to have remembered my tripod (I’d be more pleased if I hadn’t forgotten it in Woodstock when we came home to Minneapolis). We were able to take a group shot of everyone who made it to Christmas this year.

First Row: Aunt Leigh, Cousin Haley, Uncle-in-Law Greg, Cousin Sidney, Aunt Diane, Grandma Betty, Mom
Second Row: Me, the Hubby Aaron, Brother-in-Law Ralph, Sister Erin

Leigh, Haley and Greg live in Woodstock. Sidney and Diane came up from Springfield, Illinois. Grandma Betty is from Vienna, Illinois. Mom is from Carbondale, Illinois. Me and the Hubby are from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Ralph and Erin are from Bellingham, Washington.

Hooray for family, and for making these Cross-Country Connections in person.

Happy Holidays.

Happy Easter Monday Floggings

April 25, 2011

Jana from Learn.Make.Think shares a story from her childhood in Slovakia. This is a short excerpt:

The days leading to the Easter weekend, us – the girls – spent scrubbing the house top to bottom; washing windows, dusting carpets, waxing floors, starching curtains and decorating both indoor and out before we got to “relax” in the kitchen. We had to dye  the eggs, bake Easter bread pudding and wrap all the gingerbread Easter bunnies my mom would make each year. Arranging them in baskets alongside all the chocolate eggs in colourful wrappers without being allowed to munch on any of them has always constituted child abuse in my eyes.

That, and what would traditionally happen on Easter Monday:

You see, the boys had only one task to complete on Easter weekend: take a walk to the woods, find a willow tree, select 8 longest, thinnest and the most flexible branches and braid them into a whip.

So that they could whip us.

Right before (or after, or both) they throw us into an ice-cold stream.  Or a pond. Or a bathtub. All because they have our well-being at heart. After all, according to a tradition dating back to pagan days, the cold water strengthens our health while being whipped with willow braids full of fresh sap is supposed to make us more fertile.

Jana tells her story with a sad humor and intersperses the hard words with lovely pictures of her colorful painted Easter eggs. It’s a heck of a read.

Read the whole story at Jana’s blog.

Hello, 2011.

January 1, 2011

Here’s hoping you all had a great time last night, and that you made it safely into 2011.

The Hubby and I had a lame and lovely New Year’s Eve.  Neither of us felt like finding a party, and with the weather being all nasty it wasn’t that big of a stretch to decide to stay in.  We started watching the TV miniseries of Dune with William Hurt, had leftovers for dinner (‘cuz who wants to eat 2010 leftovers in 2011???), and we went to bed at 11:38pm.

This morning we have no hangovers, we woke up at a decent hour, I was motivated to make yummy frittata, and the Hubby was motivated to eat yummy frittata!

Happy New Year!

And in the spirit of “out with the old, in with the new” check out this AWESOME video that I found on Facebook via Being A Geek last night.  It’s about death, dying, cataclysms and the amazing fact that life on this planet has survived for so long, in spite of said death, dying and cataclysms.


Aaaaand, We’re Back!

December 30, 2010

How’s everyone’s vacation going?  I didn’t have easy access to wireless for my laptop over the last week, thus no new blog posts.  But y’all had better things to do than read my ramblings anyway, so we’ll just wipe our hands of that last week and pick it up where we left off.

I know that I have had a lovely time with family over the past week, and the Hubby and I took this entire week between Christmas and New Year’s off from work, so we’ve got another four days of stay-cation in Minneapolis.  We briefly considered doing a runaway last minute Thursday-Sunday deal down to someplace warm and sunny.  You know, pack a swimsuit, some flippy-floppies, the passports, a few pairs of underwear and just go lay on a beach for the next couple of days.  But after writing out the January rent check and tallying the Christmas spending…well…I may be able to squeeze in a trip to the indoor water park near the Mall of America

We’re going to run out and get some yummy gluten-free Original Pancake House for breakfast, and then today is Returns/Exchanges Day:

Technically, my duplicate Doubt has already been “returned”, which is why there is only one copy in the picture above, but there is a fun story associated with it.  My Mom, who gave me the second copy, thought it looked interesting and had started reading the first chapter before she wrapped it up.  When I opened it on Christmas day and gave her the half-amused, half-apologetic “Someone already gave me this” look, she eagerly took it back and said “Oh good!  I want to read this anyway.”  I think we ended up bartering a red sweater and some crazy expensive socks* for the book.

When we get back later today, I promise there will be a full accounting of all of the nerdy/geeky Christmas presents that I raked in this holiday – oh and there are some doozies!  Also, I took over 300 pictures in the Museum of Science and Industry on Tuesday’s day trip to Chicago, so after I pare those down I’ll share that adventure.

Happy Holidays!


*Who pays $17 for a pair of socks, Muh-ther?  This “smartwool” better be able to do differential equations.

Brainy White Elephant Exchange

December 10, 2010

Our office holiday party was yesterday, and it was pretty fabulous.

The party was held off-campus in the Snyder Building Auditorium of the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.  The room had a gigantic sloping ceiling and huge wood and glass chandeliers.  One of the organizers had made pretty centerpieces made of red-bark dogwood, pine tree braches and ribbon.

The food was really very good!  There was a lot of food that I was able to eat, even with the whole gluten-free deal-eo.  I had a mixed greens salad, grilled vegetables, caprese salad and chicken with capers, nom nom nom!  I had to pass on the orzo (Orzo is always frustrating.  I want to go to the cook and say “You picked rice-shaped pasta!  You meant to pick RICE!), the heavenly-smelling bread basket, and every single desert option, but after dinner I had some delicious apple cider with cinnamon sticks and was plenty satisfied. 

There were a few short speeches and recognition awards, and a drawing for door prizes that seemed relatively benign – T-shirts with the company logo, some gift cards, etc – until the big winner opened his plain cardboard box to reveal a frickin’ iPad!  Argh – so jealous!  Apparently our department received the iPad as part of a promotion for ordering a whole slew of HPLC columns that we needed anyway.  Order more!  Order more!  I need to do some chromotography on…uh…that dihydrogen monoxide over there (As an aside, this is the awesomest website on dihydrogen monoxide EVER)

Then came the event that I had been looking forward to for the whole week:  The WHITE ELEPHANT EXCHANGE!

I love white elephant exchanges because they’re humorous, slightly competitive and there’s always a chance you’ll walk away with something fun and exciting.  Just in case you haven’t heard of a white elephant exchange, this is how it works:

1) Find something around the house that can be re-gifted.  It can range from semi-nice (soaps collections, candles) to ugly (homemade ceramic fish) to very strange (huge green Hulk mitts that make growling sounds when you bash them together).  The odd gifts are usually the most fun.

2) Wrap the present and bring it to the party.  All of the presents go into a pile.

3) Everyone draws a number.

4) #1 goes to the pile and chooses a present.  He/She unwraps the present and displays it for all to see.

5) #2 may either choose a wrapped present from the pile, or may “steal” the present that #1 unwrapped.  If #2 steals, then #1 gets to choose a replacement present from the pile.

6) #3 may either choose a wrapped present from the pile, or may “steal” either of the other two already revealed presents.  If someone’s gift gets stolen, he/she may either choose a new present or steal a different unwrapped present.

And so forth and so on until everyone has a present.  Rules may vary.  Our White Elephant Exchange had a rule that any given present may only be stolen three times.  The person who got it on the third steal was safe; they could no longer have the present taken away.

We had 40 people participate, and there were some pretty silly and pretty decent presents in our pile.  On my first turn I chose a wrapped present.  It ended up being this ridiculous poker table/business card holder affair:

I figured that there was no way anyone would take this piece of crap present off of my hands.  I mean…who keeps paper business cards anymore?  But somewhere around #20 the big boss honcho took his turn.  He looked at all of the unwrapped presents and then said something to the effect of, “What department supervisor doesn’t need a good place to store business cards?  I’m stealing that poker table!”

Holy cow!  Hardly believing my good luck, I handed over the business card holder and rushed to the stack of presents.  I unwrapped a ~8″ wooden giraffe statue, which looked something like this:

Meh.  Whatever.  I could get down with a giraffe statue.  But just a couple of turns later, a coworker stole the giraffe, proclaiming that it would be perfect for his little cousin who just loves giraffes (note the plea to sympathy to try to avoid having it stolen later down the line).

That was a good steal for me, because in the intervening time someone has unwrapped…a BRAIN CANDLE!  It was beautiful with its gray, plump gyri and deep sulci, perhaps about the same size as adolescent human brain.  It did have a severely flattened cerebellum and a noticeable lack of the rest of the hindbrain, but I suppose it was shaped to sit on a flat surface, so I was willing to forgive the designer his or her artistic license.  Because, HELLO, it was a BRAIN CANDLE!

So I stole the brain candle and retreated to my corner, hoping that in the plethora of gifts available, no one would remember me and my little treasure.  Sadly, but not surprisingly, the candle was stolen a few rounds later.  After all, I was in a room full of nerdy scientists.  Despondent and bored with the opened presents I went back to the mystery gift pile.  I unwrapped a well-used, stained coffee cup/candle warming plate.

Crap!  Well, that was going in the garbage.  I’ve never owned nor wanted a warming plate, but I nodded, acknowledged my present and got back in line with everyone else.  In other news, there was some drama over a very nice set of pasta pots that had been stolen once or twice.  A few turns after I had drawn my lousy warming plate, the current holder of the pasta pots had them stolen from her.

Now whenever it was someone’s turn to choose between a wrapped gift and an already-opened gift, all of us who wanted to get rid of our crap presents would loudly market our wares to that person.  When the pasta pot-less women came over toward me I pitched my plate, “You could use it to cook pasta.  You know…if you used a very small pan.”  Amazingly, she took the bait!  I was free to choose another gift.

I was heading toward the pile of unopened gifts when inspiration struck.  “Hey!”  I turned toward the emcee.  “Can I steal a present that has already been stolen from me?”  After a  brief huddle I was given the okay.  I turned toward the brute who had so cruelly stolen the brain candle, raised my eyebrows and started sauntering in his direction.  He made a sound of protest and looked down at the brain candle, which he was protectively cradling in his hands.  He gave me a mock scowl, sniffed and handed it over.  

Bonus: This was the third steal – the brain was henceforth protected from other present thieves!  I returned to my seat with my new treasure, glowing with the excitement of having fought for and won my very own brain candle (and managing to weasel out of the other crap presents).

Axial Tilt is the RFTS

December 3, 2010

I saw this over at Le Cafe Witteveen and it gave me a good chuckle.

It’s a fun counter to “Let’s put Christ back in Christmas”.  Jeremy at Le Cafe also mentions “Put Saturn back in Saturday”, and on Facebook I saw a “Put Woden back in Wednesday”.

I’m all about celebrating a humanist Christmas – love your fellow man, give to charities, celebrate the season with friends and family.  But let’s remember the Solstice roots and history of this time we call Christmas, and maybe not get too uppity because some of us chose to not include little baby Jesus in our festivities.

Oh damn.  Little Baby Jesus.  Now I have to play this.