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Archive for December, 2008

In honor of New Year’s Eve, I thought I’d share a little something from a past celebration. To jog my memory a bit, I started thumbing through my journal (which I started in March…of 2001 – seriously, it’s a wonder I write a post nearly every day, when I can’t fill a notebook with the past seven years of my shenanigans). I came across an early entry about New Year’s 2001, when I had no plans and was, apparently, an extremely jaded sixteen-year-old (with a potty mouth).

He said if they found anything fun, he’d give me a call. It’s okay. I know he won’t. I know that all boys are f***heads. Some are more lovable than others. Some are better liars. Some are better looking. But in the end, they’re all f***heads. It’s a shame really. But even in the end, the nice ones are bad, too. You know, PIC really picked a bad time to leave me. F*** her, too.

What a bundle of joy I was. And not over dramatic at all. Nope. Not. At. All.

Honestly, I read that now and I laugh. It all boils down to my biggest NYE 2001 concern being that I didn’t have plans. (Hey, who ever said teenage girls were rational?) And it could have been worse. I could have had to break up an impending fight, like I did three years ago.

At that time, I was still in Paris after my semester abroad, and some friends from college had come to spend New Year’s Eve there. We were at my then-boyfriend’s apartment (yes, I was cliché and dated a French guy while abroad) and everything was going well – his friends were mixing with mine, and everyone knew enough common language to get by. And then I heard a dispute in the corner.

My friend, J, was super drunk agitated about something and was yelling at one of the French guys. I knew she didn’t speak much French (if any), so I went over to try to mediate the situation.

Liebchen: What’s wrong? What happened?

J: He called me a man!

[French guy looks both confused and shocked]

Liebchen: (to FG) What did you say?

*Note: I don’t remember now exactly what was said. But I DO remember that he in no way called this girl a man.

Liebchen: Okay, J, this is what he said. [explanation] He didn’t call you a man. It’s just a misunderstanding.

J: Don’t you tell me what he said! I know French! I speak French! [Note: NOT TRUE. She speaks Spanish.]

Liebchen: (to J) All right. Why don’t we go over here? (to FG) Walk away, NOW. (Really, it was for his own good. J gets kind of feisty from time to time.)

Thankfully, there were no punches thrown or faces slapped (that was definitely a possibility) and everyone made it out in one piece. But for a while after we DID have to hear her remind us about “that French guy that called me a man!”

Here’s to fewer miscommunications in 2009.

Cheers!

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I’m not quite sure when it started, but our family has a tradition of following holiday meals with a game of some sort. In the past it’s been Cranium, SceneIt, Clue, Trivial Pursuit – you name it, we’ve played it. Occasionally, the games will even get a wee bit, ahem, heated – I come by my competitive streak honestly.

I think it’s safe to say that this Christmas we hit a whole new level.

After a few rousing rounds of Catch Phrase, we moved into the dining room for a game of Scrabble. My cousin, my uncle, and then teams of Mama & me, and Daddy & Jud. Everyone was doing well – we all grew up playing Scrabble and doing crossword puzzles with Mamie (my grandmother). And then Mama and I got a “Q” and started plotting how to use it most effectively. Oh, was that a Triple Word Score that just opened up? Why yes, yes it was. And down goes our word, two letters, thirty-three points: qi.

What? You don’t think it counts? That’s okay, neither did anyone in my family. (Except Mama – she totally had my back.)

This could have been us. Minus the swords. Although, that doesn't sound like nearly as much fun...

This could have been us. Minus the swords. Although, that doesn't sound like nearly as much fun...

In fact, I was getting yelled at, not just by my brother, whose competitive streak rivals mine, but also by my father, the usually calm voice of reason! He kept arguing that “qi” isn’t in his Scrabble dictionary (which, I recently found out, was published circa 1980 – and that’s generous) and that it wasn’t valid. Since I’m clearly too stubborn to take the word back so as to avoid a family feud, they challenged, and this is what we found from the official online Scrabble dictionary:

  • QI
    (QIS)
    the vital force that in Chinese thought is inherent in all things

Oh, how I love to be right.

Fortunately, the game was over soon after that, a blessing, because unfortunately, even with the official ruling, my dad and brother were still acting like 10-year-olds who’d been cheated out of a win. I tried to let it drop, we drove home without mentioning it, and my brother (surprisingly enough) apologized later that night. I appreciated the apology, though I didn’t really need it, and I frankly forgot about it until yesterday.

Now remember, this happened on Christmas. As in, last Thursday.

Cut to Monday, around 5pm, just as I’m getting ready to leave the office. My phone rings, and I answer it professionally, even though I think I recognize one of my dad’s office numbers. Whew, it’s him. After a little chitchat about how AMAZING the Eagles game was, he says, “Well, I know you’re heading out, but I just wanted to apologize.” Huh?

Liebchen: “Apologize for what? Should I be mad at you?”

Daddy: “For the Scrabble game. I shouldn’t have acted like that. I’m just used to the old school rules and dictionary.”

Liebchen: “Really? It’s okay. I’d completely forgotten about that by this point.”

[beat]

Liebchen: “Wait a minute. You thought I was still mad at you and you waited ’til NOW to apologize?”

Daddy: “Yeah, I had to think about it.”

Hm. Well, apparently I come by my stubborn streak honestly, too.

Stubborn and competitive – this can only end in tears.

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One of the best presents this Christmas didn’t come under the tree or in my stocking. In fact, it didn’t even come on Christmas day.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved my “kitchen Christmas,” as my mother called it. I needed that new soup pot, chopping knife, and wine rack (which I put together MYSELF – thank you, thank you).

Now all I need is more wine...

Now all I need is more wine...

But, no. The Christmas miracle is this: the Philadelphia Eagles managed to snag the last Wild Card spot in the NFC! Yes, the same Eagles who tied the Bengals, who blew close leads against both the Redskins and the Cowboys, and whose star quarterback was benched after the first half of the game against the Ravens. I, along with many Philly fans, kept repeating the mantra: We still have the Phillies. We still have the World Series. It’ll be okay. The sentiments were less than adequate, however, after the poor showing against the Redskins last week, and I wasn’t feeling very hopeful as I headed off to the bar yesterday to watch my Eagles play the Cowboys. For what I thought would be their last game of the season.

I’ve never been happier to be proven wrong.

44-6. 44-6? Eagles, where did that come from? And can you keep it up against the Vikings next week? You’ve shocked us all, and gotten our hopes up. Please don’t disappoint.

That said, even if they don’t get any further than this wild card spot, there’s always next year.

And besides, a win massacre win (I’ll be nice) against the Cowboys is a pretty fantastic way to end the regular season.

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I’m now back in Philly for the holidays with my family, and getting ready to do the one thing I truly dread about Christmas: Last Minute Gift Shopping. Sure, blame me ’cause I didn’t get my presents earlier, but I’m a busy girl. I had parties procrastinating watching bad TV work to do.

So now I have to venture out into the hoards of people whose intelligence drops several levels when they find themselves confronted with sales, coupons, and the holidays. These people come to a dead stop in the middle of the mall, they block displays, they don’t understand that there’s an ENTIRE line behind them when they get to the register and start asking a million questions! I’m sorry, where was I?

Oh, yes. An utter lack of intelligence in the malls – at this time of the year, more so than usual. I’m silently cursing my poor planning, mapping out my route, and hoping no one gets in my way. For their own safety, of course.exitstrategy

Wish me luck. I might need it to keep my sanity.

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One of the answers to my crossword puzzle the other day was Milo & Otis. I read it over again, trying to remember the last time I’d seen that movie, and then it hit me: first grade, in the gym, when Lee tried to hold my hand.

Ok, fine, so that's a girl and not Lee. But that's EXACTLY what his hands looked like as he chased me.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The story actually starts in kindergarten.

There was a boy, Gavin, who I had a huge crush on. Or, as big a crush as a five-year-old can have, anyway. However, because of the unfairness of life, he was far more interested in playing “go fish” with his buddies, than sitting on the storytime rug with me. While I was crushing on Gavin, Lee was apparently crushing on me. This was a secret (to me, at least) until one incident in the classroom. An arts and crafts project had left Lee with glue on his hands. Instead of washing it off (or even letting it dry and peeling the pieces off…wait, what? no one else did that? ok…), he decided to Glue. Himself. To Me. Yes, you read that right. He chased me around the classroom in an attempt to stick his gluey hands on me. I shrieked, and managed to duck and cover until we had some teacher intervention. Suffice it to say, he was unsuccessful in his endeavor, but it made me wary of him for the rest of the year.

Cut to first grade, and the day that we got to go watch Milo & Otis on the big projector screen in the gym. We carried our chairs in, and dutifully sat in rows by class. I saw Lee a bit ahead of me to the side, but didn’t think much of it. As more students filed in, we inched our chairs further and further up, to make room and fill in space, and all of a sudden I saw what had happened. While I had been inching up, Lee had been inching over. As “luck” would have it, by the time all the space was filled in we were sitting right next to each other and he was grinning at me. Like it was my idea.

As the movie started, he reached over and took my hand. I smacked it away. He tried again. I smacked again. He was a persistent fellow. Two of my classmates turned around. “Liebchen, just hold his hand!” they hissed. Apparently, the smacking was getting in the way of the movie. Frankly, I was also nervous because I’d gotten in trouble earlier that year for sticking my tongue out at a boy who was annoying me; I doubted the teachers in the room would tolerate me hitting a student.

I pushed his hand away one more time, and gave him what I hoped was a don’t-even-think-about-it glare – one that I’ve since perfected. He just grinned and scooted his chair closer so that our legs were practically touching, but kept his hands to himself.

I sighed, focused on the movie, and thanked God that there was no glue in the gym.

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I was at a holiday party the other night where the hosts asked everyone to bring a present for Toys for Tots. hess-2000-firetruckContributions ranged from stuffed animals to remote-control cars to interactive books, and so on and so forth. And then, one girl walked in with the Coolest Fire Truck Ever. There were sirens going off and lights flashing and, I swear, it was about two feet long. It completely trumped the little Hess Fire Truck I had as a kid.

But, while some toys are significantly cooler and more entertaining now, there are others that I wouldn’t change a thing about, and would still ask Santa for.

1. Easy-Bake Oven

I never had one when I was younger – and I’m not entirely sure why. Surely, instilling a love a baking is a positive thing. And, I imagine, it’s much harder to set something on fire when cooking with a light bulb.

2. Trampoline

My brother and I lobbied for a trampoline nearly every year growing up. When Santa failed to oblige us, we turned to our parents. Apparently, they were all in cahoots because we were never successful in our pleas. Luckily, several friends had trampolines on which I learned to do flips, toe-touches, and play “crack the egg.”

3. Dream Phone

Okay, fine. I actually understand why I was never allowed to have this one. The whole point was to figure out who your Secret Admirer was. “To guess who your admirer is, make a special call to that boy. If you hear him say, “You’re right! I really like you!,” you win the game!” If I had to guess, I’d say my parents didn’t want to promote any “boy crazy” behavior. My friend Dina’s parents had no such problem (Dina also had an older sister, that might’ve helped), and we played every time I slept over.

4. Power Wheels Jeep

Forget the pink Barbie jeep with little flowers everywhere. I wanted what I deemed a real jeep (and mostly, that meant blue and no flowers). I was under the impression that having my own wheels would give me a little bit of freedom, so it was a rude awakening when we finally got a similar vehicle, but I couldn’t take it out without parental supervision! What? You don’t trust me? How rude! (Think: Stephanie Tanner)

5. Pretty Pretty Princessdear_santa

Ah, yes. Last, but certainly not least. This was one of my favorites. Again, not one that I owned, but one that several of my friends did. I remember it like it was yesterday (I swear it wasn’t – I haven’t played in, oh, at least a year), going around the board, collecting my pieces of jewelry – I wanted that crown so badly. The princess dream was so deeply ingrained that when I was eight years old, I drew a picture of myself labeled “Princess Liebchen” with Rapunzel-esque hair, in response to a  “Show yourself in 20 years” direction. I have five years left to fulfill the princess dream, if I want to stay on my childhood schedule. Damn procrastination.

My “Dear Santa” lists aren’t nearly as fun anymore, but sometimes I still cross my fingers that I’ll finally get the trampoline.

(Santa? Are you reading? At least I’m not asking for a pony…)

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Just as a preface, before you get too disappointed, this is NOT another “screamer” story. I’m more than that. So much more. At least for this week.

So, that being said…

Let me paint you a picture. It’s the summer of 1993 and my family and I are in California for a couple weeks before school starts back up. We started out visiting my aunt and uncle in L.A., which was nice and all, but my little eight-year-old self couldn’t wait to get to the good stuff: Disneyland!

Sure, we went to Sea World first, which was awesome, but in my mind nothing could compare with breathless_mahoneySpace Mountain. (I wonder if I’d be disappointed if I rode it now…) While we were at the park, I started to feel a little less than stellar. I chalked it up to the heat, drank some water, whined A LOT, and was determined not to let it ruin my day. Because I hadn’t even gotten to the best part of Disneyland yet: the live show of Dick Tracy! I’m not sure when it started, but I distinctly remember wanting to be Madonna’s character, Breathless Mahoney (who I mistakenly called Breathless Miami for a long time).

What a role model, right?

Anyway, by the time the show rolled around, I was really starting to feel queasy. We sat in the very last row of the amphitheater, so we could make a quick getaway if I thought I was going to boot.

And then I felt *it* and knew we weren’t getting out of there in time. I spewed my little guts out, right on the concrete floor of the theater where my feet had just been. (I may have gotten my brother a wee bit – I can’t be sure at this point.) This would have been bad enough (I mean, who throws up at Disneyland NOT in conjunction with a ride?), but don’t worry, there’s more.

The very design of an amphitheater demands that the seats in the back are higher than those in the front. That is, the floor is sloped. You with me? Yeah, that nice puddle of vomit started oozing its way down underneath the bench in front of us. Where there was another family. Who my parents had to warn to pick up their feet (or, ideally, choose a new seat).

I was mortified beyond belief, and even more so when the dad in front of us turned around to console me: “It’s okay, sweetie, we’ve all been there.”

Really? Gross.

(Note: We found out later that I’d actually had sun poisoning, and it was worse than it should have been because it came right on the heels of the Lyme disease I’d had earlier that summer. Awesome.)

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One of my favorite parts about the holidays is the baking. For both Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’m responsible for making the desserts, which consist of pumpkin pie, pecan pie, (sometimes) apple pie, and egg custard pie (my favorite). I’ll also occasionally venture into the cookie arena, and join my mom in making two Christmas staples: shortbread (naturally), and lace cookies.

Last year around this time, I thought I’d bring a little Christmas cheer to my then-roommate, and make my mom’s lace cookies. Being ever so health conscious at that point, I thought that perhaps I could substitute a cup of Splenda for the cup of sugar listed in the recipe. I attribute that poor decision to my eventual failure. From the looks of them, the “cookies” were just stubbornly refusing to cook at all. I had blobs of warm oatmeal-y dough. Dammit.

All in all, my kitchen karma last year was not stellar. I had another mishap while making monkey bread, post the lace cookie debacle. Part of the recipe involves cutting up biscuit dough, coating it, and layering it in a bundt pan. I went step by step, filling the pan to the top – forgetting the simple fact that when the biscuits baked, they would expand, and I had left them nowhere to go but up and out. Smiling to myself, and thinking how tasty this monkey bread would be, I sat down on the couch to watch TV while it baked. After a bit, I started to hear a slight *pop* sound. Then the popping became more frequent. And then, something didn’t smell quite right. I strolled back into the kitchen, still fairly oblivious, until I saw that there was a small fire in my oven!

Honestly, I don’t even remember putting the fire out – it might have just felt bad for me and put itself out. I do, however, remember seeing little bits of dough all over the bottom (and sides) of the oven, and the smell of burnt sugar filling the air. And, at that point, I wondered when and how my baking skills had deteriorated so thoroughly that I couldn’t even remember to account for expansion.

This year, I’ve been taking the baking slowly. I’ve had success on a few occasions with the Best Ever Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins, and decided that I would risk the lace cookies again. After all, they’re a holiday tradition. (Not the monkey bread, though. Not yet.) And this time…success!! I used real sugar and real butter and have come to the conclusion that holiday treats just don’t have to be healthy.

In any case, I doubt you’d have as difficult a time with them as I did, and these cookies are delicious and well worth it – and a great addition to any dessert spread:

Lace Cookies

1 cup quick oats

1 cup sugar

1 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. flour, plus 1 tsp.

1/4 tsp. baking powder

1 egg

1/2 cup butter (melted)

1 tsp. vanilla (give or take – I love vanilla, so I’m pretty liberal with it)

Preheat oven to 350. Mix dry ingredients together. Beat egg well and add to dry mixture. Pour in melted butter and blend. Add vanilla. Drop 1/4 tsp. of batter on pan lined with aluminum foil. Bake for approximately 6 minutes. (Note: bake until slightly brown around the edges. My oven took closer to 10 minutes.) After baking, leave cookies on foil until cool.

This picture doesn't nearly do them justice. (And, why yes, that's my advent calendar and sort-of creche in the background. And you can bet that if I could have a tree, I would.)

This picture doesn't nearly do them justice. (Why yes, that's my advent calendar and sort-of creche in the background. And you can bet that if I could have a tree, I would. And you'd be seeing a picture.)

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Watching the Eagles game win last night, I noted, several times, the celebratory moves of the players (DeSean Jackson, in particular) when they did something especially well. And it reminded of an article I read a couple months back, about how Jackson and another rookie were fined for “excessive celebration.” Frankly, it surprised me. Growing up, I remember every guy I knew (and some girls) perfecting their own “end zone dance.” It didn’t matter if the only football you ever played was during gym class, you knew exactly how you were going to celebrate if you scored.

But that fine, and the reminder of it last night, made me think: who gets to judge whether the celebration was excessive? How do I sign up for that job? And what qualifies as “excessive,” anyway? I mean, are fist pumps okay, but ass shaking isn’t? I’m pretty sure I could make the call.

Chicken dance in the end zone? Totally excessive!

Chicken dance in the end zone? Totally excessive!

An extensive Google search (fine, half an hour, what do you want from me?) was very little help. From what I can tell, it’s the NFL Commissioner and/or League Officials who can appropriate the fines. And I suppose on-field officials can file “excessive celebration” under “unsportsmanlike conduct,” and award yard penalties.

Call me crazy, but I don’t think it’s in my future to be the next, or even the next next next Commissioner of the National Football League. And I definitely don’t see myself as an NFL referee – too much danger of being trampled. (Come to think of it – are there any female referees? Just curious.)

So, even though I failed was only moderately unsuccessful in finding out how to pursue a career of “excessive celebration” judge, I did find some other gems in the NFL Digest of Rules, that I will definitely be looking for in upcoming games:

  • No leaping.
  • No leverage.
  • No taunting.
  • No chop block. (I had to look that up. And by that, I mean, I asked my dad.)
  • Penalty against any punter, placekicker, or holder who simulates being roughed by a defensive player. (So, basically, no faking it.)
  • No palpably unfair act. (You know, to be specific…)

And, my absolute favorite:

Touchdown Awarded (Palpably Unfair Act)

  • When Referee determines a palpably unfair act deprived a team of a touchdown. (Example: Player comes off bench and tackles runner apparently en route to touchdown.)

Really? That happens?? I was already laughing to myself at the thought of grown men being told “no leaping” and “no taunting.” But the mental image of an irate player on the bench leaping (already a no-no) up to tackle an opposing team’s runner…priceless. It’s like something out of a movie – maybe Varsity Blues.

On second thought, maybe I will look into being a referee – especially if there’s a chance I could see some shenanigans like that.

NFL, here I come.

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…so let’s stick with weekend highlights for now.

Office holiday party:

I managed to avoid fire, interventions, and most open-mouth-insert-foot “opportunities.” However, after having been served all night, I got carded by the female bartender. “Wait, really?” I asked her, as I gestured to one of the other bartenders. “He served me earlier.” But then he, instead of confirming that he had, indeed, served me, comes over and whispers, “Wait, you’re not actually 21?” Oy.

Don’t worry, though – a coworker vouched for me, saying, “I recognize you from Bar Often Frequented. You’re friends with Arjewtino! (turns to the bartender) It’s okay, I’ve served her before.” Is it sad when a coworker recognizes you from a bar, and not the office?

Post-holiday party:

I, of course, did end up going to Bar Often Frequented afterward and had a great time. Until I started walking home and decided that my shoes were bothering me. The heels kept getting stuck in the cracks in the sidewalk, and leaving me with one shoe off, one shoe on. Because I’m so wise, I knew that my best bet was to just take them off altogether, and continue walking – barefoot. I kept it up for about a block, and then put them back on – not because the sidewalk was gross (that didn’t even occur to me), but because the ground was freezing.

And I’m positive that I now have frostbite in my big toe (along with who knows what else from the grimy sidewalk). Laugh all you want, but it’s still a little numb.

Jingle All The Way 10K:

First and foremost, I’m so glad there was a day of recovery rest and relaxation between this race and the office party. Now, to be honest, leaving my apartment Sunday morning while it was still dark, to go running in the cold with my frostbitten toe, made me question my sanity. I strongly contemplated ditching, but convinced myself that I would feel so good once I had finished. Of course, I was right, and my running teammates and I rewarded ourselves with big diner breakfasts afterward. After all, after a workout like that, you can eat whatever you want! What? Is that not the right logic?

Anyway, now I can’t wait to sign up for my next race: The Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run. Who knows, at this rate, I might even fulfill my goal of running a marathon next year.

Hey, it could happen.

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