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1. What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before?
Went to Ecuador and the Galapagos.
Touched a whale shark.
Swam with hammerhead sharks.
Hiked to 16,000 feet up a volcano.
Threw a baby shower and became a sort-of (sort-of because we’re calling ourselves aunts, though we aren’t related at all) aunt to Nate and Shelly’s baby Owen.
Began to seriously contemplate giving Owen a sort-of cousin.
Earned my PhD. Officially became a Doctor!
Published a paper from my graduate work.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I didn’t make an official New Year’s Resolution for 2010. Rather, maybe, the nebulous get healthy/stay healthy goal. And I think I’ve done pretty well. Mentally, I’m in a much better place now than I was a year or even two years ago. Physically, I’ve taken care of some healthy issues, really started exercising more, and have even lost a decent amount of weight. So all in all, I’d say I did pretty well. And frankly, I’ll probably make the same resolution. There’s always room for improvement.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Yep, Shelly did! To a beautiful little baby boy on Thanksgiving morning. This is also the thing I’m most thankful for in 2010–that two of my best friends became parents to a beautiful, healthy baby. And that Owen is a wonderful baby.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No, though we worried a lot about John’s grandmother due to all the things that contributed to her prolonged hospital stay, which included a heart attack and a pulmonary embolism. But she’s doing much, much better now.

5. What countries did you visit?
Ecuador and the Galapagos (same country, but vastly different). Both were amazing.

6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?
Health care through my job.
More financial security.
A larger living space.

7. What dates from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Owen’s birth.
My fifth wedding anniversary.
My dissertation defense date.
My graduation ceremony.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Earning my PhD.
Getting healthy.

9. What was your biggest failure?
With the goal of mental health, I’m not answering.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I threw my shoulder out again on December 26th, 2009, and thus spent the first 3-4 months of 2010 re-healing it.
I was diagnosed with a fairly non-serious medical disorder that is now under control.
Mild aches and pains at times, especially when I took up running again.
But in general, pretty healthy, especially right now!

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Baby clothes for Owen.
A trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos.
Perfect Christmas presents for everyone. It took awhile to find just the right thing for each and every person, but I did! This is, quite honestly, my favorite part about Christmas.

12. Where did most of your money go?
Rent and groceries and utilities and boring adult things.
Paying for my own health care for the second half of the year. Maybe I should have re-thought that whole graduating and no-longer-a-student thing. But it was worth it.

13. What did you get really excited about?
Owen’s birth.
Graduating with my PhD.
My new job.
Elizabeth’s residency here in the Bay Area, meaning she and Mark will continue to live here and we can see them all the time.
The San Jose Sharks pummeling the Detroit Red Wings in the NHL Conference semi-finals.

14. What song will always remind you of 2010?
Black Eyed Peas “I gotta feeling”. (Was that even this year?) But it was a good year and a good song.

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:

A bit thinner. Maybe happier.
Overall about the same. And happy with that.

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Scuba diving.
Running.
Exploring California like we always say we’re going to do.
But in general, it was a really good year just the way it was.

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Not much. Complaining, maybe, but I think it was a good year. I like it how it was.

18. How did you spend Christmas?
In Iowa, surrounded by family, extended family, and in-law family. Laughing, cooking, taking pictures, sharing memories, gossiping, eating, staying warm.

19. What was your favorite TV program?
Um, I didn’t watch much TV this year, honestly. Except for sports, like Sharks hockey and college basketball. John’s new favorite show is “Wild Justice”, which is pretty good. “Better With You”. “Better Off Ted”.

20. What were your favorite books of the year?
“The Gurnsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer. Love it. Highly recommend it.
Malcom Gladwell’s “Blink”, “Tipping Point” and “Outliers”.
Atul Gawande’s “Complications”.
I’m sure there were more, probably in the romance category, but none that come to mind.

21. What was your favorite music from this year?

Songs on the radio I could sing along with.
Handel’s Messiah, as always.
Christmas music, at least for the last month or so.
The group Cage the Elephant, who’s music is great for exercising.

22. What were your favorite films of the year?
I think I only went to see two movies this year. A chick flick with Elizabeth, though I can’t remember what it was. And “Eat, Pray, Love” with Shelly. Both were okay, neither were a favorite.

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 28. My dissertation was due to my committee about a week later, so I probably spent the day working on it. Went to dinner with friends, if not on my birthday, then right around that time.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
It was great as it was. For others, better health for John’s grandmother. Less heartache in the beginning of the year for my sister. A Stanley Cup for the Sharks instead of for Chicago.

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?
Comfortable.

26. What kept you sane?
John. My friends. My family. Scuba diving. Running. Graduating.

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010.

Learn to be happy with who you are, or work to be who you can be happy being.

The holiday grind is gearing up, just as the work grind is slowing down.

Next Thursday, when I come to work for the last time in 2010 (not work for the last time, as I’ll be doing some off-site work, but actually, physically come to work), it’ll be day 40 of a no-days-off-since-early-November stint. Ugh. I could really use a day off!

And I’m so glad I get to celebrate the end of my last day at work by immediately getting on a red-eye flight to Chicago! (Now where is that sarcasm font when you need it?)

Because the last time I did that it was all fun and games. Including a call for medical personnel while we were somewhere about half-way between the Bay Area and Chicago. Yeah, fun and games.

Although my work-life balance is already out of whack, and I have basically no time to myself these days, I am looking forward to the next week or so of holiday parties. Tonight with Mark and Elizabeth. Tomorrow with a friend coming into San Francisco for the week. Thursday night with another friend. Friday to myself, just to be at home with John. Oh, and make tons of food for Saturday, which is the big annual holiday party thrown by James and Cara. Sunday is a smaller party with just us, James and Cara, and Nate and Shelly. And the baby, of course. Then there’s another two dinners next week before we leave.

Speaking of tons of food, one of the things I’ll be making Friday night is my traditional Chewy Molasses-Spice cookies. Best cookies ever. There are some ass-less moles wandering around…. Ha, I crack myself up. And John too. The rest of you don’t have to laugh. BUT! I’ll be guest posting that recipe over on the lovely Abby’s Bright Yellow World, possibly tomorrow, so go check it out!

I can’t wait to give presents and hugs and love to all my friends. I love finding just the right present for someone, and then getting to see their face when they open it. In fact, I’m so eager for this that I already gave John his Christmas present last Saturday. It’s a book that I heard about and knew right away that he’d love, and figured he’d need something to read while we fly home! And he loved it! Go me!

It’s a good thing I love my friends and family so much. This is the pick-up I need right now to get me through the next ten days–something to look forward to nearly each night. Something to make work not seem quite so dreary when I continue to come into lab for five days after the university officially shuts down for the holiday break. Yeah, research doesn’t do itself, sadly.

And although I plan to arrive home early, early, early Christmas Eve morning, have breakfast with my parents, then lunch with my in-laws, and then face-plant on a couch somewhere for a much-needed nap, the whirlwind of the next weeks is going to be worth it.

May it all be merry and bright!

I’m feeling particular uninspired about writing anything, even though I had a really pretty good day.

Lazy morning with John.

Early afternoon playing Aerobie with Mark and John.

SJ Broadway show of The Color Purple with Mark and John.

Visit to Nate and Shelly to take them soups made yesterday and to visit the baby.

Dinner out with John and Mark.

Couple hours in lab. (Yeah, I tried to avoid this. But at least I was only in lab for about 10 minutes on Thursday and Saturday.)

Now a lazy evening watching random TV.

And still, I’m just drawing a blank.

John: Tell you what, I’ll make you a dutch baby for breakfast in the morning. Would that make you feel better?

Me: Yeah.

John: Or, even better, you could make it and we could pretend I did! They’re always better when you make them.

Today I am thankful for…

For my wonderful husband, who is also my best friend, who makes me laugh and smile through life. For his love and friendship every day for the last ten years, and for many, many more.

For my wonderful family, both immediate and extended, and their love and support. For our closeness and our family-ness. For the in-laws that came with John, and the way they have embraced me and welcomed me into their hearts.

For my friends, who are all so wonderful. For Mark and Elizabeth and the way we were welcomed us into their home today for a massive, delicious dinner. For James and Cara, and Nate and Shelly too. For all the laughs and hugs and memories we’ve shared. For the countless others who always make the day a little brighter when I see them.

For our collective health, our jobs, our health insurance, our opportunities, our lives together.

But most of all, today in particular, I am thankful for the doctors and nurses and hospital staff that took care of Shelly this morning. I am thankful that she gave birth to a happy, healthy baby boy. I am oh-so-incredibly thankful that she and the baby are both doing wonderfully well. I am so thankful that Nate and Shelly became parents, and I know they’ll be excellent at it.

The baby is, without a doubt, the cutest and most adorable warm bundle of humanity it has ever been my privilege to hold and cuddle.

Hearing that Shelly and the baby were doing well, and then getting to hold him, was easily the was the best part of my day. (Even more so than the stuffing.)

I am immensely thankful for all this, and more.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

I just planned out the next six-ish weeks at work, and it includes working about four of those six weekends. Including Friday, Saturday and Sunday this week. Including Thursday this week. Not for long, but still.

I feel like I’ve been focusing so much on finishing up at the current job, and spending my free time either exercising or sleeping, that I haven’t had much time for myself lately. Probably why I’m also throwing posts together before collapsing in bed.

But here are some things I want to do, little things, when I have time time:

1. Finally write up my trip stories about Papua New Guinea, as well as Ecuador and the Galapagos.

2. Make an indentation on the stack of unread books on my bedside table. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of John’s comic books because the (a) don’t take brain power, and (b) I can read a few pages and put it down instead of getting sucked in and reading all night.

3. Work on some of the recipes that I’ve been reading and drooling over in the Fine Cooking that my parents send John for his birthday. They all look so fabulous and tasty, but the last thing I want to do when I get home at 7:45, sweaty from the gym and exhausted from the day, is start in on a big meal.

4. Find some new running routes, either by poking around online or by driving to some different locales and then just running. I know this kind of falls into exercising, but I’m thinking more in terms of the long, casual runs on the weekends. The ones that are about time and distance rather than speed, that are about getting out and enjoying the day rather than making it through a workout before the gym closes. Same goes for bike routes, though it’s getting cold so those are maybe a bit limited by weather, seeing as how they’re longer than a run.

5. This sounds silly, but catch up to where John is on a couple video games. He has a bunch, and I play a few of them, and it would be nice to, say, finish editions I and II so I can start on III, which looks awesome.

6. Declutter my house. It needs it and I need it. But then again, we’re looking to move in the next six months, so maybe I leave the decluttering for the packing and unpacking process? But I feel like I need some change in my living environment.

7. Spend some quality one-on-one time with various friends. For example, Cara. We see each other fairly often, but mostly with John and James in tow. It’d be nice to get in a girl’s night. Throw in Shelly and subtract one-third of the alcohol (she’s pregnant) and it’d be a pretty awesome time.

8. Go scuba dive for fun. I haven’t done this in Monterey in forever. It’s all been classes, which have their own rewards, but are not about me, underwater, blowing bubbles and making friends with fish.

9. Watch more hockey and college basketball. I’ve got to soak it all in for the next however many months before the summer drought (and baseball) settle in.

That’s it, off the top of my head, but I’m thinking I need to make some time to do some of this. Even if it maybe means a few less workouts. Or a few days longer at the current job. My mental health could probably use some or all of the above, just to make me feel happier and more centered and more grounded in my life.

Brat wrote about having soft boiled eggs for breakfast today, and it got me thinking about comfort foods.

I think of comfort foods as ones that make you nostalgic, bring back memories. Things that just make you feel better regardless of your day. Generally, easy things to make. Warm things.

Because that is definitely one of mine. Soft boil the eggs. Make toast with butter. Chop the toast up into little squares. Scoop the egg, runny yolk and all, over the eggs. Mix, salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy. We actually do this for dinner far more often than we do it for breakfast. At the end of the day, that’s when it’s a comfort food. And it’s something that my family used to make every once in awhile, so it’s both nostalgic and feel-good.

Another one, and probably a general one, is chicken noodle soup. John would argue for tomato, but he can get his own blog if he wants to win that argument. Something about the savory and salt and warm. Throw in some biscuits or some crescent rolls or some bread that is warm and flaky and bread, and it’s perfect. Definitely a good meal on a cold night.

Arguably, when I’m sick, 99% of the time the only thing I want to eat is toast, lightly buttered. So maybe that’s another one.

Gingerbread, or ginger cookies. Holidays and home and spice. I have the best recipe for Molasses Spice cookies. We call them Mole Ass cookies. Delicious, and perfect for the holidays.

Applesauce, slightly heated, with cinnamon on top. Tastes good, smells good, makes me think of childhood.

Gooey, melty grilled cheese sandwiches. Yum. Always a feel good favorite.

Any others?

1. My cat, who was the biggest Mama’s Boy until a couple days ago, suddenly wants nothing more than to cuddle with John. Instead of me. In someways it’s a relief from his constant neediness the moment I sit down, but it’s also a bit sad. My baby doesn’t love me anymore!

2. Work is making me so angry these days, mostly because I’m spending a ton of time correcting/working on some stuff that theoretically the person I asked for help should have done. And they’re the sort of person who you can’t yell at, or even tell them you’re angry, because they’ll take it personally and take retribution. And they’re in a position to take retribution.

3. Brussel sprouts baked in a bit of olive oil, some pepper and some salt are delicious.

4. My grandmother-in-law is back in the hospital, but doing much better, and they aren’t going to send her anywhere for awhile. Glad they’re keeping an eye on her!

5. John is going to Las Vegas for the day Saturday. I’m going to see family. We both win, in very different ways.

6. I need a good savory stuffing recipe for Thanksgiving. My mom makes the best stuffing, but she says uses a different recipe every year. They all seem the same to me, and are so good.

7. I’ve been reading the comic Fable (highly recommended as a great comic story for adults), mixed in with the writings of Malcom Gladwell (interesting guy, great at getting a point across). Both a commentary on society in their own way. Both very good.

8. Tina Fey is really funny. Really, really, really funny.

9. In all the years I’ve bought running shoes, I’ve always bought them in some form of blue. My new ones are tangeriny-pinkish. I’m loving them.

10. (Geez, c’mon, I can get to 10, can’t I?) (Ummmmm…..) Peach tea is yummy.

11. Oh! Wait! Today officially opened the Stanford men’s basketball season, and Arizona opens tomorrow. Hockey and basketball are both back in my life–I love this time of year.

Well, not entirely lazy. There was a lot of cleaning and straightening around the house. And some gardening.

I do not recommend mixing dusting, gardening, and then running a couple miles while the pollen is having a last big hurrah before winter really arrives.

But then it was off to a lazy night of sushi and birthday cake with James, Cara, Shelly and Nate for Nate’s birthday.

Fabulous time.

Plus, there’s just two weeks to go before Shelly is due, so it was sort of a low-key last hurrah of hanging out as couples before one of us couples becomes a threesome.

But then again, we can’t wait for this baby. It’s been 9 months in the making (obviously) and we’ve all been super excited for about 7.5-8 of those months.

Yay baby!

Hope you all had a wonderful day. I’m off to spend an evening with my husband, followed by a whole day off from work together.

Back tomorrow.

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