Monday, June 30, 2008

The Long Road Home

We took a short trip up to Idaho to see my Grandma and new Grandpa (both were fairly recently widowed and got married to each other) this weekend. I was pretty amazed at how uneventful the trip up was; Avey slept and played the whole way up. It was great to see a lot of family too. My dad was already up there for a visit and a lot of his siblings were nearby for a cousin's wedding. We also dragged my brothers along for the ride.

The trip would have been just about perfect had it not been for the drive home. We made a stop to eat and feed Avey, which was fine, just added a chunk to our trip. Then, about 20 miles north of Salt Lake City, traffic became horrific. We were in bumper-to-bumper rows of endless cars for almost an hour, inching along slowly while Avey slowly became sick of her car seat. In short, it was a miserable last two hours in the car and we got home that much later than we'd planned. Ugh.

The good news of the blog is that I have a job! Well, I have a job set up for graduate school. Briefly, I was not awarded a work-study stipend from the stingy government (I guess we made too much money last year or something). That meant that I would have to work for free for the next year, essentially. But I hooked up with a professor out there who has some funding. He looked over my resume and offered me 20 hours a week! That's actually about as good as it gets for a grad student. So things are really starting to fall together.

Kira completed her application to work also and it looks like she'll be able to work as much and often as she'd like, so between the two of us, I think we'll be just fine.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Tests Up the Wazoo

This was a very busy week, full of tests. First of all, Friday was the belt test for the Tae Kwon Do students at my work. Because I hadn't actually been tested at any belt level, the instructor had me finally test through all the belts up to blue (the fifth belt) on Wednesday so that I could have some credibility when testing the students. I crammed over the weekend and for a few minutes Monday and Tuesday and tested and actually passed! So I am officially a blue belt in Tae Kwon Do! As you can see, Avey is really proud of me... Friday was also the day I had scheduled my SSW exam. Passing the exam means I get licensed as a Social Service Worker. All that means is that I get a big fat raise at work! It was a very long test, and the hardest part was staying awake for the whole thing. I passed and now Kira keeps making fun of me because it's a social work license (you may not all know, but psychologists and social workers are sort of mortal enemies).
My dad also came into town for the weekend on his way up to Idaho. We had some fun with him and Avey put on a show as usual; she now waves with her left hand by making little circles. It's adorable.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

How Eli Got His Groove Back

Well, after some sleepless nights and a whole lotta pep talks from Kira (including the nice tribute below this post), I tried again! Thanks to all of you who fasted and prayed on my behalf. Nobody told me about it, but I'm sure a lot of you did, because it paid off. I baked the cookies and they actually turned out edible this time!

That's not to say I did not run into my share of snags. First of all, I got baking and when it came time to add the flour, I was about 4 cups short! I mean, I scraped the bottom of the container and there was no flour left in the house. As I flashbacked to last week and my left eye began twitching while I broke into a hot sweat, Kira said, "Didn't you have some in the freezer?"
Oh yeah.

So I fished that out of the freezer, mixed it in and got the perfect consistency in the dough and prepared for the icing on the cake (as it were. But in this case, it wasn't at all. In fact, it was the chocolate chips in the dough).

I must have nearly passed out this time when I saw that we had one bag of regular chocolate chips and one bag of mini-chocolate chips. I could feel my hair turning grey as I searched through the cupboards for one more bag of chocolate chips. I queried my brothers to no avail. I even ran to a fellow baker in the ward, but found that she was fresh out. She assured me that the mini-chocolate chips would be fine and I began to believe her. But, just like buyer's remorse, by the time I had walked home, I was in a panic again. I tried one last time with our next-door neighbors and, finally, the chocolate chip cookie gods smiled upon me, for they had half a bag of milk chocolate chips and half a bag of semi-sweet. Praise be to Cookie Monster (I figure he's got to be one of the cookie gods)!

After a whole lot of baking, they came out very nicely. I think I just might recover from last week.

That, in combination with some other happenings today, made for a great Father's Day. Kira, against all my protests, made me a delicious breakfast of bacon and æbleskivers (a Ricks family tradition). Avey and Kira let me sleep in a little extra, and I even got a nap today! I'll tell you, I can get spoiled pretty easily. A little sleep and a lot of chocolate, and I'm happy as a clown.

Happy Father's Day!

Kira here; this is my first (and maybe last) post on the blog. I figure Father's Day is a worthy cause for me to share my thoughts about...yes, you guessed it, Avey's AMAZING Daddy! I appreciate the many sides of Eli: the thoughtful man...
the goofy, nerdy boy...
and the darn, handsome stud!
Eli has many excellent qualities and talents such as baking, blogging, enjoying Avey even when she is not really acting very enjoyable, keeping possibly unkind comments to himself when I often blurt out mine to him, seemingly endless patience with Avey and me, making puns, writing, singing, appreciating music, remembering tasks and dates without writing them down, folding baby laundry, doing dishes, grocery shopping, enduring "chick-flicks" and other unclaimed obsessions (American Idol), giving back rubs, and I could continue on and on. He is a punctual and dependable employee, he is loyal, trustworthy, he places others' convenience above his own, he uses good manners, polite words, and excellent grammar, and he is an unabashedly adoring father. He seems to possess the extra measure of patience for parenting that I lack (perhaps because he is away from Avey all day?) and comes in and "saves" her at the right time. Avey is blessed to have Eli as her father and I am blessed to call him all mine.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Failure

Here's a picture of Avey showing what she really thinks of Wal-Mart's weekly ad:
She sure loves to destroy paper!

Well, brace yourselves for this one, lads and lassies; today was pretty much the worst Sunday of my life. And I've lived for over 26 years, so I've seen my fair share of Sundays. I'll start at the beginning...
It was a warm Sunday afternoon several weeks back. I was off to do some home teaching after church and I hadn't had much of a meal all day, so my thoughts surrounded all things edible. To my amazement and pleasure, my home teaching partner brought me out a fresh plate of cookies his wife had just baked a few minutes prior. Now, as you probably all know, I am outrageously picky and critical when it comes to cookies. I look at cookies the way a wine connoisseur looks at wines. I'll judge them on texture, distribution of chocolate chips, use of butter vs. margarine, whether it was baked on aluminum or stone, whether they used dark or light brown sugar, a convection or conduction oven, etc (the term you are searching for is "obsessive-compulsive disorder").
So, needless to say, I was a bit skeptical when he handed me the plate. However, I bit into the cookie and got that feeling; you know, the one where you realize your life will never be the same from that moment on; where you wonder what purpose your life had up until that moment. The cookie was far better than anything I had ever baked in my life. The experience was almost spiritual.
Needless to say, I demanded the recipe (politely at first). She gave it to me while passing in the hall at church a couple of weeks later, writing it down from memory and handing it to me. I patiently waited for the chance to try it out myself and, yes, today was the day!
I quickly cooked lunch so that I could get it out of the way and have no distractions while I worked. I carefully read the recipe, and with almost surgical precision, measured out and mixed each of the ingredients.
This is where something went horribly wrong.
Near the end of adding the flour, it struck me that the dough was feeling awfully thick for such amazing cookies. I retraced my steps for the recipe and was doing everything just as it said, so pressed onward. I baked the first twelve...
ABSOLUTELY HORRENDOUS! I have never had something so dry, crusty and flavorless come out of my oven in all my life - and I've baked Hot Pockets before.
I again retraced my steps, finding nothing incorrect about following the recipe. I consulted with my dear mother, a veteran baker, to ask her counsel. I then followed her advice and added more butter. The result: texture was much better, but flavor left me wanting like an eight-year-old boy one nickel short of a cool, satisfying ice cream cone on a sweltering Summer's day.
Three more attempts to adjust for the error, but alas, it was not to be.
Somehow, I must have done something wrong, or had some spoiled ingredients, or she left out some vital information in the recipe she gave me. You're probably thinking, "Just check the recipe again with her and try it one more time." Thank you, but I may need a few weeks before I can bring myself to bake anything again.
Yes, I do think it's pretty pathetic that I measure my manhood by my baking skills. While you're bringing that up, why don't you point out how I'm the only male in the world I know that keeps a blog! Man, I'm such a girl...

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Week After

Is there anything harder than the four days after a three-day-weekend? You know what I'm talking about; your alarm goes off Tuesday morning (far earlier than any alarm should ever go off), which pulls you out of that dream where you're on a quiet beach, laying in your hammock eating the biggest hot fudge sundae you've ever seen in your life while the London Symphony Orchestra is playing a phenomenal version of "Stairway to Heaven" ever so pleasantly from the palm trees behind you and, just as you're wiping some of the hot fudge off of your chin, some guy in a tux you know is named "Jeeves" asks you to "pardon the interruption, but the bank just called and said they've decided to just start loading up your account with all sorts of money".

Yeah, your alarm wakes you from that and you roll over and mumble some sort of soft profanity as you realize the vacation is over and reality is here with a vengeance...

You walk through the door at work and make eye contact with a coworker who's just been woken from that same dream. Neither of you says anything; neither needs to say anything. That look on your faces is enough. It seems to say, "Yes, work stinks. I'd rather be doing just about anything else right now, but it's only 38 days until the 4th of July, right? That will keep us going...think of the 4th..."

And somehow by Wednesday, that glorious extra day of freedom seems a cloudy fantasy. Maybe it never actually happened. Maybe it was a moment that existed only somewhere in the cells of your brain, along with that hammock on that beach. Alas... only 33 more days until the next oasis: Independence Day.