Saturday, December 31, 2005

4 hours away...

Wow -- doesn't feel like another year's flown by. Even harder to believe I've been here in DC now for over nine months. Feels like only yesterday, but then again I really feel at home. That's always a good thing.

It's nice to wrap up a year feeling like you've accomplished something or that things are in a good place. It's been a busy year. I managed to finish up my MBA and I started a new job I really like. I finally am in a photography program, something I've dreamed of doing since ... gosh ... who knows when! I'm so thankful to have met so many great people in the area. I think it's hard to believe I haven't been here longer when I'm surrounded by so many good friends. I've also been able to see family & friends so much over the holidays that I truly just feel so blessed. No complaints from me for 2005.

So this year I said I was going to really do the New Year's resolution thing. I usually come up with some but, as I think is the norm for most people, they usually get forgotten. Maybe posting it somewhere like this will make me more accountable? Sounds like worth a shot! Hmmm well I don't think that one's list should be completely public, so I'll share a few...

- Cook more at home (combined with learning to cook more, period!)
- Finish my photography program on schedule in September
- Make it out to visit friends in Cali finally
- Finally visit some of the battlefields around DC

Hope everyone has a great New Year's (and a safe one). All the best to you guys in 2006. Hope to get to see those of you farther away soon in the new year! I'm hoping 2006 is as much of a positive experience as 2005 has been for me.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

¡feliz navidad!

Some families watch It's a Wonderful Life... some watch A Christmas Story (ahhh A Christmas Story... how many ways do I despise thee?). To me, it's not Christmas without Home Alone, or other wonderful classics such as How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Raindeer, Charlie Brown Christmas, or my favorite new kid on the block - Elf ("Santa! I know him...").

I'm happily done with the much anticipated Christmas shopping frenzy. Thankfully, now can focus on the most important Christmas activity of holiday baking and eating. We all have our fortes... what can I say. It's only right to bless others with your talents, right?
Hope you are all having a wonderful Christmas Eve, wherever the holidays have taken you and in whomever's company the holidays have taken you.

I think everyone has their Christmas traditions, and so I'm off to eat some wonderful chili with cheddar cheese (no beans, the proper way to make chili!), homemade cinnamon rolls, and some wonderful gingerbread spice hot tea (this year's new addition).

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

mr. pibb + red vines = crazy delicious...

I used to be an avid watcher of SNL... back when some of my faves were still on (whether it's oooolllldddd ones like Adam Sandler and Mike Myers or the newer crew like Will Ferrell and Jimmy Fallon...). My sister and I were watching the Saturday this one aired, although seems that due to impecable timing, I chose to cut my head open on my kitchen cabinets during this very skit (oooops -- skills).
Lucky for us it's online... and you too if you haven't checked it out. Too funny...

What I wouldn't do for a BAKER'S DOZEN of Magnolia cupcakes right now... mmmmm...

Let's hit up Magnolia and mack on some cupcakes.
No doubt, that bakery's got all the bomb frosting.
I love those cupcakes like McAdams loves Gosling.

You can call us Aaron Burr by the way we droppin' Hamiltons!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

sinterklaas... zwarte piete... will santa send YOU Back to spain?

One of the most um unique holiday celebrations I've come across over the years takes place in Holland of all places. When my sister was studying in Amsterdam, my family encountered this first-hand, as the celebrations were underway and decorations featuring Zwart Piete, or "Black Peter" were everywhere. It was interesting that what is perhaps the most un-PC holiday celebration I've ever come across is just the norm there and considered to be no big deal. He's everywhere - hanging from the ceiling in De Bijenkorf ("The Beehive" - the big store in Amsterdam), decorating wrapping paper, to stuffed dolls as a part of the festivities.

I found this guy's summary of his experience in Amsterdam online. Pretty interesting, combined naturally with Mr. Sedaris!

Back in November, I was riding my bike home from work when I noticed a bunch of kids walking around looking like they were trick or treating. I was pretty confused since it was past Halloween. I ended up stopping and asking a woman who was riding her kids on her bike (of course, 1 was sitting on a seat in the back and the other was riding on the handlebars). I asked the woman what the deal was and she told me it was St. Martin's Day. I don't know who St. Martin was but traditionally, Dutch children make paper mache lanterns and go from door to door, singing songs and in return they are given candy. They don't dress in costume. It was rather interesting to see though.

But not nearly as interesting to see as this – Sinterklaas and his helper, Zwarte Piete. Sinterklaas is Santa Clause with some slight differences. From what I've been told, Sinterklaas was a real man who lived in the 300s. He was a wealthy man who gave gifts to needy children by dropping them down chimneys. When he died, he was made a saint and his birthday began to be celebrated as a holiday that involved gift giving. Somehow Hallmark figured out how to get this image to coincide with Jesus' b-day but that's a whole other story…

Anyways, Sinterklaas day is December 5. In mid-Novemeber, Sinterklaas arrives in Holland by boat from Spain (why by boat and why from Spain, I have no clue) on a white horse. He then spends the next 2 weeks riding his horse from rooftop to rooftop, listening down the chimney for good boys and girls who will get gifts. The bad children will be kidnapped and taken back to Spain to be slaves. Is this demented enough yet? Not even close.

Because now I get to tell you about Zwarte Piete, Sinterklaas' helpers. Zwarte Piete are white people who dress in very colorful and baggy clothes. They almost look like jesters. They wear curly black hair, gold earrings, and have big red lips. The most disturbing characteristic? They are white people who wear blackface. Can you believe this? It is fully acceptable and even encouraged for white people to paint their entire faces black and then call themselves Zwarte Piete – Black Pete. What is wrong with these people? And when you ask them about this and whether it might be a bit inappropriate and dare say, racist, they respond by saying that everyone loves Zwarte Piete.

I mean, what was it, the 1930s when Al Jolsen was blackface in "The Jazz Singer". This is something so taboo now, it's amazing to think that there is a place that allows it without a shred of embarrassment. Some of the Dutch will say that Zwarte Piete are white people who get their faces dirty by climbing up and down chimneys. But I remember the Chim-Chimney Chim-Chimney Chim-Chim-Charoo scene with Dick Van Dyke in "Mary Poppins" – he was a chimneysweeper who had a dirty face. He also had dirty clothes, unlike the perfectly clean and colorful clothes of Zwarte Piete. How did Zwarte Piete's face get so dirty but nothing else?

It is truly amazing. I would expect that not only would some Dutchie tell me that this is not racist, but then they will tell me that Donovan McNabb is not that good a quarterback and that he is over hyped by the media. Cumon! Zwarte Piete is all over the place too, included in advertisements, dolls, and chocolate, everywhere. It's crazy…

Chris happened to have been in town when Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piete arrived in Holland. He was walking down the street where the parade was going to occur. He told me that the parade was running late and the young kids who were waiting anxiously for the parade and ultimately, for the treats that Zwarte Piete would be handing out, to begin. Just then, they all started cheering for Zwarte Piete, pointing and screaming. When Chris turned around, he saw a black man who was working as a janitor, cleaning up garbage off the street. These kids saw a black man and thought it was Zwarte Piete. Now, tell me this isn't racist and wrong. Or shall we just say, very Dutch!

Happy Holidays, wherever your travels may take you and in whatever form your celebrations may take :)

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