Saturday, December 29, 2012


As has become tradition, we held the Waterhouse Christmas a few days late.  Although Rachel, Ben, Jack, Andy, Jenn, the dogs, Natasha, and I all arrived in Grand Junction on the 26th, we insisted on waiting until the next morning to celebrate.  Christmas just isn't Christmas unless we're all bleary-eyed and in pajamas (well, most of us anyway).

We had a grand Christmas morning what with the snow outside and the presents inside.  We were all properly spoiled.  In a wonderful illustration of my modern and antiquated tastes, Santa brought me a both new iPhone and a loom!

Yes, a loom.  And I am very excited about it.

I did some test-weaving with scrap yarn to figure out the setup, then dove in with a kit for making chenille towels.  Here, as documented with my iPhone's camera, are my skills thus far:

First, I set the warp, which took a very long time.
This warping peg hold the strands in place during setup and shows the patter I created.

Because I'm going to weave 5 towels in sequence, I had to string 15 feet-long warp threads.
Thank goodness for access to a long living room!

Next I had to thread the holes in the heddle.

Rachel snapped this filtered picture of me mid-threading.

Then I tied off the ends of the warp to the cloth apron bar.
And then the weaving starts!  I did a few waste rows with the mercantile cotton
I used for the warp, then switched to the chenille.

And here's what I had after a few hours - about one towel length. 
I'm itching to try some of the patterns in the accompanying books I received, but I'll be good and finish this towel sequence to master the basics first.  I'm looking forward to getting faster, though, with visions of the women I've seen who shoot the shuttle back and forth in a blink.

I'm game for helpers, though.  Andy took a break from his gaming to try his hand at a few rows, and even Jack has helped me push the shuttle through the "tunnel." 

Christmas Loom

Yup. I'm a weaver now. Just one more skill to chalk up for my post-apocalyptic usefulness.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Farewell, Friend; Hello, Family!

So... given our respective travel plans for the day, staying up until 3:30 AM talking last night might not have been the brightest idea we've had.  Particularly since we needed to be up by 5:30 to get Jason to the airport in time.

We are of hearty pioneer stock though, so up at 5:30 we were.  A bit bleary-eyed (not that it was noticeable), we drove to the airport and said our good-byes.  Unfortunately, Jason had flaky flights, and he spent the next nine hours hanging out in DIA.  He didn't get to board his flight until I was pulling into Grand Junction!

I, on the other hand, miraculously made it home from the airport without falling asleep and promptly went back to bed for a 90-minute power nap before packing and hitting the road for Grand Junction.  I figured out about halfway here that I had neglected to pack any pants besides the jeans I was wearing, so while I did manage to drive on 3.5 hours of sleep, I am apparently not the best at packing.

Still, I made it home for our delayed family Christmas, and the snowstorm held off until I was pulling into town.  Plus, the canyons are always pretty when you mix snow and cliffs and evergreens.

Snow in Glenwood

It was great to have Jason visit, and I'm glad to get to visit my family now!

And sleep.  Sleeping will be good too.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Day - Breakfast, Misery, Dinner, and Blogging

We didn't really open presents (traveling makes that tricky), we did have a traditional Christmas breakfast.  Jason made his mom's version of French Toast, which was pretty fantastic, while I put a couple of mini-quiches together.

Christmas Breakfast
Barefoot in the kitchen, cheerfully slaving away over a hot stove

Christmas Breakfast
French bread fried in a thick batter with syrup, powdered sugar, and strawberries.
How could it not be delicious?
Christmas Breakfast
The Spread
We took our time, so it was close to noon when we finished eating - just enough time to shower and chat with the parents before heading out to see a movie.  And what better way to ring in the bonhomie and joy of the holidays than by watching starving and desperate French people in period costumes?

The place was packed, but they luckily had the movie screening in a giant theater so even though we were halfway back in the line to enter, we snagged seats exactly where we like them.  My friend Tammy (from book club/the ward), a fellow Les Mis fan, joined us for the viewing, and we all settled in to watch the tribulations of Jean Valjean.

It was sweeping and epic with many good changes from the stage show.  I managed to hold back the tears up until Jean Valjean's death scene (father stuff always gets me, especially when there's a spiritual element.  I practically sobbed at the end of Hercules).  I would be embarrassed but there was a lot of sniffing going on all around us and Jason said he was a mess for most of the movie.  It is Les Miserables, after all, and we are not altogether cold and heartless.

We came home to have some cheese, bread, and quiche before settling in for a long blogging session.  We have the ingredients for a Christmas dinner (turkey, stuffing, cranberries, etc.), but it's also 10:00 PM, Jason's got an early flight, and I have a long drive.  I'm sad to reach the end of Jason's visit, but the promise of seeing my family soon helps to lift my spirits.

Christmas Traditions

Jason gasped and clapped his hands together, "I have an idea!"  We were walking back to the car after seeing the play on Christmas Eve, and I had been wondering what we should do for the rest of the night.

"Excellent!" I responded, "Do tell."

"We go home and read scriptures to be spiritual..." he began. I was already nodding in agreement. One of my family's traditions is reading from Nephi and Luke just before bedtime on Christmas Eve, each taking a verse at a time. I love that we have a dedicated time for a quiet act of spiritual worship that's not muddled with gift-giving or social festivities. I love those parts of Christmas too, but the scripture reading has always been a strong moment of family faith that I appreciate and look forward to. In fact, I had planned on suggesting the same idea as a closure to the evening, and I was glad to hear that Jason apparently has the same tradition in his family.

"... and then dress up and stage the Nativity scene with the cat as Baby Jesus!"

So apparently we share more Christmas family traditions than I thought, although that particular one hasn't made an appearance in our household since... Los Angeles? Maybe the early years of the second go-around in Denver? And while I do have vivid Christmas memories of donning the veils my parents brought back from Turkey and doing the Nativity scene with the Kings in Germany, the idea of doing it tonight had never crossed my mind.

I laughed and immediately agreed. In fact I was already mentally scanning my closet for costumes. We lamented our lack of ownership of a good SLR camera (something we would continue to do through the night) and discussed inspirational artwork/film directors for our soon-to-be masterpiece, as well as other family traditions for this holiday as we drove home in the snow.

First order of business: cook a frozen pizza for Dinner #2.
Christmas Eve
Even his beverage is festive!
While the pizza cooked, I pulled out a box of decorations.  I actually hadn't decorated at all for the holiday.  December was typically busy, and since I didn't know for certain that I was going to have a house guest until the last minute, decorating took a backseat to other preparations.  Jason assured me that he didn't mind, but I just couldn't stand the thought of a Christmas Eve without at least a few wooden scenes from Rothenburg.

While we ate dinner on set, Jason described his vision of the project while casting the various supporting roles.  Once we cleaned up the table, I went in search of a virginal ensemble while Jason went in search of wise men.  Jason pointed out, not for the first time, that I really should own a proper Gothic heroine's white nightgown.  In fact, there have been many times in our storied friendship when the moment would have been much improved by a proper Gothic heroine's white nightgown.  This probably comes as no surprise.

I was about to don a long white t-shirt when I suddenly remembered my Buddhist whites.  Much more flow-y and good enough!  I returned to the dining room in costume and discovered that Jason had recruited many of my travel souvenirs to appear in our production.  We were going to have Wise Men (with a traditional 2:1 ratio of ethnicity), Wise Gifts, an Asian elephant, two shepherdesses (one Russian and one Mexican), a Cuban sheepcat, a flock of miniature llamas, and a wooden dove flying above the table as the star/angel/Holy Spirit.

Nativity Scene
Nativity Scene

What I lacked in damsel-wear I make up for in scarves.  I found a Saint Mary-blue one for myself and offered Jason the choice of several colors for his own outfit.  He had already picked out my blue-and-white-striped bathrobe to put on over his bowtie-and-sweater combination and quickly pulled up his desert trek post for a refresher on how to tie my Moroccan scarf a la Said. 

We were both in costume so it was time to swaddle the Baby Jesus.  I chased down Natasha.  Normally she's game for some laptime anytime, but the amount of bustle and the giant red scarf in my hand raised her suspicions and I had to corner her in the piano room.  Doing my best to swaddle on the go, I carried her to our place in my grandfather's captain's chair in front of the bookcase while Jason set up my camera on our makeshift tripod of dining chair, cardboard box, and book.

Nativity Scene
This holy infant is not so tender and mild.

Then it was yellowish lights, malfunctioning camera, action!

We took several pictures, trying out a range of poses.  Jason tried to figure out the settings on my little point-and-shoot camera while I tried to keep the cat calm and swaddled.  You saw my favorite of the lot in our posts last night, but here's a sample of the rejects:

Nativity Scene
The Holy Family Sears Portrait,

Nativity Scene
The More Classical Pose,
Nativity Scene
The Classical Pose with a Less Happy Baby Jesus,
Nativity Scene
The Zombie Jesus,

Nativity Scene
and The Would-Be-My-Favorite-If-It-Wasn't-So-Blurry.

We were just starting to figure out the right framing and positioning when my camera stopped working, the cat started moaning, and we realized that we had reached the point where we either call it good or work on it obsessively for another three hours.  We turned Natasha loose after taking a few more pictures, including some father/son shots that were pretty entertaining until Joseph's allergies to the Baby Jesus were more than he could tolerate.  But I'll let Jason show you those.

We struck the set, changed into pajamas, and did some quick blogging before turning to the scriptures on his iPhone and my iPad.  Then, per tradition, we took turns reading verses in front of the fireplace, bade each other good night, and turned in while the snow continued to fall quietly outside.

Christmas Eve
It's pretty, even without a Zombie Jesus Cat

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve

Nativity Scene Edited 2

Well Done, Mr. Director!

When Jason suggested his visit, I immediately went hunting for show tickets. There weren't a lot of shows playing, given the holiday and all, but I did suggest both Nutcracker and the DCTC's performance of White Christmas.   Jason said he was game for both, so back to the ticket sites I went, deliberating over the weekend's schedule.  I figured Nutcracker would be the better production, and ballet feels fancier than a musical, so I was inclined to see that show at a Christmas Eve matinee and White Christmas on Sunday night.  But then I checked the weather reports and found that it was supposed to snow the evening of the 24th.  It was only a 30% chance, but the directorial possibility was too irresistible for me to pass up.

The show itself was what you would expect from a formulaic 50's musical - weak book, thin plot, catchy songs, and fun dancing (although the ballroom dance/pas de deux towards the beginning had several ballet lifts that just paled in comparison to the gracefulness of the dancers we had seen the night before.  They also illustrated well why you wear a tutu and not a bulky dress for such things).  It ended, of course, with fancy red-and-white outfits, an audience sing-along, and copious amounts of fake snow falling on the audience and on stage.

Ah, but then we walked outside and just as we (and everyone in the audience I imagine) had hoped - it was just beginning to snow.  Tiny white flakes were falling, and the sidewalks were just barely powdered.  With the white Christmas lights of downtown and the songs stuck in our heads, it was exactly how I would have staged it myself.


It was totally worth the sliding my car did on the way home, even when I almost hit a stop sign trying to turn into a parking lot.  We made it safely though, and by the time we got home there was more than a dusting.

Christmas Eve

The snow kept up through the night, leaving us with a couple of inches on the ground for a sunny White Christmas morning but a clear forecast for our day of travel on the 26th.

Absolutely perfect, if I do say so myself.

Christmas Eve - Dinner at Le Grand Bistro

I had a tricky time finding a restaurant near the theater that would be open for dinner on Christmas Eve, but luckily a newer place recommended by Lisa was taking reservations.

The decor and lighting were suitably French Bistro-ish, and the food and service were good. I particularly enjoyed the oysters.
Christmas Eve
Oysters on the Half Shell
Christmas Eve
French Onion Soup
Christmas Eve
Gnocci with Walnuts, Cranberries, and Argula
Christmas Eve
Hazelnut Cake with White Chocolate Frosting

Bombay Bowl, Books, Ballet, and a Movie

I woke up Sunday morning with the same level of excitement I wake up with on Christmas morning.  Jason is here!  We get to play!  Yay!

Being Sunday, I got ready for church, ate breakfast, then knocked on Jason's door to see if he was up.  Not at all.  Poor prince.  So I headed off to Sacrament Meeting while he caught up on some much-needed sleep.

I returned about an hour later feeling only a little guilty about ditching Sunday School and Relief Society, and found Jason puttering around the kitchen.  Yay!  He's awake!  Let's play!

We both got ready for the day, Jason did an hour of work, and then we headed downtown.

First stop:  Lunch.

3D Hobbit!
Chicken Bombay Bowl with Naan

We opted for something quick and Bombay Bowl was on the way to our first stop.  They had a new coconut sauce that was really tasty.

I had some Christmas errands to run in the area, which I won't go into detail about here other than to say that we went to a store that was so drenched in hipsterness that I half expected the man in the ironic t-shirt and the girl in a tattered kimono with long thick black hair and Zooey Deschanel bangs, of course to be Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein in costume.  It was all kinds of fun.

With a couple of hours to go before our dinner reservation, we parked at the conference center and walked through Lodo enjoying the Christmas decorations, especially on Market Street.  I gave Jason the choice between heading east down 16th Street to check out the outdoor mall or going west to Tattered Cover Lodo.  To my delight, he picked:

I was psychologically preparing myself for a quick jaunt through (so contrary to my nature!) when Jason pulled a book from a shelf, headed to a table, and settled in.

What the what?  Were we actually going to sit in a bookstore and read?  I couldn't believe it.  Not since Jason almost let me read in a cafe in Paris has this been a possibility with him.  I tentatively pulled a few books and sat nearby.  Before settling in, though, I had to capture this rare sighting:

Look!  Jason being leisurely!

Jason responded in kind:

3D Hobbit!
The creature in her natural habitat
To my utter astonishment, we enjoyed the bookstore ambiance for an hour.  An hour!  That's like nine hours in Jason-time.  This truly was a magical day.

We had reservations at a well-reviewed nearby Chinese-Western fusion restaurant for a pre-dinner show.  We laughed when we arrived to discover that we were the only ones there, thus reprising our gauche habits of dining at the ridiculously early hours of 7:00 or 8:00 PM in Spain; but happily the restaurant filled up shortly after we started.  The service was excellent, the food was fine.


Rice Cake with Chili Jelly
Bread Service - Rice Cake with Chili Jelly

Duck Spring Rolls with Cilantro Yogurt
Duck Spring Rolls with Cilantro Yogurt

3D Hobbit!
Pork Pot Stickers with Ginger Mustard
Celery Root Soup with Miso Butterscotch Foam, Asian Pears, and Green Apples
Brussel Sprouts with Ground Pork and Mint
Yellow Curry Mussels with Pork Belly
Seared Salmon with Miso-Buttered Corn, Edamame, and Shitake Vinaigrette
French Fries

Quite full and with plenty of leftovers, we walked back to the Performing Arts Center to see The Nutcracker.

Rachel mentioned that a few years ago Colorado Ballet invested a fortune in new costumes, sets, and props for their annual production, and it certainly paid off.  I was highly impressed with the quality of the technical elements.  There was far fewer men leaping about than I usually like in a ballet, but the choreography of the large group pieces (i.e. the Snowflakes and the Flowers) was particularly well done.  Plus, Clara had an especially-enviable nightgown.

Not to mention a prince with meaty thighs...
What I loved the most about it, though, was the playfulness.  It was unabashedly a show for kids, from Drosselmeyer's "magic" tricks ("Ooh, another empty box!  But wait!  Now there's a doll inside!") to Mother Ginger rocking the Macarena and jamming out with her minions (and I loved that she was a giant puppet instead of the usual guy in a very large skirt).

Being the final evening show of the run, they also threw in a not-so-hidden-given-the-pre-show-announcement Easter egg for the adults: "At this evening's performance, the roles of the Arabian sherpas will be played by Governor John Hickenlooper and Former Governor Bill Owens."

Oh, the crowd reaction!  They were so tickled with hometown pride.  It was great.  And it was highly entertaining to see these men try to do the roles where, literally, they were only supposed to carry a litter to center stage, stand still with their arms crossed for the dance, then carry the litter off stage.  One of them (I think it was Hickenlooper) could not for the life of him keep still during the dance.  He was shuffling and fidgeting and constantly looking off stage to check in with the stage manager I assume was waiting in the wings to cue their exit, while the other fellow stood stubbornly stiffly, just like he was told to do.  It reminded me so much of 4-year-olds performing their Christmas recitals.

The show was Christmasy and magical and fun.  To our delight, an usher who should have been played by Josh Gad burst into our box at intermission to announce that the Broncos had lost spectacularly.  He delivered a mostly-monologue on the Bronco's season thus far and their prospects of ending "13 and 3" to a largely silent and highly amused Jason and me.  We were so ill-equipped to participate in this conversation, but so entertained by his enthusiastic assumption that two patrons of The Nutcracker, let alone us, would care at all about local sports.

The show let out rather early and our seats were so close to the exits that we beat the parking crowds, so we moved the car over a few blocks to catch a movie at the Denver Pavillions.

 Being there on Sunday night, it was not nearly this busy.

In 3D!
Jason hadn't seen The Hobbit yet, and my experiences with Tolkein are so imbued with Jason (he's the one who suggested I read the books and we went to the opening night showings of each of the Lord of the Rings movies together) that I was happy to see it a second time with him.  So we donned the 3D glasses and settled in to enjoy some rumbly deep dwarf singing and New Zealand scenery.

3D Amped Up
Super Grainy but Ready for the Hobbit!