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2012: The Year in Review

It’s not the end of the year without a review of the highlights.  These are my favorite photos of the day, one for each month that sums up the excitement of the year.

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Happy New Year World!



The Missing Piece

I am ecstatic to report that Dave and I have finally finished a two-year endeavor.  It started on December 31, 2010 and came to fruition on December 28, 2012.  We finished our puzzle!  It was a 2,000 piece journey to completion.  Technically, I guess you could say it was a 1,998 piece journey.  Somewhere along the way two pieces have disappeared.  I also originally purchased the puzzle at a garage sale for 25 cents, so the reality is that we probably never owned those two pieces in the first place. 

December 28, 2012

December 28, 2012

This puzzle included a little too much water, sky, tree, tree reflecting in water action to be truly enjoyable.  In fact, to finish the sky we created a technique we call, “the gauntlet.”  Essentially you just try every piece in 5-10 possible places and know that eventually you will have to find the correct piece.  Patience and stamina are required when employing “the gauntlet.”  Your arm or back can cramp up pretty quickly.

I have our next puzzle all picked out and ready to go, in fact we own about 10 more unopened puzzles.  However, I promised Dave that we wouldn’t start another puzzle until I finish organizing all of our photos into photo albums.  The reality is that it could be another 2+ years before we start this game again.

Attack of the Giant Pods

Once every five years the large tree in our front yard drops these giant, black seed pods over our entire yard.  Luckily it is only once every five years or that tree might need to go!  The interesting thing about this tree and its pods is that the tree holds onto them until December and then drops them in mass quantities.  I am, unfortunately, not exaggerating about the fact that this tree drops 1,000s of pods.  What’s worse, the pods drop after it snows so they are generally trapped in the snow and make a complete mess of the yard all winter and into the spring even if we have meticulously raked our yard throughout the fall. 

The Infamous Pods

The Infamous Pods

I will admit to being obsessed with these pods.  I hate the mess that they make, and I routinely go outside and pick them up.  Including tonight, yes, tonight.  It’s barely 30 degrees and the ground is covered in snow but I was determined to get those pods picked up!  I convinced Dave that we needed to take care of the project before the snow forecast for tonight started to fall.  After that it would be too late and the pods would be buried until spring.  So, in the dark, armed with a rake and multiple buckets we headed outside to harvest the pods.

December 27, 2012:  Dave Picking up the Pods

December 27, 2012: Dave Picking up the Pods

That is when I realized that I am officially that neighbor.  Yes, that crazy neighbor that other neighbors likely talk about when they meet on the corner for some neighborly gossip.  I was indeed outside tonight raking the top of the snow, in the dark, and was unlucky enough to have neighbor get home while we were in the middle of the project (Dave likes to remind me that at that point he was in the garage so I will get full credit for the eccentricity).  Until last year we had another neighbor who topped my shenanigans.  I had even developed something of a hobby watching him on weekend mornings.  Not much beats drinking a mug of tea early in the morning and watching your neighbor snowblowing the snow off their grass into the ditch because he likes the grass to get sun even in the winter.  Or the night that I watched him climb a tree at least 30′ up with a hack saw only to saw off the branch of the tree that he was standing on (he did move before it broke off).  Or watching him organize the wood chips one-by-one under his shrubs.  And I SWEAR that he would be leaf blowing at midnight some nights. 

Unfortunately, he’s moved and now the honor goes to me!

My Retirement Idol

Barring any unforeseen circumstances I have calculated that I am likely to still need to work more years in my life than I have currently lived.  😦  It’s no wonder than I find myself extremely jealous whenever a colleague of mine has earned the privilege of retiring, and one of my favorite colleagues entered that wonderful world on Friday, December 14th.

December 14, 2012

December 14, 2012:  Sue’s Last Day

Sue is my retirement idol.  Not just because she has retired, but because she retired the way I hope to retire someday.

1)  People were devastated to find out she was retiring.

2)  Everyone who works closely with Sue definitely had a personal freak out moment when he/she realized that the wisdom Sue possesses was going to be gone for good.

3)  People went out of their way to come to Sue’s retirement party.

4)  Sue worked right up until the last moment of her last day.  She had meetings scheduled right up until the end to help people out and get things done.

5)  Sue is completely content to be retiring and has fun plans for her future years.

Farewell Sue, we will miss you.

Party! Party! Party!

It’s no wonder that people gain an average of seven pounds over the course of the holiday season.  Here was my week last week.  Party after party after delicious party.

December 10, 2012:  Judy's Retirement Party.  Cheese Platter!

December 10, 2012: Judy’s Retirement Party. Cheese Platter!

December 11, 2012:  UWM Holiday Party.  Best catering served on campus all year.

December 11, 2012: UWM Holiday Party. Best catering served on campus all year.

December 12, 2012:  Sue Peterson's Retirement Party.  Cake!

December 12, 2012: Sue Peterson’s Retirement Party. Cake!

December 13, 2012:  Student Union Holiday Party.  Ugly sweater and a potluck!

December 13, 2012: Student Union Holiday Party. Ugly sweater and a potluck!

I also learned this week that I am just a few pounds shy of weighing more than my loving husband, and I’m a tiny person.  Bring on the Christmas cookies, I’m not holding back!

Lifestyles of the Not So Rich or Famous (But I Can Pretend)

The first week of December I attended a Women’s Leadership Institute.  It was an amazing experience.  I learned so much about my profession and myself.  Another unusual perk was that it was hosted at a Ritz Carlton in Amelia Island, Florida.  I got to experience a small taste of what it must feel like to have an unusually large amount of disposable income.  Pretending was so much fun.

Here were the photo of the day highlights.

December 3, 2012:  Shark Tooth Hunting on the Beach

December 3, 2012: Shark Tooth Hunting on the Beach

December 4, 2012:  Eating Lunch with this View

December 5, 2012:  Drinking Hot Chocolate in Front of a Fire Listening to the Ocean Waves

December 5, 2012: Drinking Hot Chocolate in Front of a Fire Listening to the Ocean Waves

Finding Chocolates on My Pillow Every Night

The View From My Room

The View From My Room

Daily Walks on the Beach

Amelia, the Ritz's Mascot

Amelia, the Ritz’s Mascot

The conference was 12+ hour days. So my time pretending to be a 1%’er only could occur about 1% of every day, but I made the most of it!

Run, Run as Fast as You Can…

You can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man!

This book is one of my favorite memories as a child.  My mom would bake a giant gingerbread cookie in the shape of a Gingerbread Man.  I can remember my brother and I helping by putting the raisin eyes mouth and buttons on him.  Then during the baking phase we would read the book and when we were sent to play the Gingerbread Man would leap from the oven and hide himself somewhere in the house for us to find. The search was the best part.  I can only remember one hunt and find.  Our man was hiding in the linen closet.  Sneaky little man.

I guess it is fitting that I have a whole series of photos of the day of gingerbread houses.

December 1, 2012:  Candy Land!

December 1, 2012: Candy Land!

Gingerbread Pirates!

Full Boat

Full Boat

Wisconsin Inspired Gingerbread

Confession:  I don’t really like the taste of gingerbread cookies.  I wouldn’t even put them in my top twenty of favorites.  But the memory of chasing down a runaway cookie when I was five years old (and younger) can’t be beat!

Dumpling Day

Thursday was officially “Turkey Day” for much of the United States, myself included.  Even more exciting than turkey on Thursday; however, was “dumpling day” on Friday.  They are a lot of work, but worth it.  This was a 5 hour process.  Here is the play-by-play.

Dough package on left turns into dough blob on the right

You’ll need to buy the dumpling dough flour.  For anyone in the Milwaukee area you can find it at the Asian International Market.  The dough flour, water, 1 egg, and a little salt turns into the dumpling dough, which can also be used to make noodles.

Chop, Chop, Chop

After the dough was made and resting we proceeded to do a lot of chopping.  We chopped the meat into teeny tiny pieces (next time we are just going to use ground meat).  Then we chopped green peppers into even tinier pieces.  Then we marinated the meat in soy sauce and chicken stock while we worked on the next steps.

Rolling Instructions

Next up was rolling, rolling is tough.  First you roll the dough into a ball, then the goal is to roll the ball into thin, perfect circles.

The dough circles get filled with the meat/veggie mixture

Then you fold and pinch

Folding is difficult. Extra instruction and review were needed.

November 23, 2012:  The dumplings should look something like this.

Finally you drop them into boiling water

The drop and boil has a sequence to it.

–  Boil the water, drop the dumplings, cover.

–  Wait for the water to boil again.

–  Add cold water.  Cover.

–  Wait for the water to boil again.

–  Add cold water.  Cover.

–  Wait for the water to boil again.

–  When the skin of the dumpling starts to pucker, they are done.

Serve with vinegar and soy sauce, mixed together.

Enjoy!  (We ate them so quickly I forgot to take pictures of the finished product.)

Our Seattle Transit Battle

First, I want to clarify that public transportation in Seattle is top notch. I wish Milwaukee would take a lesson from Seattle. It’s a smorgasbord of options… bus, light rail, train, monorail, ferry, cable car… So many options. The only bad news is that on Sundays if you want to go to Everett to see the Boeing plant, your options are limited.

November 18, 2012: Test Flight. I must look so scared because I am thinking about our cab ride.

We made it from downtown Seattle to downtown Everett by bus without any issue. Things went downhill when we found out that the next bus we wanted to take no longer made the stop that we saw online. Alright, time to take a taxi. Well, I think it was the driver’s first day. Here are two conversations you never want to have with your cab driver…

Becca: “Sir, we are lost, aren’t we?”
Driver: “Yes.”

Dave: “Sir, I think you are driving on the wrong side of the road.”
Driver: “Yes, we are lost.”

Next the driver made a left hand turn from the wrong side of the road back onto the right side of the road, which really surprised the woman in the car next to us who was making the same turn from the correct side of the road. Luckily she was an attentive driver.

These conversations with our cabbie reminded me of another conversation I had with some colleagues a few weeks ago. Things you never want to hear from your doctor…

“Hmmm… I’ve never seen that before.”
“Well, I’ve never seen this in someone so young.”

We made if safely to Boeing, the tour was great, and a nice old woman from Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin gave us a ride to the train station to catch our bus. If you are in the Seattle area I would highly recommend the Boeing tour.

Super Seattle

We are back from another Grassl adventure.  I love vacations with Dave.  We relax, have a ton of fun, balance each other perfectly, and get into just enough mischief to keep things interesting and share a great inside joke for the rest of our lives.   I honestly think vacationing with one’s spouse can be a challenge; and I’m happy to report I feel like we have mastered it. Our latest adventure was to Seattle, Washington.  I would say Seattle is just how I imagined it. It was cold, very rainy, lots of art, amazing food, and never a shortage of activities and things to experience and explore. The dreary rain can be a downer, or you can think of it as great napping weather.  We personally went to bed before 8 p.m. every night.  If you are headed there here are a few highlights to check out…

1) Space Needle.  It’s a mandatory activity.

November 14, 2012: Top of the Needle

2) Chihuly Gardens. Dale Chihuly is a glass artist from Seattle. He also started his glass blowing work at UW-Madison. We were not expecting to LOOOOVE this place as much as we did.  If you talk to me about the Chihuly Gardens in person I will talk your ear off.  It was breathtaking, even better than the Space Needle, in my opinion.  Traveler Tip: you can get a discount on your ticket if you buy a Space Needle and Chihuly Gardens ticket package.

November 14, 2012: Chihuly Gardens

3) Fremont Troll under the bridge. This is off the beaten path but worth the detour to actually see a troll under a bridge.

November 16, 2012: Fremont Troll Under the Bridge

4) Serious Pie, it’s seriously good. I was originally expecting blueberry or apple as my pie choices. Nope, pizza, the most amazing pizza you can imagine. I had a rosemary potato pizza and now am trying to figure out what else I can combine rosemary and potato in.

Serious Pie!

5) Boeing plant tour in Everett. Maybe it’s because we are engineers, but we loved this. There is something about being inside a building so big that it creates it’s own weather, is the world’s largest building by volume, and that can fit 75 football fields inside that is simply astounding. Unfortunately no pictures are allowed inside the plant.  I also found it fascinating to learn about the daring souls who test fly the prototype planes that have never been flown before and all they have is a bunch of engineers telling them, “Really, this should work.”

November 18, 2012: Test Flight

6)  Thai Food!

And a stir fry pepper with an uncanny resemblance to a moustache. Only in Seattle!

A special thanks to my parents who opted out of standard Christmas gifts and funded some of our Seattle fun instead.  Great memories are way better than stuff, thank you!

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