Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas party time!

I had the pleasure of three Christmas parties this year, two with friends, one at work. First party was a dinner and ornament exchange at my co-worker Josh's house. We brought mashed potatoes and two ornaments to exchange. I picked the first number for the exchange and managed to find the absolute worst gift of the bunch - a Giants ornament!

Thankfully somebody took that crap off my hands and I ended up with an elf ornament. Chris got a pickle ornament which he thought was perfect because he calls me his 'little pickle'. Probably because I'm sour and prickly.

Second party was my work party that I helped organize. We didn't have one last year and the year before was a disaster because everyone, except maybe 5 people, were told they were on the 'naughty' list by the big boss. This year we hosted an after-hours appetizer and dessert party in our department (development services) that included an ugly sweater contest and yes, another ornament exchange. Much to my surprise almost everyone came and genuinely had a great time and the sweater contest was hilarious. And best of all, I was voted best sweater for the ladies. Though I don't know if I was offended or not that nobody at Starbucks said anything about my sweater. As if I liked it or something?!?

Now it looks like we've been voted official party planners for next year's party too!

Our last party was last weekend at my friend Kari's house. It was a dinner and game party that we brought an amazing peanut butter chocolate cake to and had a blast playing a dice game called "left, right, center".

For each round of the dice game each player starts out with $3 in front of them then roll the 3 dice. Each dice is imprinted with L's, R's, C's, and black dots. If you roll any L's, you give that many $1 bills to your left. Same with the R's, only to your right. Any C's means to put that many $1 bills into the center, or the "pot". If you get a black dot, you get to keep that many of your dollar bills. Eventually only one person is left with $1 and they win the pot which is what happened for Chris on the last round. 24 sweet one dollar bills to fan out.

Now we're on to the ultimate party - Christmas, when Wilson & Houston get here!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Fabulous fall

October is my favorite month because of all of the notably awesome events of the month such as both of our birthdays and Halloween. For my birthday my co-workers decorated my desk and took me to the Japanese restaurant down the street for lunch while my bible study gals made me a delicious lemon cake.

In the middle of October, Chris and I went to a Zac Brown Band concert at the Sleep Train Amphitheater with my co-worker Matt and his special lady friend, Nicole. Matt had the brilliant idea for us to wear glow in the dark necklaces so that once the lights went out we'd be able to find our way back to our lawn seats should we wander off for drinks or potty breaks. The concert was good, though it was to promote their new album which we weren't really familiar with.

The same weekend as our concert, Wilson & Houston were staying with us. And as we like to do when they're home, we had another taste testing. This time it was fast food chicken nuggets. The contenders were McDonald's, Burger King, Jack in the Box, Wendy's, KFC, and Carl Jr's.

After much scientific research our results indicated that the overall favorite was....Jack in the Box! And surprisingly, KFC was the least favorite. Personally I thought they tasted too much like real chicken and who wants that?

The following weekend the 'rents and their pup, Chase, came down for a quick visit.

Time was well spent shopping and eating out including a delicious birthday dinner at Sierra Nevada. Chase was so funny, he wouldn't leave the area rug in the living room. Something about the feel/sound of the laminate floors were unnerving to him and couldn't be trusted.

The night before Halloween my co-worker, Dina, had a couples dinner at her house that Chris and I went to. We brought a caprese salad to go with the Italian beef sandwiches that Dina and her husband, Don, provided. One of the couples wore their toga Halloween costumes, much to our amusement.

The weekend before Thanksgiving I spent the weekend out of town with my friend, Face, and her family for an early Thanksgiving celebration.

There was lots of baking, a full Thanksgiving meal, and numerous games of cribbage - the official game of our teenage years. And most importantly I was introduced to a new favorite drink - hot mulled apple cider with caramel vodka. Ahhhhmazing.

Our own Thanksgiving was much more low-key. Due to a last minute snow storm and Chris coming down with a cold, we ended up staying home instead of going up to see the 'rents, but we still managed to find all the fixings for a traditional turkey dinner. Chris even found a perfect little turkey breast (from Jeannie-O) that baked in a bag in about 1 1/2 hours. We don't do Black Friday shopping, but we did go out over the weekend, looking for new walking shoes, and I found this gem of a sweater for our office ugly Christmas sweater party coming up in December.

And the best part is that I found out I have a meeting with Safeway big-wigs the day I'll be rocking this sweater at work! Good thing it's really professional looking. ;)

December is full of Christmas parties for us. We have one next weekend with a co-worker of mine and another one the following weekend with a gal from my bible study. Plus I have my work party that I'm helping organize. Then Wilson & Houston will be back for the last week of the year during which we'll be taste testing egg rolls so stay tuned!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Playing catch up

June, July and August were busy around the Hartman house, but you'd never know it due to my lack of posts. So here's my sad and sorry attempt at playing catch up.

At the end of June we headed north and visited the 'rents for a combination Father's Day/Mum's birthday which involved a short drive over to Ashland for dinner at the new Caldera Brewing restaurant.

Fast forward a month to July where we had two more fun events - another food and beer pairing at Sierra Nevada and a John Mellencamp concert in Sacramento.
I thought this was the best food and beer pairing yet. It was "summer" themed and there were five courses - estate greens (with local cheese), ahi poke with mango pineapple salsa, pork belly in miso broth, lamb pops with estate carrots and potatoes, and dessert trio of beer donuts, cinnamon bread pudding, chocolate pots de creme (ahhhh-mazing!!!). Also, much to my surprise, they served a beer I actually like. Really liked. Barrel-aged lime ale - ale aged in tequila barrels. It really did taste like tequila!
The hostesses sat us at tables so we couldn't control who our table companions were, but we ended up being seated with the most lovely couple, the husband of which was retired from environmental health and knew all about septic systems so he and Chris had all kinds of things to talk about!

The very next day we had an evening concert at the Sacramento community theater to see John Mellencamp. I grew up listening to him so I love his music and immediately bought tickets when the notice popped up in my email. We were literally 4 rows from the back, but thankfully the venue had great stadium seating so we still had a great view. Our favorite part was when we were singing along with Jack & Diane. He made us stop singing because we were doing it wrong. "No, no, it's TWO verses and then the chorus!". Comedy!
Also in July I hosted a purse party at my house and we had a root beer taste testing.
My high school friend, Yvette, works on the side for a company out of Nevada that hand makes purses. There's a dozen or so designs and you pick all the materials out of hundreds of swatches. With all my hostess perks, I ended up with four custom purses for about $100. And yes, that's mine with the skulls....

The last weekend of July, while Wilson was home, we had a root beer taste testing with her and my co-worker, Josh.
It was a blind taste test of 13 different root beers. There was some good ones and then there were some truly terrible ones (I'm looking at you Bundaberg root beer). 1st place went to IBC, followed by A&W, Dang!, and then Sunny Select. Since Josh's wife was out of town and therefore missed it, we have a second round scheduled at their house soon to pit the top 5 against some others that we didn't taste the first time around.

That same weekend Chris and I went to a Indian casino in Lincoln and saw Huey Lewis & the News. Probably one of the best concerts I've ever been to.
Eddie Money opened for Huey Lewis who was, as I suspected, pretty terrible. Though all the drunks around us seemed to like him. While Huey did have a few new songs (boo), most of the show was all the hits we know and love so there was lots of singing and dancing. And it was the harvest moon night so there was this big yellow moon over the stage and it was nice and breezy. Perfect for an outdoor concert.

Moving on to August....the first weekend of August was my 20 yr high school reunion (gasp!).
The top photo is of my friends Maggie (L) and Susan (R) at our 11 yr reunion and then again at the 20 yr family bbq. Some cuties never change! So, Saturday afternoon was the family bbq at the Elk's Lodge followed by the reunion dinner at a local event room.
While I'm glad I went, it wasn't as much fun as our 11 yr. The music was sooo loud we were yelling at each other to be heard. And because we were sitting a dinner tables with seating for 6, you were really only talking to those at your table which for me, were those that I came with. I went to the class of 94's reunion last year with a friend and they did these fun little contests like, 'who traveled the furthest', 'who has the most kids', and 'whose been married the longest' and then there were prizes (I think it was bottles of wine). We didn't do anything. There was an on-going slide show in the corner of the room, but that was about it. Finally, after about two hours, 3 of us decided to bomb out and go to a downtown restaurant for dessert and hard booze. The two things missing from our reunion. Oh well, lessons learned for our 30th, right?!

Finally, just today, I went to a baby shower for my cousin Jayne who's expecting twin boys in 10 weeks.
Back in the day, when I worked weekends for Jayne's parents who owned a catering business, her dad (Boss Bob) would do all the fruit carvings for the buffet displays. Though it's been about 10 years since they've been out of the catering business, Boss Bob was able to dust off his carving utensils to create the cutest little watermelon baby buggies. And since it's for twins, he made two! I love visiting with family and what better occasion?!

Next up in the Hartman adventures, I'm house-sitting next weekend for a co-worker and attending a 2 year old's birthday party. I know, the fun never stops!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The love of some good pugs

Somehow in the last few months we have become neighborhood renowned as a transitional home for wayward pugs. Or, we're getting suckered into watch pugs for friends while they go on vacation. One of the two. Our first house guest was Layla, back in June, who's mom I used to work with. It was just an overnighter, something to wet our little pug feet with.

She was so funny and the LOUDEST snorer you've every heard! She was young (1 yr old?) and feisty so Chris took to calling her a snapping turtle. At the end of the evening she put herself to bed by snuggling up in the pillows at the edge of the couch until we carted her off to bed with us where she spooned with Chris all night.

Our second visitor was Momo, a 9 year old pug of another co-worker. She was with us from a Sunday night until the following Friday afternoon.

Momo was more our speed. She just liked to sleep and poop. Except, much to our surprise, she hated horses, Chinamen (building a railroad on a TV show), and children in commercials. We were watching a period piece on PBS and every time a horse would be on screen she'd jump off the couch and start barking at the TV. Also, in the mornings, she would grumble and bark at any passing vehicle or person she could hear through the open windows so Chris called her Grumble Guts.

At first Momo didn't like having Chris out of her sight, but then Chris figured out that Momo liked to sleep in, tucked deep under the sheets, so he could wake up early and sneak out to the garage to play while she was still sacked out and none the wiser. She was good company for Chris during the week, but he was ready to be done with the responsibility by the end of the week.

It was a good scared straight program - while they were fun for short periods of time, we're not cut out for that full time responsibility. We've got a footloose and fancy free lifestyle to maintain!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Memories of May

May was busy, busy, busy between work, school, and travel. I spent lots of weekends working on my homework for my Urban Planning & Design class. It was like an old fashioned crafting project.

Mid month I spent a couple more days in Sac doing my final project presentation which I was pretty happy with since it was obvious I did my research about development standards in that area of Sac versus just throwing together a 'feel-good' design with community gardens and a petting zoo. This time Chris came down and met me at the hotel so we could walk down the street about a mile to spend the evening in Old Sac which included dinner on the Delta King paddle boat that stays docked right behind Old Sac.

Also did a little visiting with friends in May. Went down to Antioch to visit Face and her family.

Her youngest, Lara, calls me "Nunah" instead of Nunan.  Just another entry in my long list of nicknames! While I was there Face was having a Jamberry party so I got to deck my nails out in fancy nail stickers. They're stickers you heat up and adhere to your nails that actually stick on for a couple of weeks. When you're done, you heat them back up, grab an edge with tweezers and pull them off. Super easy and super fun. I may have ordered 8 different designs...

In P-town news, our summer Thursday night "Party in the Park" just started up two weeks ago of which we're a supporting sponsor. This year the town actually has a booth there that we had to sign up to man on different weeks. In addition, we as staff also provide the event traffic control. So, the first night I worked traffic control for the first 1 1/2 hr and then went and worked our booth for the next two hours. It was the perfect night to volunteer because during the 4:00 pm hour we had massive downpouring and thunder, but by 5:00 pm it was over and the evening temps stayed cooler albeit muggy.

And one of course, one of the highlights of my month - a long awaited phone upgrade!

After much research I went with a Samsung Note 4 (on the left) which, as you can see, is quite a bit bigger than my old iPhone 4S. It also came with a blue tooth speaker and cordless headphones. I got it about 2 weeks before my final school presentation and it came in handy. I was able to take photos of my base map with it and use the stylus to literally hand draw different layers on it like roads, zoning, density, etc. and add labels to my maps before sending them to print. I don't know what I would have done without it! It's more of a personal assistant than phone which fits my life much better. Love, love, love it! Or at least until the newer version comes out....

Saturday, May 2, 2015

A look back at April

April was a pretty busy month in the Hartman house - a little weekend trip here, a little weekend trip there. Here's a look back at the highlights:

April 2nd was National Autism Day so, after a reminder from my sister Jessica, I remembered to wear blue and my autism necklace (a puzzle piece) that Jessica got Wilson and I last Christmas.

I forget, does the rhyme start 'April showers' or 'April blizzards'? On April 7th we saw a cold front move in that brought snow to the upper end of Paradise and northward. This is a picture from my Uncle Bill's front yard in Stirling City.

The second weekend of April I went off to the wine country with some girlfriends for a long weekend of wine tasting.

And of course I couldn't go back home empty handed:

The following weekend I did another wine tasting, this time in Chico, with another group of girlfriends.

The last weekend in April we did a quick trip to West Sac and visited IKEA where we fell in love with a new entertainment center that was just begging for a new home.

While Chris was at home assembling that beast, I was up the hill enjoying the Gold Nugget Parade with some friends.

And finally, this last week I did another cooking class at Leon Bistro. Chris skipped this one, but I had two co-workers who went with me. This time is was Indian cuisine which turned out to be my favorite, much to my surprise.

And to close out the month, I spent the last two days of April in East Sac taking another planning class as part of the Planning and Land Use certificate program through UC Davis Extension.
I came home with a huge homework assignment due in 3 weeks when I go back for another two days and have to present a 75 acre development project that I designed and wrote zoning codes for. Good thing this stuff is my day job or I'd be as overwhelmed as some of the others in the class!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Mediterranean & Greek culinary delights

Last Tuesday night Chris, my co-worker Dina, and I did another cooking class at Leon Bistro. This time it was Mediterranean and Greek fare - some of my favorite. There were 18 people in this class with Chris being the only guy. Pretty good odds. First off Chef Ann made a yogurt and cucumber smoothie as a digestive drink between courses. It was very refreshing.
The first course served was Bagna Cauda which is a garlic dip much like hummus. It was served alongside pita bread with caramelized onion.
Next up, fried cheese! This was a thick haloumi Greek cheese known as a grilling cheese. This was served with a small piece of pita bread topped with Feta cheese.
The third course was a slightly spicy marmitako (fish and potato) soup, but the version served to us had beef tenderloin in it instead. This was the boy's favorite dish.
My favorite was our next course, halibut brandade (fish cakes) with sides of harissa (red pepper paste) and tzatziki (cucumber yogurt sauce) to dip it in. Soooo good.
The fifth course was stuffed grapeleaves (dolmas) with falafels and tzatziki. I love dolmas, but these were slightly sweet made with raisins and nutmeg and I was not a fan. One bite was enough for me. And the falafels, deep fried balls of ground garbanzo beans, were nothing I need to have again. Meh.
Our first entree was fricase de pollo which was chicken served in a tomato sauce with capers, olives, raisins, potatoes, and root vegetables. On the side was a serving of tabouli salad (parsley and cracked wheat). The chicken was delicious while I only ate a bite of the tabouli since the cracked wheat would not sit well with me.
Our second entree was moussaka, a Greek shepherd's pie. It's made up of layers of sliced eggplant, minced lamb and a bechamel cheese sauce. I was really looking forward to this dish because it sounded like everything I would like in a casserole, but it was a little too rich for me. Though I did make sure to eat the crispy cheese top before giving up.
Our eighth, and last, course was our dessert - baklava cigars. Seriously, I don't care how you serve the baklava, it's going straight in my mouth. Love, love, love.
 Yeah, I ate that and the pound of honey it was served with right up. Already looking forward to our next class. Maybe Dim Sum and Asian Noodles....??