Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas to all....

....and to all a good night!

* Boxes in the background were not editted out in order to preserve the memory of moving during the holidays. Recommendation: Don't do it.

More to come on settling in back in the old 'hood, etc. Needless to say, we made it here safely, and we hope that you are safe, happy and healthy, and have a tummy full of holiday goodness as you read this.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

It's not Goodbye, It's See You Later

If you're counting, you know that this weekend was our last in Denver. What you may not know is that it was immediately preceded by Finals Week. Mix in a heavy dose of whatever cold/flu virus that is going around, and the related medication, and the result is that, well, we weren't prepared for this weekend. In any way.

I have been so busy cramming for my last three finals, and adding to our moving to-do list, and generally looking past the leaving part and towards the move itself, that I hadn't yet stopped to think about what we are leaving behind. We are leaving behind our first year and a half as a married couple. Our first house together. Our church, and our amazing church community, in which we found our place together. The only friends that don't know us any other way but together. (Not that I discount in ANY way or love any less all of our other friends, scattered about the country, who have known each of us separately for many years and now know "us".) But we moved to Denver, just the two of us, and took root, intending to stay "indefinitely." And it's just....bittersweet to leave.

And speaking of those friends we've made.... What amazing friends they are.

On Friday night (after I completed my LAST final, and thereafter received my DIPLOMA!), the Fisks hosted a "Farewell Lewises" dinner at their home. There were yummmmmmmy french dip sandiwches (for the record, one of my favorite dishes), handcut french fries, beverages, and Ohhhhhh the Pies. The pies were scrumptious. And so, we spent the evening with the Fisks, Whitneys, Hansons and Leppkes, chowing down, catching up and enjoying good company.

The ladies

The guys, playing Wii

Thank you, friends, for a thoughtful and lovely sending off.

On Saturday morning, after tackling a few items on our to-do list, we headed to our friend Syd's house, where she made us a deeeeelicious brunch, complete with a dutch baby pancake with fresh strawberries, bacon, coffee, and mimosas. We will sorely miss Syd as a friend and as a hostess.
After brunch, the three of us headed to our old 'hood -- Old South Pearl Street -- for the Winter Wonderland. We bid farewell to the ladies at our favorite pet shop (The Whole Cat & Dogs Too!), and to the cupcakes at Mulberries cake shop.

This morning, we attended our last service at Denver Community Church. We can only hope to find a comparable church community back in D.C. It has been amazing to watch our church grow in size and in spirit, gaining a reputation as a church that cares for its community and is proactive in helping those in need. We have been so fortunate to be a part of that community. After church, we had lunch with Jarrod & Amy Hanson and Heidi -- fitting, since they were our very first friends at DCC.
I hate goodbyes (must be hereditary), and because I KNOW that we will be back to visit at every opportunity (and our door will be open to Denver friends who come to our home back east) and I HOPE that our journey someday leads us back here, I refuse to say goodbye to all of the amazing friends we've made. So instead, it's See You Later.

Now, it's back to the actual packing...the movers will be here bright & early.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

First Snow

It's been snowing since late yesterday evening. We're holed up inside, studying for final exams, but the view through the window is quite distracting. So we ventured out with Elsa for a quick and refreshing romp in the up-to-that-point undisturbed blanket of snow.

Monday, November 17, 2008

T-Minus Three Weeks

It seems the movers will be on our doorstep three weeks from today. LUCKILY, we visited D.C./Northern VA last week and found a place to live! We're headed back to our old neighborhood of Fairlington Villages, with it's lovely brick facades and tree-lined streets. Elsa is quite excited at the prospect of seeing some of her old doggy friends.

In the meantime, we are struggling to finish up this quarter's classes and not be too distracted by the lengthy moving-related to-do list.

Monday, November 3, 2008

"I think you guys are allergic to staying in one place..."

The title of this post is a direct quote from one of my dearest college friends who is never afraid to tell me exactly what he thinks. This particular quote was in response to our latest news....
We are moving baaaaack to the Washington, D.C. area. IN FIVE WEEKS.

Yes, in the same week, I was sworn in to the Colorado Bar, and we decided to move back to the east coast. And no, we are not gluttons for punishment, despite appearances. (Wait....this will be our third move in two years...well maybe we are gluttons for punishment, but that's not why we're doing this to ourselves...I think...)

Bret has an amazing job opportunity that we just can't pass up, and after many weeks of praying and pros & cons list-making (Pro: all of the friends we've been missing since we left in May 2007; Con: missing all of our new friends in Denver!), we think that this is the right choice. Since making this decision, we have had many bittersweet moments when telling our close friends here and there (and returning our recently purchased skis).

The thing is, Denver never seemed more like home than it has since we decided to leave. It will always be one of our favorite places due to our many unforgettable friends and memories here and I have no doubt that we will make our way back eventually.
For Heather (Steele), before it's no longer our address.
In the meantime, we're preparing to leave our charming little house on the corner, from which we can zip into downtown Denver in 7 minutes or into the foothills of the Rockies in 15 minutes, for the land of politics, delicious food of all kinds, traffic, pricey one bedrooms, glorious fully stocked grocery stores. and the time zone that I never seemed to have stopped living on.
Seems we'll be looking at the peaks of the domes and monuments of Washington instead of the peaks of the Rockies on Christmas morning this year. Funny where life takes you, huh?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

They Should Give Us a Food Network Show.

Amidst hunting for jobs and trying to find our way in the current economic climate (i.e. save money and watch for a sure sign that we should pull our money out of the bank and hide it in Elsa's mattress), we have been trying to do some home cooking. It helps that the weather finally started to turn a little chilly, giving me the inspiration I needed for soups and breads and cookies and comforty-type foods. Warning: The following recipes are not what you would call "health conscious." They are, however, delicious.

And so here are the highlights of two weeks at the Lewis dinner table.

Corn Chowder, served with Beer Bread and Pear & Spiced Pecan Salad:

I got the corn chowder recipe from my friend Kristin, who made it for Bret and I the last time we had dinner at the Whitneys'. She combined a more fattening version with a healthy one for a mixture of yummy taste and waistline savings. It was the first cold weekend of Fall when we made it for ourselves and I admit, we ignored the healthy parts and went straight for the heavy cream.

The beer bread is about the easiest thing ever. Bret got the recipe from his old friend Mark. It is best served fresh from the oven, as it does tend to harden by the time you serve up leftovers.

The salad is one of our favorite combos: Butter lettuce, ripe pears, spiced pecans, blue cheese crumbles and blue cheese dressing. (We use one of the "Super" or "Ultimate" blue cheese dressings that you find refrigerated in the produce section.)

Corn Chowder

5 slices bacon, diced
1 large onion, chopped
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
5 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1 (11 ounce) can cream-style corn
1 (10 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

In a large pot over medium-high heat, cook and stir the bacon until crisp. Drain off grease, leaving about 1 tablespoon in the pot. Break the bacon into pieces in the pot.
Place the onion in the pot, and cook until transparent. Mix in the potatoes, and cook until lightly browned on the outside. Stir in the chicken broth, and season with oregano, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft. Pour in the cream-style corn and whole kernel corn, and cook for 10 more minutes.
Stir in the cream, Monterey Jack cheese, and Cheddar cheese over low heat. Do not boil. Remove from the heat, and serve.

Beer Bread:

3 c. self-rising flour
1/2 c. sugar
1-12 oz. beer of your choosing

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the inside of the loaf pan. Combine the first three ingredients and stir together until batter forms. Pour into buttered pan and bake in oven for 55 minutes. Melt butter in microwave (enough to pour over top of loaf). Remove bread from oven and pour melted butter all over top. Bake for 5 more minutes.

For dessert, I made Oatmeal Scotchies - recipe on the back of Nestle Tollhouse Butterscotch chips and here.
The Ultimate Crispy Fried Chicken

And speaking of deliciously fattening foods, this was our foray into home-cooked friiiiiiiied chicken. Oh man, was it delicious. A mess in the kitchen, but worth the effort (which was mainly Bret's). Rather than reproduce the recipe here, which we got out of an issue of Cook's Illustrated, I'll just provide this link, and these photos:

Served with Grandma Lewis-style mashed potatoes, steamed green beans, and Grands biscuits.

One more chicken recipe for you, and this one is relatively healthy....

Chicken Breast with Lemon & Capers
This is an old standby for Bret and I. It was the first recipe I cooked single-handedly for my parents, and later, one of the first meals Bret and I ever cooked together. It is surprisingly delicious, especially if you like capers, and very easy.

1/4 c. flour
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, halved & pounded to 1/4-inch thickness
5 teaspoons corn oil
1/4 c. low sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons capers, drained
4-6 thin slices of lemon

Combine the flour, pepper & paprika on a plate. Press the chicken breasts into the mixture, coating them evenly and shaking off excess.

In 10-inch skillet, heat the corn oil over moderately high heat for 1 minute. Add the breasts and cook about 3 minutes on each side; do not overcook. Transfer breasts to heated and/or covered platter.

Add the chicken broth to the skillet, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom. Stir in the lemon juice and capers and heat through. Add the thin slices of lemon and heat through. Pour the sauce over the breasts and serve.

We like this with steamed fingerling potatoes with butter and chives, or, of course Grandma's mashed potatoes.

Don't get me wrong, I'm no Heather Steele, with her super-human cooking feats, but we have been trying to cook at home more - in part for the cost savings, and in part because, well, it's a distraction from tax and politics and jobs and everything else. It also keeps the house all warm and cozy!

Monday, October 13, 2008

More Fall, Before It's Winter

At an Overlook off of Trail Ridge Road

Last weekend (the weekend BEFORE bar results came out), we decided we needed some fresh air. The air in our house was starting to feel heavy and stagnant with stress, and Elsa requested, in her own little way, some outdoor time. And so, when we realized that Elk Fest coincided with a weekend when we had no other obligations, we booked a campsite in the Moraine Park area of Rocky Mountain National Park.

It was a beautiful, crisp weekend, and, though we had heard about the Elk from some friends, we were nonetheless amazed. Driving through the park, you see hundreds of them -- sometimes mere feet from the road -- and you can pull off to the side and wander right into the meadows. They bugle loudly to one another all through the day and evening. And if you're lucky, you can see bulls competing for a harem of lady elks (cows? I should have blogged this sooner after our trip, when I had more elk knowledge) off in the distance.

Since our campground was right off of one of the alpine meadows where a couple of dozen elk were grazing, Elsa came frighteningly close to an Elk cow (that's right, by the way...I just googled it). And by that I mean there were about 5 elk cows standing in the middle of the road we were walking on, and one of them looked right at Elsa and started intently walking toward her. While I was intrigued by the prospect of a cute meeting, and Elsa seemed game for it, I opted instead to head back to our campsite (at a jogging pace).

Speaking of our campsite, here's a shot of the view from our site:

Here is our new enormous tent, on top of the hill that allowed for such a gorgeous, almost completely unobstructed view:

The view was almost, but not quite, worth the fact that being on a hill offers little (read: NO) shelter from the wind, and we spent a large part of the night hoping we didn't wake up somewhere in the meadow amidst the elk (read: not sleeping).

Despite a not-so-restful night of sleep in our new ginormous tent, we went for a short hike before heading home on Sunday. And in spite of the hike's relative shortness (we were not climbing a mountain, as Bret had planned/hoped we would), we still put Elsa's brand new pack on her (1) because it was so adorable, and (2) so she could carry our water (and hers, to be fair).

Snapshots from our hike:

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The One where Jaimy Passes the Bar

I awoke at 8 am this morning from a not-so-restful night of sleep (it felt kind of like Christmas Eve when I was little, except not really at all). I brushed my teeth, dropped in some contact solution, grabbed my computer from where I had stored it, battery fully charged, next to the bed, and settled into the Colorado Board of Law Examiners website. And so my morning began this way.....refresh....refresh...refresh....refresh....

Then I started getting e-mails: "Hey, are we supposed to get Bar results today?"



9:16 am:
"Hello, Board of Law Examiners. Can I help you?"

"Yes. Are July results going to be posted today?"

"Yes, but we aren't sure what time. We're waiting for the Supreme Court."

"OK, thanks. Because I didn't want to waste my day pressing 'refresh' for no reason."

"No problem. Goodbye."

9:17 am:

When I glanced down at my cell phone, I had received a text from a friend and fellow Colorado Bar taker that read: "Congratulations!" Hmmmmm......

While I took that to mean I had passed, I obviously checked for myself. Celebration is on hold until Bret gets home from some meetings at school. (Elsa is surprisingly unenthused.)

It is an odd feeling after months of studying and weeks of waiting (not so) patiently. Such an immense relief.

Thank you so very much for all of your thoughts and prayers over the past few months! Please keep them coming as we strive to find the path that our lives are meant to follow.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Rocky Mountain Fall (or, Lesson Learned)

Last year, when we sensed the first hints of Fall in Denver, we made a point of driving up to Kenosha Pass to see the fabled Aspens. Unfortunately, what we learned last year was that by the time you feel Fall in Denver, all the trees are barren in the mountains.

Not to be tricked again, we left the 80 degree late-September Denver heat this afternoon and headed up into the mountains for a short hike up at Kenosha Pass. And yay! for us, we timed it correctly. Behold! Fall in Colorado!

Note: This is why we travel with cold weather gear in the trunk of our car. We may have been sweating down in Denver, but we got caught in a downpour of freezing rain at 10,000 feet, shortly before this shot. Hence, my four layers of clothing and gloves.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Find a Happy Place....

I am interrupting our scheduled blog programming (I am sure there is some blogosphere word for that...) because, well, I feel like it. If you would like to see the remainder of our DNC experience-in-pictures, check it out here. I don't want to downplay what an awesome experience it was to be a part of the nomination of the first major-party African American nominee for the Presidency, or for me (Jaimy), the culmination of months of hard work and anticipation of the Convention, generally. But to some degree, that experience seems a long way from where we are right now.

Why? For a lot of reasons. Not the least of which being the fact that BECAUSE I became so invested in the Convention, I'm taking a lot of things personally right now...getting too worked up about that my husband has limited my daily political intake to The Onion, 23/6, and selected CNN articles (but never, I repeat NEVER, the comments section of those articles). There were moments during Convention Week where I considered a future in public office, but I have since realized that I don't have the stomach for it.

Although MAYBE part of the problem is the underlying anxiety quotient in our lives.

For those of you who have never taken a Bar Exam, it is a tough call what is more gut-wrenching: those last two weeks leading up to the exam itself, or the 10 weeks of waiting for results. For the first 2 weeks, I was basking in the glow of being done. Of being able to sleep in a little, finish novels, bake cookies, relax on the couch with my husband, spend time outside with Elsa.... Then, for the next 3 weeks, I kept my mind off of the topic with distractions and the occasional reminder that I studied very, very hard and I most definitely did my best -- which is all you can do, really.

And now, here I am. Something about being back in classes (I PLEDGE THAT THIS IS MY LAST SEMESTER OF CLASSES. EVER. YOU ARE ALL CHARGED WITH THE RESPONSIBILITY OF NOT LETTING ME GO BACK TO SCHOOL [unless it is to learn a foreign language]) and looking for a job (which is interesting, because no one is all too excited about hiring someone as an attorney with a 20% chance that they failed the Bar hanging out there). Throw in waiting for bar results, and ... ACK! STRESS! And with Bret suffering through work stress and "Tax Research & Writing" (2 credits for 20+ hours of effort per week....always a joy), the stress is household-wide (Elsa being stressed because we don't have enough hours in the day to get her the exercise she needs and deserves).

In times of stress, it helps to find a happy place....take a time out and enjoy a nice evening with family or friends, or remember a recent relaxing vacation....

Our most recent vacation was our First Anniversary trip to Colorado Wine Country. Back in the Spring, we came across an advertisement for a trip package where you take an Amtrak from Denver to Grand Junction, CO, land of vineyards and peach orchards and beautiful scenery. This spawned much excitement and trip planning in the Lewis household. Despite being only a 4-hour drive by car, Amtrak takes eight hours to weave through the mountains to GJ. The opportunity to enjoy the scenery, nap, read, and visit the dining car seemed worth the additional 4 hours of travel time. PLUS it would give us an excuse to rent a car...a convertible to be exact! So we booked the train tickets, the rental car, and accomodations at Two Rivers Winery & Chateau, and I spent many bar-studying breaks envisioning this lovely trip.

Finally, our departure day arrived! Unfortunately, we were welcomed at the train station by this sign:

To explain further, we arrived at the train station at 7:20 am, with our 8-hour journey scheduled to begin at 8:05 am. Being lawyers who went to a law school that focused on economic efficiency, and an LLM program that focuses on accounting, we did the math.... a four hour drive vs. an 8-hour train ride with a nearly 3-hour delay... So we hastily obtained a full refund on our train tickets, cancelled our rental car, and taxied back home, where we promptly threw our suitcases into the car and got on the road.

We arrived in Grand Junction, after a lovely drive, at around lunch time. We were greeted by scenery more beautiful than we expected. We came out of the dry canyons of the Western Slope and into a region with lush vineyards on one side and gorgeous, colorful mesas on the other. It was at this point that we decided to apply our train refund to spending an extra night in Grand Junction.

After checking in at Two Rivers, and grabbing lunch in the quaint Main Street area of Grand Junction, we began our weekend of vineyard-touring. Somewhere along the way, we found out that we serendipidously scheduled our trip to coincide with the Annual Peach Festival. Hallelujah! (Palisade, Grand Junction's neighbor and fellow vineyard hot-spot, has famously juicy and delicious peaches.)
Some shots from various vineyards in Grand Junction & Palisade:

Overall, our expectations for the weekend were blown away. The wines were delicious and affordable. The area has amazing reds (Syrah & Cab Sav), and whites (Chardonnay & Riesling), as well as dessert wines (Ice Wine at Garfield Estates). And, in typical Bret & Jaimy style, we hunted down some of the best eats in the area: most notably, Il Bistro, Bin 707, and Moulin Rouge.

AND what we hadn't realized or anticipated was that the region butts up against the Colorado National Monument. Here are some shots from the roughly 25-mile drive through the Monument:

So really, just sitting here and recounting the tale of that relaxing and wonderful weekend not so long ago has improved my disposition immensely. (By October, at this rate, I will most likely have to share with you our entire 2 week trip to Europe, complete with all 530 pictures, in order to retain my sanity.)