Friday, August 29, 2008

DNC 2008 in Denver: Pre-Convention & Monday Night

As you all know, the recently (as in 14 hours ago) concluded Democratic National Convention was right here in Denver, CO. And as you may or may not know, I (Jaimy) spent a lot of time this spring interning for the Host Committee for the DNC. The Host Committee is the organization charged, essentially, with making the Convention happen in the host city (= raising the $60 million necessary to pay for it). I left my post there to study for the Bar Exam. About two weeks after the Bar, I started getting (frantic-sounding) e-mails from the folks in the Host Committee Finance Department asking if I could come back and help them with the home stretch and through Convention Week. Needless to say, I was more than happy to pitch in.

I won't get into the work itself, but needless to say, "pitching in" has entailed working no less than 10 hours a day for the past eight days. While you COULD say I worked for free, I would say I was overpaid. The experience was certainly exhausting, but more than that, it was awe-inspiring. Not only did we witness the nomination of the first major party African American candidate for President of the United States, but Bret and I were both able to attend all of the awesome events connected with the Convention. I also experienced personal satisfaction from dealing with all the folks from our local area and from around the country who crossed my path. For every donor who thought they deserved "more for their money," there was one who was just so excited to be a part of the process and a part of Denver's historical week. Several times I was hugged by complete strangers when they received their tickets to Obama's acceptance speech, or to the various events we were fortunate to plan or be a part of this week. Rest assured, it was eight days I will never forget.

I can't fit the whole week in one post, so I'll discuss the Pre-Convention events and Day One of the DNC first, and then blog the rest over the next week or so (including our trip to Colorado Wine Country, and the introduction of a new four-legged member of our family).

Last Saturday, we attended the kick-off event of the Convention at Elitch Gardens (an amusement park) -- the Media Party. About 15,000 members of the media, delegates, and Convention sponsors were in attendance for delicious food, free amusement park games, rides, and concerts. Bret and I were able to attend a show by the Flobots, a hip-hop band with a classical twist that originated in Denver last year and has since become a national act with its socially conscious album. The show was only attended by about 300 people, so we were right up front....Great Show!

Jonny 5 & Brer Rabbit of the Flobots
Sunday, after another long day of preparation for Denver's big week, we headed up to Red Rocks (only the most amazing outdoor concert venue on the planet) for the Green Concert. Fortunately, I was able to get four tickets to the event, which featured Sheryl Crow, Sugarland, and a Dave Matthews acoustic performance with Tim Reynolds (along with various politicos), and we invited our Dave Matthews-loving friends Mark & Kristin Whitney to join us. The entire evening was nothing short of amazing. They called it the Green Concert because of the commitment by all organizations involved in planning this year's convention to make it the greenest convention in history and a footprint for future political conventions. Here are some shots of the night (along with a video clip): (And by the way, we were 5th row center!)

The crowd at Red Rocks.

Mayor Hickenlooper: Laid-off Geologist, turned Barkeep (Wynkoop Brewery here in Denver), turned Mayor of the "Capitol of the Creative West"

Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, our neighbor in the 5th row (and my vote for Governor in my days as a VA resident).

Sheryl Crow's dedication to Barack Obama -- "Strong Enough"

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., speaking on the importance of environmental issues in this election and the experience of being his father's son.

Dave and Tim

Finally, it was Monday. We moved our office and core personnel downtown for the Convention itself. After a long day of trouble-shooting and getting our credentials out to the deserving donors who allowed us to make this Convention happen, I was handed two credentials to the first night of the Convention, where Michelle Obama was slated to speak. Shots from Day One:

The Floor of the Convention, with Michelle Obama at the Podium.

Tyler from our Operations team. This is more or less a picture of how we all felt with the Convention underway....a little giddy, a little exhausted, maybe the slightest bit just-plain-crazy.

So, that was everything up to the end of Day One. As promised, I'll deliver the rest of the week over the next few days. For now, I need to go prepare for Alyssa, my friend and my roommate from my freshman year at Florida State, who is visiting for Labor Day weekend!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Domestic Blissfulness

Having finished the Bar Exam and not yet (a) started my last semester of classes, or (b) started working, I have been immersing myself in life's simpler pleasures....taking Elsa for walks, sleeping in a little, drinking my coffee more slowly in the morning, keeping the house in order, cooking, watching the Olympics with Bret, and, most deliciously, baking cookies.

Every time I bake, as an adult, I am taken back to the many many days when, as a little girl, I baked with my Gram. Those are some of my earliest and most fond memories. I can't stir cookie dough without thinking of myself and Gram doubled over in laughter in her kitchen over the fact that her old wooden spoon finally broke in half, mid-stir in a batch of toll house chocolate chip cookies. And I never fail to think of the giant yellow tupperware bowl she had, and hearing the story about Gram taking dough in that bowl to my mom, who was pregnant with me at the time, so that they could make cut-out cookies together. She placed the bowl atop her car, got in, and, having left it there, sped off. By the time she realized it, the dough was rolled out across the road.

Gram & Me, circa 1983

Though I may not be very good at it, I've always felt that baking is the one activity (or one of the very few) that calms and grounds me. And so, when my friend Heather clued me in to the Neiman Marcus chocolate chip cookie recipe, I bookmarked it for after the Bar. LUCKILY, I got a KitchenAid 9-speed Handmixer for my Birthday for such occasions! (Thanks, Mom & Dad Lewis!)

The Result: Deliciousness!

The recipe calls for instant espresso powder, so I e-mailed Heather to find out what she used to fulfill that ingredient. She responded that a certain brand of instant espresso powder should be RIGHT IN MY GROCERY AISLE! Yay!

This is the part where I miss the D.C. metro area and its grocery stores containing all of the grocery items one could ever desire.

Two grocery stores and no espresso powder after I set out on my search, I opted to brew espresso and add 2 teaspoons of espresso instead of the 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of instant powder. Honestly, as Heather warned me might happen, there was not enough espresso taste (read: none) in the cookies, and when I make these again, I'll step it up. I suggest other coffee lovers do the same.

Next Baking Feat: Janey Lewis' World Famous Cheesecake. I can't promise I'll produce the recipe here (or that it will taste quite as good as it does in Skiatook, OK), but I'm looking forward to trying!

Monday, August 11, 2008

The First of Many, Many, Many, Many, Many (You Get the Idea) to Come...

Yesterday was our very first wedding Anniversary. One year ago yesterday, we gathered atop a mountain in front of our closest family, and pledged to spend the rest of our days together, in good times and in bad, for richer and for poorer, ...well you know. While we have had a little of every extreme in the past 12 months, it has truly been the best year of my (Jaimy's) life and I can't wait to see what the rest of our life together brings.

Chowing Down: One of our favorite activities.

To celebrate, we went to brunch at one of our favorite restaurants in Denver, Bistro Vendome on Larimer Square, after church. We took our time and thoroughly enjoyed every moment and every bite of the roasted yellow beet salad with Haystack Mountain goat cheese dressing and the Asparagus and Eggs on Brioche with Bernaise Sauce. Literally one of my favorite meals in this world, and certainly my favorite in Denver.

After brunch, we wandered the shops on Larimer and commandeered a bench from which to people watch. Since cooking is one of our favorite activities to enjoy together, we planned our evening meal from our new cookbook, the classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Ms. Julia Child.

Though I forgot to snap the pictures to prove it, we cooked an awesome meal-- Veal in a Brown Mushroom Sauce (Julia's recipe), Potatoes Au Gratin (also from Julia), and Belgian Endive a la Meuniere (from the Professional Chef, 8th Ed. Cookbook). I'd love to tell you that we enjoyed it by candlelight, but the truth of the matter is that we enjoyed our delightful French meal while we watched the U.S. men's relay team pull out their amazing win over the French for the Gold Medal. All in all, I couldn't have asked for a more perfect way to spend our first Anniversary.

This week, after Bret completes his dreaded Tax Accounting final, we will be taking an Amtrak to the Colorado Wine Country in Grand Valley for two days of relaxation and proper celebration of my completion of the Colorado Bar (even though I won't know whether I passed until October), our birthdays, and our Anniversary.

Side Note: Having had my head in the books for the summer, I had missed the city's preparations for the Democratic National Convention that will be held here in August. Not only are there banners on every lightpost downtown and tents covering the majority of the Pepsi Center grounds, but Larimer Square is decked out in flags from every U.S. state and territory and the shops are buzzing with preparations for the crowds. It promises to be an exciting time to be a Denver resident!