Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I love the holidays!

November / December have been pretty busy for us. Elliot came to Ithaca for a weekend in early November, which was absolutely wonderful. After that, we visited Florence, SC to see the Hokansons for Thanksgiving. While we were in the South, we took a day trip to Savannah that I really enjoyed. Savannah is really beautiful! I should have taken pictures while we were on the bus tour, but I was far too mesmerized to remember to find my camera. (I still haven't eaten at either of Paula Deen's restaurants though, so there is at least one reason to visit there again!) In December, David went to the American Society for Cell Biology meeting in Philadelphia (sounds so...exciting...doesn't it...) while I visited Durham and Chicago in one weekend - I visited Amanda to celebrate her PhD defense at Duke (she passed) and I visited Kristen just because she is awesome.

And now, after one weekend back in Ithaca, the traveling continues! Today is my last day at work before my holiday break officially starts! Yay! David and I are spending the 22nd - 27th in Butler and then traveling to Utica, NY to hang out with his family until Jan. 1.

In between our many trips and visitors, we did decorate the apartment for Christmas. We went to Moore's Tree Farm to pick out what I think is our best Christmas tree yet!

If you look closely, you will notice Ipita under the tree. I often find him waiting there for me when I get home. I almost want to put a bow on his head!

Last year, my parents got us this ornament because 2009 was our wedding year. I was very excited to find a wedding photo and hang this on our tree!

My parents also got me a "Charlie Brown Christmas Tree Kit" from the sale rack at Bon Ton. I think it really looks like the one from the cartoon, and I am kind of obsessed with it.

Even though we are not exchanging presents this year (because we are going on a trip to Vegas in January instead), we still hung up our stockings. We have no fireplace, so we hang them from the windowsill instead.

Happy holidays!!

Friday, October 29, 2010

A weekend full of team spirit

After a successful trip to the endocrinologist last Friday (SUMMARY: It turns out I have both Graves and Hashimoto's diseases - both types of auto-immune thyroid disorders - which is why my levels are all over the place), I went on to have a really fun weekend here in Ithaca. The doctor gave me a new prescription for propanolol (a beta-blocker medication) to lower my crazy heart rate to more normal levels, and so I was able to run in a 5K race for the Finger Lakes Cancer Resource Center on Saturday. Several of the people in my church book club formed a team to run this race in honor of the people in their lives that battled/survived cancer, and it was my pleasure to be a part of both their running and fundraising efforts.

Here is a picture of our team before the race. Our team was called Team Millennium Falcon, and I was so excited that we had a Star Wars theme because I found a really cute Lego Star Wars shirt in the boys' section of Target! My character was R2D2.

After the race! This was my first 5K race since I used to competitively race in high school and college, and I have to say that it was interesting to line up at that starting line again. So many Saturday morning memories! When the gun went off, I immediately zapped into "race" mode and for a brief second, I wanted to run ahead of my teammates in order to see what kind of a time I could run after all of these years away. I am so glad that I got over this and chose to pace my teammates toward their goal of finishing in under 45:00 instead. I am sure that my time would have been terrible/disappointing in comparison to what I used to be able to run, and more importantly, there was something really special about motivating people who had never finished a 5K before to keep the pace. Ironically, it was my slowest finish that I have ever had - 35:25 - and yet, it is also one of the finishes I am most proud of. Everyone that ran in our group ran the entire time, and we had a lot of fun along the way using our trusty lightsaber to guide us to our next milemarker!
On the next day, David and I went to Buffalo Wild Wings to watch the Pittsburgh vs. Miami game. I was so excited to go to watch the game that I almost forgot to put shoes on!

It was a close game, but ultimately the referees decided to hand the victory to my Steelers. (Thank you refs - your check from the Rooneys is in the mail I am sure...) During the game, we also did the Blazin' Challenge, which we have been wanting to try since we started going to Buffalo Wild Wings to watch football games. In this challenge, you have to eat 12 Blazin' wings (the hottest wings there) in 6 minutes without any drinks or napkins. Both David and I accomplished this task (I ate them in 5:53, and David in 5:18), but our victory was bittersweet because the Blazin' wings absolutely destroyed our digestive systems for the rest of the day.

This weekend = low key. We have tons of leftovers to eat, Rescue Me episodes to watch, and Red Dead Redemption quests to complete! :) Oh, and of course we will hand out yummy Halloween candy to any cute kiddos that come by our door on Sunday. Happy Halloween to all!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

October already??

Time is flying, and I realized it has been over a month since my last blog post. David and I have been spending a quiet fall in Ithaca, and it has been nice to be at home and do things around here for a little while. (I am not stir-crazy yet with our no travel pact, but I have a feeling by November I will be itching to go to the airport and go somewhere just in time for Thanksgiving!)

I'd say that the reason I haven't written much is because there isn't much to say, and that would kind of be true, since we are typically doing normal things that I wouldn't want to bore everyone with. However, the real reason for my absence stems more from the fact that I have been feeling physically out of sorts lately, which has thrown my moods and state of being completely out of balance. My thyroid levels are totally out of control (my normally low levels have spiked to ridiculously high levels instead), and I find it is affecting me more than I would expect or even like. In fact, I don't even really like to talk about it all that much because I feel silly admitting that something as small as a thyroid imbalance is causing chaos in my life when so many other people have to deal with real diseases like cancer or diabetes.

The main problem is that my heart rate just won't go down. I have always had a naturally low heart rate (the one good thing distance running did for my body), and so it is totally strange for my heart to be racing at all times. My heart rate is 120 as I write this from my desk chair, I feel like I have extra adrenaline rushing through my veins, it is hard to focus, and the worst part is, when I can focus my mind starts to race to keep up with my heart beat. I start to worry (even more than I already do) about stupid things, or even worse, the smallest irritation will take my mood from mellow to Incredible Hulk in less than 60 seconds. (Is this how people on steroids feel when they are juiced up and angry? I wonder if this is a different sort of 'roid rage?!?) And so, I am a strange version of myself that desperately wants to maintain her usual happy state of mind, but is instead taken over by flashes of panic and uncontrollable anger.

I also can't exercise even remotely without elevating my heart rate and inducing scary chest pain (that my PCP doctor has assured me is nothing to worry about even though I feel like I am having a heart attack), and so I am beginning to feel like an old, 300 lb. woman. Today David had to slow down his walking pace because I was breathing heavily and struggling to keep up, and it continues to frustrate me. I keep telling myself this is not a reflection of my physical shape, but it is hard to maintain that attitude as I am huffing and puffing up the stairs of our apartment building!! :)

*sigh* The good news is, after months of being 'roid crazy and waiting to get into the endocrinologist, I am finally going to see the doctor on Oct. 22. Hopefully he can fix me up.

This is much more personal than I usually get with this blog, but then again, I am not the type of person that shares any piece of news that 1) is remotely personal or 2) does not involve the adjectives, "happy", "exciting", "fun", or "cute". It's just not how I usually work, because talking about anything else means that I am not working hard to focus on the positive things in life, especially all of the things I have to be grateful for. Also, it is also really hard for me to admit that I am struggling with anything, because as someone with a type A+ personality and perfectionist tendencies, I'm not supposed to struggle. However, David has taught me recently that if you can't share your flaws and your struggles with your family and your friends, who can you share them with? And so, with this blog I am taking a step to be a little more open...just like he is.

Hmmm...so what else has my (limited) blog audience missed while I have been away dealing with my self-absorbed 'roid issues? We took down our Danger Zone garden two weeks ago now that our crops are done producing and the cold weather season is fast approaching. It was kind of a sad day, though I am already looking forward to next summer when we can improve on what we accomplished this past summer. Also, speaking of things to look forward to - Elliot Roth comes to visit in just three weeks! And soon enough it will be November, which is always a happy month because I start listening to Christmas music!

I think I will end this incredibly long post with a list of things that make me happy because it will make me happy to think of them, and it will be more uplifting:

1. David's laugh, David's kisses, David's cooking, and David's tickles...okay, just David.
2. One Day, by David Nicholls (even though this book made me cry extensively)
3. Tuesday and Thursday night TV (and today is Thursday!)
4. Angry Birds
5. The fact that my research project is finally leading towards productive results
6. Apple cider, caramel apples, pumpkin spice lattes, kettle corn, and fall foods in general
7. New songs by Taylor Swift
8. My new Gap cardigan (that I am wearing right now)
9. Getting lots of mail (hint hint)
10. Book club (we are reading The Hobbit for November, and I am making cupcakes for our snack)

Monday, September 13, 2010

A nice fall weekend

Fall is such a wonderful time of year in Ithaca, and I am loving our "no travel" pact after this weekend because it was really relaxing to be at home and do things around the apartment.

On Saturday, I helped David brew a pumpkin beer for the first time. Usually, I am only mildly interested in helping David brew because he tends to brew beers that are very hoppy in flavor (yuck) and very high in alcohol content (not so good for a lightweight like me). In other words, he usually chooses beer I am not interested in drinking. I was very excited that he chose a beer that I love this time around! It smelled a lot like pumpkin when we took it out of the pot, so hopefully it will not turn out to be one of those pumpkin beers that is flavored with mostly pumpkin pie spices and not much pumpkin. It should be ready right around Halloween, and I am very excited to try it.

I love shopping at Target, and this past weekend was no exception. Though we went there to buy gifts for Amanda and Paul, I left with a gift for myself too! These slippers are super cute, and even more importantly, they are super warm too. I love them. Yesterday while being silly with David, I named them Melvin and Marvin.

On Sunday we watched FOOTBALL at BUFFALO WILD WINGS! Both games had a happy ending because the Dolphins and the Steelers won, though both games were a little stressful to watch (especially at the end). After the games, we made crab and chili ravioli for dinner and watched the season finales of True Blood and Entourage. Dinner was delicious. Below is a picture of David making the ravioli.
I am looking forward to more weekends in Ithaca this fall! Come visit us :)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Things you missed while I was busy not blogging

It has been awhile since my last post! August was a busy month for me, so here are some things you have missed while I was busy not blogging:

1. I turned 27! Being 27 is not different at all from being 26, as it turns out. I got nice gifts from several very thoughtful people this year, including a Regal Cinemas gift card from my parents, lunch at Heights Cafe from David, and cupcake band-aids from Kristen.

2. Our garden crop season is winding down. We do not have many plants left! Much to my surprise, our broccoli finally began coming in! We plan to eat our broccoli with chicken in a stir-fry tonight. I had high hopes for our cantaloupe melons, but unfortunately, so did some animals around the farm.

Shown above is a beautiful melon that the animals got to first. We did get to try two of the ten melons we had, and to be honest, they weren't very good/sweet. I don't think we missed out too much by losing most of the cantaloupe, and we won't grow them next year. (Maybe pumpkins or watermelons instead??)

3. Travel! In order to save money, David and I (reluctantly) agreed to impose a "no travel" pact for the fall, but I did manage to slip in two more trips before the end of the summer. My first trip was to Boston for the American Chemical Society meeting. I saw a few posters, networked with a few scientists, and mostly just hung out in my favorite city with some of my favorite people. I can't wait to move to Boston in a few years!! This trip was truly fantastic, though it took me forever to get to Boston and back. USAirways severely mishandled my entire flight reservation, and I received a $75 travel voucher. (Kind of ironic, since we agreed not to travel. Now I am planning a lot of imaginary trips we can take in the spring, when I might be able to convince David to use the travel voucher.) I also went back to Butler at the end of August for a trip to the dentist. When I went to the evil man that maimed me (a.k.a. the dentist) in Ithaca, he told me that one of my fillings needed to be replaced because I had ground it down in my sleep. However, since he tortured me in the office while filling another tooth, I did not want to let him do any additional damage and promptly scheduled an appointment with my childhood dentist back in Butler. It was a really great dental visit (and I am not saying this strictly because I was under the influence of Valium to calm my nerves). My filling did not need to be replaced after all (silly evil Ithaca dentist), and I got fitted for a new NightGuard to help prevent my night grinding.

September is looking to be a pretty quiet month here in the Hokanson household. We are very excited for the NFL football season to start this Thursday, and the arrival of cool fall weather (hopefully for David's sake, anyway). To get into the fall spirit, we plan to brew a pumpkin beer on Saturday and go to BWW to watch the football games on Sunday. Go Steelers!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Danger Zone: an update

After our time away in Florida for a week, we were welcomed home by tons of vegetables waiting for us at the farm. Shown above are cucumbers, green beans, and collard greens.

It rained a good bit while we were gone, and so the cucumbers in particular had time to thrive. They were huge! We made pickles (I hope these are good, because I love snacking on dill pickles), cucumber mint sorbet (very weird...very, very weird), and tzatziki dip (NOTE: dice the cucumbers - do not food process them, or your dip will be very runny and require much more yogurt than otherwise necessary).

The green beans were by far the best fresh green beans I have ever had. We ate some of them sauteed with a little salt and pepper, and then took some to my parents' house to share with them.

I have discovered during this gardening process that I really like collard greens. Last night David put some in an omelet with bacon and swiss cheese and it tasted amazing.

Next up are cantaloupes, which are getting pretty big! We have 9-10 growing at the moment. But despite our successes, there have been some disappointments in recent days. When we got back from a long weekend in Butler/Pittsburgh, we discovered that most of our cucumber plants had dried out (or were on their way to drying out). Though it had rained over the weekend, it was not enough water for them to survive. Also, our pea plants suffered a cruel destruction by the hands of birds/animals. This was probably our biggest letdown to date because we only got one pea before the animals took them all (and it was a very good pea)! There are so many things we will have to do differently next year, and one of them will need to be keeping our yummy peas away from farm critters.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Chobot Family Vacation

Two weeks ago, David and I joined my parents and sister in Walt Disney World for a week of fun! Here are some picture highlights from our trip:

Some girls dream of their fantasy weddings and what they will wear, but as a child that spent many a summer vacation in Disney World, I always dreamed about the day that I would get to walk around the parks in the wedding Mickey Mouse ears with my husband. Since our first anniversary was only a few weeks prior to the trip, I managed to convince David to wear the groom hat for a day. The above picture was taken in Epcot, in Paris.

Though Pooh is my favorite, I like this picture of David and me with Eeyore, taken during our character breakfast at the Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom.

Me, with Donald in Frontierland.

The five of us at our favorite restaurant, Sanaa (located in the Animal Kingdom Lodge). The food here was really amazing, though I think it was David's favorite because the waitress flirted with him shamelessly!

My sister got a really fantastic mojito drink at Sanaa, and my mom fell in love with it. This was her face when my sister asked for it back.

The best chocolate mousse I have ever had - my dessert when we ate at the steakhouse in Epcot's Canada.

David, with (his favorite) Pluto.

Kermit and Piggy during the Dreams Come True parade

Our dining plan included more snacks than we could ever eat, so at the end of the trip, we raided the Disney bakeries for goodies to take home with us. Here are two cookies I brought with me (they looked significantly better than they tasted).

It was hard to leave all of the fun, excitement, family, and good food! We rae looking forward to the next family trip in the years ahead.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

An abundance of fun and crops!

Last weekend David and I went to Westborough to visit Brian and Jane and see The Offspring (David's favorite band) in concert. We really enjoyed our visit.

Jane and I made ice cream cone cupcakes on Saturday and they turned out really well. They were beautiful AND delicious. I think I am going to make these for my next group meeting presentation. (I may also make them for David's next group meeting presentation too.)

Our visit with Jane and Brian was really nice because it was so relaxing. We mostly sat on the couch and hung out (though Jane and I did run a lot of errands while the guys brewed beer on Sunday). While we were there, David and I got hooked on a new game for my iPod/iPad called Angry Birds. It is ridiculously fun. Reason #682094 that I love my iPad and iPod touch devices.

The Offspring concert was a disappointment for the most part. Our tickets said that the concert started at 7:30, so our plan was to arrive at 7:30 because we did not really care if we saw the opening band (Pepper) or not, and we figured that 311 (the other play co-headlining the Unity Tour) might even play second. However, when we got to the Comcast Center at 7:30, we heard The Offspring playing in the background! Apparently the time of the concert changed to 7:00, Pepper played then, and The Offspring started playing right at 7:30 sharp. We missed two songs, including one of the best songs from their new album. The band sounded amazing, but they only played for one hour :( The entire concert experience just fell flat, especially since we missed a portion of their very short show. We stayed until 311 played three (awful) songs, and then we called it a night.

When we arrived back at Ithaca on Monday, we discovered that our farm had flourished in the time when we were away, most likely due to lots of rainfall in the Ithaca area over the weekend. We got an abundance of crops, as well as fantastic peas that will be ready to eat on Thursday. Shown in the picture above is a zucchini, cucumbers (that will be made into pickles tonight), mint leaves, dill (also for pickles), one pea, and a swiss chard leaf from the huge swiss chard plant that we picked. Since we only had one pea plant, we ate the peas inside to see how they turned out...and they was phenomenal. They were by far the best peas I have ever tasted :)

This week we will be giving our garden some extra love because we will be leaving it for one week while we relax / play in Walt Disney World. We leave in just 4 days! The entire Chobot family (plus Hokanbots!) will be staying in a Wilderness Lodge Villa for 7 days. I can hardly wait.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Danger Zone - a two month progress report

We have been "farming" for two months now, and so I thought I would post pictures of all our plants to see how much they have grown since we started.



collard greens



sweet peas

swiss chard

tomatoes (from Ifat, a post-doc in David's lab)

cucumber (from Irina -another post-doc - planted after we planted our row)


Our spice garden is growing out of control. Here are two of the herbs we have grown:



We are having so much fun with our garden (farm) and I can't wait to eat the rest of the yummy crops that are blooming during the months to come :)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Our first crops!

After weeks of watching our plants grow, I am thrilled to report that we were finally able to pick our first crops - swiss chard and zucchini.

Our first harvest of swiss chard was ready last weekend. One interesting thing we noticed after we harvested them was that we had a mix of green and red swiss chard plants. We picked two bunches and made two delicious dishes out of them.

Our first dish was braised swiss chard with garlic, bacon, and zucchini blossoms (also from the garden). I liked David's presentation with the swiss chard leaves. This dish was very good, but as we Hokansons tend to do, there was a bit too much bacon added and that flavor was overwhelming. Our second swiss chard dish was a white bean and swiss chard soup. (Sorry, I do not have a picture of the soup.) This soup was pretty bland the first day we ate it, but it improved in flavor as we ate it for leftovers. My favorite part about this soup recipe was that it called for cheese rind, so we were forced to stock up the cheese / chocolate drawer of the fridge (yes, I do indeed have an entire drawer of the fridge devoted to two of my favorite foods) with yummy parmesan-like cheeses.

We picked our first zucchini yesterday and ate it with some french onion-fennel dip. Above is what the zucchini look like after they are pollinated by a zucchini blossom and begin to grow.

This is the zucchini we picked, in its natural habitat.

Here is a terrifying photo of a very excited Farmer David. I tried to get him to act normally while I was taking this photo, but he refused to damper his crazy over our first zucchini. (I suppose this is only fair, since I live my life crazy with excitement over most things.)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Happy anniversary!

Can you believe it has been one year already?

David and I are celebrating our one year wedding anniversary today by having dinner at Sheldrake Point & Simply Red Bistro (the place we got married) tonight. The big dork inside of me wants to grab my veil out of the attic and wear it to dinner, but the person inside of me that wants to fit in with society is telling me that perhaps my veil is best worn at home :)

I insisted that we keep one tier of our wedding cake to eat on this special day, and so I had cake as a midnight snack, David had cake for breakfast, and we will both be eating cake for lunch. I was very nervous to eat something that had been in the freezer for one year, but I was surprised to find that I actually like our cake better today than I did one year ago. I had very high expectations for our wedding cake last year and was completely let down - it was as dry as sawdust! Maybe the key was to have really low expectations (I was expecting it to be moldy when I opened the Tupperware last night at midnight) and then it will seem delicious by comparison. Or maybe it somehow gained moisture in the freezer.

First year wedding anniversary gifts are supposed to be paper goods, so I made one of our favorite wedding photos into a jigsaw puzzle for David. David got me tons of movie ticket certificates so that we can have movie dates! It looks like we will have lots of fun things to do together during our second year.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A blossom!

More updates from The Danger Zone:

Our first zucchini blossom! It is so beautiful and vibrantly colored (which may be hard to appreciate due to this blurry photo). We wanted to pick it and cook with it...but then we found out that this male blossom will pollenate female blossoms (and those will turn into actual zucchini). Might as well wait for the finished product!

David, weeding the herb garden. He is so much more patient while weeding than I am. I find that I tend to get bored. I think we need to start bringing some sort of battery operated music device (that isn't ridiculously expensive and made by Apple) so that I can jam to some tunes while I weed.

Proof that I do help David garden (and do not just take the pictures / watch him work). Here I am sitting among the herbs after watering all of the plants with our large watering can. Thankfully, this watering can is now somewhat obsolete, since we have finally made friends with a hose-owning garden neighbor.