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February 4, 2014

Freddy Forever

Freddy is a stinky little doggy who likes to sleep on top of the sheets, curled up by my tummy, thereby pinning me between him and the Dude for the entire night and yielding me nary an inch to move in either direction. He has terrible breath and crazy eyes when I'm eating peanut butter and sometimes he actually tries to lick my face off.

But he's so cute. So so so sosososososo SOOOOOOOOOOO cute. I wanted to stare into his little face forever and always, so I commissioned my friend Jo to paint his portrait for posterity.

It is literally the best thing I have ever laid eyes on.  Jo deserves the Congressional Medal of Honor and three Peabody Awards. She has now opened her own Etsy shop called Dapper Pet Portraits to immortalize other furry creatures near and far. If you're in need of a gift for the Person Who Has Everything Except a Watercolor of Their Beloved Pet, look no further.

February 2, 2014

The "Do I Really Want to Do This" Cleanse: Week 1

This has been a really weird week due to factors that have nothing to do with the cleanse. It's been incredibly stressful for reasons both personal and professional, but with very excellent highlights.  Namely, my left hand and a swath of my back have achieved worldwide fame.

Exhibit A

Exhibit B: Look for the wedding photo, which is fifth from the top. I'm the chick in teal sandwiched between the other chick in teal holding a bouquet and the woman in a red top.

If you want I can sign my autograph with my famous left hand.


I started this post on Saturday morning, and had written a really cocky paragraph about how easy this cleanse was and how few cravings I'd had.  You'll notice I deleted it. Because it was a lie.

The work week had been relatively easy, but that was largely because I was too distracted with many looming and terrifying deadlines to develop a good craving for anything. The weekend, during which I had large expanses of time in which ruminate upon the mouth-feel of a really good crusty baguette, has been harder. I want a spaghetti sandwich. I want beer ice cream. Is there something cleanse-worthy I can chew on? Because crunchy and mushy are fine and they certainly have their place, but I miss chewy.

That said, I did notice an increased and sustained energy level last week. I wasn't having a mid-afternoon crash followed by a pounding headache, which was de rigueur after a typical sandwich lunch and a few stops at the office candy bowl. And I feel incredibly morally superior about this change in diet after watching Food, Inc. last night, which is not nothing.

This is what we ate last week:

Veggie Stir Fry with Tofu and Brown Rice

I subbed snap peas for the bok choy and added red pepper flakes to the tofu. It had lots of nice textures and flavors going on.

Warm Lentil and Potato Salad

Smitten Kitchen will never steer you wrong. Ever. This is so tangy and flavorful and wonderful. It's getting a spot in the Canon.

Roasted Cauliflower and Mushroom Quinoa Salad

I skipped the cheese crumbles (because obviously) and the walnuts (because I didn't have any), and this guy was fairly boring and disappointing. 

Fake Chocolate Frosty

1 c. unsweetened almond milk
1 frozen banana
1Tbs cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp chia seeds

This concoction is saving my life by quelling my ever-present chocolate craving.

Goop Smoothie

January 26, 2014

The "Do I Really Want to Do This" Cleanse

I don't really do diets. The closest I've come is to ditch grains and legumes for the week of Passover, which always feels like Such Torture. So when Matt came home from a yoga class at our gym saying he wanted to join in on the three-week cleanse they were doing my response was, "have fun."

In the end, being a supportive spouse won out, and now we're both on this journey to achieve spiritual enlightenment and cleanse our souls as we cleanse our bodies free of toxins and free radicals. Or whatever. (I know he's really just in this so he has a bikini body before we go to Belize in March, vain bastard.)

Yesterday was the first of 21 days during which gluten, animal products, processed sugars, caffeine, or alcohol shan't pass betwixt our lips. The latter two are pretty easy for me-- I never developed a taste for caffeine, and I'm a social drinker at most. I do love my gluten though. And my yogurt and eggs. And oh, do I ever love sweet treats. You know I love my sweet treats. You probably love my sweet treats, too.

Unlike a juice "cleanse" (which seems more like a starvation fast to me), the point is not deprivation but rather eating better as a whole. Below are some recipes that are going to see me through.


One of my standard breakfast options (cleanse or no) is a smoothie consisting of a cup or so of almond milk, a handful of spinach, a banana, a spoonful of almond butter and a few shakes of cinnamon. It's pretty delish as far as green smoothies go. I'm also going to be making many bowlfuls of warming quinoa flakes with some pomegranate seeds and chia in the vortex-y days ahead.

What I'm missing: my other standard breakfast option of Grape Nuts and kefir.


 I've been making salads that consist of:
-A few handfuls of arugula
-Half an heirloom tomato, diced
-Half an avocado, diced
-Half a can of black beans
-1/2 tsp minced garlic
-1 Tbs chia seeds
-1 Tbs sunflower seeds
-Olive oil and balsamic vinegar to dress

What I'm missing: the ease of being able to grab a sandwich if I didn't have it together enough to make my lunch. I love sandwiches as a category of food in general.


The MIL made this excellent Squash, Red Lentil, and Chickpea stew when we were over there for New Years. As long as you omit the chicken it fits within the cleanse like a champ. The flavors are complex and the lentils are extremely filling.

What I'm missing: Egg sandwiches. Chicken. Pasta. Cheese. EVERYTHING. *sniffle*

Do you have any vegan, gluten-free, and sugar-free recipes you love? I've been collecting a few on one of my pinboards. I'd love to have more. Especially if they somehow involve chocolate.

January 6, 2014

How to survive life on Mars

It's, like, really cold here in sweet home Minnesota. Colder than a witch's chesticles. Colder than an icicle frozen inside of snowdrift inside of the Grinch's heart pre-Whoville. Colder, apparently, than Mars.

Much of the state is closed today in response to these -50F windchills, including, thank Moses, my office, giving me the time to write a little guide to braving these frigid temps.

Step 1: Stop washing your hair.

Ain't nobody got the time for taking their feathers from wet to dry in weather like this. You'll probably catch cold/pneumonia/plague if you even try. If you need to be seen in public and you care about not looking like a sewer rat, you're going to need some dry shampoo. I've used a few different spray kinds, like Suave (turns my hair gray!), Dove (don't like the smell!), bumble+bumble (it's like brown spray paint!), and wasn't impressed. A Buzzfeed article led me to this potion from Brooklyn man store Fellow Barber. It's a bit messier since it's a powder, but it actually gives my hair the volume and clean appearance the other guys were promising. And the bergamot scent is quite pleasing!

Step 2: Take a detox bath. 

Just because you aren't washing your hairs doesn't mean you should let the rest of you get rank. Draw yourself a steaming hot bath and add a half cup baking soda, a cup of Epsom salts, and a few sprinkles of an essential oil (I like lavender). Stew for 20 minutes. You'll emerge relaxed and quite warm.

I don't know how much I really buy the "detox" aspect of the bath, but hey. Worth a shot.

Step 3: Slather coconut oil all over yourself. 

Coconut oil is so hot right now. Yesterday I told the mister I was going to rub it all over my face and see what happened. Here's what happened:

-It removed my makeup
-It left my skin very shiny and moist, which is better than dull and dry
-I smelled like a Mounds bar

This morning I put it on my chapped lips after reading this article, and it has totally relieved my Alligator Lip Syndrome.

Step 4: Warm your innards.

I discovered this hibiscus tea/ginger-clementine simple syrup concoction last winter. It produces a beverage that is both sweet and tart, and it's the prettiest color you ever did see. If you're local, you can get hibiscus tea at TeaSource. Or you could come over. I have it stockpiled.

Step 5: Put on your Katniss cowl.

You are sooooo sick of me talking about my damn Katniss cowl/huntress vest. I know. BUT LOOK AT IT IT'S SO COOL! AND I MADE IT! I MADE SOMETHING COOL! It's perfect for wearing on top of your shirt when you need extra warmth but don't want extra bulk under your arms. It's perfect for wearing under your coat. I love it the best.

Step 5: If you must go outside, get serious about it.

The MIL gave me this Patagonia down coat for Chrismukkah. It is like walking around in a sleeping bag. Highly recommended.

These Sorel Joan of Artic boots have made tromping out of doors as close to a pleasure as it could be. Before I got my sleeping bag coat, my feet were often the warmest part of my body.

Step 6: Don't even try to care what you look like.

When you're on Mars, it's better to be bundled than babely.

Stay warm out thar!

July 28, 2013

It's like having a stuffed animal that's real

Remember way back five months ago when I desperately didn't want a dog and resorted to bargain witchery before I would consent to getting one?

Who could have guessed way back when that I would fall alarmingly in love with our canine, to the point where I would compose the following song about him:

I used to get annoyed with all the pet photos on my Instagram feed, and now I'm one of the worst offenders. Who can blame me when Freddy looks so darn good in every hat and/or scarf I put him in?

Exhibits A, B and C:

Having a pup isn't all anthropomorphizing and games. Following is a cold, hard look at the pros and cons of pet ownership that I've experienced in the past five months.


PRO: We never would have met many of our neighbors if we didn't have to walk our beast past their abodes on a thrice-daily basis. The neighbor children love him, and when they see him coming an adorable chorus of, "Hi Freddy! Hi Freddy!" commences.

CON: Some of our older neighbors aren't quite as charmed by him. One woman banged on the inside of her living room window and yelled, "Seriously?!?!" when I let him pee at the edge of her yard.


PRO: I cannot believe how much I love him. He is my princess monkey man dog face kitty.

CON: I'm constantly thinking about him when we're not together. I wonder who he's barking at and where he's taking a snooze and whether he's thinking about me, too.


PRO: I'm never truly home alone anymore. Fred protects me from all the vicious bicycle-riding children and garbage trucks who dare pass by our property. Also, snuggling him is just the best. Especially when it's cold and you're watching a movie and all you want is a living, breathing fur coat on your lap.

CON: Fred is a very cute but very needy tether to the house. If I want to go out to happy hour, I can't just go; I need to make sure Matt can get home at a reasonable hour to take him out. No more spur-of-the-moment jaunts to Ibiza or Marrakesh, either. Plus, it turns out that he has a pretty bad case of the pukes every time we drive somewhere, meaning we have to be really committed before bringing him along.


CON: Despite copious coaxing, Freddy refuses to speak English. I just want to know what he's thinking, and why he loves the taste of Noxema so much. I also would really love to teach him how to read so he could improve his mind while we're at work.

June 10, 2013

Progress Report: Bathroom, Office, Guest Room

There's nothing like the prospect of a few dozen people coming over to goose the home improvements back into action. We'd stalled for the past few months on juicing up the joint, but last week, in between a bridal shower and a housewarming party, my mother-in-law offered to paint our guest bathroom and office while we were at work. All we had to do was buy the paint and do the prep work. It was a heckuva deal.

Our guest bathroom had been the color of a canoe pack I'd gotten for Matt for his birf. That color was called "olive drab." It wasn't really going with my pretty blue shower curtain, so we picked out a lovely dark teal.

Bathroom before:

Bathroom after:

I was very happy to find a permanent home for this pastel drawing I'd picked up circa '95 when I went to see the Chinese Opera in Beijing. This room is seldom used for showering purposes, so I wasn't too concerned about moisture damaging it.

I think this room is pretty well set. The only thing I would add would be a colorful valance above the window.


The Office:

We first took a whack at the office back in February, when we added the evil Ikea furniture that left me with many wounds. Dude was feeling like he wanted a manlier color than the pale pink that had graced this former nursery, so we picked out a nice, calming dark blue instead. The new color was a perfect backdrop for the Van Gogh print his dad had given to us, as well as a photo of the Weisman Art Museum on the U of M campus (where we both went to school).

As a reminder, this is what we started with:

And here's what we have now:

Office To-Dos:

  • Paint
  • Buy a chair for the desk
  • Buy an area rug
  • Buy a lamp for the desk
  • Get some binders full of women so it looks real profesh
  • NEW: create frame collage above the bookcases... perhaps with family photos?


Guest Bedroom

The last time we checked in on this room in February,  Dude and I were living in the guest room as we waited for our new gigantic bed from Slumberland to arrive so we could inhabit the master suite. I feel like this room has come a long way and is nearing completion.

Again, here is the before:

And here's what we have now:

I had been thinking about painting this a different color, but I think the purple will stay for awhile. The pink chandelier will stay forever, obviously.

Our lovely realtor Lisa gifted us with a Pier1 gift card (thanks Lisa!) and with it I purchased this collage frame. I filled it with postcards I collected from around Europe and put a print that says "What a Wonderful World" in the middle. (When did I get this cheesy? Who can say?) I also added the heart made from book pages that Matt's cousin Kali made for our wedding. Say it with me now: OH FER CUTE.

Dude hadn't been a big fan of the frilly outlet covers that had been in the office (former nursery), so we did a switcheroo and put them in here instead.

Aunt Wendy sent us a lovely Grand Canyon painting that is now living in the opposite corner of the froufrou, and Ma gave me the nightstand (hand-me-down from our former rabbi's study) and lamp (Tar-zhay Boutique).

The MIL and I had a craft night this winter to mod-podge these maps onto canvases. The robot was a gift from my sweet friend Danielle for my robot-themed 25th birthday.

 Guest Room To-Dos:

  • Re-paint (I don't wanna anymore!)
  • Get new bedding
  • Get lamp for night table
  • Hang map canvases so guests can pin where they're from
  • Make curtains
  • Refinish/paint furniture (No! I don't wanna! OK maybe later.)

Next up is trying to figure out what color to paint the kitchen, which is the same olive drab that the guest bathroom used to be, and the hallway, which is a very pale purple. Onward!

June 2, 2013

Tea Party Dream Team

I feel like tea parties are one of my core competencies, so when my girl Amanda asked me to be her Main Lady for her upcoming nups and requested a fancy tea party shower I said, "Yes. Yes, I can do that." Ma P-P volunteered her ample baking services and bam: Tea Party Dream Team.

I spent many an hour on Pinterest gathering conceptuals for the decor and grub and curated a fête fit for a princess bride (which Amanda is, natch). Wanna hear all about it? Read on, dear reader!


Here is our menu in full:
-Marie Antoinette tea from Ladurée (thanks for sending it, Nick and Kelly!)
-Honey-lavender lemonade
-Roast beef and horseradish sandwiches
-Smoked salmon and herb butter sandwiches
-Cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches
-Deviled eggs with caviar
-Dates stuffed with goat cheese and hazelnuts
-Pistachio macarons with salted caramel sauce
-Thumbprint cookies with raspberry jalapeno jelly (a Ma P-P specialty)
-Raspberry rose meringues
-Lemon lavender shortbread
-Mexican piggy cookies
-Lemon curd in phyllo cups with candied violets (Ma P-P said it was the best curd she's ever made. I will cosign.)

The spread.
Raspberry rose meringues

Lemon curd in phyllo shells with candied violets and raspberries

I don't dabble much in the floral arts due to ye olde pollen-averse sniffer, but I went to the Minneapolis Farmer's Market yesterday with a wish and a prayer and left with 48 roses and some mums. I follow a professional florist on Instagram so I felt like I kind of knew what I was doing. Sort of. This was the end result:

I made colorful tissue poufs and a construction paper garland to add more pops of princess color. To make the former, I aligned eight sheets of tissue paper and accordion folded them into one-inch segments. I wrapped wire around the middle, and then snipped designs on the end. I then carefully separated each layer to fill out the pouf. (Here's a toot from The Martha if you want more explanation.) For the garland, I used my 2-inch circle punch to cut out various colors of construction paper, and then lay them out in a straight line. I ran a glue stick down the center of each, and then pressed a length of string atop the glue. After adding additional glue to the tops and bottoms of the circles, I added a second batch of circles to the first so that the string was between two circle layers.

Tissue poufs

Construction paper garland


I was noodling around on Crate and Barrel's website, and found pretty little tins of Wedding Tea! Could you imagine a more perfect favor? I got the favor bags and adorable pink polka dot ribbon at JoAnn Fabrics and added little bits of leftover tissue paper from the poufs. Boom.


I was most nervous about the entertainment portion of the afternoon, as shower games are notoriously awful. Even a Google search of "Bridal shower games that don't suck" returns a truly pitiful selection of blah. I did three games/activities, one of which was fun, one of which was meh, and one of which hit it out of the park.

Fun: Celebrity Couples Guessing Game. I wrote the names of famous historical, political and fictional lovers on notecards and taped them to the guests' backs. (Some examples: Santa and Mrs. Claus, Sampson and Delilah, Barack and Michelle Obama, Madame Butterfly and Pinkerton.) Each person had to ask yes or no questions to try to figure out who they were. The kicker: Amanda's card said, "Whatever I ask, say no." Ha! Hijinks. Hilarity. The ice was broken and a grand time was had by all.

Meh: I tried to create a version of Catchphrase using true-life Amanda facts. It was clunky. After three questions I somewhat smoothly transitioned to gift-opening by saying that Amanda won and her prize was to open presents.

Out of the Park: I sent Amanda's intended a questionnaire about their relationship for him to fill out. The goal was to ask her the same questions before hearing his version. We decided to up the ante a bit by having him film his responses, which were funny, sweet and touching. He even made the Scandanavian bride leak a little emotion out of her eyes. Impressive.


Aside from a brief Freddy Freedom Run at the tail end of festivities (pun), everything went off without a hitch. Most importantly, Amanda wore a truly gigantic hat.

April 23, 2013

Opera: A Think Piece

Opera is one of those things you have to like if you're going to be fancy. It's like mink underwear. Quail egg omelets. Exclusive athletic clubs that provide bathrobes. Golf and/or tennis. Ostrich-bound books. All things you have to get used to when you decide to enjoy The Good Life.

If I have the choice between non-fancy and fancy, like if someone is presenting me a silver platter and removes the lid with a flourish and I have to choose between a lil' smokie and a mini escargot-oyster smoothie, you know I'm going to go for the delicate blend of balloon and snot.

Thus it was my destiny to dabble in the operatic arts, and when the opportunity arose to view final dress rehearsals of the Minnesota Opera's productions as an Official Blogger for the low, low price of free, I knew my time had come.

Turandot | Photo by Michael Daniel for the Minnesota Opera

My first production was the world premiere of Silent Night, which would go on to win a 2012 Pulitzer Prize (read my review here). I was enraptured. Enthralled. Gobsmacked. It was possibly the best performance I've witnessed of anything ever in the world. I cannot stress enough how much I loved the music and the costumes and the everything.

I was like, "Opera. Yes."

I enthusiastically requested tickets to the next performance, Werther, about an emo young man who falls in love with a woman promised to another and he just. can't. deal. so he shoots himself and sings himself sweetly to death (spoiler alert!).

I was like, "Opera. Wut??"

I had a hard time feeling any of the feelings I was supposed to be feeling for the characters. I was not one penny invested in them. There was zero chemistry between Werther and his supposed ladylove, and he just seemed to spend most of the time flailing around the set feeling sorry for himself. It was just so... dramatic.

Unable to reconcile my wildly disparate feelings for these two productions, I signed up for Lucia de Lammermoor. Reader, I can't even tell you what it was about. Because I have no idea. I was so not into it that I left at halftime. There was a lot of singing and moaning and being sad and unrequited-ness, I'm sure.

I still wasn't ready to give up, so I went to Madame Butterfly. This at least had a plot I could get into: It's the early 1900s, and an American named Pinkerton gets stationed in Japan, where he marries the beautiful Cio-Cio San (Butterfly). He's pretty cavalier about the whole thing, and despite declaring his love for her he takes off shortly after the wedding and bedding. She sticks around for three whole years for him to come back, all the while taking care of their love child. When he finally does show up, it's with his new wife. Burn. Adding major insult to major injury, they want to take her son back with them to 'Murica. Unsurprisingly (this is opera, after all), she kills herself. But just to be extra dramatic (again, opera), she does it in front of her blindfolded son, who is blithely waving an American flag for his father, the shocked and devastated Pinkerton, to see.

I found this one much more visually and musically appealing. I especially loved all the vibrato-heavy wails of "But-ter-flyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!" and "Pink-er-toneeeeeeeeeeeeeee!"

I was like, "Opera. OK."

Next up was Doubt, another world premiere, this one adapted from a play (which had already been adapted to a movie). We bloggers were invited to a pre-performance Q-and-A with playwright/screenwriter/librettist John Patrick Shanley. Triple-threat! I was especially excited to see this one because it starred Christine Brewer, a soprano I'd seen perform with the SPCO, as Sister Aloysius.

At this point in my opera-going career I was having an opera-stential crisis. What is opera, anyway? Like, is it a play with really pretty singing or is it pretty singing with a narrative structure and crazy production value? WHAT IS THE POINT OF OPERA?

Doubt did me no favors in that regard. Unlike a Puccini or Vivaldi classic, there was no show-stopping aria, no soul-shaking chorus singing about Truth. It was basically a play with people singing their lines. Things got especially weird when a character sang slang like "ain't" in full operatic glory. I mean, the singing was all very good singing. And the costumes and staging were as great as everything else the MN Opera lays its hands on. I'm just not sure what was added with the operafication.

I was like, "Opera, adieu."

One of my coworkers is an opera buff, and she convinced me to give the art form one last try with the season-ending Turandot. Turandot is a Persian princess who has no interest in marriage, and has declared that the only way she'd do the deed is if a prince can correctly answer three impossible riddles. If the prince fails, she will chop his head off. (This is not an empty threat; the stage is literally covered in blood from all the decapitating she's ordered.) Despite the carnage, princes from near and far are eager to take on this challenge. All fail until one day, a prince is like, "I got this." Everyone is like, "You're totally going to die. Just don't. Stop." And he's like, "I don't even care. She's so hot. Riddle me." Lo and behold, he gets all three right and Turandot flips out. The prince tells her that if she can find out his name by sunrise he'll let her kill him because that's just how much he loves her. After a long, futile night, dawn approaches. The prince approaches Turandot and is like, "I love you. Let's smooch." She's like, "Ugh! I hate you! I hate you! I... love you? OK I guess I love you now!" All the townsfolk come over and they're like, "What's his name? Did you figure out his name?" And she goes, "His name is LOVE."

*Mic drop*

I was like, "Opera, I will begrudgingly let you back into my life on a case-by-case basis."

April 9, 2013

Everything delicious in my life comes from pinterest: Part II

Quinoa Breafast Bowl:

It's quinoa! Everyone's favorite hippie whole protein ancient grain! I made a cup's worth of quinoa yesterday morning before work, and have been putting a few spoonfuls of that in a tupperware along with some yogurt, a smattering of sunflower seeds, a half-dozen blackberries, a sprinkling of sliced almonds, a schmiglit of torn mint leaves and four drizzles of honey. It's delicious, filling, and happy. Change your face.

Crockpot Chicken Tikka Masala:

CTM is my go-to order when I go to Indian restaurants. This recipe was super easy, and I already had most of the ingredients in my fridge or pantry. It only needs fourish hours in the crockpot, which makes it perfect for those Sunday afternoons when you finally get around to thinking about dinner at about 3:00 and want the ease of a crockpot but don't have 8-10 dang hours. It's a tad on the spicy side for my delicate Minnesotan palate, so I think if I made it again I'd cut down on the cayenne. I would also not forget to pick up some garlic naan from Trader Joe's because #nom.

Sesame Salmon with Green Onions and Lemon:

I'm afraid of cooking fish. There was this one time when I was a pauper in Portland and I decided to splurge on some salmon. I had no idea how to tell if it was done, and I took it out of the oven far before its time. It was very undercooked, but I kept on eating it because I'd spent so much money on it and I was so, so poor. Then I didn't feel so well. This recipe, my friends, is way more fool-proof. And easier. And yummy and healthy and all that. Salmon continues to be expensive.

Italian Garlic Rosemary Spiced Nuts:

I made these little guys for our housewarming party a few weeks ago. I got all the nuts from the bulk section at Lunds. This recipe makes quite a bit, so I think you could safely cut it in half and save yourself some pennies. Several people deemed the nuts "addictive," but the only thing I'm addicted to is chapstick so I don't worry about it.

Black Raspberry Brie Bites:

One of my coworkers shared this recipe and then I went and found it on Pinterest so I'm slightly cheating. I also made this for the housewarming and I can guarantee that it will impress all your friends and shame your enemies. A fair number of my puff pastry packets exploded in the oven, but no one even cared. They look cool, they taste great and that's all I have to say about that.

March 17, 2013


We're in that icky stage of winter where it just drags on and on and you feel like you'll never see green grass again. Each new forecast of snow and bitter cold feels like a personal insult. I'm sick of my bulky winter cloak. I'm done with the cardboard-tasting tomatoes. All I want is to get on a plane and see new things and hear new sounds and smell new smells and eat the most delicious fresh produce ever.

I've been torturing myself with staring at these Frenchy photos from my trip last August, which provide a double-whammy of longing for both gallivanting and summer-ing. Only three months and two weeks until my next day off...