Sunday, December 23, 2012

Make a Joyful Noise

What better way to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus than in song? From Christmas Sings to Spanish Pastorelas, we rang in the holiday season with as much music as possible. 

It all started at Katelin and Ryan's house. They host an annual Christmas Sing and we were included this year. We were invited to bring our unique style and funk and gather around the piano for a good time with the Church for All People congregation. 

On December 22 we were invited to the Golden Paper Semi Bi Annual Locally International Christmas Caroling Extravaganza in Woodland. Bigger and better than ever, Tom and Peg hosted the celebration with an overflowing pot of confidence-building Glugg, instruments and snacks. It was a great kickoff to our California Christmas.

On Sunday after church Nate, Finn and Selah performed in their parish Pastorela. In Mexico, these theatrical works were first developed to teach the Christmas story. Traditionally the show begins with an angel telling the shepherds the birth of Christ, but this particular performance started with the creation of the world.

You don't have to be fluent in Spanish to understand that the little angel on the right is the cutest ever.

Sunday evening the cousins gathered for another competitive round of karaoke. Although John and Colin tried to win with a beautiful rendition of little drummer boy Dominic pulled out the win with a score of 97 at the end. Lesson learned.

Happy holidays, from our musical family to yours!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Barnstormer Birthday

We celebrated Grandpa Hoffer's 86th birthday in style at Barnstormers Grill. Located at the Ohio State University airport, this cosy cafe gave us the perfect setting for a leisurely lunch of chicken salad wraps and a cheeseburger for the birthday boy. 

It has been a rainy Christmas season, so after lunch we took a stroll around Tuttle Mall. We were quite entertained by the 4-ft remote helicopter...

May this be the best year yet Grandpa! I love you so much I could squeeze the puddin' outta you.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Gather Around 3

Look how much fun Katelin and Ryan had listening to one of Dominic's stories this evening:

Katelin and Ryan are our new friends from Church for All People.
You should come visit too!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

A Few of Our Favorite Things

Today I was invited to a Favorite Things gift exchange. It was a fun idea my friend Jill had for a holiday party that pulled together four friends who have stayed close since high school. 

Rachel hosted brunch and we were each told to bring four copies of a favorite thing. It could be anything with a maximum of $10/item. Think Oprah's tradition on a miniature scale. 

We each had an opportunity to go around and present our favorite thing to the group. Thanks to my friend's impeccable taste and generosity, I have a minty eucalyptus smelling bedroom, shiny cherry tasting lips and warm (or cold) beverages to sip on during my commute. Each of these items spoke to our desire to look good, feel good and smell good this season. It was a fun event and a nice way to exchange gifts. 

What would you take to a Favorite Things party this year?
Any guesses on what I took?

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Gather Around 2

Come gather around our table for a meal and a good time. Uncle Tom, Aunt Lisa and the Zaengers did:

Sarah's parents and godfather

Friday, November 30, 2012

Deck the Halls

Dominic and I haven't been able to match up our PTO very well this year. This has meant a lot of free time for me to do my thing. I wasn't sure what my thing was until all of a sudden this morning Christmas cheer hit me like a rock. I was driving along picking up nuts and fruit to make my holiday trail mix tins like any modern day scavenger when Mannheim Steamroller came on the radio. Not even two minutes into Fum, Fum, Fum and I was making a beeline for the nearest tree lot.

It turns out the nearest tree lot was the Hope Thru Housing farmer's market. Apparently HTH, a residential treatment center for men with substance abuse problems, replaced their tomatoes and potatoes with evergreens for the holiday season.

The men in the program run the farmer's market and tree lot as a part of their vocational training. HTH started about two years ago and invites men to live in a house and rehabilitate while learning some life skills and gaining work experience. Impressively, the market, trees, and craft item sales provide 60 percent of the organizations funding.

I brought my carefully-chosen pine home in the backseat and decorated it with pride. This 5-foot beauty earns one foot of it's height from that top branch. It sticks straight up all by itself and has been said to resemble a piece of asparagus. Who needs an angel when you've got produce?

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

What Moves You

I've been thinking a lot about the places we have lived and how those places have shaped us. For the most part, hindsight makes this pretty easy:

Armenia shaped my career and taught me the value of keeping family close.
Seattle made me a fiancee, then a newlywed and taught us both how to be a little more outdoorsy.
New York educated our views on community and income.

We know exactly why we moved to Columbus in September. The reasons borrow a little from each of our previous experiences and ultimately having family close trumps all other decision-making factors.  

We are, however, still trying to find our way. We have everything we could possibly need: a church, a home, two good jobs and a car (it is the midwest after all). Now we just need to understand how we live here as Sarah and Dominic - not just as adolescent Sarah.

It's going to be a process, let the experiential learning commence.     

Friday, November 16, 2012

Gather Around

The table is complete! Nothing better than a dinner party to celebrate.

Aubrey, Rachel, Brooke and Jill came over to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

It's the people, people

I've been a 'remote' granddaughter, daughter, sister and godmother for as long as I've been a grown up. Moving back to Columbus has afforded Dominic and I the opportunity to spend time with family in the day-to-day kinda way that has been completely new and special.

Thank you Mom and Dad. Your hospitality and generosity this month has blessed us beyond what you could ever know. 

Mom's birthday hangout.

Carly's (far left) first soccer game of the season. 

Ok, it's not all good in Ohio...

But we're looking forward to sharing this city with each other and with our family. 

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Westward Bound

We set off for Ohio from the city Friday afternoon. Before we knew it our scenery went from buildings and bridges to fields and flowers.

We decided to make the long weekend a vacation. Rather than push through Pennsylvania, only stopping for potty breaks, we took our time and enjoyed the back roads.  

We parked the truck and rode bikes into State College on Saturday afternoon, arriving just in time to meet paper Mitt and a welcoming tailgater.

Dominic even got to rub the lucky rock with paper Barack 

We made a pit stop at the coffee pot before finding a hotel for the night. Although my co-workers questioned my hotel choices during all those trip to Seattle over the years, I realized the effort paid off during this trip. Choice Privilege reward point hotels are everywhere. Need a place to stay in Somerset, PA? There are at least three hotels in a five mile radius. It has been perfect since we didn't make any effort to plan this adventure.

Dominic made a friend near Bentleyville, PA. Big Jim, the metal cowboy, was quite the sight for road-weary eyes:

If we could do it again we would have planned ahead and made a visit to Falling Water. It was on our list, but the tickets were sold out this weekend.

There was something special about this trip for me though. It may have been the flexibility we felt, perhaps it was the Amish buggies we spotted along the way. I think it may be the reality that this trip marks the end of an era in our marriage. Dominic and I have lived away for years and we have talked about being closer to family since Armenia. I wouldn't trade our experiences in Seattle and New York for anything, but I'm really excited to insert our lives into the network of extended family in Ohio. Watch out Buckeyes, we're on our way!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Pack 'er Up and Move 'er Out

We'll miss the Bronx. We'll miss the Bronx people, their Bronx noise, and bumping into them in the Bronx bodegas. 

I'll sincerely miss the Botanical Garden Farmer's Market, our favorite Mexican restaurant OK Mr. Pancho, the Oval Park, the fruit stand by the 4 train and Leroy's pharmacy.

I will not miss the grocery shopping situation in the Bronx.

We're saying goodbye to this apartment building. It served us well:

We lived in 2C (the four windows from the right on the third floor)

I remember this process... that truck looks a lot larger than our pod two years ago:

Here's what we've learned about how to be a good mover towards your friends:

1. Have your apartment packed before your helpers arrive. No one wants to pack up your stuff.
2. Have a vision for the box arrangement. No one wants to have to figure out what goes where.
3. Have a good attitude. No one wants to help a grump. It helps to cheer compliments out the window. 

Thank you Donna, Rob, Elizabeth and Juliet! We couldn't have done it without you!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Late Night Cooking Class

Two lessons from New York: 

1. Learn to eat late
2. Learn to stay up even later

Dominic and I were invited to a lots-of-IPEDers-are-in-town dinner party tonight. It was the perfect opportunity to reconnect with grad-school buddies, many of whom spent the summer abroad, before our move. 

Since dinner didn't start until 8 p.m. we met up in Harlem for happy hour after work.

I was super excited about the invite because dinner was make-your-own sushi! I'd never made sushi before, but learned quickly from Pat's instruction. 

We're all pretty good at loading, not so skilled at rolling. Keeping those rolls perfectly together for cutting is 75 percent of the challenge. I learned that in order to keep the paper together you should dab a quick layer of water and vinegar along the edge. Although it took about an hour to make enough rolls for the crowd, the process made dinner worth the wait.

Good friends, good food and good learning. Now we just have to make it down to Pearl River before the move so I can get sushi equipment for our next party!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Our Last Day at New Day

We started going to New Day United Methodist Church because it was in our neighborhood. We stayed for two years because it became our community. 

From the Bible studies to the open mic nights, from the hospitality table to the offering counting responsibilities, we learned a lot by being a part of this young congregation. 

Connecting with God. Crossing boundaries. Confronting injustice. Thank you for the witness you've been in our lives New Day Church!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Try Anything Once

I have this really cool big cousin. Growing up, Carrie knew about the hip new trends, she had the best toys and her hair and clothes always looked great. She was the first one to pluck my eyebrows one Christmas in Cleveland. 

When Carrie came to visit last year she asked about the types of things Dominic and I enjoy doing in this city. She mentioned that if she lived here she would try out all of the unique workout studios and fitness classes that aren't available in other parts of the country. At the time, I didn't think much about it since I'd always been content to jog around on the street. Everything changed one day when Groupon offered five hip hop Zumba classes for $25. The craze had begun.

I know you can take a Zumba class anywhere, but there was something fun about the experience with dancers*. I started to get carried away when a Groupon came out for five mixed martial arts classes a few weeks later.

MMA is intense. It's real fighting! I take this class just two blocks away from our house - which is good because it usually doesn't end until 9:30 p.m. In class last week a man looked at me swinging away and said: "Girl! Don't you know how to make a fist?" I told him of course not (I haven't had my personal training session yet) and asked him what was wrong. He informed me that if I make a fist the way I had been my thumbs would get broken off. His follow up (once my form was fixed) was, "Have you ever thrown a punch?" To which I replied no again, obviously. He was stupefied. This Groupon was $19 for five classes and one personal training session. I think that came to about a 96 percent discount. I spent most of my classes just doing conditioning with the fighters. I learned a new definition for 'the dirty dozen' and how to throw chains above my head. My takeaway from MMA is the hook. Watch out for my left hook.

One of my staff recommended SoulCycle, but I always doubted spinning. My kind of bike ride is a path by the river, not crowded room of cyclists going nowhere. I was curious, though, after hearing SoulCycle described like this: "If SoulCycle were a club, it would be the Top of the Standard." I decided to join the ranks of Katie Holmes, Kelly Ripa, Chelsea Clinton and Lady Gaga and try it out on a Monday morning at 6:15. The class delivered just what the website states: "An intense FULL-BODY workout with a fun and energizing atmosphere." Intense is an understatement. At one point we were going so fast, standing up, that I fell off! SoulCycle kicked my butt - that's it's takeaway.

These may look like goofy roller blades, but they're actually Kangoo boots. This Groupon proved that Dominic will try anything once too. Kangoo is described as rebound exercise. Mario Godiva's (the man in charge of this bouncy workout) website quotes NASA: "Rebound exercise is the most efficient, effective form of exercise yet devised by man." Arguing, "...for similar levels of heart rate and oxygen consumption, the magnitude of the biomechanical stimuli is greater with jumping on a trampoline than with running." It sure was fun, and I've never had a more enthusiastic or smiley exercise instructor, but the greatest workout I got was from lifting and kicking those four-pound boots around for an hour. Dominic's takeaway is to start Kangoo Kolumbus. You ready?

We couldn't be indoors all summer. I threw in this photo to prove that we take the fitness with us wherever we go. Here the boys are at Orchard Beach practicing their yoga moves. This was just before Patrick (in yellow) demonstrated a headstand on the sand. 

If I had more time here, these are a few of the workouts I'd try at least once:
  • Physique 57 or Bar Method: Isometric exercises + orthopedic stretches so I'd look like a ballerina
  • TRX: Suspension training that leverages your body weight + gravity. 
  • Crossfit: Gymnastics + Olympic lifting + urban boot camp. There are more than 2,000 studios across the country though, so I'm sure I can try this elsewhere. 

I'm going to miss NYC.

* I assume people are dancers when they come to Zumba class in dance shoes. This could be incorrect, but why else wouldn't you just wear sneakers?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Aunt and Uncle on the Road

We made  trip to California to celebrate Peg's birthday and see all the little ones. It sure was a fun long weekend! It's amazing to watch our nephew and nieces play and to have time to catch up with cousins and siblings in person.

Buckets, squirties and scoops provide hours of entertainment at the water table. Watch out, Serin might lift that little leg and crawl in herself!

Josh gave Mark and Dominic a personalized home-brew tutorial Saturday. The equipment took up the back patio, but I was assured this hobby didn't necessarily require that much space to be successful. Here they are on their meat, bread and beer lunch break:

After mass on Sunday Katie, Lina and I treated Peg to her first-ever birthday pedicure. While we agree this should be a regular tradition, Peg wasn't quite sure what to expect (as you can see from the expression below). I think it turned out to be a refreshing treat. I'm not sure if she'll become a regular at the salon, but those toes did look festive by the kiddie pool during happy hour that evening!

Doing what the family does best: chatting!

We are constantly reminded what a blessing our growing family is. These visits show us how fulfilling and comforting it can be to have the unconditional love of immediate and extended family nearby. We rely on these memories and look forward to making many more in the years to come. 

Friday, July 06, 2012

Fourth of July Coney Island Style

You can take the D train from our house in the Bronx to the last stop in Brooklyn. The last stop just so happens to be Coney Island, so what better occasion to make this trip than for the Nathan's Famous hot dog eating contest on July 4?

We arrived with enough time to stake out our places for the women's contest. Check out the photo below of these competitors. The woman, Sonya Thomas (aka the Black Widow), on the far left is last year's champion. She won the contest then by eating 41 Nathan's Famous hot dogs and buns. There's 1:09 left on the clock and in this image she's already at 42. Turns out that 45-year-old, 100-pound woman can consume 45 ("One for every year I've been alive," she said) hot dogs in 10 minutes.

The organizers (i.e. ESPN) had about an hour and a half to kill between the men's and women's contests, so they distracted the audience with trampoline shows, basketball contests and rappers on stage.

At noon it was time for the men to scarf down their age. Unbelievably the winner of the men's contest, Joey Chestnut from San Jose, consumed 62 hot dogs and buns. Here he is with 4:10 left on the clock and 44 hot dogs in his stomach.

Here he is in a post-contest interview. He looks normal, but his stomach is bursting at the seams!

Dominic and I took a few minutes to take in the sights at Surf and Stillwell, then we walked the Luna Park boardwalk before returning to Nathan's for a taste at what all the fuss is about. Despite the warnings Dominic indulged.

He liked it, but agreed that one hot dog was plenty.

Since we had six hours to kill before the Macy's fireworks began I convinced Dominic to join me at the lower East side Tenement museum. It was a museum I had hoped to see for months and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. What better way to appreciate the blessings of being an American than by witnessing how immigrants survived in the 19th century?

It sure worked. I left that one-hour Hard Times tour more thankful than ever for being born to the family I was, in the place that I was, in the time that I was. For dinner we had Thai food at a restaurant called Sticky Rice... just a part of the melting pot day it had been.

We watched the fireworks display and listened to the soundtrack on the radio. It was great day to remind us how good it is to be born in the U.S.A!