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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Drew's 2013 Christmas Letter


The day was November 9, almost three full weeks before the Thanksgiving Holiday even took place, when I opened up the trunk of our car and discovered it was crammed full of Christmas decorations. I thought to myself, “surely Amanda plans on storing these decorations in here until after Thanksgiving.” I discovered how wrong I was moments later when my dear wife, with a look of holiday-induced fanaticism on her face, anxiously informed me that we had to hurry up and get the decorations up post-haste and while I’m at it I better get started on our annual Christmas letter. “Geez” I thought to myself, “how can I start our Xmas letter when there are still practically two months left until Xmas and a lot could happen between now and then –  like I could get a motorcycle and take it on a cross-country trip to Seattle where I would trade it for a small sailing skiff which I would use to sail across the ocean to Tahiti where I would trade it for a surfboard and become famous for surfing the biggest wave ever.” I was about to express these concerns to Amanda when I looked into her big beautiful blue eyes and became acutely aware that if her eyes could speak they would say something along the lines of, “I dare you to argue with me, chump.” “Yes dear, I’ll get started right away” I said. You learn a lot in your first year of marriage.

 

And it has been a great first year. First and foremost, Amanda graduated and received her Master’s degree in Applied Economics from the University of Minnesota. Her program was very grueling and stressful and when it was completed we not only celebrated her great accomplishment, but the fact that she would be able to live a normal life again. I wish I was able to tell you more about what she studied, but the extent of my knowledge concerning the intricacies of applied economics is that it involves some impossible form of mathematics brought to Earth by space-aliens in an attempt to make our puny human heads explode.

 

While Amanda was advancing her career opportunities by becoming more educated, I was trying to strike it rich with a new business venture I learned about on the backstreets of St. Paul. It’s called Pedal Cabbing (or bike taxis if you prefer). Basically, I ride a bike with a giant bench seat around town and try to pick up people that are too inebriated to walk. The “striking it rich” part hasn’t quite come to fruition like one would imagine it would, but it has been good exercise and entertaining to say the least.

 

We also got a new dog named after the Norse god of mischief, Loki. So far he has lived up to his name. His favorite game is stealthily breaking into our closet to steal our socks. I don’t appreciate this game as much as he does because I am already perpetually suffering from a severe shortage of socks. Our dog trainer told us to put hot-sauce on the socks in an attempt to deter this behavior, but I don’t like this either because the hot sauce burns my feet. I think the secret is to not wear the socks.

 

We also did a bit of traveling this year. Most notable would be our trip to Nova Scotia. Why Nova Scotia you ask? Well, we saw it on the cover of a magazine once and it looked nice. What other reason do you need, really? It turned out to be a great trip. We kayaked through uncomfortably large swells in the Bay of Fundy and camped in secluded coves right on the ocean; we boiled fresh lobster in the very saltwater from whence it came; we went whale-watching on a Zodiac raft that went 10,000 nautical miles-per-hour and when the maniacal captain wasn’t doing his best to launch us out of the raft we got so close to the whales that I could have dropped a marble right down their blowhole; we had a close encounter with a giant bull moose; and we met amazingly nice people who were more than eager to invite complete strangers (us) to their homes to help ourselves to their woodpile. In the end, we did not want to bid farewell to Nova Scotia.

 

There was also a little trip down to Charleston, South Carolina with our younger sister, McCayla. We took the trip because Amanda can do space-alien math and some other smart people wanted to hear her speak about smart stuff at a big conference for smart people down there. While Amanda was hanging out with those nerds, McCayla and I hit up the beaches. The first day on the beach I did some surfing and some sun burning. McCayla did some tanning and some laughing at my freakishly red skin. The following days McCayla continued to do some tanning while I hid from the sun underneath fishing piers like some grotesque ghoul muttering in the shadows about how much I loathed everyone with bronze skin. When Amanda was done with the conference we all had a good time paddle-boarding with dolphins, playing in the waves, touring a “haunted” Civil War era prison, and generally enjoying Charleston’s old-south charm.    

 

We did some other stuff too, but I won’t bore you with those details. Okay, maybe just a little. The Alaskan Imes’ made their way down to the Lower 48, so we enjoyed time spent with them. We were also blessed with a new nephew, Lane. He is a real cool dude, but I will let his folks, Bonnie and TJ, tell you more about him. What else? Oh yes, we started a book club in which we meet with friends to have very loud, ultra-dorky conversations about the books we read. As for the future, I will be coaching a snowboard team again this winter and Amanda will continue to rock out in her new band, Adults on Bikes. We still work together at the Minnesota Department of Revenue because we just can’t get enough of each other. Who knows, maybe I can even convince her to jump on the back of that motorcycle with me. We’ll be in Tahiti in no time.

 

---Merry Christmas to you and all your loved ones Drew and Amanda Imes

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Perfect Christmas Tree II

Footage from our second-annual Christmas Tree Quest with the Austin Family!

Here's the link: The Perfect Christmas Tree II

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013


Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. All you have to do is show up in some elastic wasted pants, eat until you physically feel ill and enjoy the company of family and friends. That is, unless you are hosting.

This was the second year I “hosted” Thanksgiving. I’m using quotes here because this year we were at my Mom and Dad’s house, so I co-hosted with my mom this year. My primary responsibility was to take care of the meal essentials (turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing etc) and my mom took care of everything else. (My mom is pretty awesome like that.)

My favorite part of hosting is decorating the table. It’s the time of year you can really whip out all the things from your wedding registry and put them to good use!

Last year, I went a little crazy and carved out dozens of tiny pumpkins and turned them into candles. It made for very romantic lighting but was also a major fire hazard.



This year, my mom and I had a great time mixing and matching her place settings with some things from my house. We used two table cloths from Grandma Luker. We used my mom’s china and silver place settings with my chargers. The mix of new with old was a little different but somehow still worked.

I was extremely lucky last year and somehow, the timing of everything worked out perfectly so I naively thought, “wow, hosting Thanksgiving is such a cinch! I can definitely do that again!” This year, things didn’t go quite so smoothly. I over-roasted the garlic (see: burned) and dumped it into the mashed potatoes anyway. As they say, a little garlic goes a long way, but I forgot that little piece of advice so the potatoes were very-very-garlicky. As in, none of us need to worry about vampires for a few months. The stuffing turned out great- all four varieties! Once again, I went a little overboard on the stuffing… but everyone likes leftovers so no problems there. I drove 45 miles one way to pick up these rolls from my favorite place, Omar's CafĂ© in West Concord, MN. Totally, completely worth every mile.... mmmm....


Both years I’ve used the brine recipe from Pioneer Woman (basically bay leaves, rosemary, apple cider, garlic, brown sugar, pepper and orange rind).  After I pull the bird out of the brine, I lather it up with a mixture of soft butter, rosemary, sage and thyme. The real key is to lather the bird under the skin. Both years this has made for a very moist and delicious bird! I probably left it in for a bit too long this year, but it was still yummy. Unfortunately, the timing wasn’t great. Guests arrived but I wasn’t ready for about half an hour. The mashed potatoes had cooled a bit and the turkey didn’t have ample time to cool before we carved it. I guess the timing is one of those elusive things that sometimes you are able to nail and other years you totally botch.

All-in-all I just want to reflect on the new appreciation I have for the people in my life that have hosted countless holiday meals without a flaw. Candace Ryan and Jim Luker stand out where hosting is concerned. They somehow manage to make you feel completely at home the whole time they were slaving away in the kitchen without ever exhibiting even the slightest sign of stress. Of course my parents and grandparents have also pulled off parties for more than 40 guests year after year.  I think you cannot fully appreciate a good host until you’ve attempted to host yourself.  So thanks again for all those past parties people!

Here is a cool picture of the amazing apron my mom made me as a hostess gift! (Also my adorable nephew Lane and my sister Bonnie!)

 

Unfortunately, I do not have the same grace as the hosts listed above. It is safe to say that I definitely show signs of stress and anxiety throughout the entire process. This year, my dad and Bonnie helped me remove the turkey from the brine, lather it in butter, insert the stuffing and place in the roaster. My dad kept telling me to relax and at one point Bonnie told a story that I completely ignored and my dad suggested I work on my listening skills. “This is NOT the time to relax or to listen to stories, if anyone should be listening, you should be listening to my instructions!” I retorted! (See, I’m a hostzilla, a turkey monster!) I apologized and everyone forgave me because deep-down they sort of knew I was half-right. Later my grandma even took my side, saying that getting the turkey into the oven on time is not a good time to relax.

I am pretty pumped to be ‘into the fold’ or ‘in the big leagues’ or a quasi-real-adult- however you want to say it. I guess I’m a grown up now and I think it’s pretty awesome and fun.  Roasting turkeys, setting tables and getting jazzed up about things like a perfect pie crust. 

One last pic of my slightly burned turkey just for fun! Now... on to xmas!