Christmas of Earthly Delights

Where the hell did 2011 go?! I’m not sure. But Christmas was awesome, as always. My family opens gifts on Christmas Eve, because we are rebels…. Ok actually it’s because we are not morning people. We drank a lot of alcohol, and my grandma and I danced to a DVD of Polish music (Mazowsze, see the video below). My brother burned stuff in the backyard. My mom made an absolutely delicious dinner. In other words, it was a typical family gathering – and I loved it!

I really love giving presents. My family and I got Eric two awesome things I’ve been dying to give him: a Kindle Fire and a gift certificate for skydiving. Now I have my Kindle back (he’s been reading the Song of Ice and Fire series) + Eric will finally be an official family member (according my dad, one needs to jump out of plane to be part of our inner circle).

This year was photography heaven for me! I got a new lens (macro), a new tripod (mine is falling apart), a lens bag, reflectors, and an old Duaflex IV. Eric parents gave me money, which I used to buy an external flash. See? Photography heaven! But really I just loved hanging out with my family!

CLICK BELOW for pictures!! 🙂

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The Stars, The Moon, They Have All Been Blown Out

Yesterday I ordered a custom credit card with a picture of my cat. When do I get my official “Crazy Cat Lady” trophy??

In other scary news, as of July 7th my brother is now legally an adult. For his birthday I got him a kick-ass shirt from Hot Topic and contributed to a sky-diving gift certificate. Jumping out of planes is kind of a family tradition. My dad got him golf clubs – maybe he can be a golf nerd like Eric now? At any rate, I love him so very much – Happy Birthday Boo!!!!

Eric and I also celebrated our 6 year anniversary! He got me a purse, and I got him a toolbox. It makes us look pretty 50’s suburbia/borderline-sexist, but hey – it’s what we both wanted (I’ve been drooling over the seatbelt purse for years!)… We also went to our favorite restaurant, Ruth’s Chris. I almost died of happiness right there in the Crème brûlée. Seriously though, how has Eric put up with me for this long? I don’t know. I do know that I love him. Muchly.

Gary helps build a file cabinet Our new house is pretty awesome. Every day we are faced with some new project – a million little things that are infinitely interesting to us but probably not to anyone else. It actually makes me feel kinda old (or at least like an adult). I never thought I’d be all that excited about blinds, but my cordless top-down-bottom-up 1/2” single cell filter shades made me jump up and down and clap like an idiot. Our cats feel the need to “help” with every project – especially when we have to build IKEA furniture. It’s adorable, but counter-productive.

We finally got the pool all clean and swimmable. Well, I say “we” but it was really all Eric. And here he is, enjoying the fruits of his labor with the first jump into our new pool!!:

You’ll Lose the Blues in Chicago

Unfortunately, I grew up knowing next to nothing about my Dad’s side of the family. He moved from Chicago (and his family) to Arizona in 1984 and lost contact with most of his relatives. The only exposure I had was his parent’s wedding photo and a group picture taken around 1900. Then, a few years ago, I found boxes of old photos and papers in my dad’s storage. I started piecing things together and, with the help of places like ancestry.com, created a family tree going back as far as my great-great-great-great grandparents. As a graduation/Christmas present my Dad took me to Chicago so we could meet some of his cousins. I was really nervous… I thought it was going to be awkward and they would think I’m some weirdo. Instead I discovered I have a huge extended family of AMAZING people!! I seriously had the BEST time hanging out with them, even though it was only for a few hours. It was amazing to meet people with my same last name and that looked like my Dad! I grew up with a Dad that seemed to come from nowhere – no similar looking parents or siblings, or even aunts and uncles. Needless to say, it was bizarre to be confronted with this:

(my dad is on the right)
They even have the same name! I also met my Dad’s cousin on his mother’s side. He was really cool too! I learned a lot about the Persian side of my family from him.

  
(please ignore the 1986 jacket I had to borrow from Scott, lol)

So, aside from spending time with my awesome new relatives, we did quite a bit. My dad drove us around so we could re-visit all the places of his and my mom’s childhood/teenage years. We visited many graves of relatives I’ve been researching, including my great-great-grandmother who is a hero of mine. I had so much delicious food (Italian Beef, gyros, Chicago pizza) that I almost burst. I even had my first White Castle slider! We went to the Sears Tower, of course, and rode the L. We also went to The Art Institute of Chicago where I saw artworks I’ve been studying for years. I spent WAY too much money in Little Poland on Polish books and paraphernalia.

As fun as all that stuff was, the best part was meeting my “new” relatives and visiting graves of relatives I never got to meet. Easily one of the best trips of my life!!

(click to enlarge)