Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Goodbyes

Happy New Years Eve. I hope this evening finds you happy and in good company.

Today is a day of goodbyes. Goodbye to another year and goodbye to one of my family members. This afternoon I attended a memorial service for the woman my mother is named after. Four months ago she was diagnosed with cancer and this past Sunday she lost her battle.

Death is never an easy thing, but I can't help but feel that is might be worse when someone passes during the holidays. It marks that holiday season forever with the memory of when someone you love ceases to be with you. Holidays are always hard when you're missing a person. My heart goes out to my family. To the husband, children, grandchildren and everyone else that is left with a hole in their heart this New Years Eve. I pray that this next year will bring them peace and as much closure as they can find. I also hope that they can continue to make happy memories as they carry their old ones with them. Ms. Julia will live on in their hearts and I trust that in time they will feel like celebrating again.

Likewise, I wish all of you a peaceful and prosperous new year. I hope it's happier than any years in your past.

Be safe and enjoy your evening.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Meltdown

Do you ever feel like you could have a complete mental breakdown? Just like you're exhausted, physically and mentally, and it just kind of hits you all of a sudden? Not because of one particular thing, but because of a build up of things over time, and if you could just explode you'd feel better. If you could just melt into a puddle of tears or scream really loud for a long time things would be all better again.

Sometimes I feel like this. I feel like this right now actually. When I was younger it happened more often, but now it only comes up on me once or twice a year. I usually end up in a puddle of tears instead of screaming. Mainly because I can hide myself in a room and no one will know I'm crying, but screaming is audible and someone might call the police to come and get this crazy woman who won't stop screaming.

I also think I would feel better if I could get in some aerobic exercise. That's hasn't been working out for me lately. It'd help a lot if the sun came out before 7 and stayed out past 5. Damn this daylight savings.

I'm going to go eat an ice cream cone and wait for the flood gates to open. I hope you're all having a wonderful week and not about to have a meltdown. Some of us have to stay sane after all.

Happy, almost, New Year!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

I'm at a loss...

At a loss for blog material, that is. I just haven't done anything since Christmas, and my vacant head isn't giving me any good material. It's fried from all that baking. Remember the baking?

I can tell you that I went shopping on Friday. I haven't been shopping since February. At least not for myself. I got some extra cash for Christmas though, so I took advantage and treated myself nice. Real nice. Lots of deals were found. Shinny new things were bought. I even went on a wild goose hunt for a new pair of shoes. A specific pair recommended to me by my little cousin. According to her I just had to have a pair because they are so comfortable. They'd better be worth all the trouble. I had to order them. They'll be here within the week, so I'll have to let you know.

I went to see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button today. Going in I have to admit that I was a little skeptical. I was not looking forward to spending nearly three hours in a dark theater and I was unsure that the story would satisfy when it was all over. I'm here to tell you that it was worth the drive behind slow tourists there and back. I'd even go again. The movie left me feeling sad and happy at the same time; if that's even possible. You should go see it. For sure. It's a winner.

I think it's supposed to get cold again tomorrow. The weather has been bizarrely warm the last week. The cold will be a welcome change, but give me a week and I'll be begging for 50 degree temps again. I have a love-hate relationship with the conditions up here on this mountain.

That's all I've got for you right now. I'll try to come up with something fun and entertaining in the days to come. Until then, enjoy the last days of 2008.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas to all...


...and to all a good night!

The stockings were hung...

Santa visited our house last night. Did he make it to yours?

It's nice to spend Christmas morning with just us and the bunnies. I'm always sad that Andy has to leave me and go to work on Christmas day, but I cherish the time we have together. This morning we got up and unpacked our stockings, had some Christmas morning cinnamon rolls and talked to Andy's family who is about to depart to France this afternoon. It was a simple, no fuss, no muss, morning, and it was lovely.

Andy's parents, Jack and Kathryn
We celebrated with them this past Saturday.
Several posts ago I mentioned that Andy and I have decided to take a different approach to Christmas gifts this year. We do have something to give to everyone on our list, in the form of baked goods. But we did not go "whole hog" this year buying gifts. We felt that Christmas should be something more than just presents under the tree. So in the spirit of giving we decided to give to someone else, someone who needed it more. We donated the bulk of our Christmas budget to a family that could use it in a different capacity than to just buy unneeded gifts. We did get each other small things, but limited ourselves to only things that would fit in a stocking and were fairly cheap.

We haven't missed all the glittery packages at all. By not getting wrapped up (literally) in all the shopping chaos I've been able to examine all the ways I am blessed at Christmas time and all the time. I have a loving family, a warm place to live, food on my table, a (usually) working vehicle, a job (a rare find these days), friends that I wouldn't trade for the world, and most importantly a savior, who is after all, the reason for today's celebration going on around the world.

There are so many people who don't have many of the things I just listed. I pray that by this time next year many, if not all, of them have found some sort of happiness. It's a sad thing to be left wanting, especially at Christmas time.

So, no matter what you celebrate this Holiday season, even if you just celebrate that it's over for another year, take the time and celebrate the true gifts in your life. Those gifts will leave you feeling infinitely more fulfilled than anything under your tree.

Clearly, we had just woken up
Do you like my hat? Santa brought it!
Milton checks out what Santa left in his stocking
Brunswik had a bite of everythingMmmmm, Christmas cinnamon rolls
Happy Holidays! I'm off to celebrate more of my blessings.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The goods

Cookie pictures, as promised. I don't have pictures of either of the biscotti cookies. Those were gifted on Saturday and are already being consumed. And now that I just loaded all my pictures I realized I forgot to get a pic of the palmiers. So you'll have to Google it to see what it looks like.

Caramels
Meringue kisses
Key lime thumbprint cookies
Cherry chocolate chunk cookies
Chocolate peppermint cookies
A staple every year
Sugar cookies with royal icing
Cookie boxes ready to go tomorrow
I'm embarrased to show you this.
This carrot cake isn't up to my usual standars,
but here it is in all it's gloryPecan topped cinnamon rolls,
a special request from AndyMerry Christmas Eve from our home to yours!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

'Tis the season for homemade baked goods

I bake at Christmas time.

A lot.

It's just what I do.

Andy and I don't eat it all, of course, we give a lot of it away as gifts. Getting cookies is way better than getting the latest electronic gadget. In the coming months our gift isn't forgotten because it has permanently attached itself to our loved ones' waists. ::wink::

This year I made a schedule. I mean I wrote it down and everything. What to make on what day. What can be made ahead. What needs to be made closer to the day. I usually have a plan of attack, but it's always in my head. You'd be surprised how unreliable your head is when you're trying to bake ten different kinds of cookies. Mistakes are made, things are forgotten, the first half of one recipe is combined with the second half of another - making insane mutant cookies. But, boy howdy, this whole write-it-down thing really works wonders. You should all give it a try. I've done a little bit every day since Friday. I'm not exhausted or sick of baking. I am sick of cleaning dishes because there are only so many mixing bowls in my cupboards and my kitchen aid, unfortunately, only came with one bowl. That makes things difficult. But all-in-all I'd say things have been coming along swimmingly. I've got to package all of my cookies tomorrow for gifting on Thursday. I'll be sure to post pictures of the finished products so you can see proof of how talented I am all my hard work. I know you can hardly contain yourselves.

For now I'll leave you with a list of what's been coming out of my kitchen and what has yet to be created.

Caramels
Meringues
Sugar cookies with royal icing
Chocolate Citrus biscotti
Cherry chocolate chunk cookies
Palmiers
Key lime thumbprints
Chocolate pistachio biscotti
Chocolate-peppermint cookies
A carrot cake
Pecan cinnamon rolls

Tomorrow is the end of my marathon baking for another year, but we're also having Christmas dinner tomorrow, so I'm sure the fatigue will set in soon. Wish me luck!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Dear Santa, You can blame my brother.

I was five when I found out the truth about Santa Clause. Or rather, when I was told the truth about him.

You see, I have a hard time keeping a secret. Even as an adult the excitement surrounding a secret is almost overwhelming. I want to tell someone. I want to tell everyone whatever it is that I know.

When I was a kid? Forget it. If you had something you wanted to keep quiet then you needed to not tell me. I was the designated bean spiller in the family.

On the flip side, if you were keeping a secret from me and I knew you were I nearly exploded until I found out. As a result of this I don't like surprises if I know they're coming. If it's a genuine surprise and I know nothing until the moment the surprise is revealed I'm great, but don't tell me about it and then make me wait. That's torture.

My big brother, on the other hand, likes surprises and could take a secret to his grave. And if you spoiled a surprise for him? You were dead meat. Especially if you were the little sister.

Somehow, even though she knew all this about us, my mother still told us everything she had gotten us for Christmas. Well, I don't know if she told Josh what she got me because he probably didn't give a crap, but she definitely told me what she got him. She was an enabler for that whole "need to know" part of my personality.

So one year (my fifth year), like always, she told me some of Josh's gifts he was getting for Christmas. And, like always, I turned around and told him. I never could understand why he got so mad. If he knew what my presents were I'd have wanted him to tell me and it didn't make sense to my child mind why he didn't want to know too. But, as was normal, he got ticked and to retaliate against me he told me that awful truth that squashes childhood at Christmas.

I think my mom was more upset than I was. I don't even remember being upset. I think I was kind of surprised and shocked that my mom had lied to me about something. My straightforward, honesty-is-the-best-policy mother had withheld the truth. As far as I knew she had never told me even a little white lie, but this? This was a whopper. A fat man? With flying reindeer? Coming down the chimney? Once I really thought it over I knew how improbable it all was. And then after I got over the shock of the lies I think I was happier every Christmas. There was no sneaking around. I could go shopping with my mom every year (which I l-o-v-e-d!) and I could just go straight to the source for what I wanted. The self serving part of me was actually quite pleased.

I don't remember this ever causing a problem for me with my friends. I understood that they would find out on their own and didn't need me to spoil it for them, so I just left them alone. But the next year (in first grade) the class was writing letters to Santa to put up on a bulletin board. The teacher called us up one by one and asked what we wanted from Santa. When it was my turn I told her that I didn't believe in Santa and she should write the letter to my mother. The look on her face was as if I had just spoiled the surprise for her. That face is burned into my memory forever. When she recovered she just asked me to pretend and tell her what I wanted, so I did.

Now, as an adult, I wonder what I'll tell my own children when I have them. I have more memories of Christmas not believing than ones when I did. My memories are happy. So should I play the Santa game and risk serious childhood letdown or do I just tell the truth from the beginning? I asked Andy this the other night and he, of course, didn't have an opinion. I suppose he will when we're closer to having kids. We've got a while.

So how did you find out the awful truth? Or did I just blow the whole thing for you?

Baby It's Cold Outside

When I left home this morning: 0 degrees

Currently: 11 degrees and falling

I think we saw 20 degrees for about thirty minutes today.

My car made copious complaints about having to start at all, much less move. Of course, that was after I got the door to thaw so I could open it.

Don't you wish you were here?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Did Christmas throw up on your house too?

4 days 'till Christmas.

If your decorations aren't up yet then maybe you should just wait until the holiday season rolls around again.

How lovely are your branches
Some of my favorite ornaments

Wedding locket
Star of wonder, star of lightThis is my favorite childhood memory of
my grandmother's tree.
A leaf on a treeI have several of theseWhat's Christmas without a pink tinsel tree?Shoes! (I also have these in black)Ready for Christmas dinnerMy mantle is my favorite!
Keep a lookout for more Christmas cheer from my house.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Telling Andy

Andy was out of town last night when I had my little accident on the keyboard. So when he got home today I decided to bite the bullet and tell him in case the keyboard didn't recover and he sat down and tried to type to no avail. This is how it went down:

Me: I spilled water on the keyboard last night

Andy: ::rolls eyes:: Well, I guess I'll buy you a keyboard for Christmas

Me: Maybe not. It hasn't all dried out yet.

Andy:
Well, does it work now?


Me: ::types a pass word into a website::

Andy:
Don't try to use it until it dries out!!



Someone tell me how the hell I was supposed to find out if it works without typing on it.

As you can see the crisis has been averted and our patient has made a full recovery.

*****************************************************************

And now for something completely different.

This was on our Christmas card that I sent out. How stinkin' cute is this? It took nearly 40 pictures to get it right, but I think it was well worth the effort.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Electrical failure is eminent

Just a minute ago I sat down to write a post about how much is going on, and how much I'm going to get accomplished in the next couple of days. While composing my thoughts I reached for my full glass of ice water and dumped it all over myself, my desk and my keyboard.

That's probably not such a good thing for the ole' keyboard huh?

You know those signs you see in public computer labs that say, "No food or drink at the computers"? That is sage advice my friends, take heed.

I'm going to turn my keyboard upside down and hope that the water all drains out and that I don't wake up to a completely defunct keyboard tomorrow. I don't have high hopes.



6 days 'till Christmas. Are you ready?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Merry Consumerism - I mean Christmas

These last two weekends I've spent some time out of my little cocoon up in the mountains. It's a different world up here than it is in the "big" cities of this state.

Last weekend, as you know I was in Raleigh and the last two days I went to visit my parents, who don't live in a city, but we did take an adventure out to the city.

Both weekends I went to a large shopping mall. We have a mall here, but it could hardly be categorized as large; maybe not even medium, though it is getting larger.

Have you been to a shopping mall on a Saturday this close to Christmas? It is complete and total madness. Madness I say. I felt like a small child in a sea of strangers that would be separated from her parents at any moment if I didn't keep a death grip on their hands. It takes a lot to make me feel that way. I'm an adult and I've been going to malls alone for a long time now, but the swarms of people around me made me want to grab on to my shopping party and hold on for dear life. I didn't, but I had to fight the urge the whole time.

My reaction kind of surprised me though. It's amazing how soon you can become unsteadied by something that used to seem so natural. When I was younger and living at home I used to go shopping every year at Christmas time with my mother and grandmother. And we would go late in the season. If you look up "procrastination" in the dictionary you would find my mother's face. So every year we would brave the crowds in the "big city" to help my mother find the perfect gift, or twenty of the perfect gifts for our many family members. There would be so many people in the mall that you could stand still and feel the floor move. Did that put a damper on our shopping mayhem? Why no! We threw caution to the wind. The mall hadn't collapsed yet, so why would it now?

The last several years I've made sure to do my shopping early if I had to travel out of town for it, or I just shopped at home, which is much less chaotic. So I guess I just forgot what it was like in a bigger town. And I have to say I'm a little taken aback.

While we were walking (being pushed) through the mall yesterday, my mom made the comment that she doesn't think this is what Christmas was supposed to be about. I have to agree 100%. If you do a little research on Christmas or any of the religious holidays that are celebrated this time of year, you won't find anything on buying as many presents as possible for all the people you have ever made acquaintance with. So what has escalated it to this point? Is it the communication age? Is it that families spend less and less time together and need to buy something that says "I love you" instead of just saying it out loud? Is it a keeping up with the Jones' mentality?

Whatever the cause it makes me sad. Sad for our society and sad for the children I don't have yet. What will Christmas and family relationships be like when they are my age?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that everyone in that shopping mall yesterday doesn't know how to love their family. That isn't what I'm saying at all. I just think that if we could step out of our bodies for a second and take a look at how we celebrate Christmas as a society we all might be a little disgusted. I used to be a retail manager for a major corporation. One of the statistics that has stuck with me is that during the month of December our company made more money than in the other eleven months combined. Kind of disgusting, don't you agree? Sure the company thrived, as I'm sure many others did, and it paid my bills, but what about now? What about this year?

I'm sure it hasn't escaped anyone's attention that we aren't exactly riding the financial high in this country that we have in years past. It is my sincere hope that people aren't blowing their whole wad to have one last fabulous Christmas before all hell breaks loose. Maybe it's time that we all learned to live with a little less. For many people that is already a reality.

This year Andy and I have decided to do something completely different to celebrate Christmas. I can't tell you what right now because my family reads this blog and I don't want to spoil the surprise. I'll write more about it a little later.

For now I'll leave you with this: Give of yourself this holiday season. Love doesn't come from a store. Your loved ones need you more than another sweater.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Monday, December 8, 2008

Decorating joy

  • My husband won't ask for help so we walked around the entire Christmas section before he finally broke down and asked someone where the tree stands were.
  • The bunnies are annoyingly curious about all the stuff I have strewn around the living room to decorate my house. This is their first Christmas though, so I'm kind of getting caught up in their enthusiasm.
  • Also, they are eating the Christmas tree. I can't find anything that tells me that it's poisonous, but if you have knowledge of a fraser fir being detrimental to a bunny's health please tell me ASAP.
  • Our tree is gigantic. The biggest ever. Consequentially I have used the most lights ever. They keep blowing fuses. That is starting to get on my nerves.
  • I haven't had dinner yet tonight.
  • I'm loving every minute of this madness.

Happy holiday preparation everyone!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A new alternator for Christmas

I got back from Raleigh late last night after quite an interesting journey home, but we'll get to that in a minute.

Julie and I haven't seen each other since September which is entirely too long, so it was great to see her, even if only for a short time.

I got there Friday afternoon and entertained myself for a while because she and Frank were doing the walk through in their new house. Did I tell you that Julie and Frank are buying a house? No? Well, I just did.

We went to eat a Ted Turner's restaurant that night. I don't remember the name of it, all I know is that it's owned by Ted Turner, they had paper straws, and they don't stock cream cheese so I couldn't have a cream cheese burger. Instead I had a bison burger which was quite satisfying. I would recommend it to anyone who isn't a vegan or vegetarian, for obvious reasons.

Julie and I participated in a craft show on Saturday morning; I don't remember if I told you that either, so now you know. Friday night we made cookies for the booth the next morning. Julie said they were too messy and she won't make them again, but she isn't a baker so she has a skewed concept of messy. All-in-all the craft show was a bust. I don't think it was advertised very well and most of the twenty people that showed up were from Julie's church and just there to show support. But time spent together is never time wasted, so we made the best of the situation.

These are the cookies we made
We cut them in fourths to have enough
Waiting on people to show upJulie and I at the craft fair
(Whenever I do a self portrait I always look sleepy)
Saturday afternoon we spent some time shopping and touring the new house before I headed home. It was hard to leave. I cried, but only because someone said she didn't want me to go. I'm looking at you Julieanna.

The new houseJulie opening the front doorJulie and I in the house
(I made my eyes bigger this time
so I look surprised instead of sleepy)

Here's where the alternator comes in. Most of the trip was smooth sailing, but about the time I started to drive up our big mountain I noticed my lights getting dimmer. I thought maybe I was just tired and my eyes were playing tricks on me. Ten more miles down the road my tachometer and speedometer stopped working and registered zero. Danger Will Robinson! At the same time my headlights became as good as non-existent. So I made it to the nearest stopping point (a grocery store parking lot), and turned the car off. I thought maybe I was having an electrical glitch and the car just needed to reset. Of course it wouldn't restart. I called my hero to come and rescue me and thirty minutes later there he was. Naturally the car started as soon as he opened the hood and looked inside; my car likes to do that to me, we have a love-hate relationship.

Andy explained to me what was going on. My alternator was dead and my battery was dying slowly because there wasn't anything to give it more juice. Did you know the alternator creates the electricity to feed to the battery? I didn't until last night.

So up the road we went. My speedometer still didn't work so I followed Andy and trusted that he wasn't going to get me a speeding ticket. I was starving and by that point so we stopped at Wendy's and my battery was done. Andy had brought the battery out of his Jeep (sometimes having 3 cars comes in handy) so he did a quick switch and we headed home.

Did I mention that there was a snow storm during all this? Yeah, there was, and not the big, soft, pretty snowflakes. Oh no, the wind was blowing like mad and with every gust you got smacked in the face with tiny little frozen bits that felt like they were cutting your skin. It was fabulous. Though I shouldn't complain. Andy had it worse than I did because he was the one doing the work, bless him.

We did make it home in one piece with both cars. Currently mine is resting from it's long journey. It's going to stay there until Friday when the new alternator gets here. I'm car less and it sucks a big fat one. I know that I could just drive one of the other two cars that we have, but Andy uses the truck all the time and the Jeep isn't exactly road worthy at the moment.

It's only for a few more days. Right?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Procrastination

Ok, so I took more than a couple of days off. I have a lot of things going on in my head, but haven't taken the time to separate them out and make some sense of them. I've also been working at the ski shop this week. Not for Andy, for the retail manager. It has totally drained me. Turns out 9 months of not standing on your feet all day makes it hard to get used to the physical demands of a retail job again. So blogging hasn't been my top priority this week. Sleep has though.

Even though I'm not working for Andy I still see him all day. There are a lot of people that come in who say, "Hey that's awesome that you guys get to see each other all day." We just kind of smile and nod. The people that say this are not married. Do you know how I know that they aren't married? Because that statement made it through their brain and out their mouth. If they were married they would know that it is not "awesome" to see your spouse all day every day. Sometimes it's good to have time apart.

I'm leaving town today to go see Julie! Andy and I both are excited about this trip. I'm excited to be out of town and see my BFF, and he is excited to have the house to himself for a couple of days.

Can you tell it's been a long week?

I'll be back to the blog Sunday with some pictures to chronicle my time with Julie and away from my husband.