Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Week 52 - Odd Timing Abounds

It was a busy week – DUH! Everything revolved around getting ready to fly to Carolyn’s on Tuesday evening for Christmas, hopefully before the forecast storm made it impossible to fly. I was slamming through a project at work so worked until the last second, got in my car and drove directly to Eppley, arriving in good time so I was at the gate an hour and a half before the flight. Having forgotten my sandwich in the fridge at work (can we say prepared boys and girls?), I had just tucked into an enormous airport hotdog when I noticed a line forming at my gate. Apparently my flight was going to be delayed and no one would make their connections so they were rebooking everyone. Luckily since the weather the next day was going to be icy, they were getting us to Detroit and putting us up there (because it was technical difficulties and not the weather, they had to foot the bill.) I waited in line and got my new booking for Detroit > Providence the next morning but was hoping I could still make it for my flight that night. It would be tight but if they made up a few minutes and my gates were close, there was a chance. Yeah, right!

They did make up some time and we got in 15 minutes before my flight to Providence was due to leave. But I was 16 rows back and when we got to Detroit, we had to wait at the gate for them to bring the jetway to the plane. The hold up was staffing. And what were the staff being held up by? Removing the jetway from my flight to Providence AT THE VERY NEXT GATE! Oh well, at least I’d get there by noon the next day, still leaving me a full day before the official start of the holiday. The next hurdle was spending the night in a hotel without any luggage. Luckily I had a toothbrush and change of undies in my carry on (a complete fluke) so I just slept naked (!), put on the same clothes without showering (I was wearing a hot sweater and figured the deodorant residue from Tuesday would be better than clean but chemical free armpits) and headed back to the airport. They’d given us a food voucher so I went wild at Starbucks and even bought a coffee for the TSA guy in line with me (Merry Christmas!) From there things went well and I arrived just after noon, happy that I’d made it out of Omaha before the storm.

Carolyn and I got busy baking on Wednesday morning – my Christmas pudding (the mold in my carry on caused slightly less problems at the airport than the pudding from last year), macaroons, pumpkin cheesecake… I was just happy, happy, happy to be in Carolyn’s kitchen, which is one of my very favorite places, chatting and cooking. I left just before 3:00 to head to Deanne’s to see her nephew and niece (OK, her mom and brothers too.) When they left for mass, I headed to Marianne and Brian’s to hang with John for a bit before leaving for Bette’s. I had a cup of Earl Grey and chatted about England (what’s not to love?) I arrived at Bette’s at 6:00, right behind Dottie, Mike and fam only to find that everyone had already eaten. We grabbed plates and sat down. In what seemed like minutes later, everyone started leaving! By 7:00-ish it was down to just us Fenton girls, Aunt Margaret, Bette, Kelsey and Ronnie. And within the hour, Ronnie left too. It was strange! We sat around the table and chatted, looking at the old pics in the calendar I make every year for Dottie and Ginny and having seconds of Christmas pudding. The lack of hubbub was decidedly non-festive. I guess the days of young kids and rowdy present opening are over. The end of an era! I was back at Carolyn’s before 10:00. We waited for Aaron to fall asleep, loaded up the stockings and went to bed late.

Christmas morning was all that and a bag of nuts! I had 3 lots of stocking stuffers because Dottie did some too and it took a long time to get through them all. I got lots of fun stuff but the highlight was the pair of Avenue undies that Carolyn had bought. It was so unexpected to open them (I thought the days of underwear for Christmas had died with Kay) and I laughed so hard that I had to wipe my eyes. Aaron got an X Box 360 so was in hog heaven. When we were done with presents, Carolyn and I headed to the kitchen again. Our Trader Joe’s chocolate croissants had over risen and then fallen but we baked them anyway for breakfast and then started on the prime rib, mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts for lunch. After we’d gorged on beef, we retired to the living room for the annual tradition of watching whatever movie Aaron had gotten. This year it was Transformers – Revenge of the Fallen, which I’d gotten him, and it felt like more of the same because Aaron had been playing a car chase game all day, giving us a backdrop of revving and crashing for our festivities. Remind me next year to get Aaron a kinder, gentler movie.

Saturday was our annual holiday open house so we got up and headed to the market. We didn’t have tons of prep work to do because we had done most of the baking on Wednesday so only had to make up some dips and things. In the second bout of odd timing, 2:00 came and went and no one had arrived. Normally someone comes early – Bob or John usually – but we sat at the table until almost 2:30 before anyone showed up. From then it was constant door answering though. The usual gang came and it was a fun time – eating good food and chatting with friends. What’s not to love? But in another anomaly, no one stayed past 5:30 or so. We’d advertised it as 2:00 to whenever and usually we end up ordering pizza for the people still left. This time we’d planned on making chicken marsalla but no one stayed! Deanne did show up ~7:00 after we’d already cleaned up and put all the food away but we talked for a bit anyway. Despite its delayed start, it was another successful holiday party.

Sunday was our big road trip day. Carolyn and I got up early and headed north – destination Leominster, Mass. for the only CJ Banks in the drivable vicinity, followed by a trip to Northampton to Webbs, the home of yarn.com’s huge yarn store. Of course I couldn’t drive through Worcester without a stop at the only remaining section of the doomed Kirkbride at Worcester State Hospital. After a driving tour of the seedier sections of Worcester where we watched meth deals on just about every corner, we gave up on the bogus google maps directions and just winged it. The drive in front of the clock tower was closed so I had to trek across a soggy field in the rain to get some pics of the building but it was worth getting wet to see the last bit of the Kirkbride before it falls down from all the construction nearby that must be reeking havoc with the unstable building.

CJ Banks was a total bust, which I’d thought was a good possibility because of our post-holiday timing. It was a small one and the inventory was pretty skimpy. Neither of us bought anything so we headed to Northampton, stopping for Wendy’s along the way. Webb’s was wonderful! The yarn shop itself was a mystery. There appeared to be no organization what so ever to how the yarn was arranged – not by weight, company, color, nothing! The fun part was the warehouse, which was arranged by weight. I headed right to the sock yarn aisle and found 4 skeins I couldn’t live without. There was tons of yarn back there at super cheap prices. It was in boxes filled with bags of yarn. I should have bought some to make the sweater in Big Girls Knits that I like but we were unprepared and so I left with my socks yarn - 4 skeins for <$30! We promptly decided we’d go back next Christmas with a list of patterns and yarns so we could make a big haul. We drove home for the chicken marsalla dinner we hadn’t made Saturday and an evening of pay per view of Julie and Julia, which I’d seen in the theatre (a rarity for me) but loved just as much the 2nd time. What a nice end to a busy week filled with family and friends. Wait for it…..Life is Good!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Week 51 - Prepped and Ready

I started the week with the realization that Christmas was almost here and I had to get organized. I was at Wal-Mart before work on Monday so I could have some gift cards in the mail that day. I packed Ginny’s stocking stuffers and mailed them on Tuesday. After work Wednesday I did my final (or so I hoped) shopping. Thursday was our Accounting Christmas lunch so I had my Secret Santa gift ready to go. I made progress every day and went into the weekend with a large but manageable to do list.

I actually began the weekend with a very nice dinner at Nancy’s Friday night. After dining on Alan’s yummy pork roast, Nancy did a show and tell of all the vintage goodies from her aunt's house, which she’d helped clear out recently. I left with a bag of orange linens that make me smile.

Despite my late arrival home Friday, I had my list and no commitments so hunkered down for a super productive weekend. I steadily got things done but had time to enjoy the journey. Phone calls with Carolyn to share updates on our progress helped too. I even had time between errands to take some photos of a hotel on 5th Street that's being demolished. Now it’s Sunday night and everything is wrapped, cookies are baked, the house is tidy and the laundry’s done. All I have left to do is throw clothes and presents in my suitcase and I’ll be ready to go. And I finished it all in time to spend the evening watching the Survivor Finale while knitting a new pair of socks I started with yarn from my Secret Santa. Life is good!

I don’t know if it’s hormones or what but I’m really excited for Christmas this year. I’ve found that the older I get the harder it is to overcome all the logistics and find the fun in the holidays. But this year I’m feeling the joy and am excited to head to Rhode Island to spend Christmas with family and friends. I hope you all can finish your to do lists in time to get into the spirit of the holidays and have a great time.

P.S. Here’s an idiot update – The man I backed into at Walgreen’s last week called to report that he got 3 estimates and the lowest was $1400. I immediately called my insurance company, talked to them for about 10 minutes and they said I was done and they’d take it from there. I guess this is why you buy insurance. It felt like a huge load off my mind and my agent thinks my rate won’t even go up. I guess I’ll believe that when I see it but at least that’s one less thing on my mind going into the holidays.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Week 50 - Dangerous Pretty Snow

What a week! I woke up to snow on Tuesday morning and it was forecast to be a blizzard by day's end. Just about every school in the area was closed that day but not UNL. I drove in through the snow confident that I wouldn't be working a full day. We got the word relatively early that UNL would be closing at noon, which is the earliest we've been let go in the nearly 12 years I've been here - yee ha! Plus we were all theorizing that we worked the half day Tuesday because it was likely we'd have Wednesday off. I drove back home through the snow (it only took 45 minutes - not bad) with the glee of a child excited for my snow day.

When I got home, I saw that there were ruts in the driveway from my cleaning lady and it was a good thing they were there because I barely made it in my driveway with my car was bottoming out on the nearly 6" of snow. I cleared off my car in the garage, grabbed all my stuff and headed inside. But when I opened the door, I heard the sound of the vacuum. My cleaning lady had just arrived. The ruts were from her dad dropping her off. She asked if I wanted her to reschedule but I said no way. I changed, grabbed some lunch, a book and my scrapbook paper and headed downstairs until she was done. I sorted out all my double sided scraps and started punching circles for a garland I'd seen online (click here for the pic that inspired my project.) It was after 3:00 when she left and I headed upstairs to a squeaky clean house and finished the afternoon watching the snow fall while drinking tea and knitting. I made a small dent in my to do list and was thrilled when I heard at 8:00 that UNL would be closed the next day. By then there was close to a foot of snow on the ground and the wind had picked up so it was blowing everywhere and visibility was nill. I went to bed early, determined to have a productive day on Wednesday.

I woke up to the sound of someone snow blowing just after 6:00 in the morning. Since eastern Nebraska was pretty much closed down, I wondered who was up and about so early. I looked out the window and saw someone across the street at Mr. Meduna's. I took one look at the drifts in my driveway, forced the front door open and yelled across to him. He would do my entire driveway, sidewalk and front path for $25. Sold! Since it would have taken me hours in the cold, I figured it was money well spent because it meant I'd be inside getting stuff done with no down time. So I started my day with pancakes and bacon and then hit my to do list. I interspersed cooking and chores with Christmas stuff and by the end of the day had a weeks worth of meals prepared and had made a huge dent in my Christmas preparations. I'd even chosen, scanned and uploaded the pictures for this year's calendars. What a wonderful day!

Thursday was back to work and the pool. I spent my lunch digging a hole in plowed snow so the cats could get out of the storm drains where they'd taken refuge. Otherwise the day was uneventful until I left campus. I was going to head straight home for dinner and Survivor but remembered at the last minute that I had pictures to pick up at Walgreens. I switched lanes and headed that way. The parking lot was a mess, with huge piles of snow making it a tight fit, and there were lots of cars too. After getting my pics, I looked both ways, saw the coast was clear and started backing up, going slowly because of the ice and snow. Well, I was three quarters out of my space when I heard a crunch. Some idiot had come up behind me while I was backing up and the driver's side corner of my bumper hit the bottom of his driver's side door. My car barely had a scratch on the bumper and his door had a 4" dimple on the bottom. He promptly informed me he'd just had the door replaced and it would cost me $500 for a new door! I gave him my insurance info and drove home, pissed that his idiocy was going to cost me so much. Who drives behind a car that's already backing up in an icy, cramped parking lot? This loser, that's who. Talk about putting a damper on my week! I didn't sleep much that night worrying that he was home with a sledge hammer trashing his car at my expense. But I went to work Friday determined that I would put this behind me and enjoy the weekend.

I woke up Saturday and started making lists. With Christmas less than 2 weeks away and me with packages and gift cards to mail, I had to get stuff done. I headed to town and to Our Corner Cottage, the gift shop in the country west of Wahoo, to fill in the last holes in my stocking baskets. I did great and went home, BK in hand, with a wonderful feeling that my shopping was finally done. I then proceeded to slam through my list. I finished my garland, which was a breeze, and put my inside tree up Saturday night while It's a Wonderful Life was on NBC. On Sunday after waking early from a stress dream, I put the calendars together, shovelled the deck and put up my outside tree and wrapped all Ginny's stocking stuffers so I could mail her package on Monday. I also got all my chores done and went through months of junk mail. I went to bed Sunday feeling great about my progress and filled with Christmas spirit. Despite my fender bender, it was a good week after all and just 9 more days until I fly east.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Week 49 - Transitioning to Better

I started the week with my horrible cold in full swing. It was all I could do to make it through the work day on Monday, which is saying something since I didn’t get there until noon after my morning doctor’s appointment. I was so exhausted I didn’t even knit at the library, which was a first. But I felt better with each passing day and by Thursday I was able to go back to water aerobics. Friday found me shopping for Christmas trees on the way home. On Saturday I got a long overdue haircut and had my new glasses adjusted so they fit perfectly. After a few more errands, I headed home to catch up on chores and work on Christmas crafts.

The highlight of the week was a craft day with Helen on Sunday. For years I had suggested a regular craft day but we’d never done it. Out of the blue, Helen suggested coming over on Sunday so I jumped at the chance. She showed up with a latte in each hand just as I was putting peanut butter blossoms, the cookies her grandmother used to make, in the oven. I popped in a movie but stopped it when the first batch of cookies was done and we never turned it back in, preferring to talk for hours and hours. The weather had turned frigid and it started snowing mid afternoon, which made it all the nicer that we were cozy inside, drinking tea, chatting and working on our projects.

I can’t say it was a very productive week and I’m ending it with a long list of things I didn’t get done but it was all worth it. I feel better, I made big progress on my knitting, my Christmas tree is sitting in a bucket of water ready to decorate, I had fun catching up with Helen and tomorrow starts a new week. Will this be the week I catch up? Maybe, maybe not. But I’ll be smiling so who cares. : )

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Week 48 - Thanks for Coughing

I had a little cough on Sunday but woke up with the definite early signs of a cold on Monday so got out the zicam. It seemed like I was nipping it in the bud and I was able to go to my first power pump class at lunch, which I survived, without feeling any ill effects from the early cold symptoms. I zicamed again on Tuesday and thought I’d thwarted the cold. That is until I woke up with a full blown cold on Wednesday. I spent the day watching the clock, while serenading my co-workers with hacking coughs. I was happy to go home when they gave us the word that we could leave early. I was home by 5:00, which was nice.

I wasn’t hosting Thanksgiving until Friday because Helen had to work Thursday so I was able to take it easy on Thursday, interspersing prep work with relaxing. By the end of the day, the pies were made, the veggies were prepped and ready to cook, the house was set and the pots and pans were even done (a rarity for me.) I had to trust my abilities because I couldn’t smell a thing, not even the pumpkin pie when it came out of the oven. Bummer! It had taken all my energy to get everything done but it was done so I gave thanks and went to bed.

Friday, which totally felt like Thanksgiving despite the later day, was a gorgeous day. I had been on the go all morning and had just sat down outside on the deck, perfectly comfortable in just a t-shirt, when Helen arrived. We did the last minute stuff – made the gravy, mashed the potatoes, put the burn & serves in the oven – and waited for Charlie, who was at the market, and Michael and Brenda to arrive. We had a wonderful dinner. Everything tasted great but the stuffing was the best ever (thanks to Bell’s seasoning – a New England spice blend I’d bought in RI this summer) and Helen’s cranberry jello salad was it’s usual yummy self.

Charlie turned the game on and Helen, Brenda and I headed outside to sit in the sun – a very nice way to aid in digestion. By the time the sun went behind the garage and it got chilly, the game was over. Shortly thereafter Brenda and Michael left to head west to her family and we watched the Soloist. When Helen and Charlie left just before 9:00, I did an uncharacteristically adult thing and cleaned everything up before I went to bed, inspired by Carolyn’s example. It didn’t take very long and I was in bed, exhausted, by 10:00.

With a cough that felt like I had razor blades in my chest, I had very little energy on Saturday but was out of Claritin D so headed to the pharmacy and picked up my new glasses before heading back home to sit and knit. I watched an entire British TV series that John had sent me years ago – Footballers Wives – and knitted a ton on my current pair of socks, which have a Christmas deadline. The only productive things I got done were laundry, which I had tons of, and boiling the turkey carcass for stock and picking the bones. I was so tired that it seemed to take forever to get to bedtime.

I slept much better than the previous couple of nights but still didn’t get much done on Sunday – more knitting, made some soup, froze all the leftovers and that’s about it. The only thing on my project list that I accomplished was to style the hutch. It still needs work but it’s a start and definitely looks better than it did before.

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving and got to spend quality time with friends and family. Despite being under the weather, I had a wonderful Thanksgiving and now need to start putting the finishing touches on Christmas prep. It’s less than 4 weeks away!