Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Week 52 - Christmas At Last!

The beginning of the week went by in a blur while I slammed to get things done before heading east for Christmas. Of course I was working on the day I was flying so as not to waste vacation time so that added to the stress. When I left for work on Wednesday, my bags were in the car, the plants were watered and the cats all set for their week inside. I was expecting a mess since the cats were still divided into the back of the house interlopers and the old guard cowering in the front.

I made it to the airport with plenty of time, only to find that my flight was delayed. At the time my first flight left, it was scheduled to get in at the same time my next flight was leaving. But it all worked out because they were holding flights so other than having to bolt from one end of the terminal to the other to catch my second plane, my trip back east was the best in 3 years. I arrived just 45 minutes late rather than the day late of the past two years. It felt great to be there so I could finally relax.

Let the baking begin! It was a perfect day. The sun was beaming in the windows and Carolyn and I spent all day baking, knitting and chatting. By the time I had to head to Connecticut for my Aunt Bev’s funeral, we had made a major dent in our list.

Thank God for GPS. I was going to backwoods RI (Hope Valley) to pick up my Auntie Margaret and then taking country roads in the pitch black to get to Norwich. It was a beautiful service and the priest looked like Santa in a cassock – long curly white beard and all. Afterwards my sister, nephew, aunt and I went out for dinner and then I did the trip in reverse to drop Auntie Margaret home. I got home late and was glad to have happier things to look forward to.

Friday brought more baking and the steaming of the Christmas pudding – a Fenton family tradition. It takes hours and steams up the entire house but it’s Auntie Margaret’s favorite so is worth it. We finished the cookies (3 kinds), the macaroons, cranberry punch and dark chocolate crème brulee then it was on to my cousin’s for Christmas Eve festivities. It was fun to see everyone. My cousins’ kids are all grown now and I got to meet two significant others. I got up to leave and was saying goodbye to my sister when I realized I had forgotten her present. At least it was at David and Ronnie’s this year so it was only 15 minutes from Carolyn’s. Dottie and I drove to Carolyn’s to retrieve the presents, which made me an hour late for my next stop – John’s mom’s.

It’s always fun to see Marianne and Brian. From there I had to pick Carolyn up at Tracey and Andrea’s, where I’d also get to see Bob. After eating a few too many cookies, Carolyn and I drove home to play Santa. But although Matt and Aaron had been home for awhile, Aaron was not asleep and Matt was wrapping on the living room floor so Carolyn was banned from entering. We did what we could from the other room until Matt was done and then got the presents out, getting to be at 2:00. What a long day!

We got up at 7:30 and started opening presents. My sisters did really well on the stocking stuffers and between theirs and Carolyn’s, it took me awhile to open everything. Christmas stockings are SO much fun. After eating cardamom bread for breakfast, we started cooking dinner – prime rib, scalloped potatoes and Brussels sprouts. We had some timing issues so turned off the meat until the potatoes caught up. Ed and Helene, Carolyn’s parents, came for dinner and everything was delicious. We sat and chatted for hours and played one of Aaron’s games too. It was a wonderful Christmas.

The forecast for Sunday, when our annual open house was scheduled for 1:00, was looking bad. They were using the B word – blizzard! It was supposed to start snowing mid morning and then the winds would pick up in the early afternoon making visibility nil. I started making phone calls that morning and when the first two people said they weren’t coming, we decided to cancel. We had enough cookies for an army regiment but at least we hadn’t made the hot stuff yet. While it meant I wouldn’t see many of my friends, it also meant we could stay in our coolie pants, warm and toasty inside while it snowed like a banshee, which it did. We watched Disturbia (one of Aaron’s presents) and snacked and knitted all day. It was a pleasant day and it was a good thing we had cancelled because the weather was as bad as predicted. There’s something to be said about enforced relaxation. It was a fabulous end to a fun but hectic week.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Week 51 - Prepping for Christmas

I spent most of the week obsessed with Christmas preparations. Me and the rest of the world. I started the week with a to do list parsed out by night so had a pretty clear idea of what needed doing. Lots!

I was also thinking I had some holes in my stocking stuffers but hit pay dirt at the dollar store on Tuesday. Am I the last person on the planet to discover Only a Dollar? I’d been in once before but hadn’t been impressed. This time I filled my cart with 43 items! I got lots of stocking stuffers (the fillers that I’d been lacking) plus tons of other stuff, from cleaning products to Pepperidge Farm cookies in single serve packs. I left feeling great because my Christmas shopping was officially done.

Next on the list was getting Ginny’s package shipped. I had hoped to get the calendars done in time to include but I didn’t get the last pages until Thursday so that was out. Crossing the calendar off of the to do list took some of the pressure off but I still missed my self-imposed Wednesday deadline to get the box in the mail. I mailed it Friday and hope a week is long enough for it to get there.

On the cat front, I took the mama cat in to get spayed on Wednesday so she'd be home and mostly recovered before I left. But I still needed to find a home for the gray and white kitten. Well, I was in the pool on Thursday night for the last time before break and asked Monica if she needed a kitten, just like I’ve asked everyone for the past couple of weeks, even complete strangers in the elevator. It’s a good thing the pool was shallow so I didn't drown from shock when she said yes. She had been looking for another cat but The Cat House (the local no kill shelter) turned her down because she rents. How perfect! Anne attested to the kitten’s total cuteness so I made plans to deliver her to Lincoln on Saturday. Yay!

Despite it being my last weekend to get everything done, I had lots of social things scheduled for the weekend. I delivered the kitten to Monica on Saturday morning and then met Susan for lunch, which was fun. From there I headed downtown to meet Darla at the movies to see Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which was my favorite book of the 7 Narnia books growing up. We were seeing it in 3-D, which I was excited about too. The movie was great but the 3-D was a bust. They missed many opportunities, in my opinion. Oh well. It was fun anyway.

When I got home, I finally decorated my tree. The first step was my new LED lights. Well, the box said soft white but sheesh! With only 50 lights, it was still bright enough to land a plane by. Oh well, I’m doing my part for the environment and had hope that it wouldn’t be so bright once the ornaments were on. When I dug through all my boxes, I found plenty of kitten proof ornaments and despite losing some of my faves to the mildew, I still had plenty of fun ones. When I was done, the tree was still 100% me and looked great. And so far, so good. Totnes has only shown minimal interest in the tree but there’s no telling what it’ll look like after I’ve been gone for a week.

I had hoped Sunday would be a regular chore day with lots of time knitting between getting things done. But early in the day, I decided to tackle the calendar pages. This was the 5th year of our swap but this year people went Cricut crazy. When I got the pages, it was clear I had more work to do. Three of the pages went right into the trash and 3 others needed to be completely reworked. Before I knew it, it was 2:00 and I hadn’t even stopped for lunch. By the time I finished my last pages, it was almost time to head to Lorri’s for tea. And I hadn’t even begun to choose pictures, never mind scanning and uploading them. Finishing the calendars is going to have to be a post-Rhode Island project but at least I have the pages done.

Tea at Lorri’s was a nice break and it was good to catch up. Lorri and I always exchange a little something and she has totally embraced my attempts to limit stuff in my life. For the second year in a row, she gave me meat! I got 2 pork chops, some beer bread mix and a can of beer. What’s not to like! Then it was home to cook my pork chops for dinner and watch the Survivor finale, getting up during ads to get stuff done. Three days from now I’ll be landing in RI.

Have a Merry Christmas everyone.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Week 50 - Need a Kitten?

So, what a hectic week! Who knew getting rid of 3 kittens (2 really) would be so stressful?

There were times during the week when I had so many people interested that I had leads on homes for not only all the kittens but the mama too. Brenda at work wanted one but had never had a cat before and so was full of questions. It also looked like she would be taking MY kitten, which at first I was willing to consider but was not happy about. But after giving it some thought, she decided not to take one at all. All but one of my leads went the same way so that by the end of the week, I was only down 1 kitten. Now I’m facing finding a home for my last kitten (assuming I'll keep the mom (outside) and my kitten) with only 10 days to go before I leave for RI. Sheesh!

The Hart’s were my only definite to take a kitten and they wanted the gray and white girl. Anne Marie and Veronica came over Thursday night thinking they’d be leaving with a kitten but they walked in the door and the kittens bolted. The long haired boy, the gregarious one of the bunch, came out briefly but I had no luck coaxing the others out. They left empty handed but we made plans for Veronica to come over on the weekend with a book so she could sit quietly and put the kittens at ease. Since all I had planned was to slam through some Christmas prep, I could easily work that in.

I started the weekend on Friday night by putting up my deck Christmas tree. It was in the 50’s on Friday so I was outside after work in a t-shirt and got the tree up. It’s so festive to put on the lights and have the tree glowing right outside my door. I cut the bottom off the inside tree and put it in water in the bathtub. My plan was to decorate it while It’s a Wonderful Life was on TV Saturday night, which is my annual tradition. I usually put it up the weekend before Christmas but since I'm leaving on Wednesday, I figured a bit earlier would work.

Well, it's a good thing I did the outside tree on Friday because I woke up Saturday to below zero wind chills and blowing snow. It would have been the perfect day to stay inside and start on my Christmas to do list but I had to go the library to pick up cash for deposit. Saturday being the only day the bank is open when I'm in town, I had no choice but to go. So after slogging through the laundry room in search of Christmas decorations and wrapping, I bundled up and headed out. After the library and bank, I stopped to get Veronica. Again, the boy was the only kitten who would come out and she played with him for 2 hours straight. I'd barricaded every door so was confident that Anne Marie could take the kitten when she came to get Veronica at 3:00. Yeah, right. When he got tired, he scaled a hip high box blocking the spare bedroom and joined his sisters inside the box spring. When I couldn't get him out, I agreed to deliver him later that night.

Once Veronica left, I got busy on my calendar pages. I had to design 3 months - January, May and September - and make 12 copies of each. I was in such a zone that I never stopped for supper and just kept going straight through It's a Wonderful Life without decorating the tree. Oh well. By the time I went to bed, all the pages were done except the 3rd, which had ink drying. That left Sunday to put up the inside tree and wrap my sister's presents so I they'd be ready to mail. Easy peasy. I bagged up the pages Sunday morning and started wrapping. I got all the gifts for both my sisters done so was feeling great. I did chores between wrapping and so only had the tree yet to go.

Since all my kitten proof decorations were in one small bag (my tree is only 4.5 feet tall so doesn't take much), I figured an hour would do it. So I went down to grab the bag but reached in and pulled out a mildewed mess. Clearly the bag had gotten wet in this summer's flood and I had missed it. The cool circle garlands I'd made last year? Toast. The quilted star for the tree topper? Stinky and stained. Many of my treasured unbreakable ornaments? Dead. I went through the bag separating out things that had potential to be saved, pulled things to throw in the wash and another pile to try and wipe down. I ran a load of laundry and saved the tree skirt (the Fenton family skirt from my childhood) and a few ornaments. Mostly not so much. So, I ended the weekend on a down note and my tree is up but naked. I guess this is the time to upgrade to LED lights and see what I can buy at the library tomorrow night. It's also time to seriously think about getting the basement fixed. This is totally my bad. I've been ignoring the water situation all summer. Serves me right.

All that said, my Christmas spirit is still intact. I had done better shopping for stocking stuffers than I'd thought so don't have much last minute shopping pressure. Sure, I'll hit a few stores this week but I'm not desperate. I made a schedule of what needs doing by when so I can get most of it done after work this week, leaving this next weekend for packing and such. So despite the mildew, life is still good and Christmas will be merry. Ho, ho, ho!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Week 49 - More Kitten Fun

I woke up Monday feeling much better and ready to tackle life again. Life but not quite water aerobics yet. I skipped Monday night fearing I’d cough up a lung so went home and tackled a ton of chores before heading to knitting. On Tuesday I was leaving early to go to a reception in Fremont for the Extension Educator who had run our Master Gardener program for years. Lorri and I went up with her husband Bob and made a quick Wal Mart run afterwards. Despite the 60 mile ride from Lincoln, I was still home by 7:00, which was nice. By Wednesday I felt up for the pool but we don’t have class on Wednesdays until next semester so I headed home right after work to reclaim my frig and freeze the last of the Thanksgiving food. Then I enjoyed an evening of TV while eating another plate of turkey leftovers. I wasn’t sick of them yet. On Thursday I finally made it to the pool – yay! I made it through, despite some residual congestion, and it felt great.

The weather had turned really cold with a biting wind early in the week so I put my heating pad into the tote I had on the deck for the cats, hoping that the mom would stick on the deck and not take the kittens back to the dumpster. It worked and they spent their down time huddled in the warmth but by mid week, I was letting the kittens inside while I was home. Then the mom started coming in. Saturday morning I took them to the vet for shots, worming and a check up. Since they were all feeling dumpy, I let the kittens stay inside that night. I wormed the mom Saturday night and they all spent most of Sunday inside. It’s official – I’m a sucker. I finally got a purr out of the mom so am beginning to think I should keep her instead of the dilute calico kitten. I’m torn. I’m putting a free to a good home ad in the paper and plan to have the kittens gone by Christmas. Wish me luck. In the meantime, I’m enjoying watching the kittens scamper and play. I’ve never had a little of kittens before. It is so much fun!

I had a wonderful weekend! I stopped on the way home on Friday and bought both my Christmas trees, which, much to my surprise, totally kick started my Christmas spirit, which has been waning in recent years. I had made brownies for Santa coming to the library so dropped those Saturday morning on the way to the vet. I had wisely invited Andrea over for lunch so had to get all more chores done before she arrived at 1:00. We enjoyed turkey soup and homemade bread hot from the oven and then went to Christmas on the Prairie, where we were demonstrating knitting along with Anne Marie. Lots of people stopped by the chat and we had hot cider and cookies. It was fun afternoon.

Andrea and I were scheduled for an Omaha run to Trader Joe’s and Penzey’s on Sunday morning. I had a nice morning reading the paper and watching CBS Sunday morning and was on the road by 10:00. I went a bit nuts at TJ’s, mostly because I could actually walk the aisles and see the food this time. We were in and out of Penzey’s but then stopped at Sur La Table, where I mostly bought fun stuff for me, like the cutest little orange colander ever! Good thing I’d bought lots of stuff for others at TJ’s. We had planned to be home by noon but it was more like 2:00. My big plans to get all kinds of things crossed off my to do list didn’t work out so well. I did do some planning for my calendar pages, which was fun, and made yummy dinner (lobster ravioli with cream sauce), yogurt and banana pudding. Not a super productive end of the week but I’ll live. It was a great week. Less than 3 weeks until Christmas. Time to get organized.