30 December, 2008

Family Fun - Eve of New Year's Eve

We started the day with breakfast a Mimi's Cafe. We don't have one back home, but we've already been to this one. Last time we were down, we ate here with Grandma, Dad & Aunt Anna - ah, fond memories. =)

From there, we headed to the house to connect with whomever was available. It was a pleasant day - I played on the computer and with my new Nintendo DS while Greg went shopping, then picked up Jeannea to do some geocaching. They went to the car wash to get the $100 Supreme wash for a dollar from the gas station down the road - which ended up being free because it wouldn't take coins or dollar bills.

For the evening entertainment, we pulled out mom's new game: Killer Bunnies. It's got lots of rules, but seems like it can be loads of fun. I didn't have any carrots, but I did have three bunnies - and one of my bunnies was lucky... We didn't finish because we went to the 10pm showing of The Spirit - so we'll be playing another round on New Year's Day.

On tap for tomorrow: car fixing with Aaron; lunch with Brian & Julie; First Night in downtown Salt Lake City. It's going to be a busy one!! =)

29 December, 2008

Family Fun - Day Three

We split the group today. Greg & Jeannea got up early to go to Antelope Island. We had people at work, school, shopping, and visiting friends. Sara & I went shopping for the chili & cornbread makings. While we were at the local grocery store, I saw yet another new (to me) vending machine - for movie rentals. (Chad tells me there's one in some airports that sells iPods... I'm going to have to look for that one!)

We spent lots of the day cooking. First getting the chili ready and into crock pots, then baking the cookies that Jeannea had already mixed up. Two kinds of ginger/molasses cookies for testing - there was supposed to be three kinds, but we ran out of time. Dave helped with the cookies, rolling the dough balls in sugar and swapping the trays. Sara helped with the chili and cornbread. We pulled the bread out of the oven just 15 minutes before we needed to head out to Auntie Dianne's house for the party.

The rest of the evening was a blast! All my cousins except two (and their families) were in attendance, with spouses and babies in tow. I think the group of cousins (not counting spouses, kids, or parents) is about 22 people - so if you add in the rest... I think we're looking at 60-80 people. It was great to see everyone - it's been quite a while since I've been able to attend one of the big Family Gatherings. I do miss visiting and catching up. I wish we had more time this trip (I wish this every trip), as I'd arrange some one-on-one time with people to do more than "party chat". I absolutely *love* seeing everyone and getting the hugs - seeing how we've changed and yet are the same. I just wish I had more time. Maybe on the next visit.
We had loads of great food and spent time chatting and catching up. Then it was on to the important stuff - the talent show & gift exchange. One of the cousins-in-law recited The Cremation of Sam McGee by Robert Service; Aunt Bonnie did her family rendition of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas (a tradition I haven't been around to hear for *years*); and the Killpack brothers put on animal puppets and got the kids to dance around. It's interesting to see that so many of the little kids respond to the same music - it means there's enough interaction between the families that activities, music, and learning items are shared. Like a great, big family! =)

Greg got a tub of cookie cutters and I scored a great travel game (that we're going to use on the trip down to Zion this coming weekend). I was hoping that we'd sing some Christmas carols - the whole reason I started the tradition in AK was because I miss singing with the cousins. We have lots of fun when we do it at home, but it's all about enthusiasm as there's no time to get together and practice or do any "serious" prepping. We did try to get a couple songs in, but it was amidst the chaos of people starting to leave and calling for a group photo since this is the most of us that's been in one place in almost 10 years. So I heard the ghost of memories past, and made lots of new, wonderful memories - it'll have to be enough for now...

On tap for tomorrow: Shopping and hanging out. Skiing was cancelled, as Greg & Sara both opted not to go (and now Sara has a cold).

Family Fun - Day Two

Today is the day that the whole family - absolutely everyone - will be together. We've got fun things on tap, but the best will be spending time with everyone. If you get up early (like Greg) to go for a run because you're training for a marathon, you catch things like this:

I, however, slept in until the last possible moment - yay! (*Definitely* NOT going to be running a marathon - that's me...) Sheri, Sara, Jeannea, Greg & I met for breakfast at IHOP. Even though we have one back home, this one has sentimental ties - we had breakfast here with Grandma, Dad, & Aunt Anna a year and a half ago. The food wasn't special - even though they offered steak and shrimps (apparently not meaning short people) - but the company was good. Sheri & Sara took off too quickly to be part of the photo op. Oh well - there's always next time.

In preparation for the family eat-a-thon, we stopped at Costco. Turns out there's a cache in the parking lot. They didn't find it, but they found the one in the other parking lot Greg "accidentally" pulled into when he passed our destination. And on the way home, we were going to stop and get the car washed (it's filthy outside, and not all of that is from us), but the line was too long and the price too steep - I'll just say they better offer inside detailing too...

The rest of the day was spent playing, cooking, visiting, laughing, and enjoying each other's company. A very, very lovely day! We spent hours & hours playing Rock Band, with people rotating in & out or changing instruments when they got tired. I played bass guitar (on easy enough for morons with no rhythm - EEMNR) and did okay. Then I moved to the drums... Let's just say that there are 4 drums, you have to work both hands, and somehow incorporate the foot pedal. I opted to work the red & yellow drums with a partner to work the blue & green and the foot pedal. Apparently when you're used to doing the whole set on your own (and probably on a higher setting than EEMNR), it takes a bit of adjusting to use only one stick and do half the drum set. But my various partners & I increased in skill from 72% (not really my lowest) to 94%. From there, I moved into Backup Singer - which really just means I sat with Sheri and tried to sing along. She did GREAT - me, not so much. But it was fun and there was lots of laughing and hilarity.

I'm not 100% sure about everyone else, but I had a marvelous time. While we were cooking, we didn't want to have anyone left out, so we crammed as many people as we could in the kitchen and overflowed into the dining room. People were so close together doing so many different things, we had to call out to move outside our particular location. =) Then we had our gift exchange. Baby Amy made out like a *bandit*!! She's got lots of aunties and uncles that seem to think she's pretty spiffy... (myself included!) =)

On tap for tomorrow: cooking chili, cornbread, & cookies for the cousin's get-together; a trip to Antelope Island (in the middle of the Great Salt Lake) for Greg & Jeannea; getting Sara prepped for skiing with Greg tomorrow; more family fun - this time including the extendeds.

28 December, 2008

Family Fun - Day One

We had a red-eye flight direct to SLC leaving Friday night. The flight home has a layover in Seattle, but only one plane going down. Which was great because our flight was delayed by a couple hours because of bad weather in Chicago, but we didn't have to worry about missing our connecting flight. We sent email & texts to family that was supposed to meet us in the morning, then settled in to hang at the airport for a while.

The flight was uneventful and our bags were waiting on the carousel when we got there. I found a new vending machine - it supposedly serves hot pizza. This will eventually go into my (currently non-existent) Flickr album for strange vending machines. (I found some other interesting ones while we were in Florida last May - they're here & here.)

From there, we headed to the rental car company. We thought we were going to beat the family to breakfast, but that was before we stepped into the building. Let's just say that for *several* reasons, we won't EVER rent from this company again. (Complaining customers about blown tires and bad maintenance; rental cars that are delivered to the new rentee with apple cores & trash still inside; we were supposed to get an all-wheel drive vehicle & didn't; won't guarantee 4-wheel drive - whatever's there when you get there is what you get; our car is out of windsheild washer fluid; because of undisclosed extra charges, our "good deal" turns out to be as mush as we would have paid at one of the national rental companys like Dollar or Alamo... not to mention pretty piss-poor customer service all around.)

Anyhow, after what seemed like an eternity, we got the car and headed up Emigration Canyon to Ruth's Diner for breakfast before wandering around taking family photos. The canyon has lots of great scenery, and we even stopped at "This is the Place" historical site. (Heath, I found a barn star and took a picture for you!)

From there, we headed out to Liberty Park to take some more pictures, then split the group. Some went home to rest, and others of us decided to head to Gateway Mall - more pics and shopping, wahoo! I saw several areas that have outdoor fire pits so people can congregate and stay warm - very neat!

We enjoyed hot beverages and some shopping - I found some really comfortable jeans and Greg picked up a pedal stand so he can sit at his desk and exercise. We finally checked into the hotel around 6:30pm and headed out to dinner. The first restaurant we were going to try (a new Olive Garden in Lehi) told us the wait was 2-1/2 hours for a party of 10 - definitely too long to wait. We went to the one in Provo, thinking we might have to pick another joint but we got lucky - only 30 minutes and we were in! The food was great, the visiting was better.

We stopped at mom's house to visit for a while and then headed back to the hotel. It wasn't an early night, since I still had wrapping to do and we didn't get to bed until after midnight. On tap for tomorrow: family fun... breakfast, Rock Band, family cooking, gift exchange, more pictures (since we'll have *everyone* - Sheri was missing today), and general enjoyment.

25 December, 2008

Christmas Fun

Christmas Eve we spent with friends at Todd & Anita's house. It was a great evening! We had lots of food and did the visiting and gift exchange things. We also continued the tradition of putting up the luminarias - another beautiful display. The holidays are always a time when I feel especially blessed with friends that are like family. This year is no different - although it's even better because we'll be visiting my family shortly.

Christmas day was very relaxing. We slept in - Greg got up earlier than I did, but we both slept later than normal. Ahhhhh! Then we enjoyed the Christmas bread we got from Greg's mom - yummy! - and opened presents. We played with the new gifts & gadgets for a while, then went to a movie. It's *crazy* at the movies on Christmas Day! I had to drop Greg off at the doors to get tickets and then be that annoying parking vulture to get a spot. We barely got settled before the movie started. We saw Australia - it's a *great* movie, but it's very long so make sure you go to the restroom beforehand and don't drink lots of soda during the show. ;-)

We'll be celebrating Christmas for a while yet, as we're heading Outside to see family. There's an extended family get-together, and lots of immediate family events - including the gift exchange. I'm looking forward to the trip! I wish for you the feelings of contentment, happiness, and love that I feel right now... Merry Christmas!

3G Sunday - December Visits

The sharing of joy, whether physical, emotional, psychic, or intellectual, forms a bridge between the sharers which can be the basis for understanding much of what is not shared between them, and lessens the threat of their difference. --Audre Lorde

We've spent the past several weeks gearing up for the holidays, planning parties, planning shopping expeditions, and preparing to take over the world. I'm here to report success on several fronts - although we're still quite a ways away from the take-over bit. Just have to keep working on it...

We actually met three times in December, but I didn't get pictures of the last visit. We shook things up a bit and did lunch instead - Stacy couldn't make lunch, so she stopped by the house and we had coffee, made muffins, and visited. I'll be on hiatus for a couple weeks (from the Sunday get-together), as we're heading Outside to visit family (leaving tomorrow night - oh my!).

22 December, 2008

Winter Solstice

I *always* look forward to Winter Solstice - even though it means the "beginning" of winter is here. To me, we've been knee-deep in winter for a couple months at least - and still have months of cold & dark to go.

The special thing about it is that the very next day we start gaining light. We gained 11 seconds the first day - supposed to get 23 more the next. Each day we progressively get more light, and eventually it's so noticeable that you just *know* you've almost made it through the winter. A milestone, a corner turned... that's what Winter Solstice is to me.

08 December, 2008


I haven't had much enthusiasm recently for sitting in the office. I'd much rather sit on the couch and multi-task - like watch TV and do a puzzle. I begged and hounded, and Greg finally caved and set us up with a wireless internet connection. Now I can blog and sit on the couch... how cool is that?!? =) Because I've been avoiding the office, that means that I'm behind on my posts. I'll work on getting caught up over the next week or so.

We had a very lovely Thanksgiving. One of the nicest in recent memory. Friends and family getting together to eat and play games. And as extra icing on the cake: Jeannea finished in King Cove in time to spend Turkey Day and the following weekend with us. =)

We all decided to order meals this year, instead of having people slave over the stoves and have to get up super early so the food's ready. It was great! I got out of bed at 10am and we watched the Macy's parade. Then we took showers and headed over to the gathering hole. The food was great, and it was nice to sit and visit instead of working like mad to eat, then spending a bunch of time cleaning up before you can do anything fun. Todd & Anita hosted this year - there's talk that we may just move the party around year-to-year, so everyone gets lots of chances to relax.

After the eating, we checked out Black Friday sales and then played games. It was such a truly lovely day. I'm thankful for friends and family - and especially this group of friends that is just like family. I'm thankful I have my health, and that those that I love are relatively healthy. I'm thankful for Greg - he makes me crazy sometimes, but he also puts up with me and supports me in my efforts (whatever they are). I'm thankful for all the little freedoms that I take for granted on a daily basis - voting; bitching about politics; wasting food; squandering money on hoo-haws when I want to; a house over my head and food in the pantry. I am extremely blessed.

May the joys of the holiday season be yours, and the blessings of love and family abound.

3G Sunday - Recap

Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born. --Anais Nin

23 November - getting some pancakes with our visiting!

30 November - relaxing after Thanksgiving, but getting ready to gear up for Christmas shopping!

I'm still behind in my postings, so I'm combining some of the pictures. Our group has been really good about gathering on Sundays to visit - which I greatly enjoy. Our subjects range from food (Thanksgiving was coming up), to shopping, to cat puke, with lots of in between. You'd be hard pressed to find a better group to have a get-together!

Festival Fun

One of the ways you know it's getting close to Christmas is the number of festivals & bazaars that are advertised around town.

It's always nice to go shopping with someone else - that way you have someone to chat with, get ideas from, or just to help pass the time. After the 3G get-together, some of us attended one of the bazaars downtown. There's a new convention center in Anchorage (the Dena'ina Center - pronounced de-nine-ah), and this was the first time I've been there. Parking isn't great (but it's downtown - parking is never great there), but the design and structure were very pretty. And there were plenty of wares to browse. This was my 1st official "Shopping for Christmas" trip. Found some stuff, but have a ways to go yet...

The girls finished our shopping before the boys even made it to the second level. So we took a break and chatted while enjoying the view of the city. After a while, we decided food was in order, so we left for a close restaurant to wait for the boys there.

So the first Christmas shopping venture is a success, the new convention center is lovely, and I had a *fantastic* time visiting with Stacy. May the rest of the holiday season be so successful!!