26 December, 2010


It's here already!  It's hard to believe that I've run out of time again.  Last minute wrapping finally done Christmas Eve.  At least I wasn't doing last minute shopping then too.  We got most of our packages out in time to arrive... close to Christmas...  I still have one package to ship and the Christmas letters to mail.  (I'm sorry this is late, Grandma and Dad, but I wanted to include the most recent postings from my blog for you to enjoy.)

After a rough day at work (a half day, and Christmas Eve! - you'd think it would've been one of the easiest days of the year, but no...), I made it home to relaxing Christmas music, the lighted tree, some eggnog, and the Wrapping Center.  For those folks that get their presents wrapped last, I have to apologize.  I always get a little more sloppy with the bows and ribbons.  Some may only get bows, and where I can, I double up the presents and use one ribbon on two gifts (books work well for this).  In the beginning, it's always fun.  Towards the end, it's a race against the looming deadline (and my aching back).

Presents wrapped and under the tree, pickle ornaments hidden, now it's time to play games and really relax.  Greg's mom spent Christmas Eve with us, chatting, eating, and playing cards.  I over-indulged in the Macadamia Nut Brittle my friend Stacy made just for me.  Oh, sweet goodness!!  (And don't forget the sugar high...)
Christmas Day was one of the most relaxing I can remember.  It was a lazy morning, and part-way through unwrapping presents, Greg and I took a break to cook some breakfast (brunch, by that time).  More unwrapping, plenty of chatting, and then it's time to get together for dinner and games with friends who are family.
I keep hearing people say that Christmas is really just for the kids anyway... but I don't think I entirely agree.  Sure, kids bring an element of wonder to the whole event (and later greediness and stress - it's just their nature - then eventually the realization that it's about the giving not the receiving, and by then they're well on their way to adulthood).  But even without kids of my own, this whole Christmas season has been overfull of things that make me happy.  Spending time with friends; listening to our Christmas music; enjoying the lights and decorations; even the shopping and wrapping.
A truly splendid month-long celebration of gift-giving and joy.  Did I get everything I wanted for Christmas?  Yes.  A reminder of love and support from my husband and friends; an acknowledgment of the gifts and truths given by Christ; laughter and fresh-baked goodies (as a receiver instead of a giver this year - next year I'll get back to some baking); pleasure in the happiness of those around me.  I hope your Christmas was as lovely as mine.

20 December, 2010

Solstice Eclipse

As with every year, the official start of winter is the harbinger of light and warmth for me.  On the very day that Winter is proclaimed, the tides of darkness begin to turn.  Sure, it's not noticeable for a month or so.  But deep in the marrow of my bones I know I've made it to a milestone; that the Cold Death is beginning to lose its power.  It gives me strength to last through more bitter dark and cold, knowing that the light is slowly growing and with it will come more heat (eventually).
This year's winter solstice is also historical.  It's the first time in hundreds of years that solstice included an eclipse of the full moon.  I think the next time they say this will happen is 2094 - more than 80 years from now, and I doubt I'll be around to see that one.  (Actually, I kept my limbs inside nice and cozy, and just looked at the pictures Greg took from our deck with his fancy-pants camera.)

11 December, 2010

Look What Happens...

...when you've got a project with a deadline...
Nita ended up with a tight timeline to finish TWO quilts.  Need to have them both done before the 16th, since she's giving them away for Christmas and that's the date of the get-together.  While there's lots of work to do, we're fairly confident that we can get the work done in time...
Nita did lots of sewing on her own, and the times I was there I helped out by ironing to speed things along.  Sew the squares into strips, then sew the strips together; add a border or two and voila! You've got a finished quilt top.
Do that twice over and we're ready to put the layers together.  Pin the quilt top to the batting, then trim.  Lay the quilt face/batting layer on the right side of the backing fabric, pin, then trim.
Sew together (it's inside out right now), leaving a large-ish gap in one side.  Pull the fronts of the quilt (currently inside) out of the hole, then hand stitch the hole closed.  A little top stitching to hold the layers together, and you've got yourself two Christmas presents done before gift-giving.  Way to go, Nita!
After the holidays we'll pick up again with the other quilts.  Payton's deadline is sometime in April, and I've still got several kits to finish up (at least one of which is the pattern that Anita just finished here)...

03 December, 2010

It's About Time

A long, long time ago (say, two years and longer ago), I took several Mystery Quilt classes.  This is where you sign up for a class at the local quilting fabric shop.  You get a packet of fabrics and the first step of making the quilt.  You have absolutely no idea what the pattern is going to be in the beginning.  When you attend class, you get more and more of the instructions, and by the end you know the pattern and there's usually a finished product available to view.  The classes that I went to are generally a half day - definitely not long enough for me to put it all together.  But you get copies of the instructions to take home and you can finish the quilt at your leisure.  Thank goodness, since apparently my leisure is... *ages*... and my memory is not so hot after such a long break.

Well, I think I took at least four (maybe five) of the classes, and have only ever finished ONE of the quilts.  Time to get my ducks in a row and get some of these things done!
Went to Nita's to work some on my quilt.  While I was doing that, she was working on one of hers; and Payton started working on his (he'll be doing two, but they're the same pattern so he can work on them together).  It's... what... three weeks 'til Christmas?  Lots of work to do, but I think we can get it done.
The biggest problem I'll have with mine is figuring out what we did for the borders.  The instructions list two borders, but I have three border fabrics.  Fortunately for me, Sara was in this class with me (and she finished her quilt ages ago), so she can take pictures and measure the widths on her quilt.  Then I'll adjust for raw fabric and figure out what I need to do.  But that's a different day.
Today was ironing.  Lots and lots of ironing.  Three irons going for four different quilts.  It'll be a quilt making factory for a while, but it's always so nice to see the progress and feel that sense of accomplishment.

28 November, 2010

Christmas Is Getting Closer

I wasn't sure we were going to decorate for Christmas this year, but Greg surprised me by bringing up the decorations on Thanksgiving.  We waited to put them up until today, since part of our tradition is to put in Christmas music and have some eggnog while we're putting up the tree.  I've been thoroughly enjoying the music and am *so* happy to have my decorations up.  I'm excited for our "Twelve Movies of Christmas" - that starts on the 12th, so we watch the last one on Christmas Eve.  It's a new tradition and we're still working out the finer points, but I'm excited nonetheless. 
We have some of my all-time-favorite CDs in rotation right now: Trans-Siberian Orchestra - Christmas Eve and Other Stories; Jimmy Buffet - Christmas Island; Garth Brooks - Beyond the Season; Big Bad Voodoo Daddy - Everything You Want for Christmas; Chris Isaak - Christmas; and a new album: The Brian Setzer Orchestra - Christmas Comes Alive.  There's nothing like some good tunes to get me in the Christmas spirit!  If you care to contribute (the few out there reading this), I'd be interested to know what some of your favorite Christmas artists/albums are.
Now to sit back, enjoy the lights, listen to some good music, and enjoy the eggnog.  Oh!  And try to keep the cats out of the tree (always a losing proposition, but we've got to try)...

25 November, 2010

I'm Thankful

Thanksgiving was a low-key, laid back affair for us this year.  Greg cooked breakfast while we watched the Macy's parade; talked to family; read the paper.  For dinner, we picked up a pre-done chicken breast stuffed with ham, bacon, and cheese (mmmmmmm, bacon!).  Cooked that up and had green beans and salad - tasty and no mess.  And after dinner we shoveled more than a foot of wet, heavy snow that had accumulated throughout the day, then went to visit friends for a bit.
Greg even pulled out the Christmas decorations - but I refused to put them up today (except for the door wreath), since I don't want to mix holidays.  I wasn't sure we were going to decorate this year, since the entryway to the storage was blocked and it's so much work to get everything done, only to take it all down again in a few weeks.  But I find that now I'm excited to have the Christmas music playing and get our house decked out for Christmas.  (We'll be breaking out the eggnog Sunday for the tree decorating party!!)  It will definitely be worth the effort!
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am posting five things that I am thankful for:

1. My job.  This last year has been particularly tough and busy, but I made it through with a little help from my friends and family.  I am glad to have a job that has good benefits and is relatively stable (if I can get past the office politics and keep sane).

2. My family.  We recently took a trip Outside to see family.  It was extremely rewarding and rejuvenating for me.  I love my family, and these new memories we made are like a warming fire - a homing beacon, if you will - that will help get me through the dark, cold days.

3. My husband (although he counts in the family section too, he deserves special mention). Greg is full of enthusiasm for everything.  And when I need something special, he figures out how to give it to me.  He worked hard to help remodel my mom's house, and spent his vacation traveling with me to various locations to see my family and friends.  He's supportive of any endeavor I choose to pursue.

4. My friends.  I consider my close friends as family, since I'm so far from my own.  They offer love and support, interspersed with fun and laughter.

5. My freedom.  There are those that have paid dearly for the freedoms that I enjoy today.  I appreciate my ability to speak freely and have the means to protect myself, should the need arise.  And I'm grateful for those that have given so much so that I can enjoy these benefits.
May your holidays be filled with laughter and peace, and may you be held tight in the arms of those you love.

21 November, 2010

Life Lesson #247: It's All About Perspective

Is the glass half empty, or half full?  This is a question often asked to denote perspective.  If you answer half empty, the indication is negative - no cloud has a silver lining, doom and gloom are impending (if they haven't already arrived).  If your glass is half full, you apparently live in a bed of roses, wear rose colored glasses, find the silver lining in every cloud, and skip to work with a song on your lips.

If we apply this theory to food-related items, there are several foods that are on the fence.  My personal outlook determines whether or not I deem these foods healthy.  For example: Cheese.  Full of fat, but has protein and calcium.  And it tastes good.  Ice cream.  Full of fat and sugar, but also has calcium.  Chocolate.  An under-appreciated vegetable (the bean family) that provides many feel-good benefits when ingested.  (I just took a break from writing this blog entry to enjoy a lovely, fudgy, chocolate chip infused brownie.  Ahhh, sweet nectar!) And Bacon.  A good source of protein and energy, but oft lamented for it's high fat content.  But bacon is good with everything.  Crumble bacon in a salad; bacon and eggs; bacon and broccoli: BLT sammiches; the list goes on and on.
A while ago, I started thinking about adding bacon to my cookies.  An irregular combination to be sure, but it has potential.  The salty-sweet combination has always been a favorite of mine (chocolate covered pretzels come to mind) and bacon tastes good with everything.  It can't be too terrible, and might be fairly tasty.
A potluck at work cinched the deal.  What better arena to debut the new flavor?  I made three other flavors, just in case the bacon cookies didn't turn out, or there were people that aren't as fond of bacon as I am.  (Like dragons and unicorns, these people are mythical, but I also wanted options for the timid souls who wouldn't have courage enough to step out of the norm.)

These cookies are almost a health food.  Vegetables (the cocoa bean) with feel-good properties, TWO protein sources (eggs and bacon), dairy (butter has calcium, right?), and grain (what little nutrients there are from the unbleached flour).  How can I go wrong with a combination like that?  Of course, I made Greg try them first (since I'm one of those timid souls that often lacks courage) - and since he didn't die and even came back for more, I gave in and had one.  It's my new favorite cookie flavor - I suppose in part because of the odd looks that I get when people ask what flavor they are, but also because they are tasty!! I made my second batch of them this weekend for a friend's birthday party.  I believe the term is unqualified success.  Or something along those lines.
I choose to see my bacon glass half full of the yummy goodness that embodies bacon.  And I'll have a cookie to go with that!

Another Vending Machine

Found this one in the mall.  Will wonders never cease?

14 November, 2010

I'm So Glad...

...that there are people in the world who can do things that I can't.  I'd never make it as a construction worker - not enough patience and I don't "see" how it can be before there's anything but paper and pencil or raw materials; nor would I be a good salesman (of any kind) - I don't have the ability to walk up to people and find out what they need, then tailor something (a product offering or change their needs) to fit the bill; I especially would not succeed as an author - not enough patience to put my stories onto paper (and they only really sound good in my mind anyway).

But I am grateful that there are people in the world who are suited to do the things I am not.  I am glad that I have a well-built house to live in, and that my husband comes up with ideas for remodeling and does most of the work to make it happen.  It makes our house look nice and feel comfortable.  I appreciate a really good salesman (or woman) - the kind that's not pushy, but can help me better define what I'm looking for and then helps me get just that at the best value.  The kind of salesman that makes me feel like they're really interested in my concerns, and not just making a sale.  And I always enjoy curling up to read a book.  It's my escape from the grind and a way to recharge and be ready to tackle more real life.

I that vein, I present the medical field in general and my sister, the doctor, in particular.  No way in heaven would I be fit or able to be a nurse or doctor.  M has been a nurse and is now a doctor.  She has compassion combined with great integrity, and something else that's just part of who she is, and this combination creates something magical that I will most assuredly never attain.  But I'm glad it's there; I'm awestruck that there are people who can do what doctors and nurses do - and actually thrive in that environment; and I'm hopeful that should I ever be in need, I will find someone like that to help me.

An excerpt from a recent obituary (italics and bold are my own addition):  The family wished to express their gratitude to Dr. Tso, Dr. Breeden, and all the caring SJRMC 4th floor doctors and nursing staff for their kindness and care.  A special thank you to Dr. Amy Plagge for allowing our loved one to pass with grace, respect and dignity.
I know this post is not about me or happenings around me. I just wanted to share. I'm proud for M. I'm proud of M. And she would never post anything about this, but I'm glad she shared it with me. She's a damn fine doctor. I'm glad that there are people like her in the world, and I'm especially glad that M is part of my world.

01 November, 2010

Vacation - Wrap Up

We're home again.  To my dismay.  It's *cold* here.  And when it's sunny, it's even colder!  I find that I liked having warm weather in October.  And I definitely liked our road trip.  But the best part (I mean The.Best.Part.) of the trip was being able to spend time with so many friends and family.  It's going to be a tough adjustment for me to get used to being so far away and disconnected again.
We were able to stop at mom's house before heading to the airport.  Nice to see her and Dave one more time and as a side benefit, we got to see the finished remodel project.  Carpet's in and furniture is starting to re-populate the rooms.  I really, really like the end results.  The colors are beautiful, and it looks so comfortable.  I really hope mom and Dave enjoy the fruits of our family labor.  It was well worth it!
And now we've come to the end of another vacation.  It's lovely to sleep in my own bed.  But I already miss the nice weather and being around my family.  Maybe someday...

31 October, 2010

Vacation - There to There

We departed Longmont later than we anticipated.  It's so hard to leave when you're having a good time.  It seems I'm running into this dilemma for every segment of our trip.  Anyhow.  We said our goodbyes and headed West.  Vacation's almost over, and now it's time to start making our way back home.  Jay told us about a couple sights to check out on our journey.  If you ever get the chance, you should definitely stop in at Red Rocks.  It's a natural amphitheater, and I've heard the acoustics are phenomenal.  Maybe someday I'll be lucky enough to attend a concert there.  Empty, it's absolutely amazing.  I can only imagine what it'd be like to listen to Blues Traveler, Norah Jones, John Mayer, or even the Colorado Symphony Orchestra.
 By the time we left there, the sun was getting low.  No big deal, except we wanted to make it through the pass while there was still daylight.  Not going to happen - but we were lucky in that we didn't encounter any snow at Vail and just had to drive through some rain. The goal for tonight was Grand Junction.  We're stopping (a layover, really - since we have to hit the road tomorrow) to see some friends: Autum and Jason.
 We visited for the evening, and went to breakfast the next morning - where we learned about Colorado National Monument.  The name is deceiving, since "monument" implies a singular building, pillar, or statue.  Instead, it's a national park full of spectacular vistas.  (Note: I just looked up the definition of "monument".  The first application is what I described above.  Definition #2 - any building, megalith, etc., surviving from a past age, and regarded as of historical or archaeological importance - definitely fits the bill...)
 We were only going to stop at key places, but it turns out we stopped at almost every pullout.  (Of course, almost all of these pictures are courtesy of Greg and his fancy-pants camera.)  The trip through the park was especially enjoyable because Autum, Jason and company decided to accompany the tourists.  In case you wondered, Juniper berries can get caught in a person's hair...
And yet again, we're leaving later than intended.  Special thanks to Autum and Jason for opening their home to us, tour guiding and general hospitality that made us feel like family.

30 October, 2010

Vacation - Cousin Krystal in Colorado

I haven't seen my cousin Krystal for *ages* - at least not to really spend time with, since we've been to family gatherings together over the years.  When Greg & I were planning this vacation, I decided that I really wanted to see her.  Since Colorado isn't that far from New Mexico, it worked into our trip nicely.  If you ask almost anyone what they like about Krystal, they'll always come back with something about her smile, or her laugh, or her positive outlook on life.  I love ALL those things about her.  And I just love being with her.  Somehow, it feels like I'm more complete, more at peace, more... me (in all ways that are good) when we're together.  I don't know that it makes any sense, but that's how I feel.
We arrived in Longmont late Wednesday night, so spent the night at some seedy motel.  That wasn't the intention (the seedy part), we just wanted a bed to sleep in since we'd be in late.  Not much rest happening when Greg's checking the covers for bed bugs and under the bed for bodies.  I don't think it was quite that bad - definitely outdated fixtures and decor, a cinderblock mattress, paper-thin walls and questionable clientele, but clean overall and a place to rest after driving all day.  For some reason, we were up and ready to go early.  Before we were even checked out, I got a message from Krystal: Are you up yet?  Breakfast's ready, come hungry!  YAY!
(For the remainder of our stay, Jay kindly opened his home to us so we didn't have to endure more of the seedy motel scene.  Thanks again, Jay!!!)  We had breakfast together, then sent Greg on his way.  He was heading south again to visit Garden of the Gods, while I spent the day with Krystal and her family.  Turns out, there's yet another place we need to go back and visit.  While I wouldn't trade my visiting for anything, I would like to see the Garden in person.  Greg's pictures are beautiful, and I can only imagine it would be more spectacular in person.  Side note: I really like the geography and climate of the southwest.  I could totally live here!
Krystal and I spent the day just catching up on the intervening years and running errands.  Nothing overly exciting, but deeply satisfying.  Friday, being Greg's birthday, had to be special!  We started the day by attending the honor roll award ceremony for Topher - way to go!! - then headed to Boulder for some shopping.  Did I mention that this area is bee-yoooh-teeee-fulll?  The weather was gorgeously sunny and warm; it couldn't've been a better day!  We had the best breakfast burrito EVER at Illegal Pete's, then spent some time in the cool (as in nifty or neat-o) stores shopping.  I think this is the first actual souvenir shopping we've done on this vacation - and it was very fruitful!
From there, we stopped in for lunch at brewery #5: Mountain Sun Brewery.  Got some free fries (a house mistake that we benefited from), and Greg had the sampler.  I must say, they make some mighty tasty beer in Colorado!
By then, Jay was done working for a bit, so we headed back to the house to collect him and continue our tour of breweries.  Brewery #6: Lefthand Brewery.  Greg and I were both interested in this stop - me, because my work briefly investigated using a product offered by Lefthand SAN, who supposedly got their name because they had lots of business meetings at the brewery.  Another sampler for Greg and I had the Haystack Wheat, which I really like!  It's got hints of banana, clove, and nutmeg - my favorite so far! - although I also tried the Milk Stout.  For a dark beer, it wasn't half bad...

By the time we were done at Lefthand, school was out so we headed back to pick up Topher.  For some reason, Greg decided that he wanted to run home.  Now, it's only about three miles back to Jay's house, so one would think this endeavor would go smoothly.  We passed Greg on the way home and pulled over to offer a ride - instead Topher hopped out to run with him.  We got home, and then we waited... and waited... and waited some more.  Just as I was considering what I should do if they didn't get home soon, the boys came bounding in the door... in need of medical supplies for Greg.
According to Topher: It was *obvious* to anyone you shouldn't run through those leaves!  So now we know that piles of leaves in Colorado can be lethal.  We also know that Greg should not imbibe and then try ANY type of running.  Backwards (last year at our Halloween party) or forwards, it seems that this is not a good idea.  And he ruined his good pair of jeans.  Oh well.  Some lessons are learned the hard way.  =)
To finish the day, we picked up Dal from his field trip and the whole clan headed to brewery #7: Oskar Blues in Lyons, CO for dinner and dessert.  In addition to their own beer, they had some items that Greg just couldn't pass up.  Hot sauce.  One of them is made with ghost chilies, which is one of the hottest peppers in the world.  Apparently to work with the stuff you have to wear protective clothing and a face mask, otherwise you could do serious bodily injury.  Who would eat something like that?!?  Oh, right.  Greg.  Now we own a bottle of TenFidy Imperial Stout Beer Infused Ghost Chile Hot Sauce.  You can bet that's ALL for Greg.  Not gonna even touch that bottle once it's opened...
And then it's suddenly Saturday, and we have to hit the road soon so we can make it back to Utah to catch our flight.  For lunch, we stopped at one more brewery (#8): the Pumphouse.  I actually ate here with Krystal and Jay on Thursday night, but Greg was still sightseeing in Colorado Springs, so he missed out.  A sampler for Greg (I'm driving) and because of another fortuitous house mistake, he gets two for the price of one.  Yay!  It was here I found my all-time favorite beer of the trip.  I don't remember the name - it's a seasonal one - but it was infused with chai flavors.  OhMyGoodnessYummy!!!!  (We did clarify with Krystal and Jay that we're not normally lushes or sots.  We just don't have these types of opportunities - or beers - back home, so we have to take advantage when we can...)
Once again, time to say our goodbyes.  This was such a lovely visit!!  I'm so glad we were able to spend time with Krystal, to get to know Topher and Dal again, and to meet and spend time with Jay.  (Jay won second place in the chili contest on Saturday evening - way to go, Jay!!)  They're wonderful, wonderful people.