J is working this evening, but promises he'll be home by 11:30 p.m. to crack open the champagne and ring in the New Year together! And what a new year it will be! I have never been so happy to say good-bye to a year as I am to bid farewell to 2008! What a challenging year full of transition. We look forward to 2009 with hope and optimism for positive change and progress...in our world, in our country, in our home and in our relationship. We're settling into our life here in Tulsa...6 months later. And mom arrives on the 11th and we will assist her with the transition to life as a Sooner. It's going to be good. Very good.
We have some plans and schemes cooked up that should make 2009 interesting. For now, what we know for sure:
1. Mom will be living with us, for at least the first quarter of the year, perhaps longer.
2. J will head back to school in the Fall. Hopefully he can finish up in less than four semesters. We shall see just how much of his coursework from CA will transfer to TCC.
3. I have some travels planned for work in March (OK City), July (Detroit) and October (Nashville). Hopefully we can work in a little vacay/visit to CA sometime in there. J will head to Las Vegas in the coming weeks to visit with his father and stepmother.
The rest? We shall see what the world holds in store for us in 2009. Last year we resolved to become more eco-friendly and a "greener" household. And we have! We shop with reusable bags, changed all of our light bulbs to CFC's, recycle, filter our tap water (rather than buying/using bottled water), and buy gently used/second hand items. REDUCE. REUSE. RECYCLE. It's a work in progress. But we're on the right track.
This year is all about prosperity. Getting our finances in order, paying down debt and saving for the future. We've made some strides. This year we got life insurance polices and started retirement plans. So now, we're working on an emergency fund and debt elimination. Financial freedom is the goal and this year we're taking a huge step in the right direction. Taxes should be somewhat easier this year too now that we're solely W2 income. After years of dozens of 1099-MISC and filing in multiple states (wherever the gigs were), this will be a snap!
Here's to 2009! I am ready! Are you? Wishing you peace and love in the New Year!
Unable to sleep, I got up and checked the weather on TV. They had tornado warnings for northeast of us. Temps are continuing to drop and will hit the high 30's this evening.
Just fascinating and bizarre. Basically we get whatever is coming up from the Gulf Coast and down from Canada and the Rockies.
Our low is their high! Who would have thought? Wacky, wonderful weather.
J came home and we drove to the clinic in Poteau where she was (it's not really a full hospital, but more of an urgent care clinic). She has been there twice already this month. The Monday after Thanksgiving she wasn't feeling well and went it. She stayed a week. He CO2 levels were high and her sodium levels were low. With COPD any little cough or cold can spell disaster! So they kept her there a week and determined she was well enough to go home. Two days later she went back. She still wasn't feel well. She stayed another 10 days and now, has been home about a week. Until yesterday.
By the time we got to Poteau (about a 2 hour drive) she was still in admitting. We visited for a bit, one at a time as allowed by the clinic's rules, and stayed a few hours. Mama finally asked us to continue onto Auntie's, since she had planned on all of us being there and made up all of the tacos and food for us. She also wanted us to bring her back some of Uncle's famous tacos! So, with much trepidation we headed to Greenwood, AR to see Auntie and Uncle (about 40 minutes from Poteau).
We arrived, greeted by J's cousins (one of whom he hasn't seen in 15 years!), aunt and uncle. We had agreed at Thanksgiving not to exchange gifts. Well, apparently J and I are the only ones that stuck to that! Aside from the Poinsettia plant we brought for them, we were empty handed! UGH! In my family when we say "no gifts" we mean it. Lesson learned. Next year we'll know that "no gifts" at Thanksgiving means "we're gonna have some presents for you at Christmas!"
We opened our gifts...all lovely and quite unexpected. We are fully stocked now with all sorts of great smelling bath and body products! And J got a pocket knife with Marilyn Monroe silk-screened on the handle. It's very unique. He's not much of a weapon-carrying kind of guy (the only one in the family, really!) but it will certainly make a great conversation piece!
The tacos were ready and hot. We chowed down. They were amazing! J and I are thrilled with this new tradition. Uncle's mother is from Mexico, so growing up in CA, Christmas was always tacos, tamales and Mexican hot chocolate! The food was tasty and the company was even better. I even had a slice of pumpkin pie, which I never do because I normally don't like it. But this pumpkin pie's texture was more like a custard than baby food and it was perfectly delicious!
We stayed and visited for a few hours, then packed up the gifts and a bunch of tacos, cookies, banana bread and other goodies for Mama. We followed Pop back into Poteau to see her. Upon our arrival we checked the nurses' station to see where she was rooming and they told us they moved her to ICU. We have no idea why. We finally found here, looking much better. Her bluish fingertips and ring around her lips had pinked back up. She was coherent, albeit a little ornery, and able to talk with us. She was annoyed that she had only been given liquids and asked Pop to take the tacos home as she wouldn't be able to eat them right now. They determined that she was dehydrated and had elevated CO2 levels. She didn't know why she was in ICU either. At this point, we're assuming it's so she can have closer observation. She did mention that she will have a sleep-study done for sleep apnea, which was actually mentioned this time last year, when she spent 6 weeks in the hospital and nearly died four times. She has managed a whole year to avoid the hospital, until this month.
So, we suspect that the colder temps as well as every cold bug really does Mama in this time of year. She also probably has sleep apnea, which is making her CO2 levels rise at night, even though she wears O2 all day and night. Her doctor has recommended transferring to a physical rehab facility for a couple of months, where they can work with her on her breathing, improve her nutrition and strengthen her body (she's lost a lot of muscle with so much time laid up in the hospital). She doesn't want to do it. She just wants to be at home. So, that's where we are. She's going to stay in the hospital for a few more days at least. We need to find out more of the details as to what is going on and what the next step is for us. It's frustrating because all we can do is support Mama's decisions...we have no recourse to make them for her. It's a challenge, for all of us.
Thankfully, we are a realtively short drive from her now. Whereas before, we had to drop everything, book flights and get here. So we are happy that we made the move to be closer to her and to the rest of J's family. It's the right time.
And super tasty, world famous Honolulu Cookie Company Hawaiian Shortbread...mixed flavors including chocolate dipped, pineapple and lilikoi (passion fruit)...YUMMY!
She's so thoughtful and I greatly appreciate her taking the time to do this for me, especially today, when I am home alone with the furbabies. Waiting for my sweetheart to come home after having worked a 16 hour day and getting ready for another 8. And talking on the phone with my mom in CA... getting ready to spend the evening with family in the city I love dearly and my dad in Alaska, gathering together my siblings and their children for a traditional Christmas dinner. It's nice to know that even though I am a little lonely on this day, I am not alone. Thanks for spreading the holiday cheer Jaime...you're the best!
Now it's my turn to spread some holiday cheer...I am surprising J by making carmel apples with peanuts....his fav! Wish me luck, I have never made them before butI have good instructions. And since we're in major debt-pay-off and save mode, my gift to him this year is a bunch of "love coupons" I made up for him on the computer, printed and put in a nice card for him in his stocking stuffed with all sorts of chocolates and goodies he enjoys (like Burt's Bee Hand Salve and Alba Shave Cream). The coupons are good for everything from a night on the town to a weekend get-away, movie of his choice and a tech-free evening (no TV, no phone, no internet..just us!). I hope he likes them and uses them too!
They were super easy to make!
Remove the melted caramel from the heat, roll the apples (with the sticks inserted in the stem part of the apple) and use a spoon to cover as needed.
Dip the caramel covered apples into chopped nuts, using a spoon to press them into the caramel as needed
Place caramel covered apples onto wax paper sprayed with non-stick spray and refrigerate for at least one hour.
It's not as colorful as when I use the kielbasa, but it's oh so tasty! I thought about adding in some dried cranberries on top, but wondered if that would be weird. Sort of a variation on one of my favorite salads...
grilled chicken - gorogonzola - spinach - pecan salad with dried cranberries and either apples or pears.
Anyway, I snapped some pics and as soon as I download them from my camera, I'll post them here!
So...I am off until next Monday...woo hoo! Unfortunately, my better half is not. He has to work a double tomorrow (breakfast/lunch at WDC and then dinner at the steak house). On Christmas he has the breakfast shift. Then we'll drive to Aunt Rita's and Uncle Bob's for tacos with the family. J works a double on Friday and then, finally has Saturday off, followed by another double on Sunday. Poor baby. Working like a dog because so many of his colleagues requested time off for the holidays. Overtime sweetens it a bit though and all of his hard work will definitely put us ahead of the game.
So, while he's off, I will be getting the house ready for mom's arrival. Last weekend I cleared out the guest room. This weekend I will tackle the "office" which really isn't the office at all. Aside from the fact it has our printer, tons of paper, boxes of stuff, our file cabinet, an empty shelf and the treadmill. So I will attempt to straighten it up. I think that mostly means that the boxes will go in the garage. I also want to list a bunch of stuff on eBay. Like my formal performance gowns. I don't need them anymore. I have a few favs I love, so I will keep those, but the rest have got to go! And anything else saleable will go on eBay or Craigslist. So that's what I'll be doing with my time off this week. That and a couple of simple surprises I have up my sleeve for J...to ease the pain of his treacherous work schedule.
Speaking of Christmas, we're headed to Aunt Rita's for tacos. Yep. Christmas tacos. Should be interesting. Apparently Uncle Bob makes a mean taco. Sounds like fun...a new holiday tradition. Maybe now I can get Sandra's tamale recipe and make them too.
They're in NY for auditions so they decided to get the baby's pics done at Macy's in Herald Square.
How cool will that be in the baby's scrapbook?
And last month they were in France visiting Christopher's family. World-travelin' baby! Yes, he has a passport!
And is it just me or does he totally look like daddy in this pic?
But in this one, he looks more like mommy.
Or even better, mommy's brother!
Musically speaking, I am not a fan of "enhanced sound", i.e. miking the orchestra pit. It created some balance problems. In addition, there were some tempi issues between the sections, especially in Act II. And there was a moment in Act I when a piano on stage was playing the main melody...which was just weird and not as Tchaikovsky intended.
As for the dancing...it was very pretty. Almost too pretty. Perhaps that is a bit cynical coming from an opera singer. But we need some "ugly" to balance all of the pretty, you know? The leads were great and I also loved the Arabian dancers. The kids as mice and toy soldiers were cute too and offered a little comic relief. Some of the principal dancers failed to connect to the music, as if they were merely dancing their steps to counts of eight rather than to the crescendo/decrescendo of the orchestra. The primadonna, however, was the exception and offered a very musical interpretation, especially in her featured solos.
So...are we ballet converts? Not so much. I think every once in a while will be good for us. It was nice to get out and see people of all ages and backgrounds out at the theater. There were lots of parents with small children as well as young couples.
Oh yeah and we had dinner at the The Daily Grill at the Crowne Plaza. It serves all American fare...we both had the Caesar salads. J had the meatloaf and mashed potatoes with grilled asparagus and I had the french dip with french fries. Mais oui! We split a decadent and over the top brownie drenched in vanilla ice cream, caramel and fudge, topped with pecans. Yum!
The Crowne Plaza itself looks like it's benefitted from it's recent multimillio dollar makeover and is quite swanky looking. I kept thinking how cool it would to shoot portraits in the lobby and lounge area:
The colors are much more vibrant in person...sky blue, black, khaki, red and orange. Love the 1940's swanky vibe they've got going! If J and I ever get portraits shot here in town, we'll have to add this to the list, in addition to the obligatory outdoor shots at Woodward Park! Seems there is no less than 3 professional photographers shooting portraits there whenever we have been there.
Handpainted Glass Peacocks from Jaime (Hawaiian Honey)
Handpainted Glass Hawaiian Snowman from Yvonne (MrsBabySalute)
It's warmed up today...to freezing! I went to work today, later than normal so I didn't have to brave the frozen streets in the dark. The office was half full and actually the further south I drove towards the office, the more ice and snow there was. So weird! I live 50 blocks from the office. In our neighborhood, no snow on the ground, minimal ice on the car, etc. At work? Snow on the roofs and sidewalks, icy roads and parking lots! I nearly had to skate from my car to the front door! Tomorrow I'll be sure to wear flats. It's supposed to continue to warm up, into the low 40's. That's 20 degrees higher than yesterday. Area schools were closed again today and are supposedly closed tomorrow too. But the office will be open. And we're supposed to warm into the 60's until Saturday, when it's predicted to drop back into the 20-30's. Bizarre.
On a non-weather note (how many of my posts are about the OK weather? Or gas? Which went up ten cents to $1.49 over the weekend. Bah!)...we're going to see the Nutcracker on Thursday night. We had a coupon for buy-one-get-one-free so we did! I am excited...I have never seen this ballet live. I have seen it on television and of course, heard the music a million times. But altogether, dancing and music, live...this will be the first.
My first reaction..."Oh yeah!"...but I paused, "What is the precedence for closing the office due to weather?". "When schools are closed we normally close," she answered. "Hmm...well, then I think it's a good idea. We don't want to compromise the safety of any of our staff." I think that was a professional approach even though inside I was doing a happy dance that I don't have to go into work today! The roads are icy and it scared me to think I'd be out in that mess. Not to mention than many of my coworkers commute 30-45 miles and that's a real nightmare. And who doesn't love a Monday off from work or school?
And obviously, since I am able to blog this, the power is still strong and so far, no reported outages. That's my main concern. I am fine if we have to stay inside for the next three days, but I am terrified about losing power. That's not fun at all.
So, I ventured out and stocked up on novena candles. Should we lose power, they will be our only source of heat and light. We have no fireplace and even though our heater is gas, the thermostat is electric. So is our stove. And we don't own a generator and frankly, I am little scared to get one. The carbon monoxide thing is not cool. So, we're gonna close off the rooms we're not using and bunker down in the bedroom, should the unfortunate happen. We have several down blankets and thermal cotton blankets as well as flannel sheets. Plus we'll have the pugs...they're like little heaters. I hope it doesn't happen, but if it does, we're now prepared. We've got three days worth of water, shelf-stable food, hand-crank flashlights and emergency radio and candles. Wish us luck! I hope we're spared the heavy ice and power outages. Last year some people were without power for two weeks! I am hoping that because we're so close to the mall, university and hospital that our grid would be a first priority.
Update: It's nearly midnight and down to 17 degrees. We've had sleet pelting the windows. Wish us luck tonight and tomorrow morning!
And the numbers he shows for the car industry is uncanny, especially considering the recent bailouts requested from Detroit. There's a reason Honda and Toyota are doing well...low emission vehicles and no emission vehicles in development. Meanwhile, US auto companies continued to push bigger SUVs, Vans and Trucks. Good lord! When I was a child, our family of 5 crammed into a Ford Pinto. It can be done. A family can use a smaller car and be okay. Same thing with homes. Why does each member of the family need their own bathroom and larger, oversized bedroom? Personally, I prefer a smaller home...it's easier to keep clean as well as heat/cool. Now that 450 sq. foot cottage (read: converted, detached two-car garage) was a little small for us (namely due to lack of storage...NO closets!), but seriously....how much space does one couple and a few small pets need? As we think about buying a home, I don't really want to consider anything more than 3 bd/2ba and 2000 sq. ft. And that's if we plan to have a couple of kids. If not, I am fine with a 2 bd/1 ba bungalow. Seriously.
Here is 10 things you can do to reduce global warming.
UPDATE! Found it...in the yard this morning when I was out there with the pugs. Yay...we shall see how long Bella wears this one. Thank goodness they're only $3.00!
J and I were in the mood for BBQ so we took one of our buy-on-get-one-free coupons and tried out Albert G's BBQ. Yummy, yummy...three pork ribs (dry rubbed and smoked) and chopped brisket hit the spot. The sides of BBQ beans, coleslaw (not mayonnaise-y at all) and potato salad were the perfect accompaniment. The place is cute too...an old, converted auto repair garage or service station.
Afterwards we picked up some groceries for the week and filled up the gas tank...for $16.75! For an entire tank of gas! We are thrilled...gas is now $1.39/gal. and there's speculation that it could drop below $1. I cannot believe that less than 6 months ago it was $50 to fill up and now it's under $20. Can someone please explain this to me?
Right now it's 30 degrees and the weather channels are predicting snow. I am okay with that, as long as we don't have tornados. It's what happens when we get that warm, moist air from the south and the cold, dry air from the north all meeting over the midwest. What's really bizarre is that we were in the mid-60's and sunny yesterday.
A local guy inherited from his mother and he's relocating to France and selling all of his stuff. It's sapphire blue brocade, wing backed and best of all...it reclines! It needs a little TLC...we'll clean the upholstery, gift it a good vacuuming, sprinkle a little Febreeze and spruce it up with a throw pillow and cozy throw...voila! It will be perfect for our TV room and will offer a more contructed, yet comfortable place for our visitors to sit (like J's mom who needs more support for her back than our slouchy, loungy down chaise and sofa can offer). Best of all, it was ten bucks!
Today we also had a little date and saw "Four Christmases" with Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon. It was a riot and had us laughing out loud the entire time. Definitely a "must see" this holiday season. It made us sort-of miss San Francisco (it's set there) but annoyed us that they lived in the City and drove across the Golden Gate Bridge to get to the airport. UGH!
Next on the list? "Nothing Like the Holidays" with John Leguizamo and Debra Messing...it comes out on the 12th. Hopefully by then we'll have our Christmas tree up and decorated. That's the plan.
This has been one long week. I worked everyday, skipping lunch breaks (sufficed with a quick bite at my desk, horrible habit, but there you have it)...most days were 9 hours and yesterday was 10. Busy, busy, busy time of year. Got my review yesterday. Not bad for six months. "Areas for improvement" included learning the history of the company and processes. Well duh? Anyway, it's all good. I've officially been on the job 6 months and so far, so good. Save for the office politics and daily drama that every workplace dynamic has...I am trying to avoid all that. I don't have time or the energy to invest myself.
Next week looks to be just as busy...long meetings on Monday and Tuesday and possibly Wednesday. More deadlines. And then I know, closer to Christmas, it will slow down. I hope. That's the plan.
We also found out this week that J's mom is back in the hospital. Nearly one year to the day. In the early part of the week she wasn't feeling well and finally went into the urgent care clinic nearest her. Her CO levels were high. She may have been fighting a cold, which led to this. We're not 100% sure. She's still there and we hope she'll be released today. J drove out there to see her today. And brought her some homemade chocolate chip cookies. He's been on a baking kick this week....stress relief? Funny thing, it's his first time ever baking cookies from scratch. How cute is that? Now...I hope it doesn't become a habit or else we may have some problems! We don't need dozens of cookies in the house, okay?
He worked three doubles this week. He's working very hard and I hope that it's all worth it. After the New Year we're gonna take inventory and see where we want to head. Homeownership is high on our priority list. But maybe we need to pace ourselves. We shall see.
On a fun note...I came home from work yesterday to the sweetest surprise... a fun Christmas ornament from my friend in Maui:
How cute is this? Hopefully we can decorate our tree tomorrow. The tree has been in our living room for a week, naked. It looks pitiful. But J stored our ornaments and lights in the attic in the garage and there's no way I am going up that creaky ladder to fetch them. So he promised he'd do it tomorrow. And then we can finally decorate the tree. Christmas will be a challenge this year. We've given up exchanging gifts a long time ago, but still celebrated by spending time with friends and family with little parties and get-togethers. Being in a new place, the dynamic is new too. We will spend Christmas day at J's aunt and uncles in Arkansas, as we did for Thanksgiving. But since we're still establishing our network of friends here in, our dance card is wide open as far as December social obligations. That's different for us and I guess we will try to enjoy it. For many, many years December was break-neck for us. So I will embrace this new, kinder, gentler holiday season.