2. Bake holiday cookies and decorate with frosting in various colors and little candies.
3. Volunteer at a homeless shelter or another place where people are less fortunate that you.
4. Light a fire or a bunch of candles and sip hot cocoa with your loved ones.
5. Read "The Night Before Christmas" to a child.
6. Enjoy Mother Nature's Winter Splendor...bundle up and get outside. Take the dogs or the kids or both. If it snows where you are make a snowman or throw snowballs.
7. Put all of your favorite holiday photos into one album to enjoy year after year.
8. Invite new friends or neighbors over for hot cider or cocoa and cookies.
9. Have cookie exchange with friends, neighbors or coworkers. This also works well with books and ornaments.
10. Make up coupons for services, time, etc. for your loved ones. For example, for your spouse it could be something like "one foot rub" or "one week of doing dishes" etc. For friends it could be "babysitting" or "a day of gardening assistance" or "voice lessons" or whatever would be particularly nice for that individual.
11. Donate unwanted items in good condition to a local shelter.
12. Send holiday e-newsletters via email instead of christmas cards.
13. Sing carols for your neighbors.
14. Simmer cinnamon sticks, orange peels and cloves on your stove to infuse your home with a cozy holiday scent.
15. Take a walk or drive through the local neighborhood that lights it all up. Every town has one!
16. Re-arrange your home, change out the accessories and decorate in a holiday style with things already in your home. Have red pillows on the guest bed? Move them to the couch. And empty vase filled with glass ball ornaments is stunning. Hang fresh evergreen branches from your dining room's chandelier.
17. Have a movie marathon with your favorite holiday movies (most are on TV these days or you may already own DVDs of your favorites) and snuggle up with your loved ones and big bowl of popcorn (with caramel...even better). Every year, we always watch: Planes, Trains and Automobiles; White Christmas; The Grinch; and Elf.
18. Have friends over for game night. Either board games, cards or video games...take your pick!
19. Have a potluck dinner on Christmas Eve or Day...each couple/family brings something to contribute to the meal. Makes it less stressful for you as a host, spreads the cost aroud and also ensures that each person will have at least one thing they like. Exchange recipe cards for the items brought.
20. Take the time to stop and reflect on all that is good in your life. Having an attitude of gratitude is the greatest gift of all and absolutely free.
At 8:30 a.m. the pugs woke me up barking and jumping on me. The neighbor had visitors in his side yard and that set the pugs off! They barked and barked and barked some more, for about 2 hours! UGH! Annoyed with them, I decided to run the vacuum to drown out the noise of the neighbor's visitors. I dusted and vacuumed, vacuumed and dusted. Then I noticed that the bathroom was looking grungy so I cleaned it from top to bottom. And then the kitchen. 4 hours later I had a sparkling clean home and tired out puppies.
As much as they begged, I didn't let them out in the yard because I knew that whatever it was they went nuts over last night was still out there. J came home at 3:00 p.m. and scoped it out...it was a squirrel. Dead. Poor thing. He cleaned it up and we let the dogs out...finally! Thank goodness for J. He always cleans up the dead things. I cannot handle it.
The pugs raced into the yard, running and sniffing, sniffing and running. Returning again and again to the spot that offered them lots of excitment last night. They finall gave up the search and pottied. Regina will hold it all day until she can go out (or use the rug if I am not looking!) whereas Luigi will use the pee pee pads we set out for them on the tiled floor. She's weird. She used to use the disposable pads but in our efforts to go green, we got reusable/washable ones and she's been finicky about them. Luigi loves them and we do too. Imagine a big, flat cloth diaper with a vinyl backing. We just wash them in hot bleachy water and air dry them. Awesome! I actually made them from one of those dining table protective covers that are vinyl with felt backs. I got one for $16 at Target and cut it into 12"x24" rectangles. They're perfect. And we've been using them for about two months. Big savings. We were spending about $30/mo. on the disposable ones. And saving the landfill from 80+ disposable pee pee pads each month.
Anyway, I digress. I have a clean house, a dead-squirrel free yard, 2 pooped puppies (literally and figuratively) and one hubby who's finally home from a long day a work. I hope we just chill, maybe watch a movie on TV and get to bed early tonight.
I heard barking, which is normal when the neighbors' dogs are in their yards, but this sounded more hyped up so I dropped the clean clothes and went to the backdoor to call the dogs inside. They were by the back corner of the yard, but not the left side, where the neighbor dogs usually fight with them through the fence, but on the far right side, beneath the bushes.
I called them away and next thing I see is them, running like crazy and doing their little jumping advances that they do when they have the cat cornered or when they're afraid of something they think is worse than it is, which recently, was a plastic solo cup in the leaves. Anyway, my mind flashed to the lame squirrel that J saved this morning.
This morning, J noticed a squirrel in our neighbor's yard that was dragging itself along the pavement. J deduced that its back legs were broken or that he had been hit by a car. A little later he saw the neighbor's cats going after the lame squirrel. Next thing he knows that squirrel climbs up a nearby tree trunk, by its front legs! Amazing! He shooed off the cats and said, "I saved the squirrel. Or at least bought it some more time to heal up his legs." Great. As long as it's not in our yard.
Back to tonight...the commotion that ensued in the yard with the pugs made me think, "Uh-oh! They got that squirrel." I really have no idea. It was so damn dark in that corner of that yard, I couldn't tell. I head inside to get a flashlight and the water squirt bottle (which I use to startle the pugs and get them to stop whatever it is that they're doing). No sooner than do I see the two pugs wrestling in the leaves and fighting. Now normally, I wouldn't be worried, since they do wrestle from time to time, but I was greatly concerned, because if food or a toy or in this case, vermin, are involved, it can get ferocious. And it did. I finally got the dogs in the house and Regina's left cheek is covered in blood. It looks bad. I start to cry and panic. And this is why I cannot have kids. I cannot even imagine what I would do if it was my own child that was injured and bleeding. She's my dog and my baby and my stomach hurt instantly.
I put her on the sink and get some wet paper towels and start cleaning her up. I cannot tell if it's her blood or that of the squirrel or whatever it was they were obsessing about (I still don't know for sure and won't know until tomorrow, when J goes out and has a look, because you can bet your bottom dollar it won't be me...*shudder*). I clear away the blood from her blonde cheek and find two perfectly round puncture holes. I think they perfectly match Luigi's bite. Great.
I take her into the bathroom and start with the peroxide, cotton balls, cotton swabs and antibiotic ointment. I finally get it all cleaned up and stop the blood. I let her back into the living room where she proceeds to roll, face first, into her bed. And then Luigi jumps all over her. And I am just trying to separate them! I get them away from each other. Of course, she's bleeding again. So round two with the peroxide and ointment. They settle down and I get back to the laundry I abandoned 30 minutes earlier. As I come back in, I see Regina peeing on the carpet! Great. This is why I let them out in the yard in the first place. UGH!
I am exhausted. My stomach is in knots. I have a headache and feel nauseous. How do mothers do it? Seriously.
Speaking of which, we anticipate her relocation to Tulsa in the near future. She will stay with us for a while as she settles here and we're looking forward to the company. It might feel crowded, at times, since we only have one bathroom, but considering I grew up with 5 people in a home with one bath until I was 13, it's not that big of a deal.
Anyway, back to today....after the massage we tried out D'Novo Lean Gourmet restaurant. It opened a couple of months ago, but today was the first chance we had to check it out. It's a bright, chic and modern eatery with a glass tiled fountain, white leather booths and modern crystal chandeliers. The food is ordered euro-cafe style...at a counter and they you get a number and they deliver the food to your table (where your number is posted on a little metal stand/holder). J ordered the seasame seared yellowfin tuna salad and I got the roastbeef and gorgonzola wrap with a side asian salad. All was extremely tasty and we could hardly believe that every meal in the restaurant is 500 calories or less. We will DEFINITELY be back!
After lunch we walked around the KingsPointe shopping center, exploring the wine shop and then making our way down to the florist, KaBloom, where we got a lovely, fresh fall centerpiece to bring to Aunt Rita's tomorrow. It has yellow roses, red hypericum berries, rust colored daisies, yellow mums and orange daylilies. She is hosting Thanksgiving dinner for us and Joseph's parents. She told us not to bring anything, but we never show up anywhere empty handed, so we decided that flowers would be our contribution.
From there we decided to run some errands and on our way, found ourselves stopping at Kupcakz, Tulsa's only cupcake bakery. We've been wanting to sample their made from scratch offerings. J had the My Peanut Buttercup which is a dark chocolate cake with creamy peanut butter frosting chocolate splitters and toasted peanuts (they roast the peanuts themselves to make homemade peanut butter) and I had the Lemon Drop which is zesty lemon cake with lemon curd and lemon cream cheese frosting. Of course we got two Sooner than Later (red velvet cake smothered with mascarpone cream cheese frosting) to go. All was tasty and you can just tell that all of the ingredients are fresh and made from scratch...a lost artform these days. We will definitely be back to sample the Cheeky Monkey (fresh banana cake with caramel cream cheese frosting candied pecans and caramel drizzle) and Boston Dreamer (yellow cake filled with French pastry cream and capped with bittersweet chocolate ganache).
We came home and it was so nice out that we decided to take the furbabies for a stroll. All THREE of them! Yep, the crazy cat likes to follow us on our neighborhood walks. So we leashed up the dogs and she followed along behind us. The dogs had a blast, as they always do on their walks.
Now we're home and gonna make dinner...brown rice penne pasta with turkey kielbasa, apples and spinach with a creamy gorgonzola sauce. Very autumnal and SO good! Here's recipe (made up by me of my favorite things):
--1 package of polska kielbasa or smoked sausage (I prefer turkey),sliced into "coins"
--Bag of washed baby spinach leaves
--1 large apple, skin on, quartered and sliced medium-thin
--1 tub of crumbled gorgonzola cheese (5 oz.)
--1/8 c. butter
--1/4 c. milk
--pepper to taste
--Prepare pasta as directed. I usually make half the package which yields two heaping portions plus leftovers for lunch the next day.
--While pasta boils, in a skillet brown the kielbasa or sausage slices, remove
--In same skillet (wipe out any grease from the sausage) wilt the spinach leaves and soften the apples over medium heat. Don't overcook, the spinach should still be bright green and the apples should retain their shape.
--Drain pasta and set aside. In the same pot that the pasta was cooked, melt 1/8 c. butter or margarine, add in the the gorgonzola crumbles and the 1/4 c. milk over low heat. Melt all ingredients together. As they start to combine, fold in the drained pasta into the butter-cheese-milk mixture until coated and warmed through. Add in the drained, browned sausage, wilted spinach and softened apples and combine until coated.
--Serve up with a little fresh pepper on top.
I made time to book an appointment for a massage at the local massage school, Clary Sage, but decided to make it for Wednesday so that J could come with me and enjoy a couple's massage with me. I checked my email and Facebook and had over 6o happy birthday messages from friends near and far...what a wonderful surprise!
I worked through lunch so that I could dash home and see J between shifts. When I got home he was eating his dinner (a baked potato with grilled chicken, onions and cheese) and getting ready for his second job. We had about an hour together and I was happy that we at least got to spend some time together today.
He left for work and I decided to run some errands...hit up Petsmart for some kitty food and dog treats and the grocery store for dryer sheets and sundries. No sooner had I parked the car at the pet store did my phone ring. I thought it might be my brother or mother calling to wish me a happy bday. I saw the name flash on the caller ID and it was J. I slightly panicked. It hadn't even been 10 minutes since he left the house for work! Was there a problem? (it's amazing what can flash through my mind in a split second). I fumbled to press the talk button and stammered, "are you okay?". He said, "I got cut." What? Was he bleeding? What happened? How? Oh-no! "I got cut tonight, they're not busy so they're sending me home. YAY!" OMG...he was calling to say he had the night off from work.
So I completed my errands at the pet store and dashed home to find J already in his comfy house clothes (I call them him dressy sweatpants)! I told him that I cancelled my plans for the evening (tongue firmly planted in my cheek) and asked him if he wanted to get sushi since that's what's I had wanted to do. So he changed into jeans and sweater ("goin' out clothes") and we headed to In The Raw in Brookside. We have eaten at their other location, but this was a first for us. We liked this place much better. It's smaller, cozier, and closer to home. We sat at the sushi bar and ordered our favorites. It was all fresh and tasty. Best of all, I was with my best friend and sweetheart on my birthday instead of home alone with the furbabies.
After Sushi we decided to finish my errands and stopped at the nearby grocery store. Then J suggested dessert, so we went to the Local Table and had their three mini dessert sampler for which we chose the chocolate ice cream sandwich, chocolate lava cake and creme brule, of course! All we tasty and the perfect end to a lovely birthday.
First of all, it's the first bday in about 15 years that my twin brother and I will have not celebrated together. So that's kind of weird. And honestly? Not really anything I would have even thought of before, but now, because we're not together on our birthday, I am.
And of course, the rest of my family's not here and J has to work a double shift tomorrow and with no friends here that means I will spend the evening, after work, alone. Well, alone with the furbabies.
So...I am having a pity party, sort-of. My friends from a far have emailed and called or sent cards and my family has too, but honestly, this is a first for me. And frankly, I don't like it. So I am going to try to embrace it...book a massage for myself after work, eat sushi and take the dogs for a walk in the prettiest park in town. And I am going to try to get over this hump... 34...nearly 35, which had so many attachments to it when I was in my 20's.
It was my cut-off point for pursuiing an opera career (obviously I checked out early) and in a way, the cut-off for kids. As in, if I don't feel the "baby bug" by 35 I am not having kids. It's no surprise that I don't have "baby rabies" but now I feel, in a way, that time is running out. Or something. I cannot quite put my finger on it, but this is the first birthday, ever, that I have not looked forward to and I am not sure why. Probably ALL of the above, huh?
We have been here nearly 6 months and I am ready to make some friends. I see coworkers everyday, but none are really becoming friends that I would call and hang out with outside of work. Let alone call at 2 am during a crisis! The ones that I have most in common with are my parents age. Is that a problem? Maybe that's because the one's my age are all about their kids. As they should be. But I am not, ya know?
I am sure that time will provide more opportunities to get out and meet people and find my niche. I hope to volunteer around town and see where that leads. I never have a hard time making friends. But here, I am having a hard time meeting people, who could, potentially become my friends.
Oddly enough, I think that this has brought J and I closer. It's like us against the world, in a way. And I am grateful that we get along so well and genuinely enjoy spending time together. But I also know that, for his sake and mine, I need to get a few girlfriends here in town. Ones with whom I can go see chic flicks, gossip about the latest hollyweird dramas, spend hours shopping for shoes and buying nothing, lamenting over marriage stuff and family stuff and money stuff and career stuff. You know, sister-friends? All of mine are on the west coast. And I am here, in the midwest. Kind of poses a geographically undesirable issue. And since none of my leftcoast sister-friends want to move to the midwest, that means I've gotta meet some new girlies here. So, that's the plan. And maybe that means by this time next year, I will be looking forward to a fabulous 35th birthday party with all my new friends. Or packing it up and flying back to the west coast. Only time will tell.
On the up side...gas is $1.62 today. We filled up for $20. Haven't been able to say that in YEARS. Guess the savings will offset our heating costs this winter, because if it's gonna be this cold, the heater is going to get some use.
Where'd I get it? Chez Target, of course! My favorite store...especially now since the one here has a full-fledged grocery store in it! So I got the lamp, protein powder for J, some veggies for dinner and laundry soap...all in one stop. Isn't that great? And now we have this fabulous red-shadded lamp in our living room. It looks great with our decor and best of all, we have a well-lit room. Mission accomplished.
We ended up at Keo Asian Restaurant which was awesome! We had ahi poke (yum, yum and thrilled we found a place in town that makes it!), fresh spring rolls, chicken skewers, steamed mussels, seasoned edamame, and tom ka (coconut curry soup with chicken)...it's total asian fusion and so yummy!
We also happened by a modern furnishings store and saw the coolest thing ever. And Eco friendly, ventless fireplace. So cool! It burned ethanol (denatured alcohol)...check it out! EcoSmartFire.com
You can get their uber modern designs or just buy the insert for a traditional fireplace. How cool is that? And they put out some heat! Pyromaniac J loved it.
We also perused a chi-chi grocery store with lots of yummy stuff including our favorite stinky cheeses as well as a specialty coffee/tea store that had our favorite jasmine pearl tea for $170/lb. OUCH! On the way home we stopped at I got a peppermint hot chocolate from Starbucks. Feels like the holidays! It's downright cold in the evenings here...right now, it's 45 degrees outside. I know it will get colder the closer we get to Winter Soltice...brr!
It was chilly today too! Never got above 58 degrees! I wore a sweater and boots AND my wool pea coat! The sun finally broke through the clouds around 3:30 pm and warmed us up, just a tad. It's supposed to get down to freezing temps at night this week. Brrr! Loving the flannel sheets, thermal drapes and new rugs in our bedroom. Keeps things toasty. Well that and my man, two dogs and the cat. It's a full bed! I hope to fall fast asleep tonight...pleeeeaaaasssee! I know J will be pooped...it's another late night for him. Poor baby! When he has both gigs on one day it makes for an early morning (4:30 am) and a late night (10:00 pm). He's a trooper though and once this training period is over he'll only be doing it 2-3 times a week. Oh, have I mentioned that gas is now $1.75/gal.? That's awesome!
Anyway, it was a long, long 10 days in Hawaii. Thankfully I had a wonderful room at the Hilton Hawaiian Beach Resort and Spa in Waikiki. It was my refuge from the 16 hour work days. My feet will never be the same, I am sure of it. I had 1.5 days off, which I used exploring the island and hanging on the beach. I was also able to meet some of my internet friends from TheKnot.com's Hawaii Brides Board. These are the ladies I connected with when I was planning our wedding in Hawaii and we've just kept in touch via email, Facebook and The Knot over the past two years. I finally met them in person over some yummy local grinds (food) at the Side Street Inn:
That was the most fun I had all week. The food was delicious and the company was even better!
Let's see, I won't get into the nitty-gritty...the first part of the week was spent in Board Meetings and then an all day festival for girls aged 25 and under. The rest of the week, I was the backstage manager for the quartet and chorus contests. That was all well and good, except that I soon discovered that I am very allergic to the fire retardant chemical that was on the stage curtains and I broke out in a nasty rash all over my body. Good times. And then, in my exhaustion, I left my carry-on behind in the rental car along with my house/car keys, camera and eye glasses. Thankfully, my colleague found it and it will make it's way back to Tulsa later this week. I did have to take a cab home from the airport because J was at work when I arrived. Later, he took me back to the airport to get my car out of long term parking. WHEW!
Average number of hours worked each day: 12
Average number of daily shoe changes to help my aching feet: 3
Number of hives on the parts of my body that came in contact with the stage curtains: hundreds
Number of tubes of Benadryl cream: 3
Number of bags left behind: 1
Missing a once-in-a-lifetime history-making election: PRICELESS.
I voted absentee, but I was basically in a convention vacuum and missed all of election day! I got text message updates from J and during my dinner break was able to see snippets of the McCain's concession speech. But that was about it. I tried to catch up on the action later that night, as much as possibe on CNN, but with an 8 hour difference between Hawaii and the East Coast, I feel like I missed the whole thing. That's pretty sad.
I wrote to our OK Senator and former Congressman, Tom Coburn, and requested tickets to the Obama-Biden Inauguration in Washington D.C. Hey! It never hurts to ask, right? Apparently, the only legitimate way to get tickets is from your state respresntative. I mentioned our being an interracial couple and that J is bi-racial. I also mentioned that I had sung with his opera singer daughter, Sarah Coburn, at the Metropolitan Opera competition back in 2001. Who knows, we might get the tix! He's a Republican anyway, so I am sure he'd be happy to give them away, right!?
More pics of my week in Waikiki to come, once I get my camera back. I never thought I'd be anxious to leave Hawaii, but I must say, it's good to be home.
UPDATE: Here are some pics from my 10 days in Honolulu:
On the balcony of my suite in the Rainbow Tower overlooking Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head in the distance
View of the main swimming pool and Ali'i Tower and their rooftop pool
Pinneapple growing at the Dole Plantation