Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas 2008 Report

Christmas spread
Originally uploaded by suzipaw
It was a lovely holiday, truly restful. Lots of food and sleeping late, dog walking, TV and few plans, wild weather and glorious weather (we could often see the snow covered mountains, a rare sight). Christmas Eve day, M and I went to a party in Long Beach at a friend's motorcycle shop. I've traditionally had a hard time circulating at this party, which was held just blocks from one of my college days apartments, so I slipped out to hit a thrift store (I found a nice sweater and considered but did not purchase some gowns for a masquerade birthday party next month). That evening we dined at the restaurant where M's sister works, which was very pleasant.

Christmas was a study in mellow. M's brother left early in the day and his mom spent a great deal of time cooking and laying out her best china. Sis-in-law and her boyfriend came over in the early afternoon and we enjoyed a delish Christmas dinner late in the afternoon and *then* opened presents. This is the first time I've waited so long to open gifts, and I must admit, I really liked it! We had something to look forward to all day, so it made the whole day feel more special, not just the morning.

On Friday, we went to the Huntington Botanical Garden, Gallery, and Library, a place I'd been hankering to go for years. It was beautiful after the rain and bluster the day before. We wandered through the desert garden, Japanese garden, lily pond, and sub-tropical garden, all meticulously kept--one might say swept--except for the thick carpet of fallen golden gingko leaves in the Zen garden, a contrast that was all the more lovely and surprising. We only had a few hours there, so rushed through the home and library, glancing at the Blue Boy, Pinkie, and other portraits and then a Gutenberg bible and double-elephant Audubon folio next door. I'd love to go back in a more bloom friendly season and when I have more time to view the art.

The iPhone let us down a bit on the way home as we tried to navigate around traffic from Santa Anita opening day, so it took us much longer to get home than we'd planned. M and I headed down to Long Beach to have dinner with his best friend and his girlfriend, then went to another friend's housewarming party. There was a bit of tension about whether or not I'd be able to have a pleasant time at this event since I'm usually terrible at parties where I know few people, but I'm happy to report that I managed quite well.

It was a long drive home the next day, and though it was a wonderful visit, I was glad to be hitting my own hay. The past three days have been filled with a little work and home puttering. And shopping. I found the masquerade party gown at Ross yesterday and have been having a great deal of fun assembling the ensemble. Grandma Julia's costume jewelry will be employed in full force. It's also a karaoke party, gulp. M and I are thinking of dueting Rex's theme song:

But that's an awful lot of singing which I'm really bad at. But I guess that will be part of the entertainment.

M's getting into the legal swing of things. This week he's made several special appearances as they're called, where he stands in for the attorney in a case. I asked him how it was going today and here's his response (adult language alert):

"Oh, I managed to get a guy put back in jail until Friday. That was kinda fun. He even thanked me. So, did his family. The bailiffs managed to have quite a bit of fun at my expense. The judge took pity on me and my client and let me get a do over. The probation officer explained what had happened after it was all said and done. Joe Hoppe [the lawyer he was appearing for], told me on the phone 'welcome to the conflicts calendar.' Wally [M's friend and new-ish lawyer] called me a vagina and to told me to get over it. All in all, I'm lovin it."

We're off to Mom's tomorrow for more holiday mellowness, ahh.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Trips Past and Future

Snowy Wilbur
Originally uploaded by suzipaw
This post took me, what, about a week to write, sigh…

I'll be out of the office for 16 whole days in a row. Ahhh. Sadly, it already feels like that won't be enough time for all of the slacking off I need to accomplish, but hope springs eternal.

Transportation with a little weather thrown in was the only drama that marred the otherwise wonderful trip up to Washington to see Grandma. The night before my trip, I was leaving work late and the Monster Mobile told me that it didn't recognize my key and so was disabling the starter because it might be a theft. How thoughtful! An hour and several calls to M and AAA later, the tow truck driver broke the news that he'd tried everything he could to no avail, so drug us home. I ended up having to rent a car the next morning to drive to Sacramento where I was meet Felicia to fly to Spokane after a series of delays that included circling the airport while they snow-plowed the runway where we rented another car to drive to Wilbur in snowy-ish conditions. But aside from arriving later than we planned, too late to see Grandma that day, it all worked out just fine. Particularly since I left the Cadillac for M to deal with on my behalf--such a good husband.

Felicia and I awoke to the quiet chill of a snow filled morning, sky as pale as the blanketed ground. I remembered to give the car plenty of time to warm up--which it needed inside and out since some of the frozen stuff had worked its way into the car during the night. I was grateful that the thoughtful team at Thrifty had put an ice scraper in the rental car. Thanks to the weather, this was the first visit to Wilbur where I drove literally everywhere. For instance, the first morning, I forewent my traditional cake doughnut from Sandy's at the other end of town for a full breakfast at the Rendezvous, the place just across the highway from the Settle Inn because it was much closer and on the way to Grandma's--as if any place isn't in the small town that is Wilbur.

We headed up to see Grandma after breakfast and had a great morning with her. She has so many stories to tell and it was just really good to catch up with her. After lunch at the Billy Burger, Felicia and I drove up to the cemetery, but seeing the unplowed paths, we chose the better part of valor and retreated rather than going in. On the way back down the hill, we slipped around on the road a bit, which frankly freaked me out a scoche--the idea of getting stuck in a ditch and/or injured in a small, snow-covered town far from home, heat, and quality healthcare was niggling at me throughout the weekend. But that turned out to be the worst of it. Before the afternoon visit with Grandma, we hit the department store, looking to support the local economy as much as we could, and were greeted by Santa. Who of course turned out to be married to one of our cousins.

Back at Grandma's we chatted more while I kept an eye on the snow swirling and drifting up against the curbs and buildings. Since I wasn't in Wilbur alone, niece and I braved The Alibi for dinner. I'd always been curious about the place--the town's lone bar--but never had the personal fortitude to push open the door and pull up a stool amongst the locals on my own. All of the other restaurants were closed on the weekend, so The Alibi was hopping, mostly with diners rather than drinkers, which was nice. After dinner we hunkered down in the hotel room. Ah, television--pleasant in small doses.

Our final breakfast was a two-parter--I finally secured my cake doughnut, though had to settle for one topped with chocolate. I swung by Doxie's to get Felicia (on foot--dang it was chilly stomping through the snow for ten yards or so) and found her at the center of conversation with some of the local guys who were in having their coffee. She and the judge were chatting it up. He had operated the racetrack in town years ago and had known her dad--in fact, had taught him how to jump motorcycles back in his youth.

We had another morning of reminiscing with Grandma, looking a pictures and just talking about things, watching the Lutheran church parking lot fill up. It was hard to leave, as always. The highway back to Spokane was mostly clear, though the drifting snow scudding across it like a white sand desert made it a bit ominous for me. We had time for a quick lunch at the airport then flew home uneventfully to a deluge in Sacramento, which thankfully lessened as I drove westward and the sky darkened. Ice, rain, and all, in addition to being with Grandma again, it was really wonderful having a little adventure with my niece.

We leave for So. Cal. tomorrow morning, returning on Saturday. We don't have any formal activities planned at this point other than socializing with M's family and friends, but I'm thinking of possibilities: Huntington Botanical Garden. Forest Lawn to see my maternal grandpa's grave. Getty Museum. Venice beach. Of course, if this wonderful precipitation keeps up, it might be movies and the mall for five days straight, but that would be OK, we really need it.

In other news: Holiday cards are out, shopping mostly done (I did scale it back this year, though felt silly spending half an hour in line at the PO for just one small package). Had a nice time at the Box today with M and the writers group gals. Veronica is using her cat ladder all on her own. It took awhile--even after she started using it regularly, she would still yell at me and I would have to lead her to it and only then would she realize that she could climb up by herself. But she's gotten the hang of it and it really has cut down on her demanding yowling significantly, thank goodness. I picked up the last of my glass fusing projects from my teacher and got to see her garage-studio for myself, which was quite illuminating.

Happy Solstice! Looking forward to the light. I need it.

Monday, December 15, 2008

To Grandmother's House We Go

with Grandma and Felicia
Originally uploaded by suzipaw
It was a great trip, snow and all! Details soon.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Still Here

Murray swears in
Originally uploaded by suzipaw
But just on a blogging hiatus. Nothing large or important to report, which is probably A Good Thing. Catching up:

The swearing-in happened the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and for a small, short event, it was adequate closure. Better than graduation, really, since of course the Bar and its results hadn't happened yet. Nothing has changed externally--M's still job hunting and working here and there, including freelance on a murder case, mmm. But his attitude is certainly different, tempered a bit by the crappy job market. We both feel more hopeful. And he is working to think like a lawyer--what it means for friends to ask him for legal advice, how he conducts personal business. He seems more…professional. Confident. I imagine that will increase when he lands that first position.

I got him an iPhone as a Bar passing present, and now I want one too. Though he received his "welcome" packet from AT&T this week and with all of the taxes and various charges, the monthly bill will be closer to a third more than the advertised monthly plan. Yikes. But that video of the iPhone as ocarina is so compelling. (Here's a great song that features the app.)

The romance novel ground to a halt at 10,035 words and I'm blaming the tension then euphoria of the Bar. But I'm confident that having a writers group and an ongoing project that I can actually bring to our meetings rather than sitting there like a word-free lump will ensure that I will pick it up again.

I'm mulling over my New Year's resolutions. Contenders include: take up Spanish again and really try to make some progress; finishing the novel; redoubling my resolve to see more live theater and music. I should include more selfless and friend-related things. Suggestions welcome.

Thanksgiving was for the most part wonderful. There was some family drama that put a bit of a mental damper on things, but is better now, I think. It was just five of us, eating, drinking, beach walking, sleeping in, glass fusing, getting our asses kicked by Maven the computerized Scrabble player, and admiring the various mycology. I watched very little TV. Didn't go into town like I thought I might. The weather was freakishly warm, clear, and calm. M and I stood outside one night watching the stars and I was pretty comfortable in bare feet and short sleeves which is very unusual for any season on the coast. It was hard to leave.

The last week of work has been very busy, but partly because we've been having some fun. On Thursday I held our little office craft fair and sold off some of Mom's pottery. She has some fans where I work and I sold almost all of it. On Friday we had a Murder Mystery brunch game in our department. I didn't have a clue whodunit, but I had fun making a voodoo doll for my character (Enid A. Drink--typecasting, anyone?) the night before and blowing off the gym to make a pecan coffee cake the morning of for it. I won the Best Performance certificate. I had to summon all of my high school thespian chops to do it, but it obviously paid off.

Last night, after a day that had very little to show for it other than a couple of paid bills and clean laundry, I headed down to Berkeley for a friend's birthday party. M had another party to attend, so I was one of two stag (doe?) and child-free people in attendance. The food was good, my friend seemed happy, and I made it home at a decent hour.

It was supposed to be another freakishly beautiful day, but it's chilly and overcast instead, which is good. I'm making lentil soup and spent some time on Facebook this morning--it's finally become for me what it was intended to be, a personal space. I joined for work and for the longest time the only friends I had were colleagues and contacts made via work. Now I have many non-work friends and family, and I like that. One more thing to siphon off my attention. (And yes, "From what, exactly?" is a good question.) M is out in the garage, building a "ladder" for Veronica to get to her bed on the table in my craft room. She can't make it up via the chair anymore but she likes it there and so has to meows at us crankily and lead us into the room when she wants up. We figured it will cut down on her loud cranky meowing by at least a third. If she uses it, and that's a big if. We've come up with a plan to rub catnip and tuna on it if all else fails. Last night as we were dropping off to sleep we hatched a plot to snap our holiday photo today and research recipes to concoct a snickerdoodle *cake*, a la Cooks Illustrated . Not sure if that will happen, but it's good to have goals, isn't it?

Looking forward to going up to Wilbur with my niece to see Grandma next weekend! Sending vibes for freakishly warm weather while we're there.