Sunday, December 22, 2013

More Christmas cookie fun...

Today we BOTH had the day off AND A didn't have homework AND we had NO commitments. It's a Christmas miracle, really. 

So... Last night on our way home from a lovely Celtic Christmas concert we tried to think of something to do. We were bone dry on new ideas that didn't require a multi-hour drive or boat loads of money. So A set about late last night looking for something to do...

We started the day with a trek down to Truro to the old Air Force base. It's abandoned and now part of the  National Seashore... but it doesn't feel like anyone has been there for decades. It was actually pretty creepy as it was almost 60 degrees, windy and very foggy and all of the buildings look haunted or at least like critters have taken up residence. They are crumbling with broken windows and asbestos warnings everywhere. You couldn't have dragged me in one if there was a pot of gold waiting for me inside. Okay... Maybe for a pot of gold but I'd have been wearing a hazmat suit and carrying a big stick!

Unfortunately because it was so fogged in, we couldn't see the tower that A wanted to see so we walked the dogs for about 45 minutes through the grounds and then hit the road to Provincetown. We originally thought maybe we would have lunch down there but after a trip down Commercial St, we didn't see much open that interested us so we headed back up the road toward home. 

On the way home I talked A into making cookies for our neighbors when we got home. He'd missed out on the "Treats for Troops" cookie-making so he was easy to convince. 

We spent the afternoon making sugar cookies and decorating them. Here are a few of my favorites!

I mixed the royal icing a little too thin in order to get it into my decorating squeeze bottles so it did some interesting things when mixing together. After a while I started playing with the mixtures and I like how they came out. I love the non-traditionally decorated cookies and the creative ones! Mostly I REALLY enjoy that my husband is up for this type of activity and actually really as fun with it! 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Dashed Entrepreneur...

Today I stopped at a miniature craft fair being held in the lower level of our new dog food store. I regretted entering immediately. There were only six vendors in the tiny space and three customers including me. The first table was "staffed" by a ~10 year old boy selling homemade body scrubs. If there's anything I don't need right now, it's body scrubs but I wanted to give the young fella a chance to tell me what he made. He did a great job explaining the products and what they are best used for including Epsom salt in one that is good for arthritis. 

I was beginning to consider buying something just to support his efforts... But then his mother stepped in and ruined the sale. She was SO pushy and played the "he's trying to raise money for school trip to Quebec..." line and when I was giving the clear signs of walking away she wouldn't stop... She absolutely lost me for her kid. My $8 wasn't going to make or break his trip anyway but I just couldn't give in to her hounding! 

She had her own booth with photographs next to his and immediately  started grinding me on her stuff too. I moved quickly on to the quiet lady in the corner selling baby items (which I clearly don't need!) so I moved quickly on to the next and as quickly as possible out the door. That over-solicitous woman ruined it for ALL of the vendors with me because the space was so small I couldn't get away from her! I cannot stand when people put the hard sell on you when it's clear you are not interested in making a purchase and are just being polite. 

Part of me wanted to slip back in there and tell the kid "You are doing a great job! Here's $5 just for you but you should know that your mom lost you my sale." But... It was not to be. 

So as to not end this post sounding like a total grinch... I then left the mini event and met a friend for a lovely 1.5 hour walk in the woods! It was 57* out which made me feel NOT Christmassy but a lovely walk was a great way to spend part of the afternoon! Then I came home and cleaned out the basement... not because I was particularly driven to do but because I gave in to the Christmas cookies at my third Christmas party... and beyond... and I badly need to get reacquainted with my Pilates machine which was buried under a pile of debris! No more excuses now! 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Getting crafty...

This year I have been in the Christmas spirit for months which has given me time to plan out craft projects BEFORE it's too late - a major personal victory!

I've been getting crafty for gifts... But not good about photographing them before I wrap them. I'll need to work on that!

For my first craft, I wanted to make gifts with coconut oil. I'm a HUGE proponent of coconut oil for it's many many uses! People comment on my skin frequently and I'm quite certain it's in as good condition as it is (not to sound vain) because I use coconut oil every day. (And no harsh cleansers or makeup ever.)

So for my first use of my new Kitchen Aid mixer (which I got for only $166 after rebates, cash back and discounts!) I mixed up some coconut oil body scrubs. I used simple ingredients and the process was so easy! So easy I'll be making more this afternoon! 

One batch contained:
Coconut oil
Coconut sugar
Sea salt
Olive oil
Vanilla extract

The other batch contained:
Coconut oil
Coconut sugar
Lemon essential oil
Lime essential oil

Both are delectable! (I had to use up what wouldn't fit in the jars... 😃) They smell good enough to eat! A thought I smelled a bit like a cookie after I used the first recipe. Yum!

Then I made tags for the items that look like this on each side:

Next I moved on to a project I'd seen on Pinterest. For less than $5, I made this:

It's one vanilla candle, two dozen cinnamon sticks (which I found at Christmas Tree Shop for $1/bag of about 30 sticks and bought several bags in October when I saw them. Yes, I'm pretty pleased that I actually followed through with the project!), the rubber band that comes on the asparagus (to hold the sticks tight against the candle under the ribbon), some wreathing wire left over from unpacking our Christmas tree, some bells strung on the wire, and a piece of ribbon. Oh... And some Gorilla glue (which I don't recommend getting in your mouth or it sticks to your teeth and tongue... Don't ask. Luckily my teenage step-son taught me what to do in the event of that emergency so I was prepared when reason left me momentarily and I tried to recap the glue by holding the cap in my teeth... Duh.)

Anyway... My Christmas spirit is still is full swing and my house is feeling cozy and bright (inside... Outside looks a bit grinchy except for the traditional hubcap wreath made by my mother. (What?!? Not everyone has a hubcap wreath?) We just can't seem to get a good day of weather when we are both home to put up lights. It might not happen this year but that's okay. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

O Christmas Tree...

Last night a teenager called my Christmas tree "lame". He's getting coal this year or at least maybe I'll let one of the dogs pee on his mailbox. Hrmpf!

Our tree is NOT lame! It IS artificial and I agree that an artificial tree is less than ideal BUT it makes sense for us. The tree is in the living room and no matter what, it's within ten feet of the wood stove that we heat with so live trees dry up and molt almost instantly regardless of watering. And cleaning up pine needles almost daily from a carpet is not something I've got time for. The other thing is that we are SO busy that even finding time for the two of us to go get a tree together is nearly impossible so on the day we say "It's tree day!" we simply go to the basement and haul it up. Easy peasy. 

I never love how the tree looks when it's bare but after I've plumped the branches and then we've loaded on the ornaments, I LOVE it!

And so do the dogs...

We do have one rule about the tree... If someone is home, the lights are on at all times! It's just too beautiful to sit there in the dark and not be enjoyed! And if those lights are on, all of the other Christmas lights should be on too! (I've now added a couple of strands to the banister arrangement and a couple of strands in the kitchen and dining room. I needed a little something to cover up the still-under-construction French door lack of trim in the kitchen.)

This year I went a little nuts with the candle arrangements too. The other night we had "festive nights", "balsam fir", "gingerbread", and "candy cane" scented candles all burning at the same time  it was like walking through scent zones! 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Christmas decor...

Decorating for Christmas is one of my favorite things about the whole season. Probably for some people they have the traditional layout of where everything goes. Not us. We tend to reorganize the house at least once per year which means that surfaces that used to be there may no longer exist. That's okay because it gives me the chance to be creative!

If I had the time and/or money, my house would look like the ones in the Hallmark movies with wreaths and fresh garland everywhere you turn. But that's not reality for us. 

Over the years I have collected a nice assortment of ornaments but didn't really go beyond that. Since I used to move every two years on average, amassing a large collection of decorations just wasn't  feasible. When A and I got together, he was pretty much in the same boat in terms of a collection. So over the past ten years, we have been slowly adding to it.

I'm not entirely a traditionalist (though I do prefer white lights on Christmas trees) and will often incorporate some other random items and consider them Christmas decor after some minor adaptations. 

The other thing that has happened over the years is that I've been handed things or picked up things along the way... Sometimes fairly random things... And because I'm my mother's daughter, I see the beauty in them... and I hang on to them with the intention of someday figuring out a way to put them to use. 

A is buried up to his eyeballs with schoolwork again tonight but we are less than three weeks away from Christmas and except for the Christmas lights on the beams in the living room, a tin angel and two snowman candleholders I forgot to put away last year... Our house was NOT ready for Christmas! Because we came back from our whirlwind trip to CT for Thanksgiving and A went straight to training for two days and I dove into the "Treats for Troops" project, we didn't get around to decorating the house Thanksgiving weekend like we usually (try to) do. With so little time before the big fella gets here, it was clear that decorating the (interior) house was up to me! (But I refuse to decorate the tree without at least A to help me - that just would NOT feel right!)

So tonight I've set about quietly (aside from the later-mentioned bell project and one near tumble from the hassock while hanging some items overhead) putting together what I consider my little Christmas vignettes in various rooms on the main floor of the house. Nothing is in the same place as it was last year... 

I started with a project I meant to do last year... and out of kindness for my very patient husband should have done before he got home. I had bought a dozen hackeysack-sized red and green bells last year and intended to string them up but never did. This year they came out of the decoration box next to some sparkly green double-wire ribbon. Perfect! I set about the incredibly noisy task of attaching the bells to the ribbon (while A assured me it wasn't disturbing him) and after ~15 nerve and otherwise jangling minutes, I was done. So was dinner. So A got a reprieve and after I finished eating, I quickly hung my creation along the banister while he finished his dinner break. I'm quite pleased with how it came out... though the photograph tells me it might need a little more umph... And running upstairs tells me that there will be no sneaking up/down the stairs without a little jangling...

Last year I made another little project that I thought I'd disassemble and use in different ways but I like it enough that it's making a second appearance this year. I started with a "frame" made from an old drawer of a chicken incubator. Then I used unbreakable ornaments to create the shape of a Christmas tree. You'll see that I added a few other items as well. (Don't worry, I won't light the candles while they are in there.)

This year, for about the third year in a row, I eyeballed a baggie of tiny shiny ornament-like balls attached to small stakes. They are from Christmas flower arrangements that my mom received (possibly one from me?) a few years ago. This baggie is an example of the random bits of pretty things I am often given. So... I decided this was the year to use them!

I searched around until I found a fun "vessel" for them - an old spring from a trash clean up project I did last year. And then I just started poking the stakes into the spring until I liked the outcome. I added a snowflake that my niece made us that is no longer sturdy enough for the tree and voila! 

I've just finished editing A's paper and I think he's all caught up on homework through tomorrow so HOPEFULLY tomorrow evening we can get the tree up and decorated! 

Today in Hyannis, I identified where ole St Nick gets his tobacco for his pipe... I managed to snap a picture quickly before he stepped inside. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

"Treats for Troops"...

Recently I stepped into a role to plan an event to benefit our deployed service members. A's Masonic Lodge has started a project to send packages to service members overseas a while ago but when they hit a roadblock, the project ground to a halt. When A became Master of the lodge, we decided that it was time to follow through with this and get these packages in the hands of those that serve our country. But the ten boxes that had been half assembled didn't seem like enough so we kicked it up a notch. Here's how...

First we decided that we would assemble and ship around 25 boxes. We also decided to include homemade treats and a wide variety of goodies in each box. 

Next I set up an event and invited members of our family, the community, and the lodge members to come help decorate cookies and make crafts etc. 

Then... I started realizing how many cookies we would need so my friend came over and we spent several hours making sugar cookies the week before the event. (I had no idea you could freeze baked cookies! What a lifesaver!) We pre-made about 20 dozen sugar cookies. Whew!

I also asked people to donate homemade cookies and treats with the idea that each package would get a dozen sugar cookies and a dozen other homemade treats. That's a LOT of cookies!

So we got together at the lodge and had four stations set up:

Station 1 was to write Christmas cards to the service members. We ended up writing 80+ cards from different people. About 60 of them went into the boxes and the balance were shipped to "Holidays for Heroes" to be distributed to other service members. 

Station 2 was to cut out (and when possible, decorate) Christmas trees from fabric. This was a last minute craft idea so the decorations were pretty slim... Something to think about for next time. 

Station 3 was the grandest achievement - the cookie decorating station!

A second big table was used for drying and packing the cookies. I LOVED the creativity of the decor and... Of course since the cookies were coming from the Cape, we had to include some sea life-shaped cookies. 

Station 4 was where the kids could draw pictures to include. (They were SO sweet!)

We also included non-breakable Christmas ornaments and decorations, candies, nuts, socks, baby wipes, a few toiletries, donated DVDs, word search/soduko books, magazines, handwritten letters and notes, local beach sunrise photos, and various treats. 

In the end, we had enough materials to fully pack 22 large priority shipping boxes to the brim! 

I had hoped that during the event we would finish all of the baking, decorating, crafts and packaging of cookies so that the packing process would be quick and easy. Unfortunately there was a lot to organize so it took us a couple of days to finish loading the boxes and get them shipped but we did it!

We are planning to do it again next year so I'm hoping that we get some good feedback from the service members. We gave them our contact information so hopefully we will hear from some of the folks. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Christmas traditions... Old and new.

On Sunday a friend came over and helped me bake ~20 dozen sugar cookies in preparation for the "Treats for the Troops" packages we will be assembling on Saturday. As we were measuring, mixing, rolling and cutting, we talked about each of our family Christmas traditions. 

I've got fuzzy memories of my childhood - what I do remember is more like snapshots rather than detailed, lengthy events so reclaiming memories of traditions is sweet. 

Among my favorites....

At Thanksgiving and/or Christmas dinners my mom's dad (who would probably be called a "foodie" in today's society) often brought "exotic" items for us to all try. I'll never forget the year he brought raw oysters (which I still won't eat!) and we all had to try at least one. It made me more adventurous to try new things and is how I get the kids in my life to try new things at least once before they judge it. It also inspires me to often try cooking something new when contributing to or preparing a holiday meal. 

Writing our letters to Santa and burning them so he could read our wishes in the smoke is one that I've learned is quite unique. Over the years we have burned the letters in a variety of ways... A few years ago in a rental house in NC, 15 adults, two teens, and a pre-teen partook in that tradition (which included my brother reading all of the wishes aloud before burning them on a charcoal grill) for the benefit of my then four year old great-nephew. I'm honestly not sure who enjoyed it most!

Reading of the story "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" - it didn't matter who read it when we were kids - my dad, my step-dad, my mom... Didn't matter. It just mattered that before bed on Christmas Eve the story was read before putting out cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer. 

Opening one present on Christmas Eve. 

Midnight Mass/local Christmas pageant - we did one or the other (sometimes both) nearly every year growing up and I really liked the tradition. Occasionally we do it now depending on A's schedule. 

Somewhere along the line we stopped doing individual stockings. My mom got a HUGE stocking that was stuffed with little wrapped items for everyone. Until then, each of us raced around trying to find the BIGGEST sock we could find... And every Christmas morning, the toe of the sock would bulge with the traditional Christmas orange. A few years ago I bought a huge stocking and we do the little wrapped presents too. And I often include oranges just because...

Since we've been married, A and I have developed some of our own traditions. Like the following...

While we decorate our tree and house, we watch "Miracle on 34th Street" and/or "A Christmas Story". 

My step-son J gives up all other plans with friends when we tell him it's our night to decorate for Christmas because he LOVES it! It's his job to always put the angel on the top of the tree. Throughout the year we often buy an ornament or two when we are traveling - it's a fun way to revisit some of our adventures over the years. 

Each year we pull two names of children from the donation tree. We always pick one boy and one girl. This year we selected a 6 year old boy who wanted cars and trucks and a 7 month old girl in need of clothes. Honestly... I enjoy shopping for friends and family but I LOVE picking out gifts for these kids!

Cookie day! A few years ago we were going to A's cousin's house for an afternoon visit a few weeks before Christmas. On a whim, I packed the ingredients to make and decorate sugar cookies. A delightful tradition was born and we've done it every year since! We often make and decorate about 30 dozen cookies which we then give away to a wide variety of people. This year we are incorporating cookie day into a "Treats for the Troops" event that I'm helping to coordinate for A's Mason's Lodge. I'm hoping that the event becomes part of our Christmas traditions (though my real hope is that there not be a need for ANY service members to be deployed anymore).

Some of the traditions that I love about A's family are...

Every year they receive or make a plum pudding (last year's was an authentic one shipped from A's cousin in England) complete with the flaming booze to warm it. We dim the lights and often sing a carol or two while the alcohol burns. 

Singing the Doxology before a holiday meal... We stand in a huge circle, usually around the island in his aunt's big kitchen, holding hands and singing:

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

Just the experience of doing this together makes me smile from the inside out. 

Playing charades in front of the fire. It's usually truly terrible and short-lived but it's often quite comical while it lasts!

A new one we started last year that I hope catches on is a family-wide Yankee swap. The rules were it could be either something from your house that you want to pass along (ditch!) or something purchased for $15 or less. I think last year everyone passed along an item from home. It was hilarious seeing what items appeared and I can imagine that some of them will make a re-appearance this year!

It's fun to see how that traditions all weave together. We will be with A's family for Christmas Eve again this year and I'm hoping to get them to join the tradition of writing down a Christmas wish and burning it. I think they will enjoy it and so will I. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Bubbly delight...

We don't drink soda. Okay... Well... Because we are on this no sugar diet and can't satisfy our sweet tooth with some juice or the like, we do occasionally like some diet soda to break the water monotony. 

However, I am absolutely opposed to aspartame etc and finding diet soda without it is a stretch. So we don't drink much soda...

A few months ago I was visiting my friends in Maine and B made "soda" for her girls. She carbonated some TAP water and added a little juice... And the girls thought it was a lovely treat! She used her Sodastream to do it and I have been intrigued with this gadget since then. 

A few weeks ago I finally broke down and bought one and we LOVE it! I had been buying seltzer by the case and hating all of the waste so this purchase just made sense.

It's as easy as fill the Sodastream bottle with very cold tap water (we run ours through the Brita filter container that we keep in the refrigerator), screw the bottle into the Sodastream contraption and push a button 3-5 times to "charge" the water with the CO2 cartridge, detach the bottle and pour the now-fizzy water into your glass with the flavoring of your choice. Or just enjoy fizzy water aka seltzer!

When we need some taste use a variety of sugar-free flavorings for now but we look forward to the day we can use fresh cranberry juice or orange juice or the like. We use just a splash of the flavorings now - just enough to make it taste like something other than water because we drink SOOO much water, it's nice to have a little change of pace. We aren't people that will often pour ourselves a glass of straight juice of any sort because it's often too sweet so having "bubbly juice" will be perfect! Until then, we are making do with what we've got and enjoying it!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

From $20 Rummage Sale Shelf to Priceless Custom Desk!

About three years ago I spotted this shelf at a rummage sale in our home town. A gave me the "Really?" look when I insisted that we buy it (and didn't negotiate with my favorite Cornwallian Octogenarian on the price) for $20. Thankfully we had brought the truck to CT that weekend - something he curiously votes against when we are traveling if the bed is empty... he's afraid I'll fill it up. (He's not wrong...)
BEFORE - $20 Rummage Sale Shelf

So we brought this home and I had vague visions of it becoming the base for a custom-built surround for our television. But the vision was only half-baked and I won't let him start on any project until the vision is more fully formed... so it was put into the sun room and housed all manner of decor since then.

When I was pretty sure that I was going to get the new job (which I love, by the way!), I told A that I could no longer operate on the cobbled together desk (compressed wood balanced on two wire racks pushed up against a built-in desk to make a faux L-shaped desk in the smallest room in the house) and needed a proper office. Thankfully he agreed. We quickly agreed that being on the main floor in the under-utilized sun room made a lot of sense and freed up the small guest room for guests (and possibly a shoe closet for me... but that's another story...).

We spent one long afternoon searching every office store we could find looking for a desk that had a lot of desk surface but didn't cost a fortune. We struck out. So my clever husband suggested building me a desk. I love him and his craftiness! :-)
BEFORE - In desperate need of a coat of paint...

A few days later we had zeroed in on the $20 shelf as the base, purchased a large piece of beautiful birch plywood, and chosen a quart of chocolate brown paint. The project wasn't really that hard. I was in charge of painting the shelf - that was a two night project that took minimal effort on my part. A was responsible for the desktop and the assembly of the desk.

AFTER - the $20 shelf painted
chocolate brown (and loaded up...)
A spent a couple of days (between everything else he has going on) preparing the desktop. I gave him my preferred design and measurements and he took it from there. He cut it the exact shape that I wanted, rounded all of the edges and leading corners, and drilled in holes for the cords. Next he attached it to the top of the shelf and added a leg (purchased for $.25 at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore). 

Then he started the process of finishing the desk top surface which included sanding everything multiple times and then putting on a coat of urethane, more sanding, more urethane and so forth. Finally it was finished and I had to be very patient (which I learned after dragging my fingers through dry-looking-but-still-tacky urethane) and let it set for several days before I could "move on" to the surface. 

In the meantime I scoured the house (and TJ Maxx...) for various organizational bins/baskets/trays etc. I
AFTER - All in place and ready to roll!
moved in to the shelf below days before I could put anything on the surface. (Yes, Ms. Impatience asked every day "Today?" to which my very patient husband told me, "You CAN but it will probably leave marks in the surface." (His very sweet way of saying "No! Be more patient!" :-))) So I busied myself with cleaning everything in the office (there was a mildew smell that made my face itch - turns out it was in the bookshelf so I took every book out, wiped it all down and put it back - MUCH better!) and finding various decor items around the house etc. (I am sooooo drawn to the earth tones of orange, brown, green, blue etc of fall which came through in this color palette as well... Oh well!)

At last I got the go-ahead to really settle in. It was TOTALLY worth the wait though and I absolutely LOVE how it came out! The whole office is cozy and homey - everything about it makes me happy!
AFTER - The view from above (two steps up in the dining room
with my camera over my head). The brown and green thing
on the right is my new Yogibo seating which I also LOVE!
AFTER - A closer view of my finely finished desk top. LOVE IT!!!
Now when I sit down to work, I feel like a real professional! I often have to do video calls with my computer for work now and I feel great about where I'm sitting. I'm comfortable and have everything that I need within reach!

And we did the entire project for less than $100! Yahoo!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Love of an inanimate object...

A couple of weeks ago while volunteering at the Wellfleet OysterFest, I had a few minutes to walk around the festival and check out the various vendors. After collecting my free cup of coffee at Beanstock Coffee (consistently the BEST coffee I've ever had which was made better by giving free coffee to volunteers!) I wandered up a side alley and paused in front of a booth with large blob-like objects sitting there. I was pretty tired and not really engaged in what I was looking at but they were interesting enough for me to stand there (and not wander next door where the clam fritters smelled fantastic!). After a few minutes the fellow hawking the blobs (that sounds  gross...) said "Try one. Have a seat." 

The blobs turned out to be HUGE bean bags with stretchy covering so they can be used in a variety of ways. Wow! The one I zeroed in on was called the Yogibo Max and it's a rectangle that, when lying flat, stands about 24" tall. The cool thing is that depending on how you position it before you sit on it, you can use it as an arm chair, a recliner, a sofa, a bed etc. it was pretty cool!

Here's a picture from their website of the mid-sized one:

But I had to get back to my recycling station and couldn't wrap my very tired brain around if this was a good purchase or not. 

A few days later I was still thinking about it (I've been trying to find just the right comfy chair for my new office) and found that they were at another festival that weekend about a half hour away. I decided to go try them out again and see if I really liked them or if that was my exhaustion talking. 

I loved it! I allowed these hawkers (one turned out to be the CEO if the NH-based company) to show me a variety of ways to use it and I even got up-sold to add a U-shaped bean bag of the same materials to my purchase. 

A didn't really get it by my description but when he got home that night and I was nestled into my new nest with the fire going and my laptop settled perfectly on my lap, he got it. And we've spent the few spare minutes we've had when he's not doing schoolwork or at work finding multiple ways for the two of us to comfortably snuggle on it while watching the Red Sox win the World Series. (Yay Sox!) We love it! The only thing that isn't so great is that it's hard to get out of. You just have to commit to rolling onto the floor and getting up from there. So... Whoever is nestled in the Yogibo is often there to stay until nature calls urgently or it's bedtime. 

My U thingy arrived a few days later and was quickly incorporated into the comfy-ness! 

The beautiful thing is that it's really for my office but since it's portable and only weighs 18lbs, I can move it back and forth to the living room easily!

Now I just need to keep the dogs from thinking it's an over-sized dog bed...

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Hanging around with "my kids"... Literally

About two years ago one of my best friends brought some raffle tickets to a girls getaway. She was fundraising for her son's JROTC program. A few months later she called and told me that not only had I won... I won the grand prize! (I also won another prize for a furnace cleaning but... The company is in NH so we gave that one back to give to someone else.)

I hadn't really paid attention to the prizes as I was just buying $5 of raffle tickets to support Joe. Suz had to remind me what the grand prize was... It turns out that I won two tickets on the canopy tour (zip line) at Bretton Woods Resort. Yay!

Unfortunately I couldn't use it last year due to my hip surgery and thankfully, BWR extended the expiration date. But THIS was the year I was going to do it and THIS was the weekend to do it!

After trying to con A into joining me... I had to branch out a bit. Eventually my friend Suzi's teenagers said they both wanted to go so I sprang for an extra ticket and off we went!

Ant is 12 and Juls is 15. I love them. I've not-so-secretly been trying to adopt them for years. They were once "our kids" on a camping trip so I tell them that they ARE ours but we are still working on the custody arrangements. 

Anyway... They are the kind of kids that just dive right in to whatever situation they are presented with and they usually do it while cracking me up! 

We arrived at 9am in 47* weather with a heavy fog covering the basin of Bretton Woods. Thankfully by the time we'd gotten rigged up and were halfway up the chairlift, we had risen above the fog and found some sunshine. It was gorgeous!

From the top of the chairlift we hiked about ten minutes to the little training zip line where you learn how to slow down, put on the brakes, and haul yourself to the end of the zip line if you stop too soon. Then we were off!

Ahead of us were nine zip lines, two rope bridges, and three rappelling stations. (Just after the first zip line is when Juls announced she had to pee... Which is impossible in a full body harness 50+ feet above the ground on a platform with seven other people. She just had to hold it...)

We spent about 2.5 hours zipping, crossing the bridges, and rappelling - the kids were amazing! They didn't panic at all and (despite really needing to pee!) they had a great time! We ALL did!

And it didn't hurt that we had multiple GORGEOUS views of the Mt. Washington Hotel and the Mt. Washington Observatory!

So... Would I do it again? Absolutely!

The funny thing is that the other family we were with told me that my "daughter" had beautiful eyes and my "son" looks just like me. Ha ha! Later when we went to lunch the person there also thought they were my kids. Apparently they really ARE meant to be my kids... Too bad they wouldn't fit in the car on the way home!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Cozy but doable...

Before A officially launched his firearms business he wasn't allowed to accept payment for teaching. A few months ago he taught a class to some local fellows and one of them decided that in lieu of payment, he would loan us his house in NH. It turned out to be in the next town over from where our good friends live so we happily accepted!

For months we've been planning to go up for a weekend in the fall and in early September we finally decided on Columbus Weekend for a variety of reasons - 1) The owners weren't using the house. 2) It's a long weekend. 3) It's our seventh anniversary weekend (WOW!). 4) Some of our other good friends were available the same weekend and could join us. 5) Who doesn't want to be in northern New England on Columbus Weekend (which should be just about peak leaf season)?

Once we settled on the weekend we started kicking around the idea of doing a fundraiser for our friends that live there as their daughter had just been through an expensive health issue that kept her in the hospital for a few weeks and required intensive physical and occupational therapy after she got home. Brilliant idea! But we didn't know how to get it rolling in a town where they know everyone and we know no one. Thankfully one of her wonderful local friends volunteered to head up the potluck event. Fabulous!

So our other friends decided to come along too (okay... I dragged them into it lovingly). 

Knowing the house we were staying in slept 11 was all I really cared about - a bed for every butt. It turns out that the house might really be more "camp-like" as it sleeps eleven people... But eight of them are in four queen beds in a loft. 

For us gals - we do this all the time. We are quite accustomed to jamming six people into a tiny suite and sharing one bathroom. It's what we do. We are so happy to be together that we don't really care about stepping over suitcases or standing in line to go pee in the morning. We are sisters. Most of us have been roommates at one time or another and we've all been through pledging where it's a right of passage to have survived at least a week with 5+ girls in one teeny dorm room sleeping on three twin mattresses. Actual beds are a luxury compared to that!

But the guys are a different story. It's not their greatest desire to hang out in their jammies giggling or solving first world problems or re-living ancient college stories until we are laughing so hard that at least one of us needs an inhaler and another needs a dependable undergarment. But we've married GOOD guys. Men. All of them are men. GOOD men! They come along on these less-than-blissful "vacations" because they love us. They often spend their time corralling kids, making multiple grocery store runs, or simply entertaining themselves (together or alone - they don't care) because they know that this is an opportunity that we don't get very often. They know we are busy women that live too far apart and value each other so deeply that these silly little get-togethers in less-than-ideal accommodations fill our friendship love cups for a while. 

So as the weekend approaches, my wish is this: For a bathroom door that not only closes but locks so B's husband can not yell "I'm in here" repeatedly while conducting his business. A bed for D's husband so he doesn't have to sleep on the couch. A nearby Dunkin Donuts for my husband so when it's time for his daily dose of black ice tea and ten minutes alone he doesn't have to suffer. And earplugs for all of them because let's face it... 20+ years later we gals still find each other so hilarious and entertaining that we might still be cackling away when the sun comes up. It's happened before......

Monday, October 7, 2013

Random smile inducers...

Sometimes I go through the pictures on my phone with the intention of deleting a bunch of them... But I usually end up getting rid of a few and holding on to hundreds because they bring me joy. Here is a sampling...

This is my vet's new puppy named Squirt. He's a Pitt bull and bull terrier mix. I have to keep myself from spending the day playing with him!

This is a pile of stuff collected on North Beach Island where we've been doing trash clean ups for months. This has become a sculpture with people adding skulls, buoys, drift wood etc. 

Sunset over Coast Guard Beach in Eastham. Enough said...

My niece made these for me when she was bored in my office this summer. I love her. 

Our goofy adventurers...

Don't even need to say a thing about this one! 

Happy day, everyone!