Wednesday, December 26, 2018

'Tis the Season

While I have been focusing, for seemingly forever, on our new health insurance, what I should have been thinking of was our auto insurance. The Highway Patrol took care of that. How so, you ask? Well, a letter from said agency stating that my drivers license was suspended surely caught my attention in a flash. Christmas eve at 4:30 in the afternoon no less. Frantically calling our insurance company, thankfully with some super helpful and friendly folks still working, it is now sorted out, but I can tell you, it was a real downer. Here's what happened....the annual bill was sent to our old address and since it has been well more than a year, the bill was not forwarded, so it completely slipped my mind, just as it almost did last year while in Vancouver. Thankfully last year, I remembered in the nick of time. Maybe next November it will be smooth sailing once again.
Since last we met, I fried the chicken for Michelle's birthday dinner, making a huge mess of my stove in the process. The backsplash remained pristine.
Have no fear, some better electrical outlets are forthcoming. For the cake, I made a Pumpkin Bundt cake, a recipe I got from Bruce's Mom many, many, years ago. Searching high and low in every cupboard I finally found some candles we could use.
Those silly ones that keep re-lighting. The mac and cheese and fried chicken were a hit, I am happy to report.

Mr. Peck, keeping with our family tradition wrapped all of the gifts, this time in his office/guest room, rather than his garage, before Jonathan and Alissa arrived.
He puts us all to shame in that department with his legendary bow skills.
The weather has been all over the map with cold fronts coming through following big rainstorms, however, if my memory serves me right, these clouds were merely threatening, producing no rain.
For Bruce's retirement, Dave and Michelle insisted on taking us out to dinner, with Bill and Fallon joining us at a delicious Park Avenue restaurant. A woman kindly took a family photo.
Super fun, as we were leaving, a parade of old VW buses came down the avenue,
with one family waving from the roof of their van.
On our drive home we wanted to go by a house, seen only during the day, with an astounding amount of Christmas lights. Dave was driving and taking the street before the one we intended, much to our surprise, when we turned on the street with the display, before we got there, holy cow, what a sight! It was so large, Michelle got out to take a video.
Because they have an extra lot, the amount of lights was astounding!
I drove by there in the daylight and it looks like this:
Deflated characters everywhere,
including the Grinch in a tree.
The one we went to see looks like this in a few parts...
Part #2
Part #3
Their display includes so much, it is hard to just photograph one area, and in the daytime it shows up, if possible, even more how crazy it is.
Honestly, how do they do it?

More steam rising off of the lake which is captivating in person.
Finally I got around to making some Christmas cookies, using another old recipe from Bruce's Mom, one way of keeping her in our thoughts at Christmas time. Where in the world I got this old cookie cutter is beyond me, but when I came across it, I thought you would get a kick out of it. For the record, I did not use it!
Once the cookies were baked, I ran over to see Maureen with a plate full. It feels pretty surreal to imagine Bruce, those many years ago, working on this building.
Bruce went to the airport for the pick up, and it was so good to see our Jon boy and Alissa once again. Christmas Eve, they went to the movies while I made sugar cookies which pleased Jonathan to no end as they are the preferred Christmas cookie in his book. Maureen loves anything ginger, so she was happy with my first batch. Although we had good plans to go to church, it didn't happen, instead Hallmark was in the house.

Finally, Christmas morning came, with three of our four sons with us. We so miss Matt and Tom, however, with Facetime available, well it almost felt like they were here too. And Tom's Mum and Dad who we adore. Presents were opened, spiked egg nog was drunk, and fun was had by all.
Later on we drove to Longwood to Lisa and Danny's home where we were greeted by this very fun doormat and an open door due to the heat.
I suspect it is hard to fathom for folks living in a cold climate but shorts were worn and outdoor seating was in use. Lisa and Pat enjoying the cool on their patio.
The food was yummy and the company even better.
However, the star of the show had to be Eliza who is even cuter than when she visited us in Vancouver!
Not too much later, she was fast asleep. :)

Our kids gave us many wonderful gifts that will be making an appearance in Camera Crazy, with two from Matt and Tom arriving first in this space because they came from so far! Bruce is wearing his new favorite shirt, made by Gant, a brand he used to buy with his lawn mowing money as a tiybg teenager. While it is still slightly cool, he will be wearing either this shirt, or a denim shirt!
Maybe four years ago, Matt taught himself to knit from watching Youtube videos and wow, has become good, although if you know Matt, that does not surprise you in the least. A close up of the beautiful shawl he made for me this year.
I have no idea what the stitches are, yet one thing I know is that they look mighty complicated to someone who has never picked up a knitting needle in their life. And now for some weather to use it!

I do so hope everyone found some joy this holiday season....

your friend,

Gail


Thursday, December 20, 2018

We Have a Backsplash!

Have you ever wondered about the phrase it is raining cats and dogs? It came to mind this rainy morning that is wetter then I can remember for a December day. The kind of day we experienced last year in Vancouver when our lit Christmas tree was such a solace. The same holds true for this soggy day when it is expected to rain all day long, with tornadoes possibly in the mix.
And while the rain is a problem in a Pacific Northwest winter, it is probably the short days that get to a person the most. And do I mean short...the sunset in Vancouver today, one day away from the Winter Solstice, is at 4:14 PM.  If that weren't bad enough, the sunrise is at 8:03 AM. You feel as if the day is just getting going and then it is dark again. So, two things to share....facts about the Winter Solstice, and the phrase "raining cats and dogs", both of which I think you will find fascinating should you care to click on the links. That said, I fully understand if you aren't interested because not everyone shares the same level of curiosity as this blogger. 😁

With the weather news out of the way, let's talk about that backsplash, shall we? It is not the first time that we've had a worker that does not speak English, however, Tony presented our biggest challenge yet, as far as communication. Whoa Nelly...it was difficult. Especially when B was telling him some of the tiles needed to come out as he deemed them not good enough. Oddly enough, he arrived at 8:30 in the morning, and although there was only a small section remaining, it ended up taking until 6:30, by which time I was going crazy! We understood him to say that he was not going to grout until Tuesday, meaning day six without a working kitchen. I know some folks would relish that, but I'm not one of them. Phone calls were made and help arrived.
Between the two of them, we finally had our kitchen back and despite the set backs, I could not be any happier with the end result.
It seems as if the kitchen will never get done at this rate though. Allegedly, the cabinets will be get their fresh coat of paint next month, and now with the new backsplash, the walls need a different color. I received a letter a few days ago and Kathy mentioned that we get things done fast, however, to me, this seems like anything but fast! Then again, what's my hurry, other than wanting a pretty kitchen? It is not like we are going anywhere!

In the meantime, it was Pastor Sean's 50th birthday on Sunday, celebrated after the service with two cakes.
Later on we went to Hill's Happy Hour, meeting up with our friends, where we saw their mini Eiffel Tower before it was lit.
I can't remember where Cathy got it, but being French, she wanted to bring some of her heritage to Orlando.
Looking festive as always, Lisa,
is the youngest member of our gang. She and Orin came bearing gifts of olive oil, made by one of their friends.
Bonus for an owl ornament on the bags! Speaking of gifts, I told you about the gift from Matt and Tom, well we now have two of these, albeit one without roses.
Astonishing how good they still look, but maybe there is something with pink roses as I remember Michelle having a bouquet of them remained lovely for about ten days. It was her birthday yesterday, preceded by my sister Lisa's birthday on the 18th. Hard to know which is worse, having a birthday a week before Christmas, or a week after, although I have plenty of experience of the later. I had asked Michelle if I could fix her a birthday dinner and then darn, if I did not cancel it. Well duh! I'd forgotten that we had tickets to see the Orlando Gay Chorus at church. Graciously she accepted my second offer of tonight. Guess what she requested? Fried chicken!

As to the concert, it was great! They performed over the weekend at the Plaza Live, a longer program than we were treated to, which if our experience was any indication of the quality, well, it must have been fabulous! Founded in 1990, there are still some original members, and as the conductor pointed out, forming a gay chorus in Orlando of that era must have been anything but easy. There were numbers by the full chorus, and then some mini groups, including this bunch doing a funny rendition of Frosty the Snowman.
Two members, including the standing woman with the cane are 85 years old! Her voice, ending the program, was clear as a bell.
It had been more than a week since an interesting sunrise appeared until this one from two days ago. Not nearly as dramatic, but pretty nonetheless.
A couple of days ago, I was at my computer when I saw a Wood Stork right outside my window, another bird that is a first sighting for me on our lake.
And while I've seen my share of these prehistoric looking birds on other lakes, seeing it on Lake Willisara was quite the thrill. Their head is not much to write home about, but once they are flying, it is a sight to see those black tipped wings.
You will be happy to learn that Bruce has navigated his nearly two weeks of retirement like a champ, volunteering, exercising, and watching Hallmark movies! Plus, the DIY network, which he's only just discovered. I was super glad he was here on Monday to sort out that mess!

Countless times I've mentioned that we both dislike driving at night, which was one of the great things about living in downtown Vancouver, not worrying about that. Here, with everything so spread out, well, mostly we just stay home at night. So, it was with great delight that on our way home last night, I had Bruce drive me by that home I showed you during Halloween that had such a highly decorated lawn. That display was nothing compared to how it looks at Christmas time!
For such a sophisticated home, it sure puzzles me. Of course I know nothing about the Minions aside from the name.
So much that I could not include it all in one shot! Being the practical sorts, we wondered how much a display like this cost to both purchase, and operate.

I do not recommend remodeling during Christmas as it has taken my mind off of important things, such as that Jonathan and Alissa will be her in but three days time. Plus, there will be no handmade gifts from Mrs. Peck this year which just feels wrong.

Lord willing, there is always a next year.

your friend,

Gail

Sunday, December 16, 2018

A Crazy Week

I suspect that I am not alone in describing their last week as crazy, after all, it is that time of the year, isn't it? But the thing is, I'm not even talking about Christmas preparations, because aside from our tree and outdoor lights, there hasn't been enough of that going on in this household. Let me explain...

Firstly, no doubt you are wondering how Maureen is doing and I wish I could report that she is well, but the truth is, she's pretty miserable right about now. The surgery was successful, but the aftermath is no picnic. As reported earlier, she is doing her rehab at the tower where she is now living, so that is one good thing. My fear is the recovery will be a very slow process, however, nothing would make me happier than to prove myself wrong. Carol has her good days and bad. Obviously, we wish there were more good. Nancy has the horrific cold going around which means half of the Price kids are pretty much a mess, 10 days before Christmas.

Nevertheless, we had a party to prepare for, and that we did. Did I mention it was really four mini parties, held on Wednesday from 6-9? Years ago, Cathy Hill organized a progressive dinner that was a lot of fun which got me to thinking that perhaps we could do a version of it, here at the complex. Four of us agreed to be hosts, invitations were sent via email, and refreshments were made ready. The great thing about doing something like this is that no one has too much of a burden.

Beginning at Sandy's place, she served a delicious White Sangria, presented beautifully.
The pepperoni roll and Caprese salad on skewers was super yummy.
Although our places aren't huge, twenty plus people posed no problem at all. Another fun thing about this was seeing the same floor plan decorated in four different ways.
Called a Christmas Crawl, we next went to David and Michelle's which was only just down the steps, and over one place, yet a world away as far as decor.
Oh, the shrimp was good there!
Sandy, our first hostess, had taken down the wall separating the kitchen from the living area, whereas David and Michelle kept theirs intact, as have we. Their kitchen is always a gathering spot.
From there we walked down to our place, well actually I left a few minutes early to check on the tater tots in the oven and make the punch. I am so loving that delay on the oven as it was going off just as I came in the door. Earlier we'd moved our dining table to the wall, allowing more space for folks to reach the food.
That is Connie, our final hostess, who lives just above us, and one over. So, I said I made punch, a last minute idea, and what kind of punch did I make, you ask? The easiest punch ever, is my answer! One can of frozen apple juice, one cup of Fireball whiskey, and one bottle of Sprite. Yup, that's all there is to it, and although I'd never tried it before, I figured it was probably pretty good, and turns out my instincts were right. So, that was a hit, however, the buffalo chicken meatballs, all 70 of them, made by yours truly, were not so great as the sauce was just plain too spicy. Or at least it was to me. The other batch of meatballs in a bar-b-que type sauce were better. And then, who doesn't like tater tots?

The smaller the room, the more people seem to gather...
Gail, one of the nice ladies we've met here, is signaling folks that it is time to move on.
This cute jacket worn by Penny...
Connie, too, has opened her place up.
For Christmas she brings out the Santas she has collected for years.
They come in all shapes and sizes.
A Puerto Rican rum punch, made with coconut milk, was oh so yummy, as were the cookies, nuts and cheeses. Before leaving some of the ladies could not help but love on Michelle's soft jacket. Actually, there were two Michelles (dark haired), two Sandys, and two Gails at the party. Weird, right?
So that was all great, but here's where some of the crazy business comes in. A week ago Friday, Matt and Tom mentioned to Bruce during their call that he should expect something to be delivered as a retirement gift. Nothing came Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and finally, it must have been Tuesday morning that I contacted Matt, saying nothing had arrived. After work, he checked into it and Wednesday afternoon, around 4, a delivery person arrived with a lovely live plant arrangement in a basket with two bonus cut roses. How nice that it arrived before the gathering. Plus, I was able to point to it during the party and toast Bruce's retirement with our friends. So, it was with great surprise that when we returned home later, we found yet another basket on the front porch! And now there are two lovely live plant arrangements. Furthermore, a text had come through from Fran, the woman who bought our home, saying I had a Wayfair delivery that went there! As well, she said her husband, Bill, received a promotion and they are moving to California for five years, although they intend to keep the house as she said they love it. (a little pang of sadness was felt by this blogger)

Early Thursday morning, Bruce went over to pick up the package, while I quickly cleaned the kitchen because, well, in a bit of crazy timing, the backsplash tile was in and they could begin installation at 9AM. Woo hoo--two months after beginning my search, it was finally happening. Meanwhile, Bruce went off to work on the plane with John and the other fellows.  They arrived, Jeremy, from the place I bought the tile, and Angel and Tony from the tile setting company. And why so many you ask? Jeremy, to make sure it was done to a high standard, Angel to translate ,and Tony to set the tile. Angel is Colombian and speaks English. Tony is from Cuba and does not which is okay except when we tried to communicate after Angel left! At any rate, the work began with him covering the kitchen floor with paper and moving the range into the middle of the room.
As it turns out, this pattern is not all that easy to install and Tony took his time, figuring it all out.
He quit working around 5 that afternoon, returning on Friday and kept at it. I will say I am delighted with our choice.
At least on Friday I could leave the house as Bruce was home. Michelle almost died laughing when, later that evening, I told her that we had our first ever Publix sub for lunch that day. Whenever Jonathan comes home that is one of the first thing he does--head to Publix for a sub! Which I suspect he will want to do again when he and Alissa arrive on the 23rd from Austin.

Which brings me to the package that went to our old home. One thing about living in a complex are the floodlights everywhere, some of which point to bedrooms allowing way too much light to enter. As such, I knew that it would be difficult to get a good night's sleep in the guest bedroom, so I'd been searching, and I do mean searching, for some curtains to augment the shades I had put in before we left. We love having 10' ceilings but it does mean high windows that are not the average size for ready made curtains. At any rate, I finally found some on Wayfair ,and while Tony worked in the kitchen, Bruce worked in the guest room. The window looked like this.
And now they look like this.
Apparently, I am on a gold kick. These are black out curtains, so I'm hoping they will ensure sweet dreams! It was gloomy and rainy all day Friday, with Tony coming in and out a gazillion times. Guess what? Nearing 5, he tried to communicate, with great difficulty, that he needed to return "mañana" to finish. Naturally we weren't thrilled, but he is doing such a great job, we could not complain.

Saturday morning comes, Bruce goes to work with Habitat, and I await Tony. Calling the guard to let him know he's coming, the guard says no one can work on Saturdays. Say what? Long story short--he turned him away and we were not happy campers. The sad part is that as soon as we learned the guard was wrong,  I called Angel to call Tony, he'd gone too far to return. The range remains in the middle of the room and we've been scrambling to feed ourselves, however, if all goes according to our wishes, tomorrow he will finish. We will then be very happy campers!

The weather has been all over the map this week with this morning surprising us with a dense covering of fog. We were up before sunrise, but I could tell the fog was thick, and went out back to check it out. As I stood there, an owl silently flew onto a nearby branch. And I do mean silently. So strange, but what did I expect, having had such a crazy week?
Maybe next week, instead of a near white-out, there will, once again, be one of those glorious sunrises?

your friend,

Gail

Limping Along