Sunday, January 28, 2007

Reconnecting.....and reminiscing

It was a wonderful weekend; filled with reconnections with old friends and good times. I am so glad I made the drive out to a SMALL (2000 people) town in WI to visit an old friend. We went to college together and due to a variety of factors, (none of which are good excuses - but distance, life, relationships, family, etc) we have been in touch rather infrequently in the past 8 years. I hate that that has to happen to friends, so when the opportunity presented itself to find some good old fashioned chat time, I jumped at the chance. I was not disappointed.

She was kind enough to offer to let me stay overnight and I'm so glad I did. It was a lovely 24 hours spent getting to know her 2 children (3 years old and 11 mos) and her husband, as well as catching up on their lives in the past few years. I brought books and small gifts to her children. I love books as gifts and the reactions of her children are the reason why. They LOVE to be read to and had read the books 10 times each by the time I left. Her 3 year-old sat through the entirety of Make Way for Ducklings (an adorable story based around the city of Boston). It's not a short book and has pencil drawn pictures, but she loved it. We share our first name, and we bonded after a few shy minutes. She is a sweet and innocent child, who loves to iron Kleenex (her mom shares that she realized that she must not iron enough - her daughter tried to iron her pretend toast the other day! :)). Her brother is a little spitfire with a mischievous smile and a sparkle in his eye. They are such well-behaved children.

It makes think long and hard about the benefits of living in a quiet little corner of the world. This family has a beautiful home with wonderful children. My friend has made the choice to stay home with their children and they obviously are benefitting from their mom's dedication. It is not perfect. Dad works long hours and travels for most of the week, but it's what works for them. It is truly incredible to see your friends as parents.

My memories of this friend include lunch chats, the occasional basement frat party, or night out on the town. Seeing her as a mother is something so phemonal. It's not as a new mother, still feeling her oats and getting her bearings. It's as a mom who is comfortable in her skin as a mother and loves spending time with her kids. I am so glad that I was able to witness this. We stayed up late, my friend and I, long after the children went to sleep, the neighbors left, and her husband left us to visit (after having cooked us dinner - does he have a brother? ;)). We finished up one bottle of wine, opened another, reminisced, and reconnected. In the morning, her happy children were awake and I was so content to be in the midst of this pictureque family scene. I am so happy when my friends are happy.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The scenic route....with a few bumps ;)

This is what my day consisted of yesterday…….

It’s an all day trip from the East Coast to a small airport in WI. As the agent said to me when I checked my bags, “You’re taking the scenic route huh?” There are only two airlines that fly into this airport so I didn’t have much choice, but……

I like to travel and for the most part, (if time is on my side), I don’t care how long it takes me. I love to people watch and I could do it for hours. Although security at the airport is increased, I was able to arrive at 11am for a noon flight (I always check-in online). Security was easy-peasy, no line (although my bag did have to be hand checked – probably my knitting ;)) and my express bus ride to the airport was EARLY! I love when things go right (because prior to that – the morning was not going so well as I ALMOST missed the bus).

Like I said with all the changes, the airport is sometimes a hectic place to be….I love that they have put these all along several hallways. It is so peaceful and quiet and allows you to just relax in all the hustle and bustle. I had time to sit for a few minutes today.

It turns out the rushing this morning was silly… flight was delayed more than 1 ½ hours. I rarely have this problem on the more “fun” airlines – Southwest, JetBlue etc….but with the bigger, older airlines – it seems there’s always a delay. Lucky for me – it doesn’t stress me out. I’ve had many airline adventures (including sharing a hotel room in NJ with an old woman from India – but that’s another post). It turned out that it was a fortunate twist of fate that the flight was delayed. I would have missed my connection to Chicago in DC so they rebooked me on a direct flight to Chicago!! Wooo-hoo!!!

I was early into Chicago and my flight to WI was delayed. I played on the computer and people watched (no knitters though, hmm.....), but I was hungry. Nothing in the airport appealed to me and I had had JUNK airport food for lunch. I finally landed in WI and I have NEVER seen such a small airport. We walked down 10 stairs and there were our bags coming off the only baggage claim in the place. I turned left and there was my rental car company. I stood there signing forms while I watched for bag on the belt! :)

Unfortunately, my bags were not there. I knew this was a real possibility when I started out because my itinerary was changed around so much. I asked the Hertz lady where to go if my bags were missing - she pointed me to a counter across the way. A woman there told me to ring the bell, but if they didn't come right away, it might be because they were just finishing up unloading their plane. A guy came out and took my info. He told me it should arrive on the 9:30pm flight and that it would be brought to my hotel.....BY HIM. Really I think he was the person who singlehandedly ran the airline in this airport. I was amused, having come from such a large and busy airport.

All in all, it was a long day with no major problems. My hotel is lovely, right on the Mississipi River I think (based on what I can see from the window **Ooops I stand corrected - it's the Black river)! I ate alone in their restaurant, which I don't do very often. It was almost empty, save two other tables, so I was very obvious. I had salmon because I was starving for a real meal and it did not disappoint. I should have brought my knitting or a book, but it seemed rude. Rude to whom I don't know. It's just a weird feeling to eat in public like that with no one to talk to. Travelling alone, no problem. Love it. Eating alone, still working on that one. ;)

Today I'm off on a little adventure to visit an old college friend whom I haven't seen in 9 years and meet her children. Tomorrow - the wedding! :)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A little chubby......

Seriously.....can you imagine? These whoopie pies are almost as big as my face. My friend sent them to my office for my birthday. Either she loves me and knows me well or she wants me to gain 10lbs quickly.

She mentioned that she had sent a surprise but it wouldn't arrive until the day after my birthday. Someone came into my office and said "WHAT are WICKED WHOOPIES?" Aha I thought! There were 2 boxes - 24 various and assorted flavors, mint, chocolate chip, raspberry, and traditional. A woman in ME started the business, and it has just exploded in the past couple of years. There are several more flavors on their website. They ship all over the country and have been featured in many magazines, TV shows, etc. If only I could come up with an idea like that! ;) I make whoopie pies, but I would never have thought to do something like this.

Anwyay, they were delicious, but it took me 2 hours to eat one because they were so sweet. Of course I shared with my office, my friend and several others, but I still have a couple to freeze for later.....when I need a sugar injection! ;)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Hold the candle - I'd like a torch please!

Happy Birthday to me....for a few more minutes. In an unlikely recap, I only took a picture this morning on my way out the door of the pretty (and sparse) snow we received overnight. I stopped at my favorite lunch spot for a corn muffin (toasted the way I like it and not NUKED) and cafe mocha treat (which I NEVER get - Hooray for birthday presents for yourself! :)). During the day at my office, every time there was a problem - I said (in my head) "It's ok - today is my birthday" and the stress just melted away. I refused to allow stress to hang around today and everything got done. (Of course I endured hearing my staff tell me how young I am and how they had children older than me.) Ah well.....they left a sweet card on my desk today and were very kind in helping me leave work somewhat on time!

On to the title of my post....I LOVE creme brulee. It is a love cultivated later in life, on a cruise in my 20s that holds so many fun memories and adventures that I smile just thinking about it. While out for my birthday dinner tonight, I spied creme brulee on the "specials of the evening" menu. My face LIT UP and nothing else mattered. I dutifully ordered a butternut squash ravioli appetizer (YUMMY) and a chicken braccialtone (?Sp) with roasted potatoes. It was also delish, but I only ate a small portion so I'd have room for my creme brulee. When the waitress returned with our "doggie bags" to inquire about dessert - I ordered it and a cup of tea. Alas, a moment later she returned to tell me --- OH NO -- they were all out. Oh yes, and to add insult to injury - they were out because the table behind us had "saved" some when they came in (30 minutes after us). Who "saves" dessert when they get to a restaurant? Apparently, they had come before and the restaurant was out so they weren't about to miss out this time. I was crushed. I ended up ordering no dessert because nothing can compare to creme brulee for me. I like cakes and cookies but.....ooooh that crunchy top.

**Add to list of things to purchase at some point: Torch to make my own creme brulee. ;)

Monday, January 22, 2007

The best laid plans..... ;)

I'm sitting on my couch at 10pm eating this chocolate chip cookie dough that I found through Amanda. Why? Because my mother always let us eat dough in the days before salmonella and I like to live on the edge. Because I made these cookies Friday night for a scrapbook group (which I turned into a knitting group for my purposes ;)) and had dough leftover. Because I stayed at work until 9pm and didn't have dinner.

And, yes, because tomorrow I will be one year older and actually "in my 30s" (how is that possible?). I can eat cookie dough if I want to. I'm not overly depressed about this one. Last year was the big one and my girls gathered 'round; spoiling me at the spa and at an awesome dinner with good friends! This year I'll be traveling to WI at the end of the week for a wedding, so there won't be much celebrating and I'm ok with that.

I'm trying not to feel old. There's a country song - Something's Gotta Give - and....the words....touch me somewhere.....

"Jenny's got a job,
a cat named Jake,
31 candles on her birthday cake
Next year
Thought by now she'd have a man,
Two car seats and a minvan
But it still ain't here (hey!)"

The song goes on....but honestly - those words. I didn't necessarily think I'd have a minivan (ok I never thought I'd have one).....but I did figure on at least a husband and one child on the way. I wasn't the kind of girl who planned out every minute of a wedding, my life, etc. I had way too many other things to think about, but in the back of my mind, 30 was sort of a magic number. I just always figured I'd be a mom by now. Certainly it's still an option.....

So, I'm working on a new vision for the back of my mind. Sometimes, the best things are those we don't plan.

**Pity party ends here**

I didn't plan for my best friend's husband to be in the military (which caused him to be away when their first child was born). By default, I became her labor coach, was there when their child was born by C-section and spent the first 6 months of his life basically serving as his second parent. That beautiful and loving child (my Godson) is now a fresh (but adorable) 2 1/2 year old. Unfortunately, his parents' marriage did not survive, but I treasure those months of parenting and love. They live too far away now for me be as involved, but hearing "I wuve ou Auntie" on the phone is probably the sweetest thing I've ever heard. You never can tell what surprises life holds for you......

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


All my life I have wished I could wear the cute pants that my friends had.....or buy that cute jacket I saw at the mall last week....however when you are the tallest person in your class from Grade 2 just can't least not without looking silly. I'm pushing 5'11" and everything about me is LONG. The only time that pants seemed to fit me was in the 80s when everyone tucked their pants into two layers of socks? (If I could find a picture, I'd post it... :))

I am deliriously happy that now I can shop tall online. I can find tall pants at Banana, GAP, VS, Ann Taylor, JCrew online. Unfortunately, they don't all offer other items, but I'll take the pants. At GAP online, I've even seen EXTRA Tall. When I buy these, I can wash my khakis AND throw them in the dryer!!! I am a content girl.

Although I still wish I could go to the store, I'll take online shopping over nothing. BR now has an entire tall section. After living with sleeves that barely covered my forearms for most of my life, the prospect of clothes that fit is sometimes confusing. I try something on and think - is this too big? No, in fact, it just fits. ;) A warm coat that fits across the shoulders and covers my chilly wrists? AMAZING. A skirt that isn't MINI on me? PERFECT. It's the little things really. I've had jeans that were long enough for awhile now. I'm just glad that now I can buy outfits that fit. Of course they come at a price (doesn't everything) which probably will not help with my New Year's goal of working towards a better financial picture, but clothes that fit. A novel idea. (Oh and why do they charge more for tall things, but they don't charge less for petite things?)

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Giving Thanks

There were a lot of posts that I didn't get to between Thanksgiving and New Year's. Now, there are a couple I'd still like to write. One is about Thanksgiving. We were in CT with my mom's brother and family, and my 90 year old grandfather. It has always been one of my favorite places in the world, my grandpa's farm. It has been in our family for generations and when I was young it was such a special getaway. I don't know that I have any digital pics of the farm itself, so I will do my best to describe it. My grandma would be cooking up something in the kitchen, even during the hottest summers. She always ate my burnt toast because she said it made your hair curly. My grandfather and my uncle would be planting or picking, fixing the tractors, preparing for a farmer's market, chatting with neighbors or visitors to the farm stand, or driving children on the hay ride to pick pumpkins. In the cold winter, my grandfather would be in the greenhouse planting for the next season. It was not a perfect place. There were always several old cars around and something needed fixing. Nonetheless, I would wander for hours, exploring the brook that meandered over the farm, or visiting with the girls who worked summers picking. I hated tomatoes, but I loved picking them fresh off the vine. We would always have fresh vegetables with dinner and catch fireflies in the evening. If there was a thunder and lightning storm (which my grandma and I loved), she would let us stand on the porch and watch the fantastic show. At the T Family Farm, it was ok to get dirty and the days lasted forever. As I got older, I worked on the stand helping people pick the best fresh vegetables and watching over my younger siblings and cousins. I loved using the old-fashioned cash register and hearing the stories of people who had been coming here for years. My uncle had revived this farm with my grandfather and somehow made a living at it when few people in this area were able or interested. It made me proud and so happy.

The stand doesn't run anymore, although the T Family Farm sign still hangs at the end of the long driveway leading to my grandpa's farmhouse. He's 90 and he doesn't get out to the greenhouse in the winter. He still plants in the house though and occasionally ambles down to check out the pond we used to skate on. He is an amazing man - his skin is perpetually tan and leathery from the weather - and he could tell you everything about raising bees for honey. Grandpa and I would ride to NY State in the later years to pick up fresh corn when we couldn't keep up with the demand. We would leave early in the morning and drive through little villages and talk. My uncle still grows some vegetables and hires several men to pick for him. He goes to three farmer's markets a week and is always generous with customers. If someone is trying to decide whether to try his garlic, he throws it for free and tells them to try it and see how they like it.

My aunt and uncle have always lived a simple life. I adored my aunt as a child. She seemed so much "cooler" than my mom. I think she was just a hippie. She wore bikinis when we went to the beach. She took me shopping (she only had boys) and she taught aerobics. When she went to aerobics at 5am, I went along to swim and have "Auntie" time. In case you couldn't tell, I loved everything about that place.

I have 3 male cousins. My aunt and uncle live in an old house with wood beams, and no TV. As a child, I wondered how my cousins survived (and we didn't watch much TV at our house!). For Thanksgiving, it was my brother and I and 2 of my cousins. The 2 younger cousins (my sister and my cousin) were out of the country. It was calm and relaxing, family style food and wonderful family time. While we were there, I read an article in the paper about my uncle. It made me very proud of my family.

The story is about how my uncle wants to make sure the land for the farm stays protected. My mom and uncle own all the land, because my grandpa thought it best. The story detailed that there is no one in the family who wants to take over the farm and that my uncle has been thinking about how best to protect it. He has been making arrangements with the city to make sure it is protected land that can't be sold to developers or turned into shopping malls or housing developments. We will retain some land with the houses and the there will be city parks and walking trails. There will be nature learning for students and open space. How great is that? I am so proud to be a part of a family who are so well-grounded and who care about our environment and future. It made me very thankful to have grown up with such great role models.

I only hope that my cousins and siblings can live up to the great examples in our family....

2 cousins (plus one significant other), me and my bro

** This is such a long post, but it was a feeling I wanted to document before I forgot it or it faded.**

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Back at the office.....

Not only was today my first day back (since Friday but whatever) but it was my very dear friend's first day back after a 3 month maternity leave. She told me the other day that she had not ordered any pictures (some of which can be seen here) of her son to have in her office when she returned. I decided to solve this problem. I also decided to make her first day back a bit merry. So, I shopped for a "Welcome Back" banner - do you know how hard this is to find? They make many Happy Birthday banners, Welcome Home banners, Baby banners, etc. I persevered and found one though.

I purchased several different photo holders (otherwise known as frame type things), ones that spin, collage types and the requisite "I love Mom" frame. I cut pictures to fit. I went into my office at 9pm last night to set everything up, on the off chance she MIGHT arrive before me today (HA - new mother, first day back to work - be early? :))

I baked, of course. A quick family favorite, Mom's Sour Cream Coffee Cake (a recipe she got from a woman she used to babysit for which must make it 50-70 years old?) which earns rave reviews from almost everyone.
Apologies for the crummy picture - it's the best I could do at 1am! :)

I got to work and she wasn't there, but her office loooked perfect!

I got settled and kept checking for her. She came in - looking beautiful and happy - and just barely frazzled (her husband was taking the babe to daycare after all). I gave her a hug and followed her to her office where she smiled at my decorations, opened her office door, took one look, and promptly dissolved into tears. OOOPS. I made her cry. After another quick hug, I fanned her face and we breathed. Crisis averted. She was thrilled.

Mission accomplished.

“If you're alone, I'll be your shadow. If you want to cry, I'll be your shoulder. If you want a hug, I'll be your pillow. If you need to be happy, I'll be your smile. But anytime you need a friend, I'll just be me.” - Anonymous

P.S. I forgot on my list of things for this year - research and purchase a NEW, REAL camera. I outgrew my point and shoot long ago and I can avoid this no longer. (secretly --- VERY excited. :))

Monday, January 01, 2007

Looking ahead.....

“An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.” - Bill Vaughn

Thinking about next year.....I feel....excited.... apprehensive..... and calm. It's strange. Today is just another day that holds just as many possibilities as yesterday, but we have built it up to be SOMETHING big. I admit it. I'm just like the next person.

This year:

I will continue to work on my finances so that I feel good about the way I am handling them.
I will save my money, research, and purchase a bike.
I will learn more knitting techniques and make something for myself.
I will travel far and wide - including WI, MN, NC, NY, and VA in the first 2 months - hopefully AU and IRE will make it on the "far" part of the list.
I will continue to bake, but work to improve my cooking skills.
I will do some form of exercise 5 times a week.
I will be thankful to have my siblings all in the same country.
I will appreciate my parents for what they are and be thankful to have them both living.
I will spoil the babies in my life with love and attention and perhaps a few little hand knit items. :)
I will spend time making sure my godson "P" knows how special he is to be the one who made me an "Auntie" and how much his mother (my best friend) means to me.
I will make time for the important things in life - friends and family.
I will learn to sew - FINALLY - so I can stop being jealous of all the beautiful things on other people's blogs.
I will do what I need to to keep my License in Social Work current, so that I can go back when I'm ready.
I will make time for myself and my life.
I will make an attempt to be more organized.

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day.” - Edith Lovejoy Pierce