Friday, December 19, 2014

Party gifts

This week my (real estate) work team had our Secret Santa gift exchange.  I was extremely fortunate to have Dawn as my Secret Santa.  We share a love of Chihuahuas.  She had 2 'seniors' when I came to work here, but both have since gone to heaven.  She was thrilled when we adopted Marvin, and then again when we adopted Walter.

Dawn knows me very well, including that my favorite cocktail is a Cosmo.  So this is what Dawn gave me for Christmas:
Click photo to enlarge
 I was absolutely speechless when I saw this.  This Chihuahua is nearly identical to Walter's coloring, with the exception of Walter's head markings.  The color, texture, even the pink inner ears is just amazingly accurate.  And notice the bottle of Cosmo mix he's holding, rather than a bottle of wine.  Two of my favorite things:  Chihuahuas and Cosmos!  How perfect is this for me??

I also attended an employee/entertainers appreciation party at the Blue Moon which also included a Secret Santa gift exchange.  In this case, you bring a gender-neutral gift since you don't know who will select it.  I found these groovy high ball glasses I really liked at HomeGoods, and figured they would be equally enjoyed by male or female:
Click photo to enlarge
Super cute, right?  So when its my turn to pick and unwrap a gift I get a deluxe poker set.  Yawn.  But this game also allows you to 'steal' a gift from someone else, so I decided to steal the high ball glasses!  Nobody knew I'd brought them, so I didn't feel tacky about stealing my own gift.  Despite my collection of vintage and new cocktail glasses, I really didn't have any high ball glasses so these will fill that void.  I couldn't be happier with both of my Secret Santa gifts this year!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

To-do list

At this time of year nearly everyone is busy shopping, wrapping, mailing, cooking, baking, traveling, and partying.  To make sure nothing gets overlooked you might have made yourself a to-do list.  

Hopefully your to-do list looks a little like this one:

Monday, December 15, 2014

Weekend redux

I worked on Sat, as usual, but left early in order to go home, change clothes, change cars, and get ready for the Lewes Christmas parade.  After lining up in my designated space in the staging area I put my decorations on Big Ella.
Honestly I don't do a lot to decorate Big Ella.  I mean, she's a work of art so I don't want a lot of decorations distracting people from her natural beauty.  So I put a lighted wreath on the front, a lighted wreath on the driver door mirror, and a wreath on the back.  
As usual, she was a big hit in the parade, with people hooting and hollering as we drove by.  Kids always want me to blow the horn, so I did that several times to their delight.
 
Steven & Thad and Rick & Nick parked at our house and walked with Spouse over to the parade.  Afterward we all met back at the house for dinner.  Spouse made lasagna, salad, and garlic bread.  Afterward we sat around and talked.  I snapped this terrific photo of Spouse holding Marvin & Walter.
I love this photo!!

Sun I had breakfast at the Crystal with Steven and Joe P.  Spouse wanted to sleep in since he has been recovering from a cold.  On the way home I stopped at 4 stores to see if I could find a nice 'party shirt' to wear to holiday parties, but couldn't find anything I liked or that fit me.

Once back at home Spouse & I decorated our mantle for Christmas by removing all our framed photos and putting up flameless candles and artificial fruit and greenery.  Rather than a photo, I took this video which shows the candles flickering.
video

Afterward Spouse and the dogs took a nap and I watched a little TV, then we met Steven & Thad and Joe P for dinner.  It was a nice weekend!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Cards, party, and karaoke

I'm not sure why, but this year I'm really behind with my Christmas cards.  And by 'really behind' I mean I haven't even started them.

This is not because I didn't have the cards, or the stamps, or the return address labels, or the list of recipients.  I've had all that stuff for at least 3 weeks.  For some reason I just haven't spread everything out on the table and gotten busy, until yesterday.

I put Marvin & Walter in their crates as if I were going to work, put the 'Soundscapes' music channel on softly so they wouldn't hear me in the other room, poured myself a cup of Dunkin Donuts Pumpkin Spice coffee, and got to it.

Rather than rotating through my Christmas CDs like usual, this time I went to Pandora on my iPhone, typed in Pentatonix Holiday and listened to that station via a bluetooth Sony speaker.  It worked great and I didn't have to stop what I was doing to change the CDs.

I got 76 cards written, hand-addressed, sealed, stamped, and into the mail, leaving me just 43 more to finish the job.  I actually paired down my list by 4 this year.

While this may sound like a chore, I actually like doing it.  I love to send brightly-colored cards, often times with glitter, that add beauty to the holiday season.

After dropping off the cards at the post office I got my hair cut, and then Spouse & I got dressed for my company's Christmas party.  It was held in a restaurant that was closed to the public.  The food was good, there was an open bar, a band, and everyone had a nice time.

I brought Spouse home, changed my clothes, and went to the Blue Moon for karaoke.  Normally I wouldn't go to a Christmas party and sing karaoke the same night, but I love singing Christmas songs at karaoke and there are only a few opportunities to do that between Thanksgiving and Christmas, which is the acceptable time to sing Christmas songs.  Since the company Christmas party was only a few blocks from the Blue Moon, about a dozen of my colleagues from work came to karaoke after the company party ended and got to hear me sing "Merry Christmas, Darling".  Karen Carpenter-style, of course.  It was a lot of fun!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wrapping for charity

Last week I wrote about our realtor association's shopping for a needy family for Christmas.  Yesterday I met up with a bunch of realtors to wrap all the gifts and clothes purchased on that shopping day. 

A local restaurant that is closed for the season donated the space so we could work on the dining tables, and even played Christmas music for us while we wrapped. 

I worked with my friend Joey again, and we wrapped gifts for 3 hours.  It was a lot of fun and it really makes me feel that I'm doing something good for those less fortunate.

You can check with your local social services to adopt a needy family in your area if you want to experience the same joy!

Monday, December 08, 2014

Weekend recap: Birthday edition

I sent this graphic to my friend Marty who had a birthday last week.  It is only too true, as most people have barely swallowed their last bite of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving before diving right into Christmas.  My birthday on Dec 7 usually has competition from Christmas parades, holiday parties, and the like.

On Sat I worked, as usual.  My colleague and friend Dawn gave me this adorable coffee mug for my birthday, since neither of us would be in the office on Sun, my actual birthday.  Its perfect!
Click to enlarge the photo to read the inscription. 

Sun morning we had my birthday breakfast at the Crystal restaurant, with Steven & Thad and Joe P.  Our favorite waiter got everyone's attention in the crowded restaurant and encouraged them to sing 'Happy birthday' to me, and I was presented with a pancake with a face drawn on it with whipped cream, and 2 blueberries as eyes.  We ate and talked and laughed.

Sun afternoon was quiet at our house.  Spouse came down with a cold on Fri and wasn't feeling very good by Sun afternoon, so he took a huge nap while I read blogs, surfed the internet, and set up our 4' Christmas tree.
As you can see, we did not put up our big Christmas tree this year.  Spouse didn't want to have a tree trimming party and I didn't want to decorate it by myself, so we decided to use our smaller, pre-lit tree.  Plus, having this smaller tree up on a table keeps it away from the curiosity of Walter.

Sun night Spouse & I went to Dos Locos with Steven & Thad and Joe P for my birthday dinner.  As usual, our food was delicious and we ate and talked and laughed even more.  After dinner we went to Steven & Thad's house for birthday cake and coffee.  

Spouse & I don't give each other birthday presents anymore.  After this many years, we have everything we need and most of what we want.  When there's something special we want, we usually don't wait for a birthday to get it for ourselves or each other.  For our 50th birthdays we gave each other trips.  

All in all, it was a nice, low-key birthday.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Christmas music

I may be in the minority, but I actually like it when a radio station switches its programming to all Christmas music.  Some of them jump the gun and do this the week of Halloween, which I do not condone.  One holiday at a time, people.

One annoyance of the 'all Christmas all the time' thing is the redundancy.  It seems that the station selects 12 songs and simply repeats them 24 hours a day.  I have literally heard the exact same version of the same song 5 times in the same day.  Not only is that ridiculous, but I also find it completely unnecessary.  Why not play the same songs but performed by different artists?  There are literally hundreds of artists that have released Christmas albums/CDs!  Why not pick songs from each of them and give listeners some variety, rather than playing the same 12 songs over and over again?!?!

While we're talking Christmas songs, can I share with you 2 songs I absolutely abhor?  "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" and "You're a Mean One Mr Grinch".  I thoroughly detest both of those songs and will most certainly change the station when they come on.

My favorite 2 Christmas songs?  "Merry Christmas, Darling" and "I'll Be Home For Christmas".  The Carpenters versions, of course.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Holiday fun

This morning I was showered, dressed, and in the Kmart at 7am.  That sounds like the opposite of 'Holiday fun', right?  Especially since I am not a morning person.

But the reason for this oddity is because I was shopping for a needy family for Christmas.  Kmart opens the store to us an hour earlier than usual (hence 7am) and generously takes 10% off the totals.  I arrived on time, armed with a thermos of coffee to help me wake up.

About a month ago my local realtor association had a big Mardi Gras-themed fundraiser to raise money for this specific shopping event.  As in years past, I paired up with my friend Joey and we accepted the need/wish list for a family with 7 kids, ages 1, 2, 4, two aged 5, 6, and 7.  The family's profile indicated the family was homeless; all 7 kids staying with their grandfather (whose probably younger than me considering the children's ages), and there was no mention of the parents.  While their situation is sad, we did feel joy in shopping for them and getting as much as possible from their list. 

The 5, 6, and 7 year olds needed coats, so we got those.  All 7 kids needed shoes or boots so we got those too.  Each child got a complete outfit (pants and shirt or sweater), and all the kids got toys except the 1 year old.  Since the kids likely don't have their own beds, we also picked out fleece throws with matching stuffed animals for them to curl up with at night like this one, possibly on a sofa or recliner.  (The arms and legs open to release the fleece throw.)  Next week I will participate in wrapping these and other gifts for the needy families.

After shopping I headed to work, but left early in order to get ready for dinner and the Rehoboth Beach Christmas parade.  Spouse & I met Steven & Thad and Joe P and his 2 friends from PA for dinner first, then I slipped away to adorn Big Ella with lighted wreaths and bows. 

It rained all day long and we anxiously awaited the official word from the parade sponsor to see if they were going to cancel the parade.  Fortunately they decided to keep the parade on schedule since the radar showed the rain moving away from the area.  However, it didn't really stop raining until minutes before the parade, which caused some participants to cancel and resulted in a much lower than usual attendance.  But we had a great dinner together and still had fun at the parade.  At least it wasn't bitter cold like last year.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Giving

As a child my parents taught me that there was more happiness in giving than in receiving.  That's probably in the Bible somewhere.  Since I grew up in a very modest household it was probably very convenient for my parents to tell me that, as I remember wanting a lot but not getting a lot because we 'couldn't afford it'. 

But as I matured I definitely understood that what you 'get' from giving to others is happiness and joy.  When you give to others (your time, your money, yourself) you make a difference in someone's life and that makes the recipient happy AND it makes you happy.  Its a win-win situation!

Yesterday Spouse & I did some charity shopping.  My company supplied its employees with a 'wish list' from Ronald McDonald House of DE so we used that to inform our purchases and then dropped them off at my office.  Next we went to the grocery store and purchased shelf-stable foods (canned and dry goods) and dropped those off at a local food bank drop-off location.  It was actually quite enjoyable to do this together, and knowing that these things will have a real impact on people gave us genuine happiness and joy.

Over the years I have volunteered for and raised money for AIDS research and treatment, battered women's shelter, cancer and stroke research, Habitat for Humanity, and local food banks.  I say this not to 'toot my own horn', but rather to show examples of how anyone can make a difference in other peoples' lives and receive a feeling of happiness at the same time. 

Literally anyone can participate in 1 or more ways:
  • Give of yourself - volunteer in person at a soup kitchen, food bank pantry, Habitat for Humanity build site, hospice, SPCA, or meal delivery service
  • Encourage others - host a fundraiser and invite your friends, neighbors, and colleagues to donate and/or volunteer, or get them to pledge for you to run a 5K race
  • Support local drives - pick up non-perishable food items, household items, or toys and drop them off at Thanksgiving or Christmas drop-off point
  • Give money - send checks to worthy charities 
When giving financial donations be sure to research how much of your dollars actually goes to the cause and how much goes to executive salaries and administrative costs.  Check this site to know which charities are highly-rated and have lower paid CEOs and which charities have highly-paid CEOs but are low rate charities.  Sadly there are some charities and scams you'll probably want to avoid.  Local giving can be often be more effective.

Another benefit of in-person volunteering is that you will likely meet other like-minded people.  This has certainly been the case for me.  I've met lots of sincere and fun friends while volunteering.

I encourage everyone to commit to giving, not just at the holidays, but all year 'round.  You'll be amazed at how good it feels to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Resolution

Last night Spouse spoke with his sister Mary again.  As it turns out, she had not effectively communicated some important details last week regarding the flea issue at Spouse's mom's house.

From last week's conversation we understood the flea problem to be very recent, but upon further conversation it appears the initial infestation occurred a month ago.  

Kind of an important piece of information to omit!!  The house and yard were treated back then, and again 2 weeks later as a precaution.  No fleas have been observed since then.

So all of the talking, investigating of alternatives, and negotiating with Spouse I went through for the last several days was all for nothing!

Spouse is making the stuffing and I'm making corn casserole tonight, then we'll head out tomorrow morning with Marvin & Walter, arriving at Spouse's mom's house before noon.  I'll pick up my aunt Mary at 1:30 and we are scheduled to have Thanksgiving dinner at Mary & Eric's house at 2:00.  We'll likely leave the boys at Spouse's mom's house while we eat since that will be their usual nap time.  After dinner we'll probably bring the boys to Mary's house so the family can meet Walter.

We'll stay overnight at Spouse's mom's house as usual, and probably head home around noon or possibly after lunch on Fri.  I'm sure we'll have a nice time but I am also sure it will not be without drama.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Pre-Thanksgiving drama

We're still a week from Thanksgiving but the drama has already begun.

Ever since Spouse & I got together in 1996, the holidays have always been set:  Louis & Karen host Easter, Spouse & I host Thanksgiving, and Mary & Eric host Christmas.  Even when we moved to DE we made it clear that we would continue to host "our" holiday Thanksgiving, which we have... until this year.

Mary & Eric's oldest son David went away to college in northwestern PA back in Aug and has not been home since then.  He will be coming home for Thanksgiving and said he didn't want to go to DE because then he wouldn't be able to see his girlfriend and buddies during his school break.  So Mary asked if she could host Thanksgiving this year.  Spouse & I were initially a little disappointed that we were 'losing' our holiday, but then I looked on the bright side and thought about NOT having to prepare for 8 house guests, NOT having to wash countless pots and pans, and NOT having to wash multiple loads of sheets and towels after everyone left.  It was going to be OK.

Then came the call from Mary last night, informing us that Spouse's mom's house (where we always stay when we visit the family) was infested with fleas.  I immediately began to scratch at the imaginary fleas on my head.  Seriously, I am totally creeped out by the notion of fleas.  Then I feared for the safety of our dogs who always travel with us to Spouse's mom's house.

Rather than totally freak out and refuse to go at all (which would have been completely warranted in my opinion), I came up with a 2 workable alternatives:
  • Drive down to Mary's house with our dogs, have Thanksgiving dinner, spend the entire day/evening there, and then drive home late that night
  • Spend the day at Mary's, stay in a pet-friendly hotel overnight, visit again on Fri before going home
Unfortunately Spouse was not very receptive to either idea.  We can't stay at Louis & Karen's because Marvin does not get along with their dog.  So Spouse suggested we stay at Mary & Eric's house.  I really didn't want to do this because Mary is dog-sitting her neighbor's dog and we have no idea if our dogs will get along with that dog.  Plus, our dogs are used to sleeping a lot during the day while we're at work.  Staying at Mary's house would mean there will not be any 'quiet time' for the dogs to nap.  Spouse said we'd put them in their crates in a bedroom and they'd be fine, but I'm afraid there would be too much commotion for them to fall asleep and they'd feel like they were being punished, being kept away from everyone.

So we have decided NOT to make a decision yet, and see how things develop.  

Please pray to whatever Deity you believe in or ask the Universe to send me peace and serenity.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Proof-reading

Its called proof-reading, people.  It doesn't take that long and it can help you NOT look like an idiot.

















Monday, November 17, 2014

Walter update

It was a big weekend for Walter.

We decided to try letting him sleep in the bed with us (and big brother Marvin) Fri night.  Until then he'd been sleeping in his vinyl crate next to our bed, with a wee-wee pad in it.  Since he is young and small, he wasn't able to hold his pee all night.  But we'd noticed for the last 2-3 weeks the wee-wee pad was dry in the mornings, so we decided to give it a try.  He was so happy!  He burrowed under the covers (like big brother Marvin does) and within a few minutes he was sound asleep.  No accidents in the bed the entire weekend.

Yesterday we bought him a metal crate just like the one big brother Marvin sleeps in when we're not home.  We had been containing Walter in the bathroom with his bed, a toy, and wee-wee pads on the floor.  Again, now that he's older and he has better bladder control, the pads have been dry.  So last evening we put him in his new crate, right next to Marvin's crate, when we went out to dinner.  When we returned they both were fine.  We use treats to lure Walter into the crate.  Marvin goes into his regardless of whether a treat is promised or not.

Walter has his 3rd and final puppy visit at the vet this coming week.  I'm curious to see how much he will weigh.

Friday, November 14, 2014

New art

Last year my colleague and friend Garrett went to visit his father who lives/works in Cuba.  Garrett noticed that most Cubans drive old American cars from the 1950s, and knowing how much I love 1950s cars, Garrett brought me back some beautiful matted, signed photos.  What a thoughtful gift!!

I'm embarrassed to say that those photos have been sitting in my house unframed for nearly a year now.  I anticipated that getting them custom-framed would be really expensive so I put it off.  But yesterday (my day off work) I came across the photos again and decided I would check my local HomeGoods store to see if they had any standard frames that would work.  So I measured the matted photos and headed over to HomeGoods.  Sure enough, I found terrific black frames for only $16.99 each!  

Two have black mats and one has a white mat.  At first this distressed me, but as I looked at my photos I noticed that two were portrait style and one was landscape style, so I decided that if I put the one landscape style photo into the white matted frame it might look intentional.  So I trimmed the mats slightly to fit, secured them in the frames, and here are the results:
#1
#2
#3
All 3 together
First off, I think the photos are amazing.  They are partially black-and-white and partially color.  I don't know how they do that but its cool.  Obviously the cars are super cool as well.  But I think the photos look so terrific in these frames, all 3 of which only cost me $50. 

I haven't decided yet where to hang them so for the time being they are on our living room sofa.  Maybe this weekend Spouse & I will agree on a place to showcase our new art.