Saturday, December 31, 2011

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

...to all of you, everywhere in the blogosphere!


For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
~T.S. Eliot, "Little Gidding"

Who knows what the New Year will bring?!
 Looking forward to all the insight, laughs and love you have to share in 2012 and beyond!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

December Warmth In Georgia

My husband had an actuarial professionalism course in Atlanta, GA earlier this month and I was more than thrilled at the chance to get away from the gray for a bit!  AND, I got to meet a fellow blogger whose stuff I just love.
 
While in Atlanta, we got to check out the Atlanta Botanical Garden.
 I'm sure by now you've figured out that pictures of plants and flowers are near and dear to me. 

We spent an evening in Olympic Park, taking in the Christmas Lights.  The Coca Cola museum next door had some fun stuff all lit up as well.  It was fun to watch the Coke bottle change colors.








We also took a walk DOWN Stone Mountain, after having taken the tram to the top.  It was 74 degrees that day and the weatherman was joking about Atlanta becoming Miami.  We didn't mind at all!

As the sun set, we appreciated again how much those in the South really do enjoy their Christmas lights.  Stone Mountain park completely lit up!


Our little taste of Christmas in Dixie showed us just how different things are in the South, especially for the holidays.  It seemed as if we were being told 'Merry Christmas' by smiling people everywhere we went.  Everything was so done up!  There was music and shows to take in.  We didn't have to huddle under cover or run through the rain.  We were able to be out and enjoying the sights.  It was such a fun thing for my husband and I to experience.

AND yet, I have to say that meeting Robin over at YOUR DAILY DOSE was probably the biggest highlight and the warmest moment of the trip for me.  She was just as I had imagined and more.  Robin is bubbly and bright and fun and oh so warm and welcoming, despite everything she goes through health-wise.  I know lately she hasn't posted much, but do read her when she manages a post.  It's well worth it!

Now I am looking forward to meeting more bloggers IRL more than ever.  After seeing and talking with Robin, I'm just sure that it would be a wonderful experience. (No, it won't make me post photos of myself or more specific information about me here.  I have a convicted felon mother who has threatened my husband with a 357.  She knows where I live and gets all worked up when anybody talks about me.  Reading about me would probably send her over the edge.  Enough said.) 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The 'No Hurl Guarantee'

As I set to work cleaning up the holiday explosion that descended upon our household (-yes steam cleaning is in order), I am remembering what my good friend and I had an epic laugh over yesterday: an incident from Christmas past that made me decide to post that story here.  It's all about vomit.  You've been warned.  You're welcome.

As a teenager, my friend and I came up with many ways to communicate in our own sort of short hand.  We could utter the word 'Dude' with different voice inflections and completely understand one another perfectly.  We had our own little language going without much effort at all.  We just got each other.  Still do to this day.  This was before most people had cell phones, so I guess this was our version of text messaging.

At one point, while at a local fair enjoying the rides, my friend and I had the fortune of getting to stay on the zipper ride for six consecutive turns. 
Photo credit:  sodahead.com
There was no line and the guy running it thought it was pretty funny to watch us keep screaming.  It was great but there did come a point when we weren't feeling quite so fabulous.  It was then that the term, 'no hurl guarantee' was coined.  My friend turned to me and let me know that although she was ready to be done with this ride, she could still give me the 'no hurl guarantee'.  We did make it off the ride without losing our lunch and went home for a few hours to rest, only to return to the fair to ride some more later that night and never did get sick over it.  

Cut to December 26th, 2004.  Of course my friend and I are still enjoying our own little world in so many ways and we keep our party goin' for at least another day after Christmas so as to avoid that whole Christmas letdown and all.  Plus we really dig getting discounted goods like wrapping paper, cards, decorations, etc. on the cheap so we can open up the stuff next year and be all 'ooooh look at all this pretty stuff I got last year- wasn't I clever?'  And nobody will even know it's last years stuff....

Anyway, we're out on our annual day after Christmas shopping and we do our usual thing by indulging in a trip to a buffet restaurant for a midday break.  Now here is where I should let you in on the fact that my friend and I love the IDEA of a buffet.  But neither one of us is particularly good at pacing ourselves and getting our money's worth at these establishments.  Still, we do it every so often and manage whatever damage we can with eyes that are bigger than our stomachs.

So y'all have been forewarned that this story has something to do with vomit.  You can kind of see the writing on the wall.  But wait, it's better than that...

My friend and I get done with our lunch and prepare to move on to round two of our shopping extravaganza.  This is the point where we start to hit up the smaller shops to find some truly unique stuff.  This is where I should let you in on a few key details: this particular year we had brought along my friends mother for the first time,  the place we go for our special shopping day is about an hour and a half north of where we live- where there are much smaller crowds and usually more leftover stuff to chose from, we are traveling in my brand new car.

So... we all pile back into the car to commence shopping.  We all have VERY full stomachs.  We don't make it more than a few blocks down the road before my friend declares that she is not feeling well and CANNOT issue the 'no hurl guarantee'.  I KNOW what this means.  And I am scrambling like mad to get her somewhere that she can get OUT of the car.  But there is a problem.  We are in the middle of a four lane highway in a double left turn lane when this unfortunate moment arrives.  My friend is in the back seat.  I hear her desperately emptying out a plastic shopping bag.  The next thing I know, my friend is indeed hurling into said shopping bag.  You'd think it couldn't get much worse, but nooooo...this is the point where all hell breaks loose.  Just as my friend commences with loosing it, I am able to make the left turn into a parking lot.    BUT, there's an old guy with a walker going across the parking lot right in front of us so I can't get out of the way and into a space to stop all this action as fast as I would like to.  AND this is also when I get to find out that if my friends mom is around someone who loses their lunch, she loses hers too.  Cue both my friend and her mom jumping out of the vehicle as I pull into the first available spot.  This is just the moment when my friend also realizes something very bad and cries out in a forlorn voice that there is 'a HOLE  in it!'- meaning her bag that she used to be sick in is defective and has resulted in a complete failure of her attempt to keep herself and my new car clean.  This is also the moment when I realize that I have apparently inadvertently cut some other driver off from the parking space that we are now occupying.  And that person is mad and yelling at me, until they actually SEE the spectacle that is going on and proceed to also get sick themselves in a nearby garden.  NO, I AM NOT FRIGGING KIDDING, HERE! 

Yes, there is a lot of upholstery cleaner, a new outfit, and so much other ridiculousness that follows but I won't bore you or make you sicker with those details.  Let's just say that nobody can ever claim that I myself cannot give the 'no hurl guarantee' as I'm about the only one who didn't lose it that day.  But I HAVE had so many literally painful belly laughs over this incident that have contributed to the strength of my super strong stomach.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What I'm Giving To Friends And Neighbors For Christmas

...Or, how to use storm debris for the greater good.

(Yup, this was the post that I meant to get up before I traipsed off to Atlanta, GA for a week of above average warm temperatures and sunshine and getting to meet a blogger buddy IRL, but more about that later...)

Here's the deal.  As a kid I lived in a fairly poor family.  And we got pretty creative when it came to giving gifts for Christmas.  Looking back on that time now, I'm grateful for the things I learned from that experience. 

My mother would save up to get some parts for this particular project, but most of it is recycled or found stuff.  With a little time and your own artistic interpretation, the result is something like this:

A lovely live centerpiece that will last throughout the season!

Around here, we almost always get a good storm at Thanksgiving time.  So afterwards it's not too hard to find greenery that can be used for this project.  Since I am allergic, I use gloves when I go hunting around for this stuff and any time I am handling the greens during this project. 

If you want to try this yourself, you will also need:
 Photo credit: shroomery.org
 Those little plastic containers that lunch meat comes in or you can buy as sets with lids.
Photo credit: floraldesigninstitute.com
Some floral foam called wet foam or oasis, that you soak in water for several hours prior to the start of the project.  This is the most expensive part.  I used coupons at my local Michaels craft store a couple weeks in a row to get this stuff.

You will also need an icepick, a sharp knife, small scissors, some wire- preferably green colored, some floral picks or other glittery doo-dads and some taper candles.  I had several taper candles of different colors just hanging around the house that I used.

When I know I am about to make these, I set my wet foam in a sink full of water.  Just float them on top and they will sink as they fill up with water.  Do this several hours ahead of time.  Then head out to a park or street that has some greens you would like to use.  I only take the ones that are on public property and have been blown down.  I do not recommend strategic trimming as local law enforcement might frown on that! 

So once you have a good amount of greens to choose from- it takes me about a garbage bag full to make a half dozen or so of these centerpieces, it's a good idea to clip apart the pieces from the branches and group them into about three sizes- your large base pieces, some medium ones and then the smaller pieces that will be used to fill in at the top near the candle.  

The size that the wet foam comes in is about the size of a brick and I divided it into 3 equal parts that were just right for fitting inside the plastic containers.  Do this by cutting with a sharp knife when the foam is full of water.  When the wet foam pieces are inside the containers, you are ready to start the artsy part!

For extra stability and balance of the piece, it is good to put the first larger greens into the foam by actually running them through the plastic container.  You need to be careful to keep them at the top of the plastic container and not allow too big of holes to accomplish this so that the water in the foam won't end up leaking all over peoples tables or mantles later.  I do this by using an icepick to poke two holes down each long side and one on each end of the plastic container and then making the holes big enough to let the greens through with a little snip of the scissors if needed.


Next, you get to just pretty much go crazy with your design.  I did mine with an oval shape, but you can do it more round or just totally asymmetrical if you want. The only things that I keep conscious of at this point is that I want the design to eventually work down to smaller pieces at the top and that I want to leave space in the middle of the foam for my candle.  Just keep working away at it by adding greens into that foam.


When you have the foam pretty much covered, it's time to add your candle so you can be sure that it fits.  I take the bottom of the candle down a bit and 'sharpen' it up so it stays steady in the foam.  I do this by whittling it down some with the sharp knife.  The candle doesn't have to be put in the center as I did, either.


Now, it's time to add the last pieces of greenery to cover up the rest of the foam and even things out as you wish. 

Lastly, you get to add those sparkly things that finish off the piece.  This is where the green wire comes in.  That way you don't have to be too careful about hiding the wire.  It pretty much disappears into the greenery.


You could even add a bow or other goodies.  Sometimes I even put the finished project into a pretty shallow bowl if I want to add a more lasting gift along with the decoration.  Your friends, neighbors, coworkers, or even boss will love these and if you're not allergic as I am, you could even keep one for yourself!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wreath Adventures

Last summer when a local nursery had a Groupon deal going, I knew exactly what I was going to do with my pay $20 and get $40 worth of goods coupon.  I even got it for $5 off.  So I was feeling really good about my plans to get a special wreath this year.  You know, not just the 'there's a red ribbon on it so it's festive, right?' kind of wreath.  Not just the one I usually pick up at the local Fred Meyer store.

My plans were finally put into motion last week when I went and picked out my most fancy ever wreath.  It has pretty decorations and a really nice bow that hasn't been smashed.  It even has a light dusting of flocking on it- just the kind of snow I could love.  I was pretty excited about this wreath.

I brought it home and put it up on the door with the usual hook that I always use.

The wreath promptly fell off the door.

OK, so my super duper wreath was way too heavy for my old hook.

Off to the store to find a better way to hang it.

I bought one of these.  I knew it would be able to hold my very heavy wreath.
Photo credit: farmersmarketonline.com

Except that my door doesn't allow for enough space for the wreath holder...  So I could have the wreath, but I wouldn't be able to actually close the door.  Definitely didn't work.

Next try:  find the biggest hook I could.  Put that on the door.  Add the wreath, and PRAY.

Meanwhile I'm discovering that the beautiful dusting of snow on the wreath ends up all over me every time I handle it.  Oh, and I'm clearly very allergic to whatever that snowy stuff is- I've heard it has fiber glass or something in it- because I have nice welts on my hands and lower arms from it.

So anyway, I do manage to get the wreath to stay up on the door.  Halleluiah!

Time for a final dusting off of that 'snowy' stuff that is all over the door from all of my trials and tribulations since the wreath is going to be sticking around this time. 

Oh crap, my door is cedar and now I have a nice deep splinter.  Yeah, I dug at it for a while with a needle and it's still in there.

So now I have a band aid with some bag balm on my finger.

And way more of a story than I ever needed.

Oh, and a really pretty wreath...

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