Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas Pictures

I wanted you to see the pictures from our holiday fun. I'll add more pictures as soon as my mom and aunt send me theirs. Enjoy! :)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Father Knows Best

Late Saturday morning, I finally got around to packing and getting ready for my return trip home. As I made my first haul to my car, I said to my dad, "Do my tires look low?" He got out a gauge and checked the tires. He pulled out a ginormous air compressor and filled them up. He said, "You need to get that back tire checked out. It's low."

I told him I would do that when I get my oil changed, thinking all would be OK for a few days. I hit the road. I unpacked my car and went about doing laundry and trying to put up my suitcases and things (don't be too proud of me - the suitcases and other things I brought back are strategically placed and not put up).

Then, this afternoon, I went to work. I went out for some dinner and was thinking something didn't feel right about my car. I got out and noticed that rear tire dad warned me about was flat! I walked inside and found two kind friends to take pity on me. They changed my tire in minutes! In fact, if I had to do it, I would probably still be out in the parking lot trying to figure out how to do it. So as soon as I wake up Monday, I will have to go get the tire checked out. We found a nail in it, but it's not on the side. Hopefully it can be patched and doesn't need to be replaced. ARGH.

Christmas Day

I woke up Christmas morning to a nice, warm breakfast. You should know that it's hard for me to eat something as soon as I roll out of bed. However, since my parents wake up before the sun rises, they're ready to go by nine (this is apparently what happens when you get old).

My brother ate with us. I accused my dad of wearing cranky pants, which made it even more difficult for him to be cranky (he doesn't like for us to be right). Then, we headed to the living room for some present opening. As the gifts were sorted, we noticed my dad had apparently been on Santa's nice list - he had more gifts than all of us. In fact, he had so many packages, we made him open two for every one we opened! That certainly made him change out of his cranky pants!

I scored some good stuff - gift cards, perfume, more gift cards. I felt bad that the only gifts I bought were of the literary kind (my only stop had been Borders). I will make it up to my incredibly generous family before the next holiday!

I took a Christmas nap (another tradition in our family). Then, we loaded up and went out to the Grandparents. I think my Grandmother may have been taught a little lesson. She told my Grandfather she wanted hair pins and Q-Tips for Christmas. That's what she got. You'd think after being married nearly 60 years, she'd know better!

Us four cousins were confined to a small wooden table outside. We decided it was probably better than being in at the adult table anyway. We ate, then went back to my parents house for some Wii play. We were being good kids until my parents came home.

Mom decided we should be drinking and proceeded to play bartender. There was a whole lot of rocking going on. And boozing. And game play. This went on for hours until my cousins got a call from their mother stating their grandparents would like to see them on Christmas.

Party over.

It was beddy-bye time for me. I don't know why, but every time I stay at my parents, I want to sleep. I could fall asleep before 10:00 and sleep for 12 hours or more. It's not that the bed is that comfortable. I usually toss and turn until I get to a relaxed state. Perhaps there's some carbon monoxide creeping into the house. I don't know. Whatever it is, I get sleepy fast.

Christmas Eve

I know I'm a few days late, but I did not get out my laptop the entire time I was home for the holidays. Now, I have some time to update you on my relatively Grinch-free trip.

I drove home Wednesday, my car loaded with the few gifts I bought, my suitcases, Charley and Chaplin. Oh, and Mom insisted I bring the Wii (she's a fan of Guitar Hero, Dad prefers Wii Sports - especially bowling). Packing was not fun. It was torture. But still, I knew I had to do it - even if it meant not getting on the road until noon.

I pulled up at my parents house mid-afternoon. Charley was thrilled to be out of the car. I carried Chaplin inside in the carrier, thinking my parents dog would see him and be over it. Instead, the cat freaked out, growling and hissing. I let him out in my bedroom and he hid under the bed. That became his main hideout, with occasional trips to the bathroom to eat or do his business.

By 5:30, I was hungry. I knew that if I didn't con Mom into making something, we'd have to eat the dreaded Sloppy Joe. I probably wouldn't mind that meal (a tradition on my Mom's side of the family despite recent protests - including a chili cheese dog intrusion one year). I have just decided I don't like them anymore. It's weird, I know.

Our bellies full of pork chops, we headed to my uncle's house. DISCLAIMER: My family likes to make our gatherings "spirited." We are not alcoholics. Don't misinterpret that here. The first thing we do is grab a beer and head outside. Despite the calendar saying "winter," South Texas decided to warm it up. It was in the upper 60s - not too warm, not too cold. I kept thinking how glad I was I didn't just pack sweaters! After visiting for about an hour or so, catching up with my cousins that I'm close in age to we were summoned inside. It was present time!

In case you don't know, my Grandmother is a regifter and there's not always a method to her selections. The cousins stuck together, sitting in a row, waiting for our prize. We were placing bets as to who would get the worst prize. Then, we noticed ours were about the same size. I opened mine first. Not a regift, but a BRAND NEW gift! Here I am opening mine with my uncle (right) and brother (left) watching.
Road safety kits, chosen by Grandfather at Sears. My brother and my three male cousins all opened theirs with the same reaction: "Oh. Thanks." Well, not all the same. The youngest one to get it is currently sans vehicle.

What's interesting about these kits is a few years ago, Grandfather made us accident kits. A big plastic bag contained a sheet of paper with information we'd need to get if we were in a crash. It had a pencil and digital camera. Not the cheeriest gift. Oh, and those digital cameras would surely melt in the glove compartment.

The kits are handy, though we'll need to put batteries in them for the flashlights.

Oh, and one more fun moment: my aunt had a package that was addressed to the family. After it was opened, she learned the card was to the family. The shiny nightgown was for my aunt. Still, we made my cousin put it on.
After the packages were unwrapped, we returned to my parents' house. We stayed up a little while, then called it a night. Santa was on his way.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bye, Bye Video Cassette Tapes

I cannot believe I'm seeing these clunky things go extinct! I have a drawer full of them! When I moved to San Antonio, I did ditch most of my video tapes (and was incredibly disappointed in how little Half Price Books paid me for them). I have since replaced most of those movies with DVDs. But, thanks to the DVR, I no longer need to record my favorite shows on anything else.

Still, there is something about the video tape that makes me think of all the movies I watched in my, ahem, younger days. I seem to remember one of the first rental choices I made being "Purple Rain." I'm not sure my mother had any idea what it was about - so don't judge her. I'm sure I made some perfectly reasonable argument for it with my 10-year-old brain.

After that, many more movies were popped in that giant VCR. It, like the rest of technology, shrunk. But the idea of being able to record anything on TV - it was so exciting!

I should have known things would change for me when my combo DVD/VCR started rejecting video tapes. Call me naive, I just never thought the day would come when I wouldn't be able to find a tape! Is this what it was like when records went away? I don't remember that.

Anyhow - so long video tape! You served us well! This story has a lovely look back at our times together.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Misadeventures in Baking

If you've been following my blog, you know that I have been desperately searching for my holiday spirit. This weekend was my final push. Julie and I went to see "Four Christmases" for some holiday inspiration. It was funny. And it made me a little anxious about going home for Christmas. While I don't have all those families to see, the one I do have is all kinds of crazy (but I am sure I will have more on that by the week's end). In fact, I bought a few gifts Saturday. See? I'm trying!

On my way home, I stopped to pick up vanilla, which I had forgotten at the store the weekend before. I decided baking some cookies would really get me excited about Christmas. Sunday, I got out all the ingredients, turned on the oven and started making the cookie dough. When I dumped in the white chocolate chips, I thought something was off. They weren't blending into the dough like they're supposed to. I tried to spoon the dough onto the baking tray and everything fell apart. I had to stick my hands into the dough, mold it into balls and put them on the tray. Hmm, I thought. This isn't right.

Then, I took the cookies out. When they came out of the oven, they weren't soft at all. I put them in a container and set about putting more cookies in the oven. I was curious about the cookies, so I took a bite.
It was rock hard. It fell apart. It was NOT good. Near tears, I dumped everything into the trash. I know it's been a while since I've made cookies (likely since last Christmas). But COME ON! How can I screw that up? Clearly I left something out or added too much of something. It was enough to make me say BAH HUMBUG. I guess it just wasn't meant to be. I am sad. Things will get better. I just have to hope my family made some cookies so I can put those awful tasting things behind me.

Friday, December 19, 2008

2008 In Review

The fine folks at Mental Floss posed these questions and I figured I'd answer them here. Feel free to give your response in the comments section!

1. What’s the most interesting book or article you read in 2008?

Since they are the only books I actually completed this year, I'm going to have to say the "Twilight" series. I am ashamed to say I have started two others but not finished them.

2. What’s the best food you tried for the first time in 2008?

I'm going to say the Bama Roll at Kona Grill.

3. What prominent figure’s death upset you the most in 2008?

I guess it has to be Heath Ledger. He was young. He was The Joker. It was totally unexpected. Seeing him in movies now is eerie.

4. What’s the most unexpected way the economic crisis affected you in 2008?

Thanks to my Mom's good advice, my 401k actually went up!

5. What’s a new hobby you picked up in 2008?

The wii. I love it! I feel like a kid, but it is so much fun!

6. When you look back at 2008 five years from now, what will be the first thing that comes to mind?

It's the year I got Chaplin, my crazy kitten. Yes, he's locked me out of the house, terrorized Charlie and wakes me up in the middle of the night at least once, but he's cute. And he can be cuddly. So I'll keep him - for now.

7. And I’ll end this batch of questions the same way I did last year: “Let’s make Week-After-Christmas Resolutions. Something you vow to start doing next Friday, but can give up on January 1st.” What’s yours?

I'm going to resolve to make a genuine effort to read all those books on my nightstand. I think that's a good start. Stay tuned to the blog to see what else I try to tackle in 2009!

UPDATE: My Holiday Spirit

I think my spirit may be coming back to me. Maybe it's the cards or gifts I've received, or maybe it's the fact that Christmas is just days away.

Family, friends - don't get too excited. I still have to shake enough spirit into me to get me to do some shopping. Here's hoping I get to everyone on my list in the next couple of days!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

And it's not Bono.

My holiday spirit continues to elude me. I have watched more holiday movies. I have listened to more Christmas music. I've half-smiled at the holiday cards I've already received. Still - I got NOTHING.

I haven't bought cards to send. I haven't bought a single gift. Wait - that's not true. I have one that I bought a few months ago. That's it.

So, friends and family, don't expect much from me. If my spirit suddenly shows up, I will be happy (even if it means braving the crowded stores to shop). Be patient with me. If it doesn't show up, I promise I'll get around to getting you a gift. Consider this a fair notice: I may have to give out and I.O.U. this holiday season.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

How I Spent My Night Off

Realizing the year was nearly up, I figured I should take my personal day today, since there really wasn't time to take it before the year was up. I lounged about, did some reading, watched a little TV and waited for my mom to get here. We ducked outside for a few minutes before setting off for dinner and some shopping. She pointed out Chaplin, jumping up and touching the sliding glass door to get my attention. Then, with Charley at the door, I went to open it.


No budge.

Chaplin, in his jumping fits, had locked us out. Now, I'm a compulsive door locker, so the front door was locked. I have not re-set the keypad on the garage door. Not that that would matter, since the door inside from the garage is locked. I tried to lift and slide the door, it would move. Chaplin lounged about inside and I told him I was going to beat the you-know-what out of him as soon as I could get in.

We had no cell phones. No keys. Oh, and I had no shoes. Mom suggested we get the cop next door to help us. I thought my friends, The Gerbers, had a spare key. I was angry. I thought it would be a good idea to walk there - in my socked feet. So off we went.

We walked a few blocks away and I felt a little less angry and a little more scared that my backup plan wouldn't work. The closer we got, the more afraid I was that I would ring the bell and the dog would bark, leaving us to walk back with no hope. Luckily, I caught Anne and her neighbor just as they were about to leave. Problem: no key. I called a locksmith who met us in 20 minutes. We got a ride back to the house. Poor Charley had been in the backyard by himself. he was cold. He was angry. So was I, buddy. So was I.

The locksmith showed up in a kidnapper van. The guy (who had a very thick accent I couldn't place) and what appeared to be his brother both had accents. Within 3 minutes, they had my front door open. My emergency cost $120. While he filled out the receipt, I asked where he was from. He said Israel. The paranoid girl in my head said, "Great. He's probably some Israeli military assassin who will break into my home, abduct me in his kidnapper van full of mystery tools and kill me without a trace." I did not express such concern to the locksmith. I did make sure to point out that my alarm is always set, but since the kitten locked us out, at least we didn't have that to pierce our eardrums. He smiled and shook his head. Awesome. Now he thinks I'm crazy. Well, I am, but still...

We left (alarm set, keys in hand). I came back. I growled at the cat. I spanked him (not too hard - promise). He had no idea why I did that. Charley was a little afraid to go back in the backyard again. So now, I have the following on my "to do" list this weekend:
  • Program code for garage
  • Make extra copies of house keys
  • Stash them around in place(s) where I'm able to get to them without much trouble
  • Kitten for sale?
Kidding about that last part (I think). I just hope he doesn't lock me out before I get that key thing taken care of!

There you have it. Not at all the way I wanted to spend my evening. Certainly not how I wanted to spend $120!

When Adults Act Like Children

I'm starting this recurring segment about, you guessed it, adults acting like kids. Now, I'm not exactly a fun hater, but I think there are some things children do that adults do not. My first example: hand washing.
Since I was little, I was taught to stick my hands under the water, lather up, rinse, dry. It's not that difficult. Or is it?

I've noticed whether it's at the movies, the mall or work, there are more ladies who skip right past the sink or think dunking their hands under the faucet for two seconds is sufficient. What is WRONG, people?

Here's the deal. You should ALWAYS wash your hands after doing your business. If your own personal hygiene is not a good excuse, think about mine - and everyone else's! Think of it this way: you do the stuff in the stall, don't wash, then open the door. You've put your cooties on the door handle. Then, you reach in your wallet and pay cash for a cup of coffee, perhaps a pastry. This is disgusting on two counts: one, your contaminated cash is sitting in a register, making the other bills dirty and two, you're going to eat with that hand that hasn't been washed! You might as well just dunk your pastry in the potty! Perhaps you don't stop for a snack. Maybe you meet some clients or someone new. What do you do? Shake hands. Now, you've passed your nasties onto innocent people. SICKO.

Why does this bother me? Not because I'm starting to become a germophobe, but because it's cold and flu season. I've had the cold, don't want the flu. I wash my hands plenty. But it's some of you who act like the soap will melt the flesh right off your hands that are the germinators. Until I know you're a hand washer - and I have to see it on a regular basis without any prompting - I won't be shaking hands.

Oh, and if you think I'm the only one who feels this way, you should check this out by a group of people who call themselves the Centers for Disease Control.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Suck It Oil Companies, Pt. 7

It's been a while since I started this little feature. I started making note of gas prices when they were $3.65. The highest price I paid was $3.93. As I watched the price leap with every drop of fuel, it made me angry. It also made me glad I was not cruising around in a gas guzzler!

So imagine my joy when I filled up the other day.
Yep. $1.63! I think that's better than my title! It's like giving the middle finger to those companies that have had record profits (and no doubt planned on giving their big bosses huge bonuses before the feds started saying, "Not so fast...")! And it's gets better...

One oil exec is predicting gas around $1 a gallon next year! YAY!

I'm not discontinuing this little feature because, as my dad says, "My Mama did raise a fool, but I have a brother." That's some country thing. Anywho, I understand that just like the prices climbed this year, they'll climb again. I just hope it's not for a while. And I REALLY hope none of those oil companies show up on The Hill with their hands out. They've been raking in the money for years. If they haven't put it to good use, I say the heck with them! And bring on the fuel-friendly vehicles!

Webisode 3

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

You're Welcome

Wait about 20 seconds to get the giggles!

'Tis The Season

No, I haven't found my holiday spirit.

But what I have found is a case of the holidays at work. Sounds cheery, right?


While you're out shopping, trimming the tree, baking cookies (sneak some into our newsroom, will ya?), we're working. Trying to find news. It's like the never ending scavenger hunt! Now, I like good news. I'm going to let you in on a little news secret: it's the bad news that's good news to us. I'm not just talking about car crashes, shootings, stabbings and other assorted violence. I'm talking about ordinary folk's bad luck: lawn decorations stolen, presents stolen, homes burning down - get my drift?

I'd love a good scandal - or anything else that remotely resembles news. It would make starting the newscast so much easier. But without someone having a little bad luck, and let's face it - that's what news is, we're bored. And frustrated. And eventually, cranky. No amount of cookies can fix that.

So until I survive the next five weeks, I'll be playing this while secretly hoping people aren't playing along at home during my newscast.

Look at that! Holiday optimism! Maybe I'll find my spirit after all!!

Monday, December 1, 2008