Thursday, December 18, 2008

Baby It's Cold Outside

I've lived a lot places that get cold. When I say, I mean the kind of cold where your eyes freeze shut after about 5 minutes of standing in the elements. The kind where you lose feeling in your limbs and don't get it back for hours after you've returned inside. In a word -- cold. This usually meant somewhere in -10 or 20F range with another 10 or so degrees cooler for windchill. I haven't been that cold for a long time, but this week brought back good (and some bad...) memories.

It's been in the single digits to even as cold at -3F here in the mornings the past week or so. The snow started last weekend on my birthday. I took a nap on Saturday afternoon, and when I got up, the downstairs was decorated with lights and my cake was lit with a "73" which I suppose could be my age in dog years rather than my birth year. He made me a scrapbook with photos in it from our first meeting until the present, as well as a plate painted especially for my birthday. What a great guy!

The last time I lived somewhere this cold was upstate NY in Ithaca. We would routinely get more snow than Syracuse or even Buffalo (although Buffalo always claimed to win the "Golden Snowball") each year. The cold was ushered in with snow. I love it when it snows. Time to have hot cocoa, sit by the fire, and snuggle up with your honey. We've been able to have a few nice moments of respite this week, despite our rather busy schedules.

About 10 years ago or so, when I lived in NY, we got a big storm right after Christmas. We were in an ice storm (2-3 inches) followed by 2+ feet of snow in less than 2 days. Snow was squalling (a word I learned upon moving to a state that butts up against a Great Lake) and visibility was zero. Thankfully, I was still on holiday, so I wasn't in need of having to be anywhere. We even dug out the driveway in anticipation of the plow knowing they'd pile all the street snow onto the driveway and if we didn't already clear what had fallen, we were sunk. There's a photo of me where you just see my hat -- not even my head -- due to the snow and ice. The weight of the snow and ice started to take it's toll. S, J, and I were outside enjoying the snow when we witnessed a brilliant flash of orange in the sky followed by more flashes and several pops. Seconds later our power (including all the street lights) went out. It was the start of a cold few days. Thankfully our pipes (one froze, but it came out on its own) were OK for the most part, but the sump pump stopped working. Water starting getting in the basement. Frost was forming on the interior of the windows. Not good. On a plus note, all our neighbors came together and made sure everyone was OK, had food, and a supply of candles. We tried to make the best of it and pretended we were camping in really cold weather. That was the last major storm I've been in.

Life in WA doesn't mean storms, but more likely little bursts of snow. It's still pretty here, too though, and I've come to have a fond remembrance of my days of snow (including Wyoming and Ohio, where we'd get a lot). E took a post-snow picture here to commemorate the event. Some years this is more than we ever get, so grateful we've even got this so far this year.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Re-Connecting with Friends...

Coincidently, the friend I went to France with, back in 1998, just got in touch with me again after I mailed off a Christmas card hoping that she'd still be at the address that I had. D and I had a great time in France, although I recall the trouble we had leaving it. We'd asked the SCNF (train) worker at the Paris station which train to get on. Although they pointed us to the correct train, they'd failed to tell us which part of the train to get on. A critical issue when it uncouples midway during the journey. We were supposed to head to Turino, Italy. Instead it was Montpilier, France. When we first got off I remember thinking "wow, they are really bilingual here," until I realized that everything was in French because we were still in France. Little detour through Nice, Cannes, and Monaco before heading to Rome, as we decided Turino was not meant to be for us. Italy and Austria were followed by Slovakia before heading back to France and home.

D called me last night and encourage me to check out FaceBook. I'd set up a profile back when I was still a grad student, but hadn't done anything with it...I hopped on tonight (although I really should be working....) and found lots of friends, many of whom I haven't heard from in years. It was really neat to see them and wonder what they've been up too.

D isn't the only friend who'd I've lost touch with that's gotten back in touch. A grad school chum from Cornell found me through my LinkedIn page. It was nice catching up. She'd since had three kids, including 1 set of twins. They are now all under 1.5 years so she and her partner are keeping very busy!

Off to logout from all things electronic...

What to do with all that stuff....Or at least a part

Moving was like going shopping, but for my own things. For years we'd lived in either small condos or houses, which made it difficult to even unpack half of our stuff. Knowing that we'd never afford buying all those items back, we decided to suck it up and just have a bedroom "of stuff" and a garage that was well-packed to the gills. Once I had a chance (and there's still about 5 or 6 bins to tackle) the majority of the items, I realized there were still some things, despite being able to unpack, that I still didn't know what to do with. Translation == mentos from past trips: (maps, ticket stubs, coins, etc), pictures (which I plan to pull into an album), my grade school report cards -- including kindergarten (OK - yes admittedly I need to get rid of these), newsclippings (including the "newspaper" my 7th grade class put together where I had a review of the British comedy "The Young Ones" and of the band "The Cure"), and even the bracelet I had as a newborn baby.

NM -- this is for you.....I figured out what to do with the maps--especially the really colorful ones. They look great in a frame. E and I were down at IKEA this past weekend and I bought several inexpensive (because we don't say "cheap" in my house anymore...) frames. I took out the metro map I have of Paris, which is especially colorful. What made it even less painful in cutting it up was the fact it was a freebie from the dept. store Samaritaine. They try and convince you to go to their store and ride to the top of the building for the "free view." Looks like the place has been closed since 2005.

I cut up the map and framed it. Voila -- bright new "art" for the cost of the frame.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Christmas Trees -- The Good, Bad, and the Fake

We pulled out the Christmas tree this past weekend and plugged it in. I love having the lights already on the tree. It makes it so much easier to get straight to the decorating. Not that I don't love real trees. We had real trees when I was a kid, at least until the cat climbed up the tree one Christmas and took out a clock, the tree, and a few presents on the way down. Time for the fake one....When I was in college, we were forbidden from all things green and Christmasy, as they knew the college psyche for lack of care for anything other than one's self would likely result in the "tree" turning into a fire hazard. By the time I got to graduate school, it was time for a real tree again. I remember one Christmas when E, J, and I went hunting for a tree at the U-pick place in Ithaca. We got a little over zealous, as it took about an hour to cut it and even longer to cut the trunk down to fit into the holder. Things seem so much smaller when you're outside. When we put it in the house, it was like it was spring loaded. It barely fit, but it was pretty. The cats, of course, saw this as a new toy. Drinking from the stand, attempting to eat whatever ornament was closest, and chewing on the branches (Charlie...) was par for the course. The house smelled wonderful. It reminded me of childhood. The "pine" air fresheners somehow just don't cut it....

Our tree this year.....

We finished pulling out our ornaments and putting them on the tree. We listened to Christmas music (Vince Guaraldi -- Charlie Brown Christmas is a favorite) and told little stories about some of the ornaments as we were putting them up. We like to pick them up as we travel. We have quite a collection from NM now, as well as some from the Maine, Wyoming, the San Juans, Quebec, Spain, and Alaska (thanks Aunt A). My favorite, however, as the ones that my mom gave me as I left home. There's the tin soldier my Grandmother made, the bird's nest we used to put in our tree every year (a Swedish custom that brings the family good luck), and the gold star of Jinx my first cat to name a few. I have to carefully remove the old hooks from a few of them, as getting stuck with any of them would have required a fresh tetanus shot.

E put up lights around the front of the house today. Although we wanted to put some up on the facing of the house, we decided that our 2 step ladder just wasn't going to cut it and it was getting dark.....perhaps next year.

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. It's when you're snow bound (although this is the first time in my adult life I haven't lived in a cold and snowy winter climate), you are relaxing with friends and family, and celebrating just being in one another's company. It's hot cocoa, too many marshmallows, putting up the tree, listening to carols. I'm a sucker for all except the run over by a reindeer one and the song with the dogs barking in time to "Jingle Bells." My family always had clam chowder on New Year's Eve and then headed to midnight service (which was actually at 9 pm or so).

We're heading to New Mexico this year to spend the holidays with E's family. All his siblings will be there. We're very excited to see everyone and can't wait for the trip.