Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday, Monday

For Today...March 30, 2009

Outside my window... most of the 14" of snow from the blizzard last Thursday has melted. Last night, it snowed about an inch, a light dusting that covered the lawns and gave fresh coats to all the snowmen that are hanging out on the lawns in our neighborhood.

I am thinking... spring break is over and in two months the kids will be out of school for the summer. I know the time will go fast. In less than two weeks, Joe will be home for Easter. As I'm counting down for what lies in the future, I need to enjoy each day and be present in the moment.

I am thankful for... books. That my parents instilled in me a love for reading.

From the kitchen... cinnamon rolls. Soccer and baseball are canceled for the next couple days, so we'll go back into winter mode and have cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate.

I am wearing... jeans, long sleeved t-shirt, hiking boots

I am reading... Escaping Into the Open; the Art of Writing True, by Elizabeth Berg.

I am hoping... for some nice weather soon, to start my garden.

I am creating... order out of chaos in my home. (Still working on it!)

I am hearing... the clock ticking, the dog snoring softly at my feet and Phil Collins singing "Against All Odds."

Around the house... paint the upstairs hallway.

One of my favorite things... meeting my brother for coffee on Mondays. (Hi, Matt;)

A few plans for the rest of the week... more snow is predicted, so our calendar will most likely be fairly empty without baseball and soccer. Tomorrow night: dinner out with girlfriends to celebrate a birthday.

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you... spring four years ago. Em's first communion. Where has the time gone? My kids are growing up too fast!

For more Daybooks, go on over to Peggy's at the Simple Woman's Daybook. Or try writing one of your own. It's lotsa fun!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday Favorites

Looking back on the week and remembering some of the best parts. Thank you, Susanne, for hosting Friday's Fave Five.

1. We got hit with a huge blizzard yesterday. Fourteen inches of snow for our town. As much as we've been loving the spring weather, we've been desperate for moisture -- only 3" so far this year. So, the snow was much needed.

2. The kids and I canceled some plans yesterday because of the snow, so at noon we decided to brave it and take the jeep to go out to lunch (a mile from our house.) Dan met us at Old Chicago, since his office closed, due to the weather. The restaurant had just the bar area opened and about a dozen tables were being used. It was fun and cozy, watching t.v., eating burgers, and the waitresses were cheerful and joking with everyone. It was like a party.

3. I read two books this week. The first, Trail of Crumbs, I reviewed here on Monday, and the second, The Wednesday Letters by Jason Wright, I read yesterday afternoon. A quick, heart-warming read.

4. Staying up late reading, knowing I don't have to drive the kids to school in the morning. And the best part: Naps. Delicious.

5. A new coffee maker. With a timer. Best part of wakin' up.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Time Travel

One afternoon last week, Dan and I took a drive up to the northeastern part of Colorado where Luke was playing in a baseball game. People who aren't familiar with our state, often think of Colorado as just mountains. In fact, while the western half of the state has some of the most beautiful mountains in the world, the entire eastern half of Colorado is prairie, and it has a beauty all its own.

We drove from our home in the Denver area, north on Highway 25 and then veered off to the east to a town called Windsor. I-25 follows the front range for the entire length of the state and affords a beautiful view of the mountains. Almost 30 years ago, it was the route that I drove back and forth to Greeley, while attending the University of Northern Colorado.

At that time, the land was mostly agricultural. Fields of wheat, corn and hay, and pastures of cattle flanked the interstate. An occasional exit provided a gas station or entrance to a road leading to one of the towns that dotted the landscape -- Brighton, Ft. Lupton, Johnstown, Dacono. The landmark Johnson's Corner boasted world famous cinnamon buns, and an occasional campground or a junk yard occupied a few acres amidst some farm houses. For the most part the landscape seemed rather unremarkable. Sometimes I would take a route farther east and follow along the Platte River where the land greened up with cottonwoods growing along the banks of the river, and the two-lane road followed the railroad, widening for the small towns of Platteville, Gilcrest and LaSalle.

For the first couple years, I didn't pay much attention to sight seeing when I made the trip, eager to get home on a Friday afternoon, or thinking about the week ahead on a Sunday evening. Then in the fall of 1979, the television mini-series Centennial, based on the novel of the same name by James Michener, aired, and it gave me new eyes for the land that had previously blurred as I zipped past in my yellow Volkswagen beetle.

Michener's Centennial follows the history of a fictional town, Centennial, located in northeastern Colorado. The series was epic, 26 hours long with a cast of hundreds, and was filmed in the Greeley area. It followed the lives of the area's inhabitants from the late 1800s to the 1970s. Michener's story introduced memorable characters including the Arapahoe Indian boy Lame Beaver, a French fur trader named Pasquinel and his partner Alexander McKeag, and the beautiful Indian woman, Clay Basket. With time, new inhabitants come to settle in Centennial. Mennonite Levi Zendt runs a trading post, and German-Russian Hans Brumbaugh makes his fortune farming potatoes and sugar beets. Cattleman R. J. Poteet and sheep ranchers follow, and with each new chapter the characters lives are intertwined.

As with most stories, the movie was great, and the book was even better. It begins thousands of years before the t.v. story, with the geological development of the area, laying the backdrop for the characters that eventually enter the story. The land started coming to life during my travels back and forth to Greeley. I would picture the Arapaphoe Indians and their life on a prairie darkened by herds of buffalo. The Platte River wasn't just a shallow, wide expanse of muddy water, but a thoroughfare for fur traders.

Now, thirty years later, it's harder to see the story and people of Centennial. The highway is lined with retail outlets and housing developments. Every exit has a McDonald's and a Starbucks. The fields of wheat, hay and corn are slowly being crowded out by office buildings and car dealerships. I'm grateful that James Michener gifted us with this portrait of the land as it was so many years ago. Look closely and his characters still peer out from the land as it rises and falls along the front range, and their story lives on.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Spring Break and a book review

We're on the second day of spring break and it feels like it's been a week already. A "staycation" sounds like a cool idea, but in reality it's just trying to put some fun into saying, we're staying home because it's cheaper and Dad doesn't have to take vacation time!

Yesterday, the kids both went to see movies with a friend, and I hung out at Border's, so it was a good afternoon for all of us. I picked up a new book, Trail of Crumbs by Kim Sunee, and am just loving it. It's one of those books that I don't want to end, so I'm savoring the last few chapters. The story is a young woman's memoir. Kim Sunee was adopted at the age of three, after she was found abandoned in a Korean marketplace. She grows up with her adopted family in Georgia, and at the age of 18 leaves home to study in Europe. In her quest to find out where "home" is, she remains in Europe for ten years, at times traveling to Korea, the Pacific Rim and back to Georgia.

Kim's search for her identity is so intriguing to me. Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun, calls it the "exile's curse and the exile's charmed life." Kim and I couldn't be more different. She is less than half my age. I know exactly where I came from -- New Jersey. I am steeped in family tradition. And I'm tall like my dad, have my mom's skin that tans easily, and similar facial features as my aunt. But, what would it be like to not have a clue to your heritage? Who would I become? She is told that she is Korean, but many of the Korean people she meets tell her she must be something else, too, because her features are very different from theirs.

I love the setting of Provence and the recipes that are included at the end of each chapter. The kitchen is a place where she first glimpses an identity for herself. Eventually, Kim becomes the founding editor of Cottage Living, and is currently the host of a food show called Local Flavor, which I have not seen. I'll have to look it up.

So, getting back to spring break. I told the kids they needed to find something to do on their own today. Em had a friend over and they went for a walk through our neighborhood which is truly a maze of streets and cul-de-sacs. It was a beautiful day and they were perfectly safe, so when they called to say, "we're lost", I said, "which way is the sun, where are the mountains, you'll find your way." They eventually found their way home and you would think they had been hiking for miles the way they gobbled down the chocolate chip cookies I made.

We're still waiting for the cold, wet weather that was supposed to arrive this week. Maybe on Thursday. I hope we get something, as my tulips need a bit of encouragement.

Monday, March 23, 2009

For Today. . . March 23, 2009
Outside my window... A cool 40-some degrees. Slight breeze, tulips are poking up from the ground, trees are budding out

I am thinking... what a difference a day makes. Yesterday it was 79 degrees. We spent the day outdoors, turning over the garden, cleaning the car, washing out trash cans, attempting to wash the dog. She got away. This week is supposed to be 30s and 40s and snow.

I am thankful for... change of seasons.

From the kitchen... Lemon poppy seed muffins.

I am wearing... jeans, sweatshirt, sneakers.

I am reading... Trail of Crumbs by Kim Sunee. Oooh, is it good!

I am hoping... to find time to see the new Julia Roberts movie this week.

I am creating... organization out of my tupperware drawer. Yes, it's about as exciting as sorting your sock drawer, but it makes me happy.

I am hearing... the t.v. on in the other room.

Around the house... Lots of things in disarray. The kids are home on spring break;)

One of my favorite things... Luke says, one of my favorite things is making him do things he doesn't want to do.

A few plans for the rest of the week... a Staycation. We're going to movies today, and we'll take the rest of the week as it comes.

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you...
this is a photo I took last week, driving along the front range at sunset.

For more Daybooks, go see Peggy at the Simple Woman's Daybook.

Monday, March 16, 2009

For Today . . . Monday, March 16, 2009

Outside my window . . . cool, overcast. We missed the snow that was coming our way last week. It is as dry as can be. We need moisture!

I am thinking . . . back to the wonderful weekend. On Saturday, my friend Terry and I went to see a two-women show at the Denver Center for Performing Arts called For Girls Only. I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard! On Sunday, Dan treated me and the kids to brunch at the Egg & I:)

I am thankful for . . . Webcam! I talk to Joe every other day, or so.

From the kitchen . . . Chicken Broccoli Casserole for supper. My friend Pamela's recipe and Luke's favorite-of-all-time.

I am wearing . . .Vera Wang gown and stilettos. Not really.

I am reading . . . I just finished The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian. Very rough at the beginning. But I am reading it for book club, so I continued and it eventually settled into a really good read. The very last sentence of the book revealed the answer to the story and a twist that left me with my mouth hanging wide open. I made the mistake of staying up late to finish it last night. Then I couldn't go to sleep because I kept going over the story in my head, looking for clues to the ending.

I am hoping . . . we get some rain, or I fear the grass will NEVER green up.

I am creating . . . a clean house, one room at a time. Last week it was the bedrooms. This week, the office and kitchen.

I am hearing . . . the radio -- Sugarland, Baby Girl

Around the house. . .laundry needs to be done, keep on cleanin'

One of my favorite things . . .the tulips bulbs that I planted last fall are sprouting up.

A few plans for the rest of the week . . .Baseball and soccer begin -- practices and games. A social at Em's school on Tuesday -- I'm working the pizza booth. St. Patty's Day dinner with corned beef and cabbage. Book Club on Wednesday.

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you . . .a peek out my front window. The bowl and pitcher set belonged to my mother. It is sitting on a desk made by my husband's great-grandfather.

For more Daybooks, go to Peggy's Simple Woman's Daybook, where you'll find others Entering the Daily with Peace and Notice.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Catching up

Since I've been back, I've been thinking about blogging, just about every day. And then I go, eh, what do I have to blog about. Here's what I've been up to. . . .

Last Friday -- Seems like months ago. Since I came home from our trip to a dead computer (did I ever mention that?) I needed Friday to be a work day. Typically, I never work on Fridays, but I really needed to get caught up. In the morning, my BFF Kathy came by, so I could "take a minute" and sew about 8" of a banner she was making for her son's First Communion. When she walked in with a bagful of supplies and a sketch for the banner, I knew it would be longer than a minute. So, I put on a pot of coffee and "we" made Scotty's banner. (This is my non-crafty BFF who doesn't own a glue gun. Guess who made the banner?) After we made a fastest-ever trip to the mall for the Clinique special, I did manage to get some work in that afternoon.

Saturday -- Grocery shopped in the morning. I got really organized, went through all my coupons and saved $47 on my order! In the afternoon, my Bible Study group went to tea at the lovely St. Julien Hotel in Boulder. From our table, we had a beautiful view and watched the snow lightly falling against the mountain backdrop. A fun afternoon with girlfriends. Saturday night, Dan and I decided to watch a movie. We ended up choosing Wall-E, since Em was going to watch with us. So, Dan and Luke and I watched the movie while Em went upstairs and watched something else. It was a cute movie, even though I'm not into animated films. I know, weird, I never like cartoons as a child, either.

Sunday -- Cleaned house in the morning and in the afternoon hosted our group to choose Rockies tickets for the season. There are six families that share season tickets, and it's always a rousing, fun-filled afternoon as we munch on ballpark snacks and compete for the games/dates that we all want. Always good-natured teasing and lots of fun.

Monday -- That was yesterday. Worked all day after taking the kids to school. More of the same today.

That's where I've been. A little work, very little cleaning, lots of girlfriend/family/friend time. Not bad.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Still in the Bahamas

Oh, I wish. . .

I'm having the hardest time getting back to reality after being on "island time" for eight days. Our cruise was wonderful! Everything we hoped it would be. The service was awesome, the scenery breathtaking and the weather was absolutely perfect.

We sailed with Norwegian Cruise Lines on the Norwegian Dawn. From what I can tell, it's about mid-size? as far as cruise ships go, with 2,400 passengers and 1,100 crew members. The service was excellent and the crew was so friendly and eager to make our stay as nice as can be.

Our ship sailed from Miami. We spent Saturday and all day Sunday at sea, then stopped the next three days at different ports -- Samana (Dominican Republic), St. Thomas (U.S. Virgin Islands) and Tortola (British V.I.) On the fifth day, we were at sea again, and on Friday we stopped for the day at a private island owned by the cruise company, for a day of beaching and sun.

My friend Kathy asked me, what was the best part? Uhhhhh. . . all of it? A week of uninterrupted time with my DH, eating at lovely restaurants, going to shows, seeing ocean and palm trees as far as the eye can see, having someone else make the bed everyday? It was all my favorite part. The days at sea were so peaceful. One morning, there were whales cavorting about, but other than that, we were alone at sea with the exception of an occasional ship on the distant horizon.

NCL has a free-style cruise program, so we were free to eat at any number of dining rooms throughout the cruise. (Yes, cruising is all about the food). There were several very nice restaurants that were included in the price of the trip and for the most part that's where we ate, since they changed the menus every night, so there was always something new. On two nights we went to restaurants that charge a surcharge (of $10) and they were a bit fancier and the food was awesome. The specialty restaurants included a sushi bar, a steak house, an Italian restaurant and, our favorite, Salsa, where they serve Mexican cuisine.

View of St. Thomas from our cabin . . .

Each day we received a newsletter for the day, outlining the activities on the ship. There's no way you can do it all, and there's something for everyone. There were shows every night -- we went to a magic show, a cirque du soleil-kind-of-show, a 70s music review (right up my alley). There was a movie theatre, but I never did make it to any of the shows. One night we went to one of the bars and listened to live entertainment featuring James Taylor's songs. Another night was country western night. Most of the crew members were Phillipinos which lent an interesting flair to Toby Keith:)

We had one afternoon of rain when we were at sea, and being on the ship was rather cozy. I found a spot in the library and read for several hours. There is also a casino on board, a gift shop, a spa and exercise room, basketball court, kids pool (and very few kids, by the way -- there are other cruise lines that cater more to families), and decks galore to hang out.

We felt like little kids when we arrived on board . . . (okay, tinge of disappointment that the gangway was covered and so short. Was hoping to walk up to the ship, Grace Kelly style and wave to the masses. . . but we do what we can)

. . . and were greeted by members of the crew -- in uniforms and white gloves -- serving glasses of champagne. Then we walked into this beautiful atrium . . .
Our cabin had an ocean view . . . waaaay down on the right side of the picture (the aft end of the ship), beneath the bottom row of balconies. One of those windows was ours.

Here are the winners of the Beer Trivia Contest . . .

Dinner at the Venetian. . .

Hanging out on deck . . .

It was such fun spending the week with our friends, Pam and Rick. It made the trip ten times as fun. We split up during the days that we were on the islands, doing different "shore excursions." One day, they did a swim with the dolphins (they said it was the highlight of the trip.) Dan and I took a jeep ride on St. Thomas, to the top of the island where we had a magnificent view and got to taste "The Best Banana Daquiris in the World." And for $7.50 a piece, I believe they were. Or should be. We had snorkeling and boating excursions, and we visited some caves and saw mangroves on Samana.

My favorite island was Tortola, with its narrow, winding streets and quaint little shops.

Alas, all good things come to an end. Rick, Pam and Dan, getting ready to leave the ship.
We arrived home late Saturday night. It is always good to be home, but it was a tad disappointing not to have the bed turned down and mints on our pillows. But we'll always have lots of wonderful memories of our trip.