Thursday, December 28, 2006

Last Year's Resolutions

So about this time last year, I waxed poetic about all the things I was going to accomplish in 2006. It was such a heady time, full of promise and possibilities.

And now the year is nearly over. How'd I do? Overall, I'd say not too bad. I mean, I did make 11 resolutions; what were the chances I'd stick faithfully to nearly a dozen promises for an entire year? Slim-to-none, my friends.

But I did give myself full marks on 5 of the 11 resolutions, and partial credit for another 2. So that leaves 4 that I was entirely unsuccessful on. Maybe I'll only make 7 resolutions for next year .....

2006 Resolutions
1. Buy a house. Check!
2. Get a dog. Check!
3. Pay off my first car. Check! (Not on the list: get car stolen and almost have to start paying off a new car, then get original car back and be grateful once again for no car payment. But I'm an overachiever.)
4. Read 50 books, with a minimum of 12 classics and a maximum of 10 romances. Yes and no. I read 50+ books, but only 6ish classics (Still hoping to finish the "Book of Job"). That's hard work; damn you, Don Quixote!
5. Start lifting weights regularly again, run a sub-30 min. 5k, and lose enough chub to banish the "fat face." Definitely failed here. Maybe next year ...
6. Learn more about creating graphics for a website; get up and running. Um, sorta. I *did* learn more about graphics, and there's now a site for the fam's presence in the virtual universe .... it's just a pre-existing site that we signed up for a membership on. But overall, I think it counts!
7. Join an organization that works to increase literacy and contribute on a regular basis. Big "F." They all want you to be available during the day. Or at least, the three that I called in Cinci before we moved did. Maybe I'll try looking in Cleveland.
8. Visit 12 places I've never seen before. Check! They range from York, England, to our new house, but I've definitely hit 12 new places and then some.
9. Finish my travel book synopsis and send it to 10 agents. Fail. No sugarcoating this one.
10. Try one new variety of wine. Um, I think I crossed this one off the list on January 2. Check!
11. Write a blog entry every non-holiday weekday in 2006. Fail. This ended, what?, February maybe? But I still haven't done too badly. We've surpassed the 200-mark!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Christmas Feast

Success! We hosted Christmas Day in our house for the very first time ever .... and have lived to tell the tale! We cooked a turkey for the first time ever and—after a few minor, hardly-worth mentioning-missteps—served it to our family! And they ate it! And, two days later, I've yet to hear that anyone's been taken ill. Yay for us!

I was pretty worried about the turkey. We'd done practice run with the stuffing and cranberry chutney, so I was relatively confident about those recipes. But the turkey—13 lbs of dead bird is intimidating. Luckily, my parents arrived pretty early in the cooking process, so my mom could talk me down off the ledge and explain to me the differences between cooking a turkey in a roaster bag and out. (Trust me, my friends—there's major differences.)

In hindsight, I'm almost glad there was some comical confusion about the turkey. It wasn't easy, but with much help the "goose" was cooked. And the next time I host a major holiday meal (in 5 or 10 years), I'll have the satisfaction of knowing I did it once before. But I'll also invite my mom over early, too. You know, just in case.

Friday, December 22, 2006

A Smidge Paranoid

Fiona and I have finally been reunited!

It's actually been a week since I got her back from the repair shop. Over the weekend we cleaned her from head to toe, and I started driving to work again on Monday.

Of course, I did NOT drive to work and park in the same old spot. I had to purchase a parking pass for the lot behind my building, so I could park behind a tall gate topped with barbed wire fence. Word is that no cars have ever been stolen from there—not to say it can't be done. It's probably just isn't worth the time and effort.

And yet, knowing this, using my new card to get into the lot every day, waiting for the gate to roll back ... I'm still paranoid that my car's going to get stolen. The first day I drove to work, I kept worrying about it. All I could think was, "The last time I drove to work, my car was stolen."
I know it's just going to take time to stop worrying so much. I've already driven to work 4 whole days and had my car waiting in the parking lot for me when I returned. Plus, I've also driven to a shopping mall and found my car after leaving the store.

I mean, everyone knows that feeling of being in a crowded parking lot and not seeing your car at first. Your stomach drops, and you start looking frantically around, knowing you've just misplaced it—it couldn't possibly be stolen. Could it?

99.9% of the time, it isn't actually stolen. But I have experienced the .01% of the time when it really is. And it's going to take some time for that to go away, I think.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas

This year, apparently, Keith bought me a present that's hard to wrap. He's brought up several times that it'll take some figuring to get this one prettily presented under the tree.

At one point, it turned from a difficult present into ... an ostrich. He bought me an ostrich for Christmas, which has proven to be rather tricky to wrap. Not very cooperative.

Okay, this makes us laugh. You know why? Because it's a joke. A silly joke; no one would actually BUY someone an ostrich for Christmas, right? I figured that was pretty much understood.

And then, on my way into work this morning, a local radio station was interviewing a TV show producer. This person said that, on their show tonight, there's a feature about what to get that hard-to-buy-for special someone .... an exotic pet!

Seriously?!? Someone not only thought this would be a good story idea, but got others to agree and do interviews, etc, and it's actually going to be on the air.

It's bad enough when someone surprises another person with a garden-variety puppy, kitten, or fish. But an exotic pet?!? Specifically mentioned were cougars, camels, and snakes.

My friends, this is not a good idea. You may think it's cute, and it would definitely be a surprise. But I beg of you: don't go there.

And if Keith really did buy me an ostrich, next week I'll be posting about how he needs a place to crash until he's allowed back in the house. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

It Passes the Time

Call me an "underachiever" if you like, but I think there's a lot to be said for mind-numbingly dull work.

Today I spent a good chunk of time writing messages in the office Christmas cards, and getting them all set to be mailed. Then, this afternoon, I worked on the filing. Tedious? Yes. But I have so many Christmas-related tasks and errands running through my mind, it was sort of a relief to just zone out on work and think about all the things I wanted to do at home.

Plus, it helped my afternoon go quickly. It's nice to occasionally work away from the computer, and not have a constant reminder of how little time has passed since the last time you wondered if it was time to leave yet. Yesterday, while I stood at the filing cabinets, I heard a co-worker answer the phone and assure that caller that, although it was time to leave, she hadn't put on her coat yet so there was time to talk.

Time to go home? I was shocked! And delighted. Of course, I think that more than a day or two of filing and addressing Christmas cards would drive me over the edge. But for now, leading up to the holidays, it's a nice respite from thought.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Do joysticks bring joy?

A coworker and I were talking about Christmas shopping the other day. He mentioned that he and his wife were still somewhat conflicted over whether they should buy the latest and greatest video game system for their kids. It would be a couple hundred dollars, at least, and would it be worth it?

It reminded me of the "family gifts" that Santa used to bring. I seem to remember them as board games or a video. Maybe some tin cans tied together with string.

Okay! So maybe I'm embellishing slightly, but the point is, you didn't have to spend hundreds of dollars to find something everyone could enjoy. I wondered what I would do if I were in his position.

It's not unreasonable for his kids to want the same game system that everyone in their school has. But it's also not unreasonable to think that it's too much money to spend on one thing. Plus, I have a hard time getting past the feeling that it might actually make for less quality family time and more time spent alone with the TV screen, or with friends. Not family.

Am I crazy for thinking like that? Do I sound like a technophobe? I'm sure my kids will hate me when I surprise them with tin cans tied together with string.

Monday, December 18, 2006

This Is Important!

You probably already know this! But the sign on the microwave in the work kitchen reminded me! If you end every sentence with exclamation points, it loses its meaning of urgency and excitement!

So maybe, in the case of punctuation, less means more!!! Just keep it in mind!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Woxy's Been Back!

As Amy pointed out the other day, I've been delinquent in updating you all on news. But I do have an excuse.

When woxy was going off the air again—seemingly for good—I was very depressed about it. I was definitely going to lose some of my coolness quotient, and I need all that I can get. It felt like a part of me would be missing—the cool, indie part.

Then, right at the end, there were murmurings that it might be resurrected again. A big investor (who turned out to be the founder of was interested. Dare I hope?

So I didn't write about it because I didn't want to jinx it. Or get my hopes up only to have them dashed again. But the talk kept growing stronger ... and then there was a date! I think they were off the air about 3 weeks before returning as part of

The station is just as fabulous as ever and getting better. They want to add lounges in other cities where they can record and broadcast lounge acts. And, of course, I've listened to nothing but the Holiday Mixer since I heard about it. So check out woxy 3.0! (And might I point out that, if you visit the site on your own, you don't need my second-hand info? I'm notoriously unreliable.)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Special Delivery

I like to do my Christmas shopping early. This does occasionally causes problems, as when my older sister's boyfriend out-of-the-blue bought her this poster she'd always wanted—the same one I'd already bought and framed for her Christmas gift. It's now hanging in my dining room (good thing she has good taste!).

After that incident I pushed back my definition of "early." I used to start in October, if things were on sale or I knew the perfect gift. But now I'm content to have my shopping started before Thanksgiving and mostly finished by the 2nd week in December.

What has greatly facilitated this in the past year or two is shopping online. I'm a big fan, particularly because most of the people on my list like books and CDs. This is not something you need to see or touch before buying. You pretty much know what you're getting.

This year, I placed a large order on November 29. As is the Amazon way, I asked for as few shipments as possible and received 7 gifts in 4 separate shipments.

By last week, I had received nearly everything except one book. By this week, I still hadn't received the book and I was starting to get worried. I checked my account online; it told me the book had been delivered on December 1 to the side door.

That made me think: I at first assumed that meant the back porch, as we've had packages left there before. But I hadn't found the book there .... We also do technically have a side door, but it opens from the driveway to the basement stairs landing, and there's no reason to use it until you're moving in furniture and avoiding the tight turn of the back porch. At least, in my experience, that's the only reason for the side door.

So if that's the only time we used it, it's probably been months since we've opened it. I thought some more .... I was pretty sure there was both a screen door and a wooden interior door.

Last night, I opened the side screen door, and an Amazon package that had been stuck between the doors slid out. I felt like I'd discovered a buried treasure! Mental note: don't order anything perishable online, or at least open the side door once in a while to see if any packages slide out.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Holiday Modern Rock Mix

Much to the chagrin of anyone who's lived with me between Thanksgiving and Christmas, my tolerance for Christmas music is high. Very, very high. For the past 5 years or so, I have happily listened to 3 albums for all of December: White Christmas by Bing Crosby, When My Heart Finds Christmas by Harry Connick, Jr., and Handel's Messiah. I'll pop them into the CD player and listen to them over, and over, and over again.

It puts me in the Christmas mood, but perhaps not those forced to listen along with me. But this year, there's a compromise! I just found out that the very best radio station of all time (Internet or otherwise),, has a Holiday Mixer of Modern Rock! Just today I've already heard "Fairytale in New York" and many traditional Christmas songs sung by bands like Death Cab for Cutie, Yo La Tengo, Badly Drawn Boy, and even classics from Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra, among others. It's fabulous!

They do warn you that there's only a few hundred hours of music in the mix, so if you listen to it frequently you may hear some repeats. Please! My former Christmas collection repeatedly hourly. Bring it on! I'm still holding out for some Bing, though. And--dare I hope for The Chipmunks? One can dream...

Monday, December 11, 2006

And another thing ....

Something else to dislike about holiday shopping is the problems caused by the sheer volume of crap being bought.
Last week, Keith and I combed through all departments of Target, picking up a myriad of gifts and holiday-related items. To start, we didn't even have a basket. Then we broke down and got a basket halfway through ... and by the time we checked out, our merchandise was bursting out of the basket.

Leaving the store, both of us carried several bags of things that seemed important at the time, but whose contents I haven't a clue about today. (It's probably your present I'm so blase about.)

At home a few days later, I was going through the bags in search of one specific item, and I discovered a bag of stuff that wasn't ours. Several packages of batteries and a cheesy Christmas movie—the kind that's displayed for $5 right next to the register.

I felt terrible; obviously someone had paid for these things and left them on the check-out counter, and we scooped them up with our bags. But what can you do? I'm not making a special trip to return the items to the store. Previous experience tells me that when you try to be a good Samaritan to a large corporation, the counterperson thinks you're crazy, and just wishes you would have kept the free goods and not bothered them with returning it.

Really, I'd want to give the bag to the people who actually paid for it, but we have absolutely no idea who they might be. They did not helpfully leave a business card in the bag, or even a partial name or phone number that we could investigate.

So we kept the bag; it's sitting next to the other bags that we, presumably, purchased. I haven't actually checked them all, come to think of it .... but I feel like I should do something. Don't worry; I won't. Just another thing to annoy me during the holidays!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

You know it's cold ...

How do you know it's really cold out? Well, it's getting to that time of year when wintery habits pop up again. You know it's cold when:
* I wear socks to bed so I don't shock Keith with my blocks of ice. In theory I'll take the socks off once my feet warm up, but sometimes they don't reach that point until it's morning and time to get back out of bed.
* The car warms up just as you get to work and have to shut it off again.
* Getting dressed to go outside becomes a time-consuming, multi-layered affair. And that's just to get the mail.
* The rug just inside the back door is covered in foot apparel, which was taken off covered in snow and left there to recuperate.
* I break an ankle on above-mentioned footwear.
* 40 degrees seems delightfully balmy.
* Like with "sea legs," you're so used to walking on icy sidewalks that you use the careful, shuffling gait on all surfaces, icy or not.
* You're only reading my blog because you want an excuse to have the laptop on your legs and warm them up.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A Christmas House

There's been some buzz around here lately about the opening of a new museum. Apparently, a fan of the movie A Christmas Story has bought the house where the movie was filmed and is turning it into a museum.

My first reaction was somewhat skeptical. There's an added layer of ludicrosity (I think I just made that word up, by the way) to having a museum dedicated to a fake event. As I understand it, the original short story was actually set in rural Indiana. Because my facts were sketchy, I just read the wikipedia entry on A Christmas Story and discovered:
The house, on the west side of Cleveland Ohio, where the movie was filmed, was only used for exterior shots. The "fudge" flat tire was filmed down the street from the house. An entrepreneur later bought the house on eBay for $150,000.[6] He spent another $240,000 to renovate the house and back yard to look like the movie, and opened it to the public in November 25, 2006 as a museum, with original cast members attending the grand opening. The restored house contains some of the props from the movie, including Randy's snow suit and the leg lamp.
Firstly: damn, those wikipedia people are fast!

Secondly, let's recap: the house and surrounding streets were used for some exterior shots. That's it. But this guy has had contractors come in and completely gut the house to rebuild the interior so it matches the movie.

I like museums. Quite a bit. Especially oddball tributes to strange facets of life like the Mutter Museum of Medical Oddities and Sir John Soane's Museum. At first, I tried to convince myself it would be neat because it would be like reliving the movie and it would be a look into 1930s-era culture.

But I think this may be too much for even me. A house is used for a few shots in a movie, which is based on a fictional short story. And now this prop has become a museum?!? The connection between the interior of this house and any actual events is just too tenuous for me to take it seriously as a museum

Of course, having said that, it doesn't mean I won't go. I love that movie!

Monday, December 04, 2006

It's a Wrap for Charity

Last evening, I joined my mom in wrapping presents at a local bookstore to raise money for Love-a-Stray. Obviously it's a charity near and dear to my heart, since Love-a-Stray is where we got kitten Gomez from. I was looking forward to laughing at harried shoppers, cheerfully wrapping presents, and raising some money for a good cause.

Let me tell you: people are stingy. We had our first customer after about 15 minutes, and she was fantastic. She knew all about Love-a-Stray, had us wrap a couple books while we chatted about animal rescue and all our assorted animals. She dropped $10 in the donation box and promised to send more money when she had the chance. And I actually think she meant it!

After that exchange, Mom and I were left with a warm, fuzzy feeling. It made me want to go home and pet Gomez and spread the goodwill. Of course, it all went downhill from there.

The next person got 4 presents wrapped and gave $1. One stinkin' dollar. And the person after that was the prize. She had us busily wrapping away. I mentioned that we were from Love-a-Stray, intending to just spread the word and give her a business card. Because really, isn't that why we were there?

However, when I started talking about the charity we were affiliated with, she clutched tightly to her purse. "I'm sorry," she shook her head. "I just don't carry any cash with me. I'll have to bring it next time!"

She then proceeded to tell us about how she stiffed the local high school band, who were wrapping last week, and even the Salvation Army guy. She felt terrible, but what can you do? She doesn't carry cash!

Ummm ... don't go to a CHARITY wrapping table and get your presents wrapped?!? Is it really that hard? Why are you even pretending like you ever intended to give money? If you don't carry cash, DON'T use a service that requests a donation. It's really not that hard.

Unless you intended to really get those suckers at the wrapping table and take 'em for all they're worth. In which case, well played! We wrapped her presents and smiled and wished her a good evening, I think because both of us were so shocked that we didn't really know what to do. Merry freakin' Christmas!

Friday, December 01, 2006

A Reprieve!

It was my turn to get up and walk the dog today, and I was not feeling it. I mean, not that I ever hop out of bed, full of excitement to greet the day and walk/run a spastic pup before the sun is up. Usually I manage to drag myself out of bed and into running clothes with a minimal amount of grumbling. Mostly because (1) Keith is asleep, so there's no one to complain to, and (2) I'm still half-asleep anyway.

But as I'd mentioned yesterday, the weather has taken a turn for the worse. It rained all night. This morning, I was relieved to wake up and not hear a steady patter. Well, that's not so bad then! I tried to encourage myself to get out of bed. It may be frigid outside, but at least it's not raining!

Except it was. When I finally dragged myself out of bed and downstairs to let the dog outside pre-run, I saw that it was still raining steadily. Apparently, putting down the storm windows in the bedroom blocks out the noise. Not a bad thing, but it left me feeling ill-prepared and a bit miffed.

Except ... the dog refused to go outside. He walked onto the porch and considered his options. I squinted into the backyard to assess the muddiness factor. It had surpassed mud--the middle of the yard was a lake of standing water, surrounded by many smaller lakes throughout. It didn't look appealing.

Beckett agreed. Instead of launching himself off the porch and straight into the yard (he disdains the wasted time of steps), he stood under the covered porch and considered his options for a minute or two. I stood at the door, watching him watch the rain. He looked back at me. I opened the door and he raced back inside and straight up to bed.

Hurray! I figure if the dog doesn't even want to be outside, really no one should. It was great to go back to bed and snuggle under the covers for a half-hour longer. Although I suppose it's too much to hope for the same outcome at 5:30 Monday morning.