Friday, December 28, 2007

The 11th and 12th Days of Christmas

Lest anyone think our vacation ended on the 10th day...

Christmas Eve day in Seattle was the only day that was really bright and sunny, so we spent most of the day walking and eating. And the evening...walking and eating. Because that is what we do, vacation or not, but especially on vacation when calories don't count and the walks take you all sorts of places that you haven't seen before. This shot was taken from the Olympic Sculpture Park, at sunset (duh)...

For lunch, we went to a deli and loaded up with prosciutto, salami, cheeses and lox. And crackers and cherries and 10 pounds of clementines. Then we went to the park by the marina and set up our own deli, gorging on all of the above. Unfortunately, it was a late lunch and we had dinner reservations at the hotel's restaurant at 6:30pm. So we did some extra walking and tried to work off lunch in time to be hungry again for dinner. Appetite or not, the dinner was wonderful (we all had seafood...mussels for an appetizer, swordfish, salmon and halibut...all delicately prepared and served with savory sauces and sides...and dessert...and not shared either, one for each of us...mmm).

This shot was taken in the hotel room before going down for dinner. I like this photo because it captures perfectly the attitude that only a teenager can properly carry off. And yes, I'm sure some of it is our fault. Afterall, we didn't see fit to buy the designer purse for Christmas. But Tata (Croatian for "father") refused to let that bother him.

After dinner, we lounged around the room and waited for midnight. We had planned to attend Midnight Mass at St. James Cathedral, a beautiful cathedral up on the hill in downtown Seattle. And eventually, we did do that, but when we arrived at the church at 11:30, it was already packed and they weren't letting anyone else in the doors because of fire safety rules. So instead, a large crowd gathered in the foyer, probably much larger than the Fire Marshall would have preferred. Rather than leave, we hung out and hoped that when the earlier Carol Service was over, the less-than-serious church goers would leave, and we would get in. As everyone crowded at the doors, I wondered if ever there had been any crushing incidents at Midnight Mass before, you know, like at the soccer events in Ghana, for example. Then, finally, after the Mass service had begun, people filed out in small groups at first and finally, enough left that they opened the doors and let us all in (actually, I think what happened is that the people responsible for guarding the doors had other duties to perform and they abandoned their posts). There was standing room only inside the cathedral, and it was hot and stuffy. At the 1 hour mark, I thought I might faint. I started bending my knees like they taught us to do at the 2nd grade Christmas program after the one girl fainted. Finally, it was time for communion and the service was over. Regardless of the physical inconvenience of standing all the way through Midnight Mass, or maybe because of it, this was a very memorable service and a wonderful night.

Christmas morning was less memorable. We had to wake up early to take the little one to the airport, to fly home. Being sleep deprived caused her to be more grumpy than usual. At the airport, she huffed off to check herself in. Refusing to listen to us (I cannot count the number of times we heard the words "I'm 17. I can do anything I want. Don't tell me what to do!"), she marched off to the wrong airline. And then, angry at us for letting her "look stupid," she marched to the Southwest kiosk, butting in front of everyone else in line, and printed her boarding pass. She practically ran off to the security line so as to lose the parental units as quickly as possible. And it was there that we said our goodbyes. I can't say it was the most sentimental of send-offs, but we did enjoy our time together, however brief.

While her plane left early, our didn't leave until early afternoon, so we drove a car full of items over to the boat, things we could leave on board, like extra shoes, raincoats, umbrellas, pillows and other odds and ends. We had leftovers (prosciutto, lox, etc) from the day before, so in the end, we did enjoy Christmas dinner on our boat. It just wasn't quite how we expected it might be...

Christmas in Seattle (All Aboard!)

Christmas Dinner

Next year will be different. At least, I won't have to fly home on Christmas Day because of work commitments the next day. And if we are on the boat, hopefully, it won't be laid up for repairs.

We arrived home in time to spend Christmas evening with our oldest daughter, although we ended up dining on pizza purchased at the gas station because everything was closed and we had no food at home that wasn't in the deep freeze.

While Christmas Day itself was not exactly the version of Christmas that many of us grew up with, it was blessed in its own way. We were especially blessed to be able to spend time with both of our girls who are growing up and moving away much too quickly. Too quickly for their own good, but that's a topic for another post. :-)

Happy New Year!

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Vacation Days #2 - 10, A Recap

Day 2 - Saturday

We drove from San Jose to Salinas; ate brunch with youngest daughter and her "best, best friend" before driving over to Monterey and beginning our descent down the coast along Hwy 1. It was a beautiful sunny day, about 52 degrees, sweatshirt weather. We stopped in at our favorite spots along the way, Heart Beat Gallery and The Phoenix Cafe at Nepenthe's, both in the heart of Big Sur, then dinner at the Lucia Lodge where we sat outside on the veranda overlooking the cliffs.

Stopped to enjoy the sunset and arrived at Mom's house just in time to pick up our tickets to the Christmas concert in the old (137 years old) church where we got married. It was beautifully lit and we all enjoyed a challenging walk up the hill to get to it. The concert was very simple but beautiful, three young girls singing Christmas carols a cappella. The church has no electric lights so it was lit with candles and decorated with greenery and poinsettias. Wonderful and peaceful, a true celebration of Christmas as it was intended to be celebrated.

Old Santa Rosa Chapel

Day 3 - Sunday

We started the morning with coffee and cinnamon rolls downtown. Then my husband drove up the coast to visit a good friend and I strolled through downtown Cambria before heading up the 160 stairs, through the woods, and back to Mom's house. Along the way, I finished my Christmas shopping with a giant lizard for Mom. But I didn't carry her home. I arranged for delivery. This thing must weigh at least 100 pounds:

"Jasmine Akhenaten"

I hung out at home with Mom enjoying tea and fruitcake. And a little mud cake. And Christmas cookies. When low tide arrived, we went beachcombing and drug home a handful of rocks and moonstones.

Day 4 - Monday

Coffee and cinnamon rolls downtown again. I will have gained approximately 10 pounds by the end of this journey. 10 pounds that I don't have room for, I might add. After breakfast, we drove to Morro Bay for a fishing license, fishing bait and salt water taffy (life's essentials). We played tourist at the Shell Shop (it's been in business longer than I've been alive and still looks exactly like it must have looked in 1955, more like a state fair shell collection than a gift shop) and then into San Luis Obispo for more fishing stuff, Trader Joe's (jalapeno tortilla chips, cinnamon almonds, fig basalmic vinegar and wasabi mayonaise...more essentials). We had hoped to enjoy lunch at Pete's Southside Cafe (only Pete's was closed which is a sad, sad thing because they make the best ceviche, fish tacos and enchiladas in all the land). Instead, we walked across the street to the Del Monte Cafe and had soup and grilled tuna melts which weren't so bad, but it was not Pete's. After lunch, we went back home to Cambria and back to the beach for more beachcombing...this is therapy for me. There is nothing so relaxing as walking along the beach, listening to the waves crash, smelling the ocean, and looking for those special little gems called moonstones. We also picked up plenty of other detritus which we will later have to find room for in our suitcases.

Day 5 - Tuesday

It rained all day today, which was much needed in this region of the country (the hills are brown) and we enjoyed sitting inside (at least I enjoyed sitting inside while my husband donned his rain gear and headed out for a solitary fishing adventure...he was nearly the only one on the beach, but he caught three fish and then, according to him, the seagulls stole the biggest one and fought over it in mid-air...there was nobody there to corroborate this story). Mom and I drank tea, ate cookies and chatted about all sorts of things. It was a nice day.

Day 6 - Wednesday

Back to beautiful and sunny weather, more beachcombing (this could become a serious addiction), then we drove up the coast and enjoyed lunch at Ragged Point:

We returned home in time for dinner out with the folks, then exchanged Christmas presents (we received a beautiful watercolor painting from Mom, of the San Simeon cove, where my husband spent his time fishing). After dinner and presents and a strong cup of coffee, we hit the road, picking up our youngest daughter in Salinas and driving to San Jose for our early morning flight out. We stayed at the lovely Motel 6 in technology land, just a few blocks from the airport and got through security in plenty of time for a Venti Gingerbread Latte and a few chapters of my book.

Day 7 - Thursday

After a smooth, easy flight from San Jose to Seattle, we enjoyed lunch and a little shopping at Pike Place Market, then drove out to see S/V Sophia. Her guts were laid out all over the salon as she endures what looks like brain surgery. We were supposed to sleep on the boat but due to these unforseeable circumstances, we decided to rent a hotel room. We were successful in winning a nice 4-star room on the waterfront for only $89/night via Priceline. No complaints. Except for the fact that the primary reason we came to Seattle was to spend Christmas on our boat with our daughter. Oh well.

Sophia's (aka Dancing Queen) innards

We decided to enjoy Seattle anyways, but I do miss spending the time with our family.

Day 8 - Friday

We drove around parts of Seattle and explored the banks of Lake Washington and then to Tacoma where we visited our temporary home away from home and the Glass Museum, home of the Chihuly Glass Bridge. This pedestrian bridge spans the freeway and lights up at night to showcase hundreds of works of glass produced by Chihuly's "factories." This bridge was awesome:

Looking out over the freeway from inside the bridge

One of many ceiling panels

Our future home (the empty slip is ours; the Glass Museum is the silver cone across the water from the docks and next to that is Union Station)

After exploring more areas south and west of Seattle (Gig Harbor, Bremerton, Port Orchard), we boarded the ferry from Bremerton to Seattle and enjoyed the city lights from the boat. The rest of the evening was spent Christmas shopping in downtown Seattle. Boy, are teenagers ever expensive. My advice? Don't walk through Nordstrom's with a 17-year old girl. It is unpleasant for all involved. After pawing over a designer purse that she wanted for Christmas, the conversation went something like this:

me: "um, Did you happen to notice the price on that nice little carpet bag?" (seriously, it was larger than my carry on suitcase and uglier than anything I've seen in the purse department, but then, what do I know about expensive purses?)

her (loudly and only 2 feet from the nearest sales clerk): "How much is this? I WANT this purse! (think Violet, in the Chocolate Factory) Why don't they put price tags on these stupid purses?!"

sales clerk: "It's inside the zippered pocket" (pause)

her: "$3,700?! What the?! But I WANT this purse!"

Then, not being one who is easily embarrassed, she announced that "Nordstrom's SUCKS! I can't afford anything is this stupid store!" And then, we left. And Christmas shopping was pretty much over at that point.

Day 9 - Saturday

Rock climbing and shopping for sailing gear at REI. Here, she shows her other side, the side that doesn't need no stinkin' designer purses because she can climb three story buildings. So there.

The youngest daughter shows off

Dinner at a cheap hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant, and THEN:

Jesus Christ Superstar! At the Paramount Theatre. It was fantastic!! I've not enough energy to do it justice, but this was an unplanned event in our journey and a very enjoyable experience. Having grown up listening to the music, that was the best part, but the lighting and stage show were brilliantly done, both literally and figuratively.

Day 10 - Sunday

Today was a relaxing, room service and watch movies/football in the room kind of day. And we toured Pike Place Market again. And the aquarium...just a few doors down from our hotel:

Seattle Aquarium

More Chihuly

"Giant" Pacific Octopus (approx. 1 foot in diameter)

Tonight, we sat on the floor in the bay window alcove of another Thai restaurant. Even though we rested on pillows, we had a terribly difficult time getting up when it was time to leave. The old knees do not like sitting on the floor with legs at awkward angles for long periods of time.

After dinner, we drove down to Ballard Locks to watch the "world's largest lighted flotilla of Christmas Ships" only to see a single boat, which was not decorated in Christmas lights. What the?! Ah well, this just confirmed what the youngest daughter already knew, which is that she does indeed have the most boring parents in the entire world. We're also the "biggest squares." There are other adjectives as well, but really, who can bear much more than being called a "square?"

I think that's enough. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. Merry Christmas to all!

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Vacation Day #1

Ah, blessed vacation! We've gone fishing. We'll be back after Christmas.

We escaped Kansas City just before the snow arrived and hit clear, smooth skies all the way to California, stopping in Las Vegas only long enough to change planes and throw $30 into the slot machines ($10 from me, $20 from my husband). Why we even bothered doing this is beyond me. It was that or sample the O2 wares. The idea of putting a tube up my nose to suck colored oxygen did not rise to the level of "good" in my opinion.

On time (even early) arrivals all the way across the country and here we sit in our hotel room.

I received a call from a client on our way to the airport, asking why I wasn't at the meeting he thought we had scheduled for 2:30 today. Oops! Big oops!! I can't remember the last time I missed a meeting. That just doesn't happen. Only, I know for a fact that the last conversation I had with the CFO was that she couldn't get numbers for me by today and she would get back to me with a new time. Oh well. Getting out of town is never easy. The stress of leaving is worse than the stress of not getting a vacation. Sometimes.

Cutest thing heard today (from the little girl in the seat behind us, who appeared to be only 3-4 years old, speaking to her Barbie as the plane began its descent): "Well, we didn't fall out. That was a great flight. God protected us." Indeed, we didn't fall out. The true measure of "greatness."

Highlight of the trip...a 69 point word in scrabble on the computer ("illegal")...woot! ("woot" is Merriam Webster's word of the year, by the way...what's up with that?!)

Tomorrow, we drive down Highway 1, along the beautiful Big Sur coast. This may be one of the most beautiful spots in the entire country. And it's supposed to be clear and sunny.

It's a happy day.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Mama's Boy

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Winter Wonderland

Iced in and "working" at home today (blogging, making jewelry and favorite!). Ice is still forming a glaze all around us, expected to get worse later today, but so far we still have power and are thankful that we don't have to drive anywhere. The trees are very heavy with the extra burden they've been asked to carry. Branches and in some cases, entire trees, are crashing to the ground as we speak. We have plenty of food, water and blankets should we become stranded and powerless. In the meantime, we are enjoying the beauty of ice.


Bird "Bath"

Horizontal Icicles



Sunday, December 09, 2007

What Would Jesus Say?

When Jim mentioned his distaste for the red porch light installed on his front porch for the holidays, I chuckled about The Red Light District. Imagine then my surprise when I entered the living room to find the nativity scene set up and baby Jesus basking in the glow of red miniature Christmas lights installed in the manger, thanks to my beloved husband. I am not allowed to remove the lights because the nativity scene is his one and only contribution to the Christmas decorations and he "likes it that way."

But I can blog about it. ;-)


Saturday, December 08, 2007

My First Sale!

Yesterday, I had my first sale on Etsy! And there was much rejoicing! I would link to it, but I don't want to spoil the surprise for someone who reads was her husband who did the shopping. ;-)

Today, I hand carried the parcel to the post office (rather than ask my rural carrier to pick it Jim's suggestion...don't forget to give your carrier a special thank you at this time of year).

As I was preparing the package for shipping, I realized just how unprofessional I was, without business cards, without shipping labels, and with nothing but recycled tattered boxes for shipping. So today, I picked up some free shipping supplies (free boxes and labels) at the post office and ordered gift boxes and satchels online. Now I need to work on some business cards. I realize it may be another month or two before my next sale, but still...

Oh, and this afternoon, I'm making a light box for my photography sessions, thanks to Eric for sending the link on how to do that. Then I'll be adding something new to my shop. <*/advertisement>


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Bah, Humbug!

I am not a fan of "the holidays," in the commercial sense, so this meme is right up my alley...

Via Jim and Brian - The Bah Humbug meme (aka Stuff I Hate About the Holidays):

1) dessert/cookie/family food: I know you expect me to say fruitcake here, but honestly? I love fruitcake. Which pretty much discredits everything else I have to say from this point on, I realize. But the holiday food I really hate is sweet potatoes made sweeter with stuff, especially MARSHMALLOWS. Gak. Give me a sweet potato with butter, salt and pepper anyday.

2) beverage (seasonal beer, eggnog w/ way too much egg and not enough nog, etc): Don't screw with the egg alcohol (is that the "nog?")!

3) tradition (church, family, other): Office holiday parties. Ugh.

4) Decoration: Like Brian, I think I'd have to rule out blow-up decorations, but I'm not above sticking one of those inflatables on my lawn, just for laughs (not that I have done that, mind you...I do have standards, you know).

5) gift (received or given): One year, living on a tight budget, I made all of my gifts. For my step-mother who has everything and very little taste for "country chic," I made a wreath with little calico print potpouri sachets tied to it like bows. She gratefully accepted the gift and then stashed it away in a closet somewhere, or maybe the attic. I'm not sure. I'll have to ask her where that is, now that I think about it.

BONUS: SONG/CD that makes you want to tell the elves where to stick it: Jim stole his answer from me (Santa Baby), but the version that first comes to mind for me is the one sung by Eartha Kitt. What awful lyrics.


'Tis The Season

Updated to swap out photos with this one, taken in my new light box. I'm still working on getting good resolution and white balance.

Meet Saint Nicholas...about the height of a penny, missing arms and bearing a few other war wounds...he makes me smile.

I just pulled out my winter coat and there he was, underneath my gloves, residing in my coat pocket back to the moment I discovered him lying naked in the gutter of a street in Chinatown, San Francisco...Christmas of 2003. 2003! Wow. Four years. He has traveled all over, from sea (Seattle, Big Sur, San Francisco) to shining sea (Cape Cod, DC, Savannah), points in between (Chicago, Omaha, Denver) and across the pond (Croatia, Italy, and Vienna). For all his travels, he has never lost his way. Like a baby kangaroo, he clings to the security of the inner corner of my pocket. It amazes me that he hasn't fallen out. This Christmas, he will be traveling with us to Cambria, CA and Seattle.

And at this point, Saint Nicholas is the only Christmas decoration I've gotten out.

Must start doing my Christmas shopping...


Monday, December 03, 2007

Just Like Junior High

I don't know why it pleases me so, to know that my blog reads at the Junior High level (see the new gizmo/widget/whatchamacallit in the right side bar). My parents will be so proud.

I hated Junior High so, so much. Perhaps I'm still just trying to fit in. Or maybe it comforts me to know that I can't possibly alienate any of my college educated readers by talking down to that was a big concern. I think the most plausible explanation is that it means I am hereby excused from having anything intelligent to say. We are now free to roam about the cabin hurling insults (or food) at one another.


Sunday, December 02, 2007

Let There Be Etsy!

I am officially open and ready for business! Come see.

It was a tedious process of photographing the pieces yesterday, some new and some very old (things I made but never wore), and coming up with semi-adequate descriptions and prices. I changed the prices on things multiple times before deciding that it would be easier to come down than to go up, if needed, hoping that nobody would get wind of the site until I was finished with my tinkering. Of course, by the time I finished, I could tell visitors had come and gone, but no interested buyers yet.

I really need to work on the photography (angles, perspective, backdrops...although I did have fun with various props lying around my house, and pixels), and it's probably time to fork out the extra bucks for a high-speed connection at home. The dial-up is killing me when it comes to uploading photos.

Anyway, it was fun setting this up. Now, I just need to start making stuff. And selling it. :-)


Saturday, December 01, 2007

Resurrecting An Old Hobby

Once upon a time, when I seemed to have more "free" time, I took up beadwork. Mostly woven beaded earrings, like this. That was many years ago, back in the 80's. Over the years, I added to my bead collection and took a silversmithing class at a local rock shop (a small class of 6 students where we got one-on-one tutoring in the art of using a torch, to melt perfectly good pieces of silver). Then we went on a cleaning spree, clearing our basement of much junk. After the air cleared, I was no longer able to find my trunk of beads and accused my husband of burning it in the giant bonfire.

Two years later, my husband pulled a giant bin out of the storage room and ta-da...there are my beads! And my crayon shavings, sorted into baggies by color (what ever was I planning to do with those?!). And a few bags of assorted makings for holiday wreaths that had become nesting material for the local rodents...shudder. I was thrilled though to have the beads back. Ever since my friend, Jen, took up beading, I have been a bit envious and had even offered to send her some of my old beads if I ever found them since I seemed to have lost the time or inclination to do anything with them. It turns out most of my beads were only small seed and bugle beads which Jen doesn't need. She does wonderful work with individually beautiful beads. I do have a few strands of fresh water pearls that I purchased every time I visited Chinatown in San Francisco, but I'm not ready to give those away yet (sorry, Jen! :-). So with those as inspiration, I sat down with my beads and began playing. Then I went to Michaels and bought $121 worth of "pretty" beads and spent an entire day beading (over the Thanksgiving weekend):

From This

To This

It was very therapeutic and I'm thinking now about the possibility of turning this into a business that I could do while living on a boat out in the middle of the ocean. I may have to look into the whole Etsy thing. More to come, I'm sure.