Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas 2013

Our Christmas so far has been so much fun!   As usual, we spread it out over several days.....we actually still have a couple of parties to go!

It started with going to the Java Room on Thursday night to listen to my Hubby, Betsi Mandrioli and Trude Witham perform an evening of Christmas tunes.  Betsi said it best....."Just sit back and let all your worries go and just enjoy the music and the fun".   And we did!

Friday night was back to the Java Room to listen to music again...this time with Jon Swensen, John Ferullo and Betsi Mandrioli.   Again....a nice, easy relaxing night of music.

Saturday was the Vennard Family Christmas.   Naturally we forgot the camera, but lucky for us, Tag's brother Paul took a couple of photos.

This is actually the whole family.  Tag's niece Mandi and her wife Britt were here from Texas, and all the other kids and grandkids were in attendance.  (A Christmas Miracle!)

It was great fun to have little children running around.  I had the good fortune to be holding Elsie on my lap while she unwrapped her gifts.  She was much more excited about ripping the paper than anything else!  And after she was done, she went over to the tree and played with the ornaments, and threw all the wrapping paper around.

Next up on Sunday morning was brunch with my kids.   We have two little granddaughters now on that side of the family, which made it twice the fun!
Emily practices her new reading skills on Audrey.  Audrey was very appreciative!

Jamie and Emmy have some fun time together.

Kara gets to spend some time with Audrey

Memere eating Audrey's fingers

Nick being goofy

Had to laugh at the size of Audrey compared to her Dad and Uncle

Audrey smiles for the camera

Jamie and Audrey chill out with the piano from Pepere

And Sunday night we had a dinner party with some amazing friends.  Jon and Janice Swensen were here from Pennsylvania, so we invited them and some other musical friends to join us.....   Pat and Bob, Rick and Kate and John and Jan.     I asked for us not to bring guitars or have a reasoning being  that we see each other a lot, but never get a chance to talk because we are usually at an open mic or show.   We sat around the table for 3 hours or so, eating, laughing and enjoying each others' company.  It was awesome!!!

This year was the first year Hubby and I had Christmas Eve alone.   We chilled out, ordered in some Chinese food, and watched "It's A Wonderful Life".    Very, very nice!

And Christmas Day we went up to my Dad's house.  It was a quieter than usual Christmas, with some of the families visiting in-laws.  But it was a very enjoyable time where we go the chance to chat and visit and eat.

Elf Dad helps Santa Emma hand out the gifts

Dad and Marc

Emma's daughter made her a great new sign for her garden

Dad and Emma relax after the feast

Still coming up - Christmas party and Yankee Swap at the Acoustic Cafe Open Mic tonight, and Christmas with Hubby's kids tomorrow night!!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

My recipe for health...or at least avoiding illness

Somewhere along the way, I adopted a really good immune system.   I used to get all kinds of strep, bronchitis, etc.   Working with little kids will do that to you.   So I had to come up with some strategies for my defense.  I haven't had a bad cold or infection in about 8 years (I just KNOW I'm jinxing myself!)   So here's what I do:

1.  I believe the #1 defense against illness is FRESH AIR.    Everyone knows being around sick people is what makes you sick, and being in an enclosed space all winter with germs is an invitation to illness.   So.....
     A.  I sleep with my window open.  Just an inch or so, but enough to allow fresh air into my bedroom.
     B.  Pick a fairly mild day, turn down the heat in the house, and open all the windows for a 1/2 hour.
     C.  Get outside.  Walk.  Ski.  Sled.  Whatever.  Just get some fresh air into your lungs.

2.  Wash your hands with soap and water.   NOT hand sanitizer.  That stuff is completely useless.  Don't be obsessive about it, but think about washing your hands periodically throughout the day....especially when you come in contact with someone who is obviously sick.

3.  Use bleach and water to clean high-germ areas.   By which I mean...places people touch.  Nothing cleans like bleach.  Any spray cleaner is a waste of money.

4.  Take Echinacea.   It really does boost your immune system. I take it every day, year round.  It works.

5.  Use a netti pot.   As soon as I start to feel the slightest bit congested, I use the netti pot and clean out my sinuses.  It works.

6.  I take generic Claritin every day.   I tend to have allergies, and the Claritin keeps my sinuses clean.

7.  Use a humidifier.   Dry membranes invite germs.

8.  Along the same lines, stay hydrated.  It's good to keep everything nice and moist.

There you go.  My recipe for staying healthy.   It works for me.  Try might work for you too.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The First Thanksgiving

This year was my First Thanksgiving.  After 35 years of being in my own household, I made my first Thanksgiving dinner this year.

Up until now, we celebrated with my whole extended family.  Of course, as the years went by, the family got bigger and bigger with the addition of children, grandchildren, boyfriends and girlfriends, etc.   Last year, my Dad announced right after Thanksgiving that he couldn't do it anymore.  25-30 people for a sit-down dinner was just too much for him.  And I can't blame him.  It would be too much for anyone!

So this year, each of my siblings and I did our own Thanksgiving.  I was kind of melancholy all week.  Changing tradition is hard for me.  I always looked forward to Thanksgiving with my siblings. Doing something different was just...........different.

But I began to get into the spirit of things.  I shopped for a pretty fall tablecloth.  I made up my menu.  I even bought some new dishes so they'd match my new tablecloth!

I invited my brother and wife and niece.  I invited my children - but gave them the option of going to their in-laws if they wanted. I remember how hard it was when my kids were little to go "house-hopping" on a holiday, and wanted to make life easy for them.  And I invited a couple of old folks and stragglers.

I ended up with nine people at the dinner table.  My brother John, his wife Ruth and my niece Laura.  My son Nick and his wife Kelly (and my granddaughter Audrey....5 months old!)   And my dear Aunt Izy who's almost 89, and my cousin Paul, who has no siblings or parents still alive.

The night before, I made Traditional French Pork Stuffing.  We always called it "Fau"  (I'm not sure of the spelling, but that's how it's pronounced.)  It doesn't look fact, my stepson once called it "that gray meat", but anyone who's eaten it knows it's absolutely delicious.

Afterwards, you take the leftovers and put it in a pie shell and it's called a Tortiere.   I'll be doing that today for when my brother comes over to watch the football game.

It was fun to set a pretty table.

On Thanksgiving morning we divided our time between getting the food ready and watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.   Hubby was a huge help with peeling all the potatoes and sweet potatoes.  

I realized that I was having a great time getting ready for my guests.  All the years I lived in my condo, and even before that when I had a house but a husband who didn't like having people over, I longed to be a hostess.   I've done some entertaining since buying the house, but somehow, this seemed more special than usual.

We ended out having a beautiful meal.  (even though the rolls were slightly overdone!)  I finally timed my turkey correctly and it came out nice and moist instead of dry.  Veggies were all hot and delicious.  And the Fau was perfect!

I didn't take as many pictures as I would have liked....and of course, they were all pics of the baby!

My brother says hello to his great-niece

Jamie was able to come over after she worked.  She works in a school for challenged students, and had to be there.   She's teaching Audrey how to play "Twinkle Twinkle" on the piano.

Laura was very excited to meet Audrey for the first time.  And Audrey looks pretty happy too.

It turned out to be everything you would wish a holiday to be.  Lots of food, family and lots of chatting and laughing.  After everyone left, I felt like I'd had a real holiday.    And of course, the best part was Hubby helping clean up!

He's really the part of my life I'm most thankful for!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Giving Thanks

1.   Hubby
2.   Hubby's patience
3.   Hubby's romanticism
4.   Three Wonderful children
5.   Four sweet grandbabies
6.   Dad
7.   My sister and the first step we took to rebuild our relationship
8.   My brother who's always there for me.
9.   My sister-in-law who is such a good person
10. My Niece who is such a sweet girl
11. All the rest of my family, both far and near
12. Memories of my Mom
13. Good friends I've know for years
14. Great people I work with
15. Musical friends who add so much to my life
16. Our house
17. The front porch where I can sit with a cup of tea and a newspaper
18. The backyard where we can have BBQ's
19. Campfires
20. Fresh vegetables from the garden
21. Perennial flowers in the garden
22. Hubby's hard work
23. Sunny summer days to sit in the yard and read
24. a 50-pound weight loss
25. the ability to do things I haven't done in years
26. Doing the Spartan Race!
27. Sharing that experience with my daughter
29. working at a job I enjoy
30. Tanglewood
31. Vermont
32. the Marginal Way
33. Newburyport boardwalk
34. Hampton Beach
35. going on adventures with Hubby
36. Hubby's job
37. Enough money
38. A little extra money for adventures
39. No injuries when I totaled my car
40. cars that run
41. no car payments
42. the ability to keep in touch with people
43. Facebook
44. taking walks with Hubby
45. free books from the library
46. Parker's Maple Barn
47. real maple syrup
48. hubby's fried chicken
49. snicker's ice cream bars
50. french toast
51. online shopping
52. Craig's list
53. netflix
54. sleeping late on a winter morning
55. getting up early on a summer morning
56. sitting around the campfire on a fall night
57. s'mores
58. our new living room
59. friends who come to visit in our new living room
60. family coming for the holidays
61. my ability to sew
62. being asked to make my granddaughter's Halloween costume
63. taking my granddaughter to Canobie for her birthday
64. listening to her stories and made-up songs
65. listening to hubby play the piano
66. listening to hubby play the guitar
67. learning new songs to sing
68. singing songs for friends
69. going out to eat
70. finding new recipes to cook
71. exercising
72. listening to our friends' cd's
73. having enough cd's to listen all the way to DC
74. going to the movies
75. free movie tickets from work
76. bonuses and incentives at work
77. favorite TV shows
78. walking along the beach in the winter
79. a warm house
80. laughing til I cry
81. Hubby's arms around me when I really cry
82. Hubby's encouragement in my weight loss
83. everyone's encouraging comments about my weight loss
84. walking in the woods
85. swimming in my brother's pool
86. my brother's cooking
87. visiting with my family
88. laughing our butts off over a card game
89. sock monkeys
90. going to the zoo
91. apple picking
92. Red Sox World Series Champions!
93. Patriots football
94. Rein's Deli
95. watching my daughter play football
96. the living room is finally almost done
97. dancing with hubby
98. canoeing
99. canoodling
100. sharing my life with the love of my life.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Spartan Race

It all started with my brother John sending me a message....."Hey KK - wanna try this?" and a link to the "Hero Rush Challenge".   My first thought was, "ummm...NO!"   But then I became intrigued and decided it might be a cool challenge to try.

Unfortunately, after paying for the Hero Rush, we were informed they'd gone bankrupt!  We were both pretty pissed and disappointed, until we got another message saying we were going to be given a free entry into another race.   When we checked the list, there was the Spartan Race at FENWAY PARK!  We were in!!!

Unfortunately (again)  a week or so before the race, John sent me a message saying he was very, very, very sorry, but he had to back out of the race because his daughter was testing for her Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do on the very same day!   At first I was pretty upset, but then of course I understood that there was no way he could miss seeing his daughter reach this accomplishment in her life.

There was only one person I could turn to to take his daughter Jamie.  She was happy to oblige.  I was happy to have someone to do it with, but intimidated as well because she's young, in shape and an athlete!  But she came through for me with flying colors!

We parked at Sullivan Station and took the T into Fenway.   It was a gorgeous fall day......55 degrees and sunny.  

We had to go through the registration gate to get our Bibs.   At Fenway, they don't want you to wear the bibs because they don't want pins on the racecourse. So the Bib is just a souvenir and they give you a headband with your number on it as well.

I figured since we were going to be at iconic Fenway Park, especially in the year that the Red Sox won the World Series, I'd wear my Red Sox shirt.  Funny that Jamie had the same idea!

After getting all geared up and ready, the hardest part was waiting for our heat to start.

Finally, it was time to get in line.  They had 200 people per heat, and as we neared the start, they had us separate into groups of 15 to start the race.  We wore wristbands with timers on them - they started when we crossed the start line.

Hubby was allowed in as a spectator, and given a Spectator Map to be able to go to certain areas to get close enough for pictures.  He tried to be in the right place at the right time, but really only got pictures of the parts where we were outside.

I know I can't remember everything we did in order, but here's most of the things we did that Hubby didn't see:

1.  Run up several flights of stairs and then carry a ten gallon jug full of water down one flight of stairs and up the other. 
2.  Go up about 6 ramps that were crisscrossed with ropes - bear crawl under one set of ropes and highstep over the next set.
3.  Climb over a 4 foot wall.  (did this with the help of a knee from a kind volunteer)
4.  Army crawl under crisscrossed ropes a foot above the floor.
5.  Climb over a 6 foot wall.  (did this with the help of a knee on one side and Jamie helping me down on the other)
6.  Go across a set of monkey bars
7.  Carry a 50 pound weight across to the other side - about 20 feet - do five Burpees  (squat thrusts) and carry it back.
8.  Pick up a 15 pound ball above your head, drop it to the ground and repeat 30 times
9.  Jump rope (a heavy, fat rope) 20 times with an elastic band around your ankles
10.  Put the elastic band around your ankles, hop up two flights of stairs, then do an over-under through ropes tied to the railings.
11.  Pull on a rope with a 50 pound weight on it until it reaches the top.
12.  Climb a rope to the top and ring the bell.  (epic fail on this one...not enough upper body strength.)
13.  Go over a wall, under a wall, through a wall, over another wall, under another wall, and through another wall.
14.  Use a rowing machine and row 500 yards in less than two minutes.
15.  Throw a spear into a bale of hay.
16.  Go across a wall about 20 feet long and 6 feet high using 1 inch hand and foot holds.

Interspersed among all these obstacles were MILLIONS of stairs - we went up and down, along sets of seats, then up and down and along sets of get the picture!  Luckily, Jamie and I had the same attitude - we wanted to finish the race and we didn't care about our time.    

We were excited to slow down long enough to check out all the pictures on the walls of present and past Red Sox legends.   And we were completely awestruck to be able to stop and sit in the dugout!!!  We got to sit on top of the Green Monstah!!!!   We made sure we stayed totally in the moment and sucked in all the atmosphere that we could.

Finally, we got to a spot outside where Hubby could see us.

The next part of the race is where I figuratively "hit the wall".  We had to carry sandbags up and down the outfield bleachers.   I don't know how much they weighed, but they were FREAKIN' HEAVY!

By this time I was pretty exhausted and I was stopping every few stairs to catch my breath.  Jamie stood at the top of the stairs and danced to encourage me to keep moving!

I took a cue from her and carried it down on my head.....a little easier than my shoulder, but just as hard going down as it was going up!

Finally we got onto the warning track at Fenway Park!  Jamie grabbed up a handful of warning track sand, but then had no place to put it!

The cargo net was the obstacle I was most looking forward to:

Even though my rule is usually "no ass shots" I allow this one because I am climbing up a net! AND there is Pesky's Pole!!!!

Then it was time to go over the walls.  After some of the other walls, the first three 4 foot walls seemed like a piece of cake.  Step on Jamie's knee, step on the wall support, over I go, and drop down on the other side.

Hubby did not get a picture of me going over the last, 8 foot wall!   I truly did not think I'd make it over this one.  There were two pieces of wood attached to the wall we could step on, and a kindly volunteer allowing us to step on her shoulder!  Even with that, the first time I tried I fell on my ass.   I was ready to walk around the wall, but Jamie yelled at me, and the volunteer let me use her shoulder AND gave my foot a shove so I could reach the top.   I made it to the top, then hung there in fear as I looked at the drop on the other side.  But Jamie had hustled around and grabbed my feet (and butt) to help me down the other side.

I am so glad I let them force me to complete that obstacle.  Despite the fact that I had done all the other obstacles in the race, I would have felt disappointed if I hadn't done that one.

The rest of the race was easy!   As we made our way around the warning track, we stopped where some folks were relaxing with cold beverages, and begged them for a straw and a sip of their beers.  They declined.

Walking under the scoreboard and being able to touch it was surreal!

 I didn't notice right away that the scoreboard says Spartan Race!

Only one final obstacle at the end.  We had to box jump (two feet together and hop up - I stepped up and over instead) 25 times over a 1 foot wall.

And finally we went through the Gladiator Pit:

We crossed the Finish Line and received our Spartan Games Medals and Tshirts.  Jamie and I hugged, and as she told me how proud she was of me, I was too overcome by emotion to even respond.

Hubby was there to record the final moments:

We were so tired, but exhilarated that we'd completed the race!

Even though we didn't really care about the time, in my mind I really wanted to finish it in under two hours.   Our time was 1:32:08!

It was an amazing experience.   Physically exhausting, but fun and wonderful to feel such a great accomplishment!  Especially when I might have been the oldest female participant!  It's certainly not something I would have been able to do a year ago.  Losing weight and working out is what made it possible.

And so much thanks to Jamie - what a wonderful daughter! and thanks to Hubby, who puts up with my crazy nonsense!!!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Great Fabric Scavenger Hunt aka "What happens when you don't have a GPS"

Considering that we completed our living room remodel in April, I'm a bit behind in getting curtains up in the windows.   The problem is, I haven't been able to find a fabric I like to make the curtains I want.   I finally settled on a style of curtains.....or more accurately, swags.......but couldn't find any fabric in our pathetically fabric-store-limited town.

Someone suggested Hobby Lobby in Manchester, which is about 20 minutes away.  Much as I hate shopping, I figured it would be worth it to try someplace different.

While I was up there, I figured I'd return the TWO horribly incorrect modems that Comcast sent me, since they have a "customer service" center in Manchester.   The Comcast saga is a long and involved story, which I will regale you with on another day, lest this post be so long you won't want to read it.

Anyway........I digress.   I had a 1/2 day at work but had been assigned to a different office, so had to drive to my own office to pick up the modems. I had spent hours arguing with Comcast to get them to deliver them to my office instead of my home.    When I got there and saw that the modems were the wrong ones, I made a little triptik for myself showing me how to get to the Comcast place, since my GPS has decided to crap out on me.

I drove to the location in Manchester, only to be faced with a sign on the front of the building saying the "customer service" center had moved.  After inquiring inside, the snippy lady told me there were maps in the lobby with directions to the new "customer service" center.   

I grabbed a map and got in the car, only to realize the map was woefully inadequate and I still didn't know where to go.   Some poor employee who was out walking for her lunchbreak happened by, and I snagged her to give me better directions.   Thankfully, she knew what she was talking about, and ten minutes later I made it to the "customer service" center.

Unbelievably, they were fast and efficient with returning my modems.  Not so much on giving me precise directions on how to get to Hobby Lobby.   "Go all the way down to the lights and take a right".   Does "all the way down" mean the light right in front of the building doesn' t count?  Or should I turn right there?   I chose to go all the way down, and, although I'm pretty sure I took the long way around, I did find the highway with the help of some signs.

On the highway, I should have gone South on 93 and then North on 293, but since that didn't make sense to me (why go south, then north??)  I skipped going North on 293, continued South on 93, and figured out 2 exits later that I was going the wrong way.  Get off an exit, turn around, get back on, and I finally made it to Hobby Lobby.

Where they did not have any fabric I liked.

HOWEVER, the lovely lady there told me I should try Martin's House of Cloth, in Bedford, the next town or two north.    After getting fairly sketchy directions, I made an attempt at finding the House of Cloth.

There is an area around Manchester that is like the Bermuda Triangle for me.  And unfortunately, Martin's House of Cloth was right in the middle of it.   After getting off on the wrong exit, driving several miles the wrong way, turning around, stopping at a 7-11 for similarly sketchy directions, totally GUESSING at the next exit......I finally found the Bedford Mall.  This was supposed to be my landmark, and Martin's House of Cloth was "just a ways past the mall on the left". 

I drove a LONG ways past the mall, and saw no House of Cloth on the left.   I stopped at a CVS, where the kid at the counter scrunched up his face and said, "I think they moved".  At the look of horror on my face, he called a girl over who assured me that the House of Cloth was RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER! 

And thank the LORD, she was right!   I entered Martin's House of Cloth, only to be disappointed to see the same rows and rows of quilting fabric I've seen in so many other fabric stores.  Does anyone do anything with fabric besides quilt?   HOWEVER, they had another room with upholstery fabric, which I checked quickly - after all, I wanted sheer material for my curtains, not upholstery fabric.  But hey, I was there so I might as well look.

After glancing quickly, I was heading out when a very nice woman asked if she could help me.   I said, "I'm looking for a printed, sheer fabric to make curtains for my living room."    She said, "We don't have printed sheer fabric, but we do have this printed LACE fabric."

HURRAH!!!!!     It was perfect!  Even better than the fabric I was envisioning in my head.   "Do you have ten yards of it?"    No.......there were ELEVEN yards!!!  And they gave me that extra yard for FREE!!!

The funniest part was, after paying for my fabric, I asked the woman for directions on how to get back to the highway to go home.   She held out her left hand and said, "When you leave the parking lot, take a right................."

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Fairy Princess Mermaid

This year's Halloween costume for my granddaughter was not just a Mermaid costume, but a Fairy Princess Mermaid!!

Unfortunately, poor Emily wasn't feeling well on Halloween day.....she had a terrible cold!  But Emmy being Emmy, she still went out trick-or-treating and had a wonderful time!

Our other granddaughter Audrey went as a Bumblebee..

I did not make this outfit, but I'd sure like to put my name in to make her costume next year!
Our grandson Noah went as a Police Officer and his sister Elsie was dressed as a cupcake! When I figure out how to get my pictures off my phone and onto my computer, I will be able to post them!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Feature That!

Hubby and I were the "Feature" at our Friday night open mic.   Hubby and I attend almost every Friday night, so the regulars there have become good friends.   It was quite the honor to be asked to be the feature.  That means instead of the usual 2 songs, you get 6 or 8.

We picked out 8 of our favorites, then added one more for our "encore".     The encore was a song all about the canoe trip we took with these folks this past summer.

As you can see, we had a great time!

And we were incredibly lucky to put together a great band -  Tag's cousin Ricky on the bongos, and our good friend Bob on the bass.  They made us sound good!

The ambiance in this place is great....warm, comfortable, loving.  We love going there, and we loved being the feature!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Busy Long Weekend

Yup, it's time to go back to work and rest!!   Somehow the long weekend I took for myself to relax and enjoy turned into more work than I thought!  Isn't that always the way?

Friday was a gorgeous, sunshiny day.   I felt compelled to go outside and do some gardening in the morning.  Basically, I got a whole mess of perennials from Freecycle, and had not planted them all.  The Daylilies required me to dig up the grass in the front yard along the stone wall.  I spent a few hours doing that.   I'll post photos in the spring when it doesn't look like a bunch of dead plants out there.

After that I still couldn't bring myself to go indoors, so I continued working on painting the porch.  Why is everything so much more work than you think it's going to be?   Friday night, of course, we went to the Open Mic Cafe.

Saturday morning was spent doing the housewifey, grocery shopping, cooking.  And Saturday afternoon we took Emily out for our annual Apple Picking trip!   It was a drizzly day, but it had taken us a while to find a date when we could all make it, so we went anyway. 

We picked apples

and a pumpkin

Went on the hayride, where Emily made Pepere into a scarecrow

And came home to make some apple pies.

And Saturday night we had some friends over for our  Second Annual Rained Out Campfire Jam.  Yea, we're 0 for 2 in the rain department when we plan these events.  Luckily, we have wonderful friends so we had a great time anyway!
Sunday Hubby and I went to Cape Ann for the Artists Open Studio Tour.   We started the day at a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant called George's for breakast.   HUGE breakfast.....kept us full all day!  Then we followed the map and drove all around Cape Ann visiting different artist studios.   There was everything from pottery to paintings to sculptors and weavers.   Very interesting as all the artists were there to discuss their work.   Then we meandered over to Rockport and walked up and down Bearskin Neck. 

We came  home in time to see the Patriots win their game in the last 15 seconds!
And Monday I started the day by spending the morning working on Emily's Fairy Princess Mermaid costume.  I'll be back working on that tonight.
And finally, I spent the afternoon painting the porch.   It's ALMOST done....Hubby says I have to paint the sides of the risers.

Finished off the long weekend with a campfire and practice for our Feature at the Open Mic this Friday night. 
A busy weekend full of work and fun.  Who could ask for anything more??