Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Countdown to the new year...

We're here in freezing Chicago -- the high temperature today was 16! How fun is THAT? (It actually WAS a rather nice change from Texas weather... :)) We walked around downtown quite a bit today, because despite the cold temperature, it was sunny and beautiful, with very calm wind. It's the wind that'll make the sub-zero temperatures intolerable -- take away the wind, and even 16 degrees isn't TOO bad. Although after walking around for a while, my feet and legs sort of went numb -- I've decided I'm going to need a better pair of boots once I move up here. Long underwear probably wouldn't be such a bad investment, either...

So it's a mere six and half hours until 2009 here in the Central Time Zone. We were hoping to try a new restaurant for new year's eve, but reservations were hard to get in many places tonight. So we're settling on an old favorite -- the Saloon steakhouse. Which turns out to be a good choice, actually, because it's not too far from the hotel. Because I can only assume, now that the sun has set, that it is LESS than 16 degrees outside. My soon-to-be numb feet will be happy they don't have to walk too many blocks...

Since 2008 was a year full of political issues and religious issues and arguments over politics and arguments over religion, I have chosen this post from back in March as my "Blog Post of the Year." It seems to fit the general attitude of much of 2008. Let's hope 2009 will bring about much "change" and "hope" and maybe a few more over-used, cliched catchphrases... :)

I wish everyone a very happy and healthy 2009!!!

Monday, December 29, 2008

No time to write...

...must… make… cookies…

Okay, actually, I already made the cookies – but I still have to finish decorating them. Strangely, the cats have been hanging out on the floor near the counter, meowing pitifully as if I’m denying them some sort of savory cat treat. I’ve tried to explain it’s just sugar cookies and frosting, but cats are very insistent…

So we’re off to Chicago tomorrow morning, and I haven’t even started to pack yet (although while I’m thinking about it, I need to go take my winter coat out of the closet and put it next to my suitcase so I don’t forget it…) Okay, now that THAT’S done…

I’m very much looking forward to Chicago… Rick bought me a lovely assortment of sweaters for Christmas, all of which I plan on packing so I can test them out in the cold weather. And there’s a small chance of snow on Friday, so maybe I’ll see a flake or two before I head back to Austin…

But for now, I have about a million things to do, so I’d better go be productive…

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Random thoughts... (Holiday edition!)

Merry Christmas!!! I hope you’re all having the chance to spend time with family and enjoying the day. We found the one Starbucks that remained open today (well, the only one near us… I’m sure there were a couple more open around the city…) and mom and dad brought us triple shot venti cappuccinos and cinnamon rolls this morning. Yes, we weren’t playing around – if we were gonna get cappuccino on Christmas, it was gonna be serious, three-shots-of-espresso cappuccino. (I have to admit it’s rather sad that Starbucks has become such a necessity in our coffee-loving society that it has to remain open on Christmas. Only the necessities – police, firefighters, hospitals… and Starbucks. :)) We opened some gifts here at my house, since mom and dad threw away their old Christmas tree when they moved into their new house and have yet to buy another one. So I had my tree lights on, and “A Christmas Story” on TV, so it was very holidayesque…

Oh, guess what my mom got me? A Brookstone “sound therapy system” with all kinds of sounds like rain and waterfalls to lull you to sleep. I no longer have to rely on White Noise Fan! I now have a dozen sounds besides “fan” to choose from when I’m trying to fall asleep. Yay!

So I seem to have developed a slight Christmas cold. (That makes it sound so much more pleasant… it’s a cheery Christmas cold!) It came on quite suddenly – my only clue that anything was amiss was a rather annoying ringing in my ears Tuesday night. I thought perhaps it was allergies, since my head felt sort of fuzzy… but when I woke up yesterday morning, it was apparent that I was dealing with more than just allergies. So I’ve spent Christmas Eve and Christmas in that sort of “cold haze” that envelops you when you’re getting sick. But oh well… just a cold. I can handle it. I’m just glad it’s getting out of the way now, before we fly up to Chicago. Flying with a cold can be a bad thing… (just ask my mom and her once-ruptured eardrum… )

Does anyone else think it’s weird that that Tom Cruise movie Valkyrie is opening today? Nothing says “peace on earth, goodwill toward men” like a bunch of nazis…

I have decided that I need to buy more lights/general ornaments for my Christmas tree next year. I sort of only decorate one side of the tree right now, because I don’t have enough lights or decorations to wrap all the way around the tree. Not that it matters much, since the tree is in a corner – so even if the other side was decorated no could see it. But it’s just the IDEA of having an entirely decorated tree… and then I could stick the tree right in the middle of the living room, like a giant prickly coffee table…

Well, that’s about it for today. I need to go get ready for dinner at Rick’s parents’ house. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I can't wait for April...

And I can't believe I haven't mentioned this on my blog until now (but since today is the day it becomes "official," I guess it's a good day to mention it) -- C.C. Sabathia is a Yankee!!!! Yes, that's right, my pitching man-god is doing the only other thing he can possibly do to make me love him even more -- he's coming to New York! YES!!

I am seriously excited about this (in case that wasn't already evident). The Yankees have had rather lackluster pitching for years now, but the upcoming season is looking promising to me. We now not only have Sabathia, but also A.J. Burnett. And if Wang and Joba can stay healthy (and, in Joba's case, out of trouble...) we might actually have a really decent pitching rotation this year. This could be a great start to the New Yankee Stadium era...

For those who may not have been reading my blog very long, I have had the privilege (privilege?? Privilege might be the wrong word... :)) of playing fantasy baseball the last three years with a bunch of really great guys. (You can read about some of that here, here, here or here.) They were nice enough to allow a girl to infiltrate their world of statistics and averages and RBIs and ERAs -- and while I've been a baseball fan since I was about thirteen years old, I've learned even more about different teams and players over the past few years. If it hadn't been for my foray into the world of fantasy baseball, I'd probably be a lot less excited about the Sabathia news... because I wouldn't have had him on my team for three years in a row and seen all the complete game shutouts he pitched...

So now I'm off to tune my TV to the YES network so I can watch the Sabathia/Burnett news conference... GO YANKEES!!!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Monday randomness...

It’s 34 degrees here today! I think this is the coldest day we’ve had this year. I’m not even sure it was this cold the other night when we got our “snow.” And what’s funny is that this wasn’t even forecasted by our eternally-befuddled Austin meteorologists. The low overnight was only supposed to be in the 60s, and, in fact, it was 68 degrees when I went to bed last night. I turned on my A/C because the bedroom was about 74 and I wanted it around 70… I figured once it hit 70 it would pretty much stay there most of the night, since it was supposed to be fairly warm outside and the rest of the house was settled in at a comfortable 72. But when I woke up this morning, I felt rather chilly – I wondered if I should’ve kept the A/C at 71 instead. And then I got up and checked the thermostat and saw that the temperature in the bedroom was only 66 – no wonder I’d been cold! The only time the temp in the bedroom drops like that is when it gets very cold outside. Yet still I was surprised by the blast of cold air that hit me when I opened the patio door to let Echo outside this morning. Brrrrr… it feels like Christmas! (Which I’d better enjoy today, because who knows if Christmas will actually feel like Christmas…)

So this morning when my mom and I were on our way back from Starbucks, we were stopped at a red light. And this guy ran across the crosswalk in front of us, wearing his pants in that “my pants are about to fall down and I’m so cool because of it” way. He actually had to hold onto the waistband so they wouldn’t fall off as he jogged across the street. And every time I see some guy wearing his pants like that, I can’t help but wonder HOW in ANY way that is considered cool by ANYONE? I mean, there are some fads and fashion trends that maybe I don’t LIKE, or aren’t really my own style, but I can understand how OTHER people might think they’re fun or unique. But pants that are sliding down your thighs, exposing your bright blue flannel boxer shorts?? What about that is cool, exactly? Are you trying to rebel against the fashion industry’s obvious practical modesty agenda? How dare they construct garments that are meant to fit OVER the parts of you no one wants to see! You’re gonna wear them so they don’t fit at ALL, and so they’re extremely uncomfortable, and so they must be readjusted five times a minute to maintain that perfect level of “coolness”…

Why is it that hot chocolate tastes even better when it’s cold outside? I’ll probably make some tonight, since the temperature is so seasonably perfect right now. And for some reason, even though it’ll taste exactly the same as if I’d had it LAST night (when it was still in the 60s), my taste buds will somehow perceive a difference because of the freezing outside weather. I wonder why that is…

Although I DO love the cold weather, I’m not a big fan of the cloudy skies today. I mean, if it’s gonna be this cloudy, it’d better start snowing again. Yeah, that’s right – it had BETTER start snowing. (Yes, I’m threatening the weather so it’ll bend to my will and give me some snow… I’m not sure it’ll actually work, but it’s worth a shot…) On the plus side, I’ve had my Christmas tree lights on all day because it’s really dark in the living room…

So next week Rick gets to stay in Austin all week – no flying! And then we’re all heading up to Chicago for New Year’s. I have stocked my pantry with cookie-making ingredients, and I’m planning to make cutout sugar cookies right before we leave so I can pack them up and take a bunch to Eric. I’m such a nice sister. :)

Okay, that’s all I’ve got today. I need to go finish up my Christmas shopping (and by that I mean “order stuff off the internet”). I only need about two more gifts and I’ll be done! (I suppose I should buy some wrapping paper…) Have a good week, everyone!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

No, it doesn't rhyme...

My new blogging friend Jannie Funster recently posted something on her blog that got me thinking about Aimee. It's been just over six years since she died. And there've been so many times over the last six years that I've found myself thinking, "I wonder what Aimee would do in this situation? I wonder what Aimee would think? I wonder if Aimee would like this new ice cream flavor, or if Moose Tracks would always be her favorite??" I bet she would've had some interesting thoughts on the election this year, and on the recession, and on Rod Blagojevich. :) And I think she would've been really happy about our Chicago relocation (regardless of the screwed up nature of Illinois politics...).

So I thought I would post my Aimee poem again, since it's been a while since even I'VE read it. :) This is what's called a "sestina" poem, and it's kind of an unusual form -- I'd never even heard of a sestina until I took a poetry class several years ago. It's a poem that is comprised of six stanzas of six lines each, and the lines of each stanza end in one of six "end words" – one of the six end words are at the end of every line of every stanza, just in a different order each time. The last word of the last line in each stanza is the last word in the FIRST line of the next stanza. So in my poem, the end words are Aimee, years, New Orleans, dad, sister and you. Every line in the poem ends with one of these words, with the exception of the three line coda at the end -- two of the end words are used in each line, but they can be anywhere in the line. And the entire thing is written in iambic pentameter, so there are five beats, or accents, per line. Whew... it's probably the most complicated poetic form I've ever heard of... or at least it SOUNDS complicated when I try to explain it. :)

Poetry haters may stop reading now... :) Here ya go:

For My Sister

This is for you, my sweet sister Aimee.
We didn’t know you for twenty-nine years;
About your love of music and New Orleans;
Or how you have the same eyes as our dad.
My whole life I wanted a sister;
But three years was not enough to spend with you.

I remember when I first met you:
“This is her – this is Aimee!”
You hugged your dad, your brother and your sister,
Amazed you’d found us after all those years.
You couldn’t wait to call our father “dad,”
And tell us all about beloved New Orleans.

And yet you lived in Portland, not New Orleans;
The city was a kind of dream for you;
A place you talked about with me or dad.
“You really want to go back some day, Aimee?”
We all assumed it would take several years,
But I also assumed I would never find my sister.

How was I to know that my sister
Was traveling from Europe to New Orleans
While I spent all my high school years
Barely lending any thoughts to you?
I knew this much: I knew your name was Aimee.
I knew your absence left a void in dad.

Remember all the photos you sent dad?
You, an “only” child, without a sister;
Changed your name from Amy to Aimee.
Pictures of the old house in New Orleans,
Blurry and wonderful pictures of you.
To show us what we’d missed in all those years.

How do we get them back, the lost years?
How am I supposed to console dad?
Twice in your thirty-two years he lost you.
You left behind your new brother and sister.
I didn’t want to go to New Orleans,
Not without you next to me, Aimee.

Dad didn’t know the years would go so fast.
When you died, we buried you in New Orleans.
Back home at last, my sweet sister Aimee.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Snow!! (Sort of!!)

So yesterday the high temperature in Austin was 78 degrees. I actually had to run my air conditioner the night before to cool my bedroom down when I was trying to fall asleep. So I got up yesterday morning, put on a t-shirt (sigh...) and got on with my day. And then sometime around 4 or 5, it started to get very windy -- and when it's winter in Austin and you hear wind like that, it can only mean one thing: a cold front! (But when it's spring and you hear wind like that, it means, "go find a tornado shelter...") So by the time Echo had eaten her dinner and went to the patio door to go outside, it was around 55 degrees. Over the next few hours, the wind kept howling and the temperature kept dropping, until I eventually heard the unmistakable sound of freezing rain clicking on the windows. And then, at about 11:30, I let Echo outside again, and I thought I caught a glimpse of something white and flaky... so I stood out on the porch (not even thinking that perhaps I should don a coat and some shoes...) and sure enough, there it was -- snow! It was snowing!! I actually started jumping up and down (which may have had more to do with the fact that I was freezing cold than the fact that I was excited). So here are some pictures of the Austin Blizzard of 2008:

Wow! Look at those flakes fly!!

The aftermath...

"Snow" in the bushes... (actually, I think it was more like ice, but it LOOKS like snow, right?)

Monday, December 08, 2008

One person's tree is another person's shrub...

So who watched the lighting of the tree in Rockefeller Center last week? I almost missed it, because earlier in the evening, I went out to eat with my mom and stopped by Petsmart for a few things, and somewhere along the way, we both realized that the Rockefeller Center tree lighting was on TV. I thought it would be over by the time I got home, and that would’ve made me sad. (That would’ve actually made me sad – unlike decorating my Christmas tree by myself… which is NOT, as Tim the Misery Monger has tried to convince me, a harbinger of seasonal sadness. :)) But when I got home, I checked the TV listings and noticed there was still a half hour of the Rockefeller Center show left to go. I was like Ebenezer Scrooge at the end of A Christmas Carol –

Me (throwing open my window to look down onto a snowy street): “You there! Tivo! What time is it?”

Tivo (dressed as an urchin and wrapped in a torn shawl): “Why, it’s 7:30!”

Me (tossing a shiny coin to Tivo so he can buy himself something pretty): “Then I haven’t missed it!”

I really do miss Christmas in the northeast… it’s never seemed quite “right” here in Texas. But I guess it depends on what you grow up with – if you grew up in Texas, it must seem quite normal to wear a short-sleeved t-shirt on Christmas Day and feel the warmth of the sun and go for a bike ride. But for me, Christmas should be more like, “heavy wool coat, ice-cold wind, and a sled ride down a hill.”

And no one does Christmas in the northeast like New York City. I can clearly remember the first time I experienced New York in December. I was a senior in high school, and I was in the madrigal group that year – an a cappella singing group at my school. We’d been practicing our Christmas repertoire since October, and when December rolled around, we finally had the chance to sing in various venues around Northeast New Jersey. And then one Friday evening, we all piled into a bus and headed into the city… and even though I’d been to New York dozens of times over the four years I’d lived up there, I had never been into the city at Christmastime. My friend Ali warned me that the Rockefeller tree was less impressive in person than it was on TV – and to be honest, she was right (she called it the “Rockefeller Christmas Shrub”). And yet, when we reached the tree and filed off the bus and grouped together in front of that Christmas Shrub, it was pure holiday joy. We sang for a good half hour, with an appreciative crowd gathered around us… I can’t even remember if it was cold – it was too much fun to worry about such things.

Afterwards, Ali and I wandered the holiday-light-bedecked streets, stood in awe of the intricately-decorated windows on Fifth Avenue, popped into St. Patrick’s Cathedral, found a tiny little bookstore where we wasted some time browsing, and then met up with everyone else for a holiday show called “The Christmas Revels.” It was an audience participation show, where everyone was invited to sing along with the carols and dance in the aisles – so technically, we could all say that we’d literally sung and danced on Broadway. It was a perfect evening, and even after all these years it remains one of my favorite Christmas memories…

Of course, the good thing about seeing it on TV is that the Rockefeller Christmas Shrub looks like a more impressive tree when it's onscreen... I guess the camera really DOES add ten pounds... or a couple hundred...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008 Christmas tree...

Well, I have decided to go against the advice of our realtor and put up my Christmas tree this year. We’re “supposed” to keep the house free of clutter and decorations, but I’m compromising – I’m putting up the tree, but I’m not bringing out the various Christmas-y knick-knacks I usually place around the house. I mean, a tree is nicely contained in a single corner of the house, so it really can’t be considered “clutter,” right? And I didn't put up a tree LAST year, because we were in the process of selling ANOTHER house. So this year, I want a tree...

I announced my tree-decorating intention on my Facebook page, where my friend Tim declared it “sad.” Not because I was putting up the tree – but, since Rick flew up to Chicago this afternoon, I was putting up the tree ALONE. I suppose tree-trimming is considered a “family” affair… and I do have my own memories of anxiously waiting for my dad to finish arranging the lights so my mom and Eric and I could place ornaments on the tree. My favorites were a purple ceramic bear and a cardboard angel covered with orange feathers. It was rather garish, as far as angels go – but when it came time to decorate the tree, I was the one who had to find a place for that (startlingly bright) angel. And then we would all take turns finding empty space for tinsel (which no doubt had to be rearranged by mom as soon as Eric and I were in bed…).

But honestly, I don’t mind my moments of solitude (except when I’m trying to get to sleep – yep, White Noise Fan is at the ready tonight), so I don’t find decorating the tree by myself sad at all. I’ve been looking forward to it, actually. Of course, I didn’t account for the fact that I’d have to pull the tree box down from the highest shelf in the garage – by MYSELF – when I was looking forward to it. But SOMEhow I actually managed to lug the box off that shelf without seriously injuring myself. I got up on the ladder, and moved the box a few inches to test its weight, and then I decided it was too heavy to be moved in a quick, impulsive manner. No, this was going to take some careful planning. The second rung of the ladder was too high – I had to move down to the first rung… and the box was too unwieldy in its length-wise position – I had to maneuver one end of it off the shelf, and s-l-o-w-l-y lower it down to the grill (which happened to be sitting in just the right place to be of assistance to me). Once I had part of it resting on the grill, it was easier to slide the box from the shelf to the grill, and at that point, it was low enough that I could grab the handles on the top of the box and pick the entire thing up. Whew. I probably should’ve waited until someone could help me to get that box down, but what’s done is done…

So now the tree is assembled and the lights are up, but I’ll wait until tomorrow to put the decorations on. I’m a little concerned about what the cats might do to this tree – they’ve both been munching on the branches, and Piva has actually CLIMBED the tree. She just shimmied right up the fake trunk and peeked out through the branches. And I haven’t even added the ornaments yet – who knows WHAT she’ll decide to do with those. I’m just hoping she doesn’t manage to knock the entire thing over… Even I managed not to knock it off the shelf in the garage... so the least Piva can do is NOT knock it over now that it's in the house...