Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Favorite Things Brunch 2014

The past couple of years, some of my oldest and dearest friends and I have had a "Favorite Things" Christmas party. This year, instead of having a party on a weeknight, we had a brunch. Our friend Kendra recently moved to Nashville for a new job and so we decided to do brunch this year so that she could continue to join in the festivities. The brunch was this past Saturday and we started around 10:00 a.m.

Totally random side note - The Rocket City Marathon was earlier that morning and the new course is about three blocks from my house. I had every intention of going out and cheering on the runners, but because I've been battling this sinus/cold/lung disease lately I decided to stay inside my warm house instead.

Each of the girls brought a dish for our brunch. Erika made delicious cinnamon rolls, Candy brought grape salad and Kendra made a hashbrown casserole. I made a sausage egg and cheese casserole and some hot cider. We enjoyed our meal and spent most of the morning catching up. Erika and I hadn't seen Kendra since she moved and were anxious to hear all about how things were going for her. She and Candy are sisters and undoubtedly talk more often.

Later on during our visit, we got to the "favorite things" part of the brunch. You may have read about our party before, but if not, we each buy something that we love (our favorite) that costs $5 or less and give it to the other girls in our group. Erika gave us all monogrammed key chains. Mine was crimson and white (naturally) and Candy and Kendra's had the colors of that other team. Kendra gave us all her favorite hand soap from Bath and Body Works (Raspberry Meringue) and some Lindt Chocolate and Peanut Butter Truffles. Candy gave us all $5 gift cards to Chicken Salad Chick and I gave the girls a set of coasters shaped like the state of Alabama which are made out of carpet remnants. Erika's were Alabama colors and Candy and Kendra got orange and blue ones. All of the gifts went over well and we were all pleased with each other;s selections. We have done much better in recent years than we did the first year when the majority of the gifts were some form of lip balm.

The girls packed up their goods and headed separate directions around 1:00 p.m. We had a good three hours of visiting together and enjoying time with each other. This is one of my favorite parties of the year and I'm thankful to some of my favorite people for making it so much fun each Christmas season!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Downton Abbey Screening

I feel like I'm way behind on posting because last week was completely insane for me; but once again I say better late than never.

So, last Tuesday, I met up with some of my favorite gal pals at the US Space and Rocket Center for an early screening of the first episode of season five of Downton Abbey. Yes, that's right, old world met new world right here in Huntsville. You may be wondering why the Space and Rocket Center was hosting such an event. Well, as a Smithsonian museum, the Space and Rocket Center feels a duty to share historical information and films, etc. and decided to preview this episode in conjunction with Alabama Public Television.

I found out about the event through a co-worker who knew of my love of dressing up as the Dowager Countess. She had heard about it on the radio and sent me the information. Not only was it a screening, ,but period attire was encouraged and so I knew I would once again bring out my costume. May as well get some wear out of it more than just at Halloween. Leah was kind enough to go by and pick up tickets for our group. The screening was free, but tickets were required and the event was "sold out".

We decided to go to the 6:00 p.m. screening and so I took my costume to work and changed before I left. As you can probably imagine, I got a few interesting looks as I walked out the door looking like I just stepped out of the early 20th century. We met up about 30 minuted before the screening so we could get good seats. There were eight people in our group and three of us dressed up - me, Candy and Leah. In all, I would say about 1/3 of the people in attendance dressed up, including quite a few gentlemen who donned tuxedos and looked quite dapper.

The episode was so wonderful and I was sad when it ended. I'm so looking forward to the new season. After the viewing, tea and scones were served but we skipped out because Erika had prepared luncheon for us at her house. Me, Candy, Leah and Amber went over to Erika's and enjoyed chicken salad, strawberry pretzel salad, cheese and crackers, and fruit. We enjoyed visiting with each other but didn't linger long as the night was already getting late.

It was such a fun evening and I think we are all grateful to the US Space and Rocket Center and Alabama Public Television for hosting this event. I look forward to attending more events like this in the future and I think my friends would agree.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Even More Christmas-ing

I suppose you could say that my Christmas celebrating is now in full swing after this past weekend. In addition to Friday night's party and Saturday's parade, I did more Christmas celebrating on Sunday and Monday. 

Sunday night I had Christmas for my ninth grade Huddles group. I'm not sure if I ever mentioned it, but I am a ninth grade sponsor at my church and the program is called Huddles. Basically I serve as a mentor and friend to the kids in the group and am there to provide them support, advise, whatever they need. It's proven to be a little more difficult than I thought it would be because man am I ever so out of touch with the teenage generation. With time, though, I hope to grow closer to these kids and get to know them better, it's just taking longer than I expected to break the ice. 

At any rate, we had out Christmas party on Sunday night and it was at the home of one of the youth ministers. I missed church that morning because I am feeling terrible again and was basically miserable and wanted to go to the doctor (which unfortunately didn't open until noon). So, despite feeling terrible, I managed to pull myself up by the bootstraps and make it to Huddles which was an accomplishment in and of itself. Yes, I wore the Christmas tutu again because I thought the kids would think it was funny and I also wore and ugly Christmas sweater as it was encouraged. Sadly, none of the kids wore Christmas attire, but I was saved by two other Huddle leaders who also dressed up in goofy clothes. 

We had a yummy meal and then played a game of Dirty Santa, once again using gifts from our home. This time around, I brought a card game that had never been opened and was laying around the house and I came home with a "Whimsy Alarm Clock" which was a purple cat. I can assure you this gift will be recycled at some point, maybe soon. The evening ended around 6:45 p.m. and I made a very brief stop by Publix before going home and going straight to bed. 

Monday night was our last women's Bible study of the year, and y'all, after a whole year of studying the book of Ruth, I can finally say "it is finished." Although we each enjoyed the study, I think we are all glad to move on to a new study in January and hopefully the next one won't last the whole year. The night was hosted by The Rieders and the men's group came as well and we had a Christmas potluck if you will. As is often the case at church gatherings, the food was good and so was the fellowship. After we ate, we split off into separate rooms and conducted our studies, wrapped up things a little before 9:00 p.m. and called it a night. I have enjoyed these nights with the girls as it has allowed me not only time to learn more about the Bible, but has also helped me develop closer friendships with these women and I'm so thankful for each of them,

Y'all this is just the beginning of December and it has already been so busy! I have something on the calendar pretty much every day and night from now until my surgery next week. So, there should be lots to write about provided I find a few minutes each day to sit down and start typing. If your month is anything like mine then you are running round crazy as well and I wish you luck and fun in your journeys!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Christmasy Weekend

Friday night was my first Christmas party of the season. It was with my Sunday school class at church at it was a blast! The party was held at the home of my friends Stephen and Lauren who have a beautiful new house in West Huntsville.

We enjoyed lots of great finger foods and even better fellowship with friends. Most everyone wore their tacky Christmas sweaters and I also brought out the Christmas tutu. I figure I may as well get as much use out of it as I can. The main event of the night was a game of Dirty Santa which we played with gifts brought from our homes. I wrapped up an unused key chain and came home with a mug full of Christmas candy so I feel like I did really well. The craziest gift was brought by one of our children's ministers. He picked up off the road and wrapped in a box a dead possum. That's right folks, a dead possum. Needless to say, it was the most interesting/hilarious point of the night. I laughed so hard I thought I might burst.

The party was fun from top to bottom and such a fun way to kick off the weekend and the holiday party season. I am so blessed to have these folks as friends and brothers ans sisters in Christ.

On Saturday, my parents picked me and Pippa up for the Christmas parade in downtown Huntsville The parade hasn't been all that great in recent years but this year it was taken over by a local radio station instead of the television station that has hosted for many years and so I was hoping it might be revitalized and better than it has been as of late.

We set up out chairs but didn't go outside the car until the parade was about the start. The wind was blowing hard and it was rather cold out. My dad, in fact, bailed early on and went back to the van with Scout, my parents' dog. Pippa started shivering too and so I decided to take her back to the van and when I got back to the street, my mom headed to the van and then Santa came and it as over. Yep, the parade lasted about 30-45 minutes and was not even remotely good. There was only one band!

We got every human and dog loaded back in the van (Pippa in the front and me in the back by the way) and went back to my house where I put The Pip in the crate and left Scout in the bathroom with the gate closing him off so we humans could go get something to eat.

We ate at Five Guys and then came back to the house to discover that Scout had maneuvered his way out of the bathroom. Pippa was barking like crazy, I'm sure because she was upset that Scout had free roam and she did not. My dad grabbed up Scout and they were on their way.

The good thing about taking Pip to the parade is that she was rather tuckered out and spent the rest of the day being lazy which was a-okay with me as I do enjoy a lazy afternoon and evening. Every year I hope for a better parade. Who knows, maybe one year I'll be pleasantly surprised.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Another State Championship and Expired Diet Coke

Last Thursday morning about 6:30 a.m., my dad and I jumped in the car for what was my final road trip of 2014. We headed south to Auburn for yet another Madison Academy state championship game in football.On a side note, my first and last road trips of 2014 would be to football games. Go figure.

As luck would have it, we didn't time things too well for rush hour traffic and hit it in Birmingham on the way down. Once we were through Birmingham, we stopped and grabbed some breakfast at a Jack's which I must say have a much lighter and flakier biscuit than Hardee's.

We made it to Auburn some time after 10:00 a.m. and found the parking lot where the Super 7 folks were supposed to park and quickly made our way to the shuttle. We were dropped off at the stadium and I had already purchased our tickets so we went straight in and found a seat. The sun was beaming down on us and it was hot as blazes. My dad wanted to move to the opponent's side because they were in the shade, but I looked up and noticed some smart people were sitting under the overhang, which put them out of the direct sunlight and so we moved up there. We were also blessed by a breeze and so things were looking up.

The game started at 11:00 a.m. and the Mustangs were quickly up 14-0. I can't even remember what the score was at the half, but MA was still up by two touchdowns and we were not really concerned about the outcome. We visited the concession stand at the half and please let this blog post serve as a reminder to me to never ever again buy a Diet Coke from an Auburn concession stand. On the way down (yes, this is how my Diet Coke loving brain works), I remembered that I had a bad experience with purchasing soda the last time we were in Auburn for the state championship. The experience was so bad that I thought they sold Pepsi products. However, after this year's half time experience, it all came rushing back to me. I ordered a Diet Coke and a popcorn. The Diet Coke tasted horrible and they poured me another and it still tasted bad so I asked for my money back (which they gave me along with some attitude). Then I remembered that this same thing happened the last time - I had a bad tasting Diet Coke and ended up with water. At first I thought it was because I was drinking out of a Barner cup, but now I believe that the fountain soda had expired. So, I bought a bottled one, and had a feeling ti was expired too because it had a "Share a Diet Coke with" label on it and Coke hasn't made those labels since the summer. I tried to find the date but couldn't see it clearly because it was faded. Long story kind of short, I made it back to my seat, took one sip and knew it was expired. I finally found the date hidden beneath that fist sip and it had expired on October 27. So, I marched back down the stars, and traded it for a water. Let this be a lesson learned. Y'all, I'm serious about my Diet Coke!

The second half was a runaway and the Mustangs ended up winning by a score of 70-34. When it was 67-34 my dad said he was ready when I was, which I thought was crazy, After driving all the way there, I wasn't about to leave until the trophy was handed out. So, we stayed.

When the game was over and the trophies passed out, we made our way to the shuttle line which was ginormous. We waited about 10-15 minutes and not one shuttle had come and there were three lines of people and tons of people in front of us in each line. I didn't think the parking lot was too far away and thanks to my good sense of direction remembered how to go. So, we decided to walk. It took us about 20-25 minutes to get to the car and I think both of us had screaming knees when all was said and done.However, it was a much better plan than waiting for an hour or so. No pain, no gain I guess.

We headed north to Birmingham and stopped off at  my favorite, The Fish Market on the way home, although this time we stopped at the one on 280 rather than the one downtown. After dinner, we began the rest of the journey home, once again hitting the rush hour traffic on 280, which makes me even more thankful for my commute. We finally made it home a little after 7:00 p.m. both tired from the journey but with another state championship! Congrats to the Mustangs!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Galaxy of Lights 5K and Fun Run

So far the month of December has been full of activity and there are no signs of slowing down any time soon. On Monday and Tuesday of this week, I spent both nights at the Galaxy of Lights at the Huntsville Botanical Gardens for the 5K and the Fun Run.

Monday night was the 5K and I participated in place of one of my cousins who ended up having to be out of town for a work. Another cousin, Lauren was running and it was her parents who had signed up but had to be out of town and so I went in one slot and a co-worker of hers went in another slot. Per usual, my plan was to walk. For one, I hate running and for two, my knee and leg have been in immense pain over the past few days.

I met Lauren at the garden and the race started at 6:30 p.m. about a mile in, I wasn't even sure if I would be able to finish, that's how much pain I was in. I was in the very back of the group with a couple who were no doubt in their 80s and the woman even asked me if I was okay when she passed me. I wasn't, but I smiled and said I was. At the 1.5 mile mark I thought I was going to bail, but I toughed it out. I did send Lauren a text and told her not to worry about waiting on me because I was going super slow and I didn't want to keep her from getting home at a decent hour.

I ended up finishing around one hour and eight minutes and then had to walk what felt like another half mile to my car. When I got home, a hot bath was on the agenda to soothe my aching legs and feet and hopefully help offset the pain that would come the next day.

Tuesday night I was back for more. It was the Fun Run which was only 1.6 miles. I had gotten up a group of girlfriends to participate so there was no way I was going skip. I met the girls there at 5:30 p.m. and we entered the ugly sweater contest and the run started at 6:30 p.m. We all walked and I managed to keep up despite the fact that I wanted to scream with each step.

When the walk was over, we went to the pavilion for the door prize drawings and sadly, not one of us won a prize - not even the ugly sweater prizes. Lauren, however, did go home with a whole pizza, so it wasn't a total loss. It was a fun night and it was so good to catch up with everyone and I'm so thankful they all decided to do the run/walk with me. Last year I did it solo and while I had fun, it was a much better experience with some of my favorite people and I'm hoping everyone will agree to do it again next year.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Christmas Tree Woes and More Reasons Why I Loathe Wal-Mart

Earlier today I was thinking, "what should I write about next on the blog" and I thought oh yes, I'll write about the Galaxy of Lights Runs that I did this week. Then this afternoon when I got home, I remembered I had not yet regaled the tale of Saturday and all of the craziness that came with it. So, please allow me to share the story with you and I do hope it gives you a laugh or nine.

Saturday morning, I got up early, as usual, and started some laundry and cleaned the kitchen and then watched a little TV. I was confined to the house because I was covering for someone at work and had to make sure some things were taken care of Saturday morning before I could leave the side of my computer. I made a few work calls and thought I wouldn't be able to leave to run errands until closer to 11:00 a.m., but, as luck would have it, we were ahead of schedule and so by 9:30 a.m I was done with all manner of work for the day and so I changed clothes and left the house to take care of business.

As luck would have it, it was Small Business Saturday and I just so happened to need to stop by some local businesses and purchase a few things to complete my Christmas list. I also made a purchase or two for myself because 'tis the season. I made it home by noon with hopes that I wouldn't need to leave again the rest of the day.

After I ate lunch, I began to drag some of the Christmas decorations out of the shed. You may recall that last year I only put up a small tree because I didn't want Pippa to knock over a big one and break all manner of ornament. This year, however, I decided to bring out the big tree once again. So, I did and I plugged it in only to discover that the only lights working on the tree were the top strand. Needless to say, I was not happy.

In case you don't know me, and I suppose most of you do, I am the type of person who, once I've decided to do something (like decorate the tree), I will do it, no matter what and so I couldn't just sit there without a tree since I had decided I was going to put the tree up. Since I had left The Pip in the crate earlier in the day to run errands, I decided to take her with me. So, I loaded her up and off we went to the new Wal-Mart. I decided if I could find a tree for $100 or less, I would buy it.

I left The Pip in car (obviously) while I went in to Wal-Mart. I parked by the Garden Center since that's where the trees are and discovered that the entrance was locked and I had to walk around to the front of the store. I went back to the trees, found one that I liked fairly well for $89 and found it on the shelf. There was only one with white lights and it was on the very top shelf. I asked a worker to help me get it down and she said she would and then disappeared. After waiting a few minutes, I found a ladder, climbed up and got the tree down for myself. Another customer stood beside me and told me she would call for help if I fell. She also kind of held on to my back while I walked down the ladder with a jumbo boxed tree in my hands. Thankfully, no one was injured in the process.

I returned the ladder to it's rightful place and made my way to the cashier where I discovered that the tree was actually on sale for $62 which made it an even better bargain. As I was leaving the store, carrying the tree over my shoulder, the woman who was supposed to have helped me was concerned I was going to report her for not helping and went into a long dissertation as to where she had disappeared to. I told her not to worry about it and try my best to get away quickly because I was ready to get home and get to decorating.

When I got to the car, I had to put Pippa on a leash and let her out of the car so I could let part of the back seat down in order to fit the tree in the Rogue. I finally managed to get tree, dog and human in the car and on the road.

Once home, I unloaded the dog and the tree and immediately began to set the tree up. I got the last part assembled only to discover one of the strands would not light up. I was less than thrilled, as I'm sure you can imagine. So, I boxed it back up and attempted to call the Wal-Mart in Hampton Cove to see if they had one of these trees there. Since I knew that I had gotten the last one at the new Wal-Mart.

I waited on the phone for probably 20 minutes and no one in the Garden Center would ever pick up. So, I put Pippa in the crate, loaded up the tree and took off. I got to the Hampton Cove Wal-Mart, unloaded and carried in the tree and returned it. They credited back my money and I went back to the Garden Center to see if they had that model with white lights and miracle of miracles, they did. I loaded it in the loudest shopping cart of all-time and started to make my way to the register when another tree caught my eye. This one had a price of $99 and was a lot prettier than the one I was about to purchase. It had more of a pine look about it and I decided I had rather have it instead.

However, there were no pine trees to be found in a box. That model had apparently sold out and the man who looked like Santa Claus who was working outside said a lot of people had been looking for it but they didn't have any more and so I asked the Santa look alike if I could buy the display. I mean, at least I knew all the lights were working. Santa told me to talk to a woman named Meghan. To abbreviate the next 10 minutes I spent trying to locate and get an answer out of this Meghan, the conclusion was yes, I could buy the display.

Of course, no one volunteered to get the tree for me and so I walked to the middle of all the trees on display which is where the pine was, unplugged it, lifted it over my head and walked out of the middle of the trees to place it in my obnoxiously loud shopping cart. There were two ladies in the way though and I couldn't get to my cart and so I walked, literally, all the way around the Christmas section of the Garden Center carrying a seven foot artificial tree over my head until I reached the cash register. I only knocked down one other tree in the process, which the two ladies picked up for me. They also brought me the loud shopping cart which I couldn't get to before.

The cashier scanned the barcode hanging from the tree, I paid and then loaded it up in the noisy shopping cart because heaven forbid anyone that works at Wal-Mart actually help a customer with heavy lifting. I managed to get the tree to my vehicle and shoved it in and made it home without going postal on someone. It was truly a Christmas miracle.

Once home, I opened the door to discover that Pippa was not in her crate, but sitting in the chair by the front door. Clearly in my haste and frustration to get out the door and back to Wal-Mart, I had not really fastened the door to the crate like I thought. Thankfully nothing was harmed or peed on in the great dog escape. I managed to get the tree up and decorated and the rest of the Christmas decorations out and the floors vacuumed and mopped before 5:00 p.m. which was my goal once I realized what a fiasco I was in. I then took a long hot bath and more or less crashed on the couch. I seriously felt like it was 10:00 p.m. and it was more like 6:00 p.m. I had no words for the exhaustion I felt.

The remainder of the night was spent watching football and also cleaning and wrapping presents to distract me from what was a disastrous first half. By the time the third quarter rolled around, I decided to just lie down on the couch and watch the game and try to relax which was kind of impossible since Alabama wasn't playing so well. Finally, the game got turned around for the better and I was able to enjoy the final quarter and the nice victory over our rival. Once the game was over, I went straight to bed, illuminated by the light of a Christmas tree.

I realize the tree looks kind of crooked here. I promise it's not. I was laying down when I took this photo and I'm too lazy to get up and take a new one.