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Friday, December 31, 2010

The Perfect New Year's Eve

Jim and I just had a steak lunch at Long Horn, which was our big meal for the day.  On the way home we stopped at Trader Joe's for cream and whole milk to make ice cream. We also found an apple pie.  So we'll celebrate the end of 2010 later tonight with pie a la mode -- perfection!

It's been many years since either of us have wanted to go out for New Year's Eve.  The thought of dressing up and staying out late just doesn't appeal to either of us.  In all honesty, we will probably be asleep way before the strike of midnight.

But I look forward to 2011, a milestone year for many reasons.  It will be our first full year without house payments since 1973.  We both turn 60 and our grandsons will be five and one.  In addition, Daniel and Zuae plan to move to the United States in August.  And Mike and Emily will celebrate ten years of marriage in November.  So many blessings. . .

Welcome 2011!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy Happy Day :-)

The property to our left has been nothing but a problem since we moved in 20+ years ago. The last resident needed threats from the city of Ballwin every summer before they would mow their weeds.  Another "thorn in my side" was how they stored their garden tools.  They hung them outside their garage on the wall facing our back patio.  They also installed, without a permit, a huge shed near their garage, which landed three feet on our property.

Then approximately six months ago we discovered the property was under foreclosure. Of course the former owners didn't leave without a fight.  We understand they used every possible tactic to delay eviction for half a year.  Even in the end they continued to stall, forcing the bank to dump the last of their belongings on the curb.

After feeling elated about getting rid of a problem, I feared what would come next.  At this point the house was in such bad shape I would have been extremely skeptical of anyone who had plans to rehab.  Then we got the best news.  Benton Builders had bought the property and would build two luxury homes in 2011.

Now I understand any new neighbor could be a problem also.  But I'm hopeful that anyone who can afford a $400,000+ home in this economy will be better than what we've dealt with for the past 20+ years.

No matter, today I celebrated with a glass of wine in the middle of the afternoon.  I gleefully sat in my sun room watching as the eyesore next door fell to the ground.  Happy, happy day!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Prophecy?

Today Elliott and I met dad at Bethesda around 10:30 A.M.  It was a wasted trip.  Mom was sound asleep, snoring peacefully in her bed.

Although mom's cognitive and mobility levels have been the same for months, her sleep pattern would indicate that the disease is indeed progressing.  She's now sleeping more than half the day.  And, as a result, eating and moving less and less.

Several years ago mom said she would die at 80 years old.  Her "reasoning" was that she would not live longer than her dad did.  Grandpa died within weeks of his 80 birthday.  Mom will be 80 in April.  Time will tell.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

No Vacation

So far my week without Jonah has not been a vacation.  Instead I'm taking advantage of the time to do things not easily done with a baby around.  I spent most of today working on the company taxes and mom's finances.  I also started packing up the Christmas decorations.

During lunch, however, I did take a longer break and watched "The Answer Man" using Roku.  It was an OK movie.  Last night Jim and I finished all four seasons of Doc Martin.  I loved the last episode of season four.  I'm so glad new episodes begin in 2011.  In the meantime I'll be checking out what other BBC series Netflix offers.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Home Sweet Home

Today was my first time out of the house since last Wednesday.  And the only reason it happened was because I had a couple of returns and wanted something good to eat without having to cook it.  Jim and I are still recovering.  Deciding what our stomachs can handle is tricky enough without also having to prepare it.

The roads are clear and I experienced no crowds.  Nevertheless, I was glad to return home despite the fact that I spent all afternoon preparing documents for the company taxes.

I just like being home.  I've worked hard to make our home inviting and comfortable.  Plus I never run out of things to do.  I have an entire room dedicated to crafting.  I have a well equipped kitchen.  I have workout equipment.  I have a 40" HD flat screen with Bose sound system.  I have high-speed internet.  I guess that's why I always look forward to shorter days and cold temps.  They're good excuses for staying home.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Roku + Netflix = Instant Gratification

When Emily and Mike replaced their digital player with Apple TV, they generously gave us their Roku. I immediately saw the benefit of having access to more commercial-free movies and old TV shows. But I honestly didn't know how much we would use it. Typically we can barely keep up with recorded shows or Netflix DVDs.

Well yesterday, while Jim and I were basically "couch potatoes," we gave our Roku a good workout. I've enjoyed several BBC series through Netflix and recently discovered Doc Martin. As luck would have it, the four-season series is a Netflix "Instant Watch." So yesterday we were able to watch the first two seasons and a couple episodes of season three with little effort. No running to the store to purchase or rent a DVD. No waiting for one to arrive in the mail. No extra fees. Just click, click, click -- instant gratification. I'm hooked!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Rough Morning

When I woke this morning I was hoping to find that Jim had improved somewhat. Instead, in addition to dealing with the stomach virus, he was also passing a kidney stone!

Last summer when this happened we needed an ambulance. So this time I fully expected to be digging out of the snow and rushing Jim to the ER myself. In addition, I was having a slight relapse, suspecting I had overdone it yesterday. It all added up to me missing Christmas mass. Since I believe everything is His doing, I'm sure He understood and won't hold it against me.

My current religious beliefs were a long-time coming. I was raised in a God-fearing home. In other words, if you didn't follow the "rules" you surely would end up in hell. It's taken me many, many years living away from that environment to realize that God forgives and understands human weaknesses. I believe He and I have a much healthier relationship now.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Papa Down

Emily and Mike and grandsons barely got out the door before papa was stricken with the bug. As I understand it, stomach viruses are extremely contagious. Certainly our family is proving that to be true. The only help I can offer is reminding Jim that it only lasts 24-30 hours.

I'm so happy I recovered in time for us to host Christmas Eve. Everyone seemed to have a good time, especially the boys. I believe the Harry Potter trunk and robe will end up being Elliott's favorite gifts :-)

And to make the day extra special, we got a nice snowfall throughout the day. It's so beautiful outside and a nice gift.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Grandma Down

Woke up early this morning with the stomach virus. I pray it only lasts 24 hours. If we end up having to reschedule Christmas Eve, I'll be so depressed. But Elliott had the virus Monday and went to school Tuesday. So I'm hoping for the best.

However, even if I manage a quick recovery, the weather might cause problems tomorrow. We're expecting our first significant snow fall. That won't keep the Jorgensens away because Jim can get them with his 4-wheel-drive truck. But dad might decide this is one snow fall he doesn't want to risk.

In the meantime, I'm mainly resting and taking in a lot of liquids. Although I did just manage to talk Jim through some food prep. Thank goodness the table is set, stockings are stuffed, and gifts are wrapped.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Harry Potter is #1!

It seems to have happened in a flash and much sooner than I expected. But sometime within the last 3-4 months, Elliott has come to love Harry Potter. So much so that Star Wars has moved to second place on his favorites list!

I've been a Harry Potter fan since the third book was released. After reading the first three books in two weeks, I started collecting whatever memorabilia I could afford and get my hands on. Then after my first grandson was born, I began to look forward to the day I could share my collection with him. But I certainly didn't expect it to be just four years later!

Of course, since Elliott's so young, he's only seen the first two movies of which we fast-forwarded through all the scary scenes. Mostly I have Lego and Wii to thank. Elliott enjoys both and the Harry Potter sets and games are so well done. It's easy to see how they would grab the interest of a bright four-year-old.

But it's only been within the last couple of weeks that we understood the intensity of Elliott's interest. Thank goodness for Amazon. Late last week I ordered Lego Harry Potter Wii and a Hogwarts robe. Then tonight Jim and I went to Hobby Lobby to get a small trunk as a gift box. We did our best to find one similar, albeit much smaller, to the one in the movie. I've never shopped this close to Christmas, but I don't really mind. I just can't wait to see Elliott's face on Christmas Eve.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Thank You Note

Today I received a hand-written thank you note. It made me so happy. I've lamented for several years that this simple but kind and thoughtful gesture is extremely rare.

At first I thought it was just a generation thing. That a formal thank you was a foreign concept to anyone younger than 40. But I know that's not true. Because the parents of the young adults I've gifted taught them differently.

And then I found that my generation was no longer politely expressing thanks either. Yes, life can get crazy, but how many hours a week do most of us spend on the internet? How much time and effort can it possibly take to send an email acknowledging that a gift has been received and appreciated? Email eliminates excuses such as my handwriting is terrible or I didn't have stationery, a stamp, or your street address.

In my opinion, not to send thanks, especially for a gift sent, can only be due to laziness, rudeness, or ignorance. Whatever the reason, I find the thank you note's apparent quickening demise extremely sad.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Stomach Virus

Found out this morning that Emily and Elliott are down with a stomach virus. I had heard that there's one going around. Fortunately it seems to only last 24-30 hours. I'm praying Jim and I don't get it. However, if we do, I hope it happens no later than Wednesday. I don't want to disappoint anyone by having to reschedule Christmas Eve.

We did safely get through today's holiday event, the staff lunch. Everyone seemed to enjoy the food, especially dessert. But I've yet to find anyone who doesn't like creme brulee :-)

With clean up done, I now need to workout plus finish wrapping presents, adding bows and tags. The holidays are hectic enough, but now I'm feeling more pressure not knowing if or when I might go down with a stomach virus!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday Routine

Typically on Sunday Jim and I take Elliott to religion class before we go to mass. But today Jim went to the Rams game. So Elliott and I had some nice one-on-one time. After mass we had lunch at St. Louis Bread Company. Then we went back to Elliott's house so he could show me his Harry Potter Xbox game.

Next, with Emily and Jonah, we met dad at Bethesda to visit mom. She seemed the same except for the stuffed dog. When I asked her about it, mom said she "found it" and decided to "keep it because it's so cute." Apparently she's had it for at least two weeks. So, either another resident is missing a dog, or it was a donation. It's common for dementia patients to carry dolls or stuffed animals, treating them as if they're living things. Today mom seemed to understand that the dog was a toy. But I suspect it's just a matter of time before she starts talking to it. That will be hard to watch.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Big Shopping Day

Apparently the Saturday before Christmas is a big shopping day. Last Saturday I experienced no crowds. Today was a bit crazy. My errands included four retail stores, two grocery stores, and the post office. I'm exhausted. But I hopefully have everything I need for Monday's lunch and Christmas Eve.

And I'm not the only one tired. Every night after I go to bed, Rupert (our cat) takes over my spot on the couch. For the last several days, however, he's been beating me to it. I imagine it's either because lately I'm not able to watch TV until after 7:30 P.M.; it gets dark so early these days; or his secondary spot on the basement couch is too cold. Whatever the reason, it's 8:00 P.M. and he's not budging. Oh well, actually I don't mind turning in early myself tonight.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Holiday Traditions

Today we continued a holiday tradition and possibly started another one. Last year a three-year-old Elliott was old enough to decorate gingerbread cookies. It was so much fun, we decided to make it a yearly activity. So that was today's "grandma project."

But today also included a "papa project." For the first time, Elliott and Papa had an outing all on their own. It started with lunch at McDonald's. Next stop was the Jefferson Barracks Park Model Train Exhibit. Elliott has many interests, but trains have been his favorite for at least three years. So I think it's possible that this outing could become another holiday tradition.

Now it's on to a weekend of cleaning and cooking in preparation for the staff lunch on Monday.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Snow Day!

Emily called at 5:30 A.M. to tell me there was no school today. Although I wish she had waited until 7:00 A.M., it was a great surprise. I couldn't sleep after she called, but mainly because I was mentally planning my day, which was now baby free.

School was called off due to freezing rain and slick streets and sidewalks. Dad was planning to visit mom today, so I called to check on him. Again I caught him at the casino having breakfast. Some how he has "points" for free meals, which he "needs" to use up before the end of the year.

I just don't get it. Growing up dad would nearly go ballistic when it came to driving in snow and ice. Yet now, when he doesn't "have" to go out, he insists on it. And now he has 80-year-old bones and a heart condition!

Dad did safely drive to Bethesda, but found mom asleep. In her current condition, mom can be extremely hateful when forced awake. So it turned out to be a wasted trip and needless risk. Dad also safely returned home. But then he fell near his mailbox. He's fine, but I'm hoping it was a wake-up call to be more cautious.

For me, I stayed home and had a fun day. I made my favorite cookie, Cranberry Noels. I also made gingerbread men that Elliott will decorate tomorrow. Plus I made a centerpiece for the dining room table and worked out. I was happy staying home all day by myself.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Dining Room

Although we only use our dining room for holidays and special occasions, I'm so glad we have it. I enjoy setting a nice table, which usually includes favors and creatively folded napkins. It's a ritual that sets the tone for whatever event is happening.

The "special room," as Elliott calls it, will be busy next week. On Monday we're hosting the annual staff lunch. Then on Christmas Eve we're serving lunch and dinner.

So today the dining room got a thorough cleaning. Plus I began setting the table for Monday's lunch. I know it's a bit early, but I'm working around a nine-month-old's unpredictable schedule.

In addition to prepping the dining room, I did some bookkeeping and worked out. I was able to get so much done because Jonah took 5.5 hours worth of naps! I think a major growth spurt is in his near future.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gift Tags

Last night I started making holiday gift tags, using my Cricut.  I love that machine!

I also love paper crafting.  As soon as I start creating, I feel energized and happy.  I forget all my worries and just focus on making a unique item the recipient hopefully will appreciate and enjoy.  But the time just flies. . .never seems to be enough of it.

So today I continued crafting while Jonah napped.  House cleaning and bookkeeping can wait.  I’m having too much fun :-)

Monday, December 13, 2010

No Snow Day

When I woke up at 6:30 A.M. the temperature was 3 degrees with a wind chill of -12. School isn’t cancelled unless the wind chill is -15. Drat!

So Jonah arrived around 7:45 A.M. and my work week began. Fortunately he did take good naps, which allowed me to get some things done. Although he’s nine months old today, Jonah is still taking three naps. He’s so active when he’s awake that he needs a lot of sleep. Since we rarely go out, I can easily accommodate three naps. But it’s tough for Emily and Mike on weekends when they’re trying to get chores done or go on family outings. Jonah rarely sleeps when he’s not in his crib.

This morning I got most of my Christmas gifts wrapped. The trick now is hiding them from Elliott who has access to every room in our house. I’m hoping I have them well hidden in the basement storage room.

I was also able to work out. That’s two sessions in two days. Yahoo! I exercised regularly before Jonah’s arrival. Then things got crazy helping Emily with two kids, going through a complete master bath remodel, taking two vacations, and hosting Daniel for a week. Now it’s time to get back on track (no pun intended), especially with all the good food I plan to make and eat in the next couple of weeks.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

First Snow

This morning I managed to sleep until 8:00 A.M. and woke to the season’s first snow fall.  I also had an English McMuffin waiting for me.  Jim had already been out testing his new 4-wheel-drive truck.

On Sundays we usually meet dad at Bethesda to visit mom.  Given the weather, I called to see if we were still on.  It was 9:00 A.M. and dad had already been to mass and was having breakfast at the casino!  So we planned to meet at 11:00 A.M. unless he ran into trouble.  Jim got the call while I was in the shower.  Dad said 30-40 cars were in ditches and visibility was minimal.  Since he was in front of Gold’s Gym, he decided to workout, hoping things would improve so he could get home.  I checked on him around noon as he was pulling into his driveway.  Good for dad for still being so active, but I honestly think no 80-year-old should be out in single-digit weather and on icy roads!

With the change in plans, Jim and I were able to run more errands this morning.  We also had lunch at Noodles & Company.

When we got home, I immediately made Pretzel Turtles and steam cleaned the kitchen and laundry room floors.  I’m a bit giddy with unexpected time.  Sundays are usually eaten up with mass and Bethesda.  My plans for the rest of the day include working out and wrapping presents.  I’m also praying for no school tomorrow due to severely cold temperatures.  That would be so awesome!

(BTW, I did find the perfect pot pie bowls at Target.)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Day of Errands

After working on the company books for several hours this morning, it was time to run errands.  I really hate Saturday foot traffic, but since Grandma Daycare is back in session I feel it's my only option.

After hitting two banks and OfficeMax for toner, it was time to brave the post office.  To my surprise, there was little-to-no waiting.  I was even more pleased to learn that the cost to ship my holiday package to South Korea was less than $50.  I know that's still a lot of money, but my average is $60.  I would love to send packages to Daniel and Zuae more often, but I just can't stand that shipping fee.

I then managed lunch with hubby at The Corner Pub.  Jim works every Saturday, so this seldom happens.  But today we both had a break in our schedules at the same time.  It was especially nice since we won't be having dinner together.  Papa will be watching Jonah while Emily and Mike take Elliott to the zoo for the holiday light display.

Next I hit Trader Joe's.  This time of year they have a better-than-average frozen creme brulee presented in a solid chocolate bowl.  It reminds me of the desert we had at Nicholas Flamel in Paris.  Jim and I decided it would work perfectly for the staff holiday lunch.  I love to cook, but this year's lunch will include a couple of store-bought dishes. With Jonah, I need some help.

My next stop was Kohl's to finish Jonah's Christmas gift list and hopefully find oven-safe bowls for pot pies.  We're hosting Christmas Eve lunch and dinner.  Lunch will be Ina Garten's Chicken Pot Pie.  Since Kohl's didn't have the bowls I needed, I tried K-Mart.  No luck.  After some online searching, I'm now off to Target with my fingers crossed.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Legos and Cookies

Since it's Friday, I watched both grandsons all day.  They were good, but it's still a lot of work.  By the end of the week I'm exhausted and ready to be kid-free for at least 24 hours.

Elliott spent most of the day playing with my Harry Potter Lego sets.  I'm thrilled that he's enjoying them and likes Harry Potter.  He even role plays at school with one of his friends during recess.  Of course, since Elliott's four, he's only seen the first two movies of which I fast-forwarded through all the scary parts.

During one of Jonah's naps, Elliott and I made Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies.  To save time and minimize mess, I used a store-bought refrigerated dough.  Elliott had fun and the cookies tasted fine, but next time I'll make my own dough, which I'm sure will taste and look better.

Now I'm sending hubby to Clancey's for burgers.  And the rest of the night I plan to spend in my PJs watching several episodes of Mad Men.  Let the weekend begin!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

New Cookie

I started my holiday baking today with something new (for me), Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies.  They were easy to make, and look and taste good.  Thanks Martha Stewart!

http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/mexican-hot-chocolate-cookies