Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Happy Birthday, Blog!!!

Today is the 1st birthday of my blog. Yes, its true. Exactly one year ago today I embarked on this sometimes strange but mostly interesting journey into online diary-ism. Hope you've enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Stay tuned for more!

Holiday Highlights

Fri Joe & I both worked ½ days. He went to his sister’s after lunch to help her make home made ravioli and gnocchi for Christmas dinner. I did some last minute gift shopping, and then did my holiday baking for the neighbors. I made rum-flavored pound cakes drizzled with sweet rum glaze. I wrapped them in rose-colored plastic wrap and placed them in holiday tins and baskets, then delivered them along with holiday greeting cards to my neighbors. They all loved them, and several returned the favor by delivering baked goodies to us!

Sat after lunch at the Stray Cat Café we went to the grocery store to get the ingredients to make corn casserole (the Paula Dean recipe that’s made Joe a big hit), artichoke dip and sun-dried tomato dip. I put on some Christmas music and he made the food while I wrapped gifts. It was a nice day. That evening we went to his sister’s to meet up with the family to celebrate his mom’s birthday. Unfortunately, when we arrived we learned that his brother Paul and his family would not be able to join us because they had been in a serious car accident. A drunk driver crossed the center line. Paul swerved onto the shoulder to avoid a head-on collision, and the other driver slammed into the side of their ’06 Sienna minivan, ripping the sliding door and rear bumper completely off the vehicle. We considered it “The Christmas Miracle” that no one was seriously injured; just the typical small cuts from flying glass and bruises from the front and rear side curtain airbag deployment. Both vehicles were totaled. It was odd to not have them with us as we ate honey baked ham, turkey breast, biscuits, Joe’s two dips, green bean casserole, the corn casserole, and an assortment of pies, cookies, fudge, and brownies. To work off some of those holiday calories, we played a Play Station II game called Dance Revolution, where you listen to a song, watch the indicator on the TV screen, and step on the corresponding places on a wireless dance mat. It was really fun!

Sun morning Joe & I had a lovely Christmas breakfast of Belgian waffles with real Vermont maple syrup (from our Jan trip to Vermont) and sausage egg and cheese casserole. We ate in the dining room because the kitchen table was still being used as my gift wrapping station. After breakfast Joe watched some TV while I continued wrapping gifts. We both showered, loaded gifts into the Suburban, and at 3pm headed over my aunt’s to exchange gifts and take her with us to Joe’s sister’s for a family Christmas. My niece Lauren also joined us, for her very first Christmas. We had a delicious dinner of home made ravioli and gnocchi, meatballs, sweet and hot sausages, cheesy garlic bread, and a bounty of sweets. Dee-lish! Then we exchanged gifts, played Dance Revolution again, watched a Christmas movie, and visited with each other. It was a perfect, relaxing Christmas day.

Mon morning we made our traditional day-after-Christmas pilgrimage to Target to scarf up holiday wrapping paper, bows, and ornaments all marked 50% off. We had lunch at Chili’s, and then Joe watched TV while I wrapped the last of the gifts. Then we headed out to Centreville to our friends Greg & Gerry’s place. We exchanged gifts with them and went to dinner at Bonefish. I had delicious pork chops with sautéed mushrooms and fontina cheese. Joe had a tasty salmon dish. Then we had pie and coffee back and Greg & Gerry’s. We had a great time visiting with these dear friends.

Yesterday evening I drove to Woodbridge to meet up with my old friend Lisa, who was back in VA to visit her family for Christmas. I've known Lisa since elementary school. We remained friends all the way through high school. Eleven years later I organized a little reunion of friends at my place, and that was the last time I'd seen Lisa, in 1993. We recently reconnected via email, thanks to a mutual friend Brian. We had a fantastic visit last night! I brought some photos of some shows we both performed in when in high school, and the photos taken at the 1993 friends reunion. She told me about when her "life blew up" and she moved to New York City to start over 2 1/2 years ago. We talked non-stop for 6 1/2 hours - what fun!

It was a very nice holiday – not too hectic, not too tiring – just right. We seem to have found a comfortable way to really enjoy the holidays. I’m looking forward to another enjoyable evening tomorrow, when Kerry, Hugh, Kelly, and George come for dinner and gift exchanging.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

People just need to calm down

Twice this week I was almost in car accidents, thanks to drivers talking on their cell phones, in an all-fire hurry to get somewhere. People just need to calm down.

The first one was less than a mile from home. I was in the Suburban and the car next to me realized that there were two cars in front of it, stopped with their flashers on. So, rather than being bothered to pause their cell phone conversation and stop, the driver next to me decided it would be preferable to simply put their blinker on as they moved into the lane I was in. I braked sharply and blew the horn, almost running up onto the median to keep from being hit by the driver. The driver couldn't be bothered though, as he/she simply continued driving 1/2 a mile up the road with their blinker still on, then slipped back into their original lane. I hope that driver was on the phone with a friend or relative who was in the hospital swinging on the hinges of death, because nothing short of that could justify that behavior. People just need to calm down.

The second one happened on my way home from work. I was in my convertible, cautiously staying in my lane as I moved through a very trafficky area. But a car stopped in a line of traffic next to me decided they were in too much of a hurry to wait 2 seconds for their lane of traffic to resume, so they simply swerved into my lane, without even a blinker, causing me to have to invoke my anti-lock brakes to keep from running into them. As soon as the driver did this, the lane of traffic they had just vacated began moving. People just need to calm down.

I heard a commercial on the radio the other day that went something like this: "Still having trouble finding that PERFECT gift?" Since when is Christmas about finding a PERFECT gift????? Shouldn't it be about spending time with family and friends, and the baby Jesus if you're into that, and exchanging a THOUGHTFUL gift, not necessarily a PERFECT gift? I don't understand why people drive themselves frantic over a gift. People just need to calm down. Another ad I heard said "Trying to keep your sanity during the hectic and stressful holidays?" I thought to myself: No. My holidays are not hectic or stressful because I don't MAKE THEM that way. I do not feel obligated to put myself through all kinds of gyrations in order to keep some holiday tradition, simply because "that's what we've always done". I write and send holiday cards and bake goodies for my neighbors because I want to and I find the time to. But I do not drive myself nuts in the pursuit of holiday "perfection", and neither should anyone else. People just need to calm down.

I overheard a conversation last night at dinner where a woman was telling her husband that she was wishing each of her colleagues at the office a Merry Christmas when to her utter horror she realized she'd wished a Merry Christmas to someone who is Jewish. She spoke as if she were truly mortified, over a small oversight. I'm sure she's not the first person to make that mistake, and probably won't be the last one. But the worse thing to do in a situation like that is to make a huge deal out of it. Simply say "I'm sorry, I meant to say Happy Holidays" and then forget about it. People just need to calm down.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Stepford Wife???

My friend Mike (from read my last blog post and wrote: "I love reading your blog. You're like... a Stepford Wife. But not in the robot way." A Stepford Wife??? So I wrote an email back to Mr. Michael Meadows and requested he explain just HOW I reminded him of a Stepford Wife. His response? "Well, I meant that as a compliment. Your dinner parties, home decorating ideas.... etc. Perhaps I should have clarified that." Uhh... yeah. Right. Well the next time you want to "compliment" me, Mr. Michael Meadows, why don't you try going on and on about what a fabulous life I've scratched out for myself, huh??? I'm just kidding, of course. In Mike's very own, unique kind of way, I do believe he was trying to give me a compliment. Moving on...

Last week's trip to Richmond for those two agonizing days of sales meetings turned out to be better than I'd expected. Its always kind of fun to meet up with peers who work in different cities, and with whom you normally only talk on the phone or exchange emails. The meetings themselves were sufficiently boring and I believe I learned exactly one new thing, which hardly justifies two full days away from my real work. But there were a few bright moments to be recalled.

I met a very nice man who's only been with the company for six weeks, and who works in our London office. He was interesting and thoroughly enjoyable to talk to. By chance I was seated next to him on day one of the meeting. That night, the entire group went to a restaurant where they had no large tables, so we were all split up into groups of 4. Since my car group was the last to arrive and I got detained talking to a colleague, I took the last empty seat, directly across the table from my new British friend Bruce. On my right was another British gentlemen who happens to be in charge of European operations. He told the story of his first sales job in Paris. He felt fairly comfortable speaking French, but as you might expect, local dialects and similar words with very different meanings soon became his downfall. He went to a posh hotel to meet the female sales prospect. He'd injured his neck while working out at the gym so when she greeted him and asked how he was, he turned his head from side to side and said in French "I'm doing well, but my asshole hurts." Apparently the word for neck and the word for asshole sound very similar, and he used the wrong pronunciation. We howled with laughter, to the point that the those at the other tables became jealous, as they knew we were having more fun. Then next day I sat next to Bruce again. Cheers mate!

Shortly after returning home Thurs evening, I got a phone call from an old JW friend of mine. We'd met in 1984 when I moved (temporarily) to Norfolk VA. We became very good friends quickly. I think we both knew that we shared a certain secret. Finally one day it came out, and we felt good knowing we weren't the only JW guys attracted to men. I moved back to the DC area, but we stayed friends, calling and visiting from time to time. A couple years later, he got married. I wasn't totally surprised, as I knew it was thought to be the cure for any JW guy who was attracted to men. It appeared that they had a happy marriage for several years. Meanwhile, I left the JW religion so I was cut off from all of my JW friends. I moved, he moved, and we lost touch for over 12 years.

He said he'd been trying to locate me for some time by Googling my name and calling the phone numbers attached to the responses. After many wrong numbers, he finally found me. Just for clarity's sake, I told him I wasn't a JW anymore and he confirmed that he knew it. He told me he'd never stopped thinking of me as a friend, and felt like I was one of the few people he could really trust. He was going through a rough time and needed a friend. He told me his wife had left him 5 years ago for another man. About 2 years ago he began to get acquainted with other men he knew to be gay. Recently he'd had a few "encounters" (his words) and felt guilty enough to confess to the JW Elders. He told me he would be disfellowshipped (the JW term for ex-communicated) this coming Thurs. I asked how he felt about that. Was he sad? Was he relieved? He said he really didn't know what to think or feel. He thought he'd just take it day by day and try to come to terms with what he thought and felt. I encouraged this, and told him that as JWs we weren't really given the opportunity to think and feel for ourselves. We read the JW publications, went to church and bible study groups, and our thoughts and feelings were explained in detail for us. There was no real thought or feeling required of us. Now that he was no longer going to be a JW (at least for a while), I told him it was an excellent time to begin to trust himself to think and feel for himself; to trust himself to know what was right for him. He said he wanted to see me, so we are trying to work out a convenient date. I'm excited and scared for him. He is indeed going through a difficult time. I wish I could somehow infuse him with everything I've learned in the 12+ years since I left the JWs. But that is my experience, which may be able to help him, but certainly can't replace HIS experience. My friend: I'm sending you positive energy!

Fri evening Joe & I headed up to the beach. Sat after breakfast we headed out to a few outlet stores, trying to cross that last Christmas gift off our list. After no success, we decided to pick up a few things for ourselves... nothing big deal, just a few pieces of clothing on sale, more holiday cards, and some items for Toys for Tots. We drove to Herring Point (in the state park) and got out to look at the ocean. It was very calm and beautiful. Joe took a nap in the afternoon while I wrote and addressed more cards. This is the latest I've ever gotten my holiday cards out. With only a week until Christmas, I gave myself Sun as the deadline.

Sat night I decided to indulge Joe by acquiescing to go to The Wharf in Ocean City for dinner. They have an all-you-can-eat buffet that has crab legs so he loves to go there. I think the food is terrible and most of the time convince him not to go. But since we didn't have anything planned for the evening I figured I didn't mind driving the 45 minutes to get there. I could put up with the food since we hadn't been there in a long time. On the way down there and back we enjoyed seeing all the holiday lights and decorations. Bethany, Fenwick, and Ocean City all had decorations on the utility polls and elsewhere. We had the radio on the station playing nothing but Christmas music. It was nice. We drove into the tiny downtown area in Bethany to look at the lights, and drove around several blocks in Rehoboth to enjoy the ample displays of lights, garlands, candy canes, and snow men.

Sun morning we came home, showered and shaved, and went to a small holiday gathering at our friends Ron & James' house. It was nice, and we saw some friends we'd not seen since last Christmas. Ron & James normally have a huge open house where you SEE lots of people but aren't able to TALK to many, so this year they decided to do something much smaller and more intimate. It was nice to catch up with everyone and wish them happy holidays. (Mike is now thinking I'm a Stepford Wife again...)

Afterward we came home and Joe took a nap while I continued writing and addressing cards. When he woke, I talked him into sealing the envelopes for me. FINALLY... all 126 cards were written, addressed, sealed, stamped, and ready to go into the mailbox. I dropped them off at the post office this morning. I don't mean to sound like the card thing is a big chore. I don't feel that way at all. I write and send them because I like to. Its a time when I think of friends I see frequently and those I've not seen in years. I jot them a short note inside a card with a printed holiday greeting, and hopefully they feel good when they receive and open the card. That's the point, right? I know I enjoy getting holiday cards, knowing that friends are thinking of me and wishing me "every happiness this holiday season, and always".

Monday, December 12, 2005

Weekend Round Up

Very early Fri morning it snowed and then sleeted. We got about 3 inches of accumulation. Amazingly the Federal Government opened two hours late! That's Washington DC for ya...

Joe & I both had large, late lunches on Fri so we decided to go Christmas shopping Fri night and then eat dinner later. I had heard about a special 'Night Owl' sale at Kohls, from 8pm-midnight. The Kohls is near the Home Goods and World Market, two stores we always find good Christmas gifts at, so we headed on over. It was very cold, and the moisture on the parking lot was freezing up. But we shopped at all 3 stores and were able to mark a few more items off our gift list. About 9pm we had dinner at Uno's Pizza. We rarely go there, so it was nice to eat somewhere different. We discussed our holiday plans, work frustrations, and thankfulness in this season of good will. We got home at about 10:30.

After a leisurely morning, we headed out Sat for some lunch at the Stray Cat Cafe. The decor and menu items are all cat-related. I like it there. We got one of the last open tables, which was near the window. (I love a window table.) After fortifying ourselves with a tasty lunch, we went to the grocery store. We bought all the stuff for a lasagna dinner (along with some Home Depot gift cards - who knew?), then came home to cook and tidy up. Joe assembled the lasagna but didn't bake it. I wrote out some holiday cards and wrapped a "hostess gift" for the party we were going to that night.

We went to a party at The Dicks. The Dicks are a couple: Dick & Dick. We refer to them as The Dicks. Every year they have a swell holiday party that we don't miss. A few years we've even left another holiday party early so as to be at The Dicks party the same night. As usual we said hello to people we only see once a year at The Dicks party, met some new friends, nibbled on goodies, and sipped on cocktails. (I made Sour Appletinis.) One of The Dicks made a pistachio cheesecake that was out of this world! We had a good time. Afterward we stopped at an Italian brick-oven pizza place we realized we'd never been to before. I wasn't hungry so I just got an appetizer of stuffed, fried olives, while Joe got a calzone. Although it was only 10pm I felt exhausted. We watched a little TV at home and then went to bed.

Sun morning we headed out to Manassas to Kerry & Hugh's for a post-birthday breakfast. (My birthday was Wed, but Sun was the first opportunity we had to catch up with Hugh & Kerry.) Kerry's sister Kelly and father George were there, too. We had a wonderful time, as usual. Hugh made waffles, which were the lightest I've ever had, along with delicious Vermont maple syrup, purchased on our Vermont ski trip back in Jan. We lingered over coffee, nibbling on fresh pineapple and cantaloupe, until we had to get going. On our way home we stopped at Trader Joes so my Joe could pick up some vitamins, and we got a fresh green wreath to hang over the fireplace mantle. When we got home I vacuumed and straightened up the house a little, then pulled out the rest of the Christmas decorations. I removed the photos from the fireplace mantle and replaced them with holiday garlands, candles, holly from a tree in our backyard, and some artificial berries and greenery. (Tip: mix in some real greenery with your artificial greenery to 'fool the eye' and give a fuller affect.) I sprinkled the rest of the holiday votives and such around the house. Now it REALLY looks like Christmas.

Sun evening our friends Michael & Jamie (aka: The Newlyweds) and Doug & Jim came over for a casual holiday dinner. We had lasagna, salad and garlic bread, and french apple pie for dessert. We had a great time chatting, swapping stories, and hearing about each other's holiday plans. The Newlyweds are going to visit Jamie's parents in Las Vegas, then going to Korea and Thailand for their belated honeymoon. They'll be gone for 3 weeks!

Tonight Joe & I went back to the Stray Cat Cafe (again) for dinner. I thought it was Half Price Burger Night but it wasn't. Oh well, we enjoyed it anyway. Joe is currently out at a client appointment and I am supposed to be working on our holiday cards, but instead I am writing this. I wanted to update this site before being out of town for a few days. I'm being forced to go to Richmond again, this time for 2 whole days of sales meetings AND evening team-building events. UGH!! I have real work to do for real clients, back in my office. I do NOT need to be tormented by sitting in sales meetings for 2 days. Unfortunately, my boss feels differently so I must go. I'm leaving Tues night and coming back Thurs night. Then Fri night we're headed to the beach for a little R&R, to see the Christmas decorations in downtown Rehoboth, and to hopefully finish our holiday gift shopping. We're coming back Sun morning so we can clean up and go to a 2pm party.

I'm hoping to get a chance to pick up some items for Toys For Tots, but I'm not sure when the drop-off deadline is. Anyone know? Leave me a comment if you do.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

"Its the most wonderful (and busy) time of the year"

Fri evening we got together with Michael & Jamie (aka: The Newlyweds) and tried out a new (to us) restaurant called Portabellos. Its a small, intimate, bistro-style restaurant. We enjoyed it. We were enjoying our time with Michael & Jamie so much that we decided to go somewhere for dessert too, and continue talking. We had a ball.

Sat morning we picked up Joe's mom and my niece and drove out to Manassas for the Christmas parade. It's a hoot... kind of what you might expect a Christmas parade to look like in Mayberry RFD. There are high school marching bands, fire trucks, floats, antique cars, Santa, reindeers - you name it! The great part about this annual tradition for us is that our friends Kerry & Hugh live right on the parade route. They invite a bunch of friends and have coffee, hot tea, cocoa, and loads of sweets and goodies to snack on when you duck inside to warm up. We had such a good time that we stayed for 2 hours after the parade had ended and most of their guests had left. Then the remaining group decided to have a late lunch (2:00 or so) at a restaurant nearby. We had a great time! I was really glad my niece Lauren came, as this is her first year celebrating Christmas. I was also glad my friend Dee and her family came, as Dee was also a JW (like me and Lauren) years ago, and I think Lauren liked chatting with Dee. I did, too.

Later Sat night Joe & I went out to look for a Christmas tree. We found a place with many beautiful Fraser firs. There were so many pretty trees it was hard to pick one! Joe seemed less enthusiastic than I expected, so I asked him about it. He said "I must be getting old, because I kind of don't want to deal with having a real tree this year... hauling it in the house, trying to get it straight in the tree stand, remembering to water it every day, having to sweep up the dropping needles... I'm thinking maybe we should look at artificial trees." This really surprised me, as I had suggested years ago that we get an artificial tree since they are much easier to decorate. He'd resisted, in favor of the wonderful scent of a real tree. So we left the tree lot and went home.

Sun we went to Target at 10am, hoping to beat the holiday weekend crowds. There we found a lovely artificial tree that was very reasonably priced. We both thought it would due nicely, so we bought it. We figured the worst case scenario would be that if we didn't like it, we could always sell it at a yard sale or donate it to a family in need. But to our pleasure, we liked the tree even better at home than in the store. It took quite a while to get all the branches fluffed out and attached to the base, but I figure I'll only have to do it this once. When Christmas is over I will remove the decorations and carry the tree downstairs to the basement and put an old sheet over it. Voila!

Sun evening we got together with our friends Michael & Sandy for dinner. After a lengthy discussion with lots of options, we ended up going to Portabellos again. We were seated at the same table we'd sat at on Fri, and had the same waiter. To top it off, Michael & Sandy ordered the same dishes that Joe & I had ordered on Fri! We had a lovely dinner with our new friends and closed the restaurant.

Mon after work I untangled and tested my strings of lights for the tree, and then put them on. (One year I put all the lights on the tree without testing them first. When I finally plugged them in I found I had a non-working string of lights in the middle of the tree! I had to take almost all of them off to get the bad light string out of there.) Once the lights were on, I spent 4 HOURS putting the ornaments on! Although that might sound like an exaggeration, I assure it is not. I really spent 4 hours putting ornaments on the tree. Usually Joe & I do it together, but he didn't feel like doing it last night so I did it alone. And don't even bother asking me how many ornaments there are because I don't know. All I can tell you is that they came out of 4 large shopping bags and 1 box. There are a few large, many medium, and quite a few small ones - perhaps 300 in total, but I really don't know. The tree, however, is breathtaking.

Tonight Joe & I went to dinner at the Carlisle, one of my favorite restaurants, for my birthday. Although my actual birthday is tomorrow, Joe has 2 client appointments tomorrow evening so tonight worked out better for his schedule. We had a lovely and delicious dinner. We both started with their fabulous mixed green salads with dates, cranberries, grilled corn and goat cheese. I had roasted pork tenderloin with grilled corn relish and parmesan mashed potatoes. Joe had a marinated rib eye steak, mushrooms, and the parmesan mashed potatoes. We shared an unbelievable banana pudding and coffee for dessert. The Carlisle is a beautiful restaurant to begin with, but with their tasteful holiday decorations, it seemed to glow. Although a large restaurant, it somehow felt cozy and intimate to me tonight. Joe said "Happy birthday. I'm glad you were born." I blushed.

Monday, December 05, 2005


I got my hair cut and highlights put in. The blonde came out a bit 'brighter' than I had expected, but I don't mind. I can wear rather light blonde highlights because my complexion is so fair, especially in the winter. I feel fabulous!