Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Look out NYC!

Today Spouse & I are in NYC!

My real estate association organizes an annual bus trip to NYC for the day, and Spouse & I are with our friends Joey & Glenn.  We're going to see the Christmas Spectacular (featuring the Rockettes) as well as do some shopping, look at the department store windows, sight-see, walk through Central Park, and generally enjoy a fun day in the Big Apple. 

Spouse wasn't able to go last year when Joey, Glenn and I went so I'm really happy he's with me today.  

Look for photos later on.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Tree trimming party

So yesterday we had our annual tree trimming party.  It went very well, but it certainly was NOT without challenges.

Our plan was to bake the 3 pans of lasagna, a cake, and a large tray of brownies on Sat morning, so it could all be cleaned up and Sun could be spent reheating the lasagna and setting up the food and drinks.  But Sat morning the oven was taking an unusually long time to heat up.  In fact, after more than an hour it still hadn't come to temperature.  After a quick Google search, it appeared that 1 of the 2 elements wasn't working.

I tried calling someone to fix it, but we live in an area where repair people rarely work on weekends, so we had to come up with some alternatives.  We ended up baking everything in our 18 quart Nesco roaster (counter top oven).

Then I discovered water on the bottom of the base cabinet underneath our kitchen sinks.  I felt the drain pipes and disposal but they were dry.  I guessed it might be the supply line but it was too far into the cabinet and I'd have to unload everything to get to it, so I told Spouse "Let's get through this party and call a plumber on Monday".

Then on Sun as we were setting up the food and drinks Spouse was transferring the frozen punch ring from its plastic bucket into our beverage dispenser (with a nozzle).  When the punch ring dropped into the dispenser, the glass stand broke into several pieces!  After cleaning up the broken glass, we pulled out a vintage punch bowl and transferred the punch ring to it.

It would almost be funny if it weren't so stressful.  But fortunately we came up with work-arounds and the tree trimming party went very smoothly.  The food was delicious and everyone had a great time.

Here are some photo highlights:
The white Nesco Roaster is on top of the stove, underneath the microwave.
Quinn enjoyed petting Marvin almost as much as Marvin enjoyed being petted.

Quinn told Walter "No, no, no".
Spouse's homemade lasagna was a big hit with our friends.  We used warming trays to keep them warm.

I made a Christmas tree shaped cake dusted with coconut and decorated with edible ornaments.

I made brownies with white chocolate chips.
I loved Michael's Christmas sweatshirt with Santa in a vintage Cadillac convertible!

The finished tree looks beautiful, thanks to the help of our friends.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Christmas decorating

Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Yesterday was my scheduled day off (since I work most Saturdays) and Spouse decided to use a day of 'use-it-or-lose-it' leave so we could decorate for Christmas.

I started by putting on some Christmas music then unpacked the Christmas tree.  We've been using an artificial one for the last 12 or so years.  It has a 'realistic' look to it and I like that we can put it up whenever we want, without regard to whether its raining or cold, and not have to worry that it will dry out from under-watering, and will be able to withstand the weight of all kinds of ornaments.  Yeah, we don't have that Christmas tree smell, but the convenience is worth it to me.  And we can get that Christmas tree smell from fresh cut greenery on the mantel or a 'live' wreath.  It only took about an hour to assemble the light the 6' tree.

Then we moved onto the outside lights.  We ran several strings of green and red lights along the front porch, and switched out the regular exterior light bulbs with green and red light bulbs.  Next we put multi-colored lights on the rose bushes, and set up the red and green light projector to display on the garage wall.

With the outside done, I began unpacking the inside decorations and placing them around the living room, powder room, and foyer.  In a day's time we went from no holiday decor to fully decorated inside and out.  I was tired by the afternoon and ready to sit down.

But all the effort was worth it, as the house is now ready for our tree trimming party this Sun.  Spouse is making dinner and I'm baking desserts, after which our friends will help us hang the ornaments until the tree is shimmering.  I like a Christmas tree with so many ornaments that you can barely see the green.  Photos to follow.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Pajamas

Yesterday I was shopping for a cause!

I met many of my fellow Realtors and mortgage folks at WalMart at 7:30 AM, with a thermos of coffee of course.  As in passed years we were there to shop for clothes, shoes, coats, and toys for needy families in our community. This shopping venture was funded by a huge fundraising event last month.

I paired up with my friend Joey and we shopped for a family with 6 kids: two age 16, two age 10, one age 3, and one age 1.  (I can only assume there are 2 sets of twins.)  The brief family profile indicated that the grandmother was granted custody of the children to prevent them from being split up in the foster care system.  "They arrived with just the clothes on their backs" the profile read.  I felt a deep pain in my soul and stopped reading.  God only knows what these kids have been through.  I needn't know the details, I just needed to shop as smartly as possible to get them as much as I could.

We were given the kids' clothing sizes, shoe sizes, and favorite colors to help inform our selections.  We're also given a budget for each kid.  In past years some of the kids asked for specific toys ie: Legos, Barbie doll, etc which is fine.  All 6 of these children asked for pajamas. 

Pajamas!

3 of them asked for coats.

Sigh.

The older kids listed some hobbies (ie: drawing, building things, etc) which we used to pick out things for them.  We did our best to get them pajamas and as many coats, shoes, clothes and toys as possible by stretching the dollars allotted.  It was fun too!

This activity is a vivid reminder of just how 'good' we have it, and gives me extra incentive to find ways to give back to my community.  Food drives, Toys for Tots, and gift cards are both easy and impactful. 

Later this month I'll be sending an end-of-year mailing to more than 150 clients with whom I've worked over the years.  I've decided to include in the mailing an encouragement to give back to the local community in whatever way they feel comfortable.  A little effort and cost to us can make a huge difference in the lives of those less fortunate.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Holiday weekend recap

Before leaving for Thanksgiving with the family, we HAD to bathe the dogs.  When Chihuahuas need
a bath they start to smell a little like Fritos.  Marvin & Walter smelled a lot like Fritos since we'd procrastinated bathing them.  But we certainly weren't going to bring 2 Frito-smelling dogs with us to become the laughing stock of the holiday.  Marvin & Walter used to hate getting baths and would try multiple times to climb out of the laundry sink.  They've gotten much better, and while they still don't like it, they don't try to "escape" as Spouse calls it.  I like to take photos of their baths because I find them cute, for some reason.

Spouse made his famous stuffing (with granny smith apples, dried cranberries, and pecans) which made our house smell wonderful.  Then on Thurs morning we packed up the boys, the stuffing, and some odds and ends and drove to Spouse's sister's house in Northern VA.  The traffic was light and we made great time.  Our 2 nephews were both home from college and our niece was there with her boyfriend, their 2-year old Gabby, and their new dog Bingo.  Marvin & Walter got along well with Bingo and they played a lot.  Marvin & Walter were absolutely exhausted that night, literally falling asleep sitting up.
Anna, Bingo, Gabby, Randy
After we'd gotten settled and had a little snack, I picked up my aunt Mary to join the gang, and shortly thereafter Spouse's brother and his wife came over.  We had a delicious dinner of roasted turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, regular cranberry sauce, jalapeno cranberry sauce, sweet potato shuffle, peas, corn, green bean casserole, biscuits, and corn bread.  Later for dessert we had pumpkin pie, chocolate cheesecake, hummingbird cake, assorted chocolates, and peanut butter fudge. It was a wonderful feast!

When we lived in VA, Spouse & I used to host Thanksgiving and we used a large, oval platter with a gaudy turkey design on it from the 1970s which we'd gotten from his mother.  This platter is what the turkey would be placed on just prior to carving.  Since this is our family's 1st Thanksgiving without his mom, and since we no longer host, I decided to bequeath the gaudy turkey platter to Spouse's sister this year.  It made me feel comforted that although Spouse's mom wasn't with us, her spirit was with us in the form of her old turkey platter.

Fri morning we ate Thanksgiving leftovers for breakfast, including the desserts.  Then Spouse & I met up with our friends Shaun & Jeff for lunch.
Shaun & Jeff
We met them in Feb of 2016 on our cruise to the Caribbean.  We learned that they lived near where we'd lived and where our family still is, and we connected on Facebook after the cruise. We had lunch with them while we were in town.  They're super nice guys and we had a fun time.  Later that afternoon we headed home to DE.  I had to work on Sat and perform Sat night.

Work went well, and after a light dinner, I performed as Elton John in the Holiday Legends show.  All of the Legends characters perform a holiday song they were known for and a non-holiday song they were known for, so as Elton John I performed "Candle In The Wind" and "Step Into Christmas".  It was fun; I love holiday music.


I also had to work on Sun, which is unusual, but several of my colleagues had requested the day off so I was assigned to cover the office on my usual day off.  It was very slow so I got caught up on several work and non-work things.

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving, whether spent with your biological family or your logical family of choice.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity.  It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.  -Melody Beattie




Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/melody_beattie_177949?src=t_thankful
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/melody_beattie_177949?src=t_thankful

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thanksgiving plans

Tomorrow morning Spouse & I will pack up Marvin & Walter and drive to his sister's house for Thanksgiving.  Spouse is making his famous stuffing tonight and my mouth is watering just thinking about it.  

My office is closed on Fri (for the 1st time) so we won't have to rush back after dinner on Thurs.  We'll stay overnight and head back on Fri at some point.  

Its supposed to be chilly (in the 40s) tomorrow so it will actually feel like Thanksgiving.  Sometimes its 60 or 70 degrees on Thanksgiving day which makes the whole event feel out of place.  We're looking forward to some nice family time and some great food and a reminder to be thankful for all we have.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Weekend recap

We had a really fun weekend in Atlantic City!

It was windy on Fri so the ferry across the Delaware Bay to to Cape May was "interesting".  I didn't get sick but the ferry was rocking and rolling for sure.  Once in Cape May we drove the 40 minutes (plus/minus) to Atlantic City and checked into the historic Claridge hotel.  Then we walked over to the boardwalk where it was windy and quite cold - only in the 30s.  We had some boardwalk food, checked out a few cheesy stores, then headed back to the warmth of the hotel for a little rest.  Spouse & I had not been to Atlantic City before so it was new to us.  We were surprised at the vacant land so close to the boardwalk.  Apparently there had been hotels and casinos there when Atlantic City was the only place to gamble, but once neighboring states began to allow gambling Atlantic City had more hotels and casinos than it could support.  Some were torn down to save on tax revenue or because they were intended to be replaced with new buildings but never were.

A while later we had a snack in one of the hotel's restaurants, then headed to the Boardwall Hall for the show.  Here's Spouse & me waiting for the concert to begin.
Janet was amazing!!  Despite having a baby less than a year ago, she looked phenomenal.  I was thrilled that she sounded so good despite all the intricate choreography she's known for.  The performed all of her hits, but not the full songs.  Several of them were edited down and strung together in a medley.  
Janet singing Let's Wait Awhile
But it was a really great show and we had a great time there.

Afterward we had a snack at AC Snack Shack where we got delicious tacos and burritos.  Then we stopped at our rooms to drop off our coats before heading upstairs to the rooftop bar called Vue.  While it was too cold to stay outside and enjoy the city views, we had a great time inside.  Our friend  Mortimer is a bartender there so he made us some fabulous cocktails (Cosmos for me, of course), and there was a fantastic DJ who had us dancing on our bar stools.
Mortimer shaking my cosmo
Spouse, Steven & Thad
Me & Spouse
We left Vue about 1:45am and plopped into bed about 2am.  I fell asleep immediately, but was awakened at 7:45am when a client texted me.  Argh!!!  Although I didn't respond to the text, it unfortunately woke me enough that I couldn't get back to sleep, so after laying in bed awake for awhile I just got up and quietly looked at Facebook while Spouse slept.

Later we checked out of the Claridge, drove around Atlantic City a little, then headed back toward the ferry with a stop at Phoenix Diner for lunch.  The ferry back to DE was smooth as silk.  Once back home we relaxed on the sofa with the dogs and watched a movie.

It was a fun trip and a nice change of pace.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Miss Jackson if you're nasty

Today Spouse & I are going to Atlantic City with Steven & Thad to see Janet Jackson in concert tonight!  We're staying overnight so we can spend some time in Atlantic City too, since Spouse & I have never been there.

I have always enjoyed her music and videos, dating back to the release of her epic album "Control" in 1986.  I remember playing it over and over again at peak volume in the cassette player of my Honda Accord.  (Yes, I'm old.)  I knew all the words to the album's hits like "What Have You Done For Me Lately?", "Control", "Nasty", "When I Think Of You", "Pleasure Principle" and "Let's Wait Awhile".

Then came "Rhythm Nation 1814" in 1989 with its hits "Rhythm Nation", "Alright", "Escapade", "Come Back To Me", "Miss You Much", and "Love Will Never Do (Without You)".  Yes, I also attempted to learn some of the legendary choreography but let's just say that I can sing a LOT better than I can dance.

Since Janet hasn't released an album recently, I'm really hoping she'll do many (if not all) of her hit songs.  Regardless, I'm sure the 4 of us will have a great time!  Look for a full report on Mon.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Ron & James visit

Our longtime friends Ron & James came for a visit this past weekend.  We met them 20 years ago when we were living in the DC area, and even after we moved here to the beach they've continued to come visit us at least 1 weekend every year.

They started their visit with a little tax-free outlet store shopping, and then we met up with them for lunch.  After lunch I went back to the office for a little while, but shortly thereafter joined them and Spouse back at the house.  We chatted, laughed, and caught up on many mutual friends.  We were slightly envious as we heard about Ron's life after having retired (early) last year, and James' new schedule of working about 50% in preparation to retire.  Before we knew it, it was time to have dinner.

We went to Fork + Flask and ordered cocktails at the bar while our table was being prepared.  I had my old favorite, a cosmo.
Me and Ron
Shortly thereafter we moved to our table and ordered some apps to share, followed by our dinners.
James and Spouse
Our food was really amazing, but we were a bit underwhelmed by the 'seasonal dessert'.  But we had a lovely time.

Ron & James wanted to see the Legends show at the Blue Moon (despite me not being in it this time) so we did.  They really enjoyed it, and afterward I took this photo of them with 'Etta James'.
Spouse, Etta James, Ron and James
Once back at home we talked again for a little while until bed.

The next morning we had breakfast at a local diner, and then they were on their way back to the DC area.  It was a short visit, but a good one none-the-less.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Seniority

Marvin & Walter, 2016
Marvin & Walter get along very well.  While Marvin is several years older, Walter is taller and longer.  For a while Walter tried to be dominant, since he's bigger.  But I felt like Marvin deserved to be dominant since he has seniority in the family.

So I began using routine tasks to gently coach Walter into a submissive role.  Every time I let them in and out of their crates, I let Marvin in/out 1st and Walter 2nd.  When I'm going to take them outside, I put Marvin's leash on 1st, then Walter's leash 2nd.  These simple, non-verbal routine tasks have really worked!  I noticed the other day that when both boys ran to the door when I said "Let's go outside" Walter actually stepped aside so I could put Marvin's leash on him, then stepped closer to me for his own leash.

Bedtime is another opportunity to train Walter.  He immediately burrows under the covers and settles in somewhere near the foot of the bed.  Marvin sits on top of the covers next to my torso while I pet him for a few minutes, then goes under the covers.  Marvin prefers to sleep in between my legs, near my knees/ankles, but occasionally Walter chooses that spot.  When Marvin would come to claim this place of seniority, Walter would growl before giving it up to his brother.  I would then pet Walter and tell him he's a good boy for giving Marvin his preferred spot due to his seniority.  But just last night when Marvin made his move from on top to underneath the covers, Walter willingly surrendered the spot of seniority with no growl.  He crawled up near my waist and I stroked him and whispered "Good boy".

If left unchecked, I think Walter would eventually steamroll Marvin in everything, both because of Walter's larger size and Marvin's naturally laid-back personality.  I'm really glad Walter has responded to the training and is polite to his older brother and respectful of his seniority.