Monday, January 31, 2005

Keeping my New Year's Resolution

This passed New Year's Eve I resolved to do more entertaining at home.

We used to entertain at home a lot. We've done it enough times that we've got it pretty much down to a science. We know our strengths: Joe cooks and I clean, before and after. It works for us. I guess we just got a little lazy and stopped making plans to have friends over. So on New Year's Eve I resolved to have friends over for dinner at least once every month.

On Saturday our friends Michael and Jamie came over. They are both very sweet, fun young guys. I say 'young' because they are both 26. Normally I would imagine we wouldn't have much in common with guys 15 years younger than us, but we do. They are not 'typical' 26 year olds. We share a lot of common interests. They like flea markets and yard sales like us. They like finding 'cheap neighborhood eats' like us. They like to travel like us. They're a lot of fun and we like them a lot.

We made chili in the crockpot way in advance, so the main course was already done. To go along with it, Joe made corn casserole. It's a recipe he got from Paula Dean, that southern belle who owns the restaurant 'Lady and Sons' in Savannah, and who has a cooking show on the Food Network. She's never worried about calories or fat. Every recipe starts with at least one stick of butter. Joe has made this corn casserole at least 4 times in the last 3 months, and it has been a big hit with everyone who's tried it. Michael and Jamie brought desert. We had a lovely time.

We ate in the kitchen. To me, that is a compliment to our friends to have them over and eat in the kitchen. Forgoing the formality of the dining room, the special plates and flatware, and all the fancy serving pieces tells our friends 'we feel close enough to you to have you eat in the kitchen'. That is, as long as we're only talking about 2 guests. Our kitchen table comfortably seats 4, so if we're having more than 2 guests, we'll eat in the dining room.

Earlier in the week Joe was emailing our friend Justine and invited her and her partner Liz to dinner on Sunday. Then it came to me: What a brilliant idea! Clean the house once on Saturday, and have company Saturday night and Sunday too. Two dinners for the (housecleaning) price of one! Justine and Liz were available, so they came over on Sunday. We ate in the kitchen with them, too.

Joe decided to make a turkey breast, homemade dressing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, biscuits, gravy, and peas. A virtual 'Thanksgiving in January'. Everything was delicious and we had a great time. For desert we had a chocolate cream pie, purchased from the grocery store. That was okay; I've certainly had better. But we lingered for a few hours over coffee with cinnamon in it, and discussed everything from the Bush administration, to vacation plans, to investment opportunities, to funny clients Joe & Justine had worked with years ago in a group home for people with chronic mental illness. We had a great time.

Then I started thinking about some of my other New Year's resolutions, like dieting, exercising, getting my home office organized, and wondered why they couldn't be as easy and fun as entertaining once (or twice) a month???

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Hair Salon

I was rather shocked when I walked into my husband-and-wife owned and operated hair salon this evening. It smelled of incense. There was classical music playing. My girl, Ximena (pronounced Him-ee-nah) wasn't there. Something was very "off".

She's always there on Wednesdays. Her days off are Tuesday and Thursday, and they always have been. I've always been able to come in without an appointment any day of the week or weekend except Tuesday and Thursday and get my hair cut or highlights done by Ximena. But rather than seeing her and the usual faces of Mr and Mrs Aponte, the owners, there were 3 Vietnamese folks just waiting for a customer to sit in their hydraulic chairs.

At first I thought the Apontes had hired some new stylists. After all, the shelves of neatly arranged hair care products were in the same place, the 1960s-looking vending machine was in the same place, and all the furniture and hairstyle posters on the walls (from 1994) were the same. But as "Danny" (not his real name, I'm sure) began cutting my hair I noticed this enormous, beautiful bamboo plant on the reception desk and I began to fear the worst.

"Danny" said that he had just taken over the lease on the shop. Mr Aponte had turned 65 and decided not to renew the lease. Instead he apparently sold his business to "Danny" and he and Mrs Aponte had gone back to Puerto Rico for an extended vacation. They will come back and sell their house and move to Puerto Rico. "Danny" signed a new lease.

I began to wonder if any of the stylists who worked for the Apontes were still around so I waited for the right time to ask. No, Ximena had quit, Mario Aponte (the son of the former owners) had quit, and the older Japanese lady Shumiko wanted to stay on but couldn't because she did color treatments, or something, and they couldn't do colors now, or something. "Danny's" English was broken to the point that I probably only understood about half of what he said.

He went on to tell me that upon coming to America he had worked in one barbershop for 3 years, but had to move on when the owner retired. He was at his next position for 11 years, until that owner died, or moved, or something. He's been in this country for 14 years and this is only the 3rd place he's worked. When he came over from Vietnam it was his "dream" to one day have his own shop. "My dream has finally come true" he told me. And for a second or two I was genuinely happy for him. But my thoughts turned quickly back to myself and my need to find another salon now where I could have a regular hairdresser every time, without an appointment, who gave a decent haircut, could do highlights the way I like them, and didn't charge an arm and a leg.

You see, I don't like the way my hair looks when they put that cap on my head and pull the hair threw and highlight it. It's painful that way, too. Since my hair is so short to begin with, they wind up cutting off all of the highlights immediately after putting them in! Plus, the cap method gives me 'spotty' highlights. I had trained Ximena to use a comb and a paint brush to do my highlights. With the paint brush you transfer the color from the bowl to the comb, then you lightly comb the color threw the hair. Since there's no cap in your way, the color goes down closer to the roots so they don't cut off all the highlights right away. I think I invented that technique myself. For me, it's the only way.

"Danny" chatted on for awhile, asking me all kinds of questions in an attempt to keep my business. "Are you married?" "How are your parents doing?" "How was the traffic tonight?" "It was warm enough to melt the snow today, huh?" I hope I gave the right canned answers, as I really wasn't paying sufficient attention to be sure. Instead I was trying to figure out where I was going to get my highlights done before my next social outing.

As we were wrapping up, "Danny" gave me the pitch: "I'm sure you have friends. I'd appreciate it if you'd tell them about my new business here. I'm planning on a promotion soon, maybe next week. You'll be able to drop your business card in a box and once a month I'll pull one out and that person will get a free haircut..." all in his broken English. At least that's what I think he said. I shook my head and said "Oh, that sounds like a good idea", all the while knowing I wouldn't be back because they don't do color treatments. And I need my highlights.

The lose of my convenient, dependable, and affordable hair salon brought back the memory of another tragic lose: that of the lose of my favorite family-owned Mexican restaurant, The Taco House, that went out of business last April. I returned to my car with a lighter head, but a heavier heart.


Yesterday the temperature reached the low 40s and today it reached the low 50s. Needless to say, much of the 5-6 inches of snow we got on Saturday is melting... fast! We probably only need about 1 more day of temps like this to melt all of it, but that's not going to happen. According to the forecast I heard on my way home from work tonight, it is only going to reach 26-28 degrees tomorrow and Friday. So that means that all the snow that's been melting yesterday and today will freeze tonight and we'll have slippery streets the next few days. Ah, Washington weather...

Monday, January 24, 2005


On Friday Joe & I decided to have a nice relaxing weekend and watch a bunch of movies. We've never really done that before, and the idea of it was intriguing. It was cold and snowy outside, but we'd be warm and cozy in our house, wearing our sweatpants and flannel pajama pants, watching movies. How decadent - I could hardly wait!

I had a list of 5 movies I wanted to rent. I knew that my local video store carried them because I'd looked them up on their website. However, I was prepared to be disappointed, since the entire DC area was hunkering down for a major snow storm. (See my previous post entitled "Snow".) To my surprise, I found 4 out of the 5 still had copies available to rent!

Of course, it could be because we are some of the few people left who still rent VHS movies. (Easy now, I heard that gasp...) We do own a DVD player, and we actually watched a few DVDs, but that was before the cable company made us get a cable box and before we switched out our TV. Ever since those two things we've not been able to get the DVD to work. I'm certain its just hooked up incorrectly, but we are both 'techno-challenged' so we'll need to depend on the kindness of our 'techno-enabled' friends to troubleshoot our spider's web of cords and cables.

Practically giddy from finding 4 out of my 5 choices, we decided to 'go for broke' and just keep picking up movies that interested us. For the first time ever, we rented 7 movies in a single visit to the video store. Here's a little synopsis of the movies, along with my personal thumbs up or thumbs down:

1. Touch of Pink - A delightful indy film about a gay Indian man and his struggles with family and coming out. Thank goodness he gets regular advice from his life-long imaginary friend Carey Grant!! I saw this film last Nov at the Rehoboth Beach Independant Film Festival and liked it so much I rented it so Joe & I could watch it together. Definite thumbs up.

2. Troy - This is the L - O - N - G story of the Greeks and the Trojans, including the kidnapping of Helen (of Troy) and the tricky Trojan horse. Brad Pitt plays Achilles unconvincingly, which is not a surprise, since Brad Pitt plays every role unconvincingly. Orlando Bloom does a good job as Hector, the Prince of Troy, and he's a real hottie. There are lots of men in short skirts, so if you're a leg man, you'll like it, but I really can't recommend this film since it is nearly 2 1/2 hours long. Normally I say 'the longer the better' (wink) but not this time.

3. Garden State - This is the story of a late-20s guy who returns to his hometown in NJ for his mother's funeral. He hasn't been back in 10 years. The story is almost interesting, but we found ourselves wanting more to happen. Unfortunately the movie ends just as it appears its about to get good. I really wouldn't feel right about recommeding this one either.

4. The Village - This is about a group of people who have chosen to live a simple life in an isolated area surrounded by a forest haunted by fearsome animals. They never enter the forest and the animals never enter their clearing. Only, life isn't quite as simple as it looks. This was a thriller that did not contain a lot of blood and gore, so I liked it. They gave me "thrill" without the "kill". Thumbs up.

5. Taking Lives - Angolina Jolie plays an FBI agent called in to investigate a suspected serial killer. After seemingly solving the case, she determines the real killer is still on the loose. Once again, a good thriller that doesn't have a lot of blood and gore. Thumbs up.

6. Napolean Dynamite - Okay, you have to be in the right (silly) mood to enjoy this film. Napolean Dynamite is a geeky, unpopular high school boy who lives with his 32 year old unemployed brother and Grandmother in Idaho, and are frequently visited by a hispanic man named Uncle Rico. There really isn't a lot of plot to this movie, but you basically go through a few days in Napolean's life and there are several things that will crack you up... if you're in the right mood. Thumbs up on this one... if you're in the right mood.

7. Open Water - This is based on a true story about a man and a woman accidentally left behind in the ocean by their scuba group. I didn't watch this film, but Joe did. I could tell from the preview I'd seen that this movie would just make me feel nervous the entire time. Who needs that when you're having a relaxing film festival at home in your pajamas?

During a break between films I decided to make home made chocolate chip pecan cookies. It is truly amazing how delicious flour, butter, sugar, chocolate and nuts can be! Since our next door neighbor boy kindly shoveled our sidewalks (we didn't ask him to) and his mother had fed our cat, Pouncer while we were in VT, we decided to share the cookies with them. That was the only time we left the house the entire weekend; to walk next door and give them the cookies.


Last Wednesday (the day after returning from VT) we had snow here in the DC area. Only about 2-3 inches, but certainly enough to reek havoc. We Washingtonians are pathetic when it comes to snow. We're ready to call off school at the first sight of flurries. Let 2-3 inches accumulate, and it's like Armeggedon... traffic is a nightmare, cars sliding off the roads into ditches or into other cars, and the grocery stores look like a tornado has blown through. Everyone scrambles for milk, bread, and toilet paper, as if they're likely to be snowbound for several days. This is DC - the snow will melt the next day! But the snow sure was pretty. :-)

Thursday the snow all melted and everyone returned to their normal ways... for a few minutes. Then came the word that we were in for more snow on Saturday. Yep, according to the early forecasts on Thursday, we "may or may not get up to 4 or more inches". Now, what is that supposed to mean?? (How can it be UP to 4 or MORE inches?) Then on Friday the picture became clearer: snow would start at a leisurely pace Saturday morning, before turning into near white-out conditions by the mid-afternoon, then taping to flurries again by nightfall. 5-9 inches was the prediction.

So Friday night you couldn't find a parking space at the grocery store, let alone a carton of milk or a loaf of bread. Same at the video rental place. Everyone was preparing to be completely snowbound for several days. (Never mind the fact that in the Washington DC area 1 out of every 2 vehicles is a 4-wheel drive SUV.)

So rather than circle the grocery and video store for an available parking spot, we decided to go have dinner. It is our Friday night ritual to eat dinner out. To me it doesn't feel like you've officially started the weekend until you're sitting in a restaurant on Friday night.

Then around 8:30 we went back to the grocery and video store and had no trouble parking. Why were we there? Because a snow storm was coming!

We did get about 5-6 inches of snow on Saturday; the light powdery kind that you can easily push off your car with a single swipe of your arm. It was really beautiful. I love the snow... as long as it goes away the next day.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Back from Vermont

We had a lot of fun on our ski trip in Vermont! We left the DC area Saturday morning, after a tasty and satisfying breakfast at Dunkin Donuts. (Was that on our diet?) Kerry & Hugh and George (Kerry's dad) led the way and Joe & I followed. We drove north on I-95 through MD, to the NJ Turnpike, to the Garden State Parkway in NJ, to I-87 in NY, then several smaller roads to VT. It took 8 1/2 hours to get there, excluding a stop for gas and a stop for lunch and bathrooms. The drive was largely uneventful. I was appalled at how ugly and dead it looks in upstate NY at this time of year. I don't know how anyone could live there! I'm sure it's prettier in the summer, but I'd die if I had to live there in the winter.

A few minutes after we arrived Art, Mary, and Kelly arrived from Manchester. We all checked into our rooms at the B&B then went out to dinner. We ate at the Pasta Pot, an Italian place that was dark and cozy. The food was good, but expensive. Later we realized that all of the restaurants are expensive because you're near a major ski resort (Killington) and they know they've got you. When we returned from dinner, Diane & Mark from Boston were there. Our group was complete.

Everything was blanketed in snow and was as beautiful as you'd imagine a B&B in Vermont to look in the winter. The temperature was around 13 during the day and near zero at night, but we were all prepared, and dressed in layers.

Sunday Hugh & I went downhill skiing and Mark from Boston went cross-country skiing. The rest of the gang went exploring the area. Although I used to ski frequently when I was a JW and had lots of ski pals, I had not been skiing in over 10 years. I was excited to do it again, and hoped it would be like riding a bicycle: it just comes back to you. It did, and I enjoyed a few hours of skiing with Hugh. However, I neglected to eat lunch because I didn't feel hungry, which was a big mistake. My blood sugar level must have 'crashed' because all of the sudden I just felt exhausted. So there I was, trying to navigate my way down a black diamond (expert) slope and my energy level just plummeted. Hugh & I agreed we would head diagonally across the mountain so we could go back to the lodge. But we accidentally took the wrong slope and wound up on another challenging expert run. I got so tired I could hardly ski, and I fell a few times. Hugh & I got separated so I exited the expert slope and took an easy but long run back to the lodge, stopping several times to rest. When I got inside the lodge I was so exhausted I could hardly get up the stairs, and I started to feel like I would faint. Fortunately Hugh (who had been back at the lodge for quite a while) had bought me some french fries and a bottle of gator aid, which was just what I needed. After a few minutes I felt better and we took off our ski boots, loaded our gear into the truck, and headed back to the Inn. Then I ate a 1/2 of Kerry's sandwich, left-over from lunch and a banana. I couldn't believe how much better I felt after eating.

Between my falls on the slope and my over-worked muscles, it was time for a soothing soak in the hot tub. The Inn had an outdoor hot tub that was fabulous! Me, Joe, Kerry, and Mark got in and recounted the tales of our independent days. Joe & I got in the hot tub 2 more times on Monday too. It was pretty wild to be sitting in a tub of hot, bubbling water with only your head sticking out, as we gazed up at the stars in the night sky.

The inn had a gathering room with satellite TV and a VCR, so in the evenings we watched some TV, talked and laughed, and even did some karoke. Kelly had brought her karoke machine and CDs so we had a good time with that. Karoke became known as 'Scary-okey'. :-) Mary had brought some appletini mix and some fabulous citrus vodka by Three Olives. Yum......... There were no martini glasses, so we had to drink our appletinis out of tumblers. (Wink-wink at Kerry.)

Monday night it got noticeably colder and the wind picked up. Diane & Mark headed back to Boston that afternoon, and the rest of us went out to dinner at the Black Angus and it started snowing. It wasn't a big storm; more of a light dusting. Since the air is so dry there, the snow is dry and light. You can practically blow it off your car.

Tuesday morning Joe & I packed up our stuff and loaded it into the truck. The plan was that we'd all have breakfast together at a pancake place and then Joe & I would head home, and the others would head back to the Inn. It was bitter cold. The thermometer read -6 degrees. When we tried to start the truck the engine wouldn't turn over. It was just too cold. Hugh's battery pack jump starter didn't help. The innkeeper said he had a super-charged battery pack jumper, so he hooked it up and the truck started. We went to breakfast and the waitress said she heard on the radio that the windchill factor was -50. Although we hated to leave all the fun we'd been having with our friends, we were glad to be leaving that bitter cold.

Just by a stroke of luck, on our drive back home we missed the rush hour at all of the cities we passed! We were really glad about that. Ironically, the only traffic jam we encountered was about 10 miles from our house. I was glad to get home and out of that truck.

Last night we had dinner with Evelyn, and she asked us about our ski trip. Rather than being interested in any of the details of skiing or the Inn, she wanted to know if the ski lodge was nice. She, like many others who have never skied, are under the Hollywood misconception that ski lodges all have a large stone fireplace with a roaring fire, and people relaxing on overstuffed sofas, sipping hot toddies as they read books and tell ski tales. That is not true. I have been to at least a dozen ski lodges and none of them are like that. All of them have a large room with rows of banquet tables lined with chairs on either side, or they have rows of those picnic table style tables with the attached seats. I can only recall one ski lodge that had a fireplace, and it was near the door so that skiers could step in and warm up by standing next to it. There were no overstuffed sofas and no one sipping hot toddies and giggling over unbelievable ski stories. Evelyn was deflated to learn of this, and I think it drastically lowered her perception of how enjoyable the trip was for us. :-)

Friday, January 14, 2005

Taking the truck to the shop

In preparation for our ski trip in Vermont (we're driving), Joe thought it would be a good idea to have the oil and filter changed in our Suburban, and have it "checked out". I agreed that it was time for an oil change (we try to stay on schedule with them), but I was very leary about telling a garage to "check it out" just before a long road trip. I mean, they KNOW they've got you! You tell them you're going to take a long road trip and they tell you there are 101 things that need to be done to ensure you arrive there and back safely.

Against my better judgment, I told them we were taking a road trip and wanted the truck checked out to make sure everything was okay. Everything was not okay. My memory isn't good enough to document all of the necessary repairs, but brakes, a radiator, hoses, belts, and something with the power steering all ended up on the list. Good grief.

I know what you're thinking: You don't have to have all that stuff done. You're right. But would YOU go on a 1,000 mile road trip with the creeping feeling that you could break down at any minute? 8 1/2 hours of driving can put a lot of extra pressure on a vehicle. Imagine what we'd be thinking everytime we heard a squeak or a pop. And what if we did break down... wouldn't I feel like a schmuck for not having had the repairs done after being warned by the mechanic? Yep.

So now we will be poor for the next 4 months and will have to eat beans and franks for every meal. Oooops, beans and franks aren't on our diet - I mean - new healthy way of eating.

Pray for us.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Not much excitement to report

I have considered posting a few times in the last few days, but I just didn't have much worth reporting. Go figure... just when I decide to write a blog to entertain everyone with my exciting life, it all falls to hell in a handbasket.

This past weekend we went to the beach house again. We had an early morning cable TV appointment at the house and a late morning plumber appointment at the trailer. Long story short, the entire day was tied up with those two appointments. Fortunately both issues were resolved.

I didn't feel well most of the weekend. Still having trouble with my sinuses. It rained most of the day Saturday, and was gray and overcast (is that redundant?) on Sunday. We came home early so we could un-decorate our tree and house from Christmas. (Yes, I realize we're talking Jan 9th here, but I have a lot of making up to do, since I didn't start celebrating Christmas until I was 30.) By Sunday evening I just felt like crap so I wrapped up in a chenille throw and watch uninteresting TV all night.

Tonight I am going out to dinner with my colleague (and friend) Ben. Ben works out of his home office in Oregon. He used to be a contractor, but was hired as a permanent employee last Jan. Every other month Ben comes to our office for a week, to talk and work through system issues and enhancements. Last time Ben was here I barely saw him because I was so busy that I was practically glued to my desk chair. So we decided that on his next visit he & I would have dinner. So, tonight I am taking Ben to the Lebanese Taverna, a wonderful Lebanese restaurant I'm sure he'll enjoy. He likes all kinds of ethnic foods, and LT is a quality place.

I'm getting excited about our upcoming trip to Killington, VT to go skiing. Joe & I leave on Sat and return on Tue. Kerry, Hugh, George, and some others are arriving and departing on various dates. It should be a lot of fun. I haven't been skiing in about 10 years. I used to go skiing a lot with various JW friends, but when that life ended, my new life didn't seem to include any skiers until recently.

I used to have a fabulous, color-coordinated ski ensemble back in the day. But I'm afraid that was too many years and pounds ago, so when I dig my bag of ski stuff out from the basement, I fully expect to only fit into my ski gloves and hat. Sigh...

By the way, we've modified our current diet - I mean- eating routine. Apparently Mike's prayer was only partially heard or granted, but thanks for the effort Mike!

More later, as exciting events unfold.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Dieting... :-(

I could blame it on over-indulging during the holidays, and that would be fractionally true. The real truth is that Joe & I have been over-indulging since the holidays of 2003! We both agreed that it was time to "stop the madness" and go on a diet.

Personally, I don't believe in diets. Many years ago I read in the book 'Fit for Life' that "Diets are temporary measures that yield temporary results" and I believe that is true. In order to maintain any weight loss, one must change one's eating habits for good (er, forever). So I am hoping that the we aren't actually 'dieting', but rather, 'changing our eating habits'. The proof is in the pudding. (Pun intended.)

We have done this many times before, but many of our diets have unfortunately only lasted until lunchtime. So this time we decided 'it would be different'. We went to the grocery store and only bought healthy, low-fat foods like fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. We cooked and ate at home Tues and Wed nights, successful (so far) on our diet.

But we all know what Thursday means: dinner with Evelyn. We mentally prepared ourselves to resist the delicious but fattening menu items we'd loved for the last year, and concentrated on healthier, low-fat choices. What made it more tolerable was that we had guests! Kerry, Hugh, and George decided to meet us at the Springfield Restaurant & Pizzeria. Joe ordered the grilled tuna sub, but didn't eat all of the bread. I ordered the shrimp salad in a spinach tortilla wrap. Both our dinners came with potato chips (HEEEELLLLLP!) but we requested a vegetable substitution and for $2. each we got broccoli. Oh well... not as satisfying as we'd have liked, but at least we ate out and managed to stay on our diet - I mean - new eating habit.

The real test will come this weekend. We're going to the beach where there are lots of dangerous temptations. (Can you say Boardwalk Fries and Kohr's Brothers Ice Cream?)

Please pray for us.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Places at the Beach

Update on my sinusitis: the over-the-counter decongestant, throat lozenges, and ear plugs all worked out pretty well, and I had a good night's sleep. I still feel lethargic though.

At the end of my 'Happy New Year' posting I mentioned that on New Year's day we would be moving our stuff from the old beach place to the new beach place. Here's the scoop on that.

In early 2003 we bought a mobile home (with a stationary addition) in Lewes, DE. It had been owned by our friend Susan who had let us stay there several times. The trailer is 8 feet wide and 40 feet long, and is in a small mobile home park about 2 miles from the public beach. The trailer was built in 1955 and although it has been 'moderized' a bit for convenience (including the 10 x 30 addition in the 70s), still retains much of its retro charm. Since we love being near the water Joe & I have been going to our Li'l Retro Getaway (or LRG for short) at least one weekend every month, year round. In the summer when its beach weather we've gone several weekends in a month. We've also had friends and family join us for weekends.

Joe & I enjoy and have profitted from real estate investing, so naturally our thoughts turned to the possibility of a real estate investment at the beach - an investment that we could also enjoy using. The LRG is not real estate, it is personal property (like owning a car). So we decided to start looking around in Lewes. We found a newly built home we liked in an established neighborhood. We approached our friends Kerry & Hugh who share our interest in real estate investments, about investing with us in this house. The house was purchased by someone else before we were able to make an offer.

The four of us began looking at other places, but nothing was quite right. Many needed more fixing up than we were prepared to do. Another place was in 'move in' condition, but was located very close to a main road, and we were afraid it would be difficult to sell due to the traffic noise.

Then Joe discovered a new community we had not previously visited. I thought that new construction in this community would likely be out of our price range, but we decided to take a look anyway. To our surprise, the model home lady told us there was a 'spec house' in our price range. A 'spec house' is a new house built before there is an identified buyer, so you do not get to pick your carpet color, flooring, countertops, etc. But when we looked at this house, we liked all the selections that had been made. The model home lady also told us that the builder wanted to get the spec house off the books by the end of the year, so he was offering a significant price reduction if we agreed to settle by Dec 31. We brought Hugh & Kerry to see the house and the four of us decided it would be a great investment. So now the four of us own this house.

The day after the settlement Joe & I put up blinds and curtains on the first floor windows and sliders, then moved the sofas, ottoman, and dining table/chairs to the new house. Then last Saturday we moved the beds, kitchen and bath stuff, lamps, TV, etc. and began arranging everything. Saturday night we had dinner at Grotto pizza, watched a DVD, and then stayed overnight in the new house on New Year's day/night.

As much as we like our funky little trailer, there is no need to keep it now that we will be staying in the house when we come to the beach, so we are going to sell our LRG. But hopefully someone else will enjoy the cozy 'ambience' as we did and it will continue to be a fabulous Li'l Retro Getaway.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005


I have sinusitis. Yuck. My sinuses are congested, I have sinus pressure, and the post nasal drip is giving me a sore throat. I'm taking some over-the-counter medication that is helping a bit, but I feel kind of lethargic. Of course, part of that could be that I didn't sleep well last night, due to the loud and irritating snoring of a person who will remain unnamed in my blog. ;-)

I have had sinus problems off and on since I was a teen ager. I remember a point in my 20s where I would have to go to the doctor every 3-4 months due to acute sinusitis. Over-the-counter meds just wouldn't do it. In addition to my current symptoms, I would often have a terrible cough, not be able to sleep at night, and would loose my voice. Fortunately I "grew out" of that and my episodes of sinusitis now occur less frequently and with less severity. Thank god some things like wine, cheese, and sinusitis improve with age.

So on my way home from work tonight I stopped by the drug store and picked up some echinacea, orange & spice throat lozenges and some ear plugs. (I had picked up the decongestant yesterday.) Wish me luck...

Happy New Year!

I can hardly believe 2004 has come and gone already. I can remember as a kid painfully counting down the last few days until summer break from school, or waiting the seemingly endless weeks until our family's annual vacation in the Outer Banks of NC. I can also remember being warned by my mother: "Don't wish your life away. Enjoy being a kid. Life passes quickly enough when you grow up. The older you get, the faster time passes." She was right.

Friday, New Year's Eve, my office was technically open. We were given Monday, Jan 3rd off for New Year's. However, two weeks prior I had comically complained during our staff meeting that the federal and local governments and all of my friends' companies were off on Friday, and that our weird post-New Year's observance was negatively impacting my social life. ;-) My boss told me I could have Friday off without using leave. What a guy! In reality, I have worked so much overtime (for which I am not financially compensated) that I deserved about 2 weeks off without using any leave, but I decided to take Friday, New Year's Eve to start.

Joe and I ran a couple of errands and did a little housecleaning (even though a LOT of housecleaning would have been appropriate), then picked up his mother Evelyn and headed to a party being hosted by our friends Kerry & Hugh.

Kerry & I know each other from high school. In our junior year we were assigned as partners in a teen counseling program. We made up topics we thought fifth graders should know about (divorce, teen age drinking, getting good grades) and would present these to the students in fun, interactive ways. Kerry & I weren't really "friends" in school - we didn't hang with the same people, but we did have some common acquaintances in several classes. We graduate and 20 years goes by. Then, just prior to our 20 year high school reunion, I get an email from Kerry inviting me to a pre-reunion cocktail party. She saw my email address on the reunion website. Joe & I went to the cocktail party and really enjoyed seeing Kerry & her husband, Hugh. Since then we have done lots of social stuff with them and they have really become close friends.

Kerry's father George is a widower who lost his wife to cancer about the same time as Joe's mother Evelyn lost her husband to leukemia. They are the same age and share many interests. But we are not trying to 'hook them up'. Both of them enjoy socializing but are not interested in romances at age 75.

So, me and Joe and Evelyn arrive at the New Year's Eve party and are warmly greeted by Kerry, Hugh, George, and another old high school acquaintance Tom, and his wife Alicia. A few others stop in along the way. We had lots of yummy snacks like Moroccan hummus, pita triangles, jalapeno hummus, baby carrots, kalamata olives, kaluah brownies, mini chocolate pecan pies, assorted cookies and beverages. We had a lot of fun just eating, talking and laughing. George kept trying to get everyone to agree to putting in a movie, but we pretty much overruled him in favor of just talking.

Shortly before the stroke of midnight we hurriedly filled several champagne flutes with bubbly, and then counted down with the clock on the TV program... "5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Happy New Year!!" Everyone clinked glasses, took a sip, and hugged each other, repeating "Happy New Year". Then we began talking about our New Year's resolutions... going on a diet, exercising, watching less TV and reading more books, finishing home improvement projects started earlier in the year, and for George: having knee surgery so he can move about without pain again.

In relating this now it certainly doesn't sound that exciting, but we sure did have fun!! Shortly before 1am we said our goodbyes and headed back to Evelyn's and then home. By the time we got in bed it was 2am and I was exhausted. But I looked forward to the next day, as we planned to drive up to the beach and finish moving our stuff from the old place to the new. (More later about the places at the beach.)