Sunday, December 30, 2012

Weekend Catch-Up

A few days ago I made my very last trek up to the North Shore for 2012 so that I could meet up with Barb who was spending the Christmas holidays with her family dearest in Tewksbury. After consulting her jam-packed calendar which was overflowing with fun family events, we determined that there was just enough time to spend a day in Salem. Go figure, huh?

With a rather dire weather forecast being predicted, I drove up to Salem on Wednesday evening (just beating the snow that started to fall in Connecticut a short time after I left) and then managed to talk Barb into joining me for two nights at the Hawthorne Hotel rather than just one.  She reluctantly gave up her spot on the couch and I made the short drive over to Tewksbury to pick her up once again being just ahead of the bad weather!

Thursday dawned with lots of wind and rain so we skipped our planned drive up to Kennebunkport, Maine with Juli and opted instead to go see "The Hobbit" at the local theater. I think we both kind of fell asleep during different parts of the movie but not because of the movie itself but due to the late night/early morning we had before the movie!  Following that we made our way back over to the Hawthorne and had a lovely long nap before meeting up with Walt and Juli, as well as her sister Mari-Ann and her husband Steve who were in town for a late Christmas celebration, for a delicious dinner in Nathaniel's.

Before we knew it, it was Friday morning and time for me to take Barb back to her sister Lynda's but not before we hit up Nathaniel's one more time for breakfast!  I snapped the photo below of Barb on her iPhone with my iPhone - two accessories that we never seem to not have with us!

For those who haven't seen photos of it a million and one times over on Facebook, this is Nathaniel's - the more upscale restaurant at the Hawthorne Hotel.  Even though it's upscale, it's not stuffy or snobby at all and it's easy to feel comfortable and relaxed all while being pampered by some real friendly folks who work as waitstaff there.  Not to mention the food is really good!

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Following breakfast, we got ready to check out but wanted to be sure to say goodbye to Juli who had yet to arrive at work. While we were waiting, Barb asked a couple of ladies who just happened to be from Norwich, Connecticut if they would mind taking a photo for us as we hadn't had any taken while we were together. Barb had met the ladies earlier and found out that they were there for a relative's funeral. It truly is a small world!

After dropping Barb off with a big hug back in Tewksbury, I made the drive home to Connecticut with a stop at the Market Basket grocery store in Oxford, Massachusetts close to the Connecticut border as they've got lots of things we don't have down here in Norwich plus their milk is only $2.49 a gallon as compared to the $4.09 a gallon here. Yikes!  Add on the fact that I was having a hard time staying awake on the turnpike and I figured getting out of the car for awhile would be a good idea!

Yesterday I worked for 16 hours while outside snow was falling and Norwich was being covered in a blanket of white; the forecasters were predicting 6 to 8 inches - we ended up with 14!  Someday they're going to get it right and I am going to be absolutely astonished!  When I got home from work around 11:30, I spent a little time shoveling away some of the snow that had accumulated since Amanda had last shoveled and while doing so took the time to attempt a couple of photos with my iPhone being that it was so pretty out. These are those!

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Today was another round of shoveling followed by a nice hot shower and just being lazy. As cold as it was outside, I thought that was a good plan! Tomorrow Jamie and I will be going to lunch with my friend Paula at the Olive Garden as I'm jonesing for some Zuppa Toscana and maybe a breadstick or two. Amanda is off to friend's house for a few days to celebrate New Year's so she'll miss out but she was there when I took the photo below the last time we were at Olive Garden when Claire was still here visiting.  Wow, that seems so long ago but it really wasn't.

Anyway, after lunch it's back home and hopefully an early night as I've got to work a 16 hour shift on the first day of 2013 - lucky me!  Ah well, the most excitement I ever have on New Year's Eve is to change the calendar and wonder where the past year got off to so it's not like I'm going to miss a party or anything!

Whatever your plans for New Year's Eve may be, I hope you have a great time and that the coming year is a fantastic one for all of us. I'm of the mind that 13 may just be a lucky number after all in spite of all that superstitious nonsense! 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like ...

... I'm not going to be ready for Christmas in three short days if I don't get my act together!

I woke up quite early this morning with visions of things I need to get done dancing through my head so as soon as my hair dries and I manage to pry myself off of this computer, I'm going to head out into the fray and take care of some of those things on the list.  Oh boy. Shopping the weekend before Christmas.  Definitely not one of my favorite things but it needs to be done.

As I am working for 16 hours on Christmas Day itself, I'm having some of my family over for an early dinner on Christmas Eve so that I don't feel like the holiday has skipped me by completely.  For years now the extended family has gotten together on Christmas night at either my Aunt Eleanor or Aunt Nancy's houses but as I can't be two places at once and duty calls, I won't be able to make it this year hence my attempt to have a gathering of my own.

Right now I've got a spiral ham on the menu and have been kicking around various and assorted side dishes. I don't have a place where folks can sit and formally eat dinner so I'm trying to come up with good "lap food" choices which may include some sort of cheesy potato casserole, my grandmother's baked beans, and a few other dishes to be named later.  I guess I'll see what inspires me once I get to the grocery store!

In addition to planning for that, I really ought to consider wrapping the few Christmas presents that I have as well as finish buying a couple of others.  Truthfully I've been at a total loss as to what to get anyone this year but that seems to happen every year.

Back in the kitchen, I've got a couple of Chocolate Scotch Whiskey Cakes to make for work, an Eggnog/Gingerbread Trifle to put together for Christmas Eve dinner, and something else that I can't quite remember at the moment!  I really need to start writing things down!

If I'm a good girl and manage to work my way through my list of "Things I Gotta Do" then I'm going to take myself to see "Lincoln" at the local theater which I just haven't had the opportunity to do yet in spite of the fact that I've really wanted to see it.  Amanda and I did go see "The Hobbit" last week and I thought it was wonderful in spite of what the critics had to say about it being too long and too boring in places.  Really?  I must have missed those places because I didn't think it was boring at all - it was beautifully done!

So, ho ho ho, off to the stores I go!  I hope that everyone has a wonderful weekend-before-Christmas and that your own to-do lists are ta-done and you can enjoy the spirit of the season without feeling like you forgot something! 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

"I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day"

Most people who know me at all, know that I take great interest in most things from the Civil War so I guess it should come as no surprise that one of my favorite Christmas songs was written partially in response to the feelings of despair that particular war caused. In 1863, Cambridge, Massachusetts' poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned the poem "Christmas Bells" after his son Charles was severely wounded in the Battle of New Hope Church in Virginia during the Mine Run Campaign.

First published in February 1865 in a juvenile magazine entitled Our Young Folks, it wasn't until 1872 that the poem was set to music when the English organist, John Baptiste Calkin, used it in a processional accompanied with a melody he had previously used as early as 1848. The poem was set to several other melodies over the years but it has always remained a song that Ray Bradbury, in his 1962 novel Something Wicked This Way Comes, describes as "immensely moving, overwhelming, no matter what day or what month it was sung."

In light of last week's horrific events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the words seem even more moving and overwhelming than they were back in the dark days of the Civil War as people still reel from the shock and grief and despair that was wrought upon a small town with the taking of the lives of 26 innocent people.
"... And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"  
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."
If you've got a few free moments, please take the time to watch the embedded video which tells the whole story of Longfellow's epic poem and includes a marvelous performance by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  If you aren't in need of a tissue by the end, I will be utterly amazed.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

I Will Never Understand, Nor Should I

I woke up this morning and my brain immediately shifted to those people on the other side of the state who are waking up today - provided they were able to sleep - with their lives completely and totally changed by the actions of one young man with a gun, an action that I still cannot wrap my brain around. How did someone get to this point in his life? How did he ever come up with such an atrociously evil plan? And why?

But I guess those questions don't really matter as the act has been committed and many, many lives have been shattered and will never, ever be the same.

As I talked to Amanda about it yesterday, she said that perhaps it's a good thing that I can't understand this sort of thing; that even with all of my years working as a dispatcher in law enforcement and EMS that I'm still at a loss when things like this occur. And that's a good thing when you get right down to it.

I hope that none of us ever get to the point where we can understand the evil that men do or that we can justify it either. No matter what Adam Lanza had going on in his head, no matter how f'd up his own life was, there is NO justification whatsoever for what he did. If your own life is that bad then feel free to end it but please, don't take anyone else with you - especially innocent children who still believed in the goodness of a world that seems to be sliding downhill faster and faster.

My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone who has been affected by this horrific tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School and whose lives have been shattered, a tragedy that I will never in all of the years of my life understand.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Contrary to What Is Probably Popular Belief ...

... I have not exactly fallen off of the edge of the Blogosphere though it almost seems like that when I think about how long it's been since my last blog post!  Suffice it to say that time has been flying by like a witch on a broomstick in October or a fat man wearing a red suit in a sleigh in December but 12-12-12 seemed like as good a day as any to finally pop in and say HI!

After six weeks of wandering around with Claire, I put her back on the plane to England almost a full two weeks ago and since then have not been able to get my act together long enough to do much more than occasionally post on Facebook or think about writing a blog post or two.  Trust me, I've got plenty to write about along with plenty of photos to share but I apparently put my ambition and motivation on the plane with Claire as I can't seem to find them anywhere around the house.  Hopefully if she finds them stashed somewhere in the things she took back with her, she ships them back posthaste but I have the sneaky suspicion she will keep them for her own use!

As for my Google Reader, I have honestly been afraid to even peek at the thing!  I definitely think there will be some "mark all as read" action going on and then hopefully I can get back to visiting the folks who live in my computer (as Claire likes to put it) and see how your lives have been doing since I somehow found myself ridiculously busy!

I started getting my twice-weekly allergy shots last Monday (one in my right arm and two in my left) and have come to the conclusion that they kind of make me feel like I've been hit by a truck for a day after I get them. I'm going to have to talk to the folks at the allergist's tomorrow and let them know that "Yes, I have had increased wheezing, respiratory issues, and flu-like symptoms to report!"  Those questions have to be asked before each injection though I'm not sure what impact it makes if you answer 'yes' versus 'no'.  Guess I'll be finding out!  I'm  not at all sure how long it takes before one notices the benefits of the injections but I do hope it doesn't take too long.

Let's see, what else?  Jamie will be coming back from visiting her Dad in Texas this coming Monday when - naturally - some winter-like weather is being predicted.  I'm hoping it's more rain than anything else but with New England you just never know.  Like they say, "If you don't like the weather, wait a minute!"  We were fortunate with the weather for most of the time that Claire was visiting though we did get that hurricane and there was snow and rain and fog on occasion but for the most part, we had some pretty good conditions for traveling around the countryside.  I am proud to say that I managed to get her to all five New England states while she was here - along with Pennsylvania and Canada, too!  Wait till she gets the bill in the mail for my "travel guide services"!

This weekend promises to be a busy one as I'll be hosting what's become the annual Christmas party for the Dispatch and Scheduling Department wherein we all get together and drink and eat too much and which means I need to do a little extra cleaning before Saturday night!  On Sunday Amanda and I are heading up to Cambridge to attend Afternoon Tea at Upstairs on the Square with my friend Juli and then from there we're going to a bell ringing concert by the New England Ringers at the Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport.  The plan is to spend the night at Juli's in Salem and then head down to Providence to pick up Jamie on Monday.  Hopefully the weather will cooperate for all of that!

Oh, and just to make things even more interesting, I'm taking Amanda to see "The Hobbit" at the midnight showing on Thursday night and hopefully attending the Canterbury Historical Society's Holiday Potluck on Friday night in my hometown.  Somewhere in between there I'm supposed to work eight hours, too.

I think I have just worn myself out all over again just reading about the upcoming next few days! I think I may have forgotten that I am old and tired and that Christmas is now less than two weeks away!   Yikes.

Let's close this with a YouTube video of the folks that we'll be going to see on Sunday that was filmed at a recent concert here in Connecticut; perhaps I'll get the chance to take a video or two of my own then and then hopefully I'll get a chance to share it with you!