Monday, December 29, 2003

Cross Stitch Gallery

One of the things I wanted to accomplish while I was on "vacation" was to set up a gallery of my completed cross stitch projects at Mission accomplished! If you're so interested, you can view my Gallery here. I'll also add a permanent link to the sidebar. I'm still adding a few more photos to the gallery - some pics that I took at my mom's last week with the digital camera didn't turn out, so I need to reshoot the next time I'm over there. Check in for updates somewhat frequently, including updates on my current Work in Progress (WIP) - a birth announcement for H. (no, I'm not behind or anything).

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Christmas Wrap-Up

No, I didn't get stuck at Walmart on Christmas Eve, it's just been very busy since then. Walmart was surprisingly un-crowded on Wednesday, so much so that after going to the bank I did some last minute shopping. Then I came home and made one more batch of cookies - oatmeal raisin for M., since he always complains that I never make any cookies he likes.

We had a wonderful holiday - we really enjoyed ourselves. We spent Christmas Eve at my in-laws and all of the children were very good. H. received so many nice presents and only one duplicate. Christmas morning was so much fun. H. did a great job opening presents. I was amazed at how into it she was. She tore the paper and looked for the present without getting distracted by the box or paper. We videotaped the whole thing, of course. She absolutely loved the sliding board from my parents. She got the hang of it really fast. Then it was on to my parents' house Christmas Day afternoon for more food and present opening. H. received more wonderful presents, including an Elmo car from my sister that she can't get enough of. Same sister bought M. and me this cool pine tree with bears on it for our family room. It's almost six feet tall and lights up.

The day after Christmas was supposed to be dedicated to putting the entertainment center together, since we were having company Saturday. M. and I worked on it for about an hour and it was a monster. My parents called around noon and I begged them to come help us. They got here around 2pm and M. and my dad worked on it pretty much straight through until 9pm! But it looks really good now! I got all of my knicknacks set back up and the family room looking half decent in time for company. But we definitely need a bigger TV with this new unit. Our 25" looks lost in the center cabinet.

Saturday we had friends over for dinner and more presents (more!). I cooked a whole turkey, the first time I had ever done that. I've only ever cooked a turkey breast before. But it turned out good, I thought, along with mashed potatoes and peas, plus lots of dessert, including cookies. There aren't that many left from the almost 12 dozen we started out with.

So today I'm just relaxing before going back to work tomorrow. The only chore I'm going to do is laundry. We're going to watch football and eat leftovers and play with H's new toys. And wait for the long-awaited Ravens-Steelers game at 8:30pm tonight. I wanted to get to bed early tonight for going back to work, but unless the game is a blowout, that won't be happening. Go RAVENS!!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Bah, Humbug

Okay, I'm not in a very Christmas-y mood right now. My vacation is going by very fast and I'm not getting anything accomplished. Or, I should say, I'm not doing any relaxing and working on projects I want to work on.

Sunday we visited friends in the outer reaches of northeast PA. They bought a new townhouse back in April and this was our first chance to see it. We had a great time and it's wonderful to spend time with college friends I don't get to see very often, but man, was it a long drive - close to three hours. Especially with a one-year-old and a cranky husband. We took the turnpike home and chopped almost a half hour off the drive time.

Monday was crazy busy. H. had her 15-month appointment at 8:30am - she's 23 lbs, 13 oz and 31 and 1/2 inches long - plus she had to get four shots, including a flu shot, which was still available. Then we stopped into my work to visit a few people who didn't get to see her at the Christmas party. Then, it was off to my parents' house. My mom and I took H. and K&K to Sears for a late Christmas portrait. I thought the girl that helped us was very rude as it pertains to the coupon we were using, but that's a rant for another day. After lunch, we all played outside for a little while, since it was in the 50s for the first day of winter. We got home around 4pm and that's when my real adventure began.

My IP at home is MSN and there was a disc in the mail on Monday to upgrade to MSN 9. When I tried to install it, I kept getting an error message that the .NET Passport system that verifies e-mail addresses and passwords was unavailable, making me assume it was a problem on the part of MSN. So I tried to get online several times last night and at various times throughout the day today. I still kept getting the same message and was starting to get annoyed. So I finally called MSN support. Turns out I didn't have enough memory to install the new version, which is why I was getting the error message. Wouldn't an error message telling me what the real problem was been more helpful? So I reinstalled MSN 9 and it appeared that the installation was a success. But when I went to log on, the sign-in screen was scrambled and I couldn't log in. I tried re-installing and re-starting, but nothing worked. So at 10pm, I called back with my new problem. I was on the phone for over an hour and still couldn't get the problem corrected. Microsoft didn't want to admit that I could have received a bad disc, which I suggested since this was the second problem that I had with it. Finally, after much back and forth and a whole wasted evening, I found my old MSN 8 upgrade disc and loaded that back onto my computer and voila, I'm finally back online!

So after braving the grocery store the day before Christmas Eve and baking two batches of chocolate chip cookies, I'm finally catching up on my journal/blog reading and writing what I thought was a quick entry. (I'm rambling now, but it's after midnight.) And I just realized after dinner that I actually have to go inside Walmart tomorrow! I never withdrew the money I needed for four cash gifts, so I have to do that tomorrow and my bank is inside Walmart. If you don't hear from me by the end of the week, I'm still trying to get out of the parking lot.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Christmas Miscellany

I have eaten enough food in the past two days to last until the New Year. And it's not even Christmas yet! Yesterday we had our department holiday lunch at a local Italian restaurant and eveything was delicious. Then today, everyone on the floor brought in a dish and we ate all day long. I just ate one of the tiramisu brownies I made (a Pampered Chef recipe) and if I do say so myself, they were yummie. There's a few left to take home for Mark.

I'm off work all of next week - YEAH! I'm so looking forward to it, not that it's going to be particularly relaxing - doctor's appt. on Monday, cookie baking on Tuesday, then Christmas Eve at the in-laws and Christmas Day at my parents'. Maybe I'll get to relax on Friday. But being at home also means I'll be on my slow computer, but I'll try to post a few updates and finally fix the Santa pictures. I tried to fix them again last night and I couldn't get them to load. In addition to my scanner saving everything at 100%, it also defaults to bitmap instead of jpeg or tif. Maybe I'll add "read the scanner manual" to my list of things to do while I'm on vacation!

Very Happy Holidays to everyone!

Monday, December 15, 2003

Rest of Weekend

In addition to the Christmas party, we had a pretty busy weekend. As planned, we bought the new entertainment center Friday night, which needs to be put together. There are currently four giant boxes sitting in my family room. Who knows when we'll get to that! Then we had a very nice dinner at the Outback. When we first got there, I went to use the restroom and who was standing there but H's babysitter and her little girl. They were there with some neigbors of theirs. K&K and my younger sister all spent the night. Before leaving for the party on Saturday, M. and I squeezed in a quick trip to get a tree while H. was napping. Then M. stayed home to put up the Christmas lights before the next round of bad weather while we went to the party.

After the party, we headed for my parents' house. We got there around 4pm and my mom said my other sister was coming over around 6pm, so why didn't we all stay and have dinner, then we would have cake for Vanessa's birthday, which was Sunday (the big 3-0)? I hadn't planned on staying there all night. And my sister didn't show up until 6:30, so we didn't get home until 9pm.

Sunday we stayed in since it was snowing/sleeting/raining. We did bring the tree in the house and get it in the stand, but that's it. It needed to fall out some, so I'm going to try to get the lights on it tonight, then decorate it tomorrow. I did finish wrapping most of the presents I had, in addition to getting all of the laundry done and keeping H. entertained all day. I hate it when we can't even go outside for a little while. We all get a little stir crazy.

This week is going to be a busy week. Work is hectic, since most people will be out next week (including me!), and I have errands to run every day at lunch, plus trying to finish up all the decorating and such at home.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Christmas Party

The children's Christmas party through my work on Saturday was fun, if not a little hectic. There were over 130 kids in attendance, not counting the various parents, grandparents, etc. who also attended. The entertainment kept the kids well occupied and the gifts they each received were very nice - definitely not just from the dollar store. H. received the Little People school bus, which she doesn't have, Little K got a Daphne Scooby Doo Barbie and Big K's present was a PDA/radio, which she thought was the coolest thing around.

H. had the typical one-year old reaction to Santa - she screamed her head off as soon as we got near him. But luckily, there was also a Mrs. Claus in attendance and she was fine with her. We weren't able to get a picture of all three of them together, so below are the photos of H. with Mrs. Claus. and K&K with Santa.

Edited 1/1/04 to add photos.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Mouse in the House

I forgot to tell you my mouse story from last night. We usually get a mouse in the house every year when the weather first turns cold. Earlier last week, I thought I heard one and said something to Mark about buying bait. Then, last Saturday when I moved one of the Christmas boxes down in the basement, there was an empty nest made out of insulation (of which Mark quickly disposed). Last night, I was in the kitchen cooking dinner and Mark was in the basement working out. I heard banging, but thought it was just his weights. When he came upstairs he says, "I saw the mouse and tried to catch him, but I lost him."

Around 9pm, I was sitting on the floor in the family room wrapping presents when I saw IT run across the baseboard! My reaction was so stereotypical it almost made me laugh. I actually let out a little squeal and had an overwhelming urge to jump up on the sofa. I called Mark down and we spent a half an hour chasing this thing around the family room (I did more pointing than chasing and tried to stay on the opposite side of the room). After much moving of furniture, including a bookcase, Mark finally caught him by the cellar door. The whole thing just creeped me out. I went back to wrapping presents, buy my eyes kept darting around the room looking for the tiniest bit of movement. I hope this little fella didn't have any friends.

Happy Anniversary

Today is our fifth wedding anniversary. I can hardly believe it's been five years already! So much has happened - a house, a baby. And I don't know how I managed to plan a wedding, get married and go on a honeymoon all right before Christmas. I can barely plan just for Christmas now. I remember getting back from our honeymoon on Dec. 20 and opening all of our wedding gifts, then opening more gifts just a few days later. It all seemed like so much!

So we're going out to dinner tonight, probably to the Outback, but first we're going to purchase my anniversary-slash-Christmas gift - a new entertainment center for the family room. The one we have now is very cheap looking (maybe that's because it was cheap), so I'm excited to have this much nicer piece of real furniture. I guess it's a good thing we didn't get a tree last weekend, since it goes right next to the existing entertainment center and this one is much bigger. Now I can get this set up and decorated, then we can put up the tree sometime this weekend as well. Before or after dinner, we also have to squeeze in a quick trip to Target for my last Angel Tree gift and I want to stop at the Verizon store in the mall and change cellphone plans, since I'm not getting my money's worth right now. Then tomorrow is the children's Christmas party at work and I'm taking H., K&K. Hopefully I'll be able to post some pics on Sunday.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Christmas Songs

I thought I'd steal an idea from Melissa and write about some of my favorite Christmas songs. I don't think I can call them Christmas carols, since most of them aren't very traditional. Last year, I stupidly packed all of my Christmas CDs in with the Christmas decorations because I didn't have any room left in my CD rack. Right after Thanksgiving, I was in the mood for Christmas music, but I had no idea which box the CDs were in. I finally found them last weekend when I was decorating.

One of my all-time favorites is Clint Black's "'Til Santa's Gone (Milk and Cookies)." I just think it is the cutest song and very catchy. I get excited every time I hear it on the radio and finally broke down and bought his Christmas CD two years ago.

Keeping with the cookie theme, George Strait and Asleep at the Wheel have a song that I only first heard last year called "Christmas Cookies." I found it on a MCA compilation CD last year and bought it. Another "cute" song (sorry if I sound like Jessica Simpson.)

Another fun song is Alan Jackson's "I Only Want You For Christmas," which is on the "Honky Tonk Christmas" CD. I don't have his newer "Let it Be Christmas" album. I also love Ricochet's version of "Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!" Great harmonies - I wish they were still together as a group.

This year, I asked for both the Jackson 5 Christmas album and the Muppets Christmas with John Denver on CD. I have both of these albums as records and Mark makes fun of me every year when I play them, scratches and all. I started my own tradition that I play the Jackson 5 album while we're decorating the tree. I love every song on that CD. And no one can top Miss Piggy singing "5 Golden Riiiiings!"

No list would be complete without Elvis' "Blue Christmas," as well as another one of his that's a favorite of mine - "Santa Claus is Back in Town."

On the more traditional side, Martina McBride's version of "O Holy Night" will blow you away. John Berry's version isn't bad, either. I also like both Kathy Mattea's and Trisha Yearwood's versions of "New Kid in Town," which I would consider a "New Classic" Christmas song. Then, of course, there are the non-country favorites - Bing Crosby's "White Christmas," Nat King Cole's "The Christmas Song," and Johnny Mathis' "Sleigh Ride." And as a child of the '80's, no Christmas is complete without hearing "Do They Know It's Christmas?"

Finally, I must include what I consider to be the two most depressing Christmas songs ever and I usually turn the radio station when I hear them - Toby Keith's "Santa I'm Right Here" and Elvis' "Mama Loved the Roses."

E-mail me some of your favorites, ones I might be missing out on.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Just in Time

Looks like we bought that 4WD truck just in the nick of time! We were hit with about 4 inches of snow Thursday night into Friday, then another 4 or 5 inches Friday night into Saturday. The drive to and from work Friday was not fun, taking about an hour each way instead of the usual 30 minutes. We were somewhat unprepared, as I realized now that H. is walking, she would need a pair of snow boots. We didn't go anywhere Friday night, but by early Saturday afternoon, our street was plowed and the mail had been delivered. H. took a 3-hour nap Saturday afternoon (and I took a 2-hour one), then we went to the bank and to Walmart for a pair of snow boots (see how long I managed to stay away from Walmart?).

The weather foiled our plans for getting a tree on Saturday and for M. to put up the Christmas lights on Sunday. I finally started decorating the house on Saturday before my nap (I never should have stopped to rest), but it's only about halfway finished. I did get to go shopping on Sunday with BFs Na and Wendy. We went to the outlets in Gettysburg, a trip we take every year for Christmas shopping. I showed amazing constraint in the Old Navy outlet, only buying a red turtleneck, which I planned on buying ahead of time, and a new pair of gloves. The rest of my purchases were Christmas gifts. I now only have one family gift left to buy, plus two gifts for the "Angel Tree" at work and a couple of little things for M. And I need to payoff H's toy layaway some time soon. I'm feeling somewhat caught up after this weekend, but I definitely need to start wrapping the gifts I have and get that out of the way. I off to make a new to-do list.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Abu el Banat

I thought last night's episode of The West Wing was better than others from this season, although no Christmas episode can top Season One's. The episodes are better when the writers work in elements of the characters' personal lives - CJ's dad's illness, Bartlet's relationship with his daughters, etc. - instead of just focusing all on issues. What's going on with Toby's twins and Andi? I'd like to know more about that. It's unrealistic that being a new father would not affect his work in some way.

I think I'm going to start calling my dad "Abu el Banat" - as the father of three daughters and three granddaughters, I'm sure he identified with this episode.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Big, Bad Walmart

I'll admit, I have a love/hate relationship with Walmart. Before we moved into our house 4+ years ago, I never shopped there. Now, I shop there all the time because we live in a small town and it's the only major retailer around without driving 20-30 minutes. They can't be beat on price when buying everyday essentials like toilet paper and diapers, and our local Walmart is a Super Walmart with groceries, too, that are often much cheaper. As much as I shop there, I am also big on supporting local businesses. I do most of my grocery shopping at the family-owned regional grocery chain, especially meat, fruit and other perishables, which I have not found to be of good quality at the Super Walmart. I rent videos from the mom-and-pop store instead of Hollywood Video and we order pizza every weekend from a local shop instead of Domino's or Papa John's.

The whole union labor issue aside, there have been times when I think Walmart is taking advantage of the American public and we all just go along with it. Case-in-point is the cost of baby formula. Hayley used the Infamil Lipil with DHA/AHA, a fairly new formula a year ago. It cost $3.82 a can at my local Walmart. At the Walmart near my parents, about 30 miles away, it cost $3.60/can. We're not talking a nickel here - that's a $0.22 difference. And when, at one point, I was buying up to eight cans a week, that can quickly add up. I finally approached someone in Customer Service at my Walmart with a receipt from the other Walmart about the difference in price. The response was some song-and-dance about how they set prices based on other area stores are charging, etc, etc. Well, two of the local grocery stores in the area didn't even carry this type of Infamil - they were only carrying the "regular" Infamil since the Lipil was still so new. There really wasn't anywhere else I could buy it, and I felt that they were charging as much as they could get away with because they knew that. Still, whenever I went to my parents' house, I would stock up on formula from that Walmart. Either way, they still got over $3 out of me. Like I said, love/hate.

And now, this latest news. I am a big fan of the debit card. It keeps me from charging things on a credit card and helps with budgeting. However, about a year ago, my bank started charging $0.25 for every debit card transaction where you used your pin number, but not on transactions processed as "credit" with your signature. Fine, no problem, I just transact everything as a credit function and it doesn't effect me either way. But now Walmart, where I use my debit card at least two times a week, is going to stop accepting signature-based debit transactions and only accept PIN-based transactions. The company that broke the record less than a week ago with single day sales of $1.52 billion on Black Friday says it's too expensive to process these transactions. Instead, they're going to push that cost back on the consumer.

I wish I could say I would stop shopping at Walmart, but I know that's not true. It's just not possible where we live - they have the monopoly right now and as a family on a budget, it can't be denied. But let Walmart be forewarned that I'll be the gal holding up the check-out line by writing a check instead of using my debit card. Also, it will be interesting to see how this plays out at my local Walmart because my bank is located inside the Walmart, the very same bank that has issued the MasterCard debit card.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003


Please read Evany's entry entitled "the weighting game." It's a wonderful essay on society's perception of what women weigh and what they should weigh. It nice to know I'm not alone out here! I, too, am sick of the coverage of Renee Zellweger and how she has to "beef up" to 135 to play "pudgy" Bridget Jones, who is always struggling with her weight. I couldn't agree more with everything Evany says!

Monday, December 01, 2003

Reading Update

You can add #53 Dead Ringer by Lisa Scottoline (who has a great author's website) and #54 Emma by Jane Austen (from my required reading list) to my list of books read in 2003. Although now I think I'm going to take a little break. I have to return my books to the library this afternoon and I don't think I'm going to check out any new ones, not that I don't have plenty of books on my to-read list sitting on shelves at home. But I'm working on a couple of cross-stitch projects (another hobby), one of which I need to finish before Christmas, plus I need to do all of our Christmas decorating, finish shopping, wrap presents, etc. When am I supposed to have time to read?
Holiday Weekend

Welcome back from the long holiday weekend! Actually, I had to work on Friday and I thought it would be a quiet, slow day, but I never found the time to post. We had a great family Thanksgiving. I did pretty good in the not-overeating-department until dessert, when I had a piece of pumpkin roll and two pieces of pumpkin pie. Hayley ate quite a bit, too, with my dad feeding her cheese and pretzels, then dinner, then she ate a whole piece of pumpkin roll all by herself. She also did all her tricks for everyone and they were all so excited to see her walking.

On Saturday, we bought a new truck. As Mark said, "Our first new vehicle together." We'll probably have to repeat this process next summer by purchasing a minivan. How did we both end up needing new cars at the same time? Mark got a white Silverado 2500 HD with 4WD, which we've been needing for a couple of winters. We live at the bottom of a big hill that was hell last year. So now I'm getting a few new car insurance quotes. I've been wanting to switch companies for awhile since our rates keep increasing every six months, so I figured this was a good excuse for some research.

Sunday was a nice quiet day at home. Hayley took a three-hour nap (and I took one for about a half hour) and we watched the Ravens beat up on San Francisco. It's great that we finally have an offense that's fun to watch. I can't believe they scored 44 points in back-to-back games. Next week's game vs. Cincinnati for first place in the division should be awesome!