Monday, December 22, 2008

'Twas a week before Christmas...

This little tale that I'm telling to you, is based in pure fact, yes, it's pretty much true! It's cobbled together like a poorly made quilt; but I don't care, I don't feel any guilt. Enjoy the story, that's my true aim, I know it won't bring any fortune or fame. It's pretty silly, but what can I say, it's just my life, it's an average day...

'Twas a week before Christmas, and I could not believe

that no baking was done so close to the Eve;

The stockings were hung and a gift or two wrapped,

Still too much to do and my energy's zapped.

Most people were sleeping all snug in their beds,

while I, with the stress, thought of upping my meds;

A present for Dad is still left to buy,

"but what do I get him?" I thought with a sigh,

When out in the yard there arose such a clatter,

I ran from the kitchen to see what was the matter.

The screeching was loud, a thud then a thump

and it sounded like something was fixin'* to tump*,

The ice on the road was as black as the night

and gave all the drivers a terrible fright

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a bus in the ditch by the queer,

With an old lady driver confused in the seat

she'd run over the mailbox without missing a beat.

Skidding and sliding and stopped with a thud,

I could see that her bus was now stuck in the mud,

"Excuse me, I'm sorry, I ran quite off course !"

"Oh, and for your mailbox...I give my remorse..."

"It's alright I said, it'll stand back up straight,"

"I'm just happy you avoided a slightly worse fate."

As rain swirled about, (no we just don't get snow,)

We pondered on how to get her bus to go,

After much consternation, unstuck she came,

And no we did not file an insurance claim,

Then, there she went, quickly down the road,

Driving away in her over-sized load,

As I waved goodbye and was turning around,

I heard from inside a slight ringing sound.

The cookies I'd left in the oven to bake!

I'd forgotten about them! What a mess this would make!

The smell of burned baked goods soon filled my nose,

And smoke from the oven, oh how it rose,

A Christmas time fire, my that seems merry,

Unless it's unplanned, and then it's just scary!

I threw on my mitt and the oven door braved

And thought to myself, "can these cookies be saved?"

"I'll ice them," I said, "then they'll be fine,"

That slight smoky flavor will be nice with wine,

Of course the frosting would just be a cinch,

Except there's no sugar, who's been here? The Grinch?

"Ah the old standby" I said satisfied,

as canned Betty Crocker I quickly applied,

A sprinkle or two and no one would know,

of my near disaster with sugary dough,

I packaged them up and took them to work,

everyone liked them, from the boss to the clerk,

With crumbs just remaining, the office well fed,

my holiday plans had not ended in dread,

A few days to go I thought with a smirk,

Me, I'm just ready to head home from work,

"BYE!" I exclaim, as I drove out of sight,

"Happy Christmas to all, bake some cookies tonight."

*thems is Southern words y'all!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more."

" It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags!" He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore...then, the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. "Maybe Christmas..." he thought "doesn't come from a store? Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more?"What is it about that day that makes the harshness of the world soften a bit? The Grinch learned that the joy of Christmas was something that couldn't be purchased, and even better, something that couldn't be stolen. You see, Christmas, doesn't come from a store...yes, Christmas in fact, means a little bit more.

It is a time to gather in with family and friends. It's a time to be full of glad tidings and cheer and a time to relish in that sense of magic that eludes us most of the year.

We see the dreary world with new eyes. Lights glow a little brighter, fires seem a little warmer, and charity spreads its wings from pocketbooks and bank accounts that know a new generosity. Still...the glitter of the gifts, the sparkle of the tree, and the love of kith and kin are only shadows of Christmas. Christmas still means just a little bit more...

Isn't there anyone out there who can tell me what Christmas is all about?"

*Lights please*
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'

That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

Merry Christmas to all. May the true Joy of Christmas be found in your
heart on this and every day.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Sweaters and Santas and freshly cut trees...

...these are a few of my favorite things! I love Christmas. I love all things associated with Christmas. I'm a sucker for anything to do with the holiday! Come December, my world turns red and green. (Of course I'm always hoping for a little white to be thrown in there; but well, when you live in the Deep South, white Christmases are far and few between.) Still, regardless of the weatherman's predictions, I say throw on that overly decorated Christmas Sweater, grab that mug of hot cider, and get in the spirit.

Now, if there's one thing I love, it's a Christmas party, especially when it has a theme. I say all parties should have themes...actually, I think most regular days should have themes. Sadly, the theme for most days is "disgruntled office employee" but not Dec 6th. You see, every year my best friend Jenny-Lyn throws a party known as "The Ornament Exchange" where a bunch of us girls get together, eat an obscene amount of sweets, hang out and talk, and exchange ornaments a la Dirty Santa. This year however, I suggested we mix it up just a little and throw in the theme of "Christmas Sweaters." Now, this idea isn't exactly new, but it's guaranteed to be hilarious...and really, that's my only requirement. I wondered if the others would be as enthusiastic as I...let me just say, the girls didn't disappoint.

The food! (This table basically = the immediate onset of "the diabeetus.")

The fashion! (Now, a few of the girls didn't participate in Sweaterpalooza, but here are those of us who did. Notice if you will, the variety of styles...we've got the classic, the 80's, the Modern and even the Mom vest!)

After the festivus of eating and sweater admiration, we decided it was time for the ornament swap. It's always an eclectic assortment of items. You never know what you're going to get. It could be a tap dancing snowman, could be some delicate bejeweled treasure, could be a pig in a matter what it's always fun!

That's some pig! (I'm rather proud of bringing him..Jenny was happy to have him. Also, yes, that is a huge Bozo the clown doll hanging from Jenny's tree and trust me, TRUST ME, you do not want to question her choice to include it on there!)

Everyone had a great time and there were no dud ornaments! After the extravaganza, it was off to the tree farm! The tree farm's a pretty good time. Free cider and hot chocolate, acres of trees, reindeer, and wagon rides! We pretty much conquered all of it. We even entertained the crowds of people when we decided to offer them the luxury of our beautiful voices* through Christmas carols. Surprisingly one man even asked if he owed us any money for the songs. I took it as a complement, but I'm sure he meant it more as "there's no way I'm supposed to tip these people for 'singing,' right?"

It's a whole little section of trees just for me!

This guy here is "Gimpsy" the reindeer, he didn't quite make Santa's requirements, so he hangs out at the farm.

*sigh* I guess what happens on the farm doesn't always stay on the farm. (Now relax, she's got a shirt on under that sweater! However, don't you love the absolute indignation and horror on Jenny's face? She really sells it and Jen's devil may care posture really makes it look does Tammy's distant confusion and Beck's complete avoidance of the situation.) Nice one ladies.

Where's Gimpsy when you need him? (Would you look at that sky!!!)

...And thus ended The ornament exchange 2008. It was a good time had by all. Next year, we've decided to turn the sweater theme into a competition. "Build your own Christmas Sweater" I've already started on mine!

Now, I know that seems like a great stopping point, but who am I to tell the birds not to fly or the fish not to swim? You see, later that night, the fun continued! It was time for a good ol' fashioned family other people to whom we are not related. (say that with a Forrest Gump accent and it's kind of funny)

Here is "diabeetus table part deux" I don't know if the plates are half full or half empty at this point...all I know is that it was amazingly good.

Santa even showed up this year! I guess I got away with it I've been good after all!

Well, leave it to Jenny to discover the truth behind the beard!
Here's the fam getting ready to rip into that pile of gifts. Dirty Santa is the highlight of the party and you'd be amazed to see the elaborate schemes and games of "strategery" that go into making sure you get that Christmas pillow you've always so desperately wanted! (It's like watching the military plan a war!) Family Christmas is a great time and I'd have more pictures, but at this point, I was full of tiny pies of various sorts, wassail, and quite busy trying to figure out how to steal a "build-it-yourself" gingerbread house kit from my cousin. I've got a pretty great family and I love them all! Also, I can't wait to build that gingerbread house!

*The writer of this blog does not confirm, endorse, or jokingly even consider the validity of this statement.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Bahama Mamas

What goes better with Thanksgiving than cold weather, good times with family, and a meal that could feed a third world country for a month? Turns out a cruise to the Bahamas ranks right up there. That's right! After the traditional family gorge-a-thon, my sister and I packed our bags and headed out to sunny Port Canaveral to hop aboard Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas. (Now, I'll spare you the details of the drive, which included my brother-in-law, niece, and nephew...all in all, a lot of fun, until taco bell got involved.) After parting ways with the fam , Rhonda and I drove on down to the ship...there she floated in all her glory...ready to take on a fresh herd of cattle load of passengers!

The beautiful Monarch of the Seas anchored off Coco Cay

Once aboard we did what any good cruiser does...we headed to the trough er, buffet. Now, that doesn't mean we ate an entire pizza topped with hamburgers. You see, a cruise ship ain't Vegas and what happens on a cruise ship often doesn't stay on the cruise ship. Yeah, I'm talking poundage. Really, the veggies, seafood, and fruit were the best offerings anyway, so we had our fill of that while everyone else loaded up on deep fried mashed potatoes and butter cheese bacon fritters. Although, I'd give somebody's right arm to have the recipe for that lamb curry!

I decided against eating that brown fried...thing.

"Comedy's a dead art tragedy...that's funny!" -Bender.
Humor was the order of the day on the Monarch. The ship offered two different comedians, both of which were actually extremely funny. I'll admit I wasn't holding out a lot of hope, but yes, my sides actually ached from laughing. The acts ran the comedy gauntlet from impressions to race relations... "Hey, I have a white friend! See white people, do you see how stupid that sounds?" Nice. The final night, the singers and dancers performed...I love the production numbers, as does Rhonda...she's a former musical theater gal and I'm just a big ham that loves the spotlight...nothing like living vicariously. We sat there and sang-a-long and judged the choreography and cheered when those high notes were landed.

This girl glowed...literally. Every single picture I took of her, she's literally phosphorescent!

Ports of call...
This was a short cruise and we only had two ports of call, but once you've seen one tropical island, you've seen them all...or so I hear...I'd like to find out for myself. Nassau was fine, we really didn't explore the city itself, we tendered over to Paradise Island and toured the Atlantis Hotel. The aquarium was really the highlight of the tour and the gorgeous Dale Chihuly glass sculptures. The aquarium housed giant Manta rays, huge sawfish, serious looking...tuna? and some piranha that looked as if they'd like to have you over for some fava beans and a nice Chianti.

Chihuly's "The Sun"

Glowing Jellyfish...friends of the singer on the ship?

Hello Clarice...

After the "Atlantis experience," we walked around the island a bit, played in the surf, realized we hadn't eaten since breakfast, many, many, many hours earlier and decided to head back to the ship...besides, we didn't want to miss the dance party. I'll start with dinner and work my way back to dance party. Rhonda and I enjoy the formal dining room for dinner...there's just something nice about having someone pull out your chair for you, drape your napkin in you lap, and offer you more bread than all of France on Bastille day. The meals were fine...nothing spectacular, nothing bad...but this isn't about the's more about the company. Our dinner companions seemed nice enough...a slightly older couple, well traveled, well read...a medical researcher and former Secret Service agent. We enjoyed them, even if ...we'll just call him "Mr. Smith" was a bit of a bloviater. All was well...until "Mr. Smith" announced that he just didn't like "the black people." How do you even respond to that?!? I sat there slack jawed...Rhonda, wide eyed...we listened to a few more of his absurd assumptions about various subjects, said our goodbyes and left in a state of complete confoundation. He also hated our "lazy, unambitious, bum of a...." kayak excursion leader...if that was his definition of a lazy, unambitious bum, where do I sign up?

Apparently the people of 422 preferred a more casual setting.

Speaking of kayak guy, whose name I can't recall, but he did have a lovely South African accent. *sigh!* He was a resident of our other port of call, Royal Caribbean's private island "Coco Cay." It was a beautiful island...gorgeous clear water, white sugar sand, and hammocks on every tree. We proceeded to our excursion station and took up our paddles and life vests for a nice relaxing kayak tour...or so we thought. Turns out Neptune had other plans...what started out as calm seas with clear waters quickly turned into 3-4 foot waves and gray skies...and I'll admit, a heck of a lot of fun. I've only kayaked in Alaska a few times and it was never in rough water so this was a new adventure...especially when Rhonda and I took a (I'm gonna say "rogue wave" for the dramatic effect) rogue wave that knocked us clear out of the boat! We were out a couple hundred yards from the shore, but the water was still only waist level and warm. Sadly, there was a old secondary digital camera...tucked into my life vest for a few fun shots...little did I know the wrath of the ocean...she be a harsh mistress indeed.

The last picture my little camera ever took. Godspeed little C340 easyshare...Godspeed.

The rest of the time on the island consisted of us proving we fail at hammocking (I declare that a word.) how we do not fail at falling asleep on beach chairs, a nature walk, and lunch. Lunch...a beach bbq, very nice, ribs, chicken, regular fare...and cookies. I decided I wanted a cookie and surprisingly, there was only one left when I got up there, well lucky me...or so I thought. As I reached for the tongs, I see a puffy, red nailed hand practically lunge at the tray, grab the tongs and snatch the last cookie. I stood there in a mix of confusion and irritation (did I mention I really like cookies?) as this woman, this garish, badly permed, cookie stealing woman looks at me and says "*sigh* It's not even what I wanted" as she shoves it in her mouth akin to a blue furry monster that could tell you how to get to Sesame Street. I whisper under my breath as she lumbers off, "well, it's what some of us wanted." Oh well...better on her hips than mine.

I'm convinced this is what I was meant to do.

Now that's entertainment!
...and we're back at dance party. We walked into the main stairway of the ship, a huge spiraling thing descends from all directions, each tier was packed with people clapping and shouting and staring down at the bottom level of the landing. In that landing was cruise director Chris, sporting a huge afro and sunglasses, also in attendance was a glittered up, singing, dancing sailor, more afro wig wearers, and the YMCA boys. Well, Rhonda and I stealthily maneuvered our way into the thick of things, and before I knew it, I was dancing with a greased up policeman, Rhonda with the sailor, and then, sailor, she, and I started what would become the second oddest conga line I've ever been privileged to join. Speaking of conga lines...this brings me to "Quest." Quest was the late night game show on the ship and while Rhonda and I chose not to participate, we did decide to watch. C.D. Chris was there again, sans afro wig. This time he would call out commands to teams and they'd race to be the first to show him what he wanted..."a man with his pants on backwards," or, "a thong! '...very nice ladies, but all I was looking for was a flip-flop'." At the end of this game, 20 grown men wearing women's ..."attire" congaed around the lounge...without question, the #1 most interesting conga line in which I was not involved!

Here's the main staircase from which I believe everyone on the ship watched our dance party...

...and here's a bad photo with our glittery companion post conga line!

In the end, it was great to spend time with my sister. Given that she's 17 years older than me, we didn't really get the chance to grow up together so...carpe diem, because that's what we've got...and that pretty much sums up the most interesting parts of the trip...the rest was packing, leaving, and the desire to avoid all the things of Monday that loomed on the horizon.

I'm not still here why?