Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas Tour of Homes

As usual, I am late for the blog party... but I will play along anyways. Welcome to the "Living with a Labradoodle" household and all it's Christmas decorations!

I hope you arrive at night so you can see the front yard in all of it's glory. It really does qualify for "The Tacky Light Tour" but I enjoy it. :-)

The snow globe is having some condensation problems... so in case you can't tell that's Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the Charlie Brown Christmas tree.

Let's go inside...

When you first come in the front door, you will see a small table filled a little village. Next to it on the floor is a Christmas tree that I painted a few years ago and a stuffed Snowman from the Hallmark store.

I have placed house ornaments and some of my favorite car ornaments on the table... along with a few other ornaments that didn't have a good spot. One of my favorite houses is this one that I have dubbed "The Tacky Light Christmas Tour House." It lights up and plays various Christmas songs.

As you make your way past the front door, you will likely notice the fireplace.

It is covered in singing Snowman and has a stocking carefully hung for both Brun and I. On the hearth are some glass blocks filled with lights that I made last year. Just to the right of the fireplace is a cool card display that my mom got for me this year.

If you try to sit on the couch to enjoy a little TV, you won't have much of a place to prop you feet. The coffee table is covered in decorations as well.

Need a snack? Well I haven't had time to prepare anything for you, but if you make your way into the kitchen you are welcome to ohh and ahh over my dying poinsettias and the gingerbread house that my roommate and I made Thanksgiving night. The poinsettias are not long for this world but I do think the gingerbread house turned out quite well.

The next to last stop on this event is a bit unusual.

Years ago, my grandfather built this covered bridge. He was a Civil Engineer and loved the covered bridges of Alabama. This is a perfect scale model of one of the bridges here in Alabama. Well when we were cleaning out my grandparent's house this was one of the few things that I really, truly wanted. It sits on the top of the bookshelf all year round, but I think it is such a neat piece and so this year I made it a part of my Christmas decorations.

The last stop is the main event... the Christmas tree.

This year I actually had time to get all of my ornaments on the tree. I am very particular about the tree. I only allow Hallmark ornaments on the tree and they all have special places where thy have to go. Ornaments that have wings, involve space travel or are meant to be in the sky must go at the top of the tree.

Ornaments that have wheels or are meant to travel on land or water in some way must go at the bottom of the tree.

Then my favorite ornaments go on the front middle. These are primarily the dog picture ornaments as well as some Snoopy and Pooh ornaments.

Thanks for joining me on the tour. Be careful as you leave. Brun likes to sleep with his head under the tree.... so try not to wake him.

I hope you all enjoyed the tour of our house. Thanks to BooMama for hosting such a great event! I can't wait to come and see all of your decorations!!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas blog

Most everyone posted this awhile back... but I thought I would join in the fun.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Mostly wrapping paper... a bag might sneak in every once in awhile for one of those oddly shaped gifts but I love wrapping presents in lots of pretty paper.

2. Real tree or artificial? Always artificial... I am allergic to the real.

3. When do you put up the tree? I used to be a strict purist and refused to put it up until the day after Thanksgiving but now I have changed to closer to the first of November... I know it's too early for most but I want to enjoy the decorations longer. And besides... with being gone for 12 days in a row, if I don't put it up early it won't get up at all.

4. When do you take the tree down? I try to get it down by the first of the year.

5. Do you like eggnog? No

6. Favorite gift received as a child? I can't remember one specific one... there were lots of good ones. Santa always did a good job of bringing exactly what we asked for and more. One year there was a Walkman, one year a Barbie Dream House, an American girl doll, a bike... lots of good stuff.

7. Do you have a nativity scene? No

8. Hardest person to buy for? My parents or Leslie... they all have everything they need and buy the things that they want. :-)

9. Easiest person to buy for? Maybe I just put too much thought into people's gifts but I can't think of anyone that is an easy buy.

10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? As much as I loved my grandmother she tended to give some bad gifts.

11. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? I don't like a lot of the traditional Christmas movies like "It's a Wonderful Life" but I love a lot of the trite and predictable Christmas movies on channels like ABC Family and the Hallmark Channel. I have been filling my Tivo with them the past couple of weeks. They are great to watch when you are wrapping presents and things like that.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Summer... whenever I find the "right" gift for someone.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Probably but I can't think of one off hand

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Mocha Squares... I will post the recipe sometime this season.

16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Clear... but I really do love colored ones.

17. Favorite Christmas song? I have four Christmas albums that I love. Either of my two Harry Connick Jr. Christmas albums, my Kenny Chesney Christmas album and my Jimmy Buffett Christmas album. I have all four of them on repeat. I also love the XM Christmas channels.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Go to my parents part of the time and stay at my house part of the time

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Yes

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? A Santa with angel wings from Hallmark

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Morning

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Traffic!

23. What I love most about Christmas? Seeing everyone, giving fun gifts, the pretty decorations ...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Wedding

I am not a big fan of big, fancy weddings. Personally, I think people should elope and save the money for something more practical. But I realize that that is my viewpoint... and others see it differently. My roommate (now former roommate) Stacy is one of those people. Ever since Stacy and Josh got engaged this summer, it has been a non-stop wedding planning extravaganza around here. Well last weekend, everything all came to fruition in a beautiful, fairytale wedding. If you will, allow me a moment of nostalgia. Stacy has been my roommate for the past three and a half years and is really the only roommate I have ever had (that wasn't a family member). You could not ask for a better roommate. She is a sweet person who never has a bad thing to say about anyone. She loved Winston and she loves Brun like her own. The house won't be the same without her. Stacy came to be my roommate when she moved to Alabama from Tennessee to be near Josh. In fact, if it weren't for Josh I don't think that Stacy and I would have ever crossed paths.

I have known Josh for the better part of ten years, first through church, next through graduate school and then when we bought houses two doors apart from each other four years ago. We have become good friends over the years... particularly over the past six years or so, through good times and bad times in our lives. We went through the MBA program together, worked on group projects together, even took dancing lessons together when it was required for one of our classes in graduate school... and he has been one of the best guy friends that I have. We may not always see eye to eye on things but he is a great friend. He has always been a good person to bounce ideas off of, to get help with school work on, to go to lunch with and to discuss church and religious issues with. When Stacy was looking to move to town to get closer to Josh, my house (two houses away) was a perfect fit for all three of us.

When Josh FINALLY proposed in Italy this summer (after they had dated for over four years)... I knew that things were about to change. I don't think it really hit me until last weekend how much things were going to change. The house is quieter and the neighborhood won't be the same without them. And while I am very happy for them and their future together, I am going to miss them both a lot.

Enough with the nostalgia... on with the pictures. :-)

Last Friday (Dec. 7) my parents and I headed to the Knoxville area. We made it just in time to check into the hotel and allow me to head to the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. It was good to see a lot of people, including Josh's friends and families, many of whom I had not seen in quite some time. The rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner went without incident and everyone was ready for the big day. I sat with the ring bearer, his mom and her boyfriend. Here is a picture of the ringbearer... what a doll!

Saturday we awoke to dreary but warm skies and a persistent drizzle that lasted most of the day. Stacy picked me up from the hotel around 9:30 that morning and it was off to the chapel/bed and breakfast where the wedding was to be held. We spent the morning getting ready. The ring bearers mom is a great hair dresser, so she did most everyones hair and makeup. Notice the white jacket thing Stacy is wearing... I embroidered her new name and wedding date on it. You can't really see it too well but I thought it turned out really cute. I also made her veil and her garter (with some help from my mom). Who knew I had these skills!! Not me, that's for sure.

Things were going okay... and then the first crisis (if you don't count the rain) hit around 11 AM. Stacy had her dress on and was getting ready to have portraits taken. At that point we realized there was a big problem. When they hemmed Stacy's dress they hemmed the dress correctly but all of the under layers were just kind of gathered up near the waste and were sticking out and causing a line to show through the dress. I don't know how to explain it... but it looked bad. So without her taking off the dress, all of the bridesmaids and the others that were there held the dress up while we investigated the six thousand layers of tulle and satiny stuff under there. We couldn't get the gathered fabric to lay down on their own. Tape was attempted... but failed miserably... and I had a thought. I found the wedding coordinator and asked her for needle and thread. I used my rudimentary sewing skills to tack the gathered fabric down to the six thousand layers of tulle and satin. I did this while Stacy was still wearing the dress and while the other bridesmaids held up the dress. Everyone (including Stacy) stayed amazingly calm. I stabbed myself a few times but it worked perfectly! At some point I became worried I might have tacked it to her slip... but she didn't care... she just wanted it fixed for all of the pictures and ceremony... and that was accomplished.

At that point pictures continued and the time for the wedding finally arrived. I was the last bridesmaid to walk down the aisle and as I walked towards the front, everyone was crying... including Josh. I didn't have any problem holding it together... until the next crisis. Right before Stacy was supposed to walk down the aisle, two of the groomsmen were supposed to walk to the back of the chapel and roll out a paper aisle runner. Well they walked to the back, picked up the runner and proceeded to rip the runner as they started to pull it. So then they walked back to the front of the chapel empty handed. At that point I started crying because I was trying so hard not to laugh. It was really funny.

The wedding proceeded... everyone was crying... Stacy's dad gave her a handkerchief and I think half the wedding party passed it around. Stacy's dad used, Stacy used it, Josh used it, one of the best men used it. At some point, it became funny to see who the handkerchief would get passed to next. As you can probably tell, I tend to get distracted during weddings. This one was no exception and I enjoyed watching the flower girl and ring bearer. The flower girl was waving and doing a little dance and I thought the ring bearer was going to take a header off the stage. He didn't, but he was teetering mighty close to the edge of his step. Watching them was a lot better than listening to Josh and Stacy getting choked up during their vows. Listening to that would only make me cry. Here is a not so great picture from the ceremony that my parents took. It was a beautiful chapel, perfectly decorated for the Christmas season. My parents were sitting close to the front and were too polite about taking distracting pictures so this is really the only one I have. Stacy had two photographers so I am sure there are some beautiful pictures out there somewhere.

Then came time for the reception... and everyone seemed a little more relaxed. Josh and Stacy ate cake and neither of them shoved it in each other's face. I was pretty surprised at that... my guess is that Stacy threatened Josh's life if he did it. :-)

Here is a picture of me and Stacy. At first I wasn't sure about the bridesmaids dresses... but they really worked well with the holiday decor and the holiday season.

Here is a picture of Josh and I.

The reception was very nice... but eventually it was time for that to end... and it was time for the bride and groom to be showered with rose petals...

And then, they were to ride off in a horse drawn carriage. The horse had other ideas. He was apparently not in a good mood and really had no interest in picking up additional passengers. I didn't think the horse was going to stop to let them get on... but it eventually did. They both looked a bit uneasy and the horse really didn't slow down long enough for pictures. As they were pulling away Josh yelled back "pray for us!" He wasn't referring to praying for their marriage... he was just hoping they would survive the carriage ride. I did talk to them last week so I do know that they survived the strong willed horse. :-)

As they went off on their carriage ride, we all started to head out and the wedding was over. As much as I don't really like weddings, it was very beautiful and I am very happy for them. While some of the planning and Stacy's easy going nature made me, as a compulsive list maker and planner, a bit crazy... the whole thing came together perfectly.

Sorry for the extremely long post... I'm sure some of you are bored out of your mind at this point.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Santa in Alabama?

Sometime in amongst my travel over the past two weeks I was at my parent's house on a Sunday. Well Sunday night after church we went out to dinner with some friends (as we typically do). As we were escorted to our table, I noticed one of Santa's helpers sitting at a table that happened to be just behind us. This made me smile but I didn't say anything, thinking he probably gets tired of everyone looking at him and saying "There's Santa."

As we were waiting for our food, Santa came over to our table and started talking to the little girls who were with us. One of the families we were eating with has three young girls and two of them were thrilled to be eating at the same restaurant as Santa Claus. The youngest one slept through the whole thing but the two older girls sat on Santa's lap and even posed for pictures.

"Santa" was so nice to come over and spend some time with the sweet little girls at our table. He certainly did not have to do that. This particular helper of Santa is stationed at the mall and sees children all day long. I think it is safe to say that our "Santa" that night understood what he means to children and made the day of two special little girls.


This is my bed. I love my bed. It is a beautiful, antique bed that used to be my mom's. It's such a comfortable bed. I've missed my bed. I've missed my Ralph Lauren sheets and poofy comforter.

I have been gone from home for 12 days straight. Yuck!! Part of that time was spent in hotel rooms and part of it was spent at my parents house... but no matter what I do to make it more comfortable, it's not the same as my bed. I am so happy to be home and sleep in my bed for a few nights.

I still have some blog catching up to do. I have to tell you about meeting Santa Claus and our family Thanksmas and then the big wedding event last weekend. I will try to catch up soon!

Maybe Al Gore has a point?

I know I live in Alabama but this is ridiculous!! This is what my car thermometer read yesterday on December 10. This was not right after I got in the car mind you... I had been driving around at least 30 minutes... so it should be pretty close to actual temperature. I actually put on a pair of shorts last night it was so hot.

By this weekend they are predicting there could be snow flurries. Gotta love Alabama weather.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

100 Things About Me

It seems to be the tradition on most blogs to post 100 things about yourself for your 100th post. It has taken me from March to December to make it to 100 posts... but here goes. here are 100 interesting (and not so interesting) things about me:

1. I have lived in Alabama my entire life.
2. I was born on January 9, 1979.
3. I lived in the same house from the time I was born until I went to college. My parents still live there.
4. I have a miniature labradoodle named Brun (pronounced Brew-n).
5. Brun was born in Missouri and came from Missouri Doodles outside of St. Louis.
6. Brun was born on December 16, 2005 and came to live with me on March 17, 2006.
7. Before I got Brun, I had a wonderful standard labradoodle named Winston.
8. Winston was born on August 14, 2003 and died on February 21, 2006.
9. Winston was one of the greatest dogs to ever live. No matter how much I love Brun, I miss Winston every day.
10. I have an undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering.
11. In college I was in a co-ed professional Engineering fraternity called Theta Tau. While it was a little more social than some professional fraternities, it was one of the best things I did to help me get through college. I made a lot of great friends through that organization.
12. In the past I have typically had more male friends than female friends. I probably have more female friends at this point in my life than I have ever had before.
13. I have a Masters in Business Administration.
14. I never planned to live in the town where I currently live. In fact I declared in a graduate school class that I would not live there. You can see how well that worked out for me.
15. My job title is Assistant Research Engineer. As best I can tell, that means I do a little bit of everything.
16. I have naturally curly hair. It used to be naturally blonde but now I pay for the blonde. :-)
17. I wear a size 10.5 shoe. Trust me, that is not an easy size to find.
18. I am five feet seven and a half inches tall.
19. Even though I am almost 5’ 8”, I like to wear high heel shoes.
20. I have no sense of smell.
21. I have never been married and I have no children (unless you count Winston and Brun… which I do).
22. I love to sing.
23. I love to take pictures.
24. I only sleep about 5 or 6 hours per night. I find sleep to be a waste of time. :-)
25. As a general rule, I prefer TV programs to movies. I love my HD Plasma TV.
26. I don’t like to shop but I like to shop at outlets.
27. My favorite restaurant is a local Alabama restaurant called “The Fish Market.”
28. I have to travel a lot for work. A lot of my travel for work is to my hometown.
29. I do not like to travel for work if I have to go somewhere other than my hometown.
30. I take my pillow with me everywhere when I travel. If I can’t take my pillow, I take a pillowcase from home and the sleep sack that Leslie got me for Christmas last year.
31. The only countries I have ever visited are Canada and Australia.
32. One day I would like to visit Scotland, Ireland, Italy (particularly the island of Capri) and go back to Australia.
33. I have been to 30 out of the 50 states, including the biggest and smallest states.
34. My favorite cities to visit are New York City, Washington DC and Chicago (so far).
35. I am a huge NASCAR fan. In fact, I love pretty much any motorsport.
36. I love to camp.
37. Christmas is my favorite Holiday. I love to decorate for the season. It borders on tacky at my house at that time of year. :-)
38. My first car was a Saturn… it was a stick shift.
39. I love driving a stick shift.
40. I did not get my driver’s license until I was 17 because I didn’t want it.
41. I don’t like to read. My attention span doesn’t usually tolerate it.
42. I come from a family of Civil Engineers. My grandfather, uncle, mom and dad all have degrees in Civil Engineering.
43. I have one brother named Warren (we call him Wren) who is 21 months younger than me.
44. Everyone thought that Wren and I were twins when we were growing up.
45. Wren has an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering and supposedly will have a Master’s degree in it eventually.
46. I tried to take flying lessons a few years ago but I kept getting sick so I had to quit.
47. I don’t sit still very well… I need to be doing something most of the time.
48. I know how to smock
49. I know how to knit.
50. I have a semi-professional embroidery machine and am trying to get a small in home business going on the side.
51. I am an extremely picky eater.
52. I eat in order. I eat all of one item on my plate before I move on to another item. I save my favorite item for last.
53. I take Flintstone vitamins instead of adult vitamins.
54. I do not like Cheeseburgers but I love cheese.
55. The only pie that I like is homemade apple pie… preferably made of apples from the trees at my parent’s house.
56. I love watching Barrett Jackson auctions on TV. One day I would love to go to a Barrett Jackson auction and buy a car.
57. A hotel qualifies as a good hotel to me if it has Speed TV included in the channel lineup.
58. I hate sleeping in hotel rooms… I usually do not sleep very soundly.
59. I think that men who are prematurely grey or partially grey (like Anderson Cooper and Taylor Hicks) are extremely gorgeous.
60. I have painted toenails throughout the year but rarely paint my fingernails.
61. I wore braces for a year and a half in middle school. I now have very straight teeth.
62. I love to make lists.
63. I took piano lessons from second grade through seventh grade.
64. Even though I was fairly successful at fooling my teacher, I did not practice like I was supposed to.
65. I played the flute in band for a few years in elementary and middle school. I was never very good.
66. In middle school and High School I was in the following musicals: Oklahoma!, Sound of Music, West Side Story and Guys & Dolls.
67. I had a solo in West Side Story. I sang “Somewhere.” On the first night of the production, a young child from the audience got away from their parents and ran across the stage during my performance. I had trouble not laughing.
68. I was the editor of my high school newspaper.
69. I was in the chorus in high school.
70. I was also in chorus in college my freshman year.
71. My favorite high school extracurricular activity was Science Olympiad.
72. My favorite elementary school teacher was probably my 4th grade teacher Mrs. Atkinson.
73. My favorite teacher in high school was Miss McConnell who was my Biology teacher in 10th and 12th grade… once for regular Biology and once for AP Biology.
74. My favorite teacher in Middle School was probably Mr. Hayes who was my 9th Grade Physical Science teacher.
75. I hated Middle School.
76. I really didn’t like High School either.
77. I loved College.
78. I went to private elementary, middle and high school. I got a great education.
79. I lived with my grandmother for 2.5 years when I was in college. She unfortunately passed away Christmas 1999.
80. I do not like meeting new people or making new friends.
81. I could probably be described as verging on anti-social when it comes to most social situations.
82. I used to be deathly afraid of speaking in public but I have gotten over it since I started working.
83. I could probably live the rest of my life only eating bread, nuts, cheese and coke. I would be malnourished but I would enjoy it. :-)
84. I have been described as a perfectionist and OCD about some things.
85. If I don’t like the way you put dishes in my dishwasher, I will take them out and put them in the way that I want.
86. When I am purchasing something at the store, I almost never take the front or the first item. I don’t know why but I will move it aside and get the second one instead.
87. When I get gas the total dollar amount must end in an even nickel amount. For example, if I have 30.01, I will get $0.04 more worth of gas to make it $30.05.
88. I don’t like change – and by that I mean things becoming different, not pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters.
89. When I go to a particular restaurant, I almost always order the same thing.
90. My perfect Sunday afternoon consists of takeout Chinese food, a NASCAR race and a nap.
91. I order the same thing so much at my local Chinese restaurant (almost once a week when I am in town) that they know who I am and what I want when I call without me even telling them.
92. I once tried out for Teen Jeopardy. I did not make it past the first round.
93. I get told fairly often that I look like Drew Barrymore. I can see it but I don’t think the resemblance is that great.
94. I like a wide variety of music. Some of my absolute favorites are The Beach Boys, Barenaked Ladies, Kenny Chesney and the fabulously amazing Harry Connick Jr.
95. I try to forget bad memories but at the same time I worry that I will forget the good memories.
96. I love God.
97. I love my family.
98. I love my friends.
99. I love my dogs.
100. I love my life.
101. I am thankful every day for the fact that I have been blessed beyond measure.

So there you have it. Somehow I ended up with 101... oh well.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Old Friends

One of the hard parts of being a "younger" member of the crowd at work is that when you start getting attached to people, they retire. This happens with friends (even non-work related ones) that move and things like that but today I was reminded of how good it is to see old friends... even "work" friends. :-)

Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to work with every state trooper in the state of Alabama and two of the head guys retired this year. This made me very sad as I enjoyed them on both a professional and personal level.

Well today I am at a conference for work in another part of the state and I heard one of them talking as he walked in the room. I turned around and literally squealed I was so excited. He gave me the biggest hug... so big that he literally picked me up off the ground. I had not seen him since the summer and I have missed working with him and talking to him so much. He was my partner in crime for the best time I have ever had at a NASCAR race... and I feel quite certain that I will never again have that much fun at a race again. He looked out for me at conferences and made sure I was having a good time and is still someone I will always look forward to seeing.

Then not 5 minutes later the other trooper walked in. I was once again thrilled! Even though they have retired to other jobs and new adventures in their life, they had decided to come over to our conference to visit everyone. In the back of my mind I had hoped that they would but I didn't really expect that they would.

Oh how good it is to see old friends. It makes me want to look up friends from college and go visit them too. It's so easy to forget how much you miss some people until you see them again.

Monday, December 3, 2007

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

I know it's been awhile but I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I personally am not a big fan of this particular holiday. I don't like Thanksgiving food... and by that I mean I really don't like any of it. I don't like turkey, dressing, stuffing, most casseroles, cranberries, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, etc. etc. On top of that it seems like bad things always happen around Thanksgiving. I have known too many people that have died right around Thanksgiving and known of so many other bad things that happen.

Don't get me wrong... I enjoy spending time with my family and I think we should be thankful all of the time... not just on one day (or even one month) of the year. So personally, I try to focus on being thankful all of the time and bypass the Thanksgiving holiday altogether. Seriously, I am happy to just ignore the day, enjoy it as any other day off from work, watch the Macy's parade and the dog show and eat whatever I feel like on that day.

This year my parents did come into town and we (along with my roommate... who had to work the day after Thanksgiving) had a Thanksgiving meal of ham and some vegetables. However, it was very low key and enjoyable.

But that being said, the time after Thanksgiving until New Years is my favorite time of the year. Our extended family gets together for Thanksmas sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas and that is always a lot of fun. We had Thanksmas last Saturday and I will post about that soon.

I love decorating for Christmas and I love enjoying other peoples decorations. I love buying gifts for people. I just love the whole season. Even the rushed craziness and the traffic don't bother me too much.

I am happy to say that my house has been completely decorated inside and out for the past week or so. The presents are not all bought by any stretch of the imagination but I am making progress on it. I can't believe there are only 23 more days until Christmas... it all passes by too quickly.

I hope you are all enjoying this time of year as much as I am. In amongst all of the craziness, don't forget to take time to slow down, be thankful and enjoy the many blessings you have.