Sunday, December 25, 2005

Random Thoughts 'n' Things

Merry Christmas, and Happy Hannukah. The Nurse's family is Christian, and Christmas is what we do. We had a rather unusual Christmas this year, since The Son sings in the choir at his church in Winchester. We've been out there a lot to worship, and we decided that we needed to be together at Christmas, so we drove out yesterday, had dinner at a fun restaurant, then went to the late evening service. It was beautiful, and I'm so glad we went. We spent the night at the Hampton Inn. I brought along a little pretend tree, a present for each person, and after the service we had Gluwein (heated in the microwave), and cheese and crackers. We watched the end of the Pope's Midnight Mass in Rome, and then a special on historical investigations into the birth of Christ. (The Offspring happened upon the program, and I couldn't convince them that I really was zonked. We finally turned off the tube at 2:30 a.m.) It was great fun.

We came home this morning, and had brunch, watched football, and fixed our "roast beast" and the rest of Christmas dinner. I threw the roast in the oven, and The Daughter did the lion's share of the rest. She's amazing. We opened presents, and enjoyed being together. (Watched a bit of football, and I sewed up a hat for a fellow nurses' newborn.)

It's been a good week for being together. Despite an over-full workweek, I was able to be off on Wednesday. We went to see the matinee of Les Miserables at the National Theatre-- absolutely spectacular-- well staged and performed. Then it took us an hour to get to Kinkead's where we had a wonderful dinner. It was a lovely day with my family, and I will cherish the memory.

And on to Hannukah. When The Daughter was in Sunday School, probably 1st or 2nd grade, she learned about Hannukah during one of our Old Testament studies. So The Daughter wanted to know if we could celebrate it. Well, there's really no theological reason not to, but while honoring the Maccabees, we really needed to put this in context, realizing that we were not going to do presents, and that it was unlikely that we would all be in the same place to light candles for 8 days in a row. The one thing we have continued is having latkes on the first night. Well, this year, the first night is on Christmas. I couldn't deal with Christmas dinner AND latkes, so they're being moved to tomorrow night. I must say that I'm looking forward to it. I don't eat potatoes, but I've discovered that I can make mine with zucchini, and they work out just fine.

So now I face a couple of days at work, and then look with hope and faith toward the New Year.

Monday, December 19, 2005

All Day, We Worked...

But before I get started, let me say that zinc works wonders. I think I still have the cold, because I am totally wiped out and exhausted, but I have remained relatively symptom-free in the nose department. The trick is to start with zinc tablets or lozenges every hour. I found some sugar-free ones, and they basically have no flavor at all. You let them dissolve in your mouth-- don't chew or swallow. They really seem to work as long as you get going as soon as the symptoms start. The Daughter resisted-- and she's going through tissues at a most alarming rate.

The cookie-baking saga is an annual event in my family. My Gramma (the one from Austria) used to make mountains of cookies for us. We always got a bunch at Christmas, but she'd send them to us at summer camp, at college, a couple of times a year after we moved away from home -- I don't know how she did it. All by herself.

As she got pretty advanced in years, she didn't have the strength for all the beating and rolling and generalized stamina it takes to make her masterpieces. So she would come over to my Mom's house, and my sisters would help her. (I was away from home by this time, and missed out on lessons from The Master.) The first of my sisters became the new cookie guru, and gleaned the nuances of the art.

After Gramma died, that sister would sometimes make some cookies, but then we all decided that we really needed to keep the cookies alive. So First Sister and I made a little cookbook for all our family members with the recipes and techniques in it. It's just a little thing-the size of postcards, but we did a rather nice job, if I do say so myself. All the pages are laminated, and it's bound with the plastic comb thingees.

The most labor-intensive is the flaky cookie. It's quite something. It has two types of dough, and they get rolled out, and the dough gets folded up, and then you have to let it rest and then roll it out again a couple of times. (We finally figured out that one of the doughs can be done with the dough hook on the Kitchen Aid mixer. We think that Gramma would approve, in the interest of keeping the cookies going.) There's a special way they need to be cut, and then they are filled with Solo pastry filling and baked. Then they get rolled in sugar-- some in powdered and some in granulated sugar. These things take forever to make, and each batch makes 3 dozen. Do the math: I have 4 brothers and 4 sisters, plus my Mom & Dad, plus our collective spouses and 24-going-on-26 children, the youngest of whom is 7. We ended up making 3 batches, and with all the other types of cookies and brownies, it almost did us in. These are the best cookies on earth, and if we made 10 dozen, they would all get scarfed up. Gramma used to say (with her Austrian accent)--All Day ve verk...

(Alternatively, the almond crescents are quick and easy-- we made 20 dozen of them, and except for the fact that the youngest of my sisters ended up elbow-deep in powdered sugar for much of the day....)

So The Daughter and I arrived in Chicago at 10:30 on Saturday, started baking at my Second Sister's at 11:30, did cookies pretty much all day (although I needed a bit of a nap for about 20 mins) and we got back to my parents' at about 2 am. My Third Sister drove down with her youngest (4th grader) from Minneapolis for the event, and my Second Brother's wife and their daughter (high schooler)flew in from Omaha. We all returned to our respective homes mid-day on Sunday.

We take cookies seriously.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Oh Yes!!! Oh No!!!

The good news is that The Daughter is home from school. My darling, sweet, youngest child who I love as I love my own life is with me for a couple of weeks. And when she's home we have such fun-- shopping, cooking, movies, and we're going to Chicago (actually Naperville) on Saturday to be with my parents and most of my sisters and brothers and a bunch of their kids for the annual Christmas cookie bake.(The Son -my lovable, huggable, clever, wonderful firstborn whom I also love as much as I love my own life will be home just before Christmas.)

The bad news is that she's sick. Her eyes are watering, and she's sneezing and stuffy and has a runny nose. I've loaded her up with vitamin C and zinc, and plenty of fluids. She loves orange juice and hot lemonade.

Having done that.... My eyes have just started watering, and I'm sneezing and my nose is both stuffing up and running. So I'm loading myself up with Vitamin C and zinc, and plenty of fluids. Mine will include hot limeade with Bushmill's.

Tomorrow was supposed to be: Finish cleaning the living room, put stuff in the new kitchen drawers, and purchase and decorate the Christmas tree. Ordinarily a very manageable list.

I may settle for just being able to get out of bed. Gotta get ready to fly to Chicago, y'know.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

And My Top 10 countdown...

Following on the tails of Holly, Kristine and Ann, here is my plunge into the pool. I decided that the exercise of actually thinking about these things would be good for my soul and clarity of mind, so what the heck.

10 Things you might not know about me:
-I'm the eldest of 9 siblings
-I started out in the Nursing program in college, but graduated as a Communication Arts major (Speech/Theatre/Radio)
-None of the institutions of higher learning I attended had a football team, or if they did, it was really sorry.
-I have, through The Daughter, become an insufferable, unapologetic Virginia Tech Hokies football fan.
-The Husband, The Offspring and I spend a week every summer with my parents, my sibs, our spouses and 24-going on 26 (my baby brother is marrying the wonderful Beloved and her 2 lovely daughters are joining the throng) kids.
-Aside from that, My favorite way to spend time is at a Hokies football game with my family.
-My next favorite is at the happy place with my Irregular friends.
-My third favorite is with a huge cup of coffee, a good movie and a fast-moving knitting project. If family is there, it's a plus.
-I am a terrible housekeeper. (See favorite ways to spend time for an explanation).
-My favorite phrase is: "It's better to light a candle than to curse the darkness."

9 Places I've visited
-The Scavi (excavation)under the Vatican in Rome. A necropolis combining pagan and early Christian graves, and the wall containing the remains of St. Peter. The Vatican itself is awesome-- but the Scavi is icing on the cake.
-The Prado museum in Madrid. Velasquez' picture of the little prince on the horse holding a baton is over a door-- I remember wondering if I would ever see it again.
-The Champs-Elysees in Paris. Walking down the street, in search of a glass of wine and hoping they wouldn't mock my French.
-Yeats' grave in Drumcliff, Sligo Ireland. "Cast a cold eye On life, on death,
Horseman, pass by!" Two weeks traveling in the Motherland with my bestest friend from childhood, Kath, and our high school English teacher Tim-- several decades out of said Academy.
-The underwater Jesus statue in Pennecamp State Park off Key Largo. I got seasick on the small boat out to the site, but make the dive and held Jesus' hand.
-The villages of Quebrada Larga and El Ocatal in Honduras. A life-altering experience serving on a medical mission trip with my dear Daughter.
-Tulum in the Yucatan. Climbing up Mayan pyriamids with my parents and children.
-The Normandy Beaches. The 3-year old Son with his arms around one of the Jewish soldier grave markers saying "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star"
-The top of Pikes' Peak. Again with the Offspring, during a 3-week camping trip surrounding one of the aforementioned family summer gatherings (at Estes Park, Ann)

8 Ways to Win My Heart
-Say Thank You.
-Give me a hug.
-Be nice to someone who is easy to forget.
-Be generous with your time, resources, and love.
-Root for the Hokies with me.
-Listen to my concerns, and help me sort out my thoughts.
-Send me a random e-mail.
-Bring me coffee (or if you're really in a good mood, Hokies tickets)

7 Things I want to Do Before I Die
-Take The Offspring to Italy. Several times.
-Get my house really clean-- all over, and keep it that way.
-Live on the beach for a year.
-Live in the mountains for a year.
-Live near the rest of my family for as long as humanly possible.
-Reread all the classics and books I didn't appreciate in high school and college
-See every one of Shakespeare's plays performed onstage.

6 Things I'm afraid of
-Letting people down.
-The Offspring not being happy or fulfilled as adults.
-Financial ruin.
-Dear ones' deaths.
-Being talked about- when it's not a good thing.
-A disability that would severely limit the use of my hands.

5 Things I Don't Like
-Cilantro. Really. At All. Ever. In anything.
-Backstabbing people.
-Slow internet connection days
-Writers' Block bumping up against deadlines.

4 Ways to Turn Me Off
-Being mean.
-Belittling people.

3 Things I Do Every Day
-Drink a bunch of coffee while checking out the blogs
-Do the SuDoKu in the paper
-Knit a bit

2 Things that Make Me Happy
-A winning Hokie game
-Being with The Husband and The Offspring

1 Thing on my mind right now
-I gotta pee.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

It Seems Like Forever...

...Since last I blogged. And much has happened. The Hokies beat UVA and UNC, and so went to the ACC playoffs in Jacksonville. So did we. The whole family. And we got beat. Some bad plays, some bad officiating, and the bottom line was that FSU got more points, got the ACC Championship and will be going to the Orange Bowl (Go Penn State!!!). One of these days our team will remember that we don't get 5 quarters in the important games. We only had 2 losses this season, but they really mattered. FSU, on the other hand, beat us, although their season record isn't one to write home about. It's sort of like flunking half of your high school classes, doing ok on SATs, and getting in to MIT. C'est la vie.

So, the Hokies will go to the Gator Bowl--yep, back to Jacksonville. The sad part for me is that The Daughter will probably not be with us on New Years' Eve.

Enough of that.

We bought a condo in Blacksburg. It's for The Daughter to live in, but we got one with 3 bedrooms so The Husband and I will have a place to stay on Game Weekends. As much as I love Hampton Inns (and you know I really love them), when I looked at the MasterCard bill for October and November-- oh. my. gosh. So it's a good thing.

I'm making some changes at work. I've been doing extra work in addition to the patient care aspect of my job, and the stress and hassle are just too much. So I'm going to focus just on patient care. I can feel the load lifting off my shoulders already. When the cost-benefit analysis shows you that there's very little benefit, and just too much emotional cost, it's time to let go, and although I've never considered myself a quitter, I'm at the point where pushing the rock up the hill is just dumb. I'll let you know how it's going in a few weeks.

And back to knitting....
Klaralund is done!!!! The baby sweater is done!!! The baby hat is done!!! (the first one, at least). My goal was to not start anything new until everything was DONE!!!!, but I had a plane ride to Florida and needed something small, so I started a sock at the Old Dominion Brewery bar in Dulles airport. It's coming along nicely. I hope to finish the Top-Down-Sweater I started a year ago, and Spring Fling before I start anything else. That'll wipe out all the UFOs. (after I finish two lone socks.) (but I don't think that socks should have to count.)

Meanwhile, I have yarn backed up like crazy for new projects. I think the next one will be the Debbie Bliss shruggy sweater. I tried one on at The Shop, and though it was a tad snug on The Nurse, I am confident that I can add a few stitches here and there so it will work for me, too. And so many other things I'd like to do....

So I'll try to post a bit more often. No promises.