Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Red Carpet

James and I both had long weeks at work. His started on Tuesday afternoon around 4:30, when apparently a nearby phone company crew cut our fiber optic cables and shut down our entire system- phones, computers. My dedicated husband, after having already worked a full day, stayed until somewhere around 2:00AM with his night shift folks, working through the crisis, then was back at work again the next morning- well, later the same morning. And with it being the end of the month, I had two somewhat later than usual evenings while I stayed to renew vendor contracts expiring on the 31st. (Sadly I'm the only one who benefits from overtime pay!) So, you would think that we would want to relax and get away from work for the weekend. Not so.

James and I had to get all dolled up to attend an awards banquet for the company sales team. Luckily it was only a 25-minute drive away in a neighboring city. And it only lasted four hours, but it was simply an obligation, not something we were truly looking forward to. It was interesting for me because these are the folks I "work" with- through email and phone. I was able to put a face to a lot of the names. Some of the sales people fit my image of them, many made me say "whoa!" when I saw them. I didn't really go around and introduce myself to them, although we had an hour of mingling at the open bar before the dinner. Since I've only been working there for three months now, I didn't feel like many of them would really be very excited to meet me (there's always next year), James and I just tried to muddle through the evening and I think he would agree we mostly kept to ourselves.

And guess what? Later today we have yet another work "function" to attend to, but this one will be decidedly more fun for us and I'll blog about that as soon as I can. All in all, it was fun to play dress up (except it was 30 degrees and I wore open-toed shoes, what was I thinking??) and I did enjoy wearing my new formal evening attire- including fake nails which I haven't wore since high school! And my husband looked gorgeous and sexy in his suit. As gorgeous as he did the day he wore it when we got married almost four years ago (our anniversary is in a few days). I guess I would suffer through another boring awards ceremony just to see him in it again....

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Follow The Detours

Well anyone who knows us, knows that we are not afraid to travel off the beaten path just for the heck of it. This past weekend we had a few days of self-imposed detours on our road trip to Knoxville. Friday night we left work to head towards Tennessee, to finally- belatedly- celebrate my mother-in-law's birthday. Whenever we head north on a Friday after work, it's always a traffic jam on the interstates of Atlanta. This trip, while cruising along, my husband's quick eye saw all the lanes ahead of us at a dead stop. Just in time for him to zip off the nearest exit and wind our way through Marietta until we could find a clear patch to get back on I-75. Above is local legend, "The Big Chicken", where I was hanging out the truck window in order to get this photo. His eyes and beak move, and he's pretty cool.

We spent the night in Chattanooga, a good "halfway" point for us because it would be late into the night if we drove all the way into Knoxville. Saturday morning we stayed off the interstate and headed to a little town (above), Dayton, in order to get a few coveted pennies for our collection, at their general store. Which was closed "for the birth of a child" (said the sign on the door), but we stuck around and did a little shopping in the antique stores along the main street. We found a shop selling art by local artists, including one lady who has painted every state capitol and was currently set up in the store painting a huge watercolor of the White House. James was even able to find a large, gorgeous framed photo of the UT Vols' football locker room- a very unique piece.

Then we drove along winding country roads to get to Fall Creek Falls State Park, because of course they have a penny machine as well. Once again, our devotion to collecting elongated pennies took us to an exciting destination we otherwise never would have found. We didn't have much time to spend in the park, which is 20,000 acres and includes campgrounds, waterfalls, stores, a golf course, an inn, the lake, hiking trails, and a restaurant- where we did slow down long enough to enjoy the country buffet for lunch. And, below, you can see they also have cabins on the lake. Or should I say "in" the lake, as the cabins are built right out over the water. We were so enticed by these, we decided to make reservations for our upcoming anniversary to spend a long weekend in one of them. (Photos from their website.)

Although our travels often take us out of our normal comfort zone, there are some things in life that never change no matter where you are. For example, here is a photo of James before we left, trying to work at his desk in the home office, around a lapful of Romeo and Hairy begging for his attention.

And here is James over the weekend at his parents' house, with pups Joppa and Missy clambering all over him for a little affection. The dogs are actually smaller than our cats, but they are decidedly way more excited to see us whenever we visit.....

Thursday, January 21, 2010

For Pet Lovers Only

This is one I've seen before, but it was emailed to me again so I thought I would share it. I'm sure some of you have read it already, but it's worth repeating!

The following was posted very low on a refrigerator door:

Dear Dogs and Cats: The dishes with the paw prints are yours and contain your food. The other dishes are mine and contain my food. Placing a paw print in the middle of my plate and food does not stake a claim for it becoming your food and dish, nor do I find that aesthetically pleasing in the slightest.

The stairway was not designed by NASCAR and is not a racetrack. Racing me to the bottom is not the object. Tripping me doesn't help because I fall faster than you can run.

I cannot buy anything bigger than a king sized bed. I am very sorry about this. Do not think I will continue sleeping on the couch to ensure your comfort, however. Dogs and cats can actually curl up in a ball when they sleep. It is not necessary to sleep perpendicular to each other, stretched out to the fullest extent possible. I also know that sticking tails straight out and having tongues hanging out on the other end to maximize space is nothing but sarcasm.

For the last time, there is no secret exit from the bathroom! If, by some miracle, I beat you there and manage to get the door shut, it is not necessary to claw, whine, meow, try to turn the knob or get your paw under the edge in an attempt to open the door. I must exit through the same door I entered. Also, I have been using the bathroom for years - canine/feline attendance is not required.

The proper order for kissing is: Kiss me first, then go smell the other dog or cat's butt. I cannot stress this enough.
Finally, in fairness, dear pets, I have posted the following message on the front door:

(1) They live here. You don't.
(2) If you don't want their hair on your clothes, stay off the furniture. That's why they call it 'fur'-niture.
(3) I like my pets a lot better than I like most people.
(4) To you, they are animals. To me, they are adopted sons/daughters who are short, hairy, walk on all fours and don't speak clearly.

Remember, dogs and cats are better than kids because they:
(1) eat less,
(2) don't ask for money all the time,
(3) are easier to train,
(4) normally come when called,
(5) never ask to drive the car,
(6) don't smoke or drink,
(7) don't want to wear your clothes,
(8) don't have to buy the latest fashions,
(9) don't need a gazillion dollars for college and ...
if they get pregnant, you can sell their children.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Football Version of New Years

Well here I am once again super duper behind on the blog. I'm finishing off the last of the New Years photos. Just football on this post, for anyone OTHER than my Dad who might be interested in it. I had so many many photos I took at the games- some didn't come out so great- so I've just picked a few of the highlights.

We started the holiday in a familiar place- the Georgia Dome in Atlanta where we go see the Falcons play. On New Year's Eve night (my bday), we went to the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, where James' University of Tennessee Volunteers were playing Virginia Tech. In fact our seats were very near our regular season ticket seats, so we had a great view.

The first half of the game was pretty close, and so it was exciting. I don't have any good photos of the actual game, because once the game starts I pretty much just watch football, jump up and down, and scream a lot. Difficult to take aim with the camera. But here's the team before the game. Little did we know this would be Lame, I mean Lane Kiffin's last game in an orange shirt.

And what is a UT game without hearing the band play Rocky Top! I admit it, I sing along and go "Whoo!" in all the right places, I can't help myself. Unfortunately the second half of the game wasn't so kind to the Vols, and they didn't win. We stayed to watch the entire game though, we're not "fair weather" fans. We rode the train into the city, and by the time we finally got back home, it was super late. And we had to get up SUPER early the next morning, January 1st, 2010. Luckily we had packed the night before.

As you know we spent the New Year weekend in New Orleans. That's because on New Year's Day we had yet another football game to go to, at the Superdome. Yes, we did two bowl games in two nights in two different states. Not many folks can say that.

My Florida Gators were playing in the Sugar Bowl this year. A let down after winning the National Championship last year, but hey, it was still a BCS bowl and those are of course reserved for an elite group of teams.

It was freezing cold that evening, but when we walked over from our hotel to the game, the doors weren't opened yet. We hung out with the rest of the growing crowd at the "Fan Jam" they had- live music, food, games. James tried his hand at being an armchair quarterback, where he won a prize.

We also got to meet former Gator star Chris Doering, who signed an autographed photo to my Dad (I'll get it to you soon Dad!). Chris played many years in the NFL, and now hosts a radio show on ESPN.

Yes folks, I even had on Gator socks! (I don't own Gator underwear but if I did, I would have worn those as well!)

It was our first time to go to the Superdome, and James walked around the entire place before finally settling in. The Superdome is definitely bigger than the Georgia Dome. I know it suffered a lot of damage during Katrina, but it looked shiny and sparkling clean when we were there.

Although James stayed loyal to his UT Vols by wearing their shirt, he did wear a Gator hat so he could try and blend in with the crowd a little better... I told him this was a great black mail photo, but he said we're married so I'm not allowed to black mail him!

We had amazing seats, on the 50 yard line right down front, thanks to a dear family friend of my parents. Here Tim Tebow is so close during warmups, I could reach out and pinch him! We could see the game perfectly, I don't think I looked up at the monitor once during the actual game, we got all the action right before our eyes!

Best of all, here is the final score. The Cincinnati Bearcats were overwhelmed by the Gators. Their fans were excited in the beginning, shouting out loud in unison. But pretty soon the chants of "SEC! SEC!" quited them down. Soon the entire Gator Nation was hollering "Tebow! Tebow!" and "Urban! Urban!" The Cincinnati fans stayed for the whole game, but they were fairly silent for the second half.

And the final result is.....this! I wish it read National Champs, but my sister's Crimson Tide got that honor this year, and she and her husband were lucky enough to go to California for a few days to see their bowl game. Oh well, the one thing about football is, there will always be a next season to look forward to!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Dad- For You!

Dad- I tried to email this to you, but the file was too big, and I gave up trying after a few failed attempts. Not that other people won't want to see this, but it is especially for you. You may have to turn up the volume a bit...

A Log Blog

I thought I had already blogged about our fireplace, but I guess I haven't. Our house was brand new when we bought it, and as you can see below, logs in the gas fireplace were apparently not a standard option! If you can tell from the photo, our fireplace is double-sided, and open to two rooms- the living room on this side, and the sun room on the other.

So of course we just couldn't run down to Lowe's and pick up a box of logs off the shelf. We had to have everything measured and custom made. We ended up going to a fireplace dealer way over in Stockbridge, who ordered the logs and then sent someone to install them. They actually don't look too bad.

In the evening, with the lights low, it actually looks like a real wood fire, with glowing embers underneath. And oddly enough, they actually make a popping and crackling sound that is realistic too. Because it's open on both sides, it doesn't give off a tremendous amount of heat, but it still gives me that warm and cozy feeling a fireplace is supposed to.

I do miss the smell of burning wood though, although my asthma doesn't miss the smoke. In my parents home, and in my very first home in Rock Hill, we had wood-burning fireplaces. James always had a wood fireplace as well in his homes (Hairy below, in his old apartment when we were dating). It's just hard to keep up with a woodpile, splitting it, bringing it inside on a cold morning.

When we bought our last house in Rock Hill, it had two fireplaces. One gas, one wood. I have to admit that, even though we had a big stack of wood ready to go outside, I think we only used the wood fireplace twice. We quickly found we enjoyed the convenience of pushing a button for the gas fireplace instead. As you can see below, the cats didn't seem to mind it wasn't a "real" fire.

Now that the new logs are in at the new house, it didn't take long for the cats to rediscover the joys of sleeping by the hearth. And with it being double-sided, there's more fire for the cats to enjoy. Last night three were sleeping on one side in the living room, while the other two were huddled next to it in the sun room. Here's Romeo just last night, relaxing. And I think from this photo, you can't tell those are fake logs at all. And I don't think the cats seem to mind one bit!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Keep Her In Your Thoughts

Please keep my very lovely, sweet, kind, beautiful sister-in-law Cindy Williams in your thoughts right now. She is in the hospital with a very very serious case of pneumonia. Cindy is James' younger sister, and mom to two great kids, and we are all pulling for her speedy recovery!

Staying In

While it was 13 outside this morning when I ran out for an errand, this was the temperature in the basement this afternoon. During the week James made a few trips to Home Depot to buy insulation for the basement (below). We need a lot, obviously.

While the snow and ice outside decided to not melt today (our high was maybe 29), James stayed busy down in the basement most of the day putting up the scratchy pink stuff. The basement walls were built with 2 x 6's, so the insulation we're using is thicker than normal, but we hope that it will keep some of the cold and especially the dampness out until we finish it one day.

James bundled up in warm clothing and plugged in a few space heaters. I was down there briefly, trying to clean up one of the junk boxes, but it was too cold for me, even though I was in sweats and a fleece jacket. We were supposed to go to Knoxville this weekend, to celebrate Mrs. Truan's birthday tomorrow, but they had weather worse than ours. It was colder and very icy, so we've postponed the trip. It's the second time in the last few weeks that the winter weather has forced us to cancel a Tennessee visit with the family.

The cats were busy with various activities today. Some of them stayed down in the basement with dad, and General even helped out with the clean up. At least, this is his version of helping out.

Once Maarten found a nice warm place in the sun room, he decided to stay there for the afternoon and take a big kitty nap. Dad's fuzzy orange UT pillows must have been comfortable.

Once the sun warmed up in the late day, the cats were restless to go out on the back deck. I let them out there, thinking I would teach them a lesson about the arctic cold, and expected them to all run back inside. But they showed mom, and enjoyed the fresh air for awhile, avoiding the little patch of snow still melting.

(All five cats are in this photo- can you spot them?)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Winter Wonderland

Whoo-hoo! Here was our big snow in Atlanta! You folks up north don't hurt yourself laughing too hard.....

Thursday, January 7, 2010

New Year 2010, The Non-Football Version

Well tonight is a good night for me to get caught up on the blog. I have a load of laundry in the washer, a load in the dryer, a pan of turkey meatballs in the oven, and the husband won't be home until super late tonight due to a work function. It's snowing quite steadily outside, and the BIG football game is not on for about an hour yet. So here I am finally. I have so many photos to share about our New Year's trip, I am going to do it in two posts. This one is void of any sports related photos, while the second post will be all football.

James and I were fortunate enough to spend the start of the new year in New Orleans. We took the long way around into the city, so we could drive across Lake Pontchartrain over the Causeway, one of the longest bridges in the world at almost 24 miles over open water. As you can see from the sun shining down on the water, it was a gorgeous day out. Even the haze can't spoil the view of the looming city in the distance.

We got a hotel right on Canal Street (two photos below from website- we were in the taller tower), and once we handed the keys over to the valet on Friday afternoon, we never saw the car again until we left on Sunday. We walked everywhere that weekend, including all the way over to the Superdome (see my next post for those details). The hotel was bustling with people in town for the big game, they even had a security guard working the seven elevators just for our tower, directing the flow of people on and off. Of course, we later found out that the opposing team was staying at that same hotel, so we were a very small spot of orange and blue amid a vast sea of red and black.

But we had a nice view out our window of the sights down Canal Street (top photo) and even of the French Quarter, or Vieux Carre for those of you who speak French (second photo). I don't have as many photos of the city as I should, I was not a great photographer this weekend. It was cold and blustery, and I kept my head down and my hands in my coat pocket for the most part.

There are certainly plenty of things to do and see in New Orleans, although we had a very short visit- this time (can't wait to go back). I felt as though we barely scratched the surface. Although I've been to New Orleans more than once, it has been many years since my last trip there. If someone had been living under a rock and never heard of Hurricane Katrina, you could never tell by looking around the city. At least in the downtown area, I saw no signs of the devastation, although I'm sure the locals can point everything out. I was glad to see the city full to the brim with tourists shelling out lots of money. I think most of our money was spent eating!!! You can't go to New Orleans without indulging in seafood! And there were gators (and Gators) everywhere you looked that weekend!

The city was still decorated for the holidays, and as freezing cold as it was, it definitely looked and felt like winter. No, it's not warm in the south these days, as I'm sure anyone watching the news already knows (I did mention that it's SNOWING right now here south of Atlanta). I know Mardi Gras is next month, so I'm sure these Christmas lights and all the greenery will be coming down very very soon for more festive decor.

Although football-related activities took up all of Friday, and we left on Sunday morning, we had all of Saturday to play tourist and walk around the city. Which we did, all day long, miles and miles of it. Boy, my feet were screaming mad at me that evening! But as we do no matter where we go, we made sure we mapped out all the penny machines in the city. There are so many of them, we only had time to make it to half of the locations, but we still picked up 40 pennies for the collection.

And try as we might, we never ever seem to go on vacation and completely get away from work....

But we did manage to relax a little bit. No, James doesn't carry a purse...

New Orleans is a beautiful city. It's beauty is everywhere you look, whether it's staring up along the balconies on Decatur Street...

...Or even gazing down at the sidewalk as you shuffle along on Bourbon Street. Although I imagine most people dragging along Bourbon Street may not have clear enough vision to notice these, although they are all over the city (some stores even sell replicas of them).

There is even fresh life in this old city, at one of their newer attractions- the Audubon Insectarium, where we made a new friend.

And of course saw one of our oldest and dearest friends.

And you can't talk about New Orleans without talking about the Mighty Mississippi as well. The heart and lifeblood of this country. Without it I don't think America would have become what it is today.

Of course everyone loves the food and music (and drinks) in New Orleans, but it is awash with art as well. We never made it to any of the galleries, but I plan to visit a few on our next trip. I had to settle for this Wyland Wall, "The Blues Whales". I should keep track of how many of these I've seen over my lifetime, it's quite a few.

Eventually we had to come back home, carrying a little bit of New Orleans with us. Strong chicory coffee, glassware, gifts for family, and even one piece of art. I couldn't pass it up, it looks just like General. This is "Cat du Monde", sitting at the famous cafe in New Orleans, from a series called Creole Cat by this artist.

Although I'm not sure if General truly appreciates this framed portrait of his long-lost cousin. When we came home that Sunday, we unpacked our clothes right away and General showed his disapproval at our being gone by jumping in the pile and peeing all over James' jacket and a few other items. Trust me, General, if I could take all five of you cats with us every time we traveled, I would!!! (Your daddy wouldn't, though.)

I will finish up with a second post about the weekend, but it will be all football, and it is mostly for my dad.....!