Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Decorating Begins

I was happy to do Connie's dining room again this year. I was staying with her "grands" last Tuesday, so we all worked together.

 Grace and Charlie scattered the jingle bells and tiny packages.

 This year, I cut some magnolia leaves from Connie's tree. Adding greenery just softens the look.

 Connie hosted book club on Monday night. I wish I had taken an updated picture. She found the cutest battery operated lights that she wove throughout the arrangement and on her mantle. They were the perfect touch to complete the look.
Sara, my garden girl, put together my winter pots. She used stuff from around the yard and brings this branches. There are dried hydrangea from my bushes, magnolia leaves, fir branches and berries from my foster hollies for the red.
I have one on either side of the front door. They stay looking this good all winter long! Sure beats bare pots!

I'm done inside the house. I didn't do as much this year. I'm already dreading the task of emptying out the kitchen (and I have a lot of cabinets and a huge pantry). I'm not sure where I'm going to go with it all. I've already started piling up boxes in the library. The kitchen remodel begins January 2nd!

I do have my presents bought and wrapped. Now we just have to get the real tree and decorate it. I guess it will be this weekend.

How is your decorating going? Share some pictures and I'll feature you on my blog!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Our Holiday Part 2

So, on Saturday, Sandy and family left early. In hindsight, she's very glad she didn't take me up on my offer to include her and the girls in our plans.

A few months ago, I came across what I thought would be a fun activity. It was a train trip on the Polar Express---from Nashville to Watertown, TN. We arrived at 8:30 and boarded. We had no idea what to expect. I thought the train would be festively decorated. Stephanie thought they would be playing the movie. We all thought we'd have some good food and beverages. We were all wrong!

What we found were two rinky dink, small stickers on each window. There was no movie. Refreshments had to be obtained from the dining car---which you couldn't reach until Santa, his elves and the carolers came through---not only our car, but the cars in front of the dining car. Santa came through first with his elves. He stopped for pictures, but was finished within 5 minutes. The carolers followed. As they started, I thought, "oh my gosh---they are so terrible!" Then they stopped, apologized and started over. They were better then, but still not great. They sang exactly one song near us and moved along.

The girls made their way to the dining car and got us each a cup of hot chocolate and a cinnamon roll. They were pre-packaged---not great, but okay. At least it was all cheap. We were looking forward to arriving in Watertown and browsing the shops and having lunch.

Well, the train broke down in Lebanon. If I knew where we were, I would have gotten off the train. Instead, we called Butch to rescue us! He left right then. By the time we got to Watertown, we only had to wait about 15 minutes and he was there. It was about an hour for him.

We were all happy to be leaving this lame activity and salvage the rest of our precious afternoon. We stopped at Red Lobster in Mt. Juliet---about 40 minutes from Nashville. After lunch, when Butch dropped us at my car, Jordan realized she had left her purse at the restaurant. We had to go back. So much for salvaging the afternoon! By the time we got home, we really only saved ourselves about a half hour!

Still, we had fun together. It's not often we get Morgan and Jordan to ourselves without the boyfriends! And even though it was a bust---Stephanie thanked me for always trying to find fun things to do!

Actually, I felt sorry for all of those families with little kids---it was just no fun at all!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Our Family Holiday

We started out on Wednesday with the day downtown. Sandy has always wanted to spend some time in the honky tonks listening to country music. She and family arrived Tuesday night. Stephanie and Mindy had to work on Wednesday, so we decided that would be a good day to do it. Butch, me, Sandy, Greg, Mitchell, Victoria, Jordan and Morgan started out at Honkey Tonk Central. I've been there before, but never realized there are 3 levels---each with a different band! Stephanie joined us around lunch time.
 I do love the old buildings along Broadway.

We moved to the the third floor of Honky Central. After spending a few hours there, Butch and the young adults decided to head home. Sandy, Greg, Stephanie and I went across the street to world-famous "Tootsies." They also have 3 levels---I had no idea. The first level was full--it's a  pretty small place. We had front row seats on level 2 and enjoyed some great music.

We left downtown around 4 or 4:30. All day, I had thoughts of the work that needed to be done for Thanksgiving dinner. When we got home, Mindy and Justin had already arrived. Justin peeled 10 lbs. of potatoes, Morgan peeled the 4 lbs. of carrots (which Mindy deemed "not enough"---so Stephanie and Nicky had to buy more) and Butch started on the sloppy joes for dinner. He texted me (which I didn't get until I got home) about where the "Manwich" was. In 46 years, I've probably used that 3 or 4 times. I always make my mom's recipe! Anyway, Mindy and Butch finished them up.

We had happy hour to kick off the evening. Our happy hours are very organized. I hate it when you are in a room full of people and there are many conversations going on. We have everyone sit in a circle. Then we go around the room and each person tells about their week. We always have lively discussions on current events, sports and personal stories. I told everyone they were on their own for dinner---they just needed to help themselves when they were ready. Sandy handled the baking of the sweet potato fries. Everyone pitches in, so the work is not too much on any one person.

We spent the evening with the first of many games.
I bought this pack of Mystery Oreos and challenged everyone to figure out what the flavor was. Greg was adamant that the filling was Fruity Pebbles. Someone else said Fruit Loops---which I agreed with, but also thought it could be Trix. Mindy had the idea to see which of those cereals was owned by Nabisco. Trix won! Now we just have to wait and see when they publish the flavor. Side note---they were terrible. No one liked them. In fact, Justin tried everything to get the taste out of his mouth! (I ended up throwing them away)!

The plan was that we'd start Thanksgiving Day by 9 a.m. with parades and Nicky's famous bloody Mary's. I got up early, put the turkey in the oven and made the last few casseroles. I had a game of "rob your neighbor" planned. I added a couple of twists to make it more interesting. I was so happy that there was fighting over this prize:
Carter (and Morgan) ended up getting it. Apparently, Carter thinks my needlework is amazing! That's pretty flattering coming from a guy!

Our dinner consisted of: Turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy (that turned out gross---I tried to use kitchen bouquet like some tv chef to make it a little darker. I had no idea it would change the flavor--disgusting!), homemade cranberry sauce (Sandy's recipe), green bean casserole, corn pudding, carrot casserole, oyster casserole, rolls, pumpkin pie and chocolate bundt cake. Everything was delicious. There wasn't much left---17 people eat a lot! We were thrilled to have friends, Bonnie and Dave join us this year.
I had to set the table in the sunroom---the first time we didn't all cram around the dining room table. I promised the young adults that I would make it festive for them. The only thing missing---Bonnie brought the cutest table favors. She made festive chocolate covered pretzels and added a couple small bottles of different liquors.
She checked with me to make sure that they were age appropriate! She also brought this gorgeous floral arrangement. I love the fall colors.

Mindy, Justin, Bonnie and Dave left after dinner for a long weekend at the beach. The rest of us did a quick clean-up and had the traditional naps and football. More games and more games.

I'll post about the rest of the weekend tomorrow.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Things I Never Knew

I never knew that the world needed another burrito.

I never knew this thing on the front of a train was called a "cow catcher." And yes, I raised my hand during my needlework class and asked, "What's a cow catcher?" when the teacher was referring to the front of the train on the canvas!

I never knew that Lyft would be anywhere I needed it! When I was in Baltimore and went to visit the Edgar Allen Poe house, it turned out to be in a really bad part of town. When I was finished, I thought I'd have a hard time getting a Lyft. Turns out, I only had to wait 2 minutes! YES---2 minutes! When I got in the car, I asked the guy how it was that he was so close. He said that they can see where most of the Lyft drivers are, so he picked another place where there weren't many. Wow! That makes me happy!
I never knew a tv show could make me cry EVERY. SINGLE. EPISODE! I shouldn't be so surprised---after all, I cried on every episode of Lassie as a kid---my siblings never let me live that down. And recently, I just about sobbed all the way through the movie, Wonder---my stomach hurt and I had a headache from trying to hold it all in.

I never knew there was an elevator system like this. We didn't have to wait for an elevator even once! Apparently, it's all computerized and determines the best way to pick up and let people off. Sounds like math to me. And I never knew much about that except the basics!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Indulge me while I Brag!

I got this email last week. 
Welcome to the A-List 
Congratulations on reaching A-List status! We love that you fly with us, and it's about to get even better with all the perks you'll soon experience.
Priority boarding
Free same-day standby*
Fly By® priority check-in
& security lane access**
Earning bonus25%
Dedicated phone line

I asked Butch what it meant. Right away, he said---"what? How the heck did you get A-List?" That was my first clue that it was something good! He kept saying things like, "there's no way! How did I not get it?" Well, he didn't! The man who has traveled for a living and is gold, platinum, member of the million mile club all across the airline industry---didn't get Southwest Airlines A-List!

Needless to say, I've been rubbing it in ever since. He's even considered going somewhere to attain A-List when I got this in the mail:

I got my very own membership card! And then, as if not having to pay for "early bird" isn't enough--I got these:
More drink coupons! That should make Butch happy, because I always give them to him! So really, he's going to benefit for once from his wife's A-List status. It's not often that I get to be the "big-wig" in the family! I'll be milking it for all it's worth! 

Best of all---I'll save about $360 in those early bird fees. Ya' gotta love that!

Hmmm, I think I'm going to go somewhere.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Another Scavenger Hunt

After doing the downtown Urban Adventure Quest scavenger hunt with the family in October, I knew I wanted to do it with my friends.

We went yesterday. The temperature was supposed to be in the 70's and overcast---perfect! Instead, it was 37 when I left the house. It was around 40 when we got downtown---a little nippy, but since it was sunny, that made a big difference. Never once did I notice the chill once we started.

Here's how it works. First, you have to select your city---they have these all over the country. Then you have to choose a team name. I couldn't really think of anything clever, so I picked "friends forever." That name was taken. Then I picked "just us"---also taken. Finally, I went with "AYMers" feeling pretty certain that would be available. It was. Stephanie had given me a link to a discount code. The scavenger hunt is $50---we got a $10 discount.

We started outside of the Country Music Hall of Fame.
From there, you travel around the city to 17 different locations. According to Nancy's fitbit, we walked 3.5 miles. We took our time and stopped for a drink and live music at Honky Tonk Central.
 This is just one of the dozens of honky tonks around town---most with live music all day and night.
 We probably stayed about a half hour. There was a group of girls celebrating a birthday. They were having a good time for sure!
On another stop, we posed with Bill Monroe. We continued on to Capitol Hill. Nashville has these bronze statues everywhere.

We stopped for lunch at Puckett's Grocery. We picked the perfect time to go downtown. It wasn't all that crowded since we're a little outside the tourist season. There were some. I met a family sporting Mizzou jerseys. They are in town for the Missouri/Vanderibilt game on Saturday. I was glad to see them exploring the city. In fact, we really enjoyed exploring our own city. We walked places I'd never seen before. Nashville really is a pretty place. There is construction going on just about everywhere, but that just helps to keep everything looking nice and fresh. I've had out-of-towners mention before about the cleanliness of Nashville---and that's the truth. It really a nice place. And you don't have to be afraid.

Anyway, it was so  much fun. I'd do it again and again. Since I had done it once, I was the navigator. You do everything on your phone. Really, with a couple exceptions, I didn't remember the answers anyway. Our final score was 495 points out of a possible 555. We had one glitch that cost us 20 points. We kept entering the correct answer only for the app to tell us we were wrong. When it told us the correct answer, that's the one we had chosen! Then there was another time that I didn't realize that I asked for a hint. That cost us too.

Everyone loved it. It was so nice to do something fun right before all the hustle, bustle and WORK of the holidays! In  fact, I got up at 4 a.m. to get everything ready for Stephanie's birthday dinner last night. I had already cooked the chicken and made the cupcakes the night before. But, I knew that I wouldn't fully enjoy myself on the scavenger hunt if I knew I had so much to do when I got home. Cooking for 9 people is double cooking---with all these boys, one recipe doesn't cover it!

We played games after dinner and then moved on to poker in the rec room. I was so tired (me without a nap cannot last too long). I called it quits at 9:30. Clean up was pretty quick. Butch wanted me to leave it. Uh, NO! After 46 years, he should know better than that. There's absolutely no way do I want to wake up to a mess!

While cooking the night before, I tried out the red velvet martini that I was hoping to duplicate from our D.C. trip. The first one was a total fail. It tasted disgusting. I played around with it and came up with this. It was delicious!

I have another one up my sleeve for Thanksgiving!

PS One last thing. When we were in DC, I started referring to the family by generations to differentiate since just about everyone is adults now. The "youngin's" take offense to being called "kids!" Turns out, no one likes "the 3rd generation" either. In fact, when I sent out the itinerary for Thanksgiving, Justin told Mindy, "I'm kind of confused about this generation thing. Which one am I."

So much for new ideas!!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Mean Girls!

I am not referring to anyone I know! I'm referring to the world premier before it hits Broadway---of Tina Fey's Mean Girls. That was our whole purpose for going to Washington, D.C. this past weekend.

We arrived on Friday afternoon. We checked in to the hotel--J.W. Marriott---which was the perfect location for everything we planned to do. We were 2 blocks from the white house and you could get to the theater through our hotel!

No sooner did we enter our room than we were greeted with this!
 We had a quick, nothing to write home about, lunch. Afterwards, we went to the National Cathedral. Even though it was 43 degrees, it was freezing! It was windy. I think the windchill made it 5 below!
 We didn't spend much time outside--just looked at the garden and took a few quick pictures.

 When we got back, there was time for a quick cocktail before dinner.
Dinner at the Occidental was delicious---and nice ambiance. Plus, it had my minimum requirement for a nice restaurant---a tablecloth!

The next day, we were scheduled for a Segway tour. When we woke up, it was 25 degrees! Given our experience the day before at 42 degrees, we decided there was no way we could do it. I hated that because, that's the most fun way to tour a city. Plus, you get to see all of the monuments without having to spend a lot of time walking to each. Anyway, I checked my confirmation sheet and they don't give any refunds for ANY reason---weather, missed train, late plane, sickness---they listed just about everything you can think of. Steph said later that maybe if we'd called their bluff, they might not want to go out when it's that cold either. But I figure they would take you out until you decide you couldn't handle it. Either way you lose.

Instead, we decided to do some Christmas shopping. The mall was awesome---4 levels. I found several things for gifts.
We had lunch reservations at the Sugar Factory. Oh! My! Gosh! This place was incredible.
 Those chandeliers! The floor tile!
 This was the candy store side of the restaurant.
 The drinks!

 We have no idea what these drinks cost. Sandy got the Reese's martini---yes, it's rimmed in peanut butter! I got the red velvet martini---rimmed in cream cheese frosting! It was the BEST drink I've EVER had! I saved some of it for dessert. Stephanie got the lollipop---it came with two of those twisted suckers and a candy necklace. Mindy got the energy bear---loaded with gummy bears. She's still a sucker for gummy bears.

We waited over and hour and a half for lunch. It didn't really seem that long since we were talking, but the waiter kept coming over and apologizing that they were out of something we ordered. Turns out, they were out of 3 things. The manager came over after the second time and apologized. He explained that their food delivery had not arrived. I told him we'd feel a whole lot better if we could get one of those glasses (the waiter had told us they were not for sale)! He readily agreed and brought us one on the down low. When the waiter had to apologize once again, he told us that the manager was comping our whole meal! The food was just okay---pretty regular food---not bad, but not fabulous. But the drinks made up for it! They don't post the prices of the drinks on the menu. Now we'll never know what they cost. We would definitely go back. The manager told us that the company is looking at Nashville for a new location. I hope so!
When we saw the Garrett popcorn shop in the mall, we had to get some! Sure beats standing in line on the street in Chicago!
 Our hotel was just a couple blocks from the White House. We got back to the hotel from shopping around 4 p.m.
 The girls decided to go out browsing around.
 I stayed behind because I wanted a little nap and I've been to D.C. several times.
 This was the reason for the trip. Now we can say we've been to a premier!

Mindy and Stephanie always like to see what they are naming the special show cocktails. The show was soooo good! We'll definitely go again if/when it comes to Nashville. I wasn't happy with our seats, but the girls thought they were just fine. I'm spoiled. I like close seats. We were on row "T." I learned years ago, if I can't get Orchestra level tickets, I don't want them. Now I think I'm going to have to revise that. If I can't get within row "L" or closer--count me out! Another problem is that the rows were not graduated enough. I had a big head in front of me. Mindy traded, but then I noticed that she, too, had to lean to the side to see well. Anyway, I'm so glad the show was so good. 
We ended our whirlwind weekend with brunch at Cafe du Parc. Very nice and the food was delish. I've never met a crab benedict that I didn't like!

What I love most about our girls trips is watching the girls laugh so much. We just don't get to be together often enough! Oh, and I love that my girls LOVE to get dressed up!

Okay, now it's on to the holidays. I'll do the first round of the grocery shopping today. We kick off with Stephanie's birthday dinner on Friday night. Saturday and Sunday, it's Christmas decorating time and the start of the cooking.

I'm tired already!