Friday, December 31, 2010

Hip, Hop, Happy New Year!

I hope it's wonderful & you all have someone to smooch at midnight. 

We are enjoying having some company. See you in 2011!

Joanna & family

Monday, December 27, 2010

Obligatory Christmas Post

Hi! How was your holiday weekend?

Mine was good. Much, much better than Thanksgiving.

Friday night we went to church and I was decked out in my new outfit from my in-laws. Sorry, no picture. We rushed home after the service because we were all hungry as we hadn't eaten dinner yet. Plus my cinnamon rolls were rising and needed to be baked before I went to bed.

The service was simply okay. I expect a few things out of a Christmas service; a candle light ceremony, communion and some traditional hymns/carols sung with clear strong voices. The service we went to had none of those things. To make matters worse, we got there right on time, at 6, and when we got to the door the greeters asked us how many were in our party. Three, we said and they told us it was alright for us to go in, but they had very few seats left and they had been turning larger groups away. What the what? Turning people away on Christmas eve?! Seriously? There was no room in the inn, but they at least found a place for Mary to deliver her baby. We won't be returning to that particular church.

Anyway, Saturday, Andy and Drew both had to work, but Drew only worked half a day, so he was here in the morning and Andy got to come home for a long lunch. That was nice. I wasn't all alone from sun up to sun down. And when they were gone I was a cooking fool while I alternated between listening to carols and watching Christmas movies.

On the menu: duck, raspberry relish, dinner rolls, dressing, prosciutto wrapped green bean bundles, acorn squash, hash-brown casserole and cherry pie for dessert.


It was a delightful dinner. This was my first time making duck and it was so, so good. However, if you have a large crowd it would be prudent to cook two or three ducks. They don't have a lot of meat.

How was your Christmas day? 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

On the first day of Christmas

There is something I need to clear up. Christmas DID NOT end yesterday.

The religious studies major in me can't keep quiet any longer. For the last twelve days I've seen a great many "countdowns" to Christmas. I've tried to hold my tongue because I don't want to be "that guy" that spoils everyone's fun. But someone please answer me this: if the twelve days of Christmas is the twelve days leading up to December 25th, then what is the point of the Advent, which takes place in the first twenty five days of December? Why have two countdowns that overlap each other?

Don't know? I'll answer for you. The twelve days of Christmas are the twelve days AFTER December 25th. They are celebrated as the days between Jesus' birth and they day the three kings (or wise men) arrived to bestow their gifts on the wee babe. That day is called Epiphany and is celebrated on January 6th.

It's true! I promise! Read all about it here.

Whew, I feel better now that I've got that off my chest.

My decorations will be staying up until January 7th.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry & Happy

I'm in much better spirit's for Christmas than I was for Thanksgiving. I still miss my family and friends back in NC, but next week we have visitors coming, so that takes the sting off a bit, and I also have lot's of things to do in the kitchen. Being down in the dumps gets in the way of my holiday baking and cooking mojo.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday weekend, complete with wishes granted, holiday miracles and goodwill spread far and wide.



Love and blessings,

The Steele's

Monday, December 20, 2010

Dreams really do come true

I was going to write today about all the snow we've been getting, and how much I'm loving it. I was also going to make fun of my mother because I talked to her a few days ago about the uncharacteristic, extreme weather the whole state of North Carolina was slammed with last week and she said to me, "I'm just ready for it to be spring already.", and I laughed at her because winter doesn't even officially start until tomorrow. 

I was going to write about all those things until I had a phone conversations with Julie this morning.


First she told me that she was in the wine section at the grocery store today and for whatever reason she suddenly realized how much she missed me and broke down into tears. Then a woman approached her and asked if she was ok and if she needed to get help for her problem with alcohol. I'm sorry she's sad and I miss her too, but hahahahahahahaha. You can't make that kind of stuff up, and if you knew Julie, you'd know that something like that could only happen to her.

But, again, that isn't the point of this post. The point is that a little later in our conversation I was telling her about how I had taken a nice long walk on main street yesterday in the snow and really enjoying myself until the wind changed and the flakes started smacking me in the face. So, I crossed the street and changed directions to come back home and along the way I passed the town square. It isn't really a town square, it's the Frisco historical park that serves as the town square. It has a gazebo in the center of it with a gigantic Christmas tree and a full on, red sleigh in the center for Santa to sit in when he visits town. There is also a painting of carolers with the faces cut out so you can stand behind it and take pictures. And, of course, the whole thing is covered in a thick blanket of snow right now. It's very picturesque and I've been wanting to take a picture for a while now, which is what I was telling Julie, except some people had just walked into the gazebo yesterday when I was walking by, and I didn't want to be that creepy stranger taking their picture, so I just kept on walking.

That was the end of my story and as soon as I finished, Julie blurted, "You live in Star's Hollow!"

Which is the point of this post.

OH MY GOSH! I DO LIVE IN STAR'S HOLLOW!

In case you don't know what that is, it's the picture perfect, story book town that is the setting for the television show, The Gilmore Girls, with which Julie and I have an unhealthy obsession. The town has all kinds of festivals (one for every month), there is a large gazebo in the middle of town and it's in Connecticut so it snows a lot there. 

For years now Julie and I have both fantasized about how we'd like to live in a town like Star's Hollow, and here I am. I didn't even realize it until she pointed it out, but I'm living the dream, baby.

I talked to Andy and told him what she said and he even agreed, except he said our town  has more bars, which is certainly true. People here are all about the micro brew. We are certainly not in the Bible belt anymore.

So that's what I wanted to tell you. Dreams really do come true.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Photogenic Friday: A patchwork Christmas

I tried and tried and tried to post this yesterday. I had actually filmed a little video of my decorations, but it just wouldn't upload and I don't know if it was my fault or blogger's. Oh well.

When Andy and I moved in November, we left a large chunk of our belongings back in North Carolina to pick up at a later, undetermined, date. Our new apartment was unfurnished, 300 square feet less than we usually had and contained a third person. It just didn't make sense to haul all our stuff across the country to pay someone to store it for us when we could store it in NC for free. Among the things we left behind were all of our Christmas decorations. All the decorations I'd taken time to pick out or hand craft are still in their box and will stay there for another year. I miss them.

I couldn't let Christmas pass with no decorations, but at the same time we didn't really need to spend the money on new ones, especially since we wouldn't have had anywhere to store them when Christmas was over. So, I made all our decorations this year. I bought a gigantic pack of paper (180 12x12 sheets) all with different, but coordinating designs, and pulled out my Cricut cutter (I didn't bring a lot of things, but I refused to leave NC without my craft supplies). It took some time, but I have achieved an end result that I'm happy with.

When I got everything put up I looked around and realized that it reminds me of a patchwork quilt, which in turn makes me think of the South and home.

(Click photos to enlarge)

Merry Christmas banner

Cards over the window

Snowflakes!

Tiny little tree

Christmas village

The other half

If they have to be on the mantle, they have to be decorated



Update: My Christmas cards are going in the mail today. They didn't arrive until yesterday. This is the latest I have ever sent out my cards and it's stressing me out. I appears the postal service here is painfully slow, which I hope is just a result of the holiday season and not a year round problem. Look for your cards next week!

Happy holidays!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The name game

Every now and then, Andy and I will play "the name game." It's when we throw a name out there all, "Bam! How 'bout them apples" in reference to our hypothetical, non-existent, futuristic children. We don't do it often, just whenever one of us has heard a name that piques our interest.

So, yesterday I had a name and in the afternoon I casually drop it into our conversation. It went like this:

Me: What do you think of the name Veda?


Andy: Like Darth Vader from Star Wars?


Me: No, like for a girl. Veda is a girl's name.


Andy: (in his Darth Vader voice) Veda, I am your father. No, I really don't think you want to do that.

He's such a huge Star Wars fan. I really should have seen that coming.

Oh well, mark that one off the list. At least I got a good laugh out of it.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Photogenic Friday: Dear Andy

My dearest husband,

Thank you for putting up the iron and ironing board last night like I asked you to. It really means a lot when you do things you say you will.


Hugs and kisses,

Wifey

P.S. I forgive you because you're coming home early today to spend some QT with me.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

I still have a couple more decorations to make for our apartment, so I'm not quite ready to post pictures of it.

To tide you over I thought I'd share a sampling of the lights that are up around town.

"Lighting up the town" takes on a whole new meaning around here. Lights are a big deal, especially colored lights. In North Carolina it seemed like white lights were the thing to do. That is not the case here and in certain areas it looks like Christmas threw up on the trees and buildings. I LOVE IT!

Here is the display in front of our post office.



Also, at the "front" of main street there is a really awesome display, but it's so big and it's at a large, busy intersection. I've been wanting to take a picture for a while now, but couldn't figure out how to get the whole thing in one shot or how to not get run over in the process. But last night we drove past and I had the video camera with me so I took a short video. It isn't great, but you get the idea. Notice how some of the lights "move" and the trees behind the "Frisco" sign aren't strung, but they have a spotlight that changes colors.

video

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Here We Go A Wassaling

I think I'm going to try to name every new post after a holiday carol until Christmas. Thoughts?

Things have gotten better. I'm trying to make a real effort to embrace Colorado and our time here, however long that may be. I wanted to move here, after all, so I'm just going to have to pick myself up by the bootstraps and get on with life. Being down in the dumps is just not who I am.

Part of the problem has been that I haven't really been sharing with Andy that I've been sad. One of his biggest concerns before we moved was that I would get here and hate it. In which case he would feel responsible because we moved here for a job opportunity for him. That isn't the only reason we moved, of course. There were reasons that fulled him even looking for jobs out of state, but ultimately, we weren't going to move without a guaranteed income. So I just haven't told him because I did want to make him feel responsible for how I was feeling.

But Friday, after I wrote it all down for the world to see (Andy reads this blog, but only occasionally and he reads a lot at once, so he wouldn't have seen that post yet), I decided to share a little bit of what was going on inside my head. And I felt better. He understands and he's been making more of an effort to do things with me or get me out of the apartment more, even if it's just for a few minutes at a time.

Julie sent me some fun socks & I wore them Friday to make myself feel better


Friday, Andy took a half day off work and we went out to run some errands. We opened a bank account here and serviced the truck and went to Walmart. Oh, Walmart. I have a Target now that is five minutes away and I still can't get away from Walmart. But that's alright, we found a teeny, tiny Christmas tree that is just the right size for all the extra space we don't have in this apartment. I've been working feverishly since Saturday on decorations and hopefully I'll finish today. Photo's forthcoming when it's all complete.

Andy took me to Smashburger for late lunch/dinner. It's one of our new favorites

Also, Friday night was the kick off to Frisco's Wassail Days! When we first learned about this potential move and I started looking at the area online I found the Wassail Days festival and I've been looking forward to it ever since. Basically, the whole thing is an effort to boost the economy in Frisco, specifically that of the main street that is filled with local retailers and restaurants. Each participating shop (which is nearly every one) makes their own special brew of Wassail and keeps it available to try for the whole week of the festival. Customers vote on which Wassail they think is the best and the winner get a trophy and bragging rights. It's silly an fun and there are other events going on in town all week. This Saturday, as part of the festival they are having a fund raising carol singing event in which all the proceeds go to a local charity.

I love that my town has something like this. It's pretty much right up my alley.

Anyway, Andy and I got out on Main street Friday night and walked around with all the other crazies who were out in twenty degree temperatures. We didn't try a whole lot of Wassail because Andy doesn't like it and after about the second cup I had to pee really bad. (That may be an over share, but it's the truth) We did get to see a little more of the town, it seems like we find a new place every time we venture out, and we went into a few shops we hadn't visited yet. I had fun. I'm not sure Andy had fun, but he enjoyed watching me get excited. Like a little school girl. I would be embarrassed if I didn't think the festival was so great.

 A t-shirt in one of the shops. It tickled my funny bone

Sipping Wassail (Andy bought me a mug)

 This thing was real
(PS to my Mom. This shop also has real bear rugs)


Like I said, Saturday & Sunday I made decorations. I surrounded myself with Christmas spirit, either listening to holiday music or playing movies and I made some candied pecans that were so much better than I thought they'd be. A definite make again recipe.

Yum!

On Sunday Andy surprised me by taking off another half day (he had a conference this week & didn't really get a day off, so he's been taking time where he can get it) and he obliged me by walking up and down main street again in search of fabled carol singers that we never found. We did get to try a new restaurant though, so all-in-all I'd call it a success.
 
 I can't remember this mountain's name, but it's gigantic. You have to crane your neck to see the top

 Walking back home at dusk.


Oh! When we signed up for our new bank account we got to pick out a "reward" and we got a flip video camera. It came in the mail yesterday, so expect some videos in the future!

Also, a reminder about Christmas cards. I ordered them last night, so if you want to receive one shoot me an e-mail: plannedspontaneity1@gmail.com. They are super cute this year, if I do say so myself.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Do you want a Christmas card?

My offer still stands!

I'm picking out our family's holiday card this weekend so they can arrive in time for Christmas.

If you would like to receive one in the mail email me at plannedspontaneity1@gmail.com with your mailing information.

Happy weekend!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Breath of Heaven: Trying to find my Christmas Spirit

Project 365 is canceled.

I'm sorry. So many of you have expressed a love for coming here on Fridays to see my weekly pictures, but the truth is my heart just isn't in it anymore. I don't go out a lot because I don't have a car and while I love getting out and walking around town, it's been too cold for that lately. Also, it happens so rarely, when I do go out I find myself wanting to really experience this new place rather than shove myself behind a lens. However, Photogenic Friday was a tradition here before I started Project 365, so next week I will reinstate it. I promise.

Moving on.

Lately I've been a dismal blogger, I know. I could come up with a thousand excuses as to why I haven't been updating regularly. I don't know if there is really one good one. Several times I've sat down to tap something out and the words just don't come. There has been a restaurant review post swimming around in my brain for a couple weeks now and one of these days (maybe next week?) I'll get it on here. We have some truly amazing eateries around and each time we venture out the "must try" list grows. It's going to take us an entire year to get to them all. Seriously.

But today something else is weighing heavy on my heart and mind. It's been there for a while, but I've been resisting the urge to put it out there in the universe because I don't want to come across as ungrateful.

But y'all, homesickness has hit me hard in the last week.

For the first little while everything was great. I wasn't homesick at all. I missed my family, but regular phone calls and chats took care of that. I was completely enthralled with this new home and never, ever wanted to leave.

Then the night before Thanksgiving, my sister-in-law, Lyssa, called me to wish me a happy holiday and chit chat about how I'd been doing. We talked about how much Andy and I love Colorado and I even said to her that I hadn't really been homesick. She told me about the kids' latest adventures, and then we said goodbye. After I hung up the phone I felt a little tug of sadness. I miss my brother and his family. I miss my nieces and nephews a lot, but I shoved those feeling aside without a lot of though. I'd see them again soon. That's what I have been telling myself every time I miss someone.

On Thanksgiving morning I woke up in a terrible mood. Andy and Drew left for work, leaving me to my own devices for the day. I sat down to write a Thanksgiving post and when I typed it out and read over what I'd written I sounded like a spoiled, bitter child. So I erased it and settled for something short and sweet instead. Then I cried. A little later I sent Julie a text message with holiday wishes and she sent me one back saying that Mina had kissed the phone as a way of sending me kisses for Thanksgiving. In that moment I wold have given my right arm to be able to teleport myself back to North Carolina to be with Julie and Mina and my family that day. Just one day.

The thing is, I have never been completely alone on a holiday. Andy has worked holidays since before we were married. That isn't anything new, but I've always had someone to spend time with. Until this year. I was alone from sunrise until after sunset, and y'all, that was really hard. I talked to my mom and others on the phone, but it just wasn't the same.

Anyway, the point is, that ever since that day I've been in a funk. Even when people call me to talk I clam up and don't want to chat, then when we get off the phone I feel bad because they just want to know how I'm doing and I fell like a grinch. Which is exactly what I am.

It feels like every day someone, in some capacity, reminds me how many days there are until Christmas and it's like they're saying, "This many days until you don't get to see your family, again."

And then there is the flip side, where I just feel worse for feeling the way I do.

I have never once doubted that this was the right decision for Andy and I to make. From the very first day when Andy applied for the job here I knew it was what we were supposed to do. It just felt right. Like after so long our world had been turned upside down and now finally we were being flipped upright again. I'm so, so grateful for the opportunity to be here in this place. The people are nice and the area we are in is absolutely breathtaking. Seriously, gorgeous.

Since Thanksgiving I've been listening to Christmas music on Pandora radio in hopes of digging out and dusting off my Holiday Mojo. Did you know that if you're already kind of sad that certain Christmas music can be seriously depressing? "I'll be home for Christmas" is a terrible song! What was the author thinking? Not uplifting! Not even a little bit.

Anyway, this morning I turned it on again and "Breath of Heaven" came on. It's one of my favorites. I love everything about it: the melancholy melody, the rhythm of the music, and the lyrics. Oh the lyrics. I was paying extra close attention this time through and this particular bit hit me like a ton of bricks:

Do you wonder, as you watch my face,
If a wiser one should have had my place?
But I offer all I am
For the mercy of your plan.
Help me be strong.


I'm not pompous enough to pretend that my battle is in the same hemisphere as Mary's, but the God I was raised with and the one I believe in doesn't see any battle as too small or inconsequential. I know, with complete certainty, that this is our plan, mine and Andy's. I feel like we are exactly where we belong, but that doesn't make this any easier.

I can't pretend like moving right before the holiday season was ever going to be simple. We can only do what we can to make the best of it. Which is what I'm trying to do, though some days are easier than others.

I feel better just getting this off my chest. And I have two things, at least, to look forward to this month. First, Wassail Days are starting in Frisco tomorrow. I'm so excited to go around to the shops participating and enjoy some hot wassail. Second, our friends Robert and Allison are coming for a visit at the end of December. I can't even begin to tell you how happy I am to have some familiar, friendly faces to celebrate New Year's with.

Once I heard a saying that said something about what you are doing at midnight on New Year's is an indication of what your next year will be like. Spending the night with old friends gives me a lot of hope for 2011.