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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What a Way to End the Year

Greg and I went to Lincoln for the afternoon and had a nice time looking through the new HyVee on O street, then browsing at the 56th street antique mall. The sun was just setting when I was driving home, but I didn't pay much attention until I turned off the highway and saw this: It was breath-takingly gorgeous.
No one was behind me, so I stopped the car and grabbed the camera from my purse, knowing there was no way I could capture how truly beautiful it was.
This photo came pretty close, and I thought it a lovely way to end the last day of 2008.

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Little Holiday Re-cap

I thought you might like to see some photos of our Christmas holiday celebrations. You would, wouldn't you? Yes? Good.
We went to the candlelight service at church early Christmas Eve, then to dinner after at Greg's sister-in-law's mother's house, just down the street. She made a delicious meal of Swedish meatballs in sour cream dill gravy, brisket, potato bologne, cheesy potatoes, corn, and rolls. It was a nice way to spend the evening with family. A little brotherly... love?

the four cousins
Christmas Day was lunch at Greg's parents' house. We feasted on brisket and pork loin and assorted sides. After cleaning up the dishes and putting away the tables and chairs, we gathering for gifting.

At this family gathering, we open each gift one at a time so everyone can see what we got. We usually go youngest to oldest or vice versa. This year it was the, eldest who began, so Nanny and Poppo got their one gift. We all went together and gave them a Wii! Immediately Nanny turned to Nick and said, "I challenge you!". LOL.
Here is Nanny with her favorite grandson - well, her ONLY grandson. :o)
I worked Friday morning, them came home to cook and finish some gifts for our Regier gathering. We all got together at Randy's and Leslie's new house. The kids were such fun - so excited when each new person came in the door, and asking a thousand times if we could open presents yet?

Jessi and Grace. Grace is wearing the dress my sister made for Jess when she was a little girl.
Taylor took her time opening presents, tearing little pieces of the wrapping paper ever so slowly...

Not the rest of the kids - they were happy to rip into their packages. Each present excited them. Here's Grace with her tea set:
Garett opening his Cars trailer:Wyatt with his Spiderman car. I worried him by claiming it was all wrong and was supposed to be Barbie Princess stuff. Apparently I didn't know what I was talking about, because, "Aunt Tammy, that is for Grace! I get Spiderman!"
Our final family gathering was the Regier cousins in Grand Island. Bobbi and Kurt had arranged for a party room at Valentino's where we feasted yet again, then hit the game room for tokens and tickets.
Here is Case, the youngest of our family, obviously enjoying his lunch:
This guy is Dylan. He came from Australia to see us!I had given my camera to Wyatt and asked him to get a photo of each person. He started doing just that, then found out there was an ice cream machine at the buffet. Guess that was more important than photography, because he only took a few pictures. :o)
It is always such a blessing to be able to gather with our families, enjoy good food, fun times, and make happy memories. The decorations are put away for another year, but Christmas continues when we keep it in our hearts.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry, Merry!

Sending Christmas blessings to you and yours.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Some Festive Touches

Since we went on vacation the second week of December, I opted not to decorate the house before we left. We've been home over a week now, but life was such that decorating was pretty low on the priority list.
This past Saturday morning I got out the little Alpine tree and some ornaments from email friends, and got a little holiday glow going. There aren't any wrapped gifts under it yet, and probably won't be because the cats will eat them, but I love the lights as the house darkens in the late afternoon. Next to the front door I threw together these candlesticks, a poinsettia spray, and the black framed "Joy". (I just used Christmas scrapbook paper, cut the letters with the Cricut, and smudged the edges with a little gold ink.)
On the old window I hung a grapevine wreath with the cross-stitched Santas I made over the past year, and topped it all with a large poinsettia spray.
That's it for the Christmas decorations inside so far. I have a few more little things planned. I have time. Yes, I do. :o)

Monday, December 22, 2008

December Vacation, part 3

After we returned to the ship from Progreso and had showers, we enjoyed a little family foray into the casino before dinner. Some nickel slots and a game that took quarters were our entertainment. It was nice to go when there weren't many peoople, and the room wasn't full of smoke. We all shared our winnings, but I don't think any of us left with more $$ than we went in with.
On Thursday morning we watched as the ship docked at Cozumel. It was cool and cloudy, and just before we disembarked, there was an announcement that due to the high winds, Port Authority had closed the beaches and cancelled all water excursions. That was a huge disappointment. We hadn't scheduled an excursion, but had plans to go to a beach. Jessi snapped this photo of the sign on her bathroom stall door in the public restroom on the pier. Hmmm. Glad I waited until we got back to the ship...
Jessi had to take a few minutes to call her work, then we wandered through the area of tourist shops until we got outside and found a taxi to go downtown. He took us to the far end of the main street and we walked back several blocks, stopping in a store here and there, picking up souvenirs. After awhile, each store looked like the last one, and they all had the same offerings.
We grabbed a cab and went back to the pier. There was a place for lunch that Greg had read about online, "Pancho's Backyard". We got a table on the patio and Marisio was our waiter. Wish he'd been a good waiter. He got our orders and brought our drinks right away, then eventually brought our chips and guacamole, then awhile later brought our dinners. Then we didn't see him again. We'd been finished eating for quite some time when I finally stopped a waitress and asked her to send him to our table. We were enjoying the musicians and ocean view, but were ready to go. We waited. And waited. And waited. He finally brings our check, lays it on the table and walks away. Greg puts some bills inside the folder, and we wait again. Marisio finally returns, picks up the folder and thanks us. We say, "Uh, no, we need some change". NO WAY he was getting a $22 tip!
Again we waited. Then we waited. He finally brings us our change. He got some of it, but not much. After all, he did bring us the giant margaritas right away.
Oh, the giant margarita. What was I thinking? One of the things I wanted to do in Mexico was have a margarita. Now I've done that, and don't have to do it again. Each sip made my entire body shiver, but did that stop me from taking the next sip? Nooo.
Granted, I only drank half my drink, plus several sips of Jessi's peach margarita and some of Greg's strawberry one, but that was more than enough. I don't remember what struck me as being funny, but I remember I couldn't stop laughing. And then I laughed some more. Oh, it was a happy lunch at Pancho's Backyard in Cozumel.
So, by the time we finally got to pay for our ginormous (and expensive!) drinks, I was ready to go back to the ship with Nick. We settled into the nightclub where they were showing "The Dark Knight". Greg rejoined Jessi on the pier to finish her shopping.
While he was taking me back to the ship (no, I could walk, there just was a lot of stuff to carry. Yeah, huh.), Jess wandered around the pier by herself. BAD IDEA. We figured there were enough people around she'd be okay. Mexican men saw a girl alone and thought "easy prey". She was hit on several times, one guy even grabbing her hand - she found a group of people sitting by a fountain and joined them until her father got back. Lesson learned.
I was happy when they got back to the ship and joined us at the movie. Not laughing uncontrollably happy like earlier, just glad everyone made it safely back. :o)
The ship sailed away from Cozumel in the high winds and we were in for a rocky night. I waited a bit too long to take the Sea-calm, and was sick for awhile after dinner. Early to bed that night, and the rocking of the boat was anything but soothing.
By morning, we were all feeling the effects of the 12-15 foot waves and strong currents. Ugh. Sea-calm was our best friend. I'll introduce you next time.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

December Vacation, part 2

We survived our first evening and day at sea, thanks to "Sea-Calm" which settled our tummies and cleared our heads. And put us to sleep. Jessi and slept several hours on Tuesday, but except for the sunburn, we felt lots better.
Wednesday was our day at port at Progreso. We went from the ship straight to the bus to go to Uxmal, the only Mayan ruins where the public is still allowed to climb a pyramid, located in the Yucatan in Mexico. I have dozens of photos of the architecture, but don't worry, I'm not going to post them here.
This excursion was the highlight of our trip, I think. It was what Nick wanted most to do, and we all were all interested in the history and culture this site came from. This is the back of a pyramid. The hole at the upper part was made to allow light so archaeologists could explore the inside. The lighter bricks are original, but had to be removed a year ago when there was so much rain, water damage was happening inside. The holes they made allowed the wind to dry it out, then the bricks were put back on the pyramid in numbered order.
The young man in the white shirt is Gabriel, our tour guide. I chatted with him after our tour, and he said he'd never in his life seen snow. He said in the Yucatan, they have two seasons, "hot" and "hotter". They were having "hot" while we were there. Actually, it was warm-ish, about 80, and humid, but the nice breeze kept it from being uncomfortable.
This panoramic photo below is actually five different photos I took in sequence, then my Photoshop Elements arranged for me into one. These were taken while we were standing at the top of about 30 steps, looking to the South, inside the Nunnery Quadrangle. Down on the lawn in the center is a remnant of a phallic symbol, and on the right, the remains of a table where they performed human sacrifice.

There were many iguanas lazing in the sun, all around the ruins. At one point we came around a corner, and about 10 feet below us, there were 7 or 8 BIG ones scurrying around. Kinda creepy, but kinda cool. This big guy tucked himself down into the hole in the rocks right after we snapped his photo.

On our way back to our bus, we saw this Mexican police truck. Jess wanted a photo to show her friends because it had a cage enclosing the bed of the truck. She didn't realize there was an officer not far from us as she was laughing about it and we were telling her to be quiet. She said, "Who's afraid of the Mexican police?" And the people who were walking with us scurried away. Then I told her to SHUT UP and get on the bus. Oops.
Jess had my camera for awhile and I found this when I downloaded the photos. Lots of nice scenery at Uxmal, huh? :o)
Back to the bus for lunch and a little siesta during the drive back to the ship. Soon after we got back, we sailed for Cozumel and my first margarita in Mexico. Ole!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Vacation in December, part 1

A week ago tonight we returned home from our Christmas vacation. As our 2008 Christmas/birthday gifts to the kids and to each other, we took them on a 5-day Carnival cruise to Progreso and Cozumel. I very much enjoyed having my family together for an entire week, with no cell phones and very little TV. We didn't so much enjoy being seasick, and it struck us all at one point or another. Ugh.
We started our trip by driving to Tonita's and spending the night. We had a nice supper, then took a little walk around the neighborhood. This is where all the cool kids were...

The next morning we zipped over to Galveston - by way of downtown Houston. I HATE driving through Houston, and the kids just laughed at me when I started praying out loud. Those people are nuts. We did see some hurricane damage as we drove into Galveston, as well as lots of construction/repair. We didn't go to the seawall, though. That's usually the area we've visited when we've been there in the past.
It didn't take long to get checked in and board the ship. We delivered our carry-on bags to our cabins, then took a walk around the ship to see the sights. The casino was of particular interest to Nick - actually, we all lost some $$ there. I did do pretty well on the nickel slots one afternoon, but I shared my winnings and one by one we each gave it back to the casino.

When it was time to sail, we each got one of the drinks of the day and went to an upper deck to watch as we pulled away from the dock. We were about an hour late in sailing - they said there was a technician on board who needed to finish up whatever he was doing and get off the ship before we could go.

We enjoyed some warm temps and sunshine while on board, but the seasick medicine made us very sleepy. Jess and I both fell asleep in those comfy deck chairs and got some color. Rosy more than tan, though...

We had a few photos taken on "elegant night". I had quite a handful of photos I wanted to buy, but they were expen$ive, so I had to choose just a few.

That's it for this installment. Next stop, Progreso and Uxmal Mayan ruins.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bowling with Preschoolers

The twins went bowling in preschool yesterday and I was invited along to watch. It was a great exercise in taking turns and being patient, besides the physical exercise.

Their technique needs a little work. :o) Grace would put her ball down, then kick it like a soccer ball. Garett would send his ball down the line while the pins were still being reset, but the ball went so slowly, there was plenty of time.
It was a fun way to spend part of my afternoon!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Happy Birthday!

I cannot believe that today is our son's 25th birthday! Nicholas Gregory was born on a Saturday at 2:42 p.m., weighing in at 8 pounds, 6 ounces. Nice size for a newborn. (His head was 14 1/2" around. Not so nice for a firstborn - I'll just let you imagine why not...)
He made us into a family.
He's grown up to be smart, funny, and hardworking, and we really enjoy spending time with him. (This photo is of the two of us in Cozumel, Mexico last week.)
Happy Birthday Nickle Pickle!! We love you!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

In Loving Memory...

My grandmother passed away Saturday evening and today is her funeral. We will gather to celebrate her life and the good memories we have of our time with her. I feel blessed to have had her for 47 1/2 years, and that my children had her for so long in their lives.

Last night one of my cousins asked me about my favorite memories of Grandma. Here are a few:

When Grandma rocked us to sleep, she didn't sing, instead she hummed in a rather monotonous rhythm. No matter how tired you thought you were not, you went to sleep.
When I would stay at her house at Christmas (I usually stayed a few days over our school break), she let me have Christmas cookies and Sanka for breakfast.
Grandma loved board games and dominoes. She always had time to play Parcheesi when I was a kid, and in her later years, Rummikub was her game of choice. She and Grandpa played dominoes all the time with their friends - I remember going with them for the evening and they'd play for hours. We played at their house, too. Hours and hours of dominoes.

Grandma was a good cook, and excellent at mending clothes, but told me one time that she didn't enjoy either task. She liked to quilt and craft, and watched soap operas on TV. She was the best at "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without".

She also had quite a temper, and I remember many times listening to her and Grandpa argue. But they always argued in German, so I never knew what the disagreement was about. :o)

I'm sad that she's gone, but so happy that she's in a better place, whole and healed. Rest in peace, Grandma.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Hola from Texas!

We made it to my sister's in time for a delicious brisket supper, then a brisk walk through the neighborhood. The guys are playing video games, Tonita and Jessi are working on a breakfast casserole. I had to check something with Carnival, and thought I'd pop in quickly one more time before I become completely computerless.
The weather is beautiful. As we drove further south, we shed layers of clothing. When we got to Tonita's we were amazed that she had her furnace on - we were in short sleeves, enjoying the warmth. :o)
We'll leave here pretty early in the morning so we get to Galveston in plenty of time to find where we're parking and take the shuttle with our luggage to the terminal. It's been a fun evening visiting, seeing the Christmas decorations, and even the little rat-dog, Lucy. :o)
I'll be back next week! Until then, 'Adios!' :o)

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Passport Debacle

Well, we leave tomorrow for our vacation cruise to Mexico. Bags aren't pack yet, but the laundry is going strong and snacks are ready for the long car ride.

Since we're sailing to Mexico instead of flying, passports are not required. A certified birth certificate and driver's license is sufficient. However, in the interest of caution, Greg and I got our passports and we asked the kids to do the same. Our thought is that if something happens and we get stuck in Mexico, the only way we can fly home is to have a passport.

There was lots of checking with the kids and sighing and reminding and nagging...

On Thanksgiving Day, Nick produced his little blue book. Yea! Now I only had one kid to nag. And she hates nagging!

Turns out, she had applied at the Grand Forks, ND post office on November 14. She paid an extra $75 to have the passport expidited. Then the wait began.

As of November 28, it still hadn't arrived. We're getting a little nervous because you have to send your birth certificate with your application. Smart girl that she is, Jess sent for another copy of her birth certificate, but she had it mailed to North Dakota instead of to our house. Fingers crossed that one or the other or both arrived in her mailbox before she had to leave yesterday.

Finally, she checked her mail on Wednesday morning and the birth certificate was there, but the passport still was not. I called the Department of State and spoke to an extremely helpful and polite customer service rep named Renee. She checked quite thoroughly, but Jessi's application was not in the system.

I called Jess, and she had just gotten off the phone with her bank. Her check for her passport had never been cashed. She was on her way to the Post Office where she'd applied.

The Post Office told her they had no record of her application, but they would do some checking and call her. She reminded them that her birth certificate was in that envelope. They assured her they knew that...

About an hour later she got the call telling her they found the application and SHE COULD COME PICK IT UP.



When she got there, she told them that she was leaving for Mexico the next week, and had really needed this passport.

They said, "Sorry."
That was it.
No apology.
No explanation.

When we get home we will contact the appropriate supervisors and this will be reported. My Post Office lady was appalled when I told her the story and said that if they'd followed protocol, this never would have happened.
Anyway, now she has two copies of her birth certificate. I think she's covered. She just can't get stuck in Mexico...

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Warm Sweater Wednesday

There's this awesome Yahoo group that I've been a member of for almost 10 years, and a couple of weeks ago we started "Warm Sweater Wednesday". This is when we each turn down our heat a couple of degrees for the day, saving money and reducing energy usage for a greener earth.
The past couple of weeks on WSW, our Nebraska temps have hit 60 degrees. No furnace needed, and windows were open.

Not so this week. As I type this on Tuesday evening, there is a 70% chance of precipitation overnight and tomorrow morning, culminating in possibly an inch of snow. The forecast is for a high temp of 31 early in the day, then dropping to 27. Yeah, I'll be having the furnace on.

I'll have it on, but will turn it down from it's usual 68 degrees to 66. I'll wear a long-sleeved t-shirt and a long-sleeved sweatshirt and long pants. I'll leave my shoes and socks on all day. I'll stay out of my big comfy chair and will MOVE and keep warm.

Oh, and I'll keep in mind that next week on Warm Sweater Wednesday I will be in MEXICO, baby! And I won't need any sleeves. Yea!