Monday, December 26, 2011

Fat Men in Red Suits

Some of my favorite things to do in life: open presents, eat good food, and spend time with Hubby. You can imagine my joy at getting to do all three in one day!

Christmas was a joy at our house! We slept in, not having any little monkeys to jump on our bed at 4:00 AM insisting that they find out what Santa brought for them. Hubby went to the living room to fire up the tree lights and the furnace. Once it was warm enough to leave the warm covers, we headed to open some goodies from under the tree.

It probably goes without saying that every day this past week, I've asked if we could open a present. Not all of them. Sheesh, I'm not like that! But one here and there. Unfortunately, I married a stickler, and the only way to get those presents opened was to actually wait for Christmas morning.

Also making it fun was that an additional present arrived for me every morning. I would head out to the living room and find that Hubby had not only turned on the Christmas tree for me to enjoy all morning, but he had added yet another thing underneath the fake branches for me to shake and poke and prod. It was fun. Almost like a mini-Christmas each morning. He's thoughtful like that.

Before the magical morning arrived, however, we made treats and delivered them to friends, family, and neighbors. I guess we got a little carried away, since we made twenty-eight treats and had to deliver them over two nights. It was fun to visit people and leave them some peanut butter cookies with Reeses and Hershey Kiss middles, and some pretzel Rolo and Hug treats as well. I found some cute boxes at Marshall's weeks ago and could hardly wait to get them into people's hands. Honestly, the best part about Christmas is the giving.

But don't think that I didn't thoroughly enjoy Christmas morning!

Hubby is a tricky guy. He doesn't really need anything and wants even less. He wouldn't tell me a single thing that he wanted for Christmas other than a knife sharpener, which I bought for him weeks ago. So I kind of had to wing his Christmas. I think I did pretty well, and he seems to agree! He got a knee pillow to help his old, aching back, some new pajama pants, and a Leatherman Squirt from me, tickets to a Suns game (thanks, Ji and Jolene!), a gift card to Walmart (thanks, Mick and Donna!), and $50 for our favorite place, The Cheesecake Factory (thanks, Mom and Merrill!). Hubby had a great Christmas morning.

I scored even more, though. As always.

I opened the CD-shaped package first, hoping it was one of the OneRepublic albums that I've been wanting. It was, and I was happy! The next package was one of my favorite books growing up as a kid, A Walk In Wolf Wood, by Mary Stewart. Next I opened Mount & Blade and was very happy that he had used its packaging to sneak in another OneRepublic album! Such a smarty pants to know I would figure it out. I also got a with a book about how to start my own part-time food business (a.k.a. Hubby'a retirement plan). We still have a dream of opening a baking company someday. Did you know that? I also got a cookbook from my Amazon wishlist from Eating Well. Very cool...especially since I feel like I've been eating sugar non-stop for three weeks! (I have).

But the greatest (and certainly the heaviest) thing all day was my Cuisinart Food Processor! I've been wanting one of these puppies for ages, and it certainly didn't disappoint. I've already used it to make three things, you know. I love it! It's going to make life in the kitchen even easier! Hubby disappeared one night to go to Macy's...and since that isn't a place he frequents on his own, I had my fingers crossed that it was for something food processor-ish. Yippeeee! So now that I have one, what do you want me to make for you?!

After presents, we snuggled until it was time to go to church. After a beautiful choir of Christmas songs (I already miss Christmas music, by the way), we were home by 12:30. It felt like we still had an entire Christmas Day to enjoy! I made some Christmas dinner (slow cooker ham, Funeral Potatoes, and a broccoli salad). We drank it all down with some Martinelli's Sparkling Grape Apple Juice. This isn't just the Idaho in me speaking, but the best part of the meal was certainly the cheesey, gooey Funeral Potatoes.

Then we watched some of the NBA games (today was the opening day post-strike) and popped in A Christmas Story to enjoy. I had never seen it all the way through, though I've seen most of it during the 24-hour marathon each year. Our last movie of the day was my personal favorite, White Christmas. Then we read scriptures and went to bed!

It was a wonderful Christmas. I love that it was just me and my Hubby. We didn't have to be anywhere or get out of our pajamas once we got home from church. We got to play with our fun new toys and just enjoy a rare day of spending time together. It was a treat. A perfect day, really.

Did you know that Christmas is only 364 days away?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Obesity Never Felt So Festive

We came. 

We saw.

We ate like pigs.

Once again, this time of year means a magical moment of gathering around a large display of homemade goodies and devouring way too much. It means gaining five pounds in less than three hours. It means taking a "breather" to rest on the couch for a few minutes before diving in for Round 26.

Oh yes. It was wonderful.

The only downside to the event that I happily anticipate all year? I got called to leave for work. On a Sunday?! Right in the middle of my Annual Family Christmas Snack Table? Do I work for people who don't believe in Christmas? Who aren't religious? Who hate families? Who don't like eating food? I'm starting to wonder so myself...

I called to extend the departure as much as I could, but it still meant that Hubby and I had to leave the best party all year by 6:00 PM after just a few hours of pure bliss. I was so bummed to leave. We had planned to stay until around midnight to play games and maybe even watch some old Christmas video footage. 

It just meant that I had to eat double-time to make up for the loss of my evening. I held my ground. I made my Hubby proud (or embarrassed...we're still trying to figure out which one).

The feast included: T'liese'e Homemade Cinnamon Rolls (oh my), Caramels, Ham and Swiss Pastries, Lemon Poppers, Chocolate Cookies Four Ways (Reeses Peanut Butter Cookies, Hershey Kiss Cookies, Mini M&Ms Cookies, and Hershey Mint Truffle Cookies), Pretzel Turtles, Pretzel Hugs, Oreo Truffles, Cheesy Sausage Dip, and (my personal favorite) Alton Brown's Spinach Artichoke Dip

We hardly had enough food for the six of us.

Luckily, the babies didn't eat too much. We kept them distracted with fruit and such. But they smartened up after a few minutes and began demanding such things as gummy bears and handfuls of sugar. Instead of bananas. Crazy.

Even though I had to leave early, the party was simply heavenly. I look forward to this time with family every year. I feel so blessed to live so close to a sister (and her family) and a brother (and his family). And I also feel blessed that they like food just as much as I do!

Thanks for a great evening, folks. It really isn't Christmas until the Annual Family Christmas Snack Table has taken place. We just need to get everyone here for it next time!

Round 27, anyone?

Not enough food for you? I didn't think so. Take a walk down Obesity Lane by checking out the parties from the past two years!

Annual Family Christmas Snack Table 2010
Annual Family Christmas Snack Table 2009

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Little Bit Of South

 Last week was an odd one for me. Usually, with Big Boss in the back of the airplane, we fly six, seven, even ten times a day. Long, hard days, starting very early in the morning and ending very early in the morning the next day. So last week, he only flew once or twice a day. It threw me off my game! I still waited for him all day at the airport, since he didn't tell us when we would be leaving. It's much better to be safe than sorry with this guy. I finished one book and started another on my Kindle Fire. I'm so glad I have books to keep me busy when I don't know where or when we're headed next!

We left Sunday night for Austin, Texas. I hate working on Sunday, but especially when it is the most anticipated day of the year...the Annual Family Christmas Snack Table. I got called just a few hours into the shindig, and I must say I was just a little disappointed that I was going to miss the festivities with my family. I called Big Boss to see if we could bump it back to the next morning. He couldn't since an early meeting was scheduled, but he let me bump our departure back an hour so I could stay a little longer at the party. I was still pretty bummed.

We arrived in Austin around 11:30 PM local time. Luckily, the hotel was close. I was beat! 

The next day, after grabbing a quick bite at a Mexican restaurant, we waited at airplane alllllllll day until Big Boss finally announced that he was ten minutes away. And that we were headed to New Orleans.

I haven't been to New Orleans since my Hubby and I left for our honeymoon cruise from its port. How fun to come back! It was more fun with Hubby sitting next to me...three years ago!

After a lunch at a seafood place (I had a Caesar salad while my partner-in-crime at an entire Swamp Platter), we waited again all day to find out when and where we would be heading next. When we finally heard, it wasn't good news. Since the weather was terrible in Houston, and the instrument landing system was broken and prevented us from getting low enough below the clouds to land, that evening meant a detour to Shreveport, Louisiana instead. The weather was nice enough to let us find the runway. Luckily, we didn't get yelled at. I hate being held responsible for the weather! Also, luckily for us, Cracker Barrel was still open and fed us dinner. I love eating breakfast for dinner!

We left for Sugarland, Texas just outside of Houston the next day around 1:00 PM. He said we might stay the night here or leave that evening. So again, a day of camping out by the airplane to hear what was in store for us. While we waited, we ate some delicious BBQ just a mile away from the FBO. I love trying a variety of foods on the road each week, and BBQ is one of my favorites! Then I almost finished my second book while we waited on Big Boss.

He called that night to say he wanted to fly to San Antonio. I scrambled to find hotels this late, and went through five hotels before finally being able to find us some rooms.

On Thursday, we decided to try Beto's Mexican Restaurant in San Antonio (Tig, try it is delicious!). It was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives with Guy Fieri, so we figured we couldn't go wrong. It was so good, and I don't even like empanadas all that much!

We were surprised to get a call shortly after we ordered our food. We were leaving in forty minutes...heading back to Phoenix! It's very rare to land here in daylight hours with Big Boss on board. What a treat.

The whole flight back, I had a dear friend on the radios the entire flight and didn't even know it. Shari, let's fly like that again some time! And I promise not to take SJN next time!

I'm just hoping the call for work never comes this week so I can prepare for Christmas. This is certainly my favorite time of year!

Phoenix - Austin - New Orleans - Shreveport - Sugarland - San Antonio - Phoenix

Saturday, December 17, 2011

My First Race

So I done did it. This morning. I ran my first official race ever. And we can just ignore that small children ran the race faster than me. I'm so tickled that I did it, but even more elated about training for the whole event! I've really worked hard these past thirteen weeks preparing for my first 5K, and other than the time that I had to work, I was in the gym every single day. 

By the way, running outside is easier. It seemed much faster than running on a treadmill. I kept busy trying not to fall on rocks and such, which made the time just fly by.

Speaking of time, I met my goal! I wanted to be under forty minutes (I know, I know. You official runners are choking on your granola as you read that petty goal. But it was a big one for me!). I actually came in with a time of 38:57. Yippeeee!

Luckily, I had company for the race. Our original team of twelve got widdled down to me, my sister, and my sister-in-law (six months pregnant, too!). And my sister only agreed to it this past week, so it was looking pretty scarce for a while there! It was so neat to have my own little cheering squad and support group. I ran ahead of them, but they finished just eight minutes after I crossed the line.

For those of you who couldn't make it, you were missed. Maybe next year?

While I was afraid these past few weeks that I would cry at the end, I only teared up when Megan and T'liese came around the corner. Luckily, they were giving out bananas, so that stifled the tears until I could wade through the crowd to greet them.

The best part? I'm going to keep training and do some more races this coming few months. They may make a runner out of me yet.

It feels great, and I am very proud of this accomplishment. Yes, I kept my race number. And yes, I very well may frame it and add it to a wall somewhere! What of it!

Micah running at all IS quite an accomplishment!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gallery Goodness

Being on the road sure makes blogging difficult!

Last week, I headed to my sister's house to help her finish a project she's been wanting for months. It helps that she has an adorable family and is one pretty lady herself. They had professional family pictures taken a few months ago. When the prints finally arrived, she knew that she needed them on the wall. 

Enter Gallery Wall, stage left.

I don't know why she called me over to help, but I'm flattered. And Micah Math didn't interfere except for the very last measurement that she left me to make alone while she fed almost-two Evan.

But we fixed it. And I think it looks great!

We began by playing with several layouts on the carpet before finding one that we both loved. All of the space was filled, and there was a nice balance between vertical and horizontal pictures! We were ready to hang! And by ready to hang, I mean ready to draw them all onto a template of butcher paper. We wanted to get it right first by knowing exactly where to pound the nails before we pounded the nails. Not a bad idea, and other than my slight miscalculation when left to my own devices, the entire process went smoothly.

It looks great! Our next move is to design some simple yet personal "filler" for the three empty frames. Probably the letter "F" in one, printed on burlap. We are still trying to decide on the other two but want them to remain simple so the family pictures get the most attention.

We could be professionals. We practically are professionals! At least, we have a nice time making our homes feel more homey. Way to go, T'liese. Your wall is gawrgeous!

And thanks for looking the other way when we both realize I can't count past three.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Pretty Desert

Living in Arizona these past (almost) five years has been a dream. And now that I live in a home that is scorpion-free, my love of Arizona has increased even more. On our drive to Snowflake a few weeks ago, I was able to capture a few images with my camera that showcase why this part of the country is so derned purdy.

Sorry that some of them have a movement blur. You have no idea how fast a Toyota Corolla can go...especially when there is a promise of pumpkin pie at the end of the trip.

I'm glad I live here. Even though I've been complaining about the "cold" all week. Our highs have been in the low 50s since Saturday, which has been cold enough to warrant me having to wear real shoes. Come on, really? It's only December, and I can't wear flip flops?! Real shoes!!

I'm already looking forward to March. It has been a weird year for weather all around, but I think we are in for three months of "cold."

I know, I know...I lived in North Dakota for four winters. How can this even affect me? Well, my blood has thinned greatly since those days, apparently. And I defiantly threw away all forms of thermal underwear when I moved away from Grand Forks. 

There are times when I regret that decision. Like this week.

But pretty desert pictures remind me again why living here is such a dream.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Itchy Trigger Finger

I can't be alone on this. Wandering through the house, trying to find things that need a face lift. It's pretty much just an excuse to get some spray paint cans out to work some magic. Luckily, I found some pumpkins at Walmart on clearance for $2 a piece. They were originally $10 a piece when I first drooled over them in September. But I knew that if I waited, they would drop drastically in price once the pumpkin season was officially over. After what seemed like years of waiting, I wheeled my cart down the fake flowers aisle and dropped to my knees...for tucked away on the bottom shelf were several beautiful pumpkins newly-affixed with red clearance tags! Patience, young grasshopper, paid off at last.

Five of the little guys ended up in my cart. I peeled out in the parking lot to get home to alter the neon-orange color of three of them. The other two weren't quite as bright and could remain in their original color...but my spray paint was about to transform three into Heirloom White from Rustoleum. I don't buy any other brand now since I love this stuff so much.

A few other things around the house succumbed to my need for spray. A vase I painted yellow last year just never felt right to me. Who likes a dirty yellow pot, anyway? And I had a few lamps that were an eyesore but would be free to paint! Come out of the closets, little ones. This spray paint can if your friend! They all made it outside onto my trusty spray painting board. 

No, I'm not an addict. Yes, I do have an official spray painting board. What of it?

After some tricky taping, the painting could commence. Just a few passes of elbow-elbow, wrist-wrist and voila! New things! After some drying time on newspapers, each piece found a new home in my home. I must say, I'm quite a fan. I'm just always blown away that a complete change takes place with just a few bucks of paint!

If you haven't become addicted a fan like me, give spray painting a try. You'll love it! I realize those same sentiments are spoken by drug dealers to potential buyers, but that isn't the point! 

I'm just glad there are now a few more pieces in the sparse Fall decorations collection of our home. They are tucked safely away for now to be enjoyed next year, along with some other decorative scores I found on my knees in the fake flower aisle at Walmart. Luckily, no one saw me in that condition! A girl has to find a good deal if she wants to feel confident when painting!

Just try it. Once won't hurt. (Oh man! Again with the dealer talk?!)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A-California-ing We Go!

I went to work this week. The call came around 5:30 PM on Monday night that we were going to be wheels-up just a few hours later. This only happened because I finally felt safe to run some errands with Hubby. We were at Walmart replacing a broken set of Christmas lights. We checked out so I could quickly get home to shower and pack. 

Big Boss showed up alone. We headed to Sacramento, California, my first time here. As we landed. a fog cloud moved in over the runway and cut the visibility quite a bit. It was the weirdest thing to have to report our landing to Tower because they couldn't see us! "Yep, we're down. Now how do we get to the ramp?!"

The next morning, the fog was still hanging around. It's amazing how much 1/2 mile visibility seems when you wake up to less than an 1/8! It took a few hours to blow off, and the calm wind didn't help at all. Big Boss showed up and had to wait almost an entire hour before things cleared enough to take off. I've found that if you tell him the truth in as few words as possible, he doesn't get as mad. Once we were airborne, just a short flight to Santa Rosa took us to some beautiful wine country.

We were hungry but knew Big Boss wouldn't be gone long. So we walked next door to the airline terminal for a delicious lunch next to the airplane ramp. A dream come true! I had a California Club to celebrate my present location, and I shared half my sandwich with Terry when his ordered crab cakes came out in a much smaller portion than we both expected.

Soon we were on our way again. The plan was to Oakland next, but Big Boss changed his mind at the last minute to skip Oakland entirely. I didn't mind, since the same fog was still hanging out in the entire Bay area. We flew over San Francisco and could barely make out the Golden Gate Bridge through the thick layers of clouds on the ground. It was pretty, but I was just glad I wasn't in it! We were soon landing at sunny Los Angeles. This is only my second time here at the main airport, LAX. After one of the local guys picked up Big Boss to run him around town, I waited in the lobby and watched airplanes take off. Then I spent a solid hour trying to arrange a rental car at our next destination. Since Big Boss wanted a tiny airport that closed at 6:00 PM, nobody wanted to provide him something to drive! Luckily, he surprised us by showing up early enough for the rental car to be waiting. We were soon on our way to Las Vegas next. It looks so pretty from the air at night!

Since he was alone and had three places to visit in the Sin City, I was setting up locations on his iPad while trying to explain to him how to use it. After a few minutes of directions with no success, he just said, "Well, why don't you just come with me?" So I hopped in the rental car with Big Boss and drove all over town looking at properties! We even bought me dinner at a drive-through restaurant. Can't beat that, huh? I felt bad leaving Terry to do all the work, but what can you say when Big Boss makes a request to be his navigator?!

We got back to the airplane around 8:00 PM and headed back to Phoenix. Surprise!

After landing at home, we helped the line guy by wing-walking our airplane into the hangar. Then we hopped in my car and drove home. Big Boss had meetings in town for the rest of the week, so I started to feel safe that I could stay home for a few days and work on some projects. I finished yesterday, and I'm so excited for the potential results! Only time will tell if my hard work this week paid off.

Phoenix - Sacramento/Mather - Santa Rosa - Los Angeles - North Las Vegas - Phoenix

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Decking the Halls

As a blessed kid growing up in a small town in tight-knit family, we always put up Christmas decorations, lit the tree, and illuminated the entire neighborhood with outdoor lighting the day after Thanksgiving. Christmas-colored M&Ms were placed in the ageless Santa tin while Andy Williams and Bing Crosby music played in the background. We sang songs as the tree got its special treatment from four rambunctious kids. Honestly, how did my Mom do it? After watching home videos of decorating the tree, I don't know how she survived with such obviously annoying kids! 

Character-flaws aside, we always looked forward to decking the halls for Christmas. And I'm willing to keep these sacred traditions alive in my new married life.

Because this year we were traveling on the usual day to decorate (I protested but lost), decorating for Christmas simply didn't happen on time. And then I left for work on Monday. I don't know how I slept at night knowing it was almost December without any signs of Christmas going on in my home. Luckily, we remedied that last night.

Hubby braved the stepladder and heaved himself up on the roof once again. We were so disappointed with last year's solar-powered LED Christmas lights that we bought newer, bigger, better, and LED-er lights for this year. I'm tickled with them. They are the classic retro Christmas lights in blue, green, red, orange, and yellow. I love that I can see them even when peeking out from the window. Which I do a lot now, just to enjoy them. Christmas lights really do bring deep happiness and peace.

And the M&Ms helped create those warm, fuzzy feelings, too. Keeping traditions alive here, folks. That's all.

We then came inside and "installed" the Christmas tree. I still love this beast, and the lights were all still working perfectly. After Hubby had everything put together, we strung new wooden red beaded garlands that I found on clearance last year at Michael's. So classy and subtle (like highlights!), yet beautiful on the tree. We then hung our Christmas ornaments that we got at Costco when we purchased our tree over three years ago. I love the varying sizes and colors. It makes the tree so happy and perfect.

Have I mentioned I am somewhat a fan of Christmas?

During last year's decking of the halls, we didn't have any furniture in this room. As a result, finding room for a large tree was a little more difficult this year. We moved couches to the side to make room for it in the corner. I wish it could be in front of the living room window, but where would we put that couch?! It looks gorgeous in  the room and makes the whole house feel warm and cozy. I want to leave it up year-round but got vetoed. 

When did I lose all my power as a wife?! 

I'm just glad everything is up. It doesn't feel like Christmas without a bunch of red and green ornaments and fir tree smells everywhere you turn!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Turkeys Were Harmed in the Making of this Post

I love Thanksgiving. For many reasons. 

Gluttony is not only welcomed, it is encouraged.

Christmas music can now be enjoyed without the associated guilt of craving it since September.

Stuffing cooking in the oven seems to fill the entire house with holiday goodness.

And pie. But does that really need to be mentioned?

We had such a nice Thanksgiving with family. Our day began at 4:30 AM when we woke up to prep the turkey breast and place it in the slow cooker. It stays so moist and tasty this way! I doubt I will ever make a traditional turkey if I knew how! After we went back to bed for a few more hours (OK...four), we got up to make Pioneer Woman's Creamy Mashed Potatoes and some homemade turkey gravy. While I cooked, Hubby made some road trip music for later this weekend (I'm sure it was so he won't have to endure my endless Coldplay tracks on my iPod). 

We were in the car and on our way to the Friend's house by 12:30!

And what a feast we had! T'liese had made Rhodes Rolls, green bean casserole, Merrill's stuffing (the best in the world, really), and a Jell-O fruit salad. It was all so heavenly...why do we only do this one day a year?!

We went outside to enjoy the beautiful day, and to let our stomachs settle before some pumpkin and pecan pie. Evan had fun being attacked by a tree while on Dad's shoulders. He was a sweet little guy all day. 

After pie, we waddled to the table to play a game of Pass the Pigs (which is now on my wishful-thinking Amazon Wish List because it was so fun!). 

We were home before 7:00 but too tired to put up Christmas decorations. They say good things come to those who wait. We shall see if it applies to something I've been anxiously awaiting for eleven months!

I hope your Turkey Day was just as wonderful. Did you eat lots of good food? Enjoy some family time? Eat too much? 


As if that's even possible!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My Favorite Little Man

I've been able to spend a lot of time the past few days with my little nephew, Evan. His parents went out for dinner on Saturday to celebrate a birthday (Happy Birthday, T'liese!), so I got a few hours with Evan while his mom and dad hit the town alone.

Sweet bliss for all of us, I'm sure!

They were supposed to arrive between 6:00-6:30 PM. After doing some complex Micah Math, I discovered that this only provided about half an hour with Evan before he had to go to bed. And I certainly couldn't play with him since he would need to be winding down for some shut-eye. So I texted his parents and said they could come as early as they wanted (a killer social life of mine made this possible). They fell for it, and at 5:30 PM, Evan arrived at my house!

He came running around the truck with a big ol' grin on his face to hug me, and my heart melted.

When his parents tried to kiss him goodbye, he just lunged for me to hold him instead. And my heart melted.

He immediately went to the alarm clock (which he carried around for most of the evening) that he loves so much, but made sure to kiss my gazelle first. Gazelle's heart melted.

We played ball, tanks, and peek-a-boo. And then we went outside to watch the airplanes come in. I promise that was his idea.

We watched Elmo's Song...Evan's favorite song in the world. La la la la!

When I got him into pajamas, I lightly tickled his cute little legs, and he almost fell asleep right then. My heart melted here, too.

Then he went to sleep. It was such a fun night.

Yesterday, I got to play with Evan at the park for a few hours. He loved the swing, and bonked his head countless times on the play set. That's how you can tell it was a successful trip to the park. Isn't he handsome? His smile just makes my heart melt. 

I think I like him.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Home at Last

After we learned that nothing could be done on the airplane until Friday morning, we spent Thursday evening at Temple Square. It was a little too chilly for two Arizonians to be walking outside in mid-November, so we spent most of our time inside the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. They are celebrating 100 years since the grand opening of Hotel Utah, which the building used to be until the late 1980's. So we wandered around reading the museum-like displays until our movie started at 7:30 PM. We watched the new Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration movie (watch the whole thing here!). It was really good, and I teared up a bunch. 

Though it wasn't my own bed, hitting the hay felt very good since it had been such a crazy (but typical) week.

After an inspection by the jet mechanic, and several calls to Beechjet Technical Support, we figured out that the Nose Wheel Shimmy Dampener wasn't broken...just full of bad stuff. There was too much air inside, and not enough hydraulic fluid. So the mechanic flushed it out and add more fluid before testing movement. Then we piled in and did several high-speed taxi tests to make sure it was working.

I am so relieved that we didn't have to wait for a part! Since we were leaving again for work on Monday, I didn't want to spend the weekend away from home, only to be gone another week again! We landed in Phoenix around 4:00 PM, and it felt great to be home at last!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

From the East Coast to the Rockies

We continued our week of fun by leaving Raleigh around noon. It was supposed to be a lot earlier until Big Boss realized he had a conference call scheduled. So we waited for him by making a mad dash to Johnny Carino's, my favorite Italian place. We made it back just in time for the meeting to finish, and we were on our way out of beautiful weather (after the fog cleared) to cold and windy Detroit.

We landed at a beautiful airport on the northwest side of town called Pontiac. What a nice FBO and such friendly staff! With a belly still full, I just waited in the lobby near the fire place until we left about three hours later.

In case I didn't think it could get colder and windier than Detroit, Indianapolis was about to prove me wrong! Bumpy and was nice to finally get down! We were only here for an hour before our final trip of the day to Omaha.

I found the passengers a Suburban for the price of a compact, so we all piled in and went to Spaghetti Works in downtown Omaha for dinner. Always a fun treat! Then we ended the night at the Country Inn and Suites.

With not much to do in Omaha, we left by 9 the next morning to Denver favorite airport to visit in Denver. The customer service here is out of this world, and we simply walked upstairs to eat a delicious breakfast at The Perfect Landing Restaurant.

Next we flew to Salt Lake City, where we happily waited at the FBO for our hopeful trip home.

Raleigh - Detroit/Pontiac - Indianapolis - Omaha - Denver/Centennial - Salt Lake City

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Florida - Bound

My goodness. I've been so busy with work this week that I haven't had a chance to tell you about last week! I'll spread it out over a few posts so it isn't a mile long.

Last Monday we left Phoenix around 2:00 PM with four people in back. They wanted to go allllllll the way to Florida, but we can't do that without making a stop for fuel. We picked College Station, Texas since we landed there and were quickly fueled just a few weeks ago. Thanks to some nice winter tailwinds from the lowering jet stream, we made it to Venice on the west coast of Florida in just over five hours.

Normally, landing in Florida with Big Boss on board means getting there at 3:00 AM. But, since they had some meetings to get to in Atlanta the following morning, they worked Venice when we landed around 9:00 PM. Though they needed to be in Atlanta no later than 10:30 AM, they wanted to visit a few potential sites along the way. So we got up nice and early to get the airplane ready for a day full of flying!

Luckily, the time change helps a little bit. It is only a two-hour time difference now, and that makes getting our of bed a LOT easier!

We flew to Titusville, where they could drive to two different facilities to take a peek. Just across the water is where NASA launched the Space Shuttle until just this past July! It was neat to see it, though from several miles away. Isn't space cool?

After Titusville, we were on our way to their conference in Atlanta. We arrived in plenty of time to get them to their meeting just a few miles away. While they were gone, we went to a local Italian restaurant to enjoy some lunch. We accidentally ate Italian four times this week! Oh well...there are worse things in life than eating cheese and marinara!

Late afternoon, the passengers arrived to head southeast to Charleston, South Carolina. Last time I was here, it was smoky from fires. Every breath hurt! This visit was much nicer, though we were only here for a few hours.

Next to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. We could see the boardwalk and lit Ferris wheel from the sky, and it was beautiful! This could be a fun town to visit with a Hubby! We were on the ground just long enough to grab a quick dinner from a hip Mexican restaurant. So good!

Since it was approach 10:00 PM at night, we were very relieved when Big Boss reduced the rest of the night from two airports to just one. We ended our long day in Raleigh...where I have never spent the night! I am just glad he changed his mind and didn't make us fly to Detroit after they finished with Raleigh. I don't like working until 3:00 AM! I need sleep!

It was a nice, busy, fun Monday and Tuesday.

Phoenix - College Station - Venice, Florida - Titusville, Florida - Atlanta/Cobb County, Georgia - Charleston - Myrtle Beach - Raleigh                        

Monday, November 14, 2011

Breaking Down is Hard to Do

You see this? This is a nose wheel shimmy dampener on a Beechjet. When it doesn't operate properly, flying in a Beechjet isn't very fun.

I got all excited when Big Boss announced that we were headed home...a day earlier than expected and after a crazy week on the road! We got the airplane ready and passengers loaded and were soon on our way.

As we picked up speed down the runway for takeoff, the entire airplane suddenly began shaking! It felt like it was coming from the nose wheel, and this would later prove to be a correct guess. We announced to tower that we needed to abort our takeoff. 

Thrust Levers: Idle 
Speed Brakes: Extend 
Thrust Reversers: Deploy 
Wheel Brakes: Apply

After reassuring Tower that we needed no further assistance, we were able to slowly taxi back to the Million Air at Salt Lake City. 

We found a local mechanic to give us confirmation about the nose wheel shimmy dampener being broken. Since it wasn't a quick fix, I got my four passengers home on a Southwest Airlines flight later that evening. Because the jet mechanic couldn't look at our airplane until the following morning, I calmed myself down with this:

Amazingly enough, my nerves didn't allow me to take more than a few bites. So not like me! 

I just count my blessings that we weren't going faster, and that it happened on takeoff and not on landing (when we would be going twice as fast when touching down). As exciting as it was, and how racy my pulse got, it could have been worse!

We were able to get it fixed the next day without having to order a part. The mechanic found too much air in the nose wheel shimmy dampener and not enough hydraulic fluid. After flushing out the bad and putting in the good, we did a high-speed taxi down the runway to test that all was well.

It worked, and we came back around for a full-length takeoff on runway 35. Less than two hours later, we were home!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Like It's 1999!

So I had to let our new budget settle for a few months before we were allowed to have fun again. And thus, for months, I've been itching to throw a party! When my new budget month kicked over, I celebrated the best way I know how. It was time to invite some wonderful people over for dinner and games. 

I looked forward to it all week and had such a nice time during the pratty. We live near some really neat people.

The Menu

Pioneer Woman's Lasagna
Garlic Salad (by the Jensens)
Hot Bread and Dipping Oil
Root Beer and Water (by the Pitneys)
Caramel Apples

I would consider the evening a great success. And my patient husband let me spend an hour setting the table without so much as raising an eyebrow. Have I ever mentioned how patient Hubby is? And he made better caramel apples than me! I kept thinking we had to rush the toppings on before the caramel hardened too much. But he took his time placing the toppings on a few of the apples, and they looked amazing!

Do I really need to mention how they tasted? 

I asked the favorite candy bar of all who came and made each person his own apple. We soon discovered that most of the flavors were loved by all, so we cut them up and shared each apple. It's hard to pick a favorite. But mine had caramel and chocolate.

If I could throw a party every weekend, I think I would. I absolutely love entertaining, and I love anticipating and planning as much as the actual event!

We were having so much visiting that only a few rounds of Catchphrase were played. Sometimes it's just nice to catch up and hear how other lives are going. I love spending time with each of these families, so I just sat backed and soaked it all in.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Living It Up Outside

We're coming back into a season that can actually be spent outside. And we can actually use our "new" patio set again. I think we only partied with it twice before the awful summer temperatures hit. Even in the shade, it's just plain silly to consider going outside in the summer for anything other than running to the air-conditioned car. I'm so glad those days are over for a few months!

Don't let the absence of the chair cushions worry you...we happen to have a feral neighborhood cat who thinks that the cushions are his if left out. We thus store them in a safe, clean place until we need to use them. This same cat is one of the many reasons we've considered becoming avid hunters!

Knowing that we would be spending a lot more time outside over the winter, I started thinking about improvements I wanted to make to our beautiful patio set. Right now, the bottom of the legs scrape along the cement any time the chair is moved. And it creates a lovely sound something akin to nails on a chalkboard. I think people purposely sit very still so that the awful noise doesn't interrupt our lovely patio conversations. Who can be comfortable when at any moment a loud screech could burst into the scene?

So I began looking for an outdoor rug to go underneath the chairs. And I scored by waiting until the end of the summer season.

Store: Walmart
Size: 5x8 feet
Original Price: $50.00
Clearance Price: $40.00
Wedding Gift Card (yes...three years later) Applied: $27.00
Giant New Outdoor Rug Cost to Me: $15.90


I'm happy (in case you couldn't tell). Especially since other rugs the same size at other stores were pushing $150. I love the bright colors in this rug, and I love that the sounds on the patio will now mostly be pleasant ones.

Winter Entertaining, here we come!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Finally Fall

Holy smokes, I'm excited. I wait ten looooooong months every year for this day. It is the beginning of the holiday season!

Now, don't run off just yet. You know that you love that special feel in the air that signifies the best two months of the year. I can't be the only one who is fine with Christmas store displays happening in mid-October!

But today it's here. Without being the annoying, creepy lady who leaves her tree up all year round (you know I would do it if it was legal), I am happy that the Fall and Christmas seasons are finally upon us.

I don't really get into Halloween. It certainly isn't a holiday that I get fired up to decorate the house. Maybe someday...when we have kids to worry about enjoying such an event. For us, it simply means remembering to buy candy in time to pass it along to Trick-or-Treaters in our neighborhood who stop by. It's fun to see the costumes, but it certainly isn't a date that I eagerly anticipate.

To celebrate the first day of November, I put up some Fall decorations today. I brought in the plastic tub from our storage room and eagerly opened it...only to be reminded that I don't have very many Fall things! I will watch for some neat sales this year and bulk up on more festive things for our house.

Meanwhile, I'm loving our new table display. It will be warm and inviting when we have some friends over this Saturday for dinner, games, and (shhhh) caramel apples! I can't wait!

I love this time of year. I'm simply ignoring that it got up to 90 degrees yesterday. You know I will be complaining that it's too cold before long! So I might as well enjoy this perfection while it's here!

Happy Fall!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Good Thing I like 'Em

We were invited to a family dinner yesterday and had such a nice time.

I'm still not allowed to post photos of everyone, but let me just say they are all very cute. We ate a delicious dinner of burritos, chips, salsa, and guacamole, all washed down with ginger ale. The only possible excuse of why I don't have any dinner pictures is that we were hungry and ate everything before photos could be taken!

After dinner, we watched monkeys enjoy an awesome toy room while the adults played a round of Catchphrase. The boys ended up winning, but we gave them a run for their money. It's always a great time getting together, since we actually enjoy each others' company. I'm so glad that some of my best friends are my sister and brother! And I'm so glad I like their spouses just as much!

I would like to officially call a rematch in the game, however. We can't let them brag this up for long. Don't they know we threw the game for them, anyway?!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Grand Anniversary Done Right

Several weeks ago, I asked for this week off from work. I only got confirmation late last week that I could indeed take the time off. They even tell me when my vacations can be! So once we knew for sure that I was going to be home, we got to planning our anniversary weekend. Hubby had Thursday through Tuesday off to celebrate, and I was tickled to get to spend so much quality time with the man I married three years ago.

We began our awesome weekend on Friday Date Night at The Cheesecake Factory, of course. We had a gift card from birthday presents from my parents. It's really the perfect present for us. Where else can a man eat a burrito the size of his arm? He downed it all and loved every moment. And I enjoyed something new from their Skinnylicious Menu...a turkey bacon club sandwich with avocado. I probably erased some of the healthy aspects of selecting such a sandwich when I exchanged the salad for sweet potato fries. Luckily, they were a little too salty for my taste, and I only ate a few! We brought the rest home for Hubby to polish off for breakfast the next morning. We didn't get a slice of cheesecake this time around, which is admirable considering it is Pumpkin Cheesecake Season.

Saturday was spent doing a service project with our church. We cleaned all the alleys in our neighborhood, since they can get rather nasty when random people dump random things and then run. We worked from early that morning until 12:30 and got home just in time for Hubby to play his Saturday basketball at one. Then we cleaned up and relaxed for the rest of the day. Manual labor is hard work!

Sunday meant the big travel day! We first went to church, and it seemed to last forever since I was so excited for our drive immediately following. We were packed up and in the car by 3:30 and headed north to Flagstaff. I've driven through here several times, but this was my first chance to stop and really enjoy the town. We had a blast here all weekend. Thanks to my hotel points, we had a free night first in the Drury Inn and Suites, and free second night in the Springhill Suites by Marriott. I love not paying for a place to sleep!

Monday morning, we ate a yummy breakfast at the hotel before loading up for our 78-mile drive to the Grand Canyon. Did you know this was my first time ever seeing it?! I can't leave town since I'm constantly on-call for my job, so this was a real treat to visit one of the wonders of the world at last. It certainly didn't disappoint. Hubby came here for a field trip in elementary school, but a lot of the tourist things were new to him. So we both enjoyed our time hiking, people-watching, shuttle bus-riding, and eating. The canyon is spectacular! We think we hiked a total of about five miles, counting all the trails we took. We hiked the Rim Trail and then finished with the Trail of Time, which counts out the dates of rocks found in the canyon. Time starts 1960 million years ago! Sheesh! It was neat to see that incredible beauty in person. And fun to watch all of the international tourists as well. We grabbed lunch around 3:00 PM at the Bright Angel Lodge Restaurant. It wasn't very good, but we were so hungry that it didn't even matter!

We left the Grand Canyon at 4:15 PM. I drove us back to Flagstaff since Hubby was so tired, but he helped me look for deer along the way. We GPSed it to our next hotel, the Springhill Suites by Marriott. I've always wanted to stay here, and it might have something to do with the cool, retro interior and the utilization of my favorite two colors! The room was neat, too, with a giant sectional couch and a modern feel. Thanks to a late lunch, we weren't hungry enough to head out for dinner. We walked next door to Wal-Mart and grabbed some things for the microwave instead. We were both tuckered out from an awesome day at the canyon, so we went to sleep pretty early.

Tuesday morning came bright and early. We were planning to head to Snowbowl for some frisbee golf, but I was reluctant to drive the eight miles to get to the ski resort. They weren't answering their phone, either, so we weren't even sure we would be able to play once we arrived. Luckily, the gal at the hotel desk told us about a course right in Flagstaff, and we were there just a few minutes later. I've played before when I lived in Grand Forks, but this was Hubby's first time experiencing disc golf. We had so much fun attempting to avoid trees. The course was incredible...on a mountain and tucked away in the forest. It seemed we were the only ones there enjoying the crisp Autumn air. We played all eighteen holes with Hubby winning me by one point. I'm glad we bought frisbees for our trip...there are several courses at home that we can now enjoy together!

After we worked up an appetite playing golf, we headed to Salsa Brava on the eastern side of Flagstaff. This place was featured on Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, and I've wanted to visit it ever since. Let me just tell you that it was the best chimichanga I've ever eaten! Hubby got the same thing and finished mine for me after he polished off his. What a nice husband I have!

After lunch, we grabbed gas and headed home. Traffic wasn't bad, and we accidentally stopped at the Anthem Outlet Mall so I could get a few new things to wear with some birthday money. I love paying $15 for $70 jeans at Banana Republic! My patient Hubby helped me find two new shirts as well. I'm glad we stopped!
It was such a fun weekend together. I really love my husband, and it was a treat to spend so much time with him. I'm glad we got to see the Grand Canyon together. And the food was delicious! Thanks for a great three years, Hubby!

Friday, October 21, 2011

It's More Like a Black Thumb

As last spring rolled around, we were so excited to head outside and plant some beautiful greenery for our curb appeal. After some dark mulch was added around the bright green plants and cacti, we felt like we had a welcome and maintained look for people as they walked up to our house. I went outside on countless occasions just to see how well everything turned out. It was pretty!

And then summer happened. And all but two of our gorgeous plants headed to the happy hunting grounds. We even managed to kill off a cactus. How does that even happen!

A month of record-heat temperatures, that's how.

Luckily, since it's cooling down, we decided to risk it again by planting some new things in our front patch just yesterday. And by "cooling down," I mean it was 101 degrees. We visited a local nursery and found lots of beautiful and hardy plants that could handle drought and high-heat situations. Since they face south and might not get water every day, we figured we needed all the help we could get.

The survivors were the Natal Plumb and one Barrel Cactus. They still look brand-new, though neither grew very much since being in the ground. Our big guy this time around is a Texas Sage. We filled in the other holes with a Little Johns and a Boxleaf. I refuse to pay $30 for a cactus, so I headed to Home Depot to buy a few smaller cacti to fill in the rest of the space. For about $40 total, we were able to completely redo the front walkway to our home!

I love how it looks, but I'm already scared that things will die. We have such a hard clay in this dirt, which is native to Arizona and probably contributed to the killing of our spring plants. To prevent this from happening, Hubby mixed in some dry grass clippings to keep the dirt broken up and loose. This will hopefully allow the roots to grow and spread in a healthy manner instead of being stopped by the clay. In addition, planting now will give the plants the entire winter to become hardy enough to stand up to next summer's heat. We purposely picked plants that don't have to be covered for frost, either. For those two nights a year. I love living in Arizona!

Should we call it lazy landscaping? We want maintenance-free but beautiful curb appeal. Is that too much to ask?!

While we were working outside, I cleaned all of the windows. These three receive the most brunt from summer storms, so they had lots of hard water stains and dirt ready to be removed. My mom's old trick of newspaper and vinegar worked, and then I polished with my glass cleaner and some paper towels. It looks amazing, and I love being able to see outside with having to squint through the water spots!

We sure love having this home. And we love being able to make it our own. I don't know what we'll do if these plants decide they are too good for this world. Concrete might be my next solution!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

And the Week Goes On

We all know the highlight of my week was eating at Leatherby's Family Creamery in Salt Lake City. The original plan was to go to Utah on Tuesday, so my hopes were crushed when it got bumped back a few days. I kept thinking about their caramel sauce and loads of toasted almond ice cream. Luckily, I was able to get that goodness in me on Thursday! I made a special exception for my no-sugar-during-the-week goals to make room for the best caramel sauce I've ever tasted. And I've tasted a few in my day.

But there I go getting ahead of myself because it's my favorite topic!

We left Omaha around 10:00 AM after sleeping at the Country Inn and Suites not too far from the airport. The flooding that we experienced on our visit here this past summer has subsided slightly. At least I could see most of the freeways not covered in water this time! When Big Boss arrived, they convened in the conference room to decide the next location. After half an hour of tense deliberation, Denver was agreed upon for our next stop. Phew! That's what we fueled for, so it worked out! The flight took about an hour and a half to go from flat Omaha to beautiful mountainous Denver. We landed at the Metro Airport on the northwest side of town.

Though he said it would be just a few hours here, we actually stayed for over five. These are the moments that I really wish I had a nook or Kindle. I don't dare leave the airport because Big Boss could arrive at any time. And I hate watching television to pass the time. I wish I had a bunch of books at my fingertips without having to carry them around all week. It's on my wish list for sure, even though Hubby doesn't think I would use it!

My passengers came with a sweet surprise...the best peaches I've ever tasted in my life. We ate one on the flight to Salt Lake City, and I was simply in heaven. If peaches tasted like that all the time, they would certainly be my favorite fruit (don't worry, Red Grapes. You're safe in that highly-esteemed position forever). We stole one of the passengers to treat him to Leatherby's after we landed. Luckily, they have a little-known location just a few miles from the airport. With road construction (in Utah?! That's new...), the twenty-minute drive felt like an eternity to me. I had been talking this ice cream up all week and could hardly wait to share it with Terry and Sean. 

I split a grilled cheese sandwich and fries with Sean before we each ordered our own ice cream. Sean opted for a hot fudge sundae with a hidden banana inside. Terry ate a pastrami burger and still managed to polish off the Allan's Black and Tan. So impressive! I had my usual...Karen's Small Sundae with toasted almond ice cream and more caramel than most people can handle. It was worth the wait all week...and everyone agreed that it lived up to my constant bragging about this place. I love Leatherby's. Period. If I lived closer to one, I'd be in a lot of trouble.

After a few hours in Salt Lake, we were surprised with the announcement that we were headed home! I flew right over my hometown and then waived to my sister's house outside of Richfield. Did you hear me fly over? We landed shortly after 10:00 PM. in toasty Phoenix.

Omaha - Denver/Metro - Salt Lake City - Phoenix

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Why Not Minot? Freezin's the Reason

Wednesday morning came bright and early. The passengers arrived an hour late, but it gave me a chance to talk to the FAA guys who fly a Learjet 60 around the western states to test the Navaids. Pretty cool! I loaded their bags when my passengers finally arrived, and we were on our way to Fargo! We were originally heading to Boise, but he called just a few minutes before arriving that morning and changed his mind to North Dakota, eh?

We were in Fargo long enough to grab a quick bite to eat at Applebee's. They brought an extra passenger with them for our next flight to Minot, which was back-tracking about forty minutes. It allowed me to see some beautiful, flat country. It's way better in the non-winter months! I have never landed at Minot, though I've flown over it a time or two. The Air Force Base there flies B-52 of my favorite-of-all-time airplanes!

Side Story: my childhood dentist said they would draw up fake transfer papers for people they didn't like in the Air Force. The worst place they could think to send someone was always Minot! They have ropes tied between the hangars so people don't get lost in a blizzard and die. One can only withstand negative sixty degrees for so long, after all! I don't miss living in North Dakota, though I really enjoyed my time spent there. Looking back, I don't know how I did it!

After just an hour in Minot, and watching three Army Chinook Helicopters take off (too cool!), we were on our way back to Fargo to drop off our extra passenger. We only shut down one engine, opened the door, and sent him on his way. We were soon airborne again and on our way to Minneapolis.

We flew through some rainstorms and landed at Anoka Blaine County Airport on the north side of the city. It was pouring rain during our entire stay. We had a chance to run for a quick dinner and found a neat sandwich shop. Which Wich will certainly be visited by me again! Big Boss called and wanted to be picked up further south at the main Minneapolis airport. I have never been here in a private airplane. but this airline terminal has some of the best people-watching I've ever seen. Since I lived in Grand Forks, all layovers were spent in KMSP. What a neat place!

After getting our passengers, we were on our way for our last stop of the night. We arrived in Omaha shortly after 11:00 PM. The hotel had entered our reservations incorrectly, so it was frustrating waiting for them to fix their problem. Half an hour later, I was the last one checked in and off to my room.

What a day! Seven cities over 18 hours.

Spokane - Fargo - Minot - Fargo - Minneapolis/Anoka - Minneapolis - Omaha
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