Saturday, October 31, 2009

A spooky tale for Halloween

Happy Halloween everyone!
Most of you know our spooky, true-life ghost stories, but I figured today was a good time to recount them!

J and I bought our Virginia house in July 2005. It was in shambles and we couldn't move in for months. The first project was to fix the roof, since it was raining inside the house. I'm pretty sure that's not supposed to happen.

The roof job was completed the evening before we were flying to Arizona. I badly wanted to take a picture of the progress, but it was dusk and using the flash did not capture the picture. So I went flashless, which is much like going topless, but fuzzier.

Anyways, I snapped the shot, uploaded the photos to Snapfish and we flew out the next morning.

In Arizona, we were so excited to show some pictures of our first home!!!!!

What did every person say when they saw my no-flash roof photo (see above)? Who's that standing in your window?

Like I said, we weren't living in the house yet. No one was. Someone clearly was though. Actually, we see 2 people in the photo. Granted it's not the highest quality photo, but most people saw the same thing.

When we moved in months later, it was confirmed we had ghosts. The cat would freak out staring at the corner of the room. We heard random screaming. The oven timer would beep on its own. The doorbell would also ring on its own. Doors closed without wind or manpower.

After talking to a "ghost expert," that person told us the ghosts are always there in old houses (ours was built in the 1880s). The only reason they are acting up is because the house sat empty for 2 years and here we come in and shake things up. To clear the air, so to speak, all we had to do was make a speech about how we don't mean any harm in the renovations and we only want to live in peace.

We made our speech and never heard a peep again. Until the day J found out he got the job in NH and we would be moving out. There's a longer story to it, but basically, they knocked a picture off the wall that had our name on it. We took that as a sign that they were sad we were leaving.

Believe if you will ... we do.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Don't argue with the ref

As the temps start dropping, J and I switch into "winter" mode. That means the start of indoor soccer and dancing. Tonight was our first soccer game. We won! But that's not the point of this post. ShortShorts is playing on our team this session. So tonight, the ref came up to him at halftime and asked where he got his shorts. 1972?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

What a Long Strange trip it was……..

Try to contain your excitement. Here is J’s guest blog entry about his trip out West (without me) a few weeks ago. I am still NOT happy about all the touring he did to places I’ve never been. I thought we became one when we married??? Anyways, enjoy!

Late is better than never…. So every year I go to the National Parks and Rec Conference. It is a great event attended by over 10,000 people from every state. We do not play wiffle ball and drink beer as my wife thinks. We actually do attend educational seminars, visit with vendors and attend social gatherings. Okay, sometimes we will play tennis, drink A beer and well, we always seem to find the local dueling piano bar.

This year the conference was in Salt Lake City. I have been to SLC before and while it is in the beautiful state of Utah, the city is not like visiting the scenic National Parks Bryce, Zion and Canyonlands. Though very scenic and surrounded by mountains, you need to venture out of the city to places like Park City or Ogden. I knew I was not going to get this opportunity because of all the “learning” I was going to be partaking in.

So I decided to fly out west early to my sister’s in Denver (SILAdventure). We had a plan…..

We were not going to chill in Denver, but hit the road taking the long way to SLC.

We left early in the morning for the 7-hour dive to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Well, we woke to about 2 inches of snow in Denver. As we were driving, the snow got worse and the highway department thought it was a good idea to close the highway at the 80/25 intersection in Cheyenne WY. The plows I guess could not handle the snow. No worries, we found our way around this detour and ventured into Jackson around 7pm. My sis had a friend in Jackson so we met up with her and her boyfriend for some dinner at a local brewery (yes, I stole a glass to add to our exploding collection). Her friends had a great place tucked away in the woods, where we stayed for the night. We woke around 8am to a nice coat of snow on the ground and opened the curtains to the deck to see some elk just chillin’ in the yard. That day, we headed to Grand Teton NP. We packed up our gear, got our boots and gators, and did a nice 5-6 mile hike through some snow, most of the time breaking our own trail. We hiked up a small mountain and while in a valley we looked up and saw over 40 elk grazing along the ridge, some of them had huge racks (on their heads). After a great day of seeing elk, moose, snow and the Tetons we headed into the town of Jackson to get some dinner and have some drinks. We hit the hay early so we would be well rested for our next adventure to Yellowstone NP.

We woke early and got the road report. The road we wanted to take from the south entrance was closed, so we headed over Teton pass into Idaho to the west entrance. We spent all day and into the night exploring every nook and cranny of Yellowstone. We drove just about every road that was open—one was closed for construction and two were closed for snow. We stopped at all the hot springs, geysers, and even for the hundreds of bison and elk we saw. We did go to Old Faithful and it was, well, touristy. I must say that we did hit the park at a good time of year. There weren’t that many tourists and the bison did outnumber them. At Old Faithful, there must have only been about 200 people there. You could tell that there was room for a lot more, I would say over 1000. Old Faithful was set up as an amphitheater with room for just about everyone and their mother to stare at spouting water.

We got out of that area as quick as we could and headed north where we saw just about no one. We did see some elk in the road and the spot of a lifetime happened. WOLF!!!!! This was just the second time I saw a wolf, I had one come up to my car walk by me and look at me while living in Denali. My sis never saw one so we watched as the wolf scurried around a field chasing some ground squirrels. We pushed on past Mammoth Hot Springs and the large hotel. The place was empty (shut down for the season). We were there with about 200 elk as they tried to cross the road and took their sweet time holding us up, damn nature!!!

Mr. Bison says, "don't stand so, don't stand so, don't stand so close to me!"

We were planning to tent camp at Mammoth but the below freezing temperature and snow on the ground made us think twice. So we headed north to Bozeman, Montana. We found nice brewery (yes, I stole a glass) and then found the only hostel in town. Hadn’t been in a hostel since Scotland (10+ years ago) but this was nice and cheap.
The next day was the big push to SLC. We headed down some obscure roads past Big Sky Ski Resort and into Idaho. Then south until we hit the great state of Utah into SLC.

We checked into the hotel and then found my colleagues who traveled from New England for the conference. We hit the town for dinner, drinks and told the stories of our 1500-mile adventure.

Oh, did I mention the conference was great too!!!!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Send me a text!

It was inevitable. J & I caved and upgraded our cell phone plans to include texting. It's just that it seems most of our friends have forgotten how to pick up the phone. As the saying goes, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Now I won't get pissed when people send me texts because of the $0.15 they were costing me. It's good because once, I was in line at the store, and I got a text, and I screamed out in agony. The customers around me thought it was because of the price of milk. I told them it was because someone sent me a text and I didn't have texting in my plan. They understood.

I will remain a non-fan of texting. But I do see its value sometimes. I still feel like I have olives on my thumbs when I'm trying to text, mostly because of my antiquated phone sans keyboard. Maybe now I really will need thumb replacement surgery.

In other news, New Englanders are crazy. J had a Halloween family event today. Sounds nice, right? Except for the fact that it was mostly outside and it Still, 200 people showed up. In Halloween costumes. And rain boots, umbrellas and rain jackets. They played in the mud. It was spectacular. Did I mention I'm volunteer of the year?

My camera still has the flu, so no pictures ...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Good luck, my friend

Today is a sad day at work. Today is BFFcoworker’s last day. We have worked together for 6 years 7 months. I’d say side-by-side, but that’s not entirely true since most of our time was spent working remotely—her in Arizona and me in one of my three states. The point is, she is moving on to a career in the library field. Yes, people still do go to the libraries to do research and read books—real books, not just e-books. And I am happy for her. But I am sad of course.

BFFcoworker and I became fast friends at work. Maybe it was because just a few months after she started working, we were shipped off to a conference together … in Denmark. We had a comedy of errors during that conference, including having to switch hotels three times during a 5-day period, having to share a room one night and having to write/submit stories despite the entire country losing power for a few hours (our editor at the time said, “well, can’t you go knock on someone’s door around town and see if they have power?”).

That was her first conference and she sort of got this reputation for having bad luck at conferences. She got mugged in Orlando, had a fire drill in the middle of the night in Montreal and got her flight cancelled in San Francisco. She and I attended several other conferences together, including Berlin and Vienna. We became the dream team at work. Okay, I made that part up, but we really traveled well together.

And it’s easy to maintain a friendship with a co-worker when you have ichat! Oh how I will missing ichatting with BFFcoworker. I’m going to ignore the fact that BossLady sometimes reads my blog and just say that in the past few months as our workload has slowed, BFFcoworker and I spent a lot of time ichatting. About work-related things of course!

So, the editorial team in my company is now down to 7 people. This time last year, we had 15 people! The people left have been with the company for 5+ years, so I’m assuming no one else will leave unless they have a career change. I know I’m not planning to go anywhere until J and I hit the trail in 2011, so fingers crossed that my company can survive until then!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Three soups for me!

With J gone this week, I had big plans for ... soup. He's not a big fan of soup (unless you consider Ramen soup), so it was my opportunity to indulge. I made three soups.

First up was my Nana's (CostCutter) chicken soup. I grew up on this. Every time we went to her house, she had it waiting for me. Then, when I went away to college, she would always send me back to school with the broth and I just had to add the noodles. It got difficult to do this when I moved to Arizona, but I realized I was an adult and could make it myself. So I asked for the recipe. And then it sat in my recipe folder for about 7 years. I think I may have made it once, but it was probably a failed attempt. This time, I nailed it. And I only had to call CostCutter 17 times!

My second soup of the week was my bean soup. I've made this a gazillion times and love it. I could eat it every day. But we all know what would happen if I did. ShortShorts, theQuilter and I had dinner together one night and ShortShorts DUG my soup. He's a pretty awesome cook, so I took that as a major compliment.

I'm disappointed in my last soup. I attempted pumpkin soup. I found several recipes online. I think it turned out OK, but the problem is, I had pumpkin soup last week in Texas at a good restaurant. Mine just did not measure up. I'm going to make J try it, so we'll see.

In other news, J returns tomorrow! YIPPEEE!

Still other news, we did NOT get the snow that fell across the Northeast yesterday. WTF. QuickQuestion, who lives way south of us, did get it. I hope this is not reflective of the winter we're going to have. I need my snow!!!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sayonara SallieMae!

I did something I never thought I’d do last month. Nooooo, I didn’t apply to work in a daycare so I could spend more time around kids. But I did this:

Back when things were dated as 19**, I decided to go to college. Much to the surprise of my parents, who apparently thought I was just going to off and become a famous writer by looking cute. I applied to 2 schools within a 50-mile radius of my hometown. I didn’t want to stray too far from my then boyfriend, err, my parents I mean.

The way I came to go to King’s College, however, was fate. I think. I attribute a lot of things in my life to fate, but I digress.

It was April of my senior year and I was still undecided between the two state schools (mind you, all my other classmates had their school, let alone dorm comforter, picked out by then). One Friday, I got a phone call from a rep at King’s.

“You haven’t applied to King’s yet and the application is due today.”

As I frantically shuffle through my piles of school brochures because I have no idea where King’s even is, I say, “Um, I guess I’m not applying.”

“But you may be eligible for a scholarship.”

Now I’m just thinking they must have called the wrong household. Although I hung out with all 4.0 smarties and aspired to be them and get into their National Honor Society and be invited to the annual Renaissance Banquet, I was merely a B student. All I could do was murmur, “Huh?”

“Yes, you should apply and we shall see about the scholarship. We’ll even extend the application until next week. In fact, can you take a trip up here next week for your scholarship interview?”

I’m just extremely baffled because they don’t even know if I can spell the word college correctly on my application. They must be desperate. But, I fly with it and agree. Why the heck not?

Cha-cha forward to the next week and Short on Coffee, Big on Lotto & I make the drive to Pennsylvania, which just seemed like it was across the country to this small town 17-year-old. I fell in love with the campus and the people almost immediately. And I thought I did okay at the scholarship interview, except when the person asked me how I felt about the Cold War, to which I responded, “what war is that? When did that one happen?” So much for being the typical journalist up on current events.

On the way home, my dad broke some news to me delicately.

“You know you can’t go to King’s, honey. It’s way too expensive and I would rather not see you get yourself so many school loans. Look at your sister. She has mounds of debt and now she is going to grad school to put herself in even more debt. You’d have to get at least a half scholarship to even consider going to this pricy private school. And while I do think you are a smart girl, I don’t want you to get your hopes up high on that.”

I was okay with all that. I kind of figured I wasn’t scholarship material. And he was right. My sister would often talk in her sleep about her school loans and how broke she was. No, really, she would. Come to think of it, she still does.

Then I got the letter from King’s. They wanted to pay for 50% of my tuition!!! Holy crap I was smart. Or they were just charmed by me. It was still over my “price range,” but I was 17 and naïve about money woes, despite my dad’s warnings.

So I ended up at Kings.

I even scored another scholarship from working my ass off at the newspaper, plus I did work-study at the library. It all helped, but damn, I still ended up with a buttload in school loans. Happy graduation to you!

After graduation, I decided I should volunteer for a year because the school loans could wait, couldn’t they? Oh they waited. And accrued interest. Nice one.

When I finally landed my first real-paying—albeit low-paying—job, I quickly got acquainted with basically signing my paychecks over to Sallie Mae and Chase. I don’t even know how I survived those early years of adult life. I lived mostly on trail mix, but sometimes, on really special days, SmokingHotRoomie would bring home goodies from the restaurant where she worked. Come to think of it, she was broke too. We wallowed in our debt together.

For years, I didn’t even look at the remaining student loan balance. Low and behold, I married someone who HATES debt and pretty much asks me every day when I’m paying off my student loans. So by his urging, I upped my payments for the smaller loan as soon as I could. And I managed to pay it off a whole year ahead of schedule (which was really the original point of this post, but you know how I like to ramble).

As for the other loan, let’s not talk about it. Today is a day of celebration. You know what? I wouldn’t trade my experience at King’s for the world. Honestly. Everything happens for a reason and it is part of the reason I am where I am today.

I still don’t know the King’s rep who called me that fateful Friday, but I’d like to hug him.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Everything is bigger in Texas

I'm back from my work trip to San Antonio. And I'm alone. J is away on a pleasure/work trip for the whole week. Which means by the time we see each other next, we will have been apart for 10 whole days. WAAAAAAH.

Anyways, some observations on this trip.

The Riverwalk is overrated. I mean, it's just crowded. The walkway is small and I saw several people fall in the murky water because we were walking elbow to elbow. Okay, I didn't really. But it could have happened.

I didn't go to the Alamo this time. That's overrated too. It's just that I saw it on my last biz trip to San Ant. I don't think it's changed. Once is probably enough.

I ate Mexican food everyday. Yippee skippee!

There was a 50-degree temperature difference between San Antonio and NH.

The meeting I covered had to do with managed care issues. I am realizing more and more how much this industry LOVES buzz terms. Everything has a term. Value-based benefit design. Patient-centered medical home. Consumer-directed health care. Medication therapy management. Specialty pharmacy. It's a bit like phonetics. You just have to sound it out to understand it. But it just takes a few extra seconds to process the sentence because of this.

There was a hearing-impaired lady in a few of my sessions and I give a lot of credit to her interpreter. I imagine there was a lot of spelling out, but to know right off the bat how to spell fampridine and pazopanib, wow. The interpreter did not seem to skip a beat at all!

The exhibit hall, where the pharma companies have traditionally given away everything from pens to i-Pods, was the size of my living room. Pharma is really taking this whole "no freebie" rule seriously!

My camera is being temperamental, so I can't upload my picture. Instead, enjoy this one of my 2003 business trip to San Ant. Except for the fact that my hair is about 10 inches shorter. And I have less wrinkles. And I still had no idea what I was doing in my job at that time. Oh, and I was with a different co-worker this time. So really it has nothing to do with this trip, but I couldn't do without a picture.

BossLady & I on the RiverWalk in 2003

So I have big plans this week while I switch into single-self mode. Sunday's agenda includes meeting with my scrapbooking group and then I get to see Mouth and NHBound, who are in town for wedding planning (poor souls)!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Coincidence, or all part of the master plan?

So for the second year in a row, one of J’s friends had a baby on his birthday. That’s right, folks, 2009 produced another protégé. Last year, it was theBuddha's child. This year, it is PanicMan and theMakeupArtist's little girl.

Next year, we are betting on either theHoss or SILmeow. Takers?

Not to mention, theCoach’s first born shares our anniversary (Oct. 28).

We are just popular people, what can I say?

And I hate to state the obvious, but October is a popular birth month because it means the baby-making took place around Valentine’s Day. You know, cold winter months when love is in the bedroom. So whip out your satin sheets, turn on Barry Manilow and start practicing! Gotta keep up the trend!!

BTW, I'm in San Antonio for work. More on that later.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

33 Things I love about J

J may have chosen to “roast” me on my birthday, but I would like to toast him. In honor of his 33rd birthday, here are 33 things I love about him. Feel free to read and gag, but it is mainly for my journaling purposes. I have known this man for 7 years now and I love him more and more every day. Maybe that will change in another 7 years, and I’ll need this list as a reminder … but I kind of doubt that!

I love …

His dreamer attitude. Sometimes I just have to let some things go in one ear canal and out the other. I just nod my head and smile when he tells me about his latest idea. Okay J, yeah, we should totally buy an old Fire Truck. I mean, who would pass up that deal?! His latest thing is that we should buy a sailboat and a VW camper.

That his unkempt morning hair looks slightly like a peacock.

The way he offers “Mrs. Pillow” (his hugger pillow at night) for me to use when reading in bed because I like to prop up a little more.

The way he constantly reorganizes the cabinets and fridge. Not that he’s an insane neat freak or OCD, he just likes to categorize and announce our dwindling food supplies.

That he lets me sleep on his shoulder on the airplane or bus even though I know he is terribly uncomfortable

His booming collection of $10 hiking shoes picked up at REI garage sales. And he uses every single pair! Similarly, his widespread collection of jackets, sleeping bags, sleeping pads and dry-wick shirts. He has a slight obsession with outdoor gear.

The way he will slide his feet against mine in bed (he calls it “foot love”) or grabs my hand to hold in the middle of the night when I’m sleeping.

His cute dancing to bluegrass music. Those hippies have some funny way of dancing!

The way he tries to dance to “my” music (rap, techno). His rendition needs much work. Tabitha and Napolean … come help him out!

His frugality. I’ve said this before, but I have to say it again. I thought I was cheap, but no, no, no, J takes the cake on that one.

His ability to wheel and deal. That boy is NOT afraid to ask a sales associate, “can you do any better on this price?” as I stand back and bury my existence and association with him.

His awesome margaritas!!!!!

His ability to cook it up. We both like to experiment with new dishes and it’s so much more fun to have a partner in the kitchen. I know that can’t be said for all males, so I do consider myself lucky.

That he often brings me expired chocolate from his town’s food pantry (with permission from the director … she must think he is a real romantic bringing his wife such goodies. Hey, we may actually qualify according to his town standards!)

The way he slumps his shoulders and quivers his bottom lip in order to gain pity or sympathy and to get me to give in (usually to give him a foot rub).

How he says he wants dessert at a restaurant only because he knows I want one. He tells me he’ll split something with me, I pick it out, we get it and I end up eating the bulk of it!

His insane amount of luck. Well, it’s not like he wins the lottery every week, but this boy has more luck than anyone I know, that’s for sure.

His pretend Tourette’s syndrome. Not that this disease is a joking matter, but J tends to yell out random words for fun. If you’ve never experienced this, you’re lucky. But it does make me laugh. Most of the time.

The way he tries to speak Spanish and doesn’t come remotely close.

The way he makes my weekend coffee. It’s so yummy and always ready for me and I wouldn’t even know how to make it the way he does.

His poor, poor spelling. Similarly, his poor, poor grammar. How did I, the English major and published writer, manage to marry quite possibly the worst speller and user of improper grammar in the world? He has gotten in the habit of sending me his e-mails, PSAs and other documents for a quick edit … I love it.

His ability to deal with difficult people and difficult situations. His job becomes very demanding at times and often I think I would just run away and cry if I were in his position. Watching him work never ceases to amaze me.

That he makes me kill bugs, spiders and other creepy crawlers. My favorite is the night we got engaged camping down in Havasupi. There was a hissing cockroach in our tent. He wouldn’t touch it with a 10-foot pole and I was the one to remove it.

His passion for recreation, the outdoors and the environment. I love that he recycles!!

His intolerance for politics. I only like it because I am the same way. We both just don’t know what is going on in that “world” and well, ignorance is really bliss.

His eagerness to try new things. He is really not afraid to fail and only looks at it as a learning experience.

His love of adventure and travel. That’s an easy one. We found the perfect match in each other.

His awesome legs. Take a look next time you see him or in the pictures. I’m serious! His legs are so shapely! I would die for legs like his!

His gorgeous smile; it’s also contagious.

The way he loves cheese (feta, blue cheese, swiss, etc.) and thinks it will taste good in any recipe or just alone.

His beautiful green eyes. Okay, now I’m just making you all want to puke. But I do think he is the most gorgeous man on Earth.

His ability to make me, or anyone, laugh. ‘Nuf said, even though I could go on and on. He’s that cool.

That this list was so easy to come up with and I had to cut some things to bring it down to 33!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Miles and miles of country road riding

J and I took a nice 18-mile bike ride Sunday. J had an event on Saturday, so we (since I AM volunteer of the year) were tied up the entire day. It worked out perfectly because it rained and the event was indoors. If we were at home, we would just sat and stared at each other anyways.

But Sunday, there was sunshine! We debated taking the kayaks for one last spin, but it was just easier to hop on our bikes. So we biked through the country roads of Penacook, Concord, Warner, Webster and Boscawen. It sounds like a lot, but don't forget, we live in small town America. The exact route was River Rd to Bog to Horsehill to Blackwater to Deer Meadow to Corn Hill to High to King to Queen. I have a slight obsession with street names. I'm probably the only one who thinks so much about the names. It just tickles my fancy.
Back on River Rd. Lots of boats out today!

So anyways, of course it was beautiful and colorful. They say we are at 60-85% at peak for fall foliage. Most of the roads were really quiet. We even discovered a nice pond close to our house (7.8 miles to be exact) where we can take virgin kayakers for a spin.
On a side note, I've mentioned before how lucky J is before. Well, Saturday his luck was strong. He won a two different raffles! One at his town event and another at Margarita's, where we went that night to have an early celebration for his bday.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Not going to Florida

Remember my post at the beginning of August about the silly Vera Bradley contest? Yeah, I didn't win. BUT, I ended up with 2,383 votes! So thanks to everyone who voted once or It was fun to "compete." I was always around the 16th-19th place. So I ended up #16 out of 240-something entries. Not too shabby. I think I'm going to actually miss voting. NOT.

The first place winner had 50,000+ votes! I was certainly never going to reach that many. Plus, that person had an ailing son and really deserved a free vacation. So I wouldn't have even wanted to beat her!

Anyways, 'tis over. Thanks for playing along with me!