So, you know how we live in a mostly Orthodox Jewish neighborhood?  Well, there is at least one Reform family a couple of streets over.  This is a giant, inflatible Hanukka Bear.  They also have a giant menorah and a light up Star of David.

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Resolution…

My resolution last year was to be on top of all birthdays, anniversaries and special occassions and to make sure that an appropriate card made it in the mail on time. 

For the most part, I did pretty well.  The few times I missed the date by a few days or so I can totally blame on S because I was waiting for her to sign the various cards or decide if a gift card needed to be sent along with the greeting card.  I actually sent money filled birthday cards to Shaggy and L this year.  Which was a first.  I think, some years ago we bought L a birthday present but that was when we were actually attending a birthday party for her.  But we have been pretty slack since then.

I mailed birthday cards, birthday presents, anniversary cards, thank you cards, sympathy cards and even a “way to go on that whole baby birthing thing” card.  I was pretty good this year.  Up until Christams that is.  Normally, I forget all the other occassions but come up with a killer Christmas card and have it in the mail by December 5th.  Not this year.  I sucked.  I blew.  The first three weeks of December went by without my having designed a card.  By the 23rd, I ended up just buying some generic cards and mailing as many of them as I had stamps for.  Not everyone got cards that usually do.

So, my 2009 resolution is this:  I shall continue with the 2008 resolution because while I did improve, I did not master it.  This coming year I will send out all of the appropriate occassion cards  on time and I will have my Christmas card, designed, printed and mailed no later than next December 5th. 

My first real trial in this comes just a few days from now.  My brother, MK, has a birthday that is either on the 7th or the 14th and I shall send him a card.  I’ve never sent him one before and last year was the first time I actually called him and left a birthday message.  This year he gets a card.  Maybe even a gift card or something.

Happy New Year!

Oh yes, it is 2009 already.  Days, weeks and months just whip by me these days.  The other day I was listening to a discussion about education adjustments due to population decreases and one of the participants noted that the children born in 1991, the last minor birth boom, are just about to graduate from high school this year.  This rocked me to the core because I graduated high school in 1991.  I am now a whole child’s education away from my own high school years.  Where has all of that time gone?

My grandmother passed away last April and it almost seems like it was just a month ago, not eight months ago.  Last February Gil and Bud called to tell us that they were pregnant and we just spent Christmas with the ‘Lil Bud.  It all just flew by.  Every night before I fall asleep I spend a few moments wondering if I am really taking all of this in.  Is time passing so quickly that I am missing out on my life?  Maybe I am too focused on catching every little detail and that is making time whip past even faster.

It is odd to have reached an age in adulthood where other memories created in the years that are adulthood seem like they are so far removed from me that they might as well be just things I read in books or saw in movies.  It’s different to remember things from when you were a child and smaller and under parental control.  But memories from times when you are essentially the same person you are now (within reason) but are so far away, like fifteen or so years ago, well that’s just a  little odd. 

I’ve been with S for almost 12 years now.  Just thinking back to those first two years together is weird.  Go back just a few years more and I was with someone else and friends with totally different people and living a whole other life.  Perhaps it is because I haven’t had a constant other than my family that it feels like those memories belong to someone else.  You know, some people have the same sets of friends throughout the different chapters of their lives and so there are shared memories.  But I have had a different set of friends for each chapter.  I don’t keep people for very long, maybe five years, tops.  So I look back on say, 1994, and I had a different girlfriend, a different job, a different place to live and a whole cast of people that I called friends.  I don’t know that I would even recognize some of those people now.

Anyway, enough about that.  We’re having a very low key New Year’s Day here in the Renovations household.  S has spent some time playing the guitar and now she is in the office playing her sax.  A musical day for her.  I made some pork and kraut for good luck.  I’ve been trying to watch the Rose Bowl, but it is a blood bath and that’s just not fun. 

Last night was pretty low key as well.  We stayed in and did our drinking the cheap and safe way, no driving.  S’s family called after their midnight fireworks.  Oh and we played Beer Pong.  I can’t decide if it was cool or sad that two thirty-somethings hung out alone playing a college game.  Tuns out I am pretty good at the game and S is not much of a drinker.  We could only play one round before she was lit.  I actually had to ask for permission to drink some of my cups because I didn’t want them to get warm before she landed a ball in them.  Good times.

2008 Year In Review…

It was a presidential election year, which made it all the more interesting. 

It was our first full year in our new house and that made it all the more comforting. 

It was the year that my grandmother passed away and that made it all the more bittersweet. 

It was a year in which we got a new little family member and that made it all the more awesome.

It was the year the economy tanked and that made it all the more disconcerting.

It was the year I was forced to go listen to jazz fusion and that made it all the more ear damaging.

It was the year we discovered Wade Oval Wednesdays and that made it all the more delightful.

It was the year we took little Shaggy to her first amusement park and that made it all the more amusing.

It was the year that we remodeled our kitchen counters and that made it all the more sanitary.

It was the year of really big snow and that made it all the more delightful.

It was the year I got an autographed copy of Liberal Fascism and that made it all the more Jonahish.

It was the year in which I finally started feeling like an adult even if I still haven’t begun fully acting like one.

Uncomfortable…

I think that this year S and I did a pretty good job with the Christmas gift giving.  We thought about the people we were buying for and what they might need or want or really, really like. We started thinking about the gifts in November and there were some ideas that were tossed out there and then rejected.  Only the best ideas made it to Christmas shopping weekend.

I had a fairly solid budget of what we could afford to spend and thankfully it worked nicely with the presents we wanted to buy.  I didn’t pick some magical cash number for what we were going to spend equally on each person/couple on our list, some gifts would cost more than others, but each person would get the perfect gift.  Isn’t that how it is supposed to be? 

S’s family seemed fairly easy this year.  I knew exactly what we should get for each of them and we were able to find everything easily.  Watching them open their gifts this year was even better than last year.  Everyone loved what they got and some of them were even a wee bit jealous of a gift or two that we gave to someone else.  It was cool.  S’s mom has called us twice since Christmas to thank us again and again for her MP3 player (not an Ipod, as we are anti-Apple).  That is a great feeling.  The other night we went to a post-Christmas party at brother el ‘Jeffe’s house and it was nice to see that the box of hand picked ornaments we gave to his wife were on their tree.  Gil couldn’t have been more thrilled with the large selection of exotic beers that we gave him.  Seriously a great feeling.

My family was a little more difficult.  Well, Shaggy was easy because that remote controlled dragonfly was amazing and needed to be given to someone.  Her older sister, L, was harder.  She is eleven years old and she already has everything she could want.  When asked if there was anything special on her list, her mother told me “money”.  No way.  Slipping a ten dollar bill in a birthday card is fine, but not for Christmas.  We ended up getting her a video game for her Nintendo DS, but it didn’t feel special enough.  I was disappointed.  She thanked us for it but then tossed it into a pile of other DS games that she got.

DK the Asshat has always been weird about gifts.  He is reluctant to open them and then he acts ashamed when he finally gets around to it.  I’ve come to the conclusion that it is no good for me to put too much effort into his gifts.  I end up disappointed and he ends up miserable.  This year we gave him a beers of the world six pack and it was still as awkward as ever.  S picked a physics/mathematics book for my brother, MK, and he was over the moon about it.  We gave MK’s girlfriend, Ginni, an easy to use cookbook, as she is new to the whole world of cooking.  It has step by step pictures along side the recipes, which I thought would be helpful to a new cook.  For DK the Asshat’s wife, Satan, I picked a “book” by Keith Olberman about the worst people in the world.  I meant for it to be ironic.  The funny thing was, she had given my brother the exact same book that morning.

My mother has too much of everything already.  Like last year, I chose to give her restaurant gift cards because now that my grandmother is gone, my mother is even less inclined to cook.  She likes to go out to eat and she really likes to go out for lunch and sandwiches.  I also gave her a bunch of cookies that I had baked because she really wasn’t inclined to bake this year.  I didn’t get to see her open many of her gifts since we arrived so late in the evening, but she was given an HD video camera/still camera from MK and Ginni.  I was jealous.  The thing is, she still hasn’t used the VCR we gave her 10 years ago, so she probably isn’t going to learn to use her new fancy camera.  Maybe she’ll give it to me…

MK and Ginni went a little crazy this year with the gifts.  Not that I am not grateful.  In fact, I am quite grateful, but it did make me feel uncomfortable (which made me relate to DK the Asshat and I hate that).  They gave S and mea GPS thing.  Not a Tom-Tom or a Garvin or anything with a service.  Ours is just the unit and it works with the free military GPS stuff.  S is over the moon about it.  We’ve named it Chuck even though it has a woman’s voice.  Sis directionally challenged and thinks that GPS will save the free world.  I have an inner GPS that astounds probably even the military, so Chuck does not impress me.  In fact, when S tells me that Chuck wants us to turn right at the next light, I feel the need to tell her that I already knew that.  Chuck pisses me off.  But I tolerate him because it makes S so happy.

Ginni had also gone online and found some guy who had a ton of old 1930’s Chicago Bears photos.  Great quality pictures.  She gave six of them to me and my brothers because our grandfather played for the Bears back then.  It was such an amazingly thoughtful gift.  I don’t know how she found them exactly because I had been on the lookout for that kind of stuff too.  Ginni has some strange internet shopping powers, I think.  Oh, and she also bought nine minutes of footage from a game our grandfather played in.  But she only got one copy and couldn’t make copies for the rest of us.  I want her powers.

Books for Christmas…

That is what S gave to me this year.  Books. 

I had made a little list of books that I was interested in and she went out shopping by herself one day last week.  She tried to convince me that she didn’t get me anything off of my list and she even resorted to gift wrapping tricks to throw me off track.  It worked.  I thought she had only gotten me one book when in fact she had gotten me three.

I am most excited about The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression by Amity Shlaes.  I have been waiting for what seemed like so long for it to come out in paperback.  I would have bought it in hardback if I had found it at Half Price Books, but I didn’t.  I don’t buy new books all that often.  Too expensive.  Anyway, I am thrilled to finally have a copy.  I’ll start reading it in a few days, once I finish up with a Lincoln book that I started just before Christmas.  I’ve gotten to hear Amity Shlaes talk about this book on several radio programs and it sounds like it is going to be great.

I don’t mind admitting that I have a total pundit-crush on Mark Steyn.  I find him adorable.  And ever so clever.  Every Thursday he does a guest spot on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show and I hang on his every word.  Now, I’ve only ever read his columns in National Review and his blog posts on NRO, but now I have a copy of his book America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It.  The problem with getting a couple of highly anticipated books at the same time is that I can’t wait to read them and choices must be made.  But I also don’t want to rush through them, they should be savored.

The third book is a bit of risk taking on my part.  I am not a fiction fan, for the most part.  Nor am I much of a popular fiction fan.  But Rush Limbaugh has been pushing the author Vince Flynn on his radio program for at least a year now and it did stir some interest.  I went to the rather elaborate Vince Flynn website but it was difficult to figure out which of his many books is the starting point.  So my Christmas list just ended up saying “a Vince Flynn paperback“.  So, it was totally up to S to make the choice.  She picked Protect and Defend, which looks good.  I hope it is.  Kind of looks like brain candy.  The only problem is that the hero of the book is named Mitch Rapp and I think that is a stupid name.

I will now tell you what I got S for Christmas, just so that you will know that I was able to go toe to toe with her gift giving goodness.  Since S is my most favorite geek in the world, it is only proper that one of her gifts should come from a store called Think Geek (which I will not hyper link since the site only works 20% of the time).  I got her the Rocking With Hawking (as in Stephen) t-shirt that she has been wanting for some time now.  It was supposed to be a surprise, but the package got delivered to our next door neighbor’s house by mistake and he brought it over to our house and handed it right to S.  As soon as she saw the Think Geek return label, she knew what it was.

I also gave her a new Medal of Honor video game.  I think she gets to be a paratrooper or something in this one.  But she sure does love killing the Nazis and she says that the Medal of Honor games are better than the Call of Duty games.  I have no idea because I only think of the Playstation as a football playing machine.

Rested and ready, part four…

Also during my blogging absence, we hosted our first Thanksgiving in our new house.  Last year, even though we had just moved into the house we spent the holiday with my family in Wheeling.  But this year my mother came to visit for the holiday as did my brother, MK, and his girlfriend, Ginni

It was really nice to get to do all of the cooking again.  And I am so happy that we re-did the counters and the sink before I attempted to cook a big meal here.  The old kitchen would have grossed me out for food prep.  It was nice to find out that our kitchen is big enough to cook a holiday meal in without being cramped.  My mother bought me a huge roaster which I cooked the turkey in and that freed up the oven for pies and side dishes.  I have to say that the turkey prepared in the roaster was the best I have ever tasted.  When it was first done cooking and had rested for 30 minutes, I cut into it and all this juice poured out.  I feared that it wasn’t done or something, but no, that is what a truly moist turkey is supposed to be like.

And take a look at this magnificent pecan pie that I made…

pecanpie

Good times.  In fact, I would hope to get to host Thanksgiving for the rest of my life in this house.  It was so homey.  I think this might actually be one of the most perfect holiday homes ever.

But then there is Christmas…  Christmas belongs to the S family.  It always has and I fear that it always will.  Christmas Eve is really the big thing for them.  There is a family party at the home of S’s grandparents.  They decorate the house full of Christmas splendor and they spend weeks making their special pierogies, which are the main Christmas food.  We always unwrap some gifts at their house and we play Christmas Memory for the Christmas Cup.  Oh, yeah, and we drink a lot.  This year S and Bud added a new holiday twist with a musical performance of Christmas tunes.  S  played her sax and Bud played her flute and we all sang along through five songs.  I taped it and made a dvd for everyone in the family.  Good times.

We always stay past midnight on Christmas Eve, which means it is too late to travel anywhere else.  S’s brothers now have wives and houses not far from the parents, so they get to go home at the end of the night.  But we have to stay with her parents in the most uncomfortable guest bed ever.  In the morning Gil and Bud come back over to the house and we unwrap gifts and have a special breakfast.  Because of these activities, we don’t get around to seeing my family until late in the day on Christmas.  Sometimes it makes me sad but I would never ask S to give up Christmas Eve with her grandparents.

I hate that we might never get to celebrate Christmas in our own home.  And even though we have lots of decorations, I can’t really get into decorating for Christmas because we aren’t here to enjoy it.  This year we didn’t even get a tree until the 22nd and even then, I didn’t so much want one.  I only went out to get it because S really wanted a real tree for our house.

rummytree

That’s Rummy wondering why we brought nature into her house.

The one real Christmassy thing I did this year was bake.  I baked dozens upon dozens of cookies.  S took some of them to school and gave them away as gifts.  We took some to her family and some to my family.  And on one fateful evening, Emma and Rummy got into the cookies while we were out.  They ate about six dozen cookies.

cookies

You cannot tell me that those are not perfect peanut blossoms…  Rummy says they tasted great too.

We had a wrapping paper theme again this year.  We went with a plain, brown postal paper and then tied the packages with lovely ribbons.  Classy.

xmaswrap

The best gift we gave this year went to S’s mom.  We gave her a very easy to use MP3 player, bringing her into the digital age.  Nobody else would have given it to her, having no faith that she would be able to use it, but we had the faith.  We pre-loaded it with some music so that she would have something to lsiten to before she gets comfortable enough to download music on her own.  She loved it.  And she loved it all the more because we believed she’s be able to handle it.

The second best gift we gave went to my niece, Shaggy.  She is four and maybe the gift is a bit too old for her, but she seemed to be ready.  We got her a remote controlled dragon fly from Radio Shack.  It zips and zooms in the air.  She seemed to really like it.  And her older sister was jealous, so we knew for sure that we had picked the right thing.

xmasdk

This picture was taken at DK the Asshat’s house Christmas evening.  The dragonfly had gotten off track and flown into the Christmas tree.

Okay, so now the blog is all caught up.