Friday, January 30, 2015

Jack in the Box

Checking boxes is hard work.
Hi, my name is Jack.  I live with my human mom.  It's just the two of us, and let me tell you, I have an active lifestyle taking care of my human!

First, I have to inspect all the boxes that come into our house.

Inspecting the afghan on my chair.. okay, I know it looks like I'm sleeping
Second, I'm keeping a good watch on, well, everything.

You never know what kind of stuff might be lurking in mom's tote bags!
Could be dangerous.
My mom brings home a lot of stuff and I have to inspect it all for safety.  It's my job to make sure our place is free from critters and stuff.

Sniffing for bombs and Ninjas and stuff
It's all a lot of hard work, but that's what I do.  I know mom counts on me to keep her safe!

That's my report.  I'll have to get back to cuddling now.
It's a tough job, but it's my duty.
Reporting from our house.  That's a wrap.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Merry Crew-mas!

Julie cracking up over her gift
Many years ago my singular group of friends gave up on trying to find a Saturday in December that was free and good for everyone, and began holding our main Christmas party in January.  It was too hard to compete with work, church and family parties during the holidays, and even if we found a day to meet, someone was always rushing off early to be somewhere else.

Holding our party in January means no competition from other distractions and leaves us with a whole day to hang out, eat, have fun, talk, laugh, and exchange gifts.

It's become a tradition, now with the Crew.  In fact, this year a new phrase was coined, "Merry Crew-mas".

Julie and Laura look on while Peggy gives her "look of joy"
For many of us, family is far away, and this is the only "real" Christmas fun we have.  Let me just go on record as saying no kid could have a better Christmas, than the 16 of us adults who celebrate "Crew-mas" together.

Paula showing off her new journal

For one thing, we've all been friends for many years.  Many, many years.  That makes us more family, in some ways, than friends.

Maura smiling for the camera
Secondly, we're all bound together in a geeky, nerdy, fannish bond.  (Yes, we are fannish.  Don't ask.  We're all a little crazy.)

Mark and Robin watch Jackie open her gift

The house where we held the gathering was beautifully decorated with lights, as you can see.  And we all went a little crazy with the talking and laughing and eating way too much.  I arrived around 2 on Saturday and left at... um, ... 2 on Sunday.

Rooting for the BYU Volleyball team in the middle of the festivities

and we open a LOT of presents.  A BOAT LOAD OF PRESENTS.

There were so many presents there wasn't room for them in the living room.  They had to be staged in the back bedroom!

Presents abound in the back bedroom

This is always such a wonderful end to the holiday season.  It gives me something to look forward to every year once actual Christmas and New Year celebrations are past.

I have the best friends, ever.  Thanks for a very Happy Crew-mas!

(Photos by Elaine)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

"That Wasn't So Bad"

Digging two feet of "That wasn't so bad" out of the driveway
With all this talk about New York City not getting the snowfall that was predicted the last couple of days, here are photos to show what could have hit the Big Apple.  This snow system actually did hit pretty hard in Connecticut!

The front yard looks pretty blanketed in snow
When I first saw the above photo, I thought it looked rather pretty.  Then I noticed that the box in the foreground was the mailbox...

"The wind blew a drift up against my door... No road this morning; just hills and valleys of beautiful snow!"

Donna says she accidentally stuck the yardstick upside down into the snow, but that there was a good two feet of the white stuff on the ground.

Luckily they didn't lose power.  They sure did get a blanket of white, though!

This report was brought to you from Connecticut by my friend Donna, a senior Brown Belt in Judo and an all-around great lady!
My friend Donna

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Potluck and White Elephants

Barbara (right) poses for the camera as our coworkers munch a bunch o' lunch
The company I work for, an Engineering Firm, does a lot of fun things for its employees throughout the year.  This includes a holiday party in the middle of January for us to enjoy each others' company, eat too much pot-luck, and participate in a fun gift-giving game filled with odd-ball re-gifted gifts, aptly titled, "I hate what I got for Christmas".

My Engineers Doug and Eric
The above photo looks way too much like a product placement ad. However, it's just Doug and Eric enjoying their meals.  Two things that always amaze me about the engineers of our firm: (1) the incredibly beautiful and intelligent women they have managed to coerce into marrying them and (2) how well their lovely wives can cook!

Doug opening his present
The gift exchange was pretty funny!  There was a lot of gift-snatching and hilarity.  I ended up with a small blender that I was happy with.  Others weren't so lucky.  It's the name of the silly game.

Brian (with his back to the camera), Laura, Frank and Edward discussing the White Elephant strategy
I'm so lucky to work with some incredibly nice people.  What a blessing to actually enjoy coming to work each day!  We always have a lot to talk about at these gatherings.  I enjoy my coworkers' companionship a lot.

Of course, we had to go back for seconds.  The buffet tables were set up in our small kitchen next door to the conference room where the luncheon was held.  There was so much good food!

Frank poses with our buffet tables
It was hard not to want to try everything!  My eyes are always bigger than my stomach.

Diving in for seconds
In addition to the three small tables above, there were also dishes set up on the counter top.

The counter was also filled with delicious food choices
After everyone had totally pigged out, we started the gift exchange.  It was pretty funny.

The fabulous gift exchange
Ivy, Edward and Frank
There was a lot of good-natured teasing and mock fighting during the game!  Several popular items went through many hands before ending up with a lucky recipient.

Me, enjoying my plate of goodies
I tried capturing it all in photos, but my cell phone camera died half-way through.  I discovered later I had just maxed out the memory.  Silly me.  In the meantime, Barbara took photos for me.

Thanks, Barbara!

Brothers Walter (R) and Edward (L) checking out a bottle of spirits
These luncheons are a lot of fun, made even more so by the way people always enthusiastically respond to the challenge of bringing food and gifts to work.  The resulting activity was a resounding success!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Counted Cross-stitch

Abbie's ornament featured a sleeping kitty on a pile of books
I have a friend who does counted cross-stitch as a hobby and every year produces Christmas ornaments for each of the people in our circle of friends.  

Barbara's ornament shows a kitty in a Christmas stocking
 Elaine thoughtfully took photos of all of these before she gave them away, so you get to see her artistry.

This is Cathy's ornament.  I like the camel!
 A lot of care goes into each ornament.

A harp, bells and a trumpet were for Gina M
 Not just in the execution of the pattern, but in the choices for each person.

This little angel went to Gina T
Everyone gets an ornament suited (more or less) to his or her interests.

Jackie got this terrific ornament with cats in silhouette
 And everyone loves the finished product!

Joyce received this happy crescent moon
 I really like these two "moons" (above and below).

Julie got a crescent moon shaped Santa!
They are all much prettier in person, of course!

Laura received this lovely bell
 I've done counted cross-stitch.  It's not easy!

Lisa got this kilted bagpiper
We never know what Elaine will come up with.

Mark's Santa is jolly
But it's always fun to see what you get!

Maura's ornament shows a puppy and a present
These are all really are delightful, aren't they?

This is mine - a Julenisse from Norway
I like my Norwegian Santa a lot.

Paula's featured this little chubby toy soldier
 The toy soldier is adorable, too.
Peggy's ornament had a Father Christmas holding a lantern
Peggy's family comes from Slovakia, so the Father Christmas was appropriate.

Robin's ornament showcased her love for Siamese cats
Thanks, Elaine!  We all enjoy your talents.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Ice Man Cometh

Nephew Daniel in his snow gear
I guess I'm feeling a little guilty over our current temperatures in the mid-70s, here in sunny ol' California.  That's why I felt compelled to post this photo of my nephew Daniel.

Daniel lives in Ottawa, Canada, land of snow and ice.  This was a photo he took a few days ago.  He walks to work in -23C weather and this is how he does it - looking like the abominable snowman!

Oh, by the way, I did the math, -23C is -9 Fahrenheit.  No matter how you measure it, it sounds terrible.

So, for all of you still stuck in cold weather, you have my condolences.  I will enjoy my sunshine for now, thank you!

Have a terrific weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Taco Beach

Before the lunch crowd hit
I like going out to eat.  Let's face it, if you've been reading this blog for a while, you have realized by now that's one of my favorite things!  So when I find a great place, I am a happy camper.

When we first walked in and saw the red and green lights, I commented with surprise that they hadn't taken down their Christmas decorations yet.

My friend reassured me that those were Mexican colors and no doubt were a year-around part of the decor.  Doh!  Of course they are.  It did made the interior very festive.

Lunchtime at the Beach
Taco Beach Cantina in Long Beach made me happy.

Perhaps I should explain that!  I had 45 minutes for lunch, and my friend and I walked into this exceptionally busy place with misgivings.  We told the waitress our predicament and asked which menu items were the quickest.

"Tacos and burritos," came her quick reply.  "The fajitas will take much longer."

Okay.  Tacos it is!

Shrimp tacos with Mexican rice and beans
We both ordered taco meals with rice and beans and were not disappointed.  Not only was the food great, it came quickly, along with the check.  They didn't forget about us after that, either!  What great service!  I was very impressed!

The decorations above our rustic table
I suppose any restaurant plunked down in the middle of a big city business district has to deal with quick turnarounds at lunchtime, but some do it better than others.  Taco Beach did it really well!

The interior had a festive atmosphere
Yes, we did go on January 16th.  And, yes, people are wearing shorts in the photo.  There were also quite a few folks sitting outside.  The weather was cool, maybe in the lower 70s, but sunny and beautiful.

My heart-felt apologies to all of you still in the icy grip of winter.

(Please note: The photo of the front of the building comes from The Taco Beach Cantina website.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Johnny Rockets

One of my favorite hamburger joints
I once asked a Chinese-born co-worker what American foods he found hard to stomach.  I was curious.  His answer surprised me!  Without a moment's thought to consider his answer, he blurted out, "Hamburgers!"
Denise is a lovely woman.  I enjoy spending time with her.
I do not share his aversion to hamburgers. Being an American, I was raised on them.  That's one of the reasons why I enjoy Johnny Rockets.  Among other tasty things, they serve good, old-fashioned hamburgers and fries.

Put another quarter in the Juke Box!
I don't get to go to a Johnny Rockets very often, but I was recently in Long Beach with my friend Denise, and we had lunch at the one smack dab in the middle of downtown.  This is a tiny restaurant squeezed in among the old buildings around the intersection of Broadway and Pine. 

A bit of Americana: Coca-Cola, Fountain Service, American Fries and Ice Cream Floats
I hadn't been to a Johnny Rockets for years, so it was fun!