Saturday 30 December 2023

The calm after the storm

Not much to catch you up on this weekend. I've been rather lazy since returning home on Wednesday. I didn't make it to stitch and chat and Mahjong doesn't start again until next week.

I puttered around the house, handling some housework that needed doing, and made a trip out to Pet Valu on Thursday for cat litter, and dropped off my book at the Library. It was a book written by Jeanine Cummins, American Dirt, a fictional story about a woman and her son running from the Mexican cartel who had killed her husband and many family members. It described their journey through Mexico and across the border into the United States, and the migrants they met along the way. Two of these were sisters from South American, fleeing the brutality of their lives. It was heart-breaking to read in so many ways, but eye-opening (at least for me) of the dangerous conditions that so many face in other countries. Although fictional, the author had done a significant amount of research in order to write the novel.

I liked her writing so much, that I spent some of my Indigo gift card (from my brother and family) on a memoir she wrote about family members. From Amazon here is the summary:

"A Rip in Heaven is Jeanine Cummins’ story of a night in April, 1991, when her two cousins Julie and Robin Kerry, and her brother, Tom, were assaulted on the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, which spans the Mississippi River just outside of St. Louis. When, after a harrowing ordeal, Tom managed to escape the attackers and flag down help, he thought the nightmare would soon be over. He couldn’t have been more wrong. Tom, his sister Jeanine, and their entire family were just at the beginning of a horrific odyssey through the aftermath of a violent crime, a world of shocking betrayal, endless heartbreak, and utter disillusionment. It was a trial by fire from which no family member would emerge unscathed."

I haven't started it yet, as I'm reading a book I'd picked up earlier this fall. It's one I can put down and pick up irregularly and continue the story. Good, but not great.

I was feeling antsy on Friday, so made a quick trip to Value Village and the dollar store. I found a lovely t-shirt for myself and a new jigsaw puzzle. I've given up on the one I started before Christmas - it was all browns, grays, and greens that blended into one another. I found myself sorting by shapes, rather than color and pieces that clearly didn't belong together fit together anyway. 

This morning, I put away the old and started the new puzzle - almost all of the edge pieces were located. There are blogs to read, my older book, and if I'm feeling truly ambitious, my crocheting to work on. Or maybe my cross-stitch. Choices, choices. 

New Year's Eve will be spent quietly here at home. D has mentioned that Eli has asked if he can stay up this year. She's agreed, so we'll see how that goes! I did mention, if he's getting too tired to change to another time zone and let midnight come a little earlier. They can watch the ball fall in Times Square and he'll not know the difference. :)

All the best in 2024 to all of my readers wherever you may be. I appreciate your following along this journey. 

Tuesday 26 December 2023

Times flies

When you're having fun, and fun we did have these past three days!

The drive went smoothly, just a wee bit of snow as I got closer to D's and fog in the valley. We had the car unloaded, the presents put under the tree, groceries unpacked, and my bags tucked in Eli's/my bedroom and I was sitting down with a cup of tea by 9:30 a.m. I got away from the city earlier than I expected. 

D's friend M had sent two large bags of clothing, that her youngest had grown out of, for Eli. She sorted through the clothes as we chatted and I folded other clothing from the dryer. After the "new to Eli" clothing was washed and dried, we both went upstairs. She to put the clothes away and I sat down to crochet. Eli has recently sized out of the small sizes and most of these were medium with a few large pieces as well. After putting the clothes away, she gave a huge sigh of relief, as there is enough clothing to last through the next year or so. Except underwear...but Santa came through with a package so he's set. :)

We also made a quick visit to the park. Eli had fun with a dollar store toy that flies. Then a younger girl came by and played hide and seek with him for a bit before we headed home.

After an early dinner, we set out to see the Christmas lights around town. My goodness, there are some beautifully decorated houses!  Most of my photos didn't turn out, but here are a few.

One of the local businesses has been doing a float since 2020, when during the pandemic the annual events were cancelled. They've continued the tradition, and Eli loves seeing the float. He was disappointed when we first drove out as he could hear but not see the float (we were going the wrong direction). However, we eventually caught up to it, not once but twice! I was able to capture the video on our second pass by. Listen for the little voice at the end.

Christmas Eve morning, Eli woke asking if Santa had come and was a bit disappointed to hear he had to wait another day. Throughout the day we watched some television, he played video games, and more laundry was done. (It seems to multiply in this house). Eli and D went out for a bit in the morning, so he could go skating but were home earlier than expected as he wasn't feeling well. In the afternoon, I headed upstairs for some quiet time with my book.

Bedtime came early, with Eli and I reading books. He settled quickly, but spent much of the night wriggling and twisting himself up in the blankets. Suffice to say my sleep was interrupted. About 6 a.m. I sent him downstairs to his mother (she was awake about 3:30 a.m.) and I managed to doze off until 7.

My mother always insisted we eat breakfast before opening presents - I had the same rule and D has carried it on. However, Eli did get to open the gifts in his stocking (of which there were many). He had eaten before I made my way downstairs but waited patiently while D and I had ours. More fun ensued as he handed out the gifts, most were for him, but he was quite willing to lend a hand to us to unwrap ours, so he could move onto the next gift. Another rule: one present is opened at a time so everyone can see what the gift was and appreciate it. I didn't think to take any photos until his mom was busy putting together his best present from Santa (with some help from mom), a Gabby's Dollhouse. Gabby's Dollhouse is an animated cartoon, of a little Hispanic girl who turns herself in an animated version of herself and plays with her kitty friends in her dollhouse. My daughter says the show emphasizes kindness and manners. It's certainly quite a different experience from some of the videos he watches about video games!

D went upstairs to catch a nap while Eli played on his new table, and I watched a movie, Daddy's Home 2. It wasn't the best movie I've ever watched, but it certainly had some fun moments. Of course, being a Christmas movie, it all worked out in end and the Christmas spirit shone through.

We had our Christmas dinner: pork loin roast, dressing/stuffing, mashed potatoes, peas and carrots, and gravy. For dessert, though I didn't need it, I had one of the delicious rum butter tarts my daughter made for me. After dishes were loaded in the dishwasher, we sat and watched a bit of television and let our dinners settle. Later, in bed Eli and I watched a few shortened versions of America's Funniest Videos. He particularly enjoyed the videos of the cats versus Christmas trees. 

This morning, we've got some chores to do around the house, and then we're heading out to do a bit of Boxing Day shopping. The options aren't many here in this small town, so it won't take long. In addition, unlike city stores that open at o'dark in the morning, the earliest opening hours here is around 9:30. Much more civilized, don't you think?

I expect we'll head to the park later this afternoon as the temperature is expected to rise to 0C/32F. I'm planning to head back to the city tomorrow, though I'm not certain what time I'll get away. It's been wonderful having lots of time with Eli (and his mom) though I do wish he wasn't such a wriggler in the bed.

Happy Boxing Day everyone!

Saturday 23 December 2023

Here comes Santa Claus!

First off, thanks for the lovely comments on the finally completed Christmas ornaments for my brother and SIL. I started with the reindeer for R, because this is a deer he can't shoot. :p  I was stymied a bit thinking of what to make for P, but Pinterest for the win! These were so easy to make, and I already had the small bells to add (these are tied to the cord from the start of the bell). In addition, these were very simple to make quickly. I've already told D, these are what I will make for Eli's teachers and aides next year.

If you recall, this year I made the small cocoa cups. D gave them each a container of her baking, as well as pot holders. She used her Cricut Joy to add a saying to them. Most were as pictured, but she did special ones for the principal and his primary teacher. 

Isn't it adorable? She said she underestimated how much time it would take to complete these so if she does something similar next year, she'll start the process earlier.

Here's a funny story (and totally unrelated) for you. On Monday, I puttered around the house, not doing a very much as it was my son's earned day off. I finished the ornaments, watched some television, worked on a jigsaw puzzle, and read. About 4 p.m. the front door opened, and in walked C. To say the least I was surprised, and asked where he'd been? He said work, didn't you notice my car was gone? No, no I hadn't, even though I had been outside a couple of times to take garbage out and to grab the mail. We both got a laugh out of me trying to be quiet when he wasn't even here. In case you are wondering, I tend to keep it quiet until lunchtime, so I was a little annoyed thinking he could possibly still be sleeping!!

I made the mistake of going to Costco on Tuesday assuming, wrongly, that it would be quiet at noon on a weekday. The place was packed with people picking up groceries and last minute gift shopping. All I went for was AAA batteries, but ended up picking up a few groceries myself. Is that store ever not busy? 

Wednesday was our last Stitch and Chat for 2023. I wore my Christmas naughty or nice socks and my new elf hat. It's a snug fit, so I may end up giving it to Eli.

In addition, I took a small plate of the Peppermint and white chocolate blondies. The scale has told me that I've been eating far too much of it. :)

There were 4 of us there; Io, S, M, and myself. M has recently joined the group. She's very friendly and loves to knit. Although I'm not certain I'll be back in time, we did decide we'd meet next week, if enough people were available. Io isn't sure she will be as she doesn't know how long her family will be here for Christmas. I suspect Sheila will be the one to text the rest of us.

The Mahjong group met on Thursday as well. I'm not getting any better at this game - it seems there is always another rule I don't know. There will be a new card coming out for 2024 too with more hands to learn. Thankfully the group is willing to put up with a newbie. I played about 90 minutes and by then my brain hurt so I left a bit early. However, I do enjoy the game, and the company so I'll be back after New Years.

On Friday, I was busy preparing for my trip to my daughter's. Her friend M, had dropped off two large bags of clothing that her youngest son had grown out of. I also had some grocery items I'd picked up in the States and here over the past few weeks. Since I'm planning to be there for about 5 days, I packed a bag of clothing, personal items, phone charger, a bag of projects (knitting and crocheting), the book I need to read for book club, my camera, and of course, the gifts. Whatever wouldn't freeze overnight, or I didn't need immediately, was packed into the car. 

My brother dropped by for a short visit and to exchange Christmas gifts. I realized, after he left, I'd forgotten a gift under the tree AND the tin of baking in the freezer. I knew he'd be in the city for a few hours yet so sent a text suggesting he could swing by and pick them up, or I'd meet him somewhere to drop it off. I'm pretty sure it was the baking that made him respond quickly. :) He returned an hour or so later, and we chatted for a few minutes before he headed out again. I think he called less than 10 minutes later to tell me he was eating the cookies already! I hope he left some for his family.

I plan on getting away from the city by about 8:30 this morning. It will be light enough but ahead of the sunrise, as I'm driving directly east for the first 15-20 minutes and I hate driving into the sun. Once I get to the secondary highway, I'll change direction. It took about 90 minutes from door to door from the old house. I suspect it will be a little longer from our new place. There will likely be a post on Tuesday, with photos of all the fun to that point.

Merry Christmas everyone! Enjoy your day however you choose to spend it.

Friday 22 December 2023

Saturday 16 December 2023

A good week: Friends, fun, and final preparations

It truly is looking as if we'll be having a brown Christmas this year. This week's weather has been well above normal temperatures for this time of the year, and what little snow fell a week ago is pretty much gone. We might see a few flurries but no major accumulation is expected before Christmas. I'll take it, as I'm driving out to my daughter's next weekend and would prefer to have clear highways for the drive, and temperatures warm enough that the car doesn't need to be plugged in overnight. 

My preparations for Christmas are so close to complete, I can see the finish line. Baking is complete: this week I made another batch of sugar and spice cookies, a pan of white chocolate peppermint blondies, and the last batch of shortbread. The containers to give away were full and tucked away in the freezer. I picked up the gift cards for my niece and nephew, finished their tree ornaments and tucked them in gift bags. I'm still working on the ornaments for my brother and SIL.

No stitch and chat this week, as my friend K was available for a visit. She's a busy gal, so I appreciated her taking the time to come by the house. She is the recipient of the penguin and went home with it, a container of baking, and a book to read and pass on. We worked together for many years, have travelled together, and always have lots to talk about! In fact, there was some discussion of a trip in 2025. We do like to start the planning early.

On Thursday, I spent the morning doing laundry and some housecleaning, before heading to the community center for Mahjong. I've been playing the free on-line games, four a day, for the last week and I actually won a game that morning! I got lucky and had a good hand to start out with - that doesn't happen often, and I've learned that one must switch strategy and I really, really to learn to recognize the tiles better than I do. Too often, I end up with a dead hand - basically a hand that doesn't conform to the hands that are allowed.

I did win a hand that afternoon too, but with much help from A. She was playing too but would scoot over to add words of wisdom. Occasionally she discarded a tile from her board knowing I needed it. I appreciated the hand out. :) Next week I'm going to go it alone, but with the caveat that I can ask for help if I feel I need it. A told us today she has been playing since 1994 another woman, B started in 2001. I'm definitely learning from some experienced players.

D received the diagnosis for Eli that afternoon, and it is confirmed our boy is autistic (in addition to his previous diagnosis of ADHD). He has lower support needs in many areas, but will require assistance in certain aspects. The diagnosis provides opportunities for additional funding for therapies or certain equipment that will be helpful in teaching Eli coping skills or other ways to learn as he goes through school. I have no doubt that with the needed supports, he'll be successful as he's a pretty smart kid and is, even at this young age, unafraid to advocate for himself.

She took him to see Santa a week or so ago. He told his mom that this wasn't the real Santa, because the real one is too busy, this guy is just a helper.

Friday was a quiet day though I did run out for a few groceries.  The latest Grand Slam of curling event is being televised, but only the last two days of the regular draws, and then the playoffs. It's a bit disappointing as too often it's pretty clear who will make it into the playoffs by the final draws. However, I won't complain too loudly - at least I have curling to watch and they won't listen to me anyway.

Today means more curling, some reading, and maybe some crocheting. I've lost my crocheting energy, even though I'm so close to finishing the last two small projects. It's taken a bit of toll on my wrists and hands so I've been taking some time off to rest. I do have a couple of days next week to get at 'er.  My brother will likely be over for a visit next week for our Christmas exchange. 

Have a wonderful week ahead everyone! 

Saturday 9 December 2023

Checking my list

The tree was decorated and gifts wrapped/bagged early one morning last weekend. My son likes to sleep in (I think I've mentioned that a time or two), so I puttered around downstairs doing things I figured wouldn't disrupt his rest. This year, with a good portion of the tree back against the wall, I only decorated three sides - takes less time! I couldn't find my hangers for those ornaments without strings, so a number of the ornaments are merely "stuffed" into the branches. The box with the hangers are in a tub in the garage and I'm too lazy to go looking for them. Since Saku rarely bothers the tree and the ornaments are the unbreakable kind, I'm not worried about losing any.

I haven't yet picked up the gift cards for DeNiece and DeNephew, but the card boxes are tucked under the tree. I'd best not forget! Bags are my friend and I re-use several of them each year by either using it for the same person, or removing the sticker and adding a new one. 

This week I got more Christmas baking done, and there is a full container for my friends K&J in the freezer and a partially filled one for my brother R and his family. I need to bake the third batch of shortbread and a second batch of sugar and spice cookies for their tin, along with one more Christmas'y cake or cookie. I like bars because they take less time and effort, but cookies are always good too.

I did my weekly grocery shop on Wednesday morning. I have really got to get back to every 10 days as I spend less, but there were a few sale items I wanted to pick up for Christmas. That afternoon, I went to stitch and chat, visiting with S as no one else made it this week. We did have company though, as a young man sat in the room with his laptop and ear buds. 

Thursday was my first foray into the world of Mahjongg at the nearby community center. There is a fairly large group of women who play, but this day there were only six including me. They play four people to a hand, and one woman is an instructor of sorts. She plays when there is a seat as they rotate, but seemed to generally be helping others. After I watched a game, she took me to a separate table and explained some of the need to know terminology, as well as the rules of the game. But not all of the rules, because there are far too many to learn at once. When the second hand was complete, she sat with me and I played my first hand with lots of assistance. We played two more hands, and surprisingly I won the second hand I played. Did she ask the others to throw it to me? I don't think so but I'm sure it was her instructions that made the difference. Anyway it was fun (and challenging) and I'll be going back next week. 

At home, I've been working on several projects: crocheted ornaments, a knitted elf hat, and a cross stitch stocking pattern. I couldn't locate my safety eyes in my craft boxes in the garage so had to wait until a new set arrived from Amazon. I don't know why our local Michaels doesn't carry them, even on-line. I finished up on of the Christmas tree ornaments and I'm not entirely happy with it. The elf hat is partially finished, I have a lot of ends to sew in and a pom pom to make to complete it.

I spent most of the day on Friday doing housework, baking buns, watching curling and knitting. The biggest chore was vacuuming the basement and cleaning up the equipment area. We had the water softener removed this week and the area where it sat was filthy with dust and salt. I should have washed the floor but as I finishing I heard a couple of large trucks out front. There was a letter in the mailbox the other day from a pumping company, notifying us they would be cleaning out the sewer lines this week. I scrambled around the house closing sink drains, wrapping the toilet bowls in old towels, closing shower stall doors, and covering the main drain in the basement. According to the letter, the force of the water could come up in the house but thankfully that did not happen. I did, however, listen to the roar of the equipment for almost two hours. 

Today will be a mostly quiet day. There's more curling, more crafts, a jigsaw to work on, and maybe a run out to the hair salon to get my mop cut. 

I'll leave you with a photo of a hare I spotted across the road a few days ago. I'm glad to see we have some wildlife in the area, though hope it stays on this side as we're not far off the highway.

Have a great week ahead, everyone!

Saturday 2 December 2023

Christmas, curling, and cold

Being a bit of a number nerd, I did the calculation on items that I can purchase here in Canada as compared to the US prices (after conversion to Cdn dollars). Overall I saved nearly 40% on those purchases. Some items were definitely worth it - like the Skechers slip-ons and Christmas pj's for Eli. Others, not so much - I could have picked up the sweatpants for Eli's for (slightly) less here in Regina since they were on sale here too.

I also picked up some items that we just don't have here - Dot's Pretzels (not as good as I was assured they'd be), Dolly Parton cake mixes, and specialty flavours of Oreos. The amount I saved in Canadian dollars offset almost half the cost of the trip. Had I stayed home, I might have saved money, but I wouldn't have completed my shopping in such a short period of time and probably run all over town looking for the "perfect" gift. On this trip, I had to make my decisions quickly - do dithering allowed.

The rest of the week has been fairly quiet. I did a little grocery shopping on Tuesday in order to pick up some needed items and a few sale items. The furnace guy dropped by later that day to check out the furnace as I've been hearing a whine occasionally when it starts up. Yes, we had the home inspector check it, but he didn't mention the whine and the furnace is 22 years old. Of course it didn't whine when he was here, though he knew that it would like be the inducer motor. He did a couple of tests and everything is working well though did say when it starts getting very loud, we'll want to replace it. The part is about $1000, but a new furnace is about $6K so I'll ensure my son knows to keep an ear out.

I also finished off the six cocoa cups for teacher's gifts for Eli. (Photo of the two was posted on Wednesday). I've started a couple of small ornaments for my nephew and niece to go along with their gift cards. Last year I gave them little snowman ornaments and they couldn't stop talking about them. Perhaps this can become a annual tradition and when they are on their own, they'll have a start of decorations for their trees.

Wednesday was stitch and chat. I puttered around the house in the morning, doing a bit of laundry, dishes, reading blogs, and working on the Christmas letter. My travel agent called before lunch and we chatted about her trip to Portugal, my bus tour, and my upcoming March 2024 cruise. Final payment is due next week, so we took care of that. She's keeping an eye out for airfare for my August 2024 cruise as well though prices at the moment are quite high. I'm hoping for a price drop though that's probably wishful thinking.

On Thursday I had planned to visit the nearby community center to meet some local women and try to learn Mahjong. However, I woke with a cough and a drippy nose. I decided that I'd best stay home and after some Buckley's and a sinus and cold Tylenol, I felt well enough to get some more cleaning done, got my Christmas cards written and ready for the mail, as well as some crocheting. I cannot locate my safety eyes in my craft room boxes, so ordered more as I'll need them to finish off the ornaments. In the afternoon I discovered another curling event on You-tube. It was only the second draw, so I should be able to amuse myself for the rest of the week.

I was feeling quite a bit better on Friday morning, so I masked up and went to the mall to mail my Christmas cards and a parcel for D & Eli. A stop at Safeway was on the agenda too, where I picked up some ingredients for Christmas baking. At home between curling games, I mixed up a pan of gingerbread cake. I also finished Chilly, the penguin I started making for a friend back in October (before the packing began in earnest). He's a little crooked and not perfect but I think he turned out pretty cute.

My son is learning all about the trials of home ownership. On Friday, the light in the main bathroom started to fail. It's an enclosed LED vanity light fixture with no way to replace the lights, thus a new fixture is needed. I checked on-line at our local outlets and none had the appropriate size in stock, except one and the reviews for it were abysmal. I ended up ordering from Amazon, so he'll have to remember to take his cellphone to the bathroom for light in the morning, as it won't be in until December 9th (at the earliest). I'll convince my brother to help us install it. I'd done an install on a light in the old house a few years and it worked fine but this one is quite a big bigger and heavier.

Today, getting my little tree decorated, gifts wrapped, and more crocheting is on the agenda. And, of course, more curling to watch.

Oh, and the best thing to happen this week is: I found my tea canister. I have absolutely no idea why I packed it as I did. The darn thing was tucked in among toilet paper rolls in the original product packaging. I mean, it was a safe place for it, but I don't remember putting it there and I never would have thought to look for it, I just happened upon it when I was getting more paper for the loo.

Have a wonderful week ahead everyone!