Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Auld Lang Syne


Should all temptations be forgot,
And never brought to dine...



Should all temptations be forgot,
I'll lose weight in '09!

In preparation for getting back on the Weight Watchers wagon (translation: clearing the house of sweets) I successfully came home and ate Every. Last. Christmas. Cookie.

Now to finish off that apple pie before midnight...Cheers!




Monday, December 29, 2008

Green Christmas


'Twas the 25th of December, but no snow was found
As Ib and Lisa traveled east, Ohio Valley bound.
Grandma in the kitchen making a fuss;
While Grandpa was proud, showing support for The Bus.

Dad thought of a song that we all should sing,
Then danced around in Christmas-cookie bling.

Seeester and Matt giggling on the couch,
With the smell of roast beast filling the house.

Ib with his syrup: a half-gallon jug;
This, he said, was a whole lot of love!

Grandma loved her blue birds,

And Mom: a new sweater!

Matching hats for the boys make things even better.

We didn't need snow or wintery weather;

Our Christmas was perfect because we were together!

Monday, December 22, 2008

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like...


Christmas in the desert takes some getting used to. I thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread my first year here. Sitting in the back yard in a t-shirt looking at the snow on the mountains: That was pretty cool. But, believe it or not, the lack of changing seasons really puts a damper on my holiday spirit. The fact that we're away from the family doesn't help matters either, but we do the best we can.

Sunday evening we were invited to the Howell Family's Annual Winterhaven Walk. Winterhaven is a Tucson neighborhood that takes Christmas decorating very seriously. In fact, it is a requirement of the homeowner's association that residents must decorate. The 2 weekends before Christmas, the neighborhood is blocked off from vehicles so folks can walk through, or take a horse-drawn wagon ride, and enjoy the lights.

We decided we'd take the "kids" this year. Vinnie isn't a fan of the cold, so we dug out his little fleece coat. I made him wear his reindeer antlers and Ib made him a jingle bell necklace, so I figured he might as well be totally mortified. Cooper, on the other hand, is usually a trooper. But Ib thought he should have some sort of protection from the cold.


He got out an old pair of sweat pants and made a custom shirt for Cooper. It turned out pretty well, though Cooper wasn't thrilled with the idea of wearing anything. It wasn't nearly as cold this year, so that was a bonus. Ib was pretty proud of his handywork.


The kids were all bundled up, so we set off for the Howell's. They live about 3 blocks from Winterhaven, which is really great! It's so easy to find parking and they are such gracious hosts, putting on the best spreads of goodies and Mmmmm...hot chocolate!

This is one of my favorite houses in Winterhaven. It's just so bright! And they have some of the tallest palm trees (wrapped in lights of course) that I've ever seen!

It's hard to appreciate just how tall these things are. Two years, and I haven't been able to get them all in the frame yet.


This is one of the other impressive displays. These folks have incorporated music, lights and water. It's sort of like a mini Bellagio. I can't imagine the time that must have gone into putting this all together. (Sorry about all the mindless chatter in the background.) Hope you enjoy!


video

Our next stop is Pennsylvania/Ohio....we'll be home for Christmas!


Wishing everyone a joyous Christmas, from the desert!

Love,

The Contessas

Monday, December 15, 2008

Early Christmas Surprise


Back in July I made the transition from production graphics into the "upstairs" design department. Now, rather than make other people's ideas come to life, I get the chance to use my creativity and put that college degree to good use.

I've spent the past 5 months adapting to my new duties and surroundings and have received nothing but positive feedback so far. In fact, I've already got a handful of salespeople and project coordinators who specifically request me to work on their projects. Very encouraging!

Today, my supervisor's boss presented me the opportunity to move to a salaried position. I decided to accept, especially since there are some nice perks that come with the deal. On paper, it appears that I'll be making an extra $.15/hr. The nice part is I'll actually have to work a lot less to earn that money! This year alone, I put in 225 hours of overtime (and that was much less than usual). So, it turned out to be a pretty big raise if you ask me! There is a lot more flexibility in my hours and some holidays that used to be unpaid, I found out are super-secret salary paid holidays. Score! There will occassionally be times that I'll want to (or need to) work on stuff at home in the evenings, or on weekends. And for that extra time, my supervisor is really cool about giving a random day off with pay.

I'm going to finish out the year with my same early hours. But starting in January I'm going to get an extra hour of beauty sleep in the morning: Start work at 7:00, take my hour lunch and be in the gym by 4:00. I'm really looking forward to this next step in my career and emersing myself in design again.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

VICTORY!


You may recall hearing about last year's rodent issues. It involved a rent-a-cat and the back seat of my car turning into a litter box...

Apparently, the smartest mice in Tucson flock to our house. Every morsel I ever put in a trap disappeared, yet, the only thing we ever caught was Cooper. I don't recommend those sticky traps...

Anyway, Friday night Ib and I were watching movies. I thought I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. Of course, when I looked, there was nothing. Two or three times I caught a glimpse of something before I finally got a full-on view of a mouse running from under my computer desk to behind the TV. I let out a hoot and Ib thought I'd lost my mind. I got up and set a trap right in its path and went back to the movie.

Before long, we had both dozed off. I woke up to a scratching sound. I thought it was the blinds, but once I opened my eyes I nearly jumped out of my skin. That mouse had climbed up the potted palm tree in the corner of the living room. It was just sitting on the branch like it owned the place. I screamed for Ib to wake up, because I knew no one would believe me without a witness. We've got circus mice.

It jumped out of the tree and went back into hiding. Ib went to bed and I waited up trying to get a picture of it in the tree again. Finally, I admitted defeat and called it a night.

Morning brought another empty trap. No sign of the little guy all day. Until we sat down to another evening of movies. I saw it run behind the TV again. At that point, Ib suggested we catch it. Since it was too smart for the traps, and we knew right where it was hiding, we'd just catch it and put it outside.


So I positioned myself on one side of the TV with a baseball bat, while Ib and Cooper staked out the otherside with a box and flashlight. I banged on the TV stand and that little rat streaked across the living room. Now it was hiding under the rock cabinet. So Ib set up barricades and we tried to flush it out of that hiding spot.

I screamed like a girl and back across the living room it went. This time, he went straight out across the floor...no hugging the walls. He knew we were right on his tail. Cooper finally spotted and darted after him. But when he got to the middle of the living room, there was no sign of the mouse, and he spun around chasing his tail trying to figure out where it had gone. If only we'd had the video camera set up...

We thought he'd gone under the couch, so Ib lifted that up, dumping a sleeping Vinnie onto the floor in the process. No mouse. We checked behind the bookshelf on the other side of the room. Bingo! The mouse ran towards the front door then, only inches away from freedom, turned around and went back behind the bookshelf. Cooper was furiously digging at the carpet.

One more shake of the shelf and he took off running again. This time, he ran along the windows behind the couch and stopped for a breather behind the blinds. That was his fatal mistake. I shrieked for Cooper and pointed out the furry scoundrel.

With all his laser-pointer training, Cooper sprung on the mouse with cat-like reflexes and the chase was over.


I had to hold him to keep him from eating the thing. It was pretty gross. Then Ib gave it a good whack with the baseball bat to make sure it wasn't just "playing dead". Then he flushed it down the toilet...


So far, we haven't seen any more mice. Let's hope they finally got the idea!

YAY COOPER!



Friday, December 5, 2008

My Husband: The Comedian


Ib's had his eye on these shoes for awhile and I wanted to get them for him for Christmas. So I ordered them online but, I was so excited, I couldn't wait to give them to him. I'm really bad at surprises.

He sure does look snazzy! And he absolutely loves the shoes.

So then he writes a check for the bills...this is the thanks I get for being the coolest wife ever...




Dead-Beat Blogger


It's funny...before I started blogging, it seemed like I always had something "I should write about". Now, I'm either too lazy or just that boring! So for my faithful readers, I apologize.

I'll try to do better.

Really.


With that said, here are a few shots from our Thanksgiving.

We had a wonderful dinner at The Rawn's, joined by Melissa's folks and Cathy from Albuquerque. I learned all about The Wiggles.


We have so many things to be thankful for: Our families coming together, Ib's new career taking off, good health and good friends (who graciously invite us to join them for the Holiday) We love you guys!


Friday we were sitting at home when we realized we still had 2 1/2 days off! We toyed with the idea of going to San Diego to have lunch on the beach. Then Ib said if we were going that far, we might as well go to LA to see his friend A.J.

So I said, if we're going to go to LA, we might as well keep on driving and go to Santa Cruz, since ultimately, that's where we would have liked to have been, anyway.

Then we came to our senses...trying to do 26 hours of driving plus spending time (awake!) with our family in 2 1/2 days...just not realistic. We'll save that trip for the next full 4-day weekend.

Phoenix is much closer and we hadn't seen Hass & Amy or Farlan & Shanika since the wedding. So we packed up the dogs and drove up for the night. It turned out to be pretty eventful, since we almost added a new family member.

This little guy was wandering outside Hass & Amy's fence. I felt bad for him, all matted up and neglected. So I talked to him through the fence and pet him to let him know someone cared. He had a collar but no tags. He was a dirty little Yorkie, but Ib was not budging on adopting him. Amy was almost considering it, but Hass (and the cats) squashed that idea. So, sadly, I left him on the other side of the fence and went to wash my hands. I came back out to find him waiting outside the sliding door. Ooops! He must have squeezed in the gate, but we were all kind of shocked to see him there. Eventually, we called animal control to pick him up. We knew they'd find a better home for him.

The rest of the night we were entertained by Cooper trying to attack Jayden's light-up shoes. He thought it was the laser-pointer that he loves to chase. Then Amy and I ate pie and watched ghost stories on TV til we scared ourselves silly. It was really nice to see everyone.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Barefoot Contessa & Chef Boy-R-Ib


It's that time of year when I put my baking skills to good use...and it's finally not too hot to use the oven!

Today, in preparation for our upcoming Thanksgiving feast with the Rawn Family, I decided to whip up my infamous Pumpkin Roll. My mom started baking these years back for the holidays. Since Ib is such a huge pumpkin pie fan, I thought I'd try my hand at making them in the hopes he'd like them too.

Turns out, he does like them.

A lot.

So this is my third year making them. They can be tricky little things. You've got to dump the sheet of pumpkin cake off the cookie tray in one piece so that you can roll it up with a cream cheese filling. Definitely worth the work, but tricky nonetheless.


The trick to getting them off the sheet in one piece is to grease and flour. I hate using Crisco. It's just gross. And it's hard to wash off. So I decided this year that I'd use cooking spray and then flour the pans. Much neater.

Except that it burned the cake, which stuck to the sheet. *Sigh*

After some minor surgery with a spatula, I managed to save most of it. Then I scraped off the crunchy parts. One faired a little better than the other. I'll let Ib have at the more "well done" of the two tonight. If it's OK, then I'll feel better serving the other one. Otherwise, it looks like I'll be heading back to the grocery store to get more ingredients! And GREASING the pan this time.

So after a busy morning of baking, I sat down to a lovely lunch with my husband. I made and froze meatballs a few weeks back, so he warmed up some delicious subs for us today. No sooner did I sit down on the couch and took a big bite out of my sandwich when a cat started walking across the front yard.

Now, due to no one's fault but our own, Cooper is obsessed with cats. He sits in the front windows watching day and night for the many strays in our neighborhood. And when he spots one, he hurls himself at the windows clawing, growling and barking as if he's going to rip the thing to shreds. And when the cat is out of view, he'll tear out the doggy door and run around to the fence and bark some more...just to let that cat know who's boss. The truth of the matter is, he's terrified of cats, which we figured out by testing him in the presence of Littles, Nini & Markus' cat. But we like to let him think he's a ferocious canine killer, protecting the house and everything in it.

Anyway, I had just taken a bite out of my sub when the cat started across the yard. Cooper went flying to the window, as usual. Well sometimes, ground level just isn't the best vantage point to be sure that the cat keeps on his merry way. So he lept to the back of the couch, by way of my dinner plate balanced on the arm of the couch. The next thing I knew, spaghetti sauce was flying and there was a meatball in my hand where the TV remote had been only seconds earlier. I sat there in shock for a few seconds, but by the look of sheer horror on Ib's face, I knew it couldn't be good. Cooper found himself outside, with the doggy door locked behind him. When I finally managed to get up, there were little spaghetti-sauce paw prints from one end of the couch to the other.

Hooray for Scotch-Guard! I sprayed it with carpet cleaner and every last spot came up. Whew!

Cooper is lucky he's so darn cute.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Mah Gurlz


So, after spending a whirlwind weekend together at the wedding, my girls and I decided that we should do it again...in Chicago. The first weekend of October, Amy hopped a train, Mish and I booked flights and Jen drove the SeX-T to the Windy City. We just needed a reminder of how much fun we have when we're all together. And once a year just isn't enough girl-time!

Jen arranged some lovely accomodations for us in China Town. It was just like our college apartment...only without the sparkly unicorn curtains.

I did a little google research and decided that we should try out the Won Kow restaurant for dinner, which was conveniently located right across from the hotel. We had the family meal, which was more like food for an army, and this fantastic fruity beverage that was on fire when they brought it to the table. We left with full bellies and called it an early night...after a rousing "The Sound of Music" sing-along and a lullabye from Mish.

The next morning, after packing our Chinese-leftovers lunch, we set off for the Art Institute. Those clever parking authority folks made it really easy for us to remember where the car was.

That crafty Jen heard that most museums will give you a discount if you are an educator. So she made us some awesome fake Teacher ID's. We tried to use them at the art museum, but they only offered discounts to Illinois teachers. Lucky for me, it was Bank of America customer appreciation weekend, so I got in free anyway!

We spent a lovely afternoon imitating art.

Then it was off to Millenium Park to enjoy a late lunch. There's nothing like eating cold fried rice out of a Zip-Loc with a plastic fork and washing it down with some Ben & Jerry's...especially with the girls.

From the park, we walked to Howl at the Moon, a dueling piano bar. We enjoyed (literally) buckets of libations and sang along with crowd favorites like Friends in Low Places and Baby Got Back.

I even found Bono on the way there!

Jen took us to Burger King before tucking us into bed. Sunday morning we packed our bags and checked out of our China Town suite. We had Chinese brunch before dropping Amy off (almost too late!) at the train station. Jen, Mish and I headed to the Shedd Aquarium since we had a few hours to kill before our flights home. We flashed our fake Teacher ID's and they let us in for free! Then I got in trouble for taking this picture...with the flash.

But even the poor sports at the Aquarium couldn't rain on our parade. There's nothing like being with the girls!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Winds of Change


Until this year, with the country in shambles, I never cared to vote. Democrat. Republican. Whatever. I really don't like any politicians because, well, they're just that: politicians. I figured that my vote couldn't single-handedly keep the bad apples out of office, but I certainly wouldn't be held responsible for putting any of them in, either.

My great-grandma Gina, on the other hand, worked the polls for 40 years. She loved it. So much so that she worked the polls 3 days after her 100th birthday. Yesterday she would have been 102.


Anyway, after 8 years of bumbling idiocy, I decided to be part of the change. With very little time, I tried to educate myself as best I could on the candidates, including those running for my local offices. It was kind of like having homework again, but I found it exciting at the same time. Ib and I got up this morning and were at the polls at 6:00 am. We did our civic duty and it felt good.


So here's to change, to the future, and to Grandma Gina.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Trick or Treat!

Ib and I attended our first Halloween party Saturday night. Woody, one of our custom fabricators, and his wife Leslie host the party annually. After being invited the past 3 years, I thought it might be nice if we actually showed up! So we did and we had a great time. I thought it'd be really cute if we went as Mr. and Mrs. Potato-Head, but Ib wouldn't bite.


So he dressed up as a skater...little did everyone know that it was nothing out of the ordinary! My costume could have used a little work, but for $7 and about an hour to cut out the pieces, I don't think it turned out too bad.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Crisis averted. Everything back to normal.


Or so I thought.

Still reeling from the Thanksgiving debacle, I got home to find Vinnie a little under the weather:





A trip to the emergency vet revealed that he was having an allergic reaction of some sort. Either to pollen, or he got bitten by something, or ate something...we don't know. By the time we actually got to see the doctor, most of the hives had disappeared. They still wanted to give him an injection of Benadryl, combined with a second shot of steroids to make it work faster. Yeah...um, NO.

And I was supposed to follow that up with 3 days of Benadryl pills at home. Since it was clearing up on it's own, I opted to just give him pills, if necessary. Within minutes of getting home and going outside, Vinnie was literally covered from head to toe in hives again. 10 times worse than I'd first found him. Even his little eyes were starting to swell shut. We put him in the bath tub, hoping to rinse off anything that might have been on his fur. Following the doseage recommended by the vet, I rolled up a Benadryl pill in some cheese and he gobbled it up. About 20 minutes later, it was coming back up.

I think passed my first "mommy" test when I picked the pill out of the mess, crushed it up and fed it to him again.

That time he kept it down and the hives were starting to disappear just before we went to bed. He got up this morning 90% hive-free. He ate breakfast and kept it down. We came home from work to find him good as new: a pleasant Halloween treat!