Funny stories... tales from the road... life with us.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Hits and Misses

So, here we are again! I can't believe another year has passed us by. My mom always said that they years went faster the older that we get, and I'm starting to think she was right all along. :)

I've been a negligent blogger this week; we've been busy relaxing! I'll share more about our week later, but for this post on New Year's Eve, I thought it would be apropo to share the ups and downs of 2008. Here goes...

1. Travel, travel, travel -- We've been lucky to get out and about quite a bit this year. From London to NYC to Vegas to just simple weekends at the lake, we've had fun together.
2. Getting healthy -- this year has been good to my waistline, although not without a bit of work. It's been fulfilling, and the results have been promising.
3. Blogging and Facebook -- I've loved catching up with old friends and making a few new ones too. Thanks for reading, and thanks for (hopefully) sharing on your blog too!
4. Great job -- sounds corny, but I really, really like my job. It's fun and challenging and, if I'm going to have to go somewhere every day, I'm glad it's there.

1. Alzheimer's Disease -- it stinks. If anyone you know or love is affected by it, I'm sorry.
2. Stress -- the great job, Alzheimer's and some personal health stuff has stretched my nerves to the limit, as evidenced by my shingles outbreak last September.
3. Clutter -- which comes first, the self-cleaning house or the bi-weekly housekeeper I've been looking for? Stay tuned to find out. :)

So, there you have it. More hits than misses after all. Here's to a healthy and happy 2009 to each of you!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

Only a few hours until Santa! We are relaxing at Rob's parents' house after a delicious meal of cheese fondue (our every-other-Christmas tradition) and roasted potatoes. Outstanding!

We traveled today and had a smooth ride for the first hour and a half... and then we hit freezing rain. We were going through Sidling Hill (and yes, there's a cut in the mountain you actually drive through) when suddenly we hit slick roads and slid from the left lane into the right lane. Yowsah. Good thing nobody was there! We slowed it down and Rob did a great job of getting us here safely.

After it warmed up a bit and the roads thawed, I headed up to my parents' to drop off gifts for tomorrow and visit a bit, plus I stopped to see two of my lifelong girlfriends on the way back down the mountain.

Tomorrow we're visiting my grandfather at the nursing home in the morning (he isn't well enough to leave), then spending the morning with my family. The afternoon and dinner will be here with Rob's family - we are looking forward to seeing everyone.

We wish you all a very joyous holiday!

Monday, December 22, 2008

This and That...

I am SO EXCITED that it's Christmas week. Not because of gifts and loot, but because we get some time off of our crazy jobs and can just relax. I can't wait!!

Yesterday I wrapped the last of our gifts (Does anyone else wonder about the recession? I look at the number of presents I've wrapped and am not so sure!). My brother/sister-in-law and Rob and I went in on a big gift for my Mom, and the box is big and heavy, so I brought the wrapping paper downstairs and fixed it all up. Our crazy kitty AJ loves to chew on paper and ribbons, so I put it on the floor in the dining room and draped a blanket over it, with the hope that she'd be unaware. Ha! This morning, I found her sitting under the blanket with the package. That cat is a nut.

I baked thumbprint cookies and the coconut chocolate kiss cookies this weekend, plus a batch of chocolate shortbread. Rob likes those so much that he's decided that the shortbread is staying here for him only. :)

Rob and I geocached a couple of hours in Vienna on Saturday. We found nine caches! It really is amazing all of the places people have placed them. Don't tell Rob, but I actually enjoy it!

Hope you are out of the malls and enjoying the week!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Recipe Sharing: Gingerbread Loaf

I've been wanting to find a good recipe for gingerbread loaf, and I came across one yesterday that I'm going to share with you. The claim is that this is a copycat of Starbucks' gingerbread loaf, and I have to say it's pretty close. I made six loafs of this today for co-workers, and I'll make some more on Tuesday to take to family.

Gingerbread Loaf
Yield: One very large loaf pan or three minis

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2 1/4 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon orange extract, optional
1 cup applesauce
1 teaspoon baking soda

1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour loaf pans.
In a medium bowl, mix together flour, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Stir in orange extract. Mix baking soda into applesauce and stir into creamed butter mixture. Add flour mixture. Mix until smooth.

Pour batter into prepared loaf pan(s).Bake at 350 degrees F for 40 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.

Beat cream cheese until fluffy. Beat in vanilla and orange extract. Slowly beat in confectioner’s sugar. When loafs are cool, spread the frosting on top. Decorate with chopped candied orange peel, chopped pecans or candied ginger.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Traffic Court Ain't Night Court

Wednesday was my first (and hopefully, only) experience in the Fairfax County court system. I headed to traffic court to plead guilty to the crime of going 40 in a 25, and hoping that the judge's holiday spirit would reduce my fine and lower my points.

It was an interesting experience, to say the least. Court convenes at 9:30 a.m., so I showed up around 9:15 a.m., and headed inside to find a looooooong line for security. After checking in my cell phone (the judge hates cell phones, as I would hear repeatedly) and showing the guard that I didn't have any staples on my papers or concealed weapons in my Coach, I made it in to the courtroom, which surprisingly looked like a church with a big bench instead of pulpit.

The room was pretty full - probably around 150 or so. The majority were Hispanic, and a translator was making her way around the room. Around 9:25 a.m., the bailiff made a few announcements, reminded us that cell phones must be checked (lest anyone snuck one by the frisking guard out front) and told us to not chew gum.

I had taken along a magazine since I didn't really know how it all worked and didn't want to be bored, but in light of the rules of no gum, no talking and certainly no cell phones, I thought the judge might not look favorably on me reading Real Simple while he held court.

Now, I was hoping that the cop who gave me the ticket might not show up that day, and I'd have my case dismissed! No luck - when the cops all filed in at 9:29 a.m., he was first in the door. That should have given me a clue right there....

I'd asked the baliff how the whole thing was going to go down, what order people were called in, etc., and he let me know that the order is alpha, by cop. So, if a cop has three tickets on the docket, he's first. The cop with four is next, and so forth and so on.

Finally the judge came in and made all sorts of announcements... when he calls your name, come to the podium up front so he can hear you; say guilty, not guilty or no contest (same as guilty, but some people just can't bring themselves to say that word); and you sure as heck better not have brought in any phone, pager or gizmo that was going to beep. Geez.

The cops took their pledge and court began. The traffic violations were varied -- everything from passing a stopped school bus, to running a stop sign or light, to stopping on a higway. There were TONS of driving without a license violations, and most of the violaters reported in court that they hadn't and couldn't get a license (illegal aliens?). He was lenient with some and stricter with others, but overall seemed very fair.

So we are working our way through the cops... the first couple of cops had just a handful of tickets each, and then we moved to the cops with seven or nine. I kept waiting for my cop's name to be called in the handful bunch.... but no. Guess whose cop had 25 tickets on the docket?? Guess whose cop is the ticket machine??

When the judge finally called my name, I headed to the front and claimed guilty. He asked the cop if there was anything about the violation he should know, and the cop reported that I had an excellent driving record and was "very courteous" when I was stopped. I was surprised he mentioned that, but maybe people are usually so upset and grouchy with him that he rememberd me being polite? Afterall, I was the one doing something wrong, and he was just doing his job. (Although based on the number of tickets he doles out, maybe he does his job a little too well. :) )

The judge cut my fine in half and reduced the charge to 34 in a 25, which is a lower point value. I'll know in 10 days from last Wednesday what my final damage is -- the DMV assesses the points, not the courts.

All in all, it was an interesting experience, even though I would have prefered not to experience it at all! I feel like I've been even more cautious in the last few days, remembering back the list of violations I heard in court. Let's hope it was a once-in-a-lifetime visit.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I am...

I've been tagged to do the "I am" meme ... copy and paste to your own blog and play along!

*I am on the downhill slide toward the weekend!
*I want a keychain garage door opener.
*I have gotten up to walk at 5:30 a.m. every day for far too long.
*I miss my grandmother.
*I fear something bad happening to Rob, or to me.
*I hear the hum of lots of computers.
*I search for missing socks and hidden Christmas gifts.
*I wonder how long I'll be at traffic court this morning.
*I regret saying things I don't mean when I'm frustrated or angry.
*I love my crazy kitty cat.
*I forgive Rob for not being able to read my mind.
*I ache when I worry about my grandfather.
*I always drive.
*I try to come home with a smile on my face, and not in a work-induced bad mood.
*I seem to think that I have unlimited funds to spend on shopping. I don't!
*I know that Rob loves me, thick or thin, good or bad.
*I feel nervous sometimes about the economy.
*I dance too infrequently.
*I dream of chucking it all, moving to a small town and opening a coffee shop and cafe.
*I give in and say 'yes' more than I should.
*I listen to my heart, most of the time.
*I sing sometimes without realizing I'm doing it.
*I laugh a lot when old friends and I talk about high school and growing up.
*I can't do advanced math.
*I cry when I see sappy things on TV.
*I sleep less than I should.
*I am happy to have a few days off from work next week!
*I see lint or animal hair on other people's clothes, and it bothers me. I want to lint-roll them!
*I need to learn to be content.
*I should be thankful for the life I have. And I am.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Recipe Sharing: Coconut Chocolate Kiss Cookies

If you like chocolate and coconut, you'll love these cookies! My coworker shared this recipe with me, and says she got it from a Hershey Kisses bag years ago. So good!

Coconut Chocolate Kiss Cookies
Yield: 48 cookies


  • 1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 package (3 oz.) cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 2 teaspoons orange juice
  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 cups sweetened coconut flakes, divided
  • 48 Hershey's Kisses

Beat butter, cream cheese and sugar until well blended. Add egg yolk, almond extract and orange juice; beat well. Stir together flour, baking powder and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, beating until well blended. Stir in 3 cups coconut.

Cover; refrigerate 1 hour or until firm enough to handle.

Remove wrappers from chocolates. Heat oven to 350.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls; roll balls in remaining 2 cups coconut. Place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven; immediately press chocolate on top of each cookie. Cool 1 minute; carefully remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Schmancy Holiday Party

Last night, we went to Rob's company's holiday party -- so nice! It was at the (newer) Smithsonian Air and Space Museum near Dulles Airport. We hadn't been there before, so we both really looked forward to it!

It did not disappoint -- in addition to the great food, live band and cool bar, we walked nearly the whole museum and saw a space shuttle, Concord, Blackbird, etc. They showed two Imax movies, so we chose to see the one called "Fighter Pilot" -- it was a little long, but interesting.

Rob and I laughed that the party was one from the days of old... you know, when the tech companies were booming and money was flowing. We both had been to generous parties like that with past companies, but not in a long time. I have to say that last night's celebration was one of the nicest we've been to!

Today we went to a birthday party, and I wrapped about 25 presents. I got a lot purchased yesterday, but still have some gifts to buy. Plus there's Christmas cards... and cookies... and too much to do. Happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Long time, no post

It's been a few days since I've posted! Lots has been going on - work is killing me, and I traveled last weekend to Ohio to see my best girlfriend and her family. It was so great to have a few days just hanging out with her and catching up. The drive was seven hours from here, but it didn't seem too bad.

I borrowed my first "book on CD" from the library for the drive, and I really liked it! I wasn't quite sure, but I really got in to the book and couldn't wait to hear how the story ended. I think it helped the time pass faster. Recommend for long drives!

A couple good things about my trip, besides seeing my friend and her family: a Sonic, where I enjoyed two giant cherry limeaides; good food and a cute little town; gas at $1.43 per gallon. Wow!

Tomorrow I'm hosting an all-day planning session at my house for my team, and we'll map our our marketing calendar for 2009. Friday is my flex day, but I think I'll be working. Boo.

Hope you are all doing well!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Catching Up

It's been three days since my last post! Things have been good, but busy.

Tomorrow, I'm heading west to Ohio. It's about a seven hour drive, so I'm going five hours after work to Charleston, WV, to stay the night with my brother and sister-in-law, then head the last two hours on Friday morning. I'll spend two days with my best girlfriend and her family, then take the long drive back Sunday morning. I might stop at my parents on the way through, depending on which way I go.

Before I leave tomorrow, I'm going to a luncheon at the National Press Club for the PR Week awards. A membership program I launched last year is up for an award! We've been selected as a finalist, and although I don't expect to win, it is a nice honor!

I've enjoyed catching up with friends' holiday blogs this week!