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Friday, May 8, 2009
What's New?
Been a while, eh?  I'm sure lots of things are going on.  Like my dental appointment on Monday, followed closely by PLAYING EIGHTEEN HOLES with friends at Bowen Links.  WOOT!
And my new white jeans.  And Mike's entire wardrobe.  I took some of my saved tip money from my former job (that's right, Monday was my last day on the job - more on that later) and decided to go myself some new duds.  And bras. 
I got white jeans and bras.  Mike?  Who didn't even go with me?  Got a TON. 
Must be guilt.
And the inability to find anything to put on my body that moved me.
Also have had TWO mini-reunions, one with High School buds and one with college buds, most whom I haven't seen in about 20 years (oh, how it PAINS me to type that number!  I've barely been alive 20 years, right?  WRONG!).  Both great successes and wonderful to re-connect with some wonderful women.  Women I've missed in my life!
And quitting the job?  Because we leave next weekend for Peru, via Texas (a week of schooling for Mike to get him all smartened up.  You know, he hasn't worked in five months!).  I will only be in Peru about 3.5 weeks before returning for my brother's wedding, but should be interesting (will probably be leaving Mike there, as he has work to do!).  We are hoping Austria will follow closely behind, but not taking any (large) bets.
We were hoping to get a few things done before we left, like power washing both houses, trimming some trees, removing some others, finding me some tennis shoes, refinishing/replacing our decks, but it looks like we'll be lucky to just get our bags packed.
Oh, and I'd probably better buy some airline tickets as well.
So, we're off again, for just a short time.  But like we've always said, "We're not here for a long time, just a good time!"
More soon.  I think.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009
What's NOT happening at my house (and a few things that are)
I'm not exactly sure how long I've been working now (it feels like forever), but my part-time job has started to feel a lot like a FULL-TIME job.  I've been scheduled for at least six days a week since I've started, and although the money is (surprisingly) very good, I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by my "real" job (you know, the whole housewife gig?).
I didn't help that the first weekend I had off I got up on Saturday full of aspirations to do fun things like clean the house, go to the grocery store, do some laundry, but was back in bed by 10 AM, and out for the next 48 hours.  I think I was awake 8 of them.  AND, I made chicken soup sometime in that 8 hours. . . .
I don't quite remember how I got everything done when I worked 50+ hours a week.  Kind of depressing.
So, this past Saturday was my first day off as a healthy human being (although Mike was sick as a dog and unable to move - he caught my cold on Wendesday and is just recovering now - typical "man cold", of course he must have been MUCH sicker than I - LOL), and I cleaned EVERYTHING from 9 AM til 1 PM, then decided I deserved to go out and spend some of my hard earned money.
Had a blast at GB Russo's buying wine, then went to my usual haunts (TJ MAXX, Burlington, Nordstrom's Rack) and found a few things I just couldn't live without, THEN at 5PM I went to Big Lots for lotion and hand soap, then to Meijer (oh Meijer, how I heart you and have missed you!  I honestly do like grocery shopping, as weird as that is!). 
THEN, I abandoned sick Mike again and met up with some friends to watch the Michigan State/UConn game (I didn't even have to FEED HIM, either!).
It felt like a wonderful, wonderful day. . . even though three weeks ago it would have just been a "normal" day.
(Not saying it was wonderful because it was sans Mike, although he isn't much use at the mall, or the grocery for that matter.)
BUT, it would appear by the calendar I have exactly 8 days to do our taxes. 
Damn it.
Oh!  Our pet deer have been around a lot, too!  Here's a gratuitous shot of the kids playing in our backyard.

The honey babies

Monday, March 30, 2009
Obama Speaks, Japanese Listen
For the second time in as many months I've seen a segment on the news where Japanese students are learning English from President Obama's speeches. 
Which, due to his cadence and vocabulary and pronunciation, seems pretty prudent.
However, I wonder why the Japanese LIKE President Obama so much, in general.  Not that he isn't likable and all that.
But, when we were in Japan, most Japanese had at least some bit of bias against foreigners, and especially against blacks.
I listened to many young Japanese women who were lying to their folks because they were dating Brits or Aussies or Americans.  But very few of them would ever admit to dating a black man.
Some of that stems from the majority of blacks in Japan being from Africa, usually illegally or on short term work visas, and working in peripheral jobs.  Some of it also stems from lack of exposure to blacks.  And some of it pertains to the insular culture mentality of most of the older Japanese.
But, it does make me wonder why they are using Obama's speeches as language lessons. . . and loving the message and him.
Maybe Obama isn't just good for American race relations, but the entire world.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Maybe I'm a Lazy Wimp. . .
But, this working thing?  Whew!
Seriously.  I can't believe how much of my time working part-time takes up!  Must be these shifts occur during the time of day I usually get stuff done!
And, I come home feeling Olga-fied.  (Oh, did I not tell you what I'm doing?  I'm waiting tables at Olga's Kitchen!).  And, my feet hurt.  And my legs.  And shoulders.
I've worked everyday since Thursday.  Only the last two days have been "on my own" (finished with training).
It is rather fun.  I guess if I absolutely HAD to do it to survive, it would be less fun, but as I'm basically doing it for "pin money", I'm probably enjoying it more.
And the people who work there are pretty cool, too.
Even if I am old enough to be most of 'ems Mother!

Friday, March 20, 2009
Yes, Yes, We're ALIVE!
A new record!  Home for two and a half weeks without posting to let anyone know!  Sorry.
We've been laying pretty low (for us).  But, have had some fun (of course).
And today?  The first day of Spring?  Is my first official DAY ON THE JOB in OVER NINE YEARS!
So, if the world comes to an end today, it's my fault.

Sunday, December 14, 2008
A Little Bit Sappy Today
In general, I'm a fairly clean person.  Not talking personal hygiene here, as then I would consider myself a VERY clean person.  I'm talking about my house-cleaning abilities.
No.  I'm not the world's best house cleaner.  No.  I do not want to clean your house.  And, NO, I do not want a white glove test. 
But, I do keep my house pretty clean.  Mostly thanks to THIS WONDERFUL PIECE OF MACHINERY (which I hate more than Satan himself.  Almost.).  And, I don't clean it ALL THE TIME, like some people accuse.  About every 10 days or so, though, I do "ride the rainbow" around the house pretty thoroughly.
Generally, this is not an activity I enjoy.  AT ALL.  However, today, as I cleaned my house for the last time until next year, I slowed down a little bit and appreciated the fact I HAD a house to clean.  A nice house at that.
Sometimes we spend too much time wishing we had a nicer house, or better furniture, or more expensive appliances, or A BIGGER KITCHEN, some decent lamps, or even a different vacuum cleaner, and forget to see the big picture.
And the big picture?  I'm blessed.  Blessed with a house filled with things.  Probably too many things!  For the most part, things that mean a lot to me.
I am grateful for my house and my things. 
Also grateful for that guy who bought it for me (us, heehee) and continues to make that pesky monthly mortgage payment. 
So appreciate what you have.  And for God's sake, clean it every once in a while. . . even just to appreciate it! 
Just kidding.  Your house is probably cleaner than mine.
And tomorrow I leave for Macedonia.  Look for updates on a new page.  Called Macedonia.  I promise to post more than once every three weeks. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Oh Dear
Once again, I have been failing to post.  The good news?  Next week I will be in Skopje, Macedonia with my awesome spousal unit.  The bad news?  I have about 27,534 things to get done before my flight on Monday morning.
Oh well.  I work best under pressure. 
Or not.
In a nutshell, here's what's happened over the last three weeks. . . .
  • Mike left
  • I cried (heehee)
  • I got sick
  • Thanksgiving came and went without any turkey
  • I recovered
  • I found a new renter for the little house
  • I started spending money like a crazy woman on crack (doing MY part for the Michigan economy)
  • Bought a new laptop
  • Bought a new camera lens (which I love!  The new(ish) Nikon 18mm - 200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED IF AF-S DX VR-II Wide Angle Telephoto Zoom-Nikkor Lens)
  • Bought new carpet for the rental house
  • Drank a BUTTLOAD of WINE
  • Spent approximately 18 hours trying to buy airline tickets to Macedonia (NOT KIDDING.  But I'm in Biz Class, love those mileage upgrades)
  • Shoveled some snow
  • Helped my brother and Amy move
  • Recuperated from helping my brother move
  • Entertained going to Paris for Christmas until we found out our Aunt and Uncle would NOT EVEN BE THERE.  Scrapped trip
  • Christmas shopping (NOT DONE!)
  • Various social events of extreme importance (HA!)
  • Book Club
  • Lots of lunches (I'm a lady who lunches, apparently)
  • Two visits to the dentist and two cavities filled
  • Decided our new renter could PAINT that darn little house for a month's free rent (best decision I made since I've been home)
  • Started the "pre-pack"(no way all this crap is going!)
  • Four Doctor visits (won't get into all that. . . final result?  I'm FINE)
  • Started taking the "Magic Blue Pill" again (Chantix)
  • Drove like a Grandma in the snow (more than once, obviously)
  • Napped
  • Spent TON-O-TIME on Facebook reconnecting with long losts peeps
  • Didn't post HERE or HERE

And now?  You and I?  Are all caught up. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Catching Up on Unimportant Drivel

Well, time seems to be doing that same disappearing act again.  It seems just last week my man Barack was turning my country into blue states.  However, according to the date today, that was NOT last week, but two weeks ago.  (Okay, enough gloating. . . heehee).
The Friday after the election was Mike's Mom's 81st birthday.  As we were in Tel Aviv last year for the big 80 party, we decided to take this milestone weekend and go to Gaylord (about a 3 hour drive north, for those you don't know).
Where, on Saturday, we woke up to the first snow of the season. . . WOOT!  (READ:  YUUUUUUUCK!)

First snowfall in Gaylord on Lake Otsego

Mom's got new cattails, and I like them covered in snow

Mike's Mom on her 81st birthday!

Mike's Mom is suffering from Alzheimer's.  She's been diagnosed for about five years, and on the medication Aricept.  If you have a loved one with Alzheimer's, this drug seems to be a lifesaver - literally.  It seems to have slowed down the progression of the disease quite a bit, for which we are so happy.  She still lives alone, seems to be able to do her laundry and cleaning herself, tends to her own personal hygiene and remembers to change her clothes on a regular basis. 
The one thing she seems to be forgetting to do is EAT, though.  She's lost 20 pounds in the last year.  She does have Meals on Wheels coming three times a week, and Annette (her daughter) comes over everyday at lunch, and Chris and Sherri (son and daughter-in-law) also live close and keep an eye on her.
But she still forgets to eat.  They say the Aricept suppresses hunger, but if you put a plate of food in front of this woman, SHE EATS!
We took her out to one of her fave restaurants on Friday night and poured three glasses of wine down her throat, plus a huge rib-eye steak with all the fixings.  She was good and buzzed up for the ride home. . . and quite entertaining at the bar.
On the way home on Sunday, we detoured to Ann Arbor (another three hour drive, in the wrong direction from our house) to see our friends Pat and Molly very quickly. 
Then Tuesday, our dear friend Scott came up from Ohio for the week.  He was with us at the very end in Beijing and Hong Kong, and also got to do the return trip with Mike (albeit, he only had to come from Bangkok, not Ohio).
While we were in Hong Kong, the boyz became enamored with tiny remote control helicopters.  I wouldn't let them buy them in HK, as we were (supposedly) going back to Beijing and I knew I could buy them cheaper there.  HOWEVER, I didn't get the return trip, so it was up to Scott to scour them out in Beijing and bring them home to us.
The boyz were fascinated by the toyz and the only thing that saved my sanity was they were both on the same "control band" or whatever it's called so they could only operate one at a time, and the batteries only last about 12 minutes before they need recharging. 
It's a good thing they are "indestructible" as many of the manuevers we managed in the early stages would have destructed many other things.  Mike actually flew his directly into the fireplace - WHILE IT WAS BURNING.
They were amusing, as the helicopters seemed to hypnotize them completely.

Scott hypnotized by the helicopter

And, our deer have shown up in the backyard for a couple photo shoots, too!

You know he knows I'm here. . .

But even though he sees me, he ain't going anywhere. Plus, he looks like he has a hat on!

They are so beautiful.  I'm glad our own personal "Bambis" are safe from the deer hunters out there right now.
Some big news, my bro and his fiance have purchased their first house.  I think they are closer to the Vestal Inn (our home bar, for those who don't know) than we are!  In fact, the house they bought belonged to an acquaintance of ours from the Vestal.
And now, I must repaint the little house once again,  the second time in 10 years.  I only lived there 16 months!  Oh well.  Time to sell or find a reliable renter.  Anyone?  Anyone?  HELP! 
Which leads to the other big news, Mike leaves Monday for Macedonia.  I, on the other hand, will stay behind, help my brother move, then repaint and arrange for carpet in the small house, while fielding calls originated from the "For Sale By Owner" sign in the front yard and the ad I placed on  I doubt I will get anything sorted out prior to my projected leave date to meet up with Mike on 12/19 (hate to make him sit over there for Christmas alone).
The plan today is we will be in Skopje (Macedonia) until 2/6, then go to Vienna (Austria, for those who don't know) for a month, then back to Macedonia for a month, then back to Vienna until June-ish. 
When I will for sure be returning to witness my brother and Amy get married.
So, in addition to a few drunken adventures (JOYCE!  JEAN!  STEFFE!  CHRIS AND JEN!  BECKY AND GREG!  KENYA AND KEITH!  PAUL AND MARY!  OTHER PEOPLE!  SNOT!), three (!) doctors appointments for me, one dental appointment for Mike, a couple lunch dates, and a lot of laying around reading (read "The Book Thief" if you get a chance), we've been been pretty busy.
But not as busy as I'm going to be after 12/5. 
I better get my Christmas cards and shopping done pre-repainting and preparing to leave or it will just not get handled.

The happy new homeowners in our sad old home. . .

Tuesday, November 4, 2008
I am so proud.
First time in 21 years I voted for the winning candidate. 
And I truly believe Senator McCain will reach across party lines to help President-elect Obama.  More so than those people booing in Arizona.
But, I really want to talk face to face with Michelle about that dress. . . .hmmmm.

Sunday, October 26, 2008
Where has the week gone?
Been caught up in a whirlwind of activity, most of it centering on the mall, much to my husband's dismay. HEY.  I was in need of some retail therapy. . .
I think I'm almost cured.
Let's see.  Done a lot of catching up with pals, had a few drinks, saw a couple of movies (Body of Lies - HIGHLY recommend this one, and W., which I would recommend to NO ONE, no matter your political views, this was slow and boring, but I did catch a nap somewhere in the middle), took a road trip to K-zoo, had some more drinks (heehee), got back on schedule (no more JET LAG!), drained and closed our sprinklers for the season, and even cleaned my house.
Things I haven't done:  Went to the grocery store or ANY yard work.
I really need to get to the grocery store.
I've also invested a lot of time helping my little baby brother and his fiance look for their first house.  Now, this is a tough gig for me, as they rent our little house right now.  And they are good renters.  I hate to lose them.  But, that house is small for two people, as I very well know, and I don't blame them.
Just kidding.  I really want them to find the perfect house on the perfect lot in the perfect neighborhood for the perfect price.  You would think in today's market that wouldn't be too tough.
It does entail a LOT of driving around, researching on the web, looking at dumps, etc.  Which I've done a bit of, now and in the past. 
The thought of selling the house (our house) they currently live in?   Puts fear in my spine.  But we certainly don't need two empty houses sitting around here in Grand Rapids. 
Anyone know someone who needs a cheap place to live?
And the man comes home on Tuesday night.  WOOT!  Of course, he caught a bad, bad cold over there in Beijing, with no wife around to nurse him back to health.  Poor dude. 

Monday, October 20, 2008
Last Monday night when we got home I went into my upstairs bathroom to make peepee.  And, when I went to flush the toilet, the flusher didn't work.  You know, when you hit the handle, the handle goes down, but the water doesn't?  Maybe it never happened to you.  So, I had to take the tank cover off and flush it manually.
Informed my handy (HA!) husband of problem and he said he would fix it manana (which is Spanish for tomorrow, but really means sometime in the future but not right now).
Then, of course as you know, at 9:30 AM on Tuesday he got the call about returning to Beijing.  On Wednesday.  All toilet issues became non-important as he hastily unpacked and repacked for his departure. 
But, I did go use the toilet in the late afternoon and it flushed.  I asked him and he said, "I fixed it."   And I said, "How?" (as he hadn't gone to Lowe's for the part), and he said, "With a tie wrap."
Well, of course.
So yesterday morning (at 5:45 mind you when I WOKE UP), same problem.  Apparently the tie wrap fix is only good for six days. 
At 8 AM on Sunday morning I went to Lowe's, spent $15 on the replacement flusher thingy, came home, found a bolt wrencher attachment thing (otherwise known as some kind of tool), removed the old flusher and put the new flusher on.
In ten minutes.
Now our toilet flushes on command like a champ and I feel very darn proud of myself.
Okay, enough bragging.  Here's a couple product endorsements for you.  Sorry boy readers, but the first one is about bras.
AMBRIELLE BRAS at JCPenney's.  ROCK.  Possibly the best bra ever.  Comfort, support, like wearing air.  I will never buy another bra (until they discontinue them, which is what always happens).
Go buy one.  Or ten.  And they are on sale.
CREST VIVID WHITE TOOTHPASTE.  The only whitening toothpaste I've ever used where I could actually see the difference almost immediately.  I bought my first tube in Beijing, and I thought it was probably bootleg and full of bleach or formeldehyde or something, but I found it at Walgreens here, too. 
It works.  And that's saying a lot from a wine drinking, chain smoking, coffee swilling gal.
Okay.  Enough product endorsements for today.  I am working on my Boracay page, almost done.  Probably by tomorrow, as it's raining today so alas, I won't be able to work in my yard.  Oh darn.  Maybe I'll go to the mall. . .
And I'm getting a new do at 4:30.  Woot!  My first American haircut in 9 months.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008
We're HOME!
We made it!  It was a LOVELY trip home, really.  We flew business class and all our connections were easy and quick.
Were greeted at the airport by Mom and Dad and little bro Denny, that was surprising and went back to the house for some beers and much needed rest.
BUT, get this.  Mike gets to LEAVE IN THE MORNING to go back to Beijing.
Yep.  You read that right. 
It's only two weeks (yea right), so I decided to stay home.
More later.

Sunday, Early, March 2, 2008
Made it
Will tell you the whole sordid story under the Beijing link.  Looks like I can post from here!  YEAH!  All posts from Beijing can be found here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Slowly Poisoning Myself a Shot at a TIme
The last couple days my stomach has been definitely off.  Not dehabilitating, but surely not right.  I usually wake up feeling okay, then slowly get crampy and nauseous. 
And maybe a little gassy. . . :-).  Sorry.
This morning, I may have discovered WHY.

That was a WEEK ago, OMG!

Somewhere along the line in the last 7.5 years I've started drinking milk in my coffee.  Up to our traveling time I'd been a black coffee drinker, hands down. 
And, I have been avoiding going to the grocery store like the plague, as we are leaving next week and I hate having to throw away a bunch of food.  And, gee, we HAD milk.
Milk doesn't usually last this long around here, but the last week or two we've been eating breakfast out a lot, instead of having a humble bowl of cereal here. 
So it's only use has been going into my coffee a little each day.  For probably more than two weeks.
I dumped my second cup of coffee, but my guts are still rumbling.  I still need to dump the milk.

Monday, February 18, 2008
Beijing Trip Still on Track
My passport should be a the Chinese Embassy in Washington DC as we speak, and so far our itinerary hasn't changed and I will be in Washington DC next Wednesday!
And Beijing on Saturday.  Whew.
We survived Valentine's Day and the Daytona 500, more snowfall and cold weather, and tonight's my Loser's Club meeting at Cindy's house.
I think I'm in last place for losing.  I can't imagine why as my life is filled with low-cal food and drinks and lots of exercise.  Not. 
I may wait until we arrive in China to start my diet.  Eating with chopsticks and walking around in the cold will probably aid my weight loss much more than lying around on the couch eating peanut M&M's.
In more fun-filled news, our friend Scott who Mike works with is traveling up from Ohio to visit this weekend.  More drink filled evenings to come, it would appear.

Sunday, February 10, 2008
5 (or 6) Good Reasons to Stay Inside
My husband is a bit of a weather freak.  He loves to watch The Weather Channel and put his forecasting abilities up against the professionals.  He's actually pretty good at it, I think.  He may have missed his true calling.
Part of his infactuation with weather has resulted in us having TWO thermometers in the house that will tell us the temperature inside and out. 
For me, it's really much more simple than this.  As long as it's warm enough inside the house, I don't care what the actual temperature is.  And I can pretty much tell if it's too hot or too cold outside.
But when I looked at the thermometer today and saw THIS bottom number, I knew it was much colder than it looked.
Needless to say, I can't think of any good reason to go outside.

It actually said 5 degrees earlier, but the picture didn't turn out. . .

Thursday, February 7, 2007
The Unstoppable Snow Machine
Having been a Michigander all my life, I should be used to snow.  However, the last seven point five years have given me quite a break from the white stuff.  Which has reinforced my inner HATE for percipitation of the frozen variety. 
It's not so much the snow I hate (albeit, I DO), but the driving in it.  Not having driven much AT ALL in the last 92 months doesn't help.  I'm like a Grandmother out there (no offense to Grandmothers, just a bit premature for me.  Well, actually the chances of me ever being a Grandmother are about nil, so . . . whatever!).
And other people's driving scares me.  A LOT!
But, enough crying about the weather.  Se la vie and all that.  Won't be any warmer in Beijing, but no snow.  Oh.  And no car, so I'll get to be trucking around in the cold on foot. 
It is also another packing conundrum, as it will be frigid cold when we get there and sweltering when we leave.  Clothes and shoes for 3.5 months with three season changes.  Always a challenge.  I would love to say, "I'll just buy it there," but not being built in any way shape or form like the average Chinese gal may leave that a bit tough.
I did go get my guidebook and map the other day, though, so I'm good to go.  It looks like it will be a fun place to be, lots of sights to see beyond the Great Wall, The Forbidden City, and Tianenmen Square.  Even enquired about some apartments.
Of course, I don't have an airline ticket or a visa yet, so maybe a bit premature.  A lot of research into both, but no purchases or applications to date.  I'd better get on it.
I have spent a good share of this week working on our taxes, which is always a joy.  They are finished, though, and waiting patiently for one of us to muster up the energy to walk to the mailbox and put the flag up.  Oh, the horror.
Speaking of mail, our mailman came at 8:30 last night.  Poor guy.  They may make it through rain, sleet, ice or snow, just may need a little overtime.
What else is new?  Well, for SuperBowl Sunday we headed on over to the Vestal Inn.  In years past they've had quite a production for SBS, but this year, alas, no production.  We did get into some gambling pools, though.  And won, won, won!  Thank you to both the Pats and the Giants for playing into our numbers.  Can't say enough about it!  We were $250 to the good at the end of the night.
The commercials were a bit of a disappointment, however.  And when did Miller Lite stop advertising during SB?  Is it just me, or didn't they used to have the best ads?  This being the first SuperBowl we were able to watch on American television in three years, it's possible I'm a bit out of the loop. . .
A few random things about Beijing I've discovered in the last week. 
  • They have Wal-Mart's!  I knew this, I just forgot.  I'm sure they're a bit different than ours, but probably close enough for mainstays.
  • I may not be able to update my website or blog there.  The government controls the internet, and blogging is illegal, as they don't want written discontent being distributed throughout the world.  I'm a bit troubled by this fact.  Whatever will I do if I can't share all my boring ramblings and amatuer photos of amazing places with you, my internet fans. . . heehee.
  • Same goes for English novels, newspapers and magazines.  Seems they don't want our propaganda.  Guide book says pack enough for your entire trip.  Yeah right.  Not unless I leave all my clothes and shoes behind. . .
  • Like other Asian destinations, they have hard beds.
In other news, with Valentine's Day just around the corner, thoughts have turned to PRESENTS in the Stout household.  Mike bought me a Medicus golf training club (with the patented double hinge) after watching a 45 minute infomerical, and I bought him a new carryon/backpack.  Or maybe it was vice versa. . . regardless, VD shopping is complete with both parties being overall completely satisfied.  At least until the actual purchases show up.
Just hope the incoming booty doesn't delay the mailman much later than 8:30 pm.  I may feel guilty about him out driving like a Grandmother through the snow.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Hummus Festival and Upcoming Travel (!!!)
Sorry, dear internet, I haven't meant to ignore you for so long.  It certainly hasn't been because I've been too busy.  I think Sunday my butt refused to get out of the recliner for more than five consecutive hours and I never left the house.  Can you say LAZY?
In my defense, I have shoveled a LOT of snow in the last week.  Which has been the extent of my physical labors (besides wiping up spills and cooking some dinner, on occasion).
Maybe I didn't tell you about my group of Losers.  We started a weight loss club, and we have five members.  It's supposed to be online (so I can participate if and when we ever leave) and we are using to help, which is a GREAT website, and free.  We all have varying levels of fitness and goals, as well as varying sizes, shapes, and ages. 
We had an initial meeting at my house, so everyone could meet and we could talk about how we were going to "do" our communicating and losing.  Which turned into a wine festival, culminating with me basically passing out from lack of food and too much wine sometime around 10:15 PM. 
But, I lost 2 pounds that night!  Not really the best way to lose weight, however.
So, we decided our next meeting should include a little less wine and a little more food.  And we decided to have a Hummus Fest.  At Jen's, because she has the AWESOME kitchen (and the food processor).
Kids, we made some HUMMUS!  I have more hummus in my fridge than is right.  Four different kinds, including black bean (which ROCKS).  And, I managed to drink a fair share of wine, too. 
I just wish my parents were here so my Dad could help me eat it all.  Mike is not very good in that area (the whole hummus eating arena).
Speaking of the parents, they are in Puerto Vallarta Mexico for a couple of months.  They left sometime around the 18th (?), I can't really remember.  I DO know it was right before it got so bitter, bitter cold here.  Lucky dogs. 
In the last week, Mike has tired of listening to me biotch and whine about the snow and the cold and the blow.  He said, "Find us someplace to go,".  So I did. 
Cheap roundtrip airfare to Puerto Vallarta from Detroit (FunJet, air only, starting at $299/person!) and I scoured for a condo or apartment to rent.  We were set, we were leaving on the 4th, we were going to Mexico.  I was singing Jimmy Buffett songs and wishing I would have taken my weight loss goals a little more seriously, envisioning myself and my bikini going to war with each other.
Just before I actually purchased anything or committed to a rental, I suggested Mike might want to call the office, make sure there would be no work for the month of February.  He did, and was given the go ahead. 
For two hours. 
Thus proving that the most effective way to get Mike back to work is for me to plan a vacation. . .
The downside is we will NOT be going to Mexico.  The upside?  We are leaving the end of the month(ish) for Beijing, China!  Hello Great Wall, here I come!  Can finally scratch that Wonder off the list.  What should I aspire for next?
And, I may get a side trip on the front end to Washington DC.  Where I've never been, either.

Tuesday, January 21, 2008
The Return of the Husband
The sheets are washed, the towels are laundred, the house was cleaned from top to bottom on Sunday, the larder is stocked (Miller Genuine Draft and Corn Beef Hash on hand) and the driveway is as clean as I can get it. 
I'm ready for my hubby to come home. 
And after two weeks without him, I realize he makes me a much neater person.  Without him, I don't pick up and clean up and wipe up near so much.  If it's only me that has to look at the stuff lying around, so what.
It's nice to know I'm better with him than without.  Sigh.  Wish I didn't have to drive in the snow and the dark to go and get him tonight, though.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008
"American Idol" Virgin Checking In
Oh, I'm such a liar.  I promised you an entertaining and heart wrenching (for our bank account) story about my BASTARD OF A LANDLORD in Greece, but instead, I'm wasting two hours of my life FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME watching American Idol auditions. 
And really, I'm finding it highly amusing.
Now, I may have watched an episode of two of "The Biggest Loser" and Mike and I were known to watch a WHOLE SEASON of Survivor reruns at 5:30 everyday in Cairo.  But reality shows and I, well, not so much.
And, American Idol on a weekly basis would probably not keep me glued to my seat.  Or even to my house.
But this is cracking me up.
I love to sing.  However, I sing BAD.  And I know it.  I try to sing better, but it doesn't seem to improve. . .   I am officially about 10 years older than any eligible contestant on AI, so maybe the wisdom of my years (?) helps me KNOW that I should never get up and sing in front of anyone but my shower head or rearview mirror.
What is up with these people?  It reminds me of my absolute worst Karoake experience in Northern Michigan, except I can turn down the volume and walk out of the room at any given moment.   Oh, and there were NO good singers in the bar in Northern MI.  At least one out of twenty or so can sing on here.
Some of the people who make it are suprising.  And some who don't as well.  But, that's why I'm a professional tourist and not a talent scout.
I don't remember anybody's name, not even the last dude who just sang with the "guyliner" on, and I won't care who makes it to the semi-finals or the finals.  I can't even tell you who last season's American Idol was. 
But this is still funny shit.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008
What I Did on Winter Break
Many people ask me what I do when Mike leaves me all alone here in Grand Rapids while he's off on a worldwide adventure making me money.  And contrary to the popular opinion, I don't JUST shop, swill wine and eat Taco Bell.
Usually, I try and pick one big project around the house that needs to be done, usually involving paint, for as fantastic as my husband is, he's not so much about the painting.   At all.
But, things are pretty  much painted up (although my downstairs needs a repaint due to some soot on the walls and ceiling due to an inefficiently operating gas fireplace or flue or something, but this will require much moving of VERY HEAVY furniture, and I'm thinking about NOT doing that on my own).
So, what to do?  Well, I've been most remiss in sorting the 12,000 or so photos (NO exaggeration here, NEVER ask to see my "vacation photos") I took over the last 14 months.  Usually, after a trip, I find my faves, make prints, frame them and disperse them around the house. 
But I haven't done that since the fall of 2006.  Oops.
I decided to make our upstairs hallway into a photo gallery.  Which really doesn't sound that overwhelming, right?  Riiiight.
First, I needed to find the perfect frames that wouldn't bust the bank.  I am a bargain shopper, of that there is no doubt.  And lots of stores (Hobby Lobby, Kohl's) have ongoing great sales on picture frames.  Shouldn't be that tough, right?  In fact, the day I dropped Mike off at the airport I ventured into Bed, Bath & Beyond to look at their ugly area rugs and found some frames that looked suitable for only $9.99 (saw the exact frame later at Kohl's for $28, albeit they were buy one get one free).
Of course, they only had six in black, which meant I had to go across town to another location to purchase 7 more.  Yes, that is $130 worth of frames.  Damn.  Maybe Mike should be learning how to make picture frames in his down time while I'm painting.
This was the easy part.
Sunday, I spent the majority of the day recovering from some stomach malaise and sorting through aforementioned 12,000ish photos, looking for those oh so perfect captures.  And photoshopping some of them.  And uploading them to Walgreen's for printing.
I picked up 130 pictures on Sunday night.  Of which 25 were incorrectly developed.  Monday morning resent those pics to Walgreen's, went to Lowe's for a lightbulb (energy efficient) for our new bedroom lamp (another lovely purchase) and to Meijer for some groceries, dropped off some old purchases to Goodwill and picked up the pictures. 
Came home and re-evaluated all 131 pictures.  Need to choose 52 horizontal and 39 vertical for the perfect collage.
Then had to sort them into groups of 7 per frame, find the ones that best complemented each other.  Then open up 13 boxes of very dusty picture frames, clean them up, clean up the cuts on my hands from the glass edges, tape pictures to the backside of the frame for perfect alignment, and then decide which frames should go next to which.
Sounds easy, eh?  Took ALL DAY.  Finished at 9:30 PM.
And, I fear this was the easy part.  As now I have to measure the wall, measure the displays (there are two separate ones, for each side of the hallway, of course), install hangers on the back of each frame and try to hang them straight (yes, I have a level and a hammer, and I have used them before, never fear).  And relocate the current art to the spare bedroom.
See what exciting things I do when left to my own devices?


Tomorrow I will regale you with the phone conversation I had with our ex-landlord from Greece at 3:48 AM.  Idiot obviously doesn't get the concept of time zones, among other things. 
But now, I must go and have my stitches removed!

Saturday, January 12, 2008
I've spent a good share of the last couple days since Mike left for Mali looking for area rugs.  For my bathroom, my kitchen, and my front door.
With not very much success.  I currently have two down in the kitchen, but I'm not sure they're staying.  I've exhausted all the local avenues, including BB&B, Linens & Things, all the department stores, Target, discounters like TJ Maxx.
Either I'm extremely fussy or no one else has any taste.
This morning I decided to peruse Ebay's extensive selection of area rugs.  Strangely, the only bath rug I was drawn to currently has one bid.
From Rachellebelly.
It made me feel a little strange to see a user name the same as my childhood nickname on the ONE RUG I actually considered buying.
So strange I decided not to bid against her.  She can have the rugs.  And I hope she gets them for the 99 cents she has offered.

Not that it's all that or anything, just thought it might possibly match my striped shower curtain

Tuesday, January 8, 2007
Minor Surgery
(Note:  Pictures of GORE ahead, not for the faint of heart)
I inherited a very mole-y complexion from both my Mom and my Dad.  Together, they have had their share of moles removed.  With even a couple being pre-cancerous.
So, today was my day under the knife.  And based on my doctor's enthusiasm for cutting my moles off, I'm sure I am a large part of his early retirement plan.
I went in to have one taken off.  One that he didn't like in October.  Next thing I know there's an anesthesiologist in the room.
Just kidding.  But we did off four of those bad boys today, put them in tiny glass jars with a clear liquid and sent them to the lab to see if they were threatening my life, or just plain looking bad. 
They look bad now, that's for sure.





Oh, and here's the GORE. . . I crack myself up. . .

Monday, January 7, 2008
January Thaw
It's 58 degrees fahrenheit (15 Celsius) here in Grand Rapids today.  That's crazy.  Just this past week it was 20 fahrenheit (-6 Celsius!). 
All the snow is gone and it's raining.
Yesterday, we celebrated the January birthdays in my family (Mom, Dad and big brother Chris all were born in January, two of them Capricorns and one lonely Aquarius).
Chris' wife Jennifer hosted the party at their house, complete with a Greek menu of Moussaka, Tzatziki, Hummus, and a Greek Salad (I brought the salad).  And of course, Ouzo!  Lots of Ouzo.  All of us have been to Greece, so it was most enjoyed.  And very authentic tasting.  Jen's quite the little cook. 
If I had her kitchen, I would cook all the time.  It's very cool.  They just finished it last year, but it's GORGEOUS.  Makes me come home and hate all over my kitchen.
And their kitties are cute, too.





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Going to the doctor tomorrow to have some suspicious moles removed (WOOT!  What fun!).
And we will be taking Mike to the airport on Wednesday for his two week holiday in Bamako, Mali.  He's excited.  Two months off, two weeks on.

Saturday, December 5, 2008
An Attempt at Closure
Last fall, when my brother Brian passed away, he was cremated.  At the time, my Dad was unsure what he wanted to do with Brian's ashes.  Later, he decided he would like to bury him out in the Hankinson plot, where my Grandmother and Grandfather rest.
As a family, we decided to wait until everyone was back in the country, including Mike.  And, although doing it around the holidays was somewhat unavoidable, we decided to inter him yesterday.
Dad wrote a short and simple but very nice ceremony, which he read with deep emotion.  We all said our good-byes.
We didn't actually have the opportunity to have a burial.  In fact, we just turned and walked away, leaving his urn sitting on the platform the cemetary provided.  Which was the strangest and possibly hardest part of the whole day. 
It's still hard to believe.  And to accept. 
And I still miss my brother so much it's actually physically painful sometimes.  I hate to whine, but it doesn't seem fair.


Wednesday, January 2, 2008
I'm a Sap
I probably shouldn't be allowed to have a Christmas Tree next year, as I almost cried taking ours down and to the recycle place today.
It just seemed so sad.  And I miss our tree already.  Although I think half it's needles are still around here somewhere.
My husband thinks I'm a complete idiot.  Which is not far from the truth.  But our living room does seem quite bare without our monument to Christmas.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008 (AY-YIE-YIE!)
We're hoisting our first Bloody Mary's to 2008, looking out the back windows at our snow encrusted trees, thinking we did have some big fun last night.

Halfway to drunkenness (that's my girl Becky)

And we got some MORE snow last night. . . .

Bottoms up, my friends!

It's pretty, as long as I'm INSIDE!

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Always exciting to start a New Year.  Clear the slates, so to speak.  Start over.  Again. 
Also hard to believe it's time to start another year already.
The big question - what's in store in 2008?  As always, only time will tell.
Wishing you all the best in 2008.

Saturday, December 29, 2007
Mike said I have to show a "before" pic, so here's one zoomed up from a low res picture the winter we bought the place.  Notice that HIDEOUS exterior light, as well.

Oh, I aced those Yucca plants, too.

Saturday, December 29, 2007
Now, the front of our house is not really that "gotcha", but it looks a hell-o-lot better NOW!

The new door!

And, this my friends is what $1380 buys you at Lowe's.
In other news, Mike is now leaving for Bamako, Mali on the 7th of January.  For two weeks.  By himself.
Because even though it's warm there and NOT here, I ain't spending $4K to fly to what is essentially JAIL.
And, we've been laying low the last couple days.  I painted the interior trim of our NEW DOOR today, and made it to the grocery store, but we actually STAYED HOME ON A FRIDAY NIGHT.  Do not tell the Fun Police.
Oh, and the Jimmy Buffett "Live in Anguilla" CD/DVD combo my brother Denny bought me for Christmas ROCKS.  And makes me want to drink boat drinks.  On a beach.  Now.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Merry Christmas To ALL!
Well, at least to all who celebrate Christmas, that is!
We had a lovely one, although a little green if you can believe it.  We went to my parents in Holland (near the Lakeshore), and they usually get dumped upon.  But, this year we caught the blizzard on the 23rd and had much more snow than they. 
Today, however, is quite nice, almost 40'F and I have Mike out putting up new lights, doorbell and house numbers because OUR NEW FRONT DOOR arrives tomorrow.  And, I'm stoked.

New entry door light

My handyman works on the garage light

and new numbers!

But, enough about me and my new door.  Let's talk about me and my Christmas. . . heehee.
Actually, this was a wild and crazy pre-Christmas week, with a different party going on every night for EIGHT DAYS STRAIGHT (which, by the way, does absolutely nothing for the waistline). 
But, being that myself and my siblings have been a little SLOW to procreate (one offspring amongst us), we don't usually have a lot of kids around.  And some of the parties we've been at have.  And you truly realize what you are missing out on without kids at Christmas (not that I'm trolling for any children here, mind you, just saying).
Because kids and Christmas?  They just kind of go together, you know?
Especially the wee little bitty ones still holding out for a visit from the magical Santa Claus.
Me and Old Saint Nick may have parted ways a few years ago, but he still tends to leave a couple gifts scattered around.  Even got one from the Elves this year.  Kris Kringle seems like a pretty good guy, all in all.  And, I appreciate what he leaves me, whether it's at my house, my folks or wherever.
But I can't remember the last present that left me speechless (a niece with a new pink Razr phone), caused me to jump up and down screaming (a niece and a Wii), or just left me staring blankly into the box (engagement ring for my new future sister-in-law!). 
Nor can I remember the last gift I gave which inspired any of the above responses.
It seems easier with kids, though.  Kids young enough to not have a clue if the special toy they like cost $10 or $100.  Kids that don't need "toys" like ipods, cell phones, lap tops, computer games, etc.  Those are toys I want, and shouldn't be given to people under the age of, oh say, 17?
When I was a tween or a teen, I certainly couldn't/didn't ask for such caliber of Christmas presents.  I was happy to get a couple sweaters and a pair of jeans.  It almost makes me GLAD I don't have children to disappoint and let down with weak and meager Christmas presents.  Because there is NO WAY. 
Well, maybe a Wii.  But seriously!
But, our Christmas was special.  Look what we got.

Thanks Denny & Amy

but these are some Crocs that will never be leaving the house. . .

And, if you don't know why that's funny, click here.
And, I also hope you didn't miss the part above where it said my LITTLE BROTHER FINALLY GOT ENGAGED TO HIS LONGTERM GIRLFRIEND AMY.
I guess I'm getting ANOTHER sister-in-law for Christmas.  Hopefully, my last one (not that I don't want another, just I would need another brother or one of my brother's or brother-in-law's to get divorced, and that doesn't seem to be something to wish for).
T'was the big news of the day.

Friday, December 21, 2007
Go See "Charlie Wilson's War"
Worthy of the hype.  Best movie I've seen all year (not saying much, about the fourth first run movie I've seen this year, but it WAS very good).
Go see it.
I mean it.  Quit reading, look up the movie time, and GO.
We'll discuss the implications of US Foreign Policy tomorrow, or the next day.

Saturday, December 15, 2007
Meeting a Hero
Anyone reading who is a NASCAR fan will recognize the name Johnny Benson.  Anyone reading from Grand Rapids may possibly know that Johnny Benson is from here.  And that he is a second generation driver.
When Mikey was a little boy, he used to go to the Speedrome to watch the "old man" race.  Johnny Benson, Sr. usually won, as well.  Later, Mike would go to Berlin and Kalamazoo and watch him race.
Now Johnny Benson, Jr. races in the truck league after many years on the Winston Cup and Busch leagues.  Mike will watch truck racing now just to see Johnny go around and around.  Mike says it looks like he's having more fun out there on the truck circuit.
And, occasionally Johnny comes back home and races at Berlin in the ASA league.  I think we even went out together and saw him once. 
Last night we met some friends for drinks down at the Casino Club.  The Casino Club is a private club, very unpretentious, but very hard to get into.  I think the waiting list is around 15 years.  John and I were having a fight about who's turn it was to buy a round, and we were both up at the bar and there was an older man in front of me.  Kiddingly, I told John I was going to let him live and the old guy ahead of me turned around and thanked me, pretending I was talking to him, for letting him live.  I kidded around with him for a minute, and we went our separate ways.
When we returned to the table, John started making fun of me, saying I threatened JOHNNY BENSON.  And Mike got a bit excited. 
So, I took him over and introduced him.  And we didn't see him again for thirty minutes.  And only because JB's family showed up.
Seems the old man is STILL building cars for NASCAR drivers.  And confirmed Mike's suspicions Johnny was having a good time out there on the truck league.  More fun than he had in the Winston Cup.
Needless to say, he was psyched.  Mike, that is.

Friday, December 14, 2007
That Magic Little Blue Pill


No, No, No.  Not THAT little blue pill.
But Chantix.  The quit smoking pill.  It is truly a miracle drug. 
I hate to admit it, but I took this for two months while Mike was in Papau New Guinea last year, and quit smoking for three months.  I even started jogging daily!
Then I went to Hong Kong, quit taking the pill due to some of the side effects (and Mike and TJ and EVERYONE else smoking), and started smoking again. 
So 10 days ago I dug out all the extra pills I had (I'd bought Mike a three month supply as well, but he never used them) and started taking them again. 
And it is amazing how much I don't want a cigarette.  Or even think about a cigarette.  It's like the cravings don't even exist.  Or the withdrawals.
I do still have some bad side effects, constipation being the worst one (I am somewhat used to that, though).  I am only taking one dosage a day instead of two to help with the sleeping problems and the poopy problems, which does seem to help.  I take it around noon with food, and that's enough drug to last until midnight, apparently. 
Mike is going cold turkey, about three weeks in.  We are both a little irritable, a little edgy, and maybe we shouldn't be living in the same house or sleeping in the same bed, but we're working through it a day at a time. 
I really feel like we're going to make it this time.  And, I think I owe it solely to the Chantix. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2007
The Thrill of the Sale
As some of you know, in a prior life I was a used car salesperson.  For six years.  At a Ford dealership. 
And, as ashaming as it can sometimes be to admit, I actually liked my job.  Most of the time.
So, when Mike started yelling about our old 91 Escort still sitting in the driveway with a busted out brake line, I did what all good car salespeople do - I took out a cheap ad in the bargain corner.
After about twenty phone calls and no one showing up to look, our buyer stopped by just a few minutes ago, cash in hand.
My first car sale since 1997.  I still got it. 

Now, seriously, who could resist this beauty for only $299, are you outta your mind?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007
80 Stouts Invading, 18 Presents Purchased, 8 Puddles of Transmission Fluid and 5 Deers in the Backyard
Every year it happens.  Sometimes we're here for it, other times we haven't made it home yet.  Usually, it's the first Saturday of December, but this year it was the second Saturday.  Just to mix it up a bit.
Before I married Mike, i dated him for four (4!) years.  And it took just about that long to learn all the names of the members of his tribe.  You see, Mike has five (5!) sisters and four (4!) brothers.  And many of them have procreated.  And many of THOSE offspring have procreated.
Therefore, a Christmas party does not involve just getting together at someone's house.  Especially in winter when you can't push the kids and half the adults outside.
It involves renting a hall, catering some food, renting a Santa, organizing a gift swap, and coordinating dishes to pass.  With around seventy people, give or take.
And half the family lives 3 hours north, so hotel rooms and overnight accomodations come into play.
Mike's sister Julie drove Mom and her friend Frannie, as well as her son Jesse down on Friday night for dinner at our house.  Julie's son from St. Louis and his girlfriend had flown in for the occasion, and they came out, as well as Kevin, Mike's oldest sisters son.  So we had a housefull. 
Then Saturday was THE PARTY!  At the Best Western.  Most people rented rooms, but we didn't.  It's only 20 minutes away.  And, as always, more people showed up than had RSVP'd, so we overspilt our room a bit, out into the pool overlook. 
But, was wonderful to see everyone (minus Tom and Ruth and offspring - that's six people!).

Mom, Frannie and Julie at our house Friday night

The boys, Mike, Bob, and Joe. Chris was there, but too busy for a pic, and Tom didn't make. . .

The girls, in age order, Kathy, Mary, Julie, Annette, Carol

SOME of the offspring and offspring's offspring

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The "out-laws", James, Me, Scott, Lori, Greg, Renee and Linda

After all the fun and excitement of the weekend, we realized that our "new" car, the 2001 Cavalier, is leaking transmission fluid AGAIN.  Bummer.  So, we brought her back up to the transmission shop, and they fixed her up for us.  Again.  For FREE!  Yeah us! 
Time will tell.
And yesterday, I got about 70% of our Christmas shopping down, in decent weather and slow traffic at the mall.  Niiiiiiiiice.  Still no presents under the tree for Mike, though.  He won't tell me what he wants.
This morning?  DEER IN OUR BACKYARD!  For the first time since we've been home.

Hello Deeries!

Wednesday, December 5th
Oh, Christmas Tree
Oh, Christmas Tree
How Lovely are Your Branches
Okay.  I admit it.  I'm getting a bit jazzed up for the holidays.  Trimmed the tree this morning whilst listening to my bad boy Jimmy Buffett's Christmas Album.  ROCKING.  MY.  WORLD.
So, with no further ado, here she is in all her Christmas glory!

It turned out to look like an Old Fashioned Christmas around here. . .

Don't ya just dig the color?!?!?

Still haven't mailed my Christmas Cards yet, though they've made it from the counter to the car.  Got lazy and didn't go to the post office.  I don't even know how much a stamp costs, that's how out of touch I am with reality in these United States. 
Oh well.  Will get it done.  And, Mike's going to put lights outside on our Japanese Maple.  We are soooo cool.
And we drank long and hard last night.  At least Mike did. . .

Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Christmas Cards - Check (well, not mailed, but hand addressed and written, sitting on the counter!!).
Christmas Presents for Mike's family - Check (party this weekend!  WOOT!  All except Mom. . . sigh.  What do you buy an 80 year old woman!?!?).
Snow - Check.  Been here for DAYS!
Christmas Shopping - Started today.  Officially two gifts down, a lot more to go.
Christmas Tree? - CHECK!
Our first in the five years we've lived here.

Yeah, yeah, it's a might big, but whatever, we have five years of NO TREE to make up for!

And, tomorrow, we SHALL DECORATE, for tonight we are going out.   We've been housebound since Friday night.  Well, not exactly housebound, but we haven't been out at night for dinner or cocktails or NOTHING since Friday. 
Mostly my fault.  And the weather.
But, tonight we DRINK!

Sunday, December 2, 2007
Go Elf Yourself
I honestly can't stop laughing at this.  It first came to me from a forward from my Mom and Dad of some friends of theirs (and mine, actually).  I laughed at their elves, then made Mike and I into elves, and it was just as funny.  THEN I did my parents, and it was STILL funny. 
See us as elves, then go elf yourself and your family (and your pets, if you have any) and send me the link.  I can always use a laugh.

Saturday, December 1, 2007
I'm a NaNoWriMo Graduate
Well, it was close, kids. Almost too close to call. I was way behind last weekend, needed 12,000 words by Friday at midnight.

I diligently wrote hard all week, on Tuesday I did almost 5,000 words.

Thursday saw me just 800 words short of 50,000. No problem. I can (now) write 800 words in my sleep. A lot of "very's" and "really's", but I can DO IT.

So, Friday, instead of NaNo-ing, I dinked around with Christmas Cards, finished my book (that I'm READING!), planned a trip to the mall. Anything but write those last 800 words.

At 4 PM I finally sidled up to the laptop and pumped them out. Uploaded them to the website, and VIOLA! I was a winner.

And the website told me I had 15 minutes to spare! 15 minutes?!?!?! By my count, I had 7 hours and 15 minutes! How could I have cut it so close?

Because I didn't change my region setting when we returned from Israel. I almost made a fatal mistake. Because, really, I could not have lived without a certificate from NaNoWriMo saying I won and access to that cute little icon at the bottom of this post.

No, really. I would have slit my wrist. It's quite possibly the only good thing I got from this experience. Besides the discipline to write (almost) everyday, I now have a word doc totalling over 50,000 words that SUCKS! TRULY SUCKS!

Now, what am I going to do with that!?!?!

Oh, and I donated money to them, to boot. Because, really (there's that word again), they do good things. Mostly for kids. And maybe my $25 will inspire a future John Irving.

Now, onward to that Christmas thingy. Supposedly, we are getting a tree tomorrow.
(Yes, I do know this is word for word from what I posted over there, but I'm SICK OF WRITING.  For now)

Official NaNoWriMo 2007 Winner

Thursday, November 29, 2007
I'm Proud to be an American
When I met my dear friend Kenya in 1999, I wasn't aware she was not a Natural Born US Citizen (because, if I HAD known, of course I WOULDN'T have been her friend - HAHAHAHA).  She was just the girl who worked next door, who quickly endeared herself to me, and we became fast friends.
One day, I walked into her office and she was blathering on to someone in fluent Spanish.  Now, my Spanish is pretty poor, but I can at least recognize the language when it's being spoken correctly.  And I asked her, stupidly, "Where did you learn to speak Spanish so well?"
And she was all like, "Dude, I'm Venezuelan."
Born in Venezuela to a Bolivian father and a Venezuelan mother, moved to the US of A when she was twelve.  Been a legal alien working on a Green Card since.  I had no idea.  She was a stealth non-American.
But, on Tuesday, she finely renounced her home country and became a naturalized American citizen.
I have to be honest, when she told me about the swearing in ceremony, I wasn't to keen on going.  Middle of the day, downtown, a bunch of people standing around with their right hand in the air pledging their allegiance to the USA.  Big deal, right?
Turns out it is a big deal.  We reluctantly went, and I'm so glad.  They swore in over 80 people from 36 different countries in a ceremony that left very few dry eyes in the house.  Now, of course, more than half were from Mexico (and that's all good, folks, I ain't got no problem with that), but there were many from Sudan, Burma, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, China , Liberia, Ethiopia, Palestine, Kosovo, Bosnia - even Ireland, Australia and Canada were represented.
All here in the "land of dreams", fighting and struggling to make a life for themselves outside their own country.  Adopting a new country as "home".
I, as a spoiled little American, can never imagine giving up my citizenship for another.  I was blessed to be born here, to be able to take all the things these people arrived here looking for, as biz as usual. 
And, no matter how much you might not be enamored with our current government, leadership, position in Iraq, falling home prices, rising grocery and gas prices, you have to KNOW.  Know deep in your heart of hearts that we truly do live in the very best country in the world. 
As the judge said, "You can move to France, but you can't become a Frenchman; you can live in Japan, and never become Japanese.  But anyone and everyone can immigrate to America and become an American."  And they do.  In large numbers.  Over a million people sworn in last year.
I know immigration is a tough subject today.  I'm not a big fan of illegal immigrants living here, taking advantage of healthcare and government aid they don't even qualify for.  I also know we need a percentage of illegal immigrants for our economy to prosper.  I understand it's not easy to go through the processes it takes to be here legally, to become a naturalized citizen.
But, man.  It sure seemed worth it on Tuesday.
Today, to become a naturalized citizen you must reside in the US legally for five years, three if you are married to an American citizen.  You need to pay $800.  You need to fulfill an evaluation, have fluency in English, and pass a moral character test. 
Kenya had to sign off on things like being a prostitute, and a habitual drunkard (I hope they don't check up on these things. . . heehee). 
Anyway, I think every American should go to one of these ceremonies.  It gives you a new appreciation for all the things we tend to take for granted.  And possibly an appreciation for all those people that came here and made America there home, present and past.  If it wasn't for their spirit, their dreams, America would not exist in the way it does today.
Then, last night we went to the Pickwick Bar, and the bartendress there was also naturalized on Tuesday at the same ceremony we attended.  She's from Australia, and she was still a bit teary eyed. 

Thursday, November 22, 2007
So, today is Thanksgiving.  And, I have many things to be thankful for, even though we are not having our "Traditional Thanksgiving Meal/Family Gathering" until Saturday.  I'm still sitting here, in my lovely home, with my fantastic husband, and my now clean laptop (it was FILTHY!) thinking of all the things in my life that ROCK.
For example, this last year.  Or, the last seven years.  Or even my entire life.  All my great friends, old and new.  My amazing family.  My husband's amazing family. 
Even chance encounters.  Last night we hit the Vestal for their annual Thanksgiving-Eve party.  And, I ran into a couple guys I went to college with who now live in Rockford.  I saw them there like five years ago, same time, same place.  Hi Jim and Craig! 
And, Kenny Earl.  A guy we haven't seen in FOREVER (heck, we haven't seen a lot of people in FOREVER, it seems, but this really is FOREVER!).
Lots of other peeps around, too.  Nice time.
This morning, I decided to get a jump on sorting through some of the 12,000 pictures I took over the last year, find some for the house, etc.  Basically, I'm ignoring the fact I'm 4000 words behind in my NaNoWriMo project and doing ANYTHING rather than writing.  So, just for fun, I sent them over the web to Walgreens Photo Department.  A half hour ago.  And I just received an email from them saying they're DONE.  On THANKSGIVING.  In a HALF-HOUR.
America is awesome.  Unless you work in the photo department of Walgreen's, apparently.
Oh, and we woke up this morning to the first snow.  Just a dusting, but it was THERE.  Mike's sister called from Gaylord, they got four inches.  Could be worse.

Snow dust on the holly's

Friday, November 16, 2007
Of Food and Fall
Now, Mike and I are not the fussiest of eaters.  In fact, we are pretty well known for our lack of appreciation for "gourmet" or "haute cuisine".  Don't get me wrong, we appreciate good food, but with our lifestyle, sometimes you have to just eat what you get. 
And, we didn't suffer too badly this year on the food front (which explains the extra eight pounds I've "found" since leaving last fall).  Hong Kong rocked for grub, and if you ever read one post from Greece you'll know that ALL I EVER talked about there was the food.  And Tel Aviv?  Well, the worst of the three, for sure, but we did have some decent meals there, including but not limited to STEAK NIGHT, fish night, and a few other favorites.
But really?  The food here at home is ROCKING OUR WORLD.  Everything we eat we're exclaiming to each other how GOOD it is. Even the stuff I cook.  Heck, even the dang cornflakes taste better, especially when you add some hothouse strawberries and a banana. 
What I'm trying to say is, we must have missed home.  And home food.  Home food?  Food from home?  Whatever.  AND, I still haven't made it to Taco Bell, so I have that taste sensation to look forward to!  Ohhhh, Taco Bell. . .  (for non-US readers, Taco Bell is *like* McDonald's, only WAY WAY WAY better.  Oh, and Mexican.  Well, kinda Mexican.  No burgers here, or fries).
And the fall weather is helping on the food front, as nothing taste better when there's a nip in the air (or a snowflake or two) than chilli or homemade mac and cheese, or even mashed 'taters.  All the comfort foods in the world go with fall, IMHO. 
We made it back before all the leaves fell off the trees, before the real first hard frost, so we are getting to enjoy a little bit of fall, which is really such a nice and beautiful season in Michigan.  If it didn't lead to winter, it would be MUCH better, but alas, it does.  And, we will be here for it.  Sigh. 
But, for right now, I'm just enjoying fall. 







Mike and his new mailbox, he's such a handy, handy man. . .

Monday, November 12, 2007
Unbelievable.  It's been over a YEAR since I've needed this page.  I cheated when I was home last month for 2 weeks, posted under Israel so not to confuse anyone.
Already planning lots of "fun" and hopeful projects to get done while we're home, including but not limited to a new front door and screen door, possibly new countertop and backsplash in the kitchen as well as new cupboard pulls, and a fix on the broken gas fireplace downstairs.  I can't even sit down there right now, it's too cold.  And it isn't really even cold yet!
But, ah, it is nice to be home.  Home with my hubby.  Home in our own bed, with all our own stuff surrounding us.
As much as we both LOVE to travel and miss everywhere (almost) we've been to varying degrees, it is always nice to come home.  Home to our house, home to family, home to friends.
God bless our little home. 
Oh, here's a cool pic I forgot to post on the Israel page.  This is the day before we left, it was just getting ready to rain (our second rain in Tel Aviv). 


October 12, 2006
Yes, I know, I have completely sucked at updating this site for the last two months since we returned from Cambodia. . . and I apologize.
Mike and I were home together until the 28th of August when he got sent to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.  You long time readers with long term memories may remember that while we were in Cambodia the first time, Port Moresby was voted the "least liveable city in the world".  Hence, I decided to stay home. . . Plus, it cost about $4000 to get there, and that just didn't seem worth it.  Kind of like paying to go to jail or something.
Anyway, he's been slaving away over there for the last six weeks, sans me, and I've been getting a lot of reading done here in Michigan, collecting his paychecks. . .HAHAHA.  Being that I was going to be home for a couple months, I even contemplated getting a job. . . but that urge quickly passed, thanks be to God. . .
As of today the plan is we are off to Hong Kong sometime around the first of November.  This is good news.  The bad news is that we will be working over the holidays, until the end of January/first part of February, so that will be a bit odd.  Christmas in Hong Kong.  Of course, it ain't like we have any tickets or anything yet, so all is subject to change.  Mike was supposed to be done in PNG on the 20th, but things have been delayed and they are hoping to be done by the 27th, but who knows.  He probably won't take that "short hop" home, but instead I will meet him in Hong Kong when we get the go-ahead.
Things at home. . . well, you can see by the Home page that we are getting SNOW in Michigan today.  That stinks.  Have had some good times in the past couple months, seen friends, family, and reunited with some old friends and acquaintances.  Played a lot of golf while the weather was nice (and even some while it wasn't so nice), and had my first Eagle of the year on the nicest course in town on Mike's birthday (also on the hardest hole on the course).  Blind luck of course, but still worth bragging rights.
Reconnected briefly with my old golf league in August, seen a lot of familiar faces and had some nice summer evenings out on the links.  Mike had the same opportunity with his old league as well.
My family is all doing well.  My parents celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary last month by going to Hawaii for about 3 weeks.  Nice.  My youngest brother has found a good job and is working hard (and wants to come visit in Hong Kong), and has a cool girlfriend named Amy who I may adopt as a little sister.  Chris, my oldest brother, actually has a JOB (first time in over 20 years he's had to "report in" anywhere), so that's new and exciting.  Jennifer is as busy as ever, and Brian is pretty much the same.
Mike's family is also doing well, his Mom came down from Gaylord for a week and spent a couple a days at the Stout House.  She is in the early stages of Alzheimer's, so that's hard on her and on the family, but we pray for the best.
Kenya (my good, pregnant, friend) is about ready to birth out her first offspring the end of the month, so we are all awaiting that "special delivery" (groan).
While we were in Brunei I was summoned for Jury Duty, but had to defer it as I didn't want to make the commute.  I was promptly re-served papers upon my arrival home, and was privileged to serve - for 3 1/2 hours.  I thought I was going to get a RAISE!  Jury Duty pays $40/day!  That's a substantial pay increase for me!  Alas, Lady Justice did not require my assistance and the entire 300 of us called were dismissed at 11:30 on Monday.  YEAH!
Honest to God, thems been the highlights, so you can see why posting everyday or so has not been a priority!  Hope all is well with everyone and I promise to keep you updated on our possible upcoming trip to Hong Kong, and of course lots of info from there once and if we arrive!

Tuesday, May 9, 2006
As always, are plans have changed suddenly, and this time for the better.  Now Mike is scheduled to leave Monday the 15th for Tirane, Albania. We expect to be there anywhere between 4-6 weeks.  Granted, I haven't bought my ticket yet, though.  The Mali project was pushed until the 17th of June, so it is still lurking out there, with the possibility of us having to go after Albania.
Have had a nice couple of weeks since I last posted. My girlfriend Kenya married Kevin and we got to go to the wedding (small affair at the county clerk's office).  Mike's Aunt and Uncle from Paris are here visiting for a month, so have spent some quality time with them, and managed to get some golf in with friends, too.  And, even a little work around the house, when we've felt like it. . .
Oh!  And now we have another piece of junk car to drive around; bought our neighbor's old Taurus.  Officially living the American dream now, with two cars in the garage. . . heehee.  It is nice not to have to travel hip to hip all the time that we are here, or strand the other at home for hours on end.  With the price of gas, maybe we should have bought a moped, though.
Other than that, just looking forward to getting on the road again, earning a little $, seeing some new countryside.  Keep your fingers crossed that we will actually go!

Wednesday, April 19, 2005
Oh, home. . .
I hope everyone had a Happy Easter.  Mike and I left for Gaylord on Thursday morning to visit his Mom and half his 10 brothers and sisters that live up there (3 hour drive north, for those who don't know).  Was a nice visit and saw lots and lots of family, including 2 new great nephews and nieces of ours (IMPOSSIBLE - these kids were 10 and 14 when Mike and I met!).
Hustled out to my Mom and Dad's on Easter Sunday for dinner with family and my brother Denny's GIRLFRIEND - first time he's brought a girl around in a while. . .
Nice day. 
While we were in Gaylord, Mike's work called him and "requested" that he come down to Alabama for some training Monday - Thursday, so he left on Monday morning to go get schooled.  I stayed home and decided it was time to get rid of the polka dot wallpaper in our guestroom (I swear this is what made Mike's sister sick when she stayed here overnight).  So, three days later, I just need to roll the second coat of paint (Carmel color), do some major cleanup, and rehang a shelf and I'm done.  Also managed to spend some money on some window coverings that we were in need of, and some towels and rugs. . .
Looks like our next stop will probably be Bomako, Mali in Central Africa. . . right next door to Chad.  Lovely. . . I was going to opt out of this one, but Mike says it's for 6 weeks and that I have to go. . . WHAAAAAH!
Probably won't leave for a couple of weeks, though.  Time to get to the dentist and Mike to the doc and some golf in!!
All for now, will let you know as I know more!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Lucky us!  We got home just in time for the spring warm up!  We had a bit of a hard time the first five days we were home, Mike suffering from some type of flu, me from a terrible cold, on top of the 13 hour shift in time difference and the jet lag that comes with it.  We laid pretty low, seeing my parents on Wednesday briefly before they left for a week in Florida, and going out Wednesday night to our local favorite bar, The Vestal, and catching up with a few friends.
That escapade wore us out until Friday afternoon when we felt well enough to venture out to a matinee.  Went and saw "Lucky Number Slevin", which didn't get great reviews, but we enjoyed.  Hit BW3 for a quick sandwich and seriously went home and went to bed at 7:30 PM!
Stayed home the rest of the weekend.  Here's how serious things were. . . I went to the grocery store on Thursday for supplies and bought Mike a case of beer, and it took until SUNDAY for him to even have one!  Is that possible?!?!?!  I was really worried about him. . . heehee.
Monday was beautiful and we finally felt good enough to do something, so we played 9 holes in the afternoon, then Mike went back and played another 9 with his old golf league while I went up to the course my old league was at for their pre-league meeting to say HI and have a couple drinks with the gals.  Met back up with Mike later at the Vestal, along with our friends the Joyce's (all three of them) and some guys from Mike's league. 
Tuesday was over 70 degrees, so we had to play another 18 with our friend Jerry.  Was a pleasant day out there, and our scorecards didn't even look that bad, suprisingly enough!
Nice to be back home in our house.  Our new floor is in and looking good, and there are still quite a few little projects that need doing, but looks like we might be around for a while, so can focus on that.  Leaving Thursday for Gaylord to visit Mike's Mom and brothers and sisters that live up there, will return on Sunday to celebrate Easter with my folks and brothers and sister-in-law.

Monday, January 22, 2006

We are still sitting in Grand Rapids.  Returned from Alabama no problem, except that the Albania project is off the schedule for now.  They say we are leaving for six weeks in sunny Brunei (northeast part of Indonesia, small country about the size of Deleware) on Febuary 6. . . okay. 
Had our first snow storm since we've been back last Friday night.  Got about an inch of snow an hour for around 6 to 9 hours. Left some pretty snow on our trees out back, but fortunately it's almost gone.

Having some work done around the house, decided to pull the carpet and lino up that was in the dining room, kitchen, foyer, and hallway and replace it with hardwood flooring.  So, that has my house in an inside out state, and driving me crazy.  My refrigerator and stove are in the living room, my dining room is in the master bedroom, etc.  We were hoping to get moved to the upstairs bedroom while we are home, but although the paint work is done, the closet system in and Mike is working hard on the electrical parts (while almost killing himself!!), we don't want to move up there until the floor is down the hallway.  Hopefully we won't run out of time.  I think the floor will be down this week.

Nice to be home, but getting a little boring. . . need some plane tickets in my hand. . .  :-)

Monday, January 9, 2006

Things change fast around our house.  Mike called the office on Thursday afternoon to find out what might be going on or coming up and they sent him down to Alabama for fiber school.  So, on Saturday we packed up and came to Montgomery for the week.  Our first time in Alabama!  We are supposedly going to Albania sometime next week, but as always, I haven't bought a ticket yet. . . we'll see.
It is a bit warmer down here than in GR, so we have that going for us.  70's in the day, 50's at night.  Went and saw Casanova last night, two "light and funny" thumbs up from us.  And, Mike has already checked the internet to find out where we can play NTN trivia. . . LOL.
Will be back on Friday night, hopefully with more news about what is happening next.

Monday, January 2, 2006
My first posting for 2006!  Have had a fun and busy holiday season at home, with Mike arriving just ahead of Santa on Christmas Eve.  I picked him up at 9 PM, 12/24 after being home a week by myself. 
Most of our time thus far has been holiday celebrations and working on the house.  While we were gone we had new windows installed, so there was some "clean-up" work involved.  I spent my entire December/January painting last year, and that's what we've been doing this year!
But, still managing to have fun, seeing friends and family.  Don't know where we are off to next or when, so in a travel limbo right now!

Wednesday, September 6, 2005

Well, the husband arrived safe and sound home from Nigeria on the 27th of August, a week early which was great for him (and me, too!) so that they could get us off and working in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for the next three months.  So, we've spent the last week getting ready to go, packing the golf clubs (after making sure they still work a few times), and generally enjoying the end of summer here in West Michigan. 
Had the opportunity to go up north to visit the Joyce's at the cabin they rent on Lake Michigan for a couple days, played some golf, drank some beers, looked at the lake.  Played some golf around Grand Rapids, too.  We were actually supposed to leave on Labor Day, but got postponed two days due to visa problems (Mike's), so got to hang out with brothers and sister in law at Denny's house for a fun party on Monday.
Celebrated both our birthdays with family last week at Chris and Jen's, which was also very nice, too, despite the fact that it means we are both a year older. . .  I don't think we should have to count birthdays during this time of our lives, it doesn't seem fair.  Sometimes I feel like these years we've been traveling shouldn't count as "real life", but it seems they do.
So, happy to be going off into the world again.  Will again be with our friend Scott, so that will be fun.  Lots to see and discover in Cambodia, including Angkor Wat, which has been a dream of mine since I've heard of it/seen pictures of it.  Looking forward to taking about a thousand photos there!  heehee.
Love to all, and will update when we arrive!

Monday, August 9, 2005

Boy, am getting a lot of movie watching done. . . Things have been a little boring around here for me.  On the flip side, am getting lots of done during daylight.  Spent about 16 hours out in the backyard (no exagerrating) on Friday and Saturday, I do believe that all the vegetation out there is on the same root system.  I fought the lawn and the lawn won!
Sunday was a day of rest.  Went to the movies, did a little shopping.  Today I met Jennifer and my Dad at Calvin College and we visited the Petra Exhibition, which was interesting, although the real thing is WAY better (duh).  Had a little lunch and came home and power washed part of the house.  All I have left is the second story, which will require me balancing on a ladder with the power washer. . . . sounds like fun. . . NOT.  Lawn is coming back, though, and that looks nice.
I do believe our next house will be a condo.
Tomorrow am going golfing with some gals from my old golf league up north a bit, should be a good time.  Talk of going out on Kay's pontoon boat afterwards, which would be nice, as it has been HOT again here.  Was okay doing the power washing, all that cold hose water all over me. . . .BRRRRR.

Thursday, August 4, 2005

Mike had a nice visit home, and now he's off to Nigeria  Put him on the plane last night at 6 pm, he called me this morning at 7:30 safely in London.  He had a 12 hour layover there before his connecting flight down to Abuja.  Sure hope he doesn't have to be there longer than one month.  It seems weird to be home without him, usually when he left in the past I stayed out at my folks.  Now that we have our own house, I'm all alone, and it seems a little odd.  I haven't lived by myself in almost 10 years! 
Had a nice week, if not busy.  Friday night we went mini-golfing and to the bar with Kenya and Kevin, Saturday we went sailing on Lake Michigan with our friends Paul and Mary and Tom Joyce.  Was a big cruise with lots of liquid refreshment.  Mike got up early on Sunday to go golfing with his friend Mark (6 am!), and then we had my folks, brothers and sister-in-law over for a BBQ.  Monday I had the opportunity to go up to Cedar Chase Golf Course and sub on my old golf league, which was great.  Tuesday night we had a bowling away party for Mike with a group of about 8 people, was lots of fun.  So, needless to say, we kept busy.
Am able to post a few pictures on this network at home, so here's a few "new" ones from Rome.

January 20, 2005

Things are great here in Grand Rapids, despite the 8 inches of snow we got the other day and sub-freezing weather.  Still can't figure out why we live here. . . hmmm. 
Enjoying hanging around the house, and we do have four beautiful deer that live in our "backyard".  They come and go, and we haven't seen them in a while, but they were out in full force today, and came pretty close to the deck.  Snapped a few photos.
Things still appear to be "on" for Rome, but still over a month away.  Plenty of time to get more done here, I hope.  As long as we don't run out of money. . .

January 11, 2005!!!

Soooo sorry about the lack of contact, everyone!  We have had very limited internet access and have been so busy.  Our life has revolved around this new house thing, and I could never hear the word paint again and be very happy.  It seems we forget how much fun that is NOT when it's been 5-6 years since you've done it! 
First of all, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone!  We had a wonderful holiday, and hope you did too.  Christmas this year was great, as we were able to attend not only the Stout Christmas party, with Mike's 9 brothers and sisters, Mom and countless nieces and nephews (and even a few great ones, now), and to spend it with my family, too.  New Year's we revisited the party we were at last year, and had a great time with old friends.
But, now we have internet, so I can be in contact with everyone and share a few pictures of our house and the work we've been doing while we've been ignoring everyone! 
Before we moved in, we stripped wallpaper in the dining room and kitchen, then I faux suede painted those two rooms, and painted the hallway and end wall downstairs, our bedroom and the "library".  Then we started on the tough project, the upstairs bathroom.  We had new linoleum put down, then scraped wallpaper for two weeks!  It was a disaster.  By the time we had re-skimmed the walls and sanded, I never wanted to see that room again.  We took two days to paint, and when we pulled the tape off, a TON of paint came off too.  This was bad.  It took me 8 hours in there with a artists detail brush staring up at the ceiling or doing backbends to touch up the mess.  I am not scraping wallpaper or painting for at least 5 years.  Promise.
But, it is so nice to have a house again.  We are really enjoying it, and the four deer who live in our backyard.  Our whole view from the back is nothing but woodlands, we are on a dead end street, so we have no through traffic, and could easily become little homebodies.  Still a lot of things that need to be done here (some new lighting, window treatments, pictures hung, etc.,) but we'll get to all that.  For now it's just nice to be HOME!

We also have a guest room just waiting for our first overnight visitor, and a master bedroom upstairs that our friend Kenya will be living in while we're gone.  And additional storage in the basement, laundry etc.  Not a huge house, nor our dream house, but it feels pretty okay to us! 
I think the main reason we bought it was the view.

The latest news on the work front is the Rome project is back on.  We are not scheduled to leave until the 20th of Febuary, so plenty of time to loll around the house and get bored (right), I mean get things done.  And, of course, spend time with family and friends. 
Here's some Christmas pics of our families and us!
Love to all and keep in touch.  Will be back here soon!

December 6, 2004

Things are rolling along nicely on our house purchase, and we will be able to take possession on the 15th of December.  Mike's been gone since last Sunday, so I've been running around like the mad woman I am trying to find furniture, paint colors, rugs, etc.  It's been fun, but also a but overwhelming.  It's been a while since I've had to do such things!
I'm having a "wall paper removal party" on the 15th, have about 5 girls who are going to come over and help me scrape some hideous wallpaper off the dining room and kitchen walls.  I hope to be able to get the bedroom, hallway, reading room and dining room and kitchen repainted before Mike comes home.  We should be able to sleep in the new house after the 17th, as we will actually have a GUEST ROOM!  Anyone want to be our first guest? 
Have talked to Mike a few times since he's been in Pakistan, and things seem to be okay there.  He's laying low, working six days a week, and staying at the hotel most of the time.  Counting the days until he returns.  He is soooo excited about the house. 
So, off to find some fabric to recover my sofa in. . .

November 25, 2004

Well, it's been a busy 15 days here in Grand Rapids!  As I might have mentioned before, Mike and I were so ready to buy a house that we could actually unpack our things in!  Our original plan was to sell our house and lot (that my brother is renting), but after a builder offered us way more for the lot than we thought it was worth, we actually just sold the lot and bought a house.  We looked at houses for about one week, then made an offer on one!  We will keep the "little" house for rental property (my brother will continue to live there), and move our stuff to the new house.  Should be interesting.  Mike is leaving on Sunday for his three week vacation in Pakistan, so I will be closing on both real estate transactions, getting things ready to move, and trying to do some cosmetic work on the new house (painting, wall paper removal, furniture buying, etc.).  Will keep me busy while he's gone, I'm sure.
Big Stout family Christmas party this weekend.  Thanksgiving today.  Lots of parties and opportunities to see everyone we've missed over the last year. 
Hope all have a Happy Turkey Day, and for those who don't have Turkey Day, have a good one anyway!
Will try and post some pictures next week.  Did get my replacement camera, finally, so will get some photos up.  Patience, please my dears.  Heehee.

November 10, 2004

Back in the U.S.A!   Never so glad to have a vacation come to an end in my life!  Can't say it was the vacation from HELL, but it sure came close.  After we finally got to San Jose, things went fairly smooth in getting a new passport, etc.  We played golf a couple days, did a tour through the rainforest and a Canopy Tour (cables through the tops of trees - I'm so proud of myself, I only freaked out from the height once).  Still had to deal with driving in traffic with the rest of the idiots on the road, and of course, the RAIN.  And, it's never fun to vacation in a capital city unless it's Paris or London or something.  But, we made it through.  I was even able to replace my phone and camera with the exact same items on eBay, so that made me happy.
We will be back in Grand Rapids for almost all of the rest of the year, as it looks right now.  Mike leaves for Pakistan on the 28th of this month until the 18th of December.  We just found out Rome is "postponed" until 2006, so our options in January are not so great.  Afghanistan (no kidding), Tajekistan, Kuwait, Nigeria, some other "great" place, and Genenva.  Obvious what we're hoping for.
Okay, LU- there you go!!!  :-)

November 2, 2004

Well, I'd love to brag about what a great place this is and what kind of fun we're having, but the truth is, since I last posted, it's all gone downhill!  On Sunday, Mike and I returned to the beach in Tamarindo and GOT ROBBED!  I lost my passport, my camera, my brand new world phone, two credit cards, and my LIPSTICK (heehee).  Totally sucked.  Locked my purse in the TRUNK, and somehow (?) they got in there without any damage.  Yea, right.  The only good point was I had absolutely NO CASH in my purse, which is basically all they care about, so screw you, thieves!  We found out afterwards that ALL the car rental companies (we used Budget) are in cohoots with the thieves, and they actually STALK your car while your there!  It's crap.  Not to mention how pissed off we are! 
So, we decided to get the heck out of there, loaded up the car and came to San Jose (as we have to, because I can't leave the country  without a new passport).  This first involved driving for 1.5 hours to Santa Cruz and dealing with the police, as this is the closest police department that will actually take a police report (which I need in order to get my passport replaced).  After finally finding the police department (not an easy task), it only took about an hour to get things handled.  By this time, it was around 3:30, so we drove just another hour (as it gets dark at 5ish and we were told not to drive at night), and got a WONDERFUL (not) hotel room in Nicoya.  This was like camping.  Up at 6, left at 7 for the drive to San Jose with not hotel or destination.  We knew there was a golf course just south of San Jose, so we found that and then located a hotel nearby.  Get this, we're at the Comfort Inn.  We have a suite (decided to spring for some comfort and security).   Checked out the golf course today, looks okay.  Will go to the Embassy tomorrow and see about my new passport. 
Nothing like coming to Costa Rica and spending the time in San Jose.  YUCK!  Not like we don't do this kind of crap all the time for work.  Plus, for those who don't know, we are NOT going to Armenia and Mike just found out he's scheduled to go to LaHore Pakistan on November 28 - December 18.  Needless to say, I'll be sitting that trip out.
So, if you're planning on a trip to Costa Rica I have to say, get an all-inclusive where you don't have to deal with the car rental places, the people, or the money.  This whole trip has been nothing but CRAP!  Not to mention the fact that when we got into our $100/night hotel room, we had no HOT WATER!  There is a problem, senora, lo siento.    ARGHHHH!

October 27, 2004

Costa Rica is warm, oxygenated, and we┤re on the beach.  Things aren┤t quite what we expected, but the beer is cold, we have wheels and the golf course is 10 minutes away (despite the fact we can barely afford to drive by it).  We will get out, just not as often as we hoped.  Got to check out another course about 45 minutes away.   Also have to deal with DIAL-UP internet service, so you know that┤s driving me INSANE!  Needless to say, this page ain┤t getting updated much while we┤re here, especially pictures!  I just don┤t have the patience anymore!
Haven┤t seen or done much yet, and we got quite a bit of rain today.  Spent two hours (I┤m not kidding) getting gas for our car.  Apparently they haven┤t grasped the concept of a Speedway here yet.  We are on the Pacific side of the country, for those who don┤t know.  Never seen such bumpy bad roads (and that┤s saying a lot coming from me), and it┤s the only way our from our villa.  Oh well, I┤m really not bitching. . . . just wishing for one of those all inclusive vacations right now. . .
We may end up staying a little longer than anticipated, but going to try to get closer to ĘcivilizationĘsomewhere, possibly down by the beach in San Jose.   Prices seem a bit steep up here, too.  Seems like we┤re at home! 
Will keep you updated, maybe it will grow on us. . . .