Friday, December 31, 2010

Tennessee History Lesson



Earlier this week, I got a tour of Nashville. It was a lot of fun, despite the freezing temperatures, getting a tour of my fiancé's hometown....with my fiancé! Though I'd been to Nashville twice before, I'd never gotten to see these things.

We started at Bicentennial Park. This cool wall (above) runs through all of Tennessee's history up to it's bicentennial.



I loved reading all the history, even if most of it was pesky modern history. It was especially neat seeing Texas mentioned in Tennessee's history. These two states have such a very special relationship! Particularly moving is when the wall describes the Civil War. The wall is broken, signifying the divided nation.


From there, we walked up these curved steps to the state capitol building. There was still a bit of snow on the ground, making for very pretty pictures.


On the grounds of the capitol was the grave of Andrew Jackson, Tennessan and US President.

We walked a lot this day but it was good after all the yummy food we've had! I'll post pics of the other half of our Nashville tour tomorrow!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Tennessee Snow

It snowed more today in the Nashville area, making for an extended white Christmas! Despite consistently freezing temperatures, we were able to go out and see some stuff before darting back indoors for some hot cider.

It's so neat seeing so many sights that are significant to my future husband's (!) family. No one has ever cared so much to show me the places that mean so much to them. It's pretty cool. In every way, I now have a new family.

But that doesn't mean I've forgotten about my family back home. At one point today, I got so sad, thinking of my grandparents, all long gone. It was so long ago that I had a Christmas with anyone other than my parents, sister, and her family. I'd forgotten what it was like to have grandparents around. That makes me genuinely sad.

But the holidays are a time for family and I'm happy and blessed to be with my new family.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Tennessee Christmas

I've only had two white Christmases in my life and this year marks the second. I'm in Tennessee with my new family and it's been a great time so far. Due to the threat of bad weather, we left a day early, doing Christmas with my family on Thursday.

It's always sad to leave one's family and not see them on Christmas Day but, at the same time, exciting to learn the traditions of a new family. Mr. Higgins' family has been nothing but warm and welcoming. They were so excited to see us yesterday and that excitement made the exhaustion of waking up at 4:30am worth it! It was so cool to meet Mr. Higgins' grandfather, and to spend the day with him today.

Mr. Higgins and I went out and played in the snow today. Though there's only a few inches on the ground, we were able to make a cute mini-snowman. And snow, however small the accumulation, is always magical.

Merry Christmas everyone!! May this holiday season find you happy, warm, and blessed.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Good Friends and Good Food!

This week has put me through an emotional wringer. Who knew the holidays could bring such stress?

And so it was with great anticipation that I finally got to see my BFF last night. We've been trying to get together since my birthday but our schedules haven't meshed. We went to the same restaurant we went to a year (well, fourteen months) ago, also for my birthday: Rise. It's the cutest French
soufflé place I've ever been to - not that I've been to any others. Their pumpkin soufflé was back on the menu for the holidays and it was oh, so good. Truly, a wonderful dinner. Thank you, AL!

Hopefully all this holiday stress will also be relieved by some cookie baking on Sunday and Monday with my mom. We have our Christmas cookie staples but I hope to make a few new things this year. And then I need to run a mile - or ten.

I really do love the holidays. Hopefully now, with work finishing up, I can make the most of the season!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Historical Fiction

I'm completely hooked on The Devil's Queen right now. I'll save the real review for later but let me say this... This is what historical fiction should be and Kalogridis writes it extremely well.

It's such a joy to find a book that so completely enthralls. And, better when it's based on a real story. This is the kind of fiction I want to write. It's not obtuse or full of itself, it's simply great storytelling spun around real events and real people.

Hopefully, at some point in the near future, I'll feel competent enough to try to write such a story myself. I've always lacked the confidence to even start. Of course, I've written fiction, but adding the 'historical' element is the scary part.

Which makes me admire good historical fiction all the more.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Keeping Quiet

This made me laugh yesterday: 10 Things Michelle Obama Wants to Say to Sarah Palin but Can't.

It must really suck to not be able to speak your mind on a daily basis. It reminds me of a "West Wing" episode where the President "accidentally" insults the opposing party's candidate at the end of an interview. He "thought" the recording was done but it wasn't. Pretty sly, I must say.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Barnes and Noble

It's been announced that one of our neighborhood Barnes and Noble is closing at the first of the new year. Barnes and Noble holds a very special place in my heart and I have so many memories at this particular one.

Growing up, when I began to closet myself away with tons of books, I frequented a very small bookstore in my hometown. It had little beyond fiction but I still spent way too much time, and money, there. Then, in high school, when I finally got my own car, I discovered a Barnes and Noble about twenty minutes from home. This discovery also coincided with my discovery of history - and my passionate love for the subject. I went into my first Barnes and Noble, wandered around, and happened upon the "History" section. This was, by the way, before I had taken any real interest in the technological phenomenon known as the internet. So, to find a section of shelves filled with history books....well, I was in love. These books weren't old and beat up like the library books...they were shiny and pretty and unopened.

I have no idea how often I went to that Barnes and Noble but it was most likely weekly. Two years later, when I started college and my mom took a job in the town which I now call home, I first started coming to my current Barnes and Noble. That was ten (!!!) years ago. I had no idea it would play such an integral part in my life through the years. It was an easy place to meet up, a great place to browse before or after appointments, and, now, an easy stop on the way home from work. I've easily spent hundreds, possibly thousands, of dollars there. And it's always been a fall-back way to cheer myself up; just walking through the doors makes me feel better!

But now I must say good-bye to the store that's provided me with so many escapes and adventures and treasure-troves of knowledge. It's a sad day.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Cookies!

When I went to make cookies last week, I was craving something filled with wintry spices....or, something not chocolate. I found these in a magazine and they turned out to be quite yummy. I never would have thought to put pepper in cookies but it really added an interesting kick to an already spice-filled cookie. Plus, they're super easy to make if you want quick cookies!

Next weekend, I head to the country to help my mom do our yearly cookie baking extravaganza. There are so many goodies to make, I won't know where to start!

I love Christmas!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Time Off

For those of us who staff universities, Christmas is a bigger and better deal than the long, drawn-out months of summer. At Christmas, we get a week or longer, depending on the way the holiday falls, of paid time off. It's a great deal and almost, almost makes up for working Spring Break and almost every day of summer.

And so it is with great anticipation that I look forward to our time off this Christmas. It's Friday and next week is the last full week of work. Awesome! Universities don't pay all that well, but at least they make up for it with these little perks!

This is especially useful to actually get all my Christmas shopping done! There's so much to do and so very little time!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Loathing NYC

I hate New York and here is yet another reason why.

So, Texas finds the talent, nurtures and trains it, and New York steals it? I really wish someone would stand up to those blasted Yankees, but I doubt Lee will be the man to do it. Money, after all, brings out the worst in people.

Damn Yankees!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Decisions, Decisions!

Amidst all the holiday fun, I also have to figure out some wedding stuff.

It's fun to do, don't misunderstand me. But the situation of our wedding is unique, making certain aspects of traditional weddings difficult. Here's that plan... We're getting married in Georgia, with only a few very close friends and family in attendance. After the honeymoon - two weeks after the wedding - we're having a reception at home with more friends and family. The reception is obviously meant to include people who were not at the wedding.

Now, considering that, we have to plan for save-the-dates, invitations, announcements, and reception invitations. Since the reception will be on a weekend in May when college graduations are in full swing, I think it's also necessary to send out save-the-dates for the reception at home.

I finally decided on a save-the-date for the wedding and have those done and ready to mail. Now I just have to figure out the rest. I was idly wondering if I could make the wedding invitations since there are so few....but I'm unsure of my creative abilities.

One thing is for sure about wedding planning - so many decisions are required in such a short amount of time! I'm usually very decisive....except with big decisions. Arrg!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas Progress

I'm slowly making progress with getting into the holiday spirit...

-On Saturday, I worked on a second dishcloth for Mr. Higgins' mom.

-I've played Christmas music, religiously, whenever I'm at home.

-I now have a wreath on the front door and a string of lights up in the house.

-The first two batches of Christmas cookies are made! Of course, these snowcaps are always a must!

-Christmas shopping has now, officially, commenced, although the majority has been done online.

I finally feel productive and Christmas-y.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Home Team

Very quietly, the Mavericks have moved to the second spot in the West. While the Heat and LeBron self-destruct, the Mavs are moving forward.

(LeBron rant: Even though he's sucking and acting like a privileged five-year-old, this guy still gets 95% of the headlines on all NBA sports sites. It's appalling. The media is continually feeding his ego even as they criticize it. Write about something worthwhile for a change!)

I was amazed at the beginning of the season, when one commentator ranked the Mavs with the Lakers and the Celtics. So often, my home team goes unnoticed but for years they've played very well. Now, they seem to have the right chemistry. Perhaps they'll get past the second round of the playoffs this year!

Being a Dallas sports fan is always difficult. The Cowboys have bottomed out yet still manage to fill the evening sports segments. The Mavs, despite doing consistently well, get only passing coverage and the Stars are rarely acknowledged, no matter the result of their season. It was great seeing the Rangers make it to the World Series but they probably missed their one chance to win it all.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

WikiChina

On a morning which started off terribly for me, here's a little something to make us all feel.....er...sub-par. One word: China.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Blessed

I'm trying to get into the holiday spirit but it's a bit difficult. All my decorations are in storage, not to be brought out, yet again.

Even if I had a tree, the cats would probably pull it down and eat it! Actually, I've never put up a tree since I've had cats. I've done other decorating, sure, but a tree was always too much trouble.

This year, though, will be my first Christmas with Mr. Higgins and our first Christmas as an engaged couple. I feel like I've known this man forever, yet we've never shared a Christmas together. Crazy, huh? I look forward to sharing our family traditions together and, gradually, making new ones for just the two of us. I can't wait to put up our first Christmas tree together next year!

It's an exciting time and I feel very blessed.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Stamping Christmas

Last night, I finally got out to another stamping event. It's been a long time since I didn't have a conflict with one of the dates, so I thought I'd better go before the holiday chaos takes over.

Almost immediately, I felt like I was back in elementary school. The ladies sat around, chatting and leisurely putting cards together. I attacked my tasks and worked furiously, only vaguely listening to the uninteresting conversation, which was, incidentally, very elementary.....talk of people I've never met.

Just like in school, I finished my Christmas cards before everyone, just a little over an hour into the evening. I killed another thirty minutes, trying to be sociable, and then I was the first to leave. It's become very apparent that I have nothing in common with these ladies, though they are very nice. I'll continue to go to events, though, and pretend to be interested in the ladies who are not interested in me.

Yes, I'm cynical today. A screaming cat woke me up at 2am and kept me awake for thirty minutes. I'm entitled to a bit of cynicism, methinks.

But the stamping was fun last night! Very pretty cards!

Monday, November 29, 2010

TN Dishcloth


Yarn: Universal Yarn Cotton Supreme
Color: Spring Green - 518
Needles: US 7
Pattern: Tennessee Knitted Square by Rhonda White

I finished a Christmas present! Right before Thanksgiving, too! This is for Mr. Higgins' mother - one of two dishcloths I'll give her. I've already started the second one, amazingly! Since she does needlework herself - cross-stitch - I know she'll appreciate something handmade. And perhaps next year I'll make her a scarf!

At some point I really need to finish something other than a dishcloth. Life has been so busy, though.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Turkey!

The day before Turkey Day. The anticipation is high; mouths are watering.

I'm heading to my parents' for a few days, along with Mr. Higgins, to partake of turkey, dressing, rolls, fruit salad, pumpkin pie, and possibly some vegetables.

Happy pre-Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Dreaded Car Service Visit

I absolutely hate taking my car in for service. Actually, is there anyone who enjoys this painful experience? Spending money, long waits, weird service techs.... When you're a woman, the experience can be even more painful. We're patronized and sometimes taken advantage of. Thankfully, I've found a good dealership with a great service department.....but the experience is never one I enjoy.

My car has always had road noise but it's gotten much worse over the past year. Then, something changed about a month ago and it's been terrible - frighteningly bad. I've actually dreaded getting on the highway. Not only that, but I've been really worried. The sound could not be good. And the sound got worse on curves, meaning the shifting weight of the car exacerbated the noise. This meant something was wrong with the wheels or tires.

Considering I already had to replace my tires at an absurdly early mileage (due to a manufacturer defect), I feared needing a new set of tires. But I did my online research before going in and found another possible, more probable cause of the noise: the wheel bearings.

Sure enough, when the service manager got in the car with me, we hadn't even pulled out of the lot before he diagnosed a bad rear wheel bearing. It was worse than he'd ever seen and about to come apart. Great.

They replaced it (quicker than they estimated) and even gave me a discount. This was after I told the tech that there were multiple reports filed with the NHTSB about premature wheel bearing failures. He looked down his nose and said "you can't believe everything you read in the blogs." Instead of arguing, I cited my sources and thanked him for the discount. To be frank (I didn't tell him this), this wheel bearing has been bad for a very long time and I've had my car in there at least twice since then - and they never caught it. Nor did the place that rotates my tires.

I feel quite lucky to have not gotten into an accident. That wheel bearing could have disintegrated on the highway, leaving me without a wheel at a very high speed. While the money is painful to spend so near to Christmas, my car hasn't sounded so good since I first drove it. Amazing! It's the best $280 I've ever spent (would have been $350 without the discount).

So, while my nice service tech knows me on sight, says my first name when I tell him my last on the phone (which makes me uncomfortable), perhaps that did me good. That and my charm - ha! It's still not a good feeling to be patronized because of my sex, but I was able to talk very knowledgeably about wheel bearings, thanks to my research.

And, just a warning... Most wheel bearings are now made in China, my dad tells me. He restores and rebuilds antique cars and most of his car buddies are complaining about these China-made bearings and how they don't hold up. So, if you hear a howling noise coming from you tires on exit ramps, beware. And, for reference, the NHTSB has all the complaints and service bulletins available for every car on the highway. You can find out what recalls have been issued and what others are saying about your car! A great resource!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Movie-Going

I survived my opening night Harry Potter experience. Barely. Mr. Higgins and I ranted about this for along time after the movie, so I thought I'd share.

You're in a packed theater. Half of the people around you are under the age of twelve. One of those little brats is kicking your chair. As you wait for the movie to begin, you dread who is going to sit next to you. A family with two kids and a baby walks in. They sit on your row. The baby cries intermittently throughout the entire movie. You hear the mom trying to soothe the baby. In a movie that is, overall, pretty quiet, you hear every squeal, whimper, and sniffle of that baby.

This was our experience on Friday. What kind of mother takes a baby to a movie with sound so loud that it can damage young eardrums? What kind of mother decides to ruin the movie-going experience of hundreds of people by bringing her mewling, drooling, squealing baby to a packed theater?

And this is why I'm a snob. I do not understand what, if anything, goes on in someone's head who would do such a thing. Are they completely unable of understanding the repercussions of their actions? Are they so incapable of connecting the dots, of "getting" cause and effect? I'm thinking they are. And that says a lot about our society as a whole.

I refuse to be one of these people. I will be above this behavior, even if it's interpreted as snobbery. Being a courteous, considerate, conscious member of society is apparently very difficult.

Oh, but I liked the movie!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Wintry Excitement

I broke out the space heater yesterday so I guess it's officially winter now. Ha!

That means hot tea, hot chocolate, knitting, Christmas music, and warm clothes. (I'm really hoping for some quality knitting time soon as I have Christmas presents to finish!)

Ah, I so love winter. I love the holidays and all they entail. This season will be extra special as Mr. Higgins and I go to Tennessee on Christmas Day to spend a week with his parents. I can't wait! There's so much to look forward to - and so much to do! - that I can't help but be excited.

Now I must watch WHITE CHRISTMAS to officially put me in the holiday mood!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Goals

A few years ago, at the height of a writing frenzy, I set a goal for myself: to get published by age thirty. I didn't specify what I would publish but I thought of writing a short story or two until I got the - endless - novels finished.

Last month, I turned twenty-nine. Looking ahead to the next year, there's very little writing time that can be squeezed in between the holidays, a move, a wedding, a honeymoon and all the planning those things require.

I'm not sad about these obstacles; I'm overjoyed to have them! But I get a lot of satisfaction from writing. Work doesn't exactly make me feel fulfilled so my crafts and writing have to fill that void. Perhaps I should re-do my goal. I will be published by the time I'm thirty-five. Sounds good, eh?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Jewel of St. Petersburg

Kate Furnivall has quickly become one of my favorite authors of historical fiction. With The Jewel of St. Petersburg, she's written yet another novel full of history, suspense, action, and love.

This is a prelude of sorts. It tells the story of Lydia's (of The Russian Concubine, The Girl from Junchow) mother, Valentina. All I knew of Lydia's mother was that she was sad, usually drunk, and dependent upon the men who came and went from her life. But with The Jewel, we see another Valentina - one filled with Lydia's stubbornness and vivaciousness. They truly are mother and daughter.

The story begins in St. Petersburg. Valentina is the daughter of a rich government official who serves the Romanovs. Civil unrest is causing tension to build throughout the city. The Bolsheviks target wealthy families, including Valentina's, and tragedy strikes early on. Meanwhile, a Dutch engineer, Jens Friis, is working to make St. Petersburg a more habitable place by building sewers and working to improve the drinking water. Jens and Valentina meet at a society function and are immediately enraptured with each other.

Romance is never that easy, though. Valentina's father arranges a different marriage for her. And, despite the love affair, Valentina and Jens cannot ignore the worsening conditions in Russia. Soon, revolution begins and they are thrown into the center of it.

Preludes are always strange. You know how they're going to end; the journey is the unknown. This journey is filled with socialists, bombs, mobs, tunnels, and cholera. It's an enjoyable read and I would highly recommend it!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mr. Potter

I can't believe I'm going to do this but apparently I am... I, along with Mr. Higgins and friends, will see the new HARRY POTTER movie on opening night. I am officially one of the masses. Sigh.

Despite vehement protests on my part, to start, at least, Mr. Higgins made me get through all the movies. I'd seen bits and pieces of some and all of one, but I was now required to see them all, in chronological order. I'll admit to liking them, though I think they're way too mature for many youngsters who read the books.

But I hate buying into trends and pop culture. I guess that makes me a bit of a snob....and I don't care. I like finding the hidden treasures that no one else reads or knows about. Rarely do I read something on the bestseller lists - and if I do, it's years after the popularity of a book has died down. I don't follow what is commonly referred to as music these days (Lady what?). And I have no idea who most of the youngsters gracing magazine covers are. I hate reality television (except Project Runway, of course!) and most TV, in general, is ridiculous, in my opinion.

So....I'm a snob. Give me a book - historical fiction, please - and classical music any night!

Yet I'll be in line to see HARRY POTTER on Friday. I want to see it. But I'm not touching TWILIGHT with a mile-long pole. No way. Some part of my dignity must remain intact!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Family

It was a busy week last week followed by a crazy, but good, weekend.

My parents and Mr. Higgins' parents had lots of bonding time and it was great to spend so much time with both families. They are all so happy about the engagement and all that it means.

I've made no secret of the pressure my dad used to put on me to get out there and actively search for my future husband. I resented it for a very long time, annoyed that my dad's happiness was so intertwined with my own. Why should I be responsible for his happiness?! It's more complicated than that, I know, but it was always frustrating.

The other day, as I found myself sitting between my dad and Mr. Higgins, I realized that, as much as Dad wanted me to find that special someone, it is also difficult to see another man become the center of my universe. There is something to the "daddy's little girl" thing, even if I was always closer to my mom.

So I'm grateful to have such a wonderful, loving family. They've done so much for me and now, for Mr. Higgins and me. I'm so glad we'll continue to have close relationships with our parents....and that Mr. Higgins' parents seem to like me! Ha!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bolsheviks!

Here's an uplifting (NOT!) story for you this fine, Friday morning.... National Greatness Agenda.

As if the current political climate wasn't messy enough, I'm still thoroughly engrossed in Kate Furnivall's novel...which revolves around the Bolshevik movement in early 20th century Russia. It's odd - and hints at deja vu - hearing the revolutionaries' slogan, "down with the elitist intellectuals!"

I'm not saying that America is at the kind of crossroads that Russia was at the time. We have no monarchy to topple, we have no underground Marxist movement....but things are not good, as the article above attests.

And this is why I love history! So many parallels and things to learn from! Er...I wonder if Sarah Palin has ever read her Russian history? Probably not...that would be so very intellectual!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Shopping Day

It's a very exciting day today! I'm going wedding shopping with my mom and Mr. Higgins' mom! (Writing Mrs. Higgins looks too strange.)

There a lot on the agenda: wedding dress, moms' dresses, decorations... It's going to be a very busy day!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Swept Away

After a very long day yesterday, I went home, prepared to mope the night away.

First, though, I had to work out....which left me somewhat, annoyingly energetic. I did more chores than I intended and then settled down to watch a few episodes of the last season of UGLY BETTY.

Then, I turned to my book....the one that has taken me months to get in to. I haven't had much time to read lately but all I needed was a few lunch breaks to get truly swept away by Kate Furnivall's superb writing. I read for an hour before going to bed. I didn't want to put the book down but it's so good that I want it to last for as long as possible! Such a conundrum, good books! You want to savor them but you can't wait to finish!

But it was good to get wrapped up in a book. There's nothing like a good escape from a bad work week!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Intellectual Dilemma

Speaking of intellectualism....

Yesterday, I went to a departmental event where our professors talked about their upper-level class offerings. For some reason, it's very easy for me to forget that I'm surrounded by some very intelligent people! They may not know how to work a printer, but they know all about religion and violence, religion and the law, cults in America, African religions....and the Bible, of course.

I'm tempted to sit in on a class. I've been tempted for quite some time. But, then, I remember just how crazy next semester is going to be for me, personally, and for my boss, professionally. Perhaps I should wait.

Ack! But my boss is teaching a student Hebrew! I could listen in!

The problem is that I love learning. I could happily be a student my entire life! How can you ever learn enough about this world and it's peoples?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Perspective

It's easy to overlook one's blessings. It's easy to go from day to day in a mindless, robotic routine. It's easy to forget just how easy we have it.

And then I read something like this. Any of us could easily have been born across the ocean, in another world. No one asked for such a harsh life yet very few can escape it. This makes me unbelievably sad.

I'm lucky to such a blessed life. It's not a perfect existence but it's mine and mine alone. I'm free to make my own decisions. And I'm so lucky to have found such a wonderful man to share my life with.

Sometimes it's nice to get a little perspective.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Hateful Rhetoric

I recently had a Facebook conversation with a girl who, for all intents and purposes, is a Palin Tea Party-er. She is completely entitled to her opinion but when she started personally criticizing me, I deleted her thread from my page and blocked her as a friend. Harsh, yes. Personal attacks, however, are really not the answer, especially among "friends."

I've heard one of her attacks before, mostly from those I'm closest to: "you're too close to those academics and have bought into their rhetoric." If being educated and seeking to better myself through a lifetime of reading and personal growth is a bad thing....well, then, this country has more problems than we thought. If more people were "educated" then perhaps more than 10% would be able to do the math on their paycheck and figure out that Obama has given us a tax break.

But I'm getting distracted. I grew up in a conservative household. Heck, I grew up in Texas! I understand both sides and generally respect (though I have none for Palin) both. I understand being vehemently opposed to abortion; I understand states rights (historian, here); I like capitalism (I've read Ayn Rand, which is more than my FB "friend" - and perhaps Palin - has done!); I believe that hard work should be rewarded... But I also thought that four more years of Republican politics would do more harm than good. And I'm entitled to that opinion.

A blond comment by FB "friend" made... "I don't understand why people are so harsh on Palin." Well, honey, she's not too bright. She uses faith and allegiance to incite division and hatred. She talks more about grizzly bears than the issues. She lacks gravitas.

I've never blocked someone from FB before. It felt good. Again, everyone's entitled to their opinion... But not when they post hateful, ignorant things on my Wall.

Oh, and, haven't you heard? Obama saved capitalism...and we repaid him with scorn.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Too much to do!

My dad had some pretty major surgery a week ago and, though he's doing well, he can't do any work around the house and property. Since my parents have quite a bit of acreage, this presents problems for my mom.

So, tomorrow night, I will rush out to the country to help her get things done. I can already tell you that I'm sick of driving, sick of my car, and really sick of spending money on gas. But I'll do it. The reason the house needs to look good is for an engagement party my parents are throwing for me and Mr. Higgins.

The good news is that I won't need to do any mowing. (Yay, fall temperatures!) The bad news is that some kind of yard work will most definitely need to be done. And, because of my work there, I'll be less motivated to work on my own yard. Ack, vicious cycle!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Stitchin' Den

In all the talk of Colorado, I forgot to mention that I got to a LYS in Estes Park - The Stitchin' Den. It was an adorable shop - filled with charm! - in an older building just off the main street of downtown. I wandered around for quite some time before I found some sock yarn that I bought. The lady who helped me was super nice. All in all, I'd highly recommend the shop to anyone who happens to be in the neighborhood.

Despite my good intentions, I was completely unproductive with my knitting over the course of the trip. The good news, however, is that I'm almost done with my first Christmas present! (College football Saturdays with Mr. Higgins are truly turning out to be a blessing!) One more to go for this particular person! Two months in which to finish it! Surely, that's possible, even for me!

I don't think I should contemplate any more knitted presents. November is going to be a busy month and then Christmas shopping begins! Oh and there's the little detail of a wedding to figure out!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Texas Rangers

I have never had an ounce of interest in baseball. What I know of the sport comes from several viewings of A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN, back in the day. Thanks that Tom Hanks, I know that "there's no crying in baseball!"

Despite my ignorance, it was still cool to see my hometown team in the World Series. The Metroplex was humming with support for the Rangers. At a time when the Cowboys are so woefully incompetent, the Rangers gave everyone a bright spot. I saw more red, white, and blue being worn than ever before!

It was a great run and I'm proud of our Texas Rangers! There's always next year, after all!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Random Colorado


We're nearing the end of my exciting Colorado pictures. Here are a few, in conclusion, that I like. Above is a Catholic church about fifteen minutes outside of Estes Park. It is, without a doubt, the most picturesque church I have ever seen in the United States. It has a view of Longs Peak, the highest mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park.


We drove across Trail Ridge Road, the highest road in the U.S. and this was one of the scenes that greeted us at high altitude.... A gorgeous lake nestled amidst snow-covered peaks.


While walking around the hotel grounds on our last full day in Colorado, we ran - almost literally - into an elk, resting by the river. Just hilarious! He looked to be waiting for a cookout to begin!

It was a great trip. Colorado is such a beautiful state! I hope to go back soon to do more hiking and exploring! And to see more chipmunks!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Three Lakes


On the Wednesday of our week in Colorado (our traditional date night!), we took off on a hike through Rocky Mountain National Park. I've done very little hiking but I was comforted by the fact that hiking is really just walking - up and down hills, through trees and over rocks. Ha! The first lake we came to was Bear Lake, which I've already shown you. The second lake was Nymph Lake, above, which is usually covered with lily pads in the summer.


The third lake was our fateful stop, Dream Lake.


And our last stop was Emerald Lake, at the base of Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain. The wind made it quite chilly here but we still took time to sit and absorb the magnificent scenery...and watch chipmunks scurry amidst the rocks.

Thus ended my first real hike. I went up single and came down engaged! If every hike ended like that, I'd be more willing to go! Ha! No, no. I really enjoyed it and I look forward to doing it again!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wedding Thoughts

A short break from Colorado pics....

My best friend, AL, got married this past weekend and it was such a wonderful day. I was happy to be there and to see her and her husband so thrilled. Though they've been together for a very long time, making it "official" still brought a tear to my eye. The wedding was sophisticated and tasteful without being overdone.

So, of course, this made me think of my upcoming wedding. And for those of you interested, it'll be in May. Mr. Higgins and I agree on many things, including keeping it very small. We both have very small families so it should an easy goal to accomplish.

My downfall will be this... I have a tendency to want to please everyone, especially those close to me, so I must be mindful of what I want.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Bear Lake


When we awoke in Estes Park for the first time, we had no idea what awaited us later in the day. We decided to take it easy that day (after two days in the car!) so we headed to Rocky Mountain National Park to get our entrance pass for the week. Once there, we had to go exploring! We drove up to Bear Lake and the closer we got, the more snow we saw!


The trees around the lake were frosted with wet snow that was already melting. We hiked around the lake - and puddles - to get pictures.


Huge clumps of melting snow fell on us as we hiked around. It was a bit cold - ha! - but I'm so glad we did it!


Someone ahead of us made a mini snowman!

We really lucked out with the weather. The storm that brought the snow blew threw and didn't cause many problems. By the time we were set to hike, it was sunny and in the seventies! The following week after we left, winter really began in Estes Park with snow accumulating in RMNP. Eek!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Estes Park


Our final destination of the trip was Estes Park, at the entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park. My first real scene of the town was the river, Fall River, that runs through it.


I knew the river ran through the property of our hotel, but I had no idea it would be so picturesque!


We spent a lot of time walking by the river, sitting by the river, and listening to its calming waters.


One of my favorite things about Colorado was the chipmunks! I hadn't seen these since I lived in Michigan! They're so adorable! I took quite a few videos of these little guys, much to Mr. Higgins' amusement. Ha!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Independence Pass


Back to trip pictures! After our stay in Manitou Springs, we headed north, intentionally taking the most scenic route we could find to Glenwood Springs. That route included a drive across the Continental Divide at Independence Pass.


The drive was magnificent. As we gained altitude, snow started appearing and we even had a few flurries! The snow made the mountains appear utterly majestic.


For the first time this season, we walked in snow to a lookout point at Independence Pass.


The drive up and down the mountain was tricky with quite a few switchbacks, like the one shown above. But I grew to enjoy these drives. So much more exciting than straight highway

Friday, October 22, 2010

Youth

Another slight interruption in the trip pics...

Twenty-nine years ago today (around noon), my mother gave birth to a big (8lbs 10oz) baby girl. Yep, that was me. It was a difficult pregnancy and the only one my mom would ever have.

Now, I'm facing the last year of my 20s. Unbelievable! We just had our ten year high school reunion (not that I went). Time is flying by.

Recently, when talking with my dad on his birthday, he said (something to the effect) that "you never think of yourself as old. You're always the same young kid in your mind. You still think you can do anything....but your body says otherwise."

I still feel like I'm the young Doniamarie, the idealistic tomboy who slowly fell more in love with books than her bicycle. The Doniamarie who would spend hours swimming (never sun-bathing - ew!), roller-skating, and dancing. I hope that never changes.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pikes Peak


Our first big adventure in Colorado was taking the cog rail up to Pikes Peak. It took over an hour to reach the summit and it was a fascinating ride through forest, by lakes, and across alpine tundra. Above, our cog car (?) parked at the summit.


It was a clear day until we got to the summit. At 14,000 feet it was cloudy, windy, and snowy. Boy, was it cold - in the 20s! We were a bit disheartened by the clouds which obscured the view. We headed inside to warm up and, hopefully, wait out the clouds.


Finally, a few minutes before we had to leave the summit, the clouds parted for a brief time. The views were spectacular!


I especially liked the lakes amidst the mountains....so gorgeous!

The cog rail was a lot of fun but I don't think it's something I need to do with every visit to Colorado. The weather is such a huge factor! But it was cool being so high up! The elevation of my home town is 600 feet. And I was up to 14,000 feet last week! Awesome!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Engaged!


This is the spot in Rocky Mountain National Park where Mr. Higgins proposed to me last Wednesday. I can't remember his exact words but he asked the actual question twice - and I said 'yes' twice!

He caught me completely off guard. We stopped - after over an hour of hiking - to rest and have a snack at Dream Lake. The weather was perfect: snow that had fallen a few days prior was melting and the sun was stunningly bright. We both had layers of clothes on to shed throughout the day as the temperatures warmed. My nose was red from the cold and it was running; I was starving; it was my first real hike in a major national park and I was exhilarated and overwhelmed. Mr. Higgins wanted me in a picture and after a few shots, he came up and the next thing I knew, he was down on one knee!

I wanted to wait until a Wednesday to announce the engagement as it's a monumental week for Mr. Higgins and me. Our 40th Wednesday together and also our 9-month anniversary! Now, we've been engaged for a week!

Back to trip pictures tomorrow....

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Garden of the Gods


Growing up, my family never really visited national parks; my dad always preferred a beach. So, for this vacation, I was truly excited to see all that I had been missing out on, namely mountains.

Our first stop in Colorado was Manitou Springs, in order to see Pikes Peak. Our hotel, however, was practically at the entrance of Garden of the Gods.... So, we went to see these magnificent rocks before our journey up Pikes Peak - which is seen in the picture above .


Garden of the Gods was, indeed, magnificent on this bright, clear morning.


Later, when we were on top of Pikes Peak, these spires of rock were visible from 14,000 feet! Amazing! The red stone really makes them stand out.


This is the Garden's most famous rock: Balanced Rock.

Manitou Springs was a charming town just west of Colorado Springs. I would definitely stay there again, mainly to spend more time in the Garden. We zipped through, seeing the highlights. It would be awesome to hike there!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Road Trip!


As you can see, my plan to (possibly) blog while on vacation failed. That just means, however, that I have tons of blog fodder now, upon my return to the real world.

Mr. Higgins and I left the Big City and headed northwest through north central Texas and then the Texas Panhandle. I'd never been to that area of Texas so it was definitely an adventure! The landscape changed so much! I was fascinated by it all!


In New Mexico, we passed a volcano! Capulin Volcano National Monument was definitely not something I expected to see!


Wind turbines in the Panhandle of Texas were also a surprise, though I'd heard of these popping up in recent years.

We made it to our first stop in Colorado in one day.... So, more exciting pics tomorrow!