Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas 2010

This is my last entry for the year and will be a little brief. I am on vacation and determined to have a break from the computer for the week so I can enjoy being lazy and relaxed. I spent the day with Debbie and Jim's family and had a fabulous time watching the kids unwrap presents and playing with them. Here is me with The Lukestar, Max and Peyton coloring in a spaceship which I hope later to take a photo of it completed.
Judging by both of these photos, coloring takes a great deal of concentration and thought.
Max deciding whether to play with his truck or carry on coloring. Coloring won.
The boys' collection of monster trucks and Peyton's blue bally thing, which although I'm not sure how it added to the image, it was placed with such care that it had to be left there!
Aston tucking into his dinner which was superb thanks to Debbie. The full English Christmas dinner with turkey, sausages wrapped in bacon, stuffing, roast potatoes, mashed parsnips, cauliflower with cheese sauce, carrots, brussel sprouts, peas and gravy. Whoa! We were so stuffed we didn't have room for desert but I know that later Debbie and I will share a Christmas pudding with Devonshire Clotted Cream.
Me helping Kota to unwrap his presents from my Mum.
And here he's tucking into some well deserved treats.
I noticed immediately that the treats Mum sent on the left were the English version of the treats here he has in America, on the right. Cool how they keep the packaging looking so similar.
The water tower in Louisa...
...and a guy pedaling home after work.
A frozen lake near Unionville.
I came across these religious signs and took my photos quickly as I found these rather formidable and felt a little nervous standing there, wondering if I'd get roped and dragged to a service. Not that I don't believe in God, I do, but I'll pray in my own time and in my own space.
Lance had a birthday on Tuesday, Happy Birthday Lance!, and after we'd all gone for a meal, he chose his own birthday cake, a vanilla and coconut cream cake.
It was an excellent choice. 
And so I close the year with this entry. It hasn't been the smoothest of years for me but I am grateful to have my mother, brother and myself in good health. I have made some wonderful new friends and have strengthened many existing friendships. Thank you to all those who have held me up through the hard times and laughed with me through the good times. Thank you to those who have become new blog followers and thank you to those who have followed me from the beginning. I am truly blessed with the people I have in my life and acknowledge each and every one with a hug, whether it's through my monitor or in person. Happy New Year to you all and I pray you all have a peaceful and wondrous 2011.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Down in Gordonsville, the snow was still lingering as it was in NoVA thanks to icy temperatures and freezing winds. I arrived late Saturday afternoon with Kota and we all enjoyed the warmth of the fire for the evening.
Sunday morning, I drove into town to pick up some groceries and came across this car abandoned in a ditch.
I stopped to see if anyone was inside but drove off when I found it empty. It was gone on the way back.
My old chair still sits on the side of the road so I had to have a shot of it on the snow.
The creek which ran dry in summer was now thick with ice.
Rob had to put a new starter motor on his car and I was very impressed at how fast he installed it despite his hands freezing. It's nice to be a girl and not be expected to do these things. I stayed indoors.
I did venture out when Lance and Zak dropped by and then Rob wanted to put snow chains on the tractor.
Ta Da! All rigged out for some heavy duty driving. Kota hung out with us in the garage and then made us laugh when he struck a pose by the doors.
"Don't shoot! I didn't do it!"
Rob then drove the tractor out to attach the back hoe so he'd be ready for when we get our 2ft of snow which is hopefully coming soon. He started larking about so I videoed him doing a figure of eight.
 Then I was told to have a go.
 My efforts were rather lame compared to Rob's but I was petrified of crashing the tractor, especially as I nearly went into the tree and the truck. A bit later I was happy to be in the garage warming my hands on the stove and sipping a beer. We later went over to Lance and Nicole's for a visit and then came back to spend more time outside, this time BBQing our dinner. Steaks, potatoes and zucchini.
It was 25 degrees outside and I could swear the food took longer to cook because of the low temperature. 
Kota stayed indoors and ate some treats oblivious of the pretty shadow of a reindeer ornament hanging close by. With all of our bellies full we all crashed in the den, Kota on his rocking chair, and Rob and I on the sofa. Another weekend that had passed too quickly and another Monday morning to be faced too soon.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Family Christmas 2010

A Merry Christmas from Kota Kat and me...
...and a Christmas kiss from Kota to Quackster.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Another Duck Tale

I was peacefully watching a movie last night curled up on the sofa with a glass of wine and Kota next to me when me phone alerted me to a text message. I read it and my blood ran cold.
There was a photo of our beloved Quackster tied to the railway tracks with a train fast approaching and a message accompanying it which read, 
'We have the Quackster, we have our demands if you want to see him again.'
I frantically texted back pleading for no harm to come to our favorite duck. Another message promptly followed,
'We have our demands. We will call later. No cops.' 
A time of 9:50pm was agreed on and Kota and I anxiously waited for the next communication.
A little later we discovered that Quackster must have been released from the railway track and was now being held in another room as we received another text.
A photo of our little buddy wistfully looking at the photo I'd posted on my daily blog on Monday. A comment from his captor followed the photo,
'Dreaming about his friends before it's too late at 9:50pm'.
I was panicking now, how was I going to help the little golden guy? I waited by the phone watching the minutes tick by. It seemed like an eternity before the appointed time arrived, but before it did, my phone pealed again with another message and I lunged torwards it expecting the worst.
I couldn't believe what I saw...
 The Quackster on the train! And a comment followed the photo,
'The Quackster escapes and takes control of the train  AND...
 ...frees the others   Yeah!'
He was free! What a brave and courageous little duck. And how happy I was to know the little guy was safe and unharmed with apparently not even a scratch. Relieved Kota and I finally fell into bed and thought of the story he would tell us when we saw him. 
That duck sure has an eventful life!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Oysters Outside and Redskins in the Rain

Saturday was a cold wintery day and I was not wanting to go down to DC to a Super Secret Oyster Fest organized by a good friend Tim at the Gangplank Marina but it seemed the decision to not be there was not mine to make and I ended up going. Barb and I turned up expecting to board the Queen Anne boat and instead found ourselves trudging down towards a floating pontoon, the party boat and discovering we were the first to arrive. Eek! We looked at each other wondering who was going to freeze first but then we both changed our attitudes, put our best feet forward and started tidying up the area and unstacking chairs.
Tim had spent the whole morning driving to pick up 500 oysters from a place he'd discovered, Deltaville Oysters. I looked furtively at the sacks. I'm not an oyster lover and the only time I'd had them had been years ago at a party where I knocked a couple back with champagne. I'd brought a bottle with me this time to try and make the experience easier but I was a little apprehensive.
As we waited for Tim to get things going, I kept looking across at the Queen Anne, wishing we were there instead. My hands were quite numb by now so since I wasn't having to drive, thanks to Barb, I cracked open a beer to help numb my senses as well.
Tim got the steamer going and soon plates of oysters were ready for consumption with people taking it in turns to prize the shells open and share shucking jokes. I chugged a couple down and was amazed at how good they were. These bad boys were really fresh! 
Here's Timbo checking the steamer while another oyster prepares to slide down my throat. 
 Actually I was reluctant to swallow these whole, I did chew. I squeezed lemon juice over them, or drained the fluid off and filled the shell up instead with beer, or chased them down with champagne. I was having a ball but then suddenly stopped when I discovered that the new plate of oysters on the table were all raw, and I remembered that quite a few of the ones I'd just consumed had the same appearance. I stopped and digested this realization that I'd been chugging live fish but after a few seconds pause realized further that they'd tasted just fine, and so I resumed my feast. 
 Here's Bob, the Master Shucker and one of the humungous raw oysters that I consumed. Actually I could only do this once. These were a little too large for me. 
Barb had been very cautious at the start and had actually avoided these meaty molluscs, instead favoring chips and dip or chilli. But after a couple of beers, she headed over to the table and once started there was no stopping her. 
We had a minor celebrity on board, a publisher photographer, Chris Usher, who had been a presidential photographer to Bush. He was snapping away with his beat up old Nikon and was great to chat to.
It looked like this party was going to go on throughout the evening but we had to leave as Barb had a work Christmas dinner to attend. We left just as the dusk was creeping in and the temperature starting to drop further. The cold had been forgotten while we were partying with the food and company being so superb, but I was happy to leave with Barb and spend an evening on the sofa. But it was a truly brilliant afternoon. Thanks Tim!
The monument as we passed by and bid farewell to DC.
On Sunday, it was Redskins v Bucaneers football game at FedEx Field. My boss had given me free tickets and I was taking Debbie, Jim, Max and The Lukestar. It was the boys' first ever football game so we were all excited.
Saw this chap in the parking lot with a very aptly named shirt.
Me with the boys outside the stadium. The weather was awful with persistant rain but it wasn't as cold as the day before. Jim, Debbie and Luke took the covered seats while Max and I had the end zone seats down by the field. Despite the rain, Max was really enjoying it, and I hoisted him up in the air every time the Redskins came down our end. But by the end of the first quarter, we were both pretty drenched and joined the others further up in the stadium.
The Redskins played pretty well but missed a vital point in the last 9 seconds meaning we lost our chance to go into overtime and possibly win the game. But both boys enjoyed the experience and not a single tear was shed or a whiny voice was heard.
I was the only one not wearing snow pants and slowly the wet cold ebbed its way into my bones. Debbie stuffed my jacket into the drier when we got back to the house and Jim warmed up my car for me so I was sent off home feeling snug and cozy.
A wonderful wintery weekend!

Christmas Fun at Emblemax

On Friday, we had our annual Christmas Party at Emblemax and another welcome return from Peter of Shazam Magic. He's pictured here with his furry accomplice Willoughby. Rob took all these photos for me as I was so busy making sure things ran smoothly.
We had food from Olive Garden, Willards BBQ, and pizza with plenty to drink for all ages.
The Boss Man had set up a treasure hunt which was originally intended for the children but I have never been on a treasure hunt or Easter egg hunt before so we decided adults could take part too. Michelle and I are trying to decipher a clue here in Embroidery.
Squelchikins looking like a deer trapped in headlights as he came through clutching a clue. He wasn't on our team either so we had to watch him...
There was a lot of arguing at the end over who won. Twice our team had the rug of victory pulled from under our feet and here we're contesting the outcome. Eventually it was declared a draw after the party showed tendencies of fast becoming the site for WWIII. 
We also had a Secret Santa and here's José opening his card and present. Everyone seemed pleased with their gifts; I didn't notice any surreptitious exchanges or discarding or presents. 
Boss Man Mike handing out our well deserved Christmas cards with personal messages and a BONUS inside. Judging by the smiles, everyone seemed happy with these too.
This is Addison, Mike's son. I absolutely adore this little chap and could watch him all day, he has the most expressive face I've ever seen on a kid. He just rocks!
Mike and José having a late evening discussion and the cracks are beginning to show. A lot of beer had been consumed at this point! Mike's also wearing his Secret Santa gift from Alam.
Another great kid shot from Rob, this is Keisha, Jessy's daughter. A little gem.
I have no idea what time the party wrapped up. Everybody left with presents, full bellies, and pockets filled with extra cash. An awesome evening and a great start to the Holiday season.