Monday, December 29, 2008

Winter trip to South Dakota

A quick trip report on our quick trip to Rapid City to visit my sister-in-law and her kids...

We left Friday morning and followed Tim's parents since they knew the way. Several hours on I-25 and then even more hours on two-lane, in the middle of nowhere roads, almost running out of gas! We didn't realize we'd be on that many nowhere roads or we'd have gotten gas each time we passed a station! About 10 miles after the "empty" light went on we found a gas station - with the out of service plastic bags on the pumps! But the guy inside thought we could get a few gallons out of one of the pumps. We got about 12, which was plenty for the rest of the trip, thank goodness, as we'd probably not have made it to the next gas station, which was I think 30 or more miles away. Probably 8 1/2 or so hours after we started the trip we made it to Traci's house and then opened Christmas presents with her family. I think the gifts went over well with Amanda and Tori.

Saturday was a lazy morning, except I went for a 3-mile run. A bit chilly at 25 degrees, but the sun was out so I warmed up after about 10 minutes. The afternoon was a trip to Boston's to watch FSU play Wisconsin in the Champ's Sports Bowl (his sister doesn't have cable or satelitte TV). A pounding victory by FSU was enjoyed, along with too much food and some beer.

Sunday was Amanda's 15th birtday. She has some friends coming over (to play this awesome game called Guitar Hero!) so Tim and I went with his folks up to Mt. Rushmore. It was a bit chilly, but again sunny and not too crowded at all. I can check this national monument off my list!

When we returned, I went for another run (gotta burn off all the holiday treats!) and we passed the evening with a trip to Storybook Island for the lights and then TGI Friday's for Amanda's birthday dinner.

This is Amanda as typically seen with her cell phone texting friends.

This morning Tim and I hopped in the car and headed back to Colorado. We took a different route (still rural in-the-middle-of-nowhere roads) but knew to keep the tank full of gas! We're back home hanging out with Juno for the evening!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

My Holiday Mix

I suppose these winter holidays are a time of reflection for many people. For some it is a religous and spiritual season. For others it is a time to appreciate family, friends and to give back to the community.

I was raised as a secular Jew. I learned enough to appreciate the traditions and heritage of the Jewish people. I married a "catholic school drop-out." Let's just say by the 6th grade he was asking too many questions and the answers he got didn't make sense to his analytical style of thinking. So it wasn't hard for us to make our holiday mix as we combine tradition, not religion.

The menorahs come out every year at Hanukkah and he's learned to recite the blessing. I have a few dreidels and will make latkes. We put up a Christmas tree (a fake 6-footer we bought at Wal-Mart years back). The christmas holiday decorations are kept pretty secular, with snowmen and such. Next year I think I will decorate the tree with dreidels. Then maybe it will truly be a Hanukkah bush!

When we lived in Illinois, we would make the drive to Iowa to spend Christmas with his parents. Now they usually make the drive out here. His parent's enjoy the giving spirit of the season so we always have way too many gifts for the two of us under that tree.

Tonight is christmas eve, and it is also the 4th night of Hanukkah. My brother and his wife and son came over for dinner with us and the in-laws. It was nice to light the menorahs with family around. They left early as Joey was looking ready for bed and about to start fussy time. Then we took Tim's folks and played some Wii together - Sonic and Mario go to the Olympics - and burn off some of the chocolate creme pie we ate. We are looking forward to christmas morning and opening all those presents. (really, who wouldn't!) Just like waiting for the last night of Hanukkah as a kid when we could open up what was left of the gifts. Even though I'm "old" that excitement doesn't get old, though it's probably a little more muted.

I am thankful this holiday for time with friends and family to share tradition. Enjoy it, appreciate it, and try to learn something from everyone.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel...

What's Hanukkah without the dreidel? Here's a great story I heard on my way home from work today:

Happy Hanukkah to all!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Nice weekend to a rough week

I suppose the week could have been a lot worse, had I been one of the people getting laid off on Monday at my place of employment. I feel for all the people (about 250) who were let go at our site this week. Losing your job this close to the holidays has got to be rough. It is the economy that put the company in the position to lay people off. When you make microchips for stuff (cars, GPS, video games, cell phones, etc) and people aren't buying, we aren't making. I just hope that those laid off are able to find work soon, but in this economy the job market isn't looking the greatest. Since Intel left town, there really isn't much in the way of semiconductor manufacturing in town, either.
The situation at work made for a few distractions during the week. Last night all the photo engineers got together and went for our annual late lunch and "crawl" downtown. I think all of us needed the break from work stress to just relax, hang out, and partake in adult beverages. I left around 10pm - I think others were out much, much later! I had my last scheduled swim lesson today so I didn't want to drown. :-)
It was a cold week weather-wise, and only about 20 degrees today. Driving to Denver for the lesson I was hoping the water would be warm, as swimming isn't something that usually comes to mind when it is that cold out! The water was great and I had a good lesson. I still have quite a few things to work on (a lot of the same things from the other lessons) but I am getting better - that is evident on the video.
Later this afternoon Tim's parents arrived. They will hang out with us until Christmas, then I think we are all driving to South Dakota to visit Traci, Amanda and Tori. We've not visited them in Rapid City so it is time to head up there. Amanda's birthday is a few days after Christmas so we should finally be able to celebrate with her this year.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Valet Parking at a Mall?

With all the horror stories of the economy, you wouldn't guess it was all that bad looking at the mall parking lots today. I drove up to Denver for my last drum lesson (more on that in a bit) and on my way home thought I would stop at the Park Meadows Mall in south Denver to do some shopping. I'm not super familiar with the area, but it is right of the interstate and C-470 so finding it isn't hard. I made my way into the mega shopping complex (and I mean MEGA) and needed a place to park. I don't mind a bit of a walk, but I didn't expect to see valet parking! Why would a mall need that? $7 a car. Then I saw that the parking area was completely full. That's why they need valet parking. I was not interested in that kind of crowd so I decided to skip the mall and get back on the interstate. It took me at least 20 minutes in thick traffic to figure out how to leave the parking lot and go the 1/4 mile to the interstate on-ramp. Everyone must have been out and about today! If they are buying, so much for poor retail sales! Don't know who would want to fight that kind of traffic mess if they weren't getting anything!

Once back on the interstate, I headed 10 miles south to the Outlet Mall in Castle Rock. Although it was full as well, it is a much smaller mall and I could handle these crowds. I found a kids clothing store with cute things to buy for Joey's first birthday. Spent a little too much (thank goodness for the items on sale!), stood in line for maybe 10 minutes and was on my way out. While in line, one register was ringing up a couple who had about eight big bags full of clothes. Lord help them if they have that many kids! I can only wonder what they were shopping for.

Back to my drum lesson. It was my last of the free lessons I won in the silent auction, so David filled my notebook with some classics. My Sharona and Brick House are a couple just to name a few. It should keep me busy for a while. If anyone in the Denver area needs drum lessons, I do recommend David at Littleton Drum Studios.