Christmas 2021

December 30, 2021 10:53 am

After returning from our impromptu trip to Utah we poured our remaining energy into getting ready for Christmas morning.

As evening fell we drank hot chocolate, ate cheese fondue, read stories, the girls danced while Jess sang "The Twelve Days of Christmas," they opened their presents for each other, and then we ushered them off to bed.

After several hours of wrapping presents and rearranging furniture the house was ready for Christmas morning and Jess and I were ready to catch a few hours of sleep in the meantime.

Christmas morning the girls, amazingly, were not up until ~6:45. And then the party began. I set up a video call with Mom and Mollie so they could join our festivities since Mom's house was rather quiet that morning.

And the following several days have been filled with recuperating, game playing, house cleaning, book reading, and wishing that vacation would last a little longer.

A Short Trip to Utah

10:41 am

After talking to Mom on Sat. Dec. 18 I floated the idea to Jess about us packing up the van and driving to Utah to visit with Erin and Dad for a few days while Erin's kids were with their father for the first part of winter break. Our friend Sarah agreed to take care of the kitties and we engaged a crash program for packing up. The girls had already gone to bed so we got up when they did at 6am the next morning and told them of our sudden plans. They were very excited, until they realized they would miss an art class and a gymnastics class, then they were upset, but we got through it.

So we ate breakfast, got dressed, and finished piling our stuff and ourselves into the van and pulled out of the driveway at about 8:00. We got around the corner and down the street when the tire-pressure monitoring alert came on. So I stopped and measured the tire pressure and found all four tires were about 8 PSI low. So, back to the house to run the air compressor and fill them up. THEN we were pulling out of the driveway again at about 8:30.

We drove and we drove and we drove. The girls watched Christmas specials on DVD in the back. Jess and I listened to podcasts in the front. And we drove some more. I-80 across the Sierra-Nevadas was clear as it hadn't had a storm in a couple of weeks, but one was coming and we knew we'd need to take the Las Vegas route to get home later in the week.

We drove through a McDonald's in Sparks, NV to grab some lunch and eat on the go. We stopped for a fresh tank of gas in Winnemucca, NV and, ugh, more McDonald's for dinner in Wendover (in which your choices are McDonald's or Burger King). Then we drove some more and arrived at Erin's house at ~8:30pm after 11 hours of traveling.

SURPRISE!

We hadn't told anyone we were coming, so we really wanted to arrive before it got late.

So we arrived Sunday night and stayed for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

The girls got to play in some leftover snow:

And we enjoyed a sunset:

We cooked some food, played some games, and helped out with tasks around the house.

We also made a trip down to Mapleton to visit with Christopher-and-Jenny's family for a few hours:

And on Thursday we loaded back up into the van and headed home. Donner Pass on I-80 was expected to get something like 30 inches of snow that day and night so we headed south through Las Vegas. A lunch at Culver's in St. George, a whole lot of rain, dinner from Panda Express and Wetzel's Pretzels in Barstow, a lot more rain, some patches of really dense fog, and about 16 hours later we were home. Exhausted, but home. It was after midnight so already Christmas Eve.

We had learned during lunch that Dad had fallen chasing Erin's dog (which had taken off with the bag of rolls I made) and cut his head open and so they were in urgent care waiting for stitches. Which was really just the cherry on top of the super crappy several weeks of life at Erin's house.

After getting some sleep we began the whirlwind process of getting ready for Christmas with grocery shopping, house cleaning, baking, cutting a lot of things from the "to do" list, and then a whole lot of wrapping.

Thanksgiving 2021

November 27, 2021 7:50 pm

On Monday afternoon we went for a hike at Morgan Territory. I like it there. It has some very New England-y sections: trees, mossy rocks, and meandering trails. So much more enjoyable to hike than trails across open terrain in the sun. Corinne ran just about the entire hike (2+ miles!) and only complained about her legs being tired near the end, but she never sat down and refused to move without being carried. So that made it even more pleasant. We brought a couple of walkie-talkies the girls have and Corinne spent most of the time running ahead and talking to us with the radio, which she thought was a blast. Heather wore butterfly wings, because why not?

Mount Diablo in the background

On Wednesday, Corinne helped me make a triple-layer, salted-caramel cheesecake and Heather made pumpkin pie filling while I supervised (I made the pie crust).

And on Thanksgiving we got to enjoy our new dining set for quite the feast. We could actually put the food on the table with us and have a centerpiece!

Corinne wasn't feeling well. She was running a fever and was complaining of nausea and she fell asleep on the couch during the day. She ate most of one roll for dinner and went to bed before dessert. So that took a bit of the excitement out of the day for her. Jess took her for a COVID test Friday morning which came back negative and she's fine now.

We tried a new single-strand braiding technique for the rolls this year which is kind of fun. Clearly we have a little work to do on consistency though.

I spent Friday putting up Christmas lights outside and Jess took down the fall decorations inside. We're going to have to work for our tree this year. None of the local places seem to be carrying grand firs. So we'll have to drive at least 30 minutes somewhere to get one if we want one.

Dining Set!

November 6, 2021 10:06 am

Erin gave me a table and chairs she was replacing back when I was in grad school. We've been using that table ever since. I bought replacement chairs in 2015 because the chairs I received from Erin had essentially fallen apart by that point. But now it's time for something new!

A new dining set (large enough to eat dinner at while putting food on the table; and to play games at without running out of space) has been on our list for a years and we finally worked our way down to it. We put an order in with Canadel through a local distributor (Roney's Furniture in San Leandro) at the beginning of June.

In the past we bought our nightstands and dresser from Roney's and were really happy with the non-pushy workers, their knowledge of the products, and quality of the furniture. So it was our first stop looking for a dining set.

I made a reconnaissance trip by myself to get the preliminary information about how ordering a dining set works from them and what options are available. They directed me to the Canadel website which has all the customization options with a visualizer showing what your finished product would look like. Super handy for visualization-challenged people like us. We played around with that and narrowed down our ideas.

Then we made another trip to Roney's to finalize decisions and put our order in. Roney's happens to be just around the corner from a Ghirardelli Factory Outlet, so when we reached our decision-making breaking point (stains, fabrics, fabric colors, chair styles, table-edge styles, table-leg styles, etc.) we went and got ice cream to reset our energy levels.

We made our decisions, placed the order, and were given an estimate of 2 months due to everyone's logistics being all messed up. And then we waited.

And waited.

2 months came and went and Jess called for an update. No information except that the manufacturer hasn't been able to make it yet.

2 more months came and went and Jess called for another update. Manufacturer still hadn't made them yet, they've been waiting on a part. But they hoped to ship it by the end of October.

The end of October was busy for us with Jess' parents visiting, Heather's birthday, and Halloween. So Nov 2 Jess called again to ask if there was an update and the worker at Roney's told her it was coming off the truck that very moment. They would inspect it first, but would we like to schedule the delivery for the next day? Yes!

Not shown are the two counter stools. Same color and fabric.

The table has a leaf which stores underneath and nice metal-geared tracks on which the halves slide apart.

The worker at Roney's steered us toward these chairs. Actually he steered us to a different design first as the most comfortable dining chair ever. And it was incredibly comfortable, but it had these wing-tip points at the corners which would almost certainly get dug into drywall (especially in our not palatial space) or hurt when run into by children.

So we asked what was similar, but without that pointiness and he suggested these. They are still super comfortable. So much more comfortable than the chairs we had. Spending extended periods of time playing games should be quite pleasant now.

We didn't think it was going to be an issue when we ordered in June, but we're very excited to have our new furniture in time for Thanksgiving. And it should last us for every Thanksgiving we have from here on out.

Halloween 2021

9:07 am

Just some quick pictures from Halloween.

I made another Halloween trifle. Brownies, orange-colored vanilla cream, more brownies, Cool Whip, and decoratives on top (Reese's Pieces, gummy worms, candy corn, and candy eyes).

Heather was a dragon and Corinne was a bat.

Both girls did actually help clean out the pumpkins this year for the jack-o-lanterns. Heather's design is cat eyes wearing a mask. Corinne designed the goofy face in the middle. I designed the cat face. (I executed all the designs.)

And here's the house decked out:

Ghosties hanging from fishing line, faux-fire lights in the sconces, flicker bulbs strung up in the pergola, and this year's new entry: the inflatable dragon (hiding in the back next to the garage side door).