Hold them at 8:30 pm, that is. We've vacuumed the whole house, washed all of the glasses and dishes, put stuff away, uncovered a tennis ball for Digory to play with (which he promptly lost again, and we can't find it anywhere), and just did general cleaning, and we still have 7.5 hours left before we can expect anyone to show up. Wow! Go us!
Happy New Year everyone! See you in 2006 :).
Thanks everyone for you encouragement and support about my Toastmaster's speech. I'm happy with how it went and it really helps to hear such positive things from you, my loyal readers.
And apropos of nothing, a meme:
Seven Things To Do Before I Die
* Take a cruise around the Fjords Cause I mean really, how cool would that be?
* See Mount Everest Because it's there. And it's big.
* Publish more than one novel Hate to be a one-hit wonder--of course, I've yet to become a one-hitter at all, but details details
* Win at least one major literary award I'd settle for a Nobel, if necessary
* Travel to Australia Koalas! Kangaroos! Krocodiles! Which one doesn't fit?
* Train a beagle to lie down on command Serious wishful thinking on this one. And it may very well have to be someone else's beagle.
* Cook a turkey that actually tastes good Granted I've never actually cooked a turkey, but I'm not a big turkey fan and I strongly suspect that, given the opportunity, mine wouldn't turn out very well.
Seven Things I Cannot Do
* Climb Mount Everest Let's face it, it's just not gonna happen
* Win a national Cheerleading Competition Or quite a few other competitions either--just picked Cheerleading out of a hat
* Run without looking like an idiot I have dislocating kneecaps and that makes running a bit difficult
* Get around to getting new glasses Seriously. I have the best intentions but I never quite get around to it
* Walk out of Target without buying anything But that's better than, say, not being able to walk out of Nordstrom's without buying anything
* Sleep when I'm cold If I'm in the least bit cold, I just can't fall asleep.
* Calculate fractions in my head I can barely do them on paper, and that's pushing it a lot
Seven Things That Attract Me to…Blogging
* I get to talk about my favorite subject...ME! Hahahahaha--okay really, I'm not kidding
* Everyone can update themselves on my life without me having to repeat myself Now if only everyone actually read my blog
* Self-indulgent whining! Enough said
* I've met some cool people *waves to everyone* :)
* It gives me an excuse to spend more time on the computer As if I needed one *snort*
* I think it's fun
* It's good practice For what? I don't know. Practice for keeping an online journal? Could come in handy one day
Seven Things I Say Most Often
* “Goes” and “all" as in "So he goes, 'You're stupid!' And she's all, 'No, I just talk like a Valley Girl!'"
* “Not so much” as in, "So do you like this Big Mustard Sandwich?" "Mmmmm, not so much."
* “Oh come ON!”
* "Could you [fill in the blank]"
* “So I was reading, and...[fill in the blank again]”
Seven Books That I Love
* To Kill a Mockingbird
* The Chronicles of Narnia (it's a series, I'm cheating)
* His Dark Materials (another series, I'm still cheating)
* The Time Traveler's Wife
* The Secret Garden
* Illusions: Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah
* Winnie the Pooh
Seven Movies That I Watch Over and Over Again
* The Princess Bride
* The Breakfast Club
* Star Wars
* Best in Show
* A Christmas Story
* How the Grinch Stole Christmas Actually a slew of Christmas cartoons as well, like the Charlie Brown Christmas
Seven People I Want To Join In Too
* Meh, do it if you want to :)
Hat tip to Neil
Tonight I make my first Toastmasters speech. Toastmasters is an organization that promotes public speaking by having members make speeches and critiquing each other. There is also a leadership component. Neil, a blogger I read frequently, is an active member of Toastmasters. I joined Toastmasters not because I have a fear of public speaking (actually, I'm pretty calm about it for the most part) but because I wanted to learn how to get "um," "uh," and "like" out of my vocabulary. In other words, I'd like to speak like an adult.
My speech tonight is the "Ice Breaker" speech, which is the first one in the manual. The manual walks you through a number of different speeches, each designed to teach you and give you an opportunity to practice something new. The Ice Breaker is basically an autobiographical speech. I plan to cover the major highlights in my adult life and I hope people find it interesting. I still have to practice it and make sure I'm within the time limit (4-6 minutes). The speech I've written is pretty long so I think I may have to cut it down, which is significantly easier than making it longer.
Anyway, wish me luck!
Good news--it went well! The audience was very engaged. I only did 3 things wrong--first, I read too much. I'd memorized a lot of it but once I got up there I got so nervous I kept compulsively referring back to my notes. Second, I said "excuse me" when I made a mistake. Minor, but apparently you're just supposed to keep going because when you say "excuse me" you're calling attention to a mistake many people wouldn't have caught in the first place. My third problem was that I didn't know what to do with my hands so I kept moving them around. I'll have to work on that for next time. All in all, it went as well as I'd hoped and everyone seemed very positive about the speech. They all especially commented on the text of the speech, which was cool to hear as well.
We had a wonderful Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in the Hogan house. Christmas Eve we hosted the extended Hogans over for dinner--Mom and Dad, Zach, Grandma and Grandpa, and Uncle Greg. Our Honeybaked ham was delicious, which is good because we've got about 4 pounds left of it. We also had a salad, goat-cheese mashed potatoes, asparagus, bread, and Kevin's famous homemade apple pie for dessert.
Christmas day we headed West to Torrance. We stopped by to see Marc and Wendy at Wendy's parent's house which was fun. Then we hit the Rosiak's running. The family gathering was a bit bigger--me and Kev, Mom and Dad, Brad, Katrina, Corie & Seana, and Grandpa Rosiak. Mom made prime rib with some yummy other accoutrements and the meal was excellent. The wine was free flowing and excellent, even if I did overimbibe a bit.
We exchanged lots of great presents at home. I got some glass doorknobs--exactly what I wanted (no, seriously, exactly what I wanted), some comfy PJs, the DVD of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and a bunch of other stuff that isn't coming to mind but is sitting there plain as day on the coffee table if I weren't too lazy to look. Mom & Dad Hogan gave us a generous gift card to Lowe's--let the renovations begin! Grandma and Grandpa gave some cash--as Grandpa says, "We shop at Wells Fargo" hee hee. Scout and Digory got an "Indestructible" toy that, within 5 minutes, had a hole in it. That one is going back to the store.
Anyway, all in all it was a wonderful holiday and I hope everyone enjoyed theirs as well!
Wonder where Santa is? Track him at the NORAD Santa tracking website! North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, keeps track of Santa's movements across the world. Right now at 2:30 Pacific time, Santa's flying through Neuschwanstein, Germany! That means that he should be visiting my favorite German baby, Marie-Louise, any minute now!
Hat tip to Mom With Attitude
1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
Seriously? I wouldn't touch egg nog with a thirty-nine-and-a-half-foot pole! One year we went to a Christmas party where the hostess's neighbors brought a big pot of homemade "Soy Egg Nog." It was easily the most vile beverage I've ever put to my lips.
2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
Santa always wraps. And he does it with a different paper than Mom and Dad--so you KNOW he's real!
3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
In general I prefer colored lights but white lights used effectively are really pretty as well. I love the way Kevin did our house. But you know what I really dislike? Those dangling "icicle" white lights. Ick.
4. Do you hang mistletoe?
Not this year--didn't think of it. Besides, I get kissies every time I want :).
5. When do you put your decorations up?
Depends. Usually I try to get them up early as I love the season, but this year we only had the lights up by the first week in Dec. and then got the tree out last week with some other collectibles.
6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
Hmmmm, do I have a favorite? Maybe the goat cheese mashed potatoes we're having tomorrow.
7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child?
Oh, so many to choose from! One thing I love is our Christmas puzzle. Every year Mom buys a jigsaw puzzle with a Christmas theme and the tradition is that you can't open presents until you finish the puzzle. This used to be a great family event, but now it's like we go to visit (like last night) and Dad's saying, "What are you doing sitting around? Get to work or NOBODY GETS ANYTHING!"
8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
I think I was around 8 or 9. I remember figuring out the Easter bunny thing and finally saying, "Well I guess Santa Claus isn't real either, hunh?"
9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
10. What kind of cookies does Santa get set out for him?
Usually Kolacky, spritz, and sugar cookies at Mom and Dad's. This year it's chocolate chip in our house.
11. Snow! Love it or Dread it?
As long as I can drive back down the mountain and go home to my mid 70s weather, I love it!
12. Can you ice skate?
I used to be able to but I seemed to have lost the skill.
13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
Yes--a pair of gold earrings. For years I'd been bugging my parents to let me get my ears pierced and my dad was very resistant, saying that he thought it might be a trend and that I'd be stuck with holes in my ears if it ever went out of style. (okay, this was 20 years ago--it would be a lot worse now). So for Christmas when I was 12 I opened my last present and it was a pair of earrings that only meant one thing--I was allowed to get my ears pierced.
14. What’s the most important thing about the Holidays for you?
getting gifts. Lots and lots of gifts. Hee hee, just kidding. I like the togetherness and the magic of the season.
15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
same as any other dessert--Kevin's homemade Dutch Apple Pie.
16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Well, the abovementioned Christmas puzzle is one of my favorites. Ripping open presents on Christmas morning is a close second.
17. What tops your tree?
A paper mache' angel that I bought in the cathedral in Seville, Spain where Christopher Columbus's body lies (yep--Chris Columbus AND a gift shop!). I had to hand carry that thing on the plane and that wasn't such a great idea, but I REALLY love it.
18. Which do you prefer Giving or Receiving?
I love the feeling of finding the perfect present for someone and I get very excited waiting for them to open it.
19. What is your favorite Christmas Carol?
Oh Holy Night--especially by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir--very moving.
20. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum?
Oh BRING IT ON! I also love to crush candy canes in the blender and then use that to top vanilla ice cream. I know you can buy candy cane ice cream but it's not the same as plain vanilla with real crushed canes on top.
Staz and her fiance' J. over at Burlap Soul have handmade the most awesome gifts! Staz made two dog beds for her mom's little diva, and the J. made an incredible gift for his future father-in-law. Said FIL is a gearhead/chess player and J. made him a chess set out of sheet metal and different nuts and bolts and other metal doo-dads that I can't identify but anyone who hangs out in Home Depot should recognize straightaway. She's got some pictures up on her blog, so go check it out! Good job Staz and J.!
Today we went and put our name down on a local dealer's list for a new 2006 Toyota Prius Hybrid.
I am SO EXCITED! The Prius will replace Kevin's old Ford Contour as our "family car" while I keep the Miata as the "fun car." It's no secret that I'm not the world's biggest fan of the Contour, which looks very similar to this one:
It's too sedan-y for me, which is funny, given that it IS a sedan. I need something a little more sporty...like a Miata (or my previous car, a Honda CRX). Anyway, Kevin, being the ever-practical guy, bought the Contour because it was the most comfortable to drive in his price range at the time. Makes sense, but it doesn't change the fact that in my opinion, it doesn't look like the kind of car a new college graduate should be driving.
So we're graduating to the Prius. We're primarily interested in the hybrid engine, which will enable us to get incredible mileage, but more importantly, is better for the environment (yeah, we're one of THOSE couples). We looked at one today and there was actually more room in the back seat than in the Contour, and the trunk was very roomy.
We put down our check (that won't be cashed unless we back out) and got our special Costco price. It cost exactly what we'd calculated it would. No deals to be had here--there's a waiting list for the car, especially in January when we get a great tax break, and everyone and their uncle is selling it for at least MSRP. We listed our color choices as Blue, Green, and Silver (in that order) and we're getting some super-duper package with a GPS mapping system. Which Shelby desperately needs.
We should have our car in our hot little hands by the end of February. Hooray!
Okay, now that I've got a few seconds to breathe, here's the cruise report. We spent a wonderful 6 nights aboard the Celebrity Infinity and visited Catalina Island (California), Cabo San Lucas, and Ensenada, with 2 full days at sea. It was easily the most relaxing vacation I've ever taken. I think there are 2 kinds of vacations--ones where you go see stuff (and return happy and enriched but exhausted) and ones where you do nothing and come back refreshed. Ours was the latter.
I was a 3-time winner on this trip! Unfortunately those wins did not include a slot machine jackpot, a Bingo game worth a cruise for 2 to Bermuda, or a big win at the roulette table. My first win came at the art auction preview. For those of you who have never cruised before, the ship has fine art available for auction. I'm not really sure who goes on a cruise and expects to come home with a fine painting, but amazingly, people do. Our art auctioneer was a British fellow named Duncan ("If anyone can, Dun-can!"). The first night they held a raffle and since I'm a sucker for free gifts, I dragged Kevin along. We did not, of course, win the raffle (probably a good thing since we'd be stuck with a piece of art "appraised at NINETY-FIVE DOLLARS!"), but then he asked "Who can tell me the name of the artist who started the movement known as cubism?" And that's where the liberal arts education paid off (thanks Pop!). "PICASSO!" I shouted out and Duncan threw me a t-shirt. Win # 1.
Another activity common on cruise ships is the Bingo game. It's an actual gambling Bingo and the jackpots vary. The first time we went, the jackpot was a free cruise to Bermuda. Kevin and I, being novice Bingo players, sat down with our shared card for a bit of fun. There were some seriously hard core players surrounding us. They had their daubers and were handling several cards at once (each card had 3 or 6 boards). They tended to get impatient with the slowpokes and knew all of the lingo--"It's the sexy legs--B 11!" "Michael Jordan's number, I 23! SWISHHHHHHH!" I was anxiously awaiting a comment for O 69 but none was forthcoming. One woman won not once, not twice, but three times including the trip to Bermuda. She was the most impassive winner I've ever seen. I'm serious--this woman barely cracked a smile. Our Bingo leader kept encouraging her to do the "Bingo Boogie" but, well, nothing. We did not win at Bingo, but there was a post-Bingo raffle, and we won that! Explanation of the prize to follow.
Onboard the ship there are several dining options ranging from the hamburger/hot dog/pizza buffet to the casual sit-down, to the formal dining room where you eat every night, and that is all included. There is also a specialty restaurant for an additional amount (in this case, $30) and you get an elegant 5 course dinner with all of the accoutrements. We had already made reservations and planned on eating one night there. Well for the Bingo raffle, I won a free dinner for two at the restaurant--a $60 value! I was screaming and jumping up and down and was generally more excited than the woman who won the cruise. Hell, I'm happy to win anything, although the cruise would have been really nice. Anyway, it turned out to be a great win because the first Bingo jackpot was only $200 and was shared by 4 people so we actually won more than we would have had we won the Bingo game.
My final win came the second to the last night of the cruise. The jewelry store held a "Spot the fake diamond" contest. As many of you know, I went through a period of having a deep obsession with diamonds. I mean a serious obsession. So the contest was ridiculously easy. Actually, I spotted the fake right away because all of the diamonds on the ship were of pretty low quality, so I picked the biggest and sparkliest of all and sure enough, that was the fake. Kevin threw in another number just to cover our bases. When the time came, you had to be present to win so we headed there. They put all of the correct guesses in a box and drew one--that person wasn't there. Then they drew ME! I was hoping to win an actual diamond but no such luck. But I did win a nice cubic zirconia earring and necklace set.
Of course, the amount of money we spent on Bingo, the slots, and roulette definitely outweighed the benefits of winning--but you know, it's the fun of the event.
So on to the actual cruise. We took the train down from Anaheim to San Diego where we boarded our boat. Our first stop was Catalina Island. This was hilarious for two reasons. One, it's about 20 miles off of the coast of Palos Verdes, which is the area where I grew up. The other reason was because both Kevin and I had been to Scout camp on different sides of the island. So it was strange to be approaching it as a tourist. Luckily Kevin had never been to Avalon, the main little town on the island. While there we took the Casino tour. The Casino is not actually a gambling casio, but rather a gathering place built in the 20s with a theater and a ballroom. It was very art deco and was quite nice.
Back on the ship we sailed down to Cabo San Lucas. Cabo was very nice and we spent out day wandering the streets. There were several jewelry stores and I had my heart set on getting a new pair of earrings, so we went to Diamonds International, a store with several locations and heavily endorsed by the cruise ship. We visited the one that was right off of the boat first and spotted a pair of ruby earrings we both liked. The price was too steep so we held off, figuring that we would look around some more. We wandered down to the end of the strip and went into a mall. This mall wasn't a tourist mall, but rather a regular mall for the locals. They happened to have a Diamonds International so we went in there and saw the exact same pair of earrings. Out of curiousity I asked how much they were...and they were less than half the price of the other Diamonds International! We thought the price was fair for the earrings so we got them. However, let this be a lesson! Shop around--don't just take the first store you come across.
Another day at sea brought us to Ensenada. Here we decided to take a "wine tasting tour." Our travel agent (hi Mom!) had never sent anyone on that tour and so charged us with reporting back fully as to how it went. It was, well, interesting. We visited L.A. Cetto, the first winery (out of two). We started with a winery tour that was actually mildly interesting. I've seen wineries a bunch of times, but all the ones I've seen were very small productions, doing things like punching down the grapes by hand. This winery was very much on a large scale with giant stainless steel tanks and pump systems to carry the juice around. After the tour we were brought into the tasting room and they said "Normally we open 4 wines but for you we're opening our special reserve wines." Just for us? Yeah, right. Anyway, the first wine was a Vigonier, a wine Kevin generally likes, so I wondered how this was going to be. I took my sip and looked at Kevin for confirmation of how I felt. "They're trying to poison us!" he said. Yep. The following wines weren't any good either. In fact, awful might be a good word. After the wines were poured, they broke out the tequila and that was free-flowing, which had its intended effecting of opening up people's pocketbooks. We bought a t-shirt, but many other people were buying wine in droves. And it wasn't cheap! The regular wines were around $7 and the reserve were $15. Trader Joe's "Two-buck Chuck" (a wine called Charles Shaw priced at $1.99" was much better than some of this stuff. And Trader Joe's other great deal, Stump Jump, at $5 a bottle, completely beat out L.A. Cetto's "reserve" wines. Despite this, multiple people boarded the bus carrying cases (12 bottles).
The second winery, Domecq, was significantly better. There was definitely a reason they took us there second, and it was because nobody would have purchased wine at the first one if they'd brought us to Domecq first. We toured Domecq's cave--nothing exciting if you've seen a wine cave before, interesting if you haven't. They poured their wine and there was one bottle we liked. It had won some kind of award somewhere and was quite drinkable. Nothing I'd write home about but worth it for a nice souvenir. And it was 5 bucks. The folks who bought cases of the $15 wines looked rather crestfallen after tasting Domencq's wines. Following the wine tour we headed back to the boat, skipping Ensenada proper. It didn't look that exciting and we were rather tired.
Other highlights on the boat were the live shows. They had a very talented performing cast--something I very much appreciated from my many years of singing and dancing--and we watched 2 of the shows. Kevin fell asleep during both, but I found them quite enjoyable. We did feel the need to skip the comedy of "Noodles Levenstein." I'm sure he was probably very funny but I couldn't get past the idea of someone voluntarily calling himself "Noodles."
Dinners were lovely. We were seated at an 8 person table but there were only 5 of us. We met Marco from Fresno, who was our age and traveling alone following a business trip in San Diego, and Jacques and Sylvie, a French Canadian couple from Montreal. Jacques and Sylvie were celebrating Sylvie's 50th birthday, which was really fun. They were very interesting to talk to and Jacques seriously knew more about California politics than I did!
I think that about covers it, if you read this far! I highly recommend cruising to anyone looking for a relaxing vacation--and I know a great travel agent-- Shirley Rosiak at The Travel Door in Palos Verdes: email@example.com . I also would highly recommend the Celebrity line. The ship was immaculate, food was fantastic, and the crew were very friendly and helpful.
Year in Review
Go to your Archives and find the first entry for each month of 2005. Post the first line of it in your journal, and that's your "Year In Review" (entry title in italics).
January: A New Year Meme This one's long.
February: Not Much New Haven't had a lot to blog about the last couple of days.
March: What's My Name? On Sunday I went to pick up a prescription and when I got to the counter I said, "I need a prescription for Shelby Rosiak."
April: Nearly Normal I just had a follow-up appointment with my cardiologist to discuss my echocardiogram (ultrasound) results.
May: Book Club Monday we went up to San Jose to meet with our book club.
June: Dig-Man, The New Houdini Well Digory has managed to do something quite amazing--escape from his seatbelt.
July: Space Mountain Debut Today was the last day we can go to Disneyland on our Annual Pass tickets until the 3rd week of August.
August: My Inbox I cleaned out my inbox.
September: Congratulations Nell and David! Sorry it's been so long since I've written!
October: Look, I've been busy! Hello my faithful readers.
November: Filler Since I can't think of much else to say, here's a meme:
December: Yucko I have a mystery rash that is a mystery no longer.
Gee, I'm not very exciting, am I?
We're back from our week long cruise to Mexico aboard the Celebrity Infinity. It was incredible. No time to catch up though--today I'm off to see A Christmas Carol and we have our Christmas Cards and New Year's invites to get off (we're behind--ack!). Will catch you up when I get a chance.
I have a mystery rash that is a mystery no longer. I've had this rash for 6 weeks and it's pretty yucko so I finally went to the dermatologist. She took one look at it and said "Oh yeah, it's lkjfiwjenfhisom!" Which is apparently a virus that teenagers or young adults get (yay, I'm still young!) in the Fall or Spring. Well, they think it's a virus. Anyway, the good news is that it clears up on its own without scarring. The bad news is that it takes 8-12 weeks to do so, and the doctor predicted I'd fall more on the 12 week spectrum. Nice. So as I wear my sleeveless dress I'm going to look a bit like a leper. Oh well.
And a warning: no blogging for a week. Do not panic.