Thursday, December 31, 2009

It was a very good year

I found myself complaining to a friend yesterday that 2009 was kind of a blah year for me. Nothing terrible happened, but I'm not really looking forward to 2010 because I expect it to be a lot like 2009--just blah. In an effort to improve my attitude about 2009 before it ends, I decided to spend some time this morning reflecting on 2009--on what I accomplished, on what I hoped and failed to accomplish, and on the blessings that we received this year.

  • The biggest house related accomplishment is definitely having the trees taken out of the backyard and the new fence installed. Zeppelin loves to roam around his backyard, and we love not standing outside in the cold/heat/rain/wind/etc. with him.
  • Also a part of the backyard--we painted the back of the house to a color we're happier with, and replaced some rotten boards on the deck.
  • The eat-in part of our kitchen, the guest room and the living room are essentially complete and decorated. 2010 may bring about the destruction of the 'great wall' in the living room, but we are at a happy place with the room.
  • Our first 'grown-up' Christmas Tree! This made the living room for us this Christmas season.
  • We ran our first 5K (and by the end of the year, I had finished 3 5K's and my first five mile race. I hope to complete a race a month during the new year, and would like to finish a half marathon sometime in 2010, too.

Goals still in progress (because it isn't failure if I've just postponed their completion date, right?)--
  • Well, the deck painting project is the first thing on the postponed list. After we realized that the paint color we'd picked out just wasn't going to work for us, the cold autumn rains set in and we gave in until spring. We'll be searching for the right color later this winter.
  • Other projects in progress include the built-ins in the library. In September, we ordered two bookshelves to place above the cabinets we finished last winter. They finally came in and I picked them up yesterday, but they still need to be sanded and stained to match the cabinets.
  • My dreams of a bathroom renovation are still alive, but the antique dresser (and my future vanity) is still hanging out in our laundry room awaiting restoration.
  • Our family room has seen both positives and negatives this year. We recovered from the broken sump pump last winter, and had just gotten back to normal when the pipe that used to feed our ice-maker upstairs popped another leak. Luckily, we caught this one much more quickly, and thanks to my dad's help, the hole has been patched up. I'm still squeezing in sanding work on the drywall mud, and we'll have to repaint the area before that project is finished. We did get the great new TV stand this year, so the furniture in that room has pretty much come together.
  • I made great progress on cleaning/organizing my office/craft room (thanks, mom!) this year, and hope to paint and accessorize that room in 2010.
  • Finally, our weight loss efforts are on-going. My goal is to lose 75 pounds from my heaviest point (reached on May 1 this year). I'm currently over half-way there and am thrilled to be one of the few people who boast weight loss during the holidays.

  • Early in 2009, J and I happened upon several quotes that addressed the importance of living in the moment. After reading and thinking about the many quotes, we boiled them down to a two word phrase--Be Present. This phrase was our guiding principal in 2009, and on those frequent occasions that we became distracted to the point of stress, we found that a deep breath and the reminder to be present could solve almost anything.
  • After many years of struggling with our faith, J and I found ourselves at St. Raphael's Episcopal Church this year and have been blessed many times by the great folks there. We joined the church in June, and J was recently elected to the parish vestry.
  • J and I continued to adventure this year, and celebrated both our second year of marriage and the fifth anniversary of our first date. Our adventures this year took us from Cumberland Falls last January to New York City this Thanksgiving.
  • We continue to be thankful for careers that challenge us and allow us the opportunity to transform The Melton Point, one project at a time.

Happy New Year to you all!

Title: It was a very good year, by Frank Sinatra

Sunday, November 29, 2009

We're known as the quality store, part 2

So, where did we leave off? That's right, we re-joined the tour at Battery Park, the southern-most tip of the island of Manhatten. The best part of the Hop-On/Hop-Off tour busses is the variety of tour guide you get. In the first part of our day, we had a native New Yorker who knew a ton about the city. We picked up the tour with a Chinese woman who pretty much stuck to the script, until we reached China-town where we learned all about how great the Chinese are. Luckily, it's Hop-On/Hop-Off for a reason, and it wasn't long until we reached our next desired stop--the East Village, home to Momofuku.

Momofuku might mean "Lucky Peach" but to J, it's been all about the steamed pork buns for weeks. Seriously, a visit to Momofuku was one of only three things on his list of things to see and do in NYC. Here are a few pictures from our visit.

You'll note there aren't any pictures of me smiling with my pork buns. That's because I gagged on the first one and gave the other to J to finish. No offense against pork buns, but if you're really feeding me steamed pig fat, please call it that on the menu. We got the pork buns at Momofuku Milk Bar, which really is what it sounds like--they sell all kinds of ice cream, flavored milks, cheesecakes, etc. Around the corner, at Momofuku Ssam Bar, where we grabbed dinner, they serve country ham from Broadbents Country Ham. I was very excited to see a "local" item on the menu in New York.

We rounded out the Downtown Loop, then jumped to a different bus for the Night/Holiday Tour. We saw a few Christmas windows, Ground Zero at night, and a great view of the Manhatten skyline from the Brooklyn side of the East River, all the while cracking jokes with the women from Chicago in the seats in front of us. I didn't get many pictures on this tour because of camera issues, but here are a few fuzzy ones. My favorite is the one of the Empire State Building. The change the lights on this building on some holidays, and it was all decked out in red, yellow and orange for Thanksgiving.

We jumped off the bus next to Macy's Herald Square since that was the closest we could get to Grand Central Station from the tour route. I convinced J to let me cross the street to see the Christmas Windows up close (themed about what happens when we write and mail a letter to Santa), and then snuck inside for pictures of the decor and original wooden escalators (which don't actually start until a few floors up, but remain in place all the way to the eighth floor). Yes, J scored serious husband points for riding escalators and taking pictures of me riding escalators this late in the evening.


After we escaped the Macy's crowd, J and I found our way back to Grand Central, with only a couple of brief stops--to take our pictures with the New York Public Library Lions (I later learned that J posed with Patience and I with Fortitude-rather appropriate, I think), and to ooh and ahh over the Lord and Taylor windows (just gorgeous in a very Victorian set-up this year).

We finally made it back to Chappaqua and crashed for the evening, after deciding that we would really prefer to sleep in a bit on Saturday and plan another trip to New York to see the rest this city has to offer.

Title: Macy's jingle, still. It's that good.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Home again, home again, jiggety-jig

J and I arrived back in Kentucky this afternoon, after an incredibly uneventful flight. In fact, the most eventful part was that I was able to read a magazine during the last twenty minutes or so.

Those who've flown with me in the last few years know I developed a fear of flying (and really anything involving heights that I don't have a feeling of control over) almost five years ago (no real reason, other than terribly turbulence on a flight), and I've not been able to even read a magazine in-flight in quite some time. So that I was able to enjoy SkyMall and not crush J's hand in the process was great progress for me. Yay for smooth flying!

As for the rest of our evening, I started to take down my Thanksgiving decor, and we brought up our Christmas tree from the basement (my first 'grown up' tree!) and made sure all the lights work. I'll try to get a wrap-up post with the rest of our trip posted tomorrow. In the mean time, scroll down and enjoy the pictures I added to last night's post!

Title: To Market, To Market nursery rhyme (that counts as a song, right?)

We're known as the quality store

ETA: Pictures for the post I put up on Friday night--

We just got in from the city and it's already midnight, so this may be a brief wrap-up of our second day in New York!

J had three goals for this trip--a trip to Momofuku, an asian place he heard about on NPR (apparently famous for their steamed pork buns); a visit to Ground Zero; and to see Central Park. As you know, we saw Central Park yesterday (and tackled my goals--the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Rockettes), so today we needed to check the other two off the list.

We started the day in Grand Central Station again, this time with pictures:

and had breakfast in a diner after picking up our tour passes. From there, we jumped on the GrayLine Downtown Loop (for anyone planning a trip to NYC, I highly recommend this tour company for their All Loops tour package--four tours of the city, with three being of the hop-on, hop-off variety) and headed off for Ground Zero (via Broadway, so we passed Macy's and Madison Square Garden on the way). Before visiting the actual site, we stopped at St. Paul's Chapel. This is the Episcopal Chapel where George Washington led the audience to pray after he was sworn in as our first President a few blocks down on Wall Street. St. Paul's better known by most, now, as the chapel adjacent to the World Trade Center site, where thousands of rescuers sought and received shelter, food, and comfort in the months after 9/11. The site is now a sort of memorial to the tragedy--a blessing since any actual memorial or museum has yet to be built.

After we left the World Trade Center site, we wandered around the Financial District before making our way to Battery Park and the incredibly long lines for the Statue of Liberty ferry. J and I decided that the lines would be better received if they were renamed "The Ellis Island Experience" and included signs about what immigrants experienced upon arrival in the U.S. They could even give you cards detailing various immigrant stories ("Sara--You're found to have TB and die without ever setting foot on the mainland." or "Alan--We can't understand your last name, so your new last name will be Smith." for a couple of examples.)

Anyhow, we finally made it to Lady Liberty, where we got a kick out of the number of people attempting to 'lift/hold up' the statue, or pose in various other ways with her. She's decidedly the best statue to do this with, it seems.

We (well, I) also got a kick out of the back of the statue. I've never seen a picture from the back before, and it turns out she's got her right foot kind of kicked back a bit. Looks rather like she's cheering for the home team...or the band, and has just acheived "Woo girl" status...

The day was getting away from us, and we realized that neither of our families actually came through Ellis Island, so we headed back to Battery Park to re-join the tour.

This seems like a good place to stop, and it's not getting any earlier, so I'm going to leave the story for now. I promise to add the pictures and 'the rest of the story' today?

Title: Macy's Commercial (Everything's better at Macy's; we're known as the quality store!--I love this commercial!!)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

New York at Christmas-time...

Wow! What an incredibly long and exhausting day! J and I were up at 4:00 a.m. and on the train into the city by 5:00. J took this great shot at the station--

As I reminded him, the Clinton's could have stook in this very spot. Not likely, given that they're all important and everything and I'm sure they take a car in and out of the city, but if they were to take this train, this is their station.

We arrived at Grand Central Station just before 6:00 a.m. (no time to take pictures, but we'll get some tomorrow), and made our way to Central Park West and 62nd Street. I chose this location based on it's close proximity to Tavern on the Green, where we had Thanksgiving Dinner reservations, but it turned out to be a great place for viewing the parade, too. We arrived just as folks started filling in the intersection and were just a couple of people back from the street (probably had three rows of people in front of me by parade time, but that's because we pushed all the kids in our section to the front for the best views--a couple firefighters in front of us even ended up with kids on their shoulders who they just met this morning!). Any other parade, I wouldn't have been happy to be three rows back, but check out this picture to see where we could have been--

Seeing the crowd fill in behind us made the two hour wait well worth it, and folks took turns sitting down so everyone could rest their feet. Finally, the parade started (and got to us at about 9:15 a.m.), and I was definitely as excited (maybe more-so) as the kids around us! J commented once that he'd never seen me smile so widely. Here are a few pictures (ask me if you'd like to see more--I took about 70 pictures of the parade) of my favorite classic balloons and floats. Speaking of the balloons--they are SO much bigger in person than on TV; definitely a surprise.

The parade ended around 11:00 and we had a short wait before the restaurant opened, so we sat on a bench in Central Park and people-watched. I was surprised at how peaceful it was! We also had our picture take on the rocks in the park. If you watched Sex & the City, you might remember that Charlotte had to have her engagement pictures taken there, so of course I needed a picture there, too!

Our Thanksgiving Dinner was delicious, and these pictures of the second course don't do it justice! For our first course, I had a pumpkin chestnut bisque and J had a crab cake. As you can see, I went traditional for the second course and J went traditionally J--filet and mashed potatoes! For dessert, he had pumpkin cheesecake and I had a pecan chocolate tart. At that point, I was so stuffed, I couldn't finish dessert, but every bite I ate was worth it!

We rounded out our Thanksgiving Day with a trip to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, featuring the Rockettes. Again, WOW! Such an impressive location and show! I'm so glad we opted to go while we're in town (the traveling version of the show will be in Lexington in December and we considered just seeing it there.). We walked through Rockefeller Plaza (I was so relieved to see they finally took down the scaffolding), stopped for me to peak in the windows at Studio 1-A (the Today Show studio), and visited NYC's favorite drug store (Duane Reade) for some blister remedies and snack food to serve as our supper this evening.

We're so grateful for an early night, as tomorrow we have a ful day of sightseeing ahead of us. Check back tomorrow night for more pictures!

Title: New York at Christmas, one of the many songs sung at the Radio City Christmas Spectacular

Midnight train to Georgia

And by 'midnight train to Georgia' we mean '5:00 a.m. train to New York' but there aren't any catchy New York train songs, we've decided to hold the good New York songs for later!

So Happy Thanksgiving! J and I have been very blessed this year and have much to be thankful for, not the least of which are our families and friends. We will miss you all this week, but are equally thankful for the opportunity to get away on adventure with each other; long weekends off don't come around often.

We hope to be back with posts often over the next few days, so check back frequently, or remember that you may need to scroll down to get the complete story of our New York City adventure!

Title: Midnight Train To Georgia, by Gladys Knight and the Pips

Sunday, November 22, 2009

20,000 seconds since...

ETA: Just got my official "chip" time: 1:12:22.1, with a pace of 14:34/mile!

This weekend, J and I headed to Western Kentucky for a quick visit with J's folks and, lucky for me, a good visit with my BFF Suz, who, as luck would have it, married a farmer just minutes from my in-laws. I had a great time visiting local antinque shops and the local winery (Ruby Moon Winery) with the girls!

Today, we left Webster County around noon for Owensboro, where we were registered to participate in the Turkey Day 5-miler. That's right, five miles. Now, I'm sure you're asking yourself how and why we ended up registered for a race much longer than any we've completed in a town so far from home. Well, we're trying to hit a race once a month, and as hard as I looked for one in New York (our Thanksgiving destination this year), I couldn't find one. So, in an effort to find a race in November, we ended up signing up for this race.

Well, J woke up sick this morning. I know, pretty good excuse. I'd have given him a hard time about his timing, too, except that he really does seem kind of sick. I gave him three choices: drive home and forget about the race, drive to Owensboro and hang out being sickly while I ran, or stay at his dad's while I drove to Owensboro and ran the race then came back to retrieve him. J picked option number two, and curled up for a nap while I braved the crowds--seriously, this race has never had more than a hundred or so runners, and today they had a record 250-300.

Lessons Learned:

1. People who show up for 5 mile races are in way better shape than those who show up for 3 milers (your standard 5K).
2. 5 milers are for runners, not walkers (see Lesson 1). Only half a dozen of us started out the race walking (the warm-up portion for me), and we were quickly left behind by the pack.
3. Drinking water out of a styrofoam cup while running is NOT an easy task. 3b. Drinking water while running makes me a little queasy and probably isn't necessary if I'm well hydrated before the race.
4. Putting Jonathon in charge of my ipod playlist is a great idea.
5. If I feel good at one mile, I've definitely got four more in me, and might have five. Bluegrass 10,000, anyone?
6. Knowing I wasn't coming in last helps a lot (three whole people behind me; again, see Lesson 1), but realizing that finishing last is better than not finishing at all is an even better feeling.

Despite the illness, my fabulous husband managed to find my camera in my purse and was at the homestretch ready to capture my accomplishment. Here are a couple of pictures. For those following along at home, the finish time on the clock is not quite accurate, as we used timing chips and I crossed the starting line probably 30 seconds back from the official time. That means my mile splits averaged about 14.5 minutes per mile, which is roughly how I did at the Black Cat Chase. I was really surprised to maintain a similar pace over 5 miles that I do over 3 miles, and hope that bodes well for me in the future. Also, I used the same interval approach that my brother recommended, and it's still working for me, so I'm pleased about that, too.

Title: "20,000 Seconds", by K's Choice (the first song on the playlist J made for my race today)

Monday, November 16, 2009

What a difference a day makes...

If I had written this post yesterday, you would have read all about our weekend, which started with the UK-Morehead game at Rupp and ended with a Paintsville Tea Party (for me; for J it ended with the Colts victory over the Patriots late last night). In between, we were among the few in Central Kentucky who can claim they have been inside 'The Castle' as we attended a fundraiser for the local chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters. I'm still happy to share a couple of pictures from these events, but have many more pictures (and complaints) to share of our basement, so that's where the bulk of this post is headed.

First, Rupp and the Castle--

We had great tickets thanks to a DAR friend of mine who didn't need theirs. Also, there are many more Castle Pictures to share, but I don't have them just yet. Our friends Ryan and Leanna were there as well to photograph the event, so I didn't take my own camera. I'll add a link when those are posted!

Next up, our basement--

There is a show on HGTV called "If Walls Could Talk" that I watch sometimes. It's a neat show that looks into the neat stories people find about their homes when they stumble across boxes in the attic, or find bottles or pictures behind walls and beneath floor boards when they renovate. It must be incredibly cool to find a piece of your home's history hiding behind some drywall.

We aren't those people. The only thing we have found behind our walls are failed attempts to DIY or save money or 'be inventive' with a quick fix. I've mentioned before that we've had numerous repairmen in who start their repairs with some version of "Hmmm...I've never seen it done like this before..." Be it strange wiring, incorrect plumbing or an unorthodox gas line, we've gotten used to finding problems that end up costing us money.

Almost two years ago, our engineer-by-trade previous owner's ice machine line sprang a leak and soaked our basement with tens of gallons of water. (Wait, you didn't know we had an ice machine? Neither did we. He capped it off with the kind of valve you see on the end of the air hose to fill your tires with, and then he hid it behind a cheap refrigerator with no ice-maker in it to sell the house.) We had the line capped and repaired the ruined drywall, thinking that we were done with that issue. We moved on and even started dreaming of doing things to the house that would improve its value. You've read about our plans for the built in shelving in the library and my bathroom reno, and you may have even heard my thoughts for the kitchen and living room. I've had great plans for projects to tackle this winter.

Until today. Well, really, until a few weeks ago, when we noticed a wet spot in the basement drywall. Now, we've been known to have a damp basement, but only when it rains several inches a day for days at a time, and before we installed a dehumidifier. This wet spot was different, but it was also small enough to push aside in my thoughts until after my Northern Kentucky dinner last week. On Thursday night, I finally had the time to investigate and after hammering out a small hole, I discovered that the cap we'd had installed on that darn ice-maker line was leaking. I couldn't get a plumber in on Friday, and it didn't seem to be an emergency, so I left the job of fixing the hole until today.

I left it all until today because I am taking a much deserved day off, when I thought I could tackle several small projects before jumping back into work tomorrow. Instead of tackling several small projects, my morning was spent supervising a plumber who fixed the latest leak, and then ripping out more and more drywall and insulation.

What have my walls told me today? For starters, that the previous owners think it is okay to use nails to install drywall on a ceiling. Really, Mr. Engineer? Don't you think the fact that they make screws called "Drywall Screws" means you should use them? They don't make "Drywall Nails" so what on earth possessed you to use nails in the one part of the basement that actually has gravity pulling against it?

And why am I still pulling down drywall? And what does the insulation have to do with it? Well, both products are backed with paper, and just like Bounty, they wick up water really well. And what happens in cool dark places that get wet? Yup, J and I will be killing some mold and mildew before we get to put our basement back together this time.

The shelves for my built-ins in the library are already ordered, but the rest of my dream-projects are on hold for a while. Figures. Can't wait to learn what other secrets my house is keeping to share at the most inconvenient time.

Title: What a Difference a Day Makes

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Giddy Up, Giddy Up, Giddy Up, Let's Go

I've been writing and re-writing blog posts in my head for about three weeks now, and as it happens, these posts I write in my head don't post to the blog for you all to read. Since this is the case, and since you've no idea what I have been writing in my head, I thought I'd bring you up to speed.

Three weeks ago, J's folks came to visit for the weekend. They hadn't been up in several months and one of the first things they noticed was our leaky bathroom sink. The sink has been leaking for a while, and had gotten worse in the last month. When the leaking started, I told myself that we'd reno the bathroom soon, and that it made little sense to tear apart a faucet that was going to be trashed soon. Well, weeks turned into months and spring turned into fall, and I now have a non-leaky faucet in my same old bathroom. Many thanks to J's parents for motivating me to get beyond the picture in my head to a lower water bill (I assume; haven't actually checked it), and many more to his dad for tightening up all of the joints under the sink that sprung leaks after I started messing with the faucet. Oh, and thank you, too, for the clock that is now hanging in our family room--had I managed to write this post after you guys left, it would have been titled "Time, time tickin’ tickin’ tickin’ (tickin’ away)" courtesy Don Henley.

Two weeks ago, I had a DAR weekend that my mom came up for. After our DAR meetings were done, she came to Lexington to finish out the weekend to help me gain a bit of control over my study/craft room. We spent a half a dozen hours upstairs cleaning, sorting, and sifting our way through the room. There is still quite a bit of work to do to reach the level of organization I'd like to see, but I'm pleased with the progress.

Last weekend, we ran our second 5K--the Black Cat Chase in Frankfort. Neither of us trained very much for this race, but we took a different approach to finishing it (intervals of walking/running) and actually completed the race in less time than the Mid-Summer Night's Run back in August. We're looking at a race in December, and possible tackling a 5 miler in Owensboro in November. We'll see.

After the race Friday night, we managed to improve on our weekend with a trip to Keeneland to close out the fall meet on Saturday with our friends Ryan and Leanna, and then enjoyed visiting with the Trick or Treaters who came by Saturday night. While I've been to Keeneland before, on this trip J scored tickets to the Lexington Room, which included a buffet luncheon of roast beef and corned beef, pasta, salads, yummy potatoes and excellent cheesecake, and fabulous seats directly in front of the finish line. All this inside a warm room with a waiter to bring us warm drinks and a betting window a few feet away. I've decided that Keeneland in the Lexington Room is way better than Keeneland with general admission tickets. J may regret this.

(I've posted a couple of pictures below. For more, including "J and JE get political" check out Ryan's blog.)

After Keeneland, we sped home to get ready for the Trick or Treaters before the appointed time of their arrival. The ghosts I made a few years ago with my nephew went out, along with our pumpkin. Then, in the last few minutes before the kiddos came knocking, I decided I had time to re-create a Martha Stewart decoration I spotted a few years ago. Presenting...our storm door silhouette of a scary tree. As you might guess, I'm pretty proud.
This weekend, we're hopefully playing it low key, as I have a big dinner I'm planning at work (scheduled for Tuesday) that is keeping me pretty tightly wired these days.
Have a great weekend of your own and hopefully I'll figure out a way to get my posts out of my head a little more frequently!
Title: Sleigh Ride