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Friday, December 4, 2015

November 2015

Well, let's start with the cutest November photo - Bailey got a new sweater.  His DADDY bought it for him so he could stay warm in the winter.  Bailey isn't a big fan of clothing so we'll see if he keeps it on for long, but he sure is cute! 

David and I were invited by retired friends in our architecture circle of friends to brunch at the country club one Sunday.  We had a great conversation with the varied guests they invited.  At this lunch I met the county historian/editorialist who wrote an article in the newspaper about some work I completed in 2015.  I wrote the story of our neighborhood - it's so interesting and the founders just moved this summer.  It was nice to be written about in the paper, and now we're going to publish the story into a book.  How about that.

Speaking of, here are the founders of the neighborhood we live in, Dr. Walt and Joan Able.  We went to dinner with them in November and got to see their new home (after 47 years in our neighborhood!)

And these are the gorgeous flowers they sent me for writing the history - their history actually.

I got to participate in Election Day festivities at one of our local hotels.  It was a great win for the two candidates I was there to support. 
Here is Thomas and friends from the Robotics Team at a demonstration last month.  Their new year really kicks off in early January and it'll be busy, busy for Thomas through April.

In town all seniors have to complete a Senior Project to improve our community.
They last months long and involve a lot of planning, fundraising, presentations, and you can't graduate without it :)
We have participated in several.  Brennan and I attended a really fun one in November - a Kitty Shower to raise funds for our Animal Care Center (our city's animal shelter).  We all took shower gifts that would benefit the cats at the shelter, and we sat in a circle just like at a bridal or baby shower, and passed around adorable, adoptionable kitties.  We had a great time and this young lady raised a LOT of supplies for the center.
My men walking into church one morning

Brennan played percussion with the adult choir one service.

Here are some of our youth shopping for Heart Tree presents (for local families in need this Christmas).

And every year the youth (and many parents) volunteer at the church to rake the leaves on the church grounds.  We supply donuts too, so it's greatly attended and the work is done within an hour!

We were sad to say goodbye to our interim pastor and his wife last month. 
During his last service, Thomas was asked to serve as Lay Leader and he did a great job.
Our final prayer goodbye to the Hills.  We'll be welcoming our new permanent pastor and his family later this month.

The Hills are from Wisconsin - they had a great time at our fun going away celebration for theme.  The "cheese" cake.

Lots of skits, roasts, and heartfelt tributes.  The youth know how Scott loves food.
 And Thanksgiving in Mississippi - our first year in years that we had enough time off school to go.
Donna and Jeffrey hosted a wonderful Thanksgiving meal.  But it was all about the puppies this year!
Thomas and Ringo.
Thomas with Bailey, Dexter, Ringo, and Stella.  Obviously, treats are universal.

The cousins - Taylor (14), Thomas (15), Brennan (almost 14), Ellie (almost 11)

Bailey very much enjoyed getting to "go bye-bye" with us.  He slept on a pillow, covered with his blanket, on my lap the entire drive.  Spoiled.
Grandma's house is so cozy.

And finally, David's co-worker sent us this photo at the end of the month.  Thomas, working at the children's museum, helping their daughters up the climbing wall.  Thomas has earned 14 hours of training time on the climbing wall - 6 more and he can do work it solo.  He really enjoys his part-time job!

Hope you're enjoying the holidays!


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Mockingjay Marathon!

Mockingjay Part 2 came out last month and Robin and I had a great time celebrating!

I'm not sure that we are super fans of the book and movie series, but we certainly enjoyed ourselves last year when Part 1 came out.  When attended the 3 movie marathon at our local theater.

This year our local theater decided not to host a Hunger Games marathon (boo!), so we decided to have our own!
If I had been smart, I would have adjusted my calendar accordingly, but somehow it slipped past me.  Instead
of splitting up the 3 movies or 2 days and then gone to Movie #4 on opening night, we ended up seeing ALL 4 MOVIES on the same day!

Robin has a beautifully remodeled basement with a killer entertainment system.  We watched the first 3 movies IN STYLE.  Then we went to the theater for #4 (Mockingjay Part 2) and celebrated in a packed theater, where everyone clapped at the end.  A satisfying movie adaptation of the beloved trilogy.
Since Robin was hosting, I decided to take a couple of Katniss-inspired snacks.  Robin was concerned this meant roasted rabbit on a skewer or something, but I scoured the Internet for great ideas.  And the Internet did not fail me. 
I ended up with 17 (yes SEVENTEEN!) Hunger Games treats for us.  We had a ball!
So whether you're Team Peeta (like me)
or Team Gale (also sometimes like me)
you can follow these completely stolen copied ideas to host your own Hunger Games party!
First up, the drinks.
When Katniss goes to the capitol she tastes orange juice for the first time.

Punch inspired by Haymitch

And mint tea that Katniss and Peeta drink in the cave, that reminds her of District 12.

Along with the tea, Finnick's sugar cubes, of course.
A little bit of healthy stuff
District 11 (Rue's home) is the farming district -with crops and orchards.

Panera helped us out with salads inspired by the Capitol's favorite talk show host.

Peeta bread (get it, Peeta) with Prim's goat's cheese (Prim has a goat), and apples - like Peeta and Katniss ate in the cave.

And yummy blueberries that helped bring down the Hunger Games
And then the snacky stuff
From the first book, cornucopias
(P.S.  I hadn't had Bugles in 20 years.  They're still delish.)

Finnick wore a fish charm around his neck, and District 4 is known as the fishing district.

District 12 is the coal mining district.  Good thing it is Christmas season - this chocolate in the shape of coal was easy to find.

Peeta's family runs in the bakery in District 12, so we had some baked goods

Red Hots for the Girl on Fire

And cinnamon buns inspired by our favorite designer in the Capitol, Cinna
When Katniss leaves for the Hunger Games, Mr. Mellark gives her a bag with simple cookies inside.
And weapons to help us through the Hunger Games

And we enjoyed the last movie - and the wrap-up of a very fun day!

 See our Mockingjay pins?

 I'm blessed by Robin's friendship and her willingness to spend an entire day devoted to a love triangle and battle against evil in a dystopian world :)


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Vermont and New Hampshire

Brennan and I took a fantastic trip to Vermont and New Hampshire (and a little bit of Massachusetts and New York).  We had a really great trip and took a lot of iPhone photos between us. 
We flew into Albany, NY and drove to Bennington, VT

In Bennington we had a great lunch and toured the Battle Monument commemorating the Battle of Bennington in 1777.
View from the Battle Monument 
Brennan at the Battle Monument 
We went to a number of local spots in Bennington including the Apple Barn where we pumpkin fudge, fresh pressed apple cider, and my favorite - apple slush.  Bennington has a lot of these decorated moose all around the town.  Sadly, we didn't see any live moose on our trip, just lots of Moose Xing signs.

We drove east through the Green Mountain National Forest and the views were absolutely stunning!
There really wasn't anything but beautiful views in Vermont.

We weren't in the Green Mountains more than 20 minutes when we saw our first (of many) Appalachian Trail through hikers.  They were all walking in the same direction - my guess is that they were headed to the end of the Trail in Maine before the weather hit in a month or two.  It was incredible to see them.
Here I am on the Appalachian Trail.

Brennan and I took a side trip to drive to the summit of Mt. Equinox in the Green Mountains.  It was a long, very steep drive, but the views were totally worth it!

We had dinner in Manchester - a picturesque little town in the Green Mountains.
And checked into the Olympia Lodge for the night.  A quaint bed and breakfast style lodge, nestled in the mountains.  The owners' dog was a big hit with Brennan.

The next day we headed to Burlington, Vermont, with several side trips along the way. 
First up was a tour of Middlebury College. 
The New England college campuses that we toured did not disappoint.  They were as beautiful as I had imagined.

On our drive north to Burlington we spotted a farm and orchard with all sorts of fun Fall activities.  Brennan really, really wanted to do the 10-acre corn maze.  It was monstrously huge, and had a scavenger hunt included in it.  And he wanted to do it alone.  I sat with the owner and listened to a history of the area, while sipping cider.  Not a bad deal.  

Random public art we passed in Vermont.  
And Burlington was so pretty.  By far the largest city we encountered on our trip.  Full of great restaurants, universities, athletic people, and so, so picturesque.  We walked the length of Waterfront Park on Lake Champlain. 

Swings and benches lined the length of the park to view the Lake.
A swing finally became available for us to enjoy.

We had to check out the "world's largest filing cabinet" sculpture. 
Finally, Brennan was impressed with Vermont.

We drove through a number of colleges and the University of Vermont in Burlington.

And settled for the night at the Starlight Inn in Colchester on Malletts Bay.  The Inn is impeccable and has 4 drive-in screens.  We were in the Jerry Lewis & Dean Martin room.  It was a great place to stay.
No more universities or battle monuments.  Our next day was all about Brennan - which means food and hiking.
Stowe and Waterbury, VT have some great company headquarters.  It was our only drizzly day, but it didn't stop us.  We had a great time touring a lot of cool places.
Like the original Ben & Jerry's and their factory!

And the Green Mountain Coffee Company headquarters and visitor's center!

Tea for me, an Americano for Brennan

And Cabot cheddar.  Where we bought our lunch to eat at a park later in the mountains.

mmmm, samples!

And everywhere we went we saw local Vermont maple syrup in cute bottles.
I remembered our trip to Boston years before when I couldn't get my maple syrup back on the plane, so we didn't buy any - which seems such a shame.  We enjoyed the samples though!

And then we spent a little time in picturesque Stowe.  It wasn't skiing season yet, but it was full of people like us who were so taken with the scenery, all the little restaurants and cafes, the covered bridges.  We did see a number of Olympic skiing athletes who were together at a cafe.  They train at Stowe Mountain.
And then we toured the Trapp Family Lodge!
When the von Trapps left Austria, they settled in Stowe.
They eventually built a lodge and ran a successful business for years and years.  Maria and the Captain had children of their own.  One of their grandsons is running the business now.

One of the individual cabins (The Villas) that can be rented, overlooking Mt. Mansfield State Forest.

This sign says
"The Trapp Family invites you to share a little of Austria, a lot of Vermont"

The Trapp Family Lodge

After that fun little side trip (which was totally for me - Brennan was shocked to hear The Sound of Music was based on a true story!), we headed to the summit of Mt. Manchester - the highest point in Vermont.  We drove as high as we could, but it would be another 4 hour intense climb to the peak.  We didn't do that, but we did hike quite a bit in the area.  Brennan loved it.

And then we headed to New Hampshire!
I've seen the eastern edge of New Hampshire before and it didn't leave that much of an impression.
Until we drove through the rest of Vermont and into New Hampshire on the west, and saw the White Mountains.  Holy Cow!
Sooooo many through hikers.  The mountains were absolutely incredible.  I would go back just to explore them more.
Mt. Washington and the Auto Road all through some of the highest peaks, Franconia Notch, 100 miles of Appalachian Trails, the Presidential Range of the National Forest (peaks named for presidents), the Caribou Wildnerness Area, the cog railway train going through some of the peaks.  Just incredible.

On our final day there we chose to take the Sawyer Highway through the White Mountains instead of following the GPS and leaving the mountains and getting on a highway.  It's a good thing we had gas, but the rustic drive cutting through was worth it.  

After two days in NH we headed back to Albany, taking the long way through Massachusetts, and taking a few side trips.
Our first one was in Hanover, NH at Dartmouth College.  If I could pick an Ivy League school, this would be it.  It just so happened to be Homecoming Weekend and undefeated Dartmouth was playing undefeated Yale.
We had lunch before the game in a very good Japanese restaurant in the heart of Hanover.  We overhead students having an Economics debate.  Brennan was smitten with Dartmouth.
Because he is 13, we also enjoyed recommendations for the best gelato in New England (very yummy), and we toured a gourmet chocolate shop.  It can't all be about the scenery.

On the drive from Hanover south, we listened to the Dartmouth-Yale game (Dartmouth won!) and enjoyed the stunning scenery.

We ended up in Williamstown, Massachusetts in time for dinner at a quaint inn before heading to our hotel and a few hours' sleep before our flight home. 

I highly recommend Vermont and New Hampshire.
I don't think it matters if it's "peak season" for the leaves.
Vermont is idyllic - we never saw a McDonalds in Vermont, and billboards were sparse and quaint.  It was incredibly serene and clean and inviting. 
New Hampshire would not have been that impressive to me except for the White Mountain National Forest.  And that made it totally worth it.
Brennan's favorite part of the trip - the hiking.
I loved spending the Fall Break with him!