31 December 2008

Brrrrrrr!


Just stopping in between throwing more logs on the fire to say Happy New Year and farewell to 2008 one last time...

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes

New Year's Traditions

New Year's Eve is one of those holidays which, for me, has changed drastically over the years. When I was young and unencumbered, it was all about finding the right party to ring in the new year.

My husband and I got married on New Year's Day - 17 years ago tomorrow. The night before our wedding, we spent New Year's Eve first having a rehearsal dinner, and then partying the night away with friends.

As the years went on and our children were young, we spent nearly every New Year's Eve in front of the television with Dick Clark. In fact, lucky us, we spent a few years in California where Dick Clark's New Year's Eve show ended at 9 p.m. After that, we could put the kids to bed and have a bit of adult time after that - you know, doing dishes, putting the dog out, and trying desperately to stay awake until midnight. It is our tradition to give each other Anniversary cards at midnight. Usually no gifts, as Christmas has just come and gone.

I have to admit, once we got to Maine, it felt more RIGHT to be celebrating the New Year with Dick Clark at the right time. Yes, didn't you know that East Coast time is the RIGHT time? Now you do. You're welcome.

Oh, and as an aside, I must say that I will always and forever associate New Year's Eve with Dick Clark. Even though he is only doing a cameo appearance now, and Ryan Seacrest has all but taken over, it is still the Dick Clark show, as far as I'm concerned. Dick Clark didn't age from the time that I was four-years-old until about two years ago, so for me, he is like the New Year's Eve god. In fact, I wonder if time would just stop on December 31 one year, if he didn't show up? A scary thought.

Moving on... a few years ago, we decided to do a Lord of the Rings marathon with the whole family. We started watching the first movie early in the day, and the plan was to finish the third movie about a half hour before midnight. Somehow it went longer than planned, what with breaks and all, but we did stop to cheer, kiss, and toast champagne at midnight, and then we watched the rest of the third movie the next day.

Another tradition we started at some point, was to do fondue for dinner on New Year's Eve. This one began before we got to Maine, but it has carried through each year. We usually just do beef fondue, but this year, we'll be doing shrimp as well. Fondue is one of those things that is such a novelty, if you only do it once a year. In fact, it usually takes all year for me to forget what a pain it is to drag the fondue pot out of the back of the cabinet over the refrigerator, set up the peanut oil, give up on Sterno for actually making it hot, and just put it on the stove in a huff. It also takes a whole year for me to forget about what a chore it is to clean the peanut oil out of the pot.

Gee, now I'm remembering. Do we really want to do this tonight?

This year, our son is away at school spending the night doing R.A. duty (though he'll be back home in a few days.) One of our daughters is going to a party at a neighbor's home. So hubby and I will spend the evening at home with our other daughter,... probably watching The Lord of the Rings. We have enough fondue trappings for the whole family, but it will only be the three of us, so we might even set it up on the coffee table and watch our movie while dipping the fondue meats. Then again, that sounds messy. Peanut oil on the rug? Hmmm.

The really cool thing, which also seems to be becoming a tradition, is that it's supposed to snow tonight. Ok, I know this is not a tradition I can control, but hey, I'll take it.

Happy Maine New Year, Friends!

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes

30 December 2008

Where are you, Christmas?

Ok, I'd like to address an issue that's really been bugging me.

As I mentioned early in the fall, we put our daughters in public school for the first time after homeschooling them from the get-go. We knew it would be a different world in a variety of ways... they'd have less freedom to come and go as they pleased, they would be subject to someone else's schedule, there would be no sleeping in, and the list goes on and on.

But the thing that really gets me (and still does) is the way public schools now handle Christmas. First, the teachers are not supposed to wish the students "Merry Christmas." Second, the school break that stretches from December 23 to January 5 is no longer called "Christmas Break," but rather, "Winter Break" or "Holiday Break" or some such thing. Third, my daughter is in the school choir and they had a special concert right before Christmas. Yet, it was called a "Winter Concert" and not one Christmas song was sung. At all. Of course, there were a HUGE number of people in the audience wearing red and green, and many even had on Christmas sweaters. I ask you, was THAT allowed? And how long will it be? How long until family members are told not to come to the winter concert wearing anything that will suggest Christmas?

Sound far-fetched? I'm not so sure.

Look, I'm all for being tolerant of other religions, other ethnic groups, other races, or what-have-you. In fact, I applaud it. Those are the things our country was founded on. But I don't imagine the Founding Fathers had in mind to squash out every mention of a religious holiday, just so a very few won't be offended.

And yes, at least here in Maine, it is a very few. Sure, we have Jewish families who celebrated Hanukkah, and I love that. In fact, why didn't the kids sing any songs at the Winter Concert that celebrated Hanukkah? Or Kwanzaa? Or whatever else anyone is celebrating at this time of the year? The thing is, MOST Americans still celebrate Christmas. Don't believe me? Turn on the radio in December. Look at any magazine, catalog or store decor. Can we really pretend it isn't there?

This is all because there are a select few who think that since they claim no religion, the rest of us should clam up, shut up, and let them enjoy their nothingness. Don't get me wrong, they have every right to their nothingness (for lack of a better term - I'm sure I'll offend someone - sorry in advance)... but now we are all being subject to it. Do you see what has happened? It isn't enough that they have their nothingness. Rather than majority rule, which is another thing this country was founded upon, a very vocal few are imposing their nothingness on the rest of us, and every song at that Winter Concert was one of THEIR songs.

How is that fair? How does that show tolerance and diversity?

Look, when I go somewhere and someone wishes me a Happy Holiday because they are not allowed to say Merry Christmas, I don't fault them or feel annoyed - I THANK them and wish them the same in return - with a smile. I happen to be a Christian who celebrates Christmas, but if someone wished me a Happy Hanukkah, I'd thank them and wish them the same in return - happily. Same goes for Kwanzaa. Even if someone wished me a Happy Winter, because they are anti-holiday in general, I'd thank them for that and wish them the same in return.

In fact, now that I think of it, living here in Maine with all our snow, we would do well to wish each other a Happy Winter... quite often.

Not that that was what I was getting at, but it seems like a good place to close.

Happy Winter, Friends.

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes

27 December 2008

Reality Check

Every year, usually in the week between Christmas and New Year, I plan our next year's budget. Nothing like crunching numbers to drown any remnants of the Christmas spirit. That combined with 50 degree temps and rain that is washing away what is now very dirty, shrinking snow.

Anyway, the yearly budget plan is always a drag, but it has to be done, and by the second week in January I have high hopes of paying off our house, skimming down our lifetyle (such that it is) and putting a bunch of money in the bank for a rainy day.

Yes, EVERY year I do this.

But every year the money we put in the bank always manages to be used up for the multiple rainy days we seem to have (read that: car repairs, vet bills, expensive teen-agers). Every year, the more I skim down the lifestyle my husband and I would like to have, the lifestyle of our kids becomes more demanding - and costly - mostly in the form of sports and camps. Every year we watch our mortgage basically spin its wheels and we make so little progress toward payoff that I can only hope to get there before we die of old age.

Really.

Oh, and then there is the issue of heating the house... but why go there?

All that to say, Christmas was lovely but now it's time to pay the piper. In reality, we went into very little debt over Christmas. We saved money in our Christmas account all year and used it all only on Christmas. Yay us! Of course, we never quite budget exactly right; plus, my husband and one of my daughters, who will remain anonymous, always go over budget. But they are quite generous, so who am I to fault them?

Where am I going with this? I have no idea. Just trying to bring you down with my budgeting angst, that's all. Especially if you live somewhere warm and are still wearing shorts at this time of the year. Yes, I especially cast my angst on you!

Ok, not really. Just making conversation.

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes

26 December 2008

The Day After

Here's hoping everyone had a Merry Christmas with lots of goodies, happy times, and some semblance of peace after the madness of the shopping season.

I think it's both strange and tragic that the shopping starts right back up as soon as Christmas is over. I have to admit, I was at Wal-Mart at 8:00 this morning to pick up some groceries for a party my kids are having tonight, and my husband needed a cable for his new speakers. We didn't WANT to venture out, but we went early, found a store that had everything we needed, and we were out of there before 9:00.

Of course, as fate would have it, Wal-Mart did NOT have the right cable, so we had to go to Best Buy. And Home Depot was right down the road, so why not go there, too? Oh the madness! The crowds! The traffic! So I hear, anyway. I waited in the car at each of those stops with my John Grisham book. It was only 12 degrees outside, but we parked in the sunshine and I was cozy in my crowd-avoidance.

Now I'm typing awkwardly on a new laptop my husband gave me for Christmas. I've always typed on our traditional computer which is situated in the basement - the dry, yet unfinished basement. Now I can have my love affair with the internet while lounging by the Christmas tree, relaxing on the couch or even sitting in bed. Oh the freedom! I know most folks have experienced this already, but we're a little behind, I guess.

That's about all I have to report for Christmas at our house. Oh, and it's snowing again.

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes

24 December 2008

Let it Snow

Merry Christmas Eve, everyone.

I didn't even have a chance to post the photos from Monday afternoon, and I awakened to find that it's snowing again today.

Here is a photo from the dig-out on Monday...



I was intrigued by the wavy line my husband made down the driveway. I guess he wanted to make it interesting, as if removing 18 inches of snow from one's driveway isn't interesting enough on its own.

When I looked out this morning and saw more large flakes falling down, I thought about snapping a photo, but then I thought, "Hey, I could just use a photo from the Sunday afternoon storm that's already on my computer."

Yeah, I guess you could say I'm already feeling cynical about the snow. Don't get me wrong - I love it at this time of year. Unless we get a major tropical weather freak show over the next 14 hours, we are destined to have a white Christmas... and how cool is that?

I just know that last year, it snowed every Wednesday and Saturday. Remember? Go HERE to refresh your memory. This year, however, we seem to be getting snow just about every other day. And it's only been winter for three days. Three.

Ok, I'll stop now.

On another note, today is our middle daughter's 16th birthday. Yes, a Christmas Eve Baby. In fact, she was born in California at 11:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve. We always remind her that had she been born in Maine, she'd have been born on Christmas Day. Not that it really matters, but for some reason, we talk about that every year. It's one of those stories where the parents begin it, and then the kids end it in a sing-song voice, reminding us that we've kicked that dead horse one too many times. But we will talk about it next year and until the end of time. It's just how we are.

It's tradition! Like the snow! Ack!

Merry Snowy Christmas, friends.

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes

22 December 2008

1:00 a.m. Report

Nearly 18 inches, still coming down and blowing everywhere.




This is crazy. Yes, we're still up and still measuring the snowfall like idiots. You'd think we'd never had a big snow before.

I think we're excited because it's nearly Christmas. Also, I have a fixation with my kids getting to stay home from school - without being marked absent. In fact, all semester I've been trying to talk them into staying home for a day. But they keep telling me they have to go to school. I promise to take them out to lunch and to the movies, but still they go. In this short time, they've already been convinced they'll fall impossibly behind if they miss only one day.

Ha.

So tomorrow, assuming the schools are closed (and they'd better be!) the kids can stay home, we'll bake and play all day, and they won't be behind. Yay!

Can I say one more time that I think it is utterly ridiculous for kids to be in school THIS close to Christmas? What the heck?

Ok, off to bed.

G'night, friends!

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes

21 December 2008

10:00 p.m. Report

We're up to nearly 15 inches and it's still coming down. Here's what we're seeing outside our front door...




But the power is still on.

And after a high of under 10 degrees today, the temperature seems to be rising, according to this:



This also shows that we have more snow on the way before it's all over.

But as I said, we still have power. Gotta love that.

Here's hoping you're staying inside, safe, and warm.

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes

First Day of Winter

And a fitting start, I might add...





As of nearly 5:00 p.m., we have four or five inches of snow on the ground, and it is still coming down hard. It's supposed to get heavier over-night, and I've all but convinced myself and the kids that they will get a snow-day tomorrow. Keeping my fingers crossed.

And so far, we still have power. Very glad about that.

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes

20 December 2008

Nor' Easter a-Coming

That's what they're saying HERE.

I've been meaning to take pictures of the snow from the past week (last night was incredibly beautiful) but with Christmas on the horizon, a son returning from college, and much to do to prepare for the next big snow, the photos will have to wait.

I think the checklist is in order...

* Gas in the snowblower - check.

* Firewood stacked in the basement - check.

* Pantry full in preparation for power-outage - check.

* Kerosene heater filled - check.

* Hopes that school will be cancelled Monday and Tuesday - CHECK!

Stay safe, friends.

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes

12 December 2008

"Dramatic Icing Likely"

Those were the words, yesterday, of my favorite radio weather guy. I thought it was a very poetic way of saying something that no one in Maine ever wants to hear. Ice storm coming. Yeah, that's what he was REALLY saying.

And it came. Thankfully, it wasn't as bad as it could have been. That's not saying there isn't a lot of fallout; I guess the comparison is still the ice storm of January, 1998. This was NOT like that. But as of this afternoon, there are still about 200,000 Mainers without power, whether homes or businesses. Lots of limbs down, lots of power lines down. A bit of a mess, to say the least.

But lots of beauty, too. This afternoon, after a blissfully relaxing day of not being in school (and having little to do because the power was out at our house) my daughter ventured outside and took my camera with her.

This is what she saw...












Stay warm and be safe, friends.

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes

10 December 2008

Weather Whiplash

Two days ago, we awakened to clear blue skies and temps hovering just above zero. The wind chill was well below zero.

Yesterday, it snowed all day and we ended up with about 2 inches. An early white Christmas?

No.

This morning we awakened to rain and temps of 50 degrees - at this early hour.

The snow is gone. GONE.

At least I didn't have to shovel the driveway.

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes

05 December 2008

I love living here.

I haven't had the opportunity to write much lately, and the longer I go, the more (or less) there is to tell.

But I have to share what happened today.

It's a busy day. I went to the gym with a friend at 7:30 a.m., and had my day scheduled down to 15 minute increments from there on out. (I might add that I have 15 minutes scheduled in to write on this blog, and I'm ahead of schedule. Yay!)

After the gym, I hurried to Wal-Mart to pick up groceries and various other things that I can't find at a regular grocery store. One stop shopping - gotta love it. I hurried and put all my stuff in the car and then raced off to drop stuff off at the local Salvation Army. After putting all the bags into the big drop-off bin, I went back to the car to get my purse before heading inside to get a receipt.

It was then that I noticed my purse was not in the car.

Had someone stolen it while I walked 6 feet to the drop-off bin and put the bags in? Not in Maine! Besides, there really wasn't anyone else around.

In a panic, I last remembered seeing my purse in the Wal-Mart shopping cart as I put the purchases into the car. Had I left it there? Had someone swiped it while I was loading the car? Not in Maine!

As I broke all local speed limit laws, racing the car back to Wal-Mart, I phoned them and waited (while I drove) as they tranferred me from phone to phone and finally, checked to see if anyone had found and turned in a purse.

A purse, I might add, that didn't have more than $5.00 cash in it, yet it had my debit card, two credit cards (that have just been paid off - yikes), check book, military i.d., and of course, driver's license... not to mention, all sorts of other personal information.

As the seconds ticked by, I tried to remember everything in my wallet so I could call and cancel everything as soon as possible.

Then the Wal-Mart lady came back on the phone just as I drove into the parking lot and said they'd found the purse. I rushed inside and there it was. AND it had everything in it, just as I'd left it.

There are so many places I've visited and lived where this would not have ended well. While there are nice people everywhere, it just seems that there are so many MORE here in Maine.

BIG sigh of relief. :)

Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes