Monday, December 31, 2007

Diary of our Holiday Week, Part 2 of 2

Friday, Dec. 28th: Today we went into Boston to take John to the Children's Museum. It was fun, and for the most part John had a good time. The problem with going to these places in Boston, however, is that they're always crowded, and going during a holiday week was no exception. So dealing with that wasn't so fun. Also, the Museum was nice but a little disappointing. It had no planetarium or solar system things (which is what John really loves) and no live animals except for some turtles and fish. The children's museum in West Hartford has all of those things and I think we all kind of preferred Hartford's children's museum to Boston's, which is kind of a surprise. Next time we're in Boston we'll go to the Science Museum, which has a really neat planetarium, and we'll try to go during an off-peak time.

Playing with bubbles.
His favorite thing was playing in this Indian dug-out canoe.
(That's my mother in the background over John's shoulder.)
"I wanna steer the boat too!"

In the evening, Peter and I got to go out on our own. We went out to dinner to a great seafood restaurant in Framingham, where the lobster bisque actually had chunks of lobster in it. You don't find that very often. The food was delicious. (We ate so much great food this holiday week!) After dinner we went to the movies and saw National Treasure 2, the sequel to one of my favorite movies. Although the first one was better, it was very good and anyone who likes American history will enjoy the movie.

Saturday, Dec. 29th: In the morning I went to Salon Entre Nous in Southborough where my sister Elizabeth works and I got a facial and I also had my eyebrows shaped and waxed, which I'd never had done before. It was really nice and my eyebrows have never looked better. Thank you for the gift certificates and discount, Elizabeth!

For most of the rest of the day, we were in Rhode Island doing Christmas dinner and gifts with Peter's family--his parents, his brother Paul and his wife (Jean) and son (Andrew), and his brother James and his wife (Stephanie) and daughter (Arielle). We had yet another delicious dinner and then took a few hours to open presents. I'm not joking. Peter's mother always buys tons of presents for everyone and you practically need a U-Haul to get it all home! Fortunately we brought two cars, so we were able to fit everything in. We needed two cars anyway so that I could return home to Mass. with John after presents were done and Peter could stay and watch the big Patriots game with his family on James' huge HDTV. (The Patriots won, by the way, and made history by winning all of their games this season. Even though I'm not a big football fan, I was happy about it. Go Pats!)

With Grandma Thienel (Peter's mother).Bouncing on a present. Peter is laying down on the recliner underneath. Funny!

Sunday, Dec. 30th: Today we didn't wake up in time to go to church with my mother since we were all up pretty late last night. I was a little disappointed because it's always fun to see old friends from the past at church, but oh well. We went and visited my grandmother, who lives right here in Hopkinton. I finally gave her a framed picture and her own photo album of our wedding pictures. (It only took me five-and-a-half years to do that!) It was nice to see her again.

The highlight of my day in terms of humor was watching a cheesy 1980's video about the Cayman Islands that my mother had checked out from the library since we're going there on vacation in the spring. The video was so contrived, and the swimsuits, fashions, and hairstyles of the 80's always make me laugh. Ha ha! For dinner, we had my mother's delicious beef enchiladas (we REALLY ate well this week!). We decided to return home to Connecticut after dinner instead of on Monday morning as previously planned because of the snow and also because Peter had some business that he needed to take care of on Monday morning. Home sweet home!

Monday, Dec. 31st: This has been a mostly boring day at home, just getting unpacked and back into the swing of things. The most "interesting" thing to report about today was that we took our Christmas tree down. We meant to do that before we left for Massachusetts but we didn't have time. I have never seen such a dead Christmas tree. There were pine needles galore all over the floor and it took awhile to take down all of the ornaments and lights, get the tree out of the stand and out the door, and then sweep and vacuum everything up. It's kind of a relief now to have it gone--no more pine needles and the biggest thing to take care of post-Christmas is done. It's hard to believe that one week ago at this time it was Christmas Eve and the tree was all lit up in its glory and beauty with presents nestled underneath. Now it's stripped bare and lying out in the cold woods. Kind of a depressing thought! Anyway, I'm spending a lot of time talking about the tree so I'll stop now.

Tonight (New Year's Eve) we're not doing anything very exciting, nor are we tomorrow. So that is why my diary of our holiday week will end now, because I don't want to bore you to tears. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and that the New Year will be a very good one for you. Happy New Year!

P.S. The pictures are now posted below on "Part 1" of our holiday week.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Diary of our Holiday Week, Part 1 of 2

Monday, Dec. 24th, Christmas Eve. Tonight we maintained traditions by reading the story of Christ's birth from the scriptures and then we each opened one present, which made John realize that there were actual things in those presents and upped the excitement factor for him. After he went to bed, Peter and I enjoyed a savory candlelit dinner made by him, which we've done every year on Christmas Eve since we got married. We had a perfectly cooked rib roast, fluffy mashed potatoes, and green beans almondine, with sparkling apple cider to drink and hot apple pie with French Vanilla ice cream for dessert. I was stuffed, but the food was so delicious. It was a peaceful, relaxing evening.

Tuesday, Dec. 25th, Christmas. We spent a quiet day at home, just the three of us. Opening presents was fun. John liked his gifts and spent the day busy with his new things. His favorite presents were a planets book and a little $1 stocking stuffer dog toy that does flips after being wound up. It's funny how kids like the simple things most of all. We had cinnamon rolls for breakfast that really filled us up, so we had the rest of the breakfast we had planned for dinner instead--French Toast, sausages, and O.J. I had fun reading and resting as much as I possibly could all day.

John with his new car ramp toy.

Me, John, and his new planets book. Peter Rabbit! This is an impressive 3-D pop-up version.
John's biggest gift was a trampoline.
Astonished by the cool little wind-up doggy toy.
We are a family of bookworms.

Wednesday, Dec. 26th: This was a busy day of road trips to visit members of Peter's family. First we went to Grandma Bean's house in eastern Connecticut. She is Peter's paternal grandmother, and she's a lovely, gracious, 100% Finnish woman who is gentle and kind and always helps me to learn something new about Finnish culture when we spend time with her. As she always does when we visit, she fed us a delicious lunch before we had to leave.

After that we drove to Peter's maternal grandparents' house in N. Scituate, Rhode Island (Peter's hometown) and visited with them for a little while. I enjoyed talking about family history with Grandma Cost (her direct line of ancestors came over on the Mayflower), and Grandpa Cost was successful in convincing me that I really should get a Costco membership.

Next, we drove to Warwick to see Peter's sister Ruth and her family, who we hadn't seen in two years! Her husband is Chris and they have four beautiful, outgoing, well-behaved children who range in age from 3 to 10. For dinner, Chris cooked the most delicious chicken parmigiana I've ever had. We had a great time over there and are looking forward to seeing them again soon.

Thursday, Dec. 27th: Today we left for Massachusetts, where we're spending the next few days. In the evening we took my family out to dinner at a terrific restaurant in Foxboro called "The Stone Forge." We were only about a mile down the road from Gillette Stadium, where Peter's beloved New England Patriots play their home games. (That's as close as you're getting to the Pats this year, Peter!). It was a really fun dinner, made even better for me by the fact that John slept for three hours in the car in the afternoon so he was well-rested and in a good mood. Plus I didn't have to feed him or change him or anything because he had two great aunts who wanted to do all of that. Good deal! It was me, Peter, John, my parents, Jennifer and Elizabeth (my sisters), Ben and Nathan (my brothers), my niece Hayley, and Elizabeth's boyfriend, Jay. The only person who couldn't make it was Adam (Jennifer's hubby) because he had to work. The food was sooo dee-lish, our waiter was really funny, and we had a nice long table right in front of the fire. It was a great time had by all!

Guess who the center of attention was? Elizabeth, John, Jennifer, and Hayley.
Me, Nathan, Ben, and Jay (my two brothers and Elizabeth's boyfriend).
Smooching Hayley (whose beautiful face is always covered by her beautiful hair in these pictures!)
Our pint-sized Patriot in the heart of Patriots country.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Hot Stone Massage

This morning I got a 90-minute hot stone massage. It. was. heaven.

It was different from what I thought it would be. The pictures of it always show a person with a row of black oval stones going up the length of their back, so I thought it would be mostly that with the masseuse doing some massaging around them. It turned out to be a full-body massage with the masseuse using these hot smooth stones to do the massaging work. It was incredibly relaxing. When she was working on my back I dozed off and I was nearly drooling. This method of massage is supposed to be particularly good at releasing toxins from the body. I think it does, because I've felt so good today. My body feels rejuvenated and very healthy, and the aches and pains that I never knew I had are gone. I've had other types of massage before--Swedish, prenatal, and deep-tissue--and hot stone is now my favorite. I highly recommend it, and I can't wait to get another one. It's a wonderful form of preventative healthcare and stress-relief!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Peter Rabbit

John's most recent obsession (besides memorizing the lyrics to "The Twelve Days of Christmas") is the book The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. He has four different versions of it and he loves looking through all of them. I've read the story to him so many times that I can recite most of it from memory, which John can do now too. I don't know what exactly it is about this story that is so captivating. A disobedient young rabbit goes into a garden and almost gets killed by the gardener, narrowly escaping and then going to bed without dinner. Why is that so timeless and why do children love it so? I wish John could tell me, because I know I must be missing something. The illustrations are darling, anyway, and Beatrix Potter has a charming writing style.

At the library this week I found a 1/2-hour video of The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny. I checked it out to see what John would think of it. He was completely delighted and fascinated by it, more so than probably any other thing he's ever watched. It was fun to see him absorb the story and the pictures coming to life right in front of him. Because he likes it so much, I'm going to have to check this video out every week, which is going to get old fast. So I'll probably end up buying our own copy on the Internet. The things mothers do for the children they love! I know this is a phase and quite probably in a few weeks John will have moved on to a new preoccupation. Then I might even start to miss that mischievous little rabbit a bit!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Oh, Christmas Tree!

Two weeks ago, on December 1st, we got our Christmas tree. It was a cold, brutally windy day, so we didn't take our time and just chose one that was the right size and looked good. As it has turned out, the tree is very pretty and it's just the right size for our living room. The problem is, unbeknownst to us at the time due to our hastiness, it was kind of dead down on the bottom, and it's even more so now. It's been dropping so many pine needles that it's driving neat-freaky me crazy. They're getting all over the place on our main floor. I know this is one of the reasons some people don't bother with getting a real tree, but I still wouldn't trade it for an artificial tree. Real trees are the best, pesky pine needles and all!

Our tree must not be very thirsty. (Oh yeah, that's because it's dying). It's not "drinking" the water in its stand very quickly anymore, and though its loveliness and nice scent remain, I fear that our wooded friend's days are numbered. I guess they were numbered before it got lopped out of the ground, and that it's only a matter of time for every real Christmas tree since they are no longer growing from the earth. Last year we had a nearly perfect tree; it lasted for over a month and only started dropping a lot of needles after Christmas. This year's tree will make it to Christmas, but I don't know about New Year's. It might only have a few needles left by then. Oh well. It looks nice (so far) and we like it (but not the mess it makes). John likes playing with the ornaments on it and has only broken two so far.

In other exciting holiday news, I have about 95% of my shopping done, and 0% of the wrapping done. John and Peter are going to LOVE their presents and I'm looking forward to Christmas morning when we open them all. Although I don't think I'm going to have many to open. Peter has been working the hours of a madman and I don't think he's gotten me anything yet. I know I'm not getting the watch I wanted--it's completely sold out (thanks, Oprah!). I was late in designing and ordering our Christmas cards this year, and I hope they'll arrive in the next day or two so that I can get them in the mail and have them arrive before Christmas. We've been having a lot of snowy, stormy weather, and I think there's a pretty good chance of finally having a classic white Christmas this year!

Here are some other festive pictures:

Attack of the Christmas Tree! Christy, decked out in her holiday finery.
The decorated dining room. It was a total mess before I cleaned it the evening that I took this picture, and I was so happy to have it nice and neat that I took a picture of it. Yeah, I know. I get excited by small, mundane things. Here's a neat close-up picture of the tree all lit up at night.
And, as a final treat, here's Peter wearing a velvet outfit, striped tights, and a cute little hat. You don't want to miss this!

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Bit of Broadway in Hartford

One of the things I miss about living in New Jersey is how easy and quick it was to get into New York City. I really enjoyed going to see different Broadway musicals there. My favorite was Fiddler on the Roof, which I saw three or four times when Alfred Molina was starring as Tevye (he was Doc Ock in Spiderman 2). I will always love the songs and story of Fiddler.

The last time I went to a show was in December 2004, when I was seven months pregnant with John. Little Women was opening, and I went to a preview showing of it. Sutton Foster was starring as Jo March, and she had recently won a Tony Award for her starring role in Thoroughly Modern Millie. Peter didn't want to go with me (I don't know why! It was Little Women for Pete's sake!), so I went by myself (I guess John was there too, enjoying it from the warmth and comfort of my belly). I thought the show was very good, but it didn't last very long on Broadway. Peter might say the reason for that is because it was Little Women.

So anyway, I've been a bit starved for the culture of the stage for the past three years, but that came to an end last Saturday night. Wicked was on tour in Hartford, and we went. It was awesome! I had heard such good things about it, and it lived up to the hype. The "untold story" about the witches of Oz was very creative and clever. The music and the acting were of the best quality, and the dialogue and story had a lot of funny wit while at the same time being kind of inspirational in an unsappy sort of way. There were some really cool special effects too, particularly when Elphaba (a.k.a. the Wicked Witch of the West) flew up into the sky. I couldn't figure out how they did that! (Still can't!)

The only drawback for me was that I was so exhausted. The night before I got less than five hours of sleep and then I had a really busy day on Saturday. So during one or two of the slower songs I leaned my head on Peter's shoulder and rested my poor tired eyes. Other than that, I was captivated and loved it. I'm interested in reading the book, but I've heard that it's actually pretty dry and lacks the humor that the musical has. So maybe I'll just let the musical be enough, at least for for now, since my "Books to Read" list is already long enough. I really recommend Wicked to anyone going to New York who wants to see a great show!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Very Interesting Re: Romney

Today my man Mitt gave his anticipated "Faith in America" speech about religion. I wasn't home this morning so I wasn't able to watch it, but I've seen parts of it on the news today and it looks like it was very good. Here's something else really interesting: Romney having a heated discussion with a radio DJ off-the-air a few months ago in Iowa in which he is very passionate and clear about the Mormon Church and how it does and does not affect him and the political sphere. There is absolutely no disingenuosness here...he's being completely upfront and honest. Go to 10 mins. 30 secs. to see the really good off-air stuff.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

My Winter Survival List

Old Man Winter: the older I get, the more I dislike it. Although it has certain charms, I am much more of a summer girl than a winter one. Instead of going into the reasons for this and depressing myself further, I put together the following list:

Things I Can’t Live Without in Fall and Winter
1. Hand and body lotion. If I don’t use hand lotion at least several times a day then my hands become dry, ugly, red alligator-like versions of their former selves.
2. Lip gloss. I hate the uncomfortable feeling of dry lips. I’m addicted to lip gloss year-round. Not the glossy stuff, but the moisturizing balm that leaves your lips feeling soft and oh-so-nice.
3. My old gray fleece LLBean jacket to wear around the house. It’s not pretty. I don't wear it out and I always rip it off if someone comes to the door, but it sure is soft and cozy.
4. Lots of nice thick comfortable socks, because my feet get cold easily.
5. Hot cocoa just about every day with whipped cream and/or mini marshmallows. I made a new discovery yesterday that I'm very pleased with. It's Swiss Miss Good Start Cocoa. It's fortified with 15 essential nutrients or something like that, and it tastes really good!
6. My blue fleece bathrobe. It is so comfortable and soft and warm.
7. My down blanket, which I like to snuggle up under when I'm reading on the couch or watching a movie.
8. My black boots, which I wear with almost everything during the cold-weather months.
9. The Crock Pot, to make delicious, hot, easy dinners that fill the house with their enticing aromas. I finally started using the Crock Pot last winter. I can't believe it took me so long to realize that it's one of the best things ever invented for the kitchen!
10. Lots of lights turned on and the heat jacked up. Needless to say, our bills go up a bit in the winter. I hate to be cold in my own house and am willing to pay extra not to be. Also, a lack of light is so depressing. I turn on lamps and overhead lights in multiple rooms…but I do other things to help the environment, honest!
11. A nice crackling fire going in the fireplace. I love this, and I'd like to do it more. I'm just afraid I won't open the flue correctly and then an accident will happen. Plus I don't want to get soot on my sleeves, even when wearing the above-mentioned LLBean house jacket. I guess I'll have to get over it if I ever want to become a fire-building pro.
12. Warm lounge-type pants that I wear when I’m just staying home.
13. My To Do List. I try to get a lot done during the winter since I'm stuck inside so much. I like to use the time to tackle my list, and then I can relax a lot more when it gets warm out.
14. Plenty of things to keep John entertained and happy, both in and out of the house. For him and for me as a parent, it can be very challenging not being able to go outside very much for months on end.
15. Target. I can't live without Target in any season!