Monday, December 31, 2007

The Best of 2007

In spite of some financial struggles, health issues and ending the year still wobbly from knee surgery eight weeks ago, I still had a lot of great things happen in 2007.

In January, I was one of only a couple 100 employees and guests who got to celebrate the lights of the Fly Delta Jets sign being turned back on over the Delta Tech Ops building on the same day our company prevailed over a hostile takeover attempt by another airline.

In February, I went to Savannah with some friends and ate at Paula Deen's restaurant. It was so good - I could feel my arteries hardening with every bite.

In April, my company came out of bankruptcy amidst many celebrations, and I had the opportunity to dine with my parents and our COO at one of the various parties.

In April, I also enjoyed taking my Dad, niece and nephew to Delta night at the Braves game.

May brought me some fabulous new neighbors - one of whom is a kick-ass team trivia partner. We've come in either first or second every time we've played at the local pub. (Although, being the smartest two people among that crowd might not really be too large of a feat.) These guys have been a Godsend - cutting my grass when they finish cuting their own, assembling my new Ikea patio furniture and fixing my a/c when it stopped working on a 100 degree day in August.

In June, my whole family went to Vegas for a week. While there, we flew a small plane to see the Grand Canyon, we hung out at the Flamingo pool until my niece looked like a lobster, and my nephew and I saw the Cirque show Love.

At the beginning of July, I accompanied my father to Knoxville for his little brother's 75th birthday party, where I got to see my cousins Becky and Clay, who I hadn't seen in about 10 years.

August took me to Dallas, where I was the guest of my dear friends Ali, Nathan and Mikey at a Ranger's game - in a luxury suite no less. I also developed some unrequited iPhone envy while there.

In September, I had the privilege of arranging and taking my coworkers on a private tour of the Chick-fil-a headquarters where we met with their CEO and founder, Truitt Cathy.

In October, I had knee surgery. While not a lot of fun, it led to November, which was sort of a Vicodin induced haze. So I could have had fun in November, I'm just not real sure.

In December, I had a wonderful Christmas with my parents, brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew.

(Reid and Dad)

(Me and Mom)

(Carrina and Steve)

(Bass Guitar Hero Reid and Liana)

However, the best time of the year for me was back in April, when I took my niece and nephew to Edinburgh, Scotland for spring break. I've always dreamed of going to Scotland, and sharing it with the kids made it that much better. Every part of the trip was perfect - from the flight there in BusinessElite

to the hotel featuring a roof top spa and hot tub with a beautiful view of Edinburgh Castle.

We trekked up to the castle (OK - we took a cab, but you still had some climbing to do once you were inside the castle walls) where we were greeted by Robert the Bruce

and we started the long walk up to the higher levels

where we saw the firing of the One O'clock Gun.

The next day, we rode out to the countryside and visited Rosslyn Chapel. If you read the Da Vinci Code, you will recall was featured prominently in the final chapters.

The chapel roof is being repaired, so the outside was covered with scaffolding. We were able to climb up and walk above the chapel, which gave a really interesting perspective.

The carvings inside the chapel were amazing. No pictures can do justice to the beauty and detail.

After that, we headed back into town where we toured the Holyrood Palace where the Queen resides while in Scotland. It was also the home of Mary, Queen of Scots.

There were some amazing gardens (and there's my beautiful niece among the heather.)

and some really cool ruins of the Holyrood Abbey.

After a trip to the Scottish Modern Art Museum, we headed back to the hotel for a swim, and then went out again after dark on a ghost tour of the old city.

My feet were bleeding by the time we were finished with that day, but it was the most fun I've had in years. Until the hotel fire alarm went off and we had to evacuate. Thank God the kids had checked out the evacuation info on the back of the door when we checked in, cause I was clueless of what to do or where to go when the alarm went off. (Aren't I a great aunt?) And of course, I shouldn't complain at all about it anyway - as I wasn't the one in the shower when the alarm went off who had to sit outside in the cold in an over sized spa robe, wet and shivering until we got the all clear to go back in. (That would be my niece - who took it all in stride.)

I have not been blessed as of yet to have any children of my own, but I am blessed in that my brother and his wife are so open to sharing their children with me.
These kids bring so much joy to my life. They are smart, funny, loving and kindhearted. They were the best part of 2007 for me. And the best part of every year since they came along.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

24 Hours in Vegas

Anyone that knows my parents knows that they love going to Vegas. Over the years, Vegas has hosted many of our best family vacations. Mom and Dad saw Elvis there in the 70s. I was too young to go to that one, so my consolation price was to see the Osmonds - from the front table no less. We've also seen Wayne Newton (he kissed my Mom, it was a hoot), Bill Cosby, George Wallace (the comedian, not the politician) and various versions of the Supremes and Temptations with at least some of the original members, and at least one show that featured some topless showgirls which was horribly embarrassing to be seeing with my parents. This summer, my nephew and I even got to see the one year anniversary performance of the Cirque du Soleil show Love with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr in the audience too.

One would think that as often as Mom and Dad go that they are some type of high rollers, but that really isn't the case at all. My Mom is more into playing the penny slots, and Dad just likes to enjoy relaxing in the spa area or enjoying a cup of coffee while people watching.

But, since they have been going to Vegas and staying at the Flamingo Hotel exclusively since the 1960s, they are elite level members of the hotel frequent stayer/player program, and therefore they are offered all kinds of free rooms, free entry into slot machine tournaments and many other assorted comps. So - they can get there free, stay there free, eat free and play free. So it is basically cheaper than staying home. (Here they are enjoying the free breakfast buffet.)

They left late Christmas afternoon on their most recent trip, and I decided that if I took a vacation day Friday, I could leave after work on Thursday and join them for a 24 hour mini-vacation. I was a little worried about getting there, as there were no standbys getting on any of the earlier flights to Vegas, but I lucked out and arrived in time for the one flight that had plenty of room for us all. I even got the coveted bulkhead seat and an empty seat next to it. Which was great, because my knee was killing me after walking all the way to Gate A2 at the end of the concourse terminal. (Why is my flight always at the last gate?)

By the time I arrived, I found out that my parents had run into my best Delta friend Glenda and her husband Larry.

Glenda and I have talked about making a trip to Vegas at the same time for years, and it never worked out. And yet, without knowing it, we both ended up there at the same time and stumbled across each other randomly. We were even on the same flight coming back home, where we all got in first class (YAY!) which hardly ever happens anymore.

Mom won $50 in the tournament, but that was about the only luck we had gambling. But, you really aren't gonna get rich playing penny slots anyway. But it is still nice to dream.

We took the midnight flight home, and arrived in Atlanta at about 6:30 in the morning, and I was fast asleep by 7:00. And for the most part, I've pretty much been asleep since then. So maybe this post should have been named "24 Hours in Vegas, followed by 24 Hours in Bed."

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas Nanny Bug

In my childhood, most of our holiday activity centered around my grandmothers. On Christmas Eve Night, we would go to my maternal grandmother's house for a potluck dinner and opening of presents. Then, early Christmas morning, after Santa came, we would load up and go to my father's mother's home and have Christmas breakfast.

My grandmothers were as opposite as opposite could be. They loved me, they loved each other, and both were the most awesome ladies ever, but they had very different ways of doing things. Whereas Mom's mom (Cleo) could take or leave the holidays and having 20 people running around her house, Dad's mom (Nanny Bug) was the ultimate hostess. She thrived on having a house full of guests, each of whom she would wait on hand and foot as if they were the only person around. At Cleo's, you made yourself at home, got your own glass (usually a converted jelly jar) for the iced tea that you would pour yourself. But at Nanny Bug's house, you had no idea where the glasses were even located. Such was her style.

Breakfast on Christmas at Nanny Bug's house was a huge deal. As a kid, I hated having to get up so early and leave all my Christmas booty behind to go to her house. But as I got older, I came to appreciate all that went into preparing and presenting that meal, and enjoyed spending the time with my cousins, who I rarely saw during the year.

At Nanny Bug's house, there was no "Kid's Table." We all sat at the dining room table and we all ate off of her good Lenox Christmas china with the Reed and Barton silver. She made every food imaginable - eggs scrambled, fried, boiled, poached. There was bacon, ham, sausage (both patties and links), grits, oatmeal, hash browns, assorted fruits, pancakes, toast made from every type of bread, jams and jellys galore, English muffins, bagels, and angel biscuits to die for. And red eye gravy. It is basically ham grease and coffee, which sounds pretty gross, but it was sooooo very awesome. Pretty much - if even one of us had a favorite breakfast food, she would make it for that meal. And she cooked every single bit of it all by herself with no outside help from anyone.

As I struggle to complete my one dish this year (sweet potato souffle - Nanny Bug's recipe), I can't even fathom how she did it all and made it seem so effortless.

Merry Christmas, Nanny Bug. I love you and I miss you.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

New Christmas Tradition??

This year, most of my friends and family have had a tough time financially. Between divorces, new business start-ups, pay cuts, new home purchases, etc. taking the time and money to go out and purchase Christmas gifts for each other was a little tough to think about. So one of my friends (either Scott or Doug, not sure which) came up with the idea that among our group of 7 friends and neighbors, we would instead all get together, go out and have a fabulous meal at a nice restaurant and that would be our gift to ourselves and each other.

The restaurant chosen was The Hil at Serenbe. Serenbe is a new (way swanky) community about 35 miles south of Atlanta. It has sort of a Stepford Wives feel to it. But in a good kind of way. If that makes sense.

The road down to Serenbe is completely dark and foreboding. And it was raining. So of course, we would end up making a wrong turn and find ourselves on a creepy road, complete with a small, dark church, which only freaked us out a little more. (Shades of Peters Road and Devil's Church from my teenage years.) Doug kept talking about how if this was a B-Movie, that the audience would at this point be shouting "Turn around, turn around." So, as would happen, almost the minute those words were out of his mouth, we suddenly hit the end of the paved road and found ourselves bumping along on a dirt road in the woods, all frantically searching for one of three cell phones in the car that hopefully still had a signal. (I won - yeah Cingular/AT&T).

Fortunately, we all made it out alive and dinner was awesome. My steak was done to perfection, the dessert fabulous, heck, I even partook of wine and cocktails - something that I rarely do. (Thank God for Photoshop - I was able to tone down the red in my nose in this shot of Todd and myself.)

Yes, a wine glass was broken by someone in an overly enthusiastic toast, but really, with this group it isn't actually a good party until someone breaks something. And while I'll not say who broke the glass, I will provide a hint.

Our total bill was over $400, which I think may have been a record for the group. But, it was still cheaper than trying to find 6 gifts for a group of people with exceptionally good (and expensive) taste. Plus I still have leftovers, so tonight's dinner was covered.

Anyway, here is the group following dinner (minus Scott, who took the picture, but is pictured above, giggling with Doug.) It was raining and we were outside in the dark, so the quality sort of sucks. Someone may have had too much to drink - can you guess who?

If you guessed all of us, you would probably be correct.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

12 of 12

So what is "12 of 12" you might ask? It is sort of a blog photo essay of your daily routine on the 12th of each month. The idea was created by Chad Darnell, an associate of My Cousin Bonnie (MCB).

I'm really proud of myself for doing this, because this time yesterday I didn't even know how to use my new digital camera. But I managed to take the pictures, upload them and post them, all in 1 day. That may not impress most people under 30, but it was big day for me.

So - welcome to my boring day.

7:50 a.m. - Today is trash day. Here is a lovely shot of my Love and Wealth areas (i.e. my one car garage and trash can.)

7:52 a.m. – Arriving at the office. Man, that was a Hell of a commute. If I hadn’t caught the light at the corner of Rainey and Virginia Ave, I’d have been here in 1 minute instead of 2.

8:10 a.m. – Once I get signed on and settled in, I try to read my emails. Among my big important messages of the morning – my daily horoscope. Here was today's:

A good day unfolds before you, expanding as far as your eye can see. Your day is full of tasks you can easily complete and coworkers who charm you. Envision moving up the ladder for even better views.

We'll see.

9:30 a.m. – This is my office mate MB (not to be confused with MCB). He was a little hesitant about having me take his picture for my blog. But once I explained the 12 of 12, and how my daily point of view of him is usually the back of his head anyway, he sort of got in to it. So, much like those reality shows on MTV, this shot was staged/recreated for the camera.

12:35 p.m. – Lunch with my some of my team at the new Quiznos. I had the Prime Rib & Peppercorn. MB ordered the Black Angus, but asked for the Black Agnes by mistake. It did not go unnoticed, or unridiculed.

12:55 p.m. – Pulling out of the parking lot of the restaurant, I noticed the Boyd Tire Man statue. He has been in this location for as long as I can recall. I think that he got a new paint job, cause he looked very shiny and new.

12:57 p.m. – Since we pass my neighborhood on the way back from lunch, I always like to drive by and grab my mail so that I don’t have to go out and get it when I get home in the evening. I think that when I took a picture of my open mailbox, my coworkers CG and HF were finally convinced that I was a lunatic.

4:11 p.m. – I always need a little caffeine boost near the end of the day, so I usually take a couple of minutes to run up to the 5th floor breakroom for some fresh ice and a Diet Coke. This breakroom is on the top floor of our building and has the best view of Delta headquarters and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Even though I’ve lived in the shadow of this airport my entire life, I am still amazed every time I see an airplane take off – especially the larger aircraft like a 777 or 747.

The hours between 5:30 and 6:30 pm are photo-free. I had water therapy on my knee at the pool this evening, but I wasn’t about to take my new camera into the gym. Also, there will be no photographic evidence of me in a swim suit.

6:47 p.m. - Home from the gym, and checking the front porch for any Christmas deliveries from Amazon. Woo hoo! Looks like I have one!

7:38 p.m. - Our office Christmas lunch is tomorrow, and we each have to bring an ornament as a gift. Here is mine. Thank you Pier One.

9:20 p.m. - Watching some TV while folding laundry. Weeee - will the fun and excitement of my life never end. (I think that is Sherri and Barbara on The View. )

10:15 p.m. - Laundry all folded and put away, and now I can relax for a little while. This is my new heating pad for my knee. My old one melted in the microwave last week (I used the Hell out of it the last 8 weeks since the surgery). Of course, they had to go and "improve" the one I had, and the new version I purchased isn't as good. Plus, it smells like tomato soup when it is hot.

11:27 p.m. - Looking over my nephew's Amazon wishlist to see if I've got him covered for the holiday. Still having a hard time with my niece though. She is about to turn 13, so that should explain it pretty well. I like this picture because in one fell swoop I managed to give a photo shout out to several friends and family via the photo board on my desk. See if you can find yourself.

BONUS PIC: The theme for the month is the word "Believe." That sort of made me think of church, especially this time of year. This particular church is the Christ Church in the city of Hapeville. I passed it around 1:00 p.m., on the way back from lunch. I believe that I'm gonna get married in that church one day. So I guess that the word ties in several ways.

So there you have it. My boring day.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Why my Love Life is a One Car Garage

I’ve long been a dabbler in Feng Shui. And by dabbler, I mean that I own 47 unopened books on the subject and can correctly pronounce the term.

Recently, I discovered an HGTV show centered around the teachings of Feng Shui called Fun Shui. In it, the host Stephanie McWilliams does Feng Shui focused redesigns on people's homes in order to help them improve certain areas of their life. Then, they follow up with them a few months later to see if it helped.

The show inspired me to actually crack open a few of the books and learn a little more than the few things I that I do know - like not having your bed positioned with your feet pointing towards the door because it drains your energy, or that clutter is bad because it blocks your progress. (I seem to have a lot of blocked progress in the floor of my bedroom closet and surrounding my desk.)

In Feng Shui, there is a map, or bagua, that you place over your house plan that shows what is controlled by different zones of your home. You place the map based on where your front door is located.

My house is rectangular with the front door in the exact middle of the front wall (career zone), so it seemed pretty straightforward. Based on this, I came to the conclusion that the Wealth area of my home was in my living room, and most specifically in the corner where my TV is located. I thought this was kind of neat – maybe a sign that I would one day soon earn my wealth in connection with TV, possibly working on that sitcom I always dreamed of writing. This would also put the Love area of my home where my reading and office area is located – so maybe I should consider signing up for an online dating service, since my computer was located in the Love area.

Then I read more.

It seems, anything that falls behind the front door and is covered by the roof is part of the map. So, if you have a piece of your house that juts out, then that expands the entire square or rectangle to include that area and any other area outside of your home that would fall in the square if you completed it based on the outer edges of the jutted out piece. Which means that my garage at the back of the house is part of the house, and therefore, its outer edges cause the back deck, adjoining grassy area, and parking pad to also become part of my home for the purposes of Feng Shui.

Basically, that means that my Wealth area is where I keep my garbage can, and my Love area is a one car garage with a bunch of old, dusty clutter in the corner.

This explains sooooooo much.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Midseason Premiere

Having spent the better part of the last few weeks recovering from knee surgery, spending etra time at work to make up the time missed while recovering from said surgery, and dealing with no less than 3 severe migraines in a 10 day period, most of my non-sleeping/non-working down time has taken place in front of the shiny box in my living room instead of the shiny box on my desk. Hence, no new blogs for the last week or so. But never fear – I’m back with new episodes – I mean posts.

My TiFaux (fake DirecTV DVR that is not made by TiVo) holds 100 hours of TV. Other than the added capacity, I’m really not fond of this version – I miss the “Bloop-Bloop” noise that real TiVo makes. And while real TiVo will record shows that it thinks you might like, TiFaux will sometimes unrecord things all on its own - without my asking it to and when it doesn’t need the room for other things. Somehow, I feel like it is passing judgment on me and the shows that I watch. And really, I already have Tony for that.

So anyway, I was quickly approaching the 100th hour mark on the TiFaux, so I had to get to watching some things. And so, after consuming about 40 hours of TV over the last few days, here are some random, TV related thoughts I’ve pondered and concerns I'd like to address:

1. If your network has a reality show that votes someone out weekly (like Project Runway), and you are going to present this week’s episode multiple times during the week (like Project Runway), can you please not run commercials of the next week’s show featuring prominently the person you are trying to make us think is going to be voted off at the end of this week’s show in the middle of the show? (uh-hum Project Runway.)

2. It seems that the product placement toy of choice for CIA spies (Chuck), FBI agents (Without a Trace), Time-Traveling reporters (Journeyman) and Private Investigating Vampires (Moonlight) is the iPhone. Also, while I don't have one, and therefore am not sure of the inner workings, I do wonder if previously mentioned Time-Traveler could have really gotten the main menu screen on his iPhone to appear while in 1983? Also, why does the Vampire PI keep his own name and address listed in his iPhone (under his actual name and not as "Home") so that the bad guy of the week can locate him?

3. Katherine Heigl is way, way, way overrated. Chandra Wilson and Sara Ramirez have more talent in their little toes.

4. Why do cop dramas cheap out on the props when it comes to photos of suspects or lost people? Lately, it always seems that the photo shown to ask “Have you ever seen this person?” is just a repurposed headshot. The character can be a meth addict that has lived in a box in the sewer for the last 7 years, and the photo shown by the FBI agent (now displayed on her iPhone) looks like the person took time out of their busy meth schedule, came up from the sewer, had five hours of hair and makeup done, and then went to Olan Mills. (They probably found a coupon for a package deal while dumpster diving.) But so far, nothing beats the one I just got finished watching where the criminal’s file was pulled from police records, and the mug shot was done in black and white, with the subject’s face tilted to the left to show his good side, and “NY State Prison ID #” taped over the bottom of the photo border where the actor’s name is usually found.

5. When did Pumpkin Orange become an acceptable, and apparently attractive to some, skin tone?

6. While I really enjoy The Closer, and I think Kyra Sedgewick is a wonderful actress, that fake Southern accent drives me nuts. No one from the Metro Atlanta area (which is where her character is said to be from) really sounds like that. Maybe some people from Macon or Madison might sound that way, but even then, there is a bit of put on to it. I will, however, give them credit that in the most recent episode, when Brenda went to visit her parents in Roswell, they pronounced the name of the city correctly. Unlike last season's show Vanished, set in Atlanta, where none of the characters could manage to correctly pronounce Roswell, Dekalb, or Ponce de Leon. Also, they kept calling our highways things like "The 20" or "The 285" instead of "I-20" or "The Perimeter."

7. Half of my favorite shows are imports on BBCA. So, how come whenever I go to London or Edinburgh, the only things I see on TV over there are 6 month old episodes of American TV shows like Desperate Housewives or The Simpsons? When and where do they actually show their own shows?
8. Hereos, why did you tease me last season with Christopher 'Freakin" Eccleston (Doctor Who #9) and then never let us see him again. (Never mind that his super power is invisibility - he's just not there at all.) That was kind of mean on your part. But I will forgive you just a touch for giving me David Anders (LMS Sark).

9. Kal Penn sounds more like the name of a college or a prison, rather than the name of a person.
10. I really hate Saleisha’s make-over haircut on ANTM. When they dressed the girls up as plants and flowers for one photo shoot, I felt sure that they would have her be a mushroom – I mean, what else was there for her to be with that haircut? Since we are down to the final four this week, I'm hoping for a photo shoot with the girls dressed as the four main characters from Facts of Life, since Saleisha is looking pretty Tootie-licous with that hairdo.

11. I enjoyed seeing all the Buffy Alum as guest stars on various shows last week. I got Spike on Without a Trace, Xander on Criminal Minds, and Oz on Grey's Anatomy, all in the same week. (Also loved finding out that Roy from The Office played the demon Skip on Angel.)

12. While I've never really watched Dancing with the Stars, that doesn't mean that I don't have an opinion. It has occurred to me that the female ‘stars’ of DwtS are at a distinct disadvantage. I think that there have been about 5 or 6 seasons of this show and a woman only won once (and that was protested because the public liked the man star better, so they had a rematch and reawarded the tacky prize to the him.) But as they say about Ginger Rogers, she did everything Fred Astaire did, just backwards and in high heels. Therefore, the female celebrities must work twice as hard as the male celebrities in learning the dances. And people are more likely to notice if the female messes up, so that means that she is sort of being judged up against the female professional dancer rather than the male celebrity.

13. I wish that sometimes, on The View, that they would actually read the whole news story and remember the details before putting it up for discussion in the Hot Topics. Today they brought up Jennifer Love Hewitt being angry in relation to a photo taken of her in a bikini while on vacation. Right away, without taking a moment to even learn the details of what occurred, Whoopi started in on the whole, "You are a celeb, that's part of the deal, live with it you idiot" rant which would apply to some, but not in this case. The actual issue was regarding JLove being appalled that the media and bloggers were calling her fat because she is a freakin size 2 instead of a size 0. So, she actually had a point about how there is something messed up with that. (and somehow, in the midst of the discussion of JLove's ass, Joy still managed to somehow segue to her daily "I hate George Bush and/or the Republicans" comment.)

14. If you take all of the HD-friendly, brightly colored scenery shots, the lengthy bits featuring the lab techs snipping the ends off of Q-Tips and putting them in the spinners to music, and the overly emotional montage done to a plaintive song by the emo band of the month out of CSI:Miami, the whole show - plot and dialogue - would last about 7 minutes. And 4 of those minutes would be David Caruso saying. something. really. slow. and. emotion. less. and. then..........................taking. his. sunglasses. off.

15. The only thing funnier than watching SNL or MadTV spoofing the excitement of an Oprah audience is watching the real thing. Oprah had her Favorite Things episode recently, and I thought I would fall out of my chair laughing at the woman doing the Hands in the air, Palms up, Praise the Lord over the $18.00 William Sonoma Measuring Cups (They also come in REEEEEEDDDD - Thank you Jesus!)

This list could go on forever (40 hours of TV people!) but I think I'll stop for now. I need my rest. But stay tuned for more JoniBlog after these messages.