Thursday, November 29, 2007

K-State Football Game

On November 24th Jay, Kendall, Nicole, Grandma and I got up bright and early and drove to Frenso, CA (about a 3 hour drive each way) to see K-State play Frenso State. It was my first college football game and although I admit I'm not an avid college football follower (I just don't have time to devote every Saturday to watching football all day long) it was fun and exciting to be there, watching the game live. Jay played football for K-State and is bordline obsessed with college football. He tells me he's gotten much better and I should have seen him before he lighted up but I still think he's over the top. Because of this, I was terrified of them losing the game and as a result, living with a man in mourning for a week or more. However, he was prepared for them to lose and said that he would not be in mourning, even if they got their tails kicked. We got there and it was a sea of red shirts and hats. Talk about feeling like the minority! Fortunately, Jay ordered the tickets off of K-State's website, so we were seated in the K-State section. We had one purple section in the entire stadium. I only feared for my life once when I made the mistake of going to the bathroom without any purple support and an avid Fresno fan started shaking a poster in my face and screaming at me to go home. I made it safely back to the purple section and made sure I always had support whenever I had to leave the safety zone again. K-State did not win the game, I stopped taking pictures of the scoreboard after the 1st quarter, but we still managed to have a good time. They started off great and we thought they might surprise us but after the first quarter ended, they just could not hang onto the ball. It didn't help that the referees through out a flag every time a Wildcat looked the wrong way but wouldn't penalize the Bulldogs no matter what they did. We did come back in the end an score a couple more touchdowns just so we were not completely humiliated. The final score was 45-29. Jay kept his word and took it in stride and it was a great day of family fun. The cheerleaders did a great job of keeping us pumped and Willie got the crowd (if you call one tiny section a crowd) roaring. I feel a new sense of pride for Jay's Wildcats and might even sit down with him to watch next season. Ok, I might be doing Scrapbooking while we're watching the game, but I will cheer my heart out for my man, and his team.

Thanksgiving 2007

Well, like most well-planned events, things didn't turn out exactly as we had planned for Thanksgiving this year. We originally thought we'd be expecting about 15, then cousin Kate wasn't able to make it, so we were down to 13, then Jay's friend Alicia from work who doesn't have any family here was asking about our plans, so we invited her and we were back up to 15, then Alicia's mom called and offered to pay her way to go home so we were back down to 13 again. We confirmed with everyone and bought enough food and table coverings and fake-out dishes and "silverware" (I found the coolest stuff at Costco, it literally looked like real silver and china but was all disposable) and picked up a 20 pound turkey at Costco the day before Thanksgiving. We were prepared for the worst when we got to Costco - no parking, long lines, cranky people, turkeys all picked over and we were shocked! We got out of there in less than 20 minutes and only ran into one rude woman who took up two lanes with her shopping cart because she could not decide which lane she wanted to be in until she determined which line was moving faster. Anyway, aside from her, it was a rather pleasant experience :). We got up Thanksgiving morning and started getting ready and at around 9:00 the phone rang and it was Aunt Xenia telling me that Uncle Ken had a relapse (he's been sick for over a week) and they wouldn't be able to make it. We were really sad, but after a few tears, I decided I wasn't going to let it ruin my Thanksgiving. I promptly called the neighbors to invite them to join us. We were short 6 and they have 6 people and Holly had been sick for 2 weeks and split her hand open the day before while Nicole was over there and had to be rushed to the hospital, so we figured it was the least we could do for them. We had seating for 14 and food for about 20 and they needed a break. I called & left a message in the morning and when we didn't hear from them for a few hours, I figured Holly was probably not up to going anywhere, even across the street. I know they had ordered a turkey dinner from Albertson's so they wouldn't be starving. So, we were back down to 7 (Jay, Kendall, Nicole, Sharon, Dad, Valerie, and myself) so we were able to squeeze around one table instead of having 3 tables set up to seat everyone. We had a great day, all in all. Dad & Jay watched plenty of football, the girls played lots of board games, Val and I worked hard getting all the food prepared while my Dad helped set the table and ran back and forth from the trash about 50 times, Jay carved the turkey and we sat down at about 3:30 for dinner. After dinner Jay and I went and picked up a couple of pies from Albertson's. We got the Claim Jumper apple pie, which takes about an hour to bake but I'm telling you it is the BEST store bought pie you will ever taste and an Albertson's pumpkin pie and then came home and put the apple pie in the oven while we played Mexican train and waited for our food to settle before desert. After desert Dad & Val let the girls open their stocking stuffers and presents from them and they left at around 10:00.

No, the day didn't go exactly as planned, but I spent a lot of time focusing on all I have to be thankful for. I have the most amazing family in the world, the best friends a woman could ask for, a roof over my head, food on the table, my husband has job security (even if I am having a heck of a time finding a job for myself around here), we are blessed with good health, freedom, God's love, this beautiful planet and so much more. I personally think that every day should be Thanksgiving, for no matter what trials we are faced with, if we focus instead on our blessings, we will realize how rich we are indeed.

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Christmas came a little early for Kendall & Nicole this year. Since they spent last Christmas with us, it's their Mom's turn to have them so we celebrated while Nicole & Grandma were here. We decided if we're going to have Chrsitmas early, we needed to make it look like Christmas around here so we were the first in our neighborhood to hang lights and the first in the country to put up our Christmas tree! We had the tree up and decorated before Thanksgiving. We all had a really nice time decorating together. We put on some Christmas music and the 5 of us trimmed the tree. Jay and Nicole took care of the outside decorations while Grandma and I decorated the inside while Kendall was at school. Since Nicole was leaving on the 25th and we wanted the girls to have their Christmas together, they celebrated with Grandma and Grandpa Willett on Thanksgiving and on the Friday following Thanksgiving we had our Christmas with them and Grandma. The girls got to cross several items off of their wish lists (new boots, comforter, DVD's, CD's, jewelry, candy, PJ's, devotionals, Bratz slumber party, Bible cover, the list goes on) and it was so nice to be able to open presents with Grandma instead of having to ship the gifts off and discuss later over the phone. Grandma got Jay and I a new router so we no longer lose internet connection 10 times a day (thank you!) and I got some yummy body cream and Jay got some new cologne. We got Grandma a picture frame and mat with the letters G-R-A-N-D-M-A with cut-outs for photographs and printed out pictures from her stay here so she will have lasting memories. We sure wish the girls could be here on December 25th, but it was nice to have them for Thanksgiving, so it's a trade-off. And, at least we were able to celebrate together, no matter the date!

Annual Knott's Weekend 07

For the last 7 years, Jay has been taking the girls to Knott's Berry Farm for one weekend in November. Knott's honors our service men & women by allowing them and one guest free entrance into the park during the month of November. Additional tickets are only $12.50 so it's a wonderful deal and we love deals! My first trip with the Ketchums was in 2004 and we had a wonderful weekend. Chrissi was able to join us that weekend and the following year Sandi & Nana and Sam & TJ all came for part of the day. This year, we had the pleasure of Grandma Ketchum's company on our trip. We drove down to LA on Friday (the 16th) and picked up Miss Nicole from the airport and stopped at Claim Jumper for dinner and then it was on to the Knott's hotel. I must saying staying in one hotel room with all 5 of us provided many memories :). Apparently, Grandma Ketchum is quite the snorer and provided us with lots of entertainment on Friday night. We all managed to get to sleep (with Kendall in the sleeping bag on the floor) and woke up in the morning and headed to the park. We got there just in time to hear the National Anthem and started out at Camp Snoopy. The weather was perfect and the lines were not outrageous. We kept up our fast pace up until about 1:30 when we headed over to TGI Fridays right outside the park for a nice, relaxing lunch. The wait was about 45 minutes, but it was worth it to sit down and be served rather than standing in line at a hot dog stand inside the park. We got Grandma on the Mexican Hats and Jaguar and the Dragon Swing and just about wore her out! We were pretty tired by the end of the day so we decided to pick up Mrs. Knott's Chicken to Go and bring it back to our room. Jay and the girls and Grandma had never had Mrs. Knott's chicken and none of us were willing to wait 3 ours for a table to Grandma and the girls headed back to the room to start showers while Jay and I picked up dinner and headed back and ate in the comfort of our room. I assumed that we were all so exhausted that sleeping would not be a problem but there was a Christmas party going on somewhere in the floor above us so the ceiling was vibrating and we were sure we'd be up all night. We all put our heads on the pillows (with Nicole on the floor this time) and sometime during the night I woke up and saw Jay heading toward the bed shoving toilet paper into his ears. I, of course assumed it was because of Grandma's symphony but apparently Nicole and I joined her and he couldn't take it anymore. Equipped with inventive ear plugs he managed to get to sleep and we got just enough rest to get us through day #2. We got up and went over to the bakery outside of Knott's and picked up breakfast to go and sat on some picnic tables before we headed into the park. We decided to hit the big roller coasters before the lines got too long so we started with the Silver Bullet and then over to The Exelerator. Grandma and Kendall didn't join us on either ride and Nicole skipped the Exelerator but they patiently waited for us on the "other" side. Grandma got pretty worn out on Saturday so she wasn't up for much on Sunday but she was a great sport and extremely patient with all of us dare devils! The park closed early on Sunday so we did our souvenier shopping on our way out and made it to Valencia before we stopped for a first class dinner at McDonald's. By the time we got home we were all walking zombies, but we had a wonderful time and will be ready to hit it again by next November.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Colorado Springs

Jay and I spent 6 days in Colorado Springs. Jay had to attend some meetings on Sunday and a leadership conference on Monday and we decided I should go with him this trip. We left on Saturday afternoon out of the Santa Maria airport and had about a 2 hour layover at LAX before landing in Colorado Springs around 8:15. Kendall was staying with the neighbors so we dropped her off before we left, said our goodbyes and started on our way. The travel went smoothly - all flights on time, luggage arrived in reasonable condition, all in all a great travel day. We checked in at Peterson Air Force Base and got settled in. I had never stayed in base lodging before and I must say I was very impressed! We had a nice room complete with a mini fridge, microwave, 2 sets of dishes, TV, VCR, DVD player, desk, free Internet access and a reasonably comfortable bed. After we checked in, we went to the Fox & Hound Pub & Grille for some appetizers. We weren't hungry enough to get a full meal and liked the look of the place from the outside so we stopped in. We ended up having a blast. They had retro videos playing on huge screens and the staff was extremely attentive. It was a great way to end our first day.

Sunday Jay only had to work a half day so I waited for him to get back before going out. I just hung out in the room in the morning and checked my email and watched The Today Show and sipped coffee with eggnog (don't you just love eggnog in coffee?) Or is that just me....Jay got back around 11:30 and we went and had lunch at Jason's Deli. Jay ate there often when he was at Space 300 and couldn't wait to take me there. I was picturing this little walk up deli but this place was huge! They must have 50+ different types of sandwiches, a full salad bar and an ice cream bar. I had a ham & swiss on rye and Jay had something with bacon on a croissant and tons of cheese. After lunch we walked next door to Archiver's, which is a scrapbooker's dream. I picked up a calendar and we walked around the store for a while and I decided I was definitely coming back on Monday while Jay was working. Next Jay showed me around town a little bit and we went to the mall and did some Christmas shopping for the girls. We ended up just getting some stocking stuffers, but it was a good start. We had dinner that night at The Rock Bottom Brewery. Another great restaurant! The staff was nice and attentive and they had probably a dozen different beers on the menu. I wasn't real hungry after having such a big lunch so I just had a side salad and a side of baked beans (yum!) and Jay had some steak medallions with mushrooms and a wine sauce. I had a bite and it was amazing!

Monday was Jay's conference so I dropped him off and took the car for the rest of the day. We had a great rental car! It was a Hyundai Azera and I used to drive a Hyundai and it was nothing like this car. It had leather heated seats, a sunroof, a 6 CD changer along with XM radio (I'm now hooked, thank you very much), dual climate control so that that passenger and driver don't have to agree on the temperature, a sun shade for the rear windshield that contracts when you put the car in reverse (how cool is that?) and it handled beautifully.

After I dropped Jay off I went back to the room and showered and had more coffee with eggnog and then went back to Archiver's for a 12 month calendar class. The class was scheduled from 11-2 and we were supposed to complete all 12 months. Well, we only got to June by 2:00 and the instructor told us the class was over and she would prepare the supplies we needed and we could come back at any time to complete our calendars and use their stamps, ink, etc. Well, coming back anytime wasn't really going to work for me, seeing as how I live in California and all so I ended up having to buy a pack of stamps, 2 pens, 3 ink pads, calendar stickers, and glue and had to go back again to use a couple of their punches that I don't have at home. So, my $22 calendar class ended up costing me around $60. That's one expensive calendar, but I did enjoy the class and I learned a lot so in the end it was worth it. I got a lot of great ideas and it was a fun way to spend my afternoon. After the class I went to the mall and grabbed a quick bite and did a little bit of shopping until Jay called & said he was ready for me to pick him up. I drove to the base and picked him up and he took me to see the Air Force Academy Chapel. I had never seen anything like it. I can only imagine what it looks like in the daylight with the sun shining through the stained glass. There are actually 4 chapels - a Protestant, Catholic, Jewish & Buddhist. It's really a sight to behold, the photos don't do it justice.

Oh deer!
After leaving the Academy we went back to the room so he could change and we went to Old Chicago's for dinner & to watch Monday night football. I actually felt like I was in Chicago, the pizza was amazing!!!! We had a stuffed Chicago 7 pizza and it was so huge I could only eat one piece. Well, a side salad, a slice of cheese bread, 2 pepperoni pinwheels and 1 slice of pizza. So, we were on vacation, ok? We had a great time and the game was intense!

Tuesday Jay was off so we got up and he took me to black forest to look at some neighborhoods. It's right at the base of the mountains and absolutely gorgeous. We looked at homes that we can't afford and then drove to a new community where they are building homes that we can afford. It's amazing what you can get for your money in the Springs. A 3800 square foot home on a golf course in a brand new community is less than $350,000. We did some dreaming and then went and had lunch at Panera Bread and then went to visit the Focus on the Family Campus and take a guided tour. I had no idea that they had so many ministries and so much to offer there. They have a huge downstairs play land for the kids with a 3 story slide, theatre, library, cafe, jungle gym, costumes, you name it. We got there close to closing time so we took the tour and then walked around for about 20 minutes and then headed to the bookstore, which stayed open 30 minutes after the visitor's center closed.

Unfortunately, throughout the day I started feeling bad and things went from bad to worse. We were staying at the Academy for the last part of the trip and by the time we got back to the Academy, I could barely walk. I had a fever complete with aches & chills and we stopped and got some Tylenol Cold at the BX and I took it immediately. I was hoping it would kick in and I would start feeling better but things only got worse. I had to spend the rest of the night in bed grabbing extra covers when I was shivering and throwing them off when I would start to sweat. I felt bad for Jay, here we were with a couple of days alone and I was in bed sick. He went ahead and went out to get something to eat while I stayed in and watched The Biggest Loser and felt sorry for myself. The good news is that I sweat it all out and by morning I was feeling much, much better. That, and I hardly ate at all that day. That's about the only good thing about getting sick on vacation!

Wednesday we got up and went to The Egg & I for breakfast. We'd seen a couple of them while driving through town and our curiosity got the better of us. We had a nice, relaxing breakfast and then headed out to The Garden of the Gods. It was amazing. They have over a dozen red rock formations and they are breathtaking. The sky was a magnificent blue in the background and the weather was perfect. We watched a short film and learned that the land is actually city owned rather than a National Park and it's all non-profit. They only way they make money is the $2 admission for the film, donations and sales in the gift shop. We saw some climbers tackling one of the formations and did quite a bit of walking. Check out if you are interested in learning more.

After we left the Garden of the Gods we headed over to the Citadel mall for some more Christmas shopping. We found a few more stocking stuffers for the girls and a great gift for Grandma Ketchum that we hope she'll love! After the mall we went downtown to the Phantom Canyon Brewery for dinner. The place has great atmosphere and is set downtown amongst a bunch of restaurants and mysterious alleys. I had fish and chips and Jay had wild mushroom enchiladas. After dinner, Jay tested my adventurous side and took me to a cigar bar down a deep dark alley. There was no signage, just a purple light. I assumed we'd have to know some secret code word to get in and he opened the door and I stood back in hesitation. When he opened the door there it was, a quaint, dimly lit cigar bar filled with people from all walks of life and leather sofas in the corner. We sat and visited for a while and then called it a night.
On Thursday we got up and packed all of our things and went back to Panera Bread for some lunch and then went to an Imax movie called "Monsters of the Deep." It was a good show, scary enough to make us close our eyes a few times, but interesting enough to keep us engaged. After the movie we headed to the airport. Our flight was delayed and we didn't make it back into Santa Maria airport until 11:45 but nevertheless we were glad to be home.
Kendall had a great time with the neighbors. She watched the house for us while we were gone, picked up the mail, took the trash cans out on Tuesday night, did laundry and some light cleaning and we are told she was a joy to be with. We were so proud of how responsible she was. When we got home, we gave her a thank you card and the movie Ratatouille that she had on the top of her Christmas list.
We're tired, our bodies are thrashed, but it was good to spend some time alone together in God's country. There's no place like home, but sometimes it takes being away from home to truly make you appreciate it.


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