Sunday, November 30, 2008

Here's to Giving Thanks

The Thanksgiving holiday is officially over at our house. Right now I'm giving thanks that our house is empty of guests! We just returned from the airport, dropping off Megan and Andy for their flight back to Washington, D.C., and they were the last ones to leave. I love having company, especially for the holidays, but it is a lot of work. Planning three meals a day for four days of company is a challenge, adapting to the eight guests particular tastes and allergies. Then there is all the meal preparation and clean-up. I feel like I spent most of my time in the kitchen. Thank God it is such a beautiful place to work! We had a wonderful time overall, filled with tours of the construction at our landscape architecture company and of the composting facility (which Megan had never seen), the holiday train exhibit at the Missouri Botanical Garden (which I highly recommend), shopping, talking and playing games. It was hard to fit all of that in around cooking, eating and cleaning up. Good thing we are good at multi-tasking, so we could combine several activities together - like talking and eating, for example. Overall, we have a lot to be thankful for in our lives. Now I'm off to take down all the Thanksgiving decorations and put up the Christmas items in preparation for the SWT Christmas party on Saturday. We are doing a progressive dinner (light on the "dinner" portion), traveling to three different houses. We are the third house, so I guess I am figuring out desserts and an activity to end the evening. If I can pull it off, instead of planning games to accomodate 30 people, I am going to have everyone prepare packages to be sent off to soldiers instead. We are all blessed to be able to spend the holidays with our families, so I think it is fitting to find a way to thank the men and women who make that possible.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Strange Shipmates

I was commenting to my husband that we didn't really see anything too strange on the ship during our vacation- well, other than people trying to set new records in the Olympic sport of calorie consumption. Then he reminded me about Sparkles. Each evening as we went down to eat supper in the dining room, we spied a REALLY tall woman outfitted in a sequined gown. While two of the evenings on board were formal dress (cocktail dress for the ladies, and suit or tux for the guys), the other evenings just required dress casual for the dining area. Sparkles had a different sparkly dress for each night. Her companion on the trip was a rather small man, who was obviously out-shown by Sparkles as I can't tell you how he was dressed. When we commented on Sparkles at our evening table, a rather lively discussion ensued concerning "her" gender. One of our Scottish lasses insisted the "she" was really a "he". "You can tell by looking at the Adam's Apple," she knowingly assured us. So the next evening found the four of us looking at Sparkle's neck. Hmmmm.... Just might be a she-male after all. At any rate, this mismatched couple loved to dance! We found them frequenting the bars with dance floors. From the Wheelhouse Lounge (nicknamed the Wheelchair Lounge by the rock band) dancing to the smooth music of the jazz quartet to the Skywalkers Nightclub with its DJ and top forty playlist, you could locate them cutting the rug. Although, come to think of it, I didn't see them during country night line dancing. Maybe Sparkles couldn't find a cowboy hat to compliment her dress.

Friday, November 21, 2008

It's a Winner!

Last night was the Webster Groves Awards of Excellence Ceremony. We (well, mostly I) had submitted our addition for the architecture award. There were four categories to choose from when submitting, including craftsmanship, architecture, landscape architecture and historic preservation. In addition to the completed application, I supplied before and after photos of the house, drawings, and a narrative describing the project. I wanted to emphasize that we tried to not only ensure that the addition was architecturally sensitive to the time period of the house, but also that we were as environmentally conscious as we could be in the construction. We re-used trim, windows, doors, sinks and cabinets when appropriate. The siding for the new addition was made from cement board instead of virgin wood, and the deck is constructed of recycled plastic. During the awards ceremony, they showed slides of each project which won an award. For each category, the Honorable Mentions received a certificate and the Award of Excellence received a beautiful plaque. The best part was hearing the comments of the judges, as you could tell they really "got" what we tried to accomplish with our project. When we went up to accept our award, I said "if the kitchen is truly the heart of the home, then our kitchen was like the Grinch's - it was two sizes too small. Following completion of the addition, it grew three sizes." It seemed an appropriate analogy as we near the holiday season. As an added bonus to the evening, our landscape architecture firm, SWT Design, won an Honorable Mention for landscape architecture for their design of "BackFlip." A satisfying evening all around.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Do You Know What Day It Is?

On our way home from Ft. Lauderdale, we had a layover in Atlanta. We arrived in the A concourse and our next flight was out of the B concourse, so we took the tram to get over to B. Several people entered the tram after us, and one man was speaking aloud, I presumed to the man next to him. He was mumbling something about people not being ready, that it is not time yet, and so on. It quickly became apparent that he was talking to himself. I made the mistake of making eye contact with him. "Do you know what day it is?", he exclaimed. Pointing up in the air, he answered, "It's His day!" He began again to bemoan the fact that people aren't ready, the time isn't right...and with relief on my part, the tram came to a halt. As he exited ahead of us, I noticed the lanyard hanging around his neck - Delta Crew. I sent up a quick prayer to Him that this man would not be the pilot of our next flight!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cruise on Over to the Buffet

The worst thing about a cruise is the buffet. I don't mean the food was bad, I mean the food is bad for you. Despite the fact that we only ate the normal three meals a day, there was nothing normal about how much food I ate. I mean really, as the Cruise Director quipped, "The more you eat, the less the cruise cost you!" It's the mentality you get into - I paid for it, so I have to get my money's worth. It was mentioned that the kitchen prepared 20,000 meals per day on our cruise. Now, math is not my strong suit, but if there were 3,000 passengers on the ship, and let's say 2,000 employees, that should mean 15,000 meals would be required. Who was eating the other 5,000 meals each day? Well, I could pick out some of the people...they were the ones who hailed the elevator to take them up one floor to get to the buffet line. No stairs for them. I gained five pounds on the trip. I wonder what the average weight gain was? Just what I need, five extra pounds right before the holiday heifer-fest begins. I guess the line dance lessons and snorkeling were not enough to offset the extra calories taken in each day. All I have to say is that is was fun putting the pounds on, but it really sucks trying to get them back off.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Love Boat

There are many things to love about the newest boat in the Princess Cruise Line. We just returned from a week long western Caribbean cruise aboard the Ruby Princess on its maiden voyage. In celebration of our 30th wedding anniversary, we traveled with the couple who sang at our wedding. Paul is a fraternity brother of Jim's, Kathy graduated from high school with me, and we all attended Iowa State University. A hurricane struck Grand Cayman two days before we set sail, but the Captain simply changed the order of the islands we would see to avoid it. We set sail out of Ft. Lauderdale to Cozumel, where we enjoyed a snorkeling expedition. From there we traveled to Grand Cayman, and we really didn't see any signs of recent damage. Jim and I decided to do a submarine/snorkel excursions since our Snuba trip was canceled due to the route change. We boarded two vans which took us to the submarine. A group of Japanese tourists from our ship was also signed up for this excursion, along with their translator. We boarded the sub, which had a series of benches each seating two people running along both sides so that you had ample opportunity to look out the windows which ran from the floor to the ceiling. We headed out and our Jamaican guide was busy showing us a shipwreck, when all of a sudden he said, "We have a problem. Not a big problem...but a problem. We left the Japanese translator behind." So we had to head back to the dock to pick her up only to find that not only did they leave her behind, they forgot the whole second van! It was pretty funny. The next day found us in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. We had not scheduled an excursion here so we just went into town where we watched a native dance show, saw a woman rolling handmade cigars (and yes, it really was only tobacco), and then went to Jimmy Buffet's Mararitaville. Where I found out exactly how he came up with the lyrics "Wastin' Away Again in Margaritaville." One of their "Special Margaritas" will really knock you on your butt. Whew! Our final stop was Princess Cays, which is a private area owned by the Princess Cruise Line. There we found some great snorkeling and had barbecue.

Back to the Ruby...this ship is beautiful, and there is something special about having a cabin that no one else has inhabited, towels no one else has used, a balcony that only you have stood on. Very memorable. The food was pretty good, the decorations were gorgeous and the entertainment was exceptional. From music and dance groups, to comedians, magicians and a ventriloquist, there was something for everyone. We had selected the second seating for dining, which was at 8:15, and we were placed at a table for 8. Besides the four of us, there was an older couple from Wisconsin and two ladies from Scotland, who were just delightful.

Our trip back home from Ft. Lauderdale had a couple of interesting things occur, which I will write about later. In summary, this anniversary cruise was truly fit for a "Princess".

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Anchors Aweigh!

Tomorrow Jim and I leave for our anniversary cruise to the western Caribbean. We are traveling with two other couples who were also involved in our wedding 30 years ago. Steve and Ann are from Des Moines. Steve was a fraternity brother of Jim's, and also one of our groomsmen. Paul and Kathy are from Minneapolis, and Paul was also a fraternity brother. Kathy graduated from Hoover High School with me, and she and Paul sang at our wedding. We all graduated from Iowa State together. We have kept in touch over the years, but this will be our first time traveling together. We are all excited! We fly to Ft. Lauderdale tomorrow, and board the Ruby Princess on Saturday. This is a brand new Princess ship, and this will be the maiden voyage (fortunately there are no icebergs in the Caribbean). The itinerary takes us first to Jamaica, then on to Grand Cayman, Cozumel, and Princess Cays before heading back to Florida. There may be some glitches as this is the first trip for the crew, but who cares??? We will be in the Caribbean with some wonderful friends, and work can't touch us. It doesn't get much better than that! My sister is coming to stay at the house with Katie and Kirby. Of course, Katie believed we should leave her on her own, but since we will be out of the country I was afraid to do that in case of any emergency. Plus her schedule is so busy that we really need someone who can make sure the dog gets walked and fed. Today will be busy tidying up things for the business and picking up some last minute travel items that we need. But then tomorrow, we are out of here!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Funeral for a Friend

Kathy and I drove to Cincinnati on Thursday so that we could attend Uncle Jim's funeral. Our cousin Gene and his wife Rita are always gracious about us staying with them when we are in town. Unfortunately Rita had to go to Michigan to be with her mother, so we didn't get to see much of her. First on the agenda was supper at Skyline Chili. There is nothing like this unique local chili served over spaghetti and heaped with shredded cheddar cheese. Yum! Fortunately you can purchase dry mix or frozen chili to bring back to the uneducated St. Louis market. Friday afternoon we picked up Aunt Betty and Aunt Margie, mom's remaining two sisters, for a long lunch. We knew that Saturday would be very busy with the wake and funeral, so we wanted some time with them without the crowds. Two of our cousins were able to join us, so the six of us had a nice three hour lunch. Thank goodness for Golden Corral, as they do not care how long we occupy a table. Thank goodness for my waist line that I did not eat for the entire three hours! Cousin Gene opted for a game of golf as that was preferable to sitting with us for all that time. That worked for all as we like to have our girl talk without men's ears around. Saturday we left Gene's around 7:45 a.m. and grabbed a bite to eat on the way to the funeral parlor. The wake found the funeral home packed to capacity with Crusham relatives and friends. As Uncle Jim has an identical twin, it caused quite a stir as people would catch a glimpse of Uncle Mick and for a moment be fooled into thinking Jim was still alive. A practical joker, I think Jim would have gotten a kick out of that, though I think it was pretty emotional for the kids. Numerous photos were spread throughout the three rooms, indicative of a life filled with love of his family, friends and his country. My cousins and I lamented the fact that it seems to take a funeral to bring everyone together. Following the wake, the longest funeral procession I have ever been part of traveled to the church for the funeral. Many tears were shed as Jim's life was remembered by his children. The 12 grandchildren carried up the offertory, and each had a single carnation which was placed in a glass vase on the altar. Even the college boys in this procession cried, and their love of their grandfather was very evident. Following communion, Jim's son Jimmy spoke of his father, and ended with the declaration that he was proud to be Jim's son, which again brought everyone to tears. My poor sister had been asked to read a tribute written by Jim's twin, Mick, and it following Jimmy's talk. She mostly cried her way through it, but she did get the job done, relaying Mick's love and bond with his twin. Jim had always called Mick his "Womb Mate", which again indicated his wonderful sense of humor. Upon conclusion, there was not a dry eye in the church. We proceeded to the cemetery for a final prayer, and then to Tom Crusham's house for a buffet. Tom's daughters had put together a slide show of photos of Jim's life, which was very touching. Lots of stories were told, and being Irish, a toast was raised to the memory of a very special man. Though we are all happy he is finally released from his pain, he will be greatly missed.

On our way back to Gene's Kathy and I stopped at St. Joseph's Cemetery to visit mom and dad's graves. After that we went to see the Veteran's Memorial which was newly erected by Delhi Township. Any member of the community who served their country can have their name engraved on the memorial. I had submitted dad's honorable discharge papers to the township, and a relative had indicated that LeRoy Kubler's name is indeed on the wall. I know that if my dad were alive he would not have submitted his name for inclusion. He believed he was just doing his job in serving his country during WWII, and would not think he did anything out of the ordinary to deserve having his name on a memorial. But I know what he missed out on as he spent time first at Jefferson Barracks and then in India, not the least of which was the births of his first two children. My sister was 18 months old when he saw her for the first time. I believe dad did plenty to warrant having his name displayed in this memorial.