Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas 2010

Our Christmas started on a sad note: my parents drove up from the south, and Andrew and I drove down from the north to meet in Columbus, Georgia and bid my brother goodbye for a year as he headed to Afghanistan.  After our goodbye, we headed back up to our neck of the woods, and we waited for Christmas Eve to arrive.

I neglected to share with you guys some of our decorations this year, so here you go (descriptive, I know!)

We spent Christmas Eve night at my brother and sister-in-law's house.  My parents drove up from the south, and my SIL's mother drove over as well.  I donned my girlie apron, threw on the "Chef Ramsey" face, and Andrew and I seared the yummy diver scallops for the dinner while my mom checked on the beef roast in the oven.  Needless to say, it was a yummy Christmas Eve!

The next morning, we headed back over to my brother and SIL's house for "Christmas."  We were there for about an hour when I noticed snow flurries starting to fall.  By the time we unwrapped our gifts and loaded them in the car, it was time for us to head to Northwest Georgia for Andrew's parents' Christmas.  By the time we got up 75, the snow was accumulating, and when we got up to his parents' house, this is what we did:

Yup, that's Andrew making his snowwoman..."just right" on the hood of his dad's truck.  By the time he was done, it was one voluptuous snow-woman and Joe Average Snowman.

By the time 4pm rolled around, we knew it was time to go.  The dropping temperatures meant the melting snow and sleet would make the roads pretty darn treacherous, and knowing where we were currently would mean attempting to climb long hilly roads.  We opted to take US-41 back down south to our house as we avoided I-75 and the idiot drivers.  It took us 2 hours to get home, and it usually takes us an hour and a half, so we were okay.

Of course, our dogs had been in their crates while we were gone, and when we returned to let them out to potty, they both charged out of the open door (I had opened it while Andrew let them out.)  They stopped in their tracks once they realized there was snow and proceeded to turn into blithering idiots. 

All-in-all it was a good Christmas although my brother wasn't here this year for his short "that's what she said" or flatulence. 

Here's hoping everyone else had a safe Christmas/Hanukkah as well.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

To be grateful...

Last month, a freight forwarder that works with our company shot off a one-line e-mail from her cell phone that said she had been hit by a car.  She came in just now to wish our company a Merry Christmas, and I noticed her finger was wrapped.  Forgetting about her e-mail, she said, "well let me tell you what happened...

I was at my dad's getting his mail for him, and I was standing at the mailbox when a car came too fast around the corner (drunk? texting? who knows?)  I didn't see it, but my brother did.  He grabbed me and tried to roll off into the ditch with me, but the car ended up running over my leg and hand."

At this point, I said, "oh my gosh!  How awful! What did the driver say?"

She said she had lost all of the tips off her finger on one hand, and it had broken her leg.  The doctors thought they'd need skin grafts to repair her hand.   The "best" part...the driver never stopped.  They slowed down slightly and then kept on going. 

She said the police met them at the hospital, but they didn't even have a description of the car besides a "dark sedan."  This happened all right before Thanksgiving, and she does all of the cooking since her family is older. 

At this point, she slapped her hand down on the box of goodies and calendars she brought us, teared up, and said, "I had A LOT to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.  It could have been worse."

So when you think you're having a bad day because you have to deal with a little traffic, remember to be thankful some asshat in a dark sedan didn't run over you and keep on going.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

When Christmas Trees Attack...

Day 1:

Our canine beaver, Gidget, decided that she had never seen a pine tree before, and it startled her because as she went in to further investigate, a branch snapped back and whacked her on her rear end. She has since decided that she would NOT want to be a victim on the next "When Christmas Trees Attack," and is admiring the tree from afar.

Grimm has decided that the water in the tree stand is going to taste better than his water so he's been trying to figure out how to get his nose past the tree skirt to get a swallow. His ear will hit a sleigh bell on the tree causing it to jingle, and he's pretty sure that's the tree's alarm system and quickly retreats.

When Gidget goes to sleep at night, she now sleeps on the opposite end of the couch...farthest from the tree, and when we head to bed, she keeps sneaking glances at the tree JUST to be sure it's staying put.

Day 2:

Gidget: Gidget has decided that the little needles she found on the floor are AS CLOSE to the real thing that she wants to get. Our tree sits over in the corner of our living room by the entry way to the dining room. Instead of walking 6 feet from the living room to the kitchen through the dining room, Gidget starts to walk, thinks twice, and walks around the front of the couch, through the living room, down the hall, and into the kitchen. Sleeping spot has now been moved from the end of the couch farthest from the tree to the couch on the opposite side of the living room facing the tree. It gives her a better vantage point in case the tree comes to life again.

Grimm: Grimm is suspicious of the tree now since it took his fleece toy and grabbed his tail. Perhaps Grimm should learn NOT to toss fleece ropes into the house, and the tree wouldn't have grabbed it. Even with his delicate little mouth and his front teeth trying to lightly pull the toy off the tree, those darn alarm bells went off, and he moved out of the way for mommy to get the toy. Unfortunately, when he moved out of the way, the tree grabbed his tail (wagged it, and it got tangled in one of the branches.) Grimm proceeded to do his best statue impression for fear that if he moved, the tree would eat his tail. Mommy saved him from the tree, and his new play spot is the other couch on the opposite side of the living room, and passing into the dining room now warrants a leap.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Dog Breed Ornament FAIL!

Not only did they get the breed name wrong on the box, but the breed would have been "Pit Bull" not "Pitbull."  The breed actually shown AS a "Pitbull" is a Bichon Frise.  When I brought this to the attention of the salesperson, she said, "yeah I know."

O' [big ass] Christmas tree! O' [big ass] Christmas tree!

We had planned on doing "our Christmas stuff" last Sunday (the 13th,) but as many of you know, my Grandpa (NY) passed away, and I flew up to New York for his burial.  Our plans for this coming Sunday included driving up to NE Georgia to pick up some Christmas gifts and things we had seen for our wedding in August.

On Saturday, I took the time to clean our house and move our cedar chest to a new residence so that our Christmas tree would have a proper home (away from the heat vent and away from the fireplace.)  When I told Grimm what was going on, he decided to be a placeholder for our tree.

Andrew came home from work, and he was dead-set and determined to get a damn live Christmas tree.  Knowing that our other dog is a canine beaver, I thought a live tree would be a BAD idea, but it was "tradition," and far be it for me to balk at tradition.  We loaded up in the Tahoe, and we drove a few miles to his uncle's Christmas Tree farm (nice, right?)

We were the only ones there as we pulled up to hundreds of trees ready to be harvested for our home.  I tend to like Frasier Firs, but Andrew had Carolina Sapphires in mind.  After walking all the way to the back of the property and back up (because, Heaven forbid, we get the nice 5-1/2 ft tall Carolina Sapphire,) we chose a nice and full Carolina Sapphire.  I stood while Andrew sawed, and in a matter of minutes, we had a tree.  Andrew was dragging it like a caveman might drag his partner.  

After talking for a few minutes (and asking what the asking price was on the log cabin and 5-1/2 acres) we hoisted the tree into the Tahoe, and off we went.

A brief trip to Target later, and we were home: armed with some "filler" ornaments for our new tree.  We prepped the area, and up came our [big ass] tree.  Trees look smaller when they're standing there and minding their own business.  However, once we got it mounted in its stand, we realized our Carolina Sapphire was a whopping 7 to 7-1/2 feet tall and 5 feet in diameter at its base.  That's a big friggin' tree!  We had to stop and get more lights for it (as we didn't realize how big of a tree we were getting,) and when we were finished, we let the dogs out to investigate (they had been crated the whole time.)  
Our canine beaver decided that she had never seen a pine tree before, and it startled her because as she went in to further investigate, a branch snapped back and whacked her on her rear end.  She has since decided that she would NOT want to be a victim on the next "When Christmas Trees Attack," and is admiring the tree from afar.  Grimm has decided that the water in the tree stand is going to taste better than his water so he's been trying to figure out how to get his nose past the tree skirt to get a swallow.  His ear will hit a sleigh bell on the tree causing it to jingle, and he's pretty sure that's the tree's alarm system and quickly retreats.  

Unfortunately, both dogs know how to open gifts so our Christmas gifts are perched on our dining room table.  

Friday, December 17, 2010

Eh, what're ya gonna do? That's life!

December 21, 1926 - December 9, 2010

Pine Island, NY

George R. Jackson of Pine Island, NY, entered into rest on Thursday, December 09, 2010. He was 83 years of age.

The son of the late Christopher Jackson & Margaret (Rae) Jackson he was born on December 21, 1926 in Seaside Park, NJ.

George served in the U.S. Army during World War II and retired from Ford Motor Company.

Dad was a quiet loving man, liked doing carpentry and enjoyed being with his family, especially his grandchildren, great-granddaughter, and nephew Andy.

You could always find him sitting at the kitchen table with the coffee pot on to welcome visitors, with John Wayne Westerns playing on the TV. He was a kind hearted to do for others but would never ask for anything. We will always remember his favorite saying, What are you going to do? That's life.

Survivors include his children: Christopher Jackson and wife, Colleen of Georgia, Pamela Todman and husband, Donald of Pine Island; son, Thomas Jackson and wife, Josie of Montana; his grandchildren: Lauren St. Onge and husband, Adam, Shelby Jackson, Shane Jackson and wife, Kim, Ashley and Heather Jackson; great-granddaughter, Sidney St. Onge, and his best friend, Ed Ward and wife, Helene. He was predeceased by his wife, Gertrude Jackson; son, Rev. Bruce Jackson; two brothers and two sisters.

Visitation will be on Monday, December 13, from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m., at T.S. Purta Funeral Home, 690 County Route# 1, Pine Island, NY 10969.

Funeral mass will be held 11 a.m. on Tuesday, December 14, at St. Stanislaus Church, Pine Island, NY 10969. Burial will be immediately following in St. Stanislaus Cemetery, Pine Island.

Memorial Contributions may be made to the Pine Island Volunteer Ambulance Corps., PO Box 264, Pine Island, NY 10969.

Arrangements by T.S. Purta Funeral Home; 845-651-7711. To send a condolence online, or for directions please go to

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Does UPS have a magic phone number?

We had to change our UPS Account at work because some asshats in Jacksonville, FL were giving our account number to their customers to ship return items "Collect."  Once we got the new account, we realized we're unable to ship Hazardous Materials (we're licensed to do so.)

1. We try calling our Sales Rep.  The number listed online and on his card is an "express messaging service" in which you enter their "extension" to send a message.  Sent a message - no response.

2. We called UPS.  UPS told us that we had to contact our sales rep, or they could send an e-mail to our sales rep, but they wouldn't give us our sales rep direct telephone number...only the number from step #1 above.

3. I sent two e-mails to our sales rep asking for a phone call, visit, remedy to our issues.  Unanswered.

4. I left two more messages for our Sales Rep.  No answer.

5. I just faxed over a request for help to "ANY UPS ACCOUNT REPRESENTATIVE."  No answer.

6. I tried calling UPS again....." contact your sales rep."  I told them we had, but he's not replying, and the number listed for the local UPS offices....are direct messaging only.

I have to wonder, "does UPS have a magic phone number?"  We're now sitting 4 days behind in shipments because no one will help us.  Time to cancel our UPS account we've had for twenty years.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

You are at peace, Grandpa.

The last of my grandparents passed away earlier this afternoon.  He had my aunt and my cousin by his side.  He had suffered a heart attack yesterday afternoon, and to put it lightly, he never recovered.  He will be at peace free from his health issues and will join his wife, son, and brothers. 

I will be headed to New York sometime this weekend/next week dependent upon funeral arrangements.

Please keep my family in your thoughts and/or prayers. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Navel Oranges: neat little fruits

We went to the grocery store the other night, and it was having a sale on "Navel Oranges:" (2) 5 lbs. bags for $5.00 (Tropicana.) We decided to pick up two bags.  If ever there was a time of year for an extra boost of Vitamin C, it'd be now. 

I'll admit.  I never put much thought into Navel oranges until the other day when I looked into them.  Besides being yummy, here are some interesting facts about them (I type this as I chomp down on a succulent wedge!)

1. All Navel oranges are seedless which means they are sterile.  Basic science tells us that plants need seeds to grow, and fruit is generally produced by those seeds.  How do Navels grow then?  Cuts from the Navel tree are spliced and grafted onto other orange trees in order to produce the fruit.

2. Because splices have to occur, it could be said that Navel oranges are clones of the original Navel oranges that came into existence nearly 200 years ago! All Navel oranges, technically, come from the original tree.

3. You may have noticed another little surprise when you peel a Navel orange: a piggyback mini-orange on the bottom.  Because of this piggyback, the bottom of the Navel orange looks like a human navel...which is how the orange got its name.

4.  If you visit Riverside, California, you can see a "parent Navel tree" ( that is responsible for bringing Navel oranges to California, the state that supplies the rest of the nation with most of the Navel oranges.

I bet you didn't realize these neat tidbits when you grabbed a Navel orange for snacking. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Go Greek!

I had read online that Greek yogurt was healthier than regular yogurts and had a unique taste.  I decided to give it a try. 

I knew some peoples' version of "unique" may not sit well on my taste buds which meant that "plain" yogurt as a taste-test for Greek yogurt would be a "no go."  Instead, I went to the grocery store, and I picked up Fage Total 2% strawberry yogurt:

The first thing I noticed was the packaging.  You can't really tell in the above picture, but there are two separate compartments.  That compartmentalization is because there aren't strawberries IN the yogurt nor are they located at the bottom.  One compartment houses the Greek yogurt, and the other smaller compartment is strawberries.  Yum!

I looked at the label on the yogurt, and I noticed it had 130 calories, 2.5 g total fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 40 mg sodium, 18g carbs, and 10g protein.  Let's compare that to Yoplait's Thick n' Creamy:

Calories: 190
Total fat: 3.5g
Cholesterol: 15g
Sodium: 100 mg
Carbs: 32g
Protein: 7g

Fage's sugar is nowhere in the yogurt.  The sugar (yes, real sugar) is found in the strawberry mixture.  Yoplait uses sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup - yikes!

Right there on the label I could see the health benefits.  I opened the lid, and I immediately noticed that the Fage yogurt was creamier than regular yogurts.  It was "hard" like sour cream, and when I tasted it I knew I was hooked.

Greek yogurt DOES have its own "zing."  If you don't like sour cream, or you're used to the over-sugared yogurts, you may not like it, or it may take some getting used to.  I like sour cream.  I was fine.  The texture was thick, smooth, creamy, and definitely yummy.  I could hear my body cheer.  I dipped my spoon into the strawberry mixture and then grabbed some yogurt, and it was even better (though I later learned you're supposed to tilt the mini fruit compartment over into the yogurt.)  I think I paid $1.12 for this little 5.3 ounce  gem.

Because I liked Fage, I tried Chobani when I went to the store next.  It didn't have a compartment of fruit, it was a standard "fruit on the bottom" yogurt, but is anything but "standard."

The yogurt I chose was similar to the one above, but mine had raspberries in it instead of strawberries.  It was Chobani's Non-fat yogurt (as it was all the store had.)  Opened, mixed, and enjoyed.  It was creamy just like Fage, and because the fruit was mixed with the yogurt, it didn't have as much of a zing (that I'm still getting used to.) I paid $1.20 for the above yogurt. 

Then I wondered, if Greek yogurt has similar flavor and texture of sour cream, can I substitute Greek yogurt for sour cream in my recipes??

Breakstone Sour Cream - Serving size 30g (1 ounce)

Calories: 60
Total Fat: 5g
Cholesterol: 20mg
Sodium: 10mg
Carbs: 1g
Protein: 1g

And our Greek yogurt? Serving size 1 ounce...

Calories: 18.5
Total Fat: 0.60g
Cholesterol: 1.4mg
Sodium: 9mg
Carbs: 1 g
Protein: 2.4g

Pretty clear-cut to me.  Greek yogurt is the healthy alternative, and after doing some research online, I found out that yes, Greek yogurt CAN be substituted for sour cream in recipes (there's some finagling with some recipes, but others are a straight substitute!)

So if you're game to try something new and healthier, try Greek yogurt.  I plan on eating it as a replacement for ice cream or other not-so-healthy desserts.

The shortest distance isn't always the best.

As many of my readers may know, my civilian brother deploys to Afghanistan just outside of Kabul this month.  Because of this, I told my SIL that we needed to take him to The Dillard House in Dillard, Georgia.  Now, if you've never been to The Dillard House, let me give you a quick rundown.  Besides resting in some of the most beautiful scenery in Georgia, the restaurant at The Dillard House serves "family-style" meals.  You and your party are seated at a table, and the feasting commences: waiters bring out trays of family-style homemade dishes.  Most of the vegetables are grown on-site, and all of the food is homemade.

We left the Atlanta area around 9:30 or so in the morning yesterday (Sunday) amidst tiny snow flurries and a biting wind.  We stopped at a Tallulah Gorge overlook around 11am or so for a rest stop and to browse around the shop.  When we got to The Dillard House, we noticed it was crowded, but they're fairly quick.  Unfortunately, we were seated at a table probably meant for two (there were four of us,) directly in the sunlight, and when they brought out our food, we were slightly disappointed.  We had never been before, but we were this time.  We still ate our meal, and we headed back to the petting zoo where Andrew met his friend:

She is a Texas Longhorn cow.

After we left The Dillard House, we decided to make a day of the cold North Georgia mountains, and we headed up to Sky Valley to show my SIL and brother the cabin we rent.  We drove through Sky Valley, a tiny resort town, and we noticed that there was a huge beautiful rustic structure condemned (I found out today it was the original lodge and clubhouse.)  I also noticed a few other structures that were falling apart, and a new clubhouse that looked as though money ran out, and work abruptly stopped.  It was sad, really.

We showed them the cabin we rent, and then we headed north to Highlands.  We drove through Highlands, my SIL said she had been there before, and we decided to head back down 64 along the Cullasaja Gorge.  Before we even left Highlands, it had started to flurry again, but as we climbed along 64 and the Gorge, the snow ceased, and we were left admiring the ice that had formed on the rocky cliffs (and large chunks that had fallen into the already treacherous road!) and the various waterfalls along 64: Bridal Veil and two on Cullasaja River though my passengers could see them better as I was more concerned about navigating the narrow and windy road.

I ended up following a road sign for 441S versus 441 Bus. S and ended up on 64 W towards Hayesville.  THEN it started snowing to the extent of snow accumulating on the ground, and the defrost in my car unable to keep up with the rapidly falling temperatures. (The red shows how we actually went after leaving Dillard.  The bright green shows how I had WANTED to go.)

After finding our way along the back roads from almost Hayesville to Hiawassee, through downtown Helen, back way through Dahlonega, Copper Mines Road, and down 400, Andrew and I made it home around 7pm last night.

Even though The Dillard House was [first-time] disappointing, it was still a good day.  Andrew and I even found the "card box" for our wedding reception! :)