Friday, December 31, 2010

christmas overview 2010

Yet another Christmas on the Gulf Coast has come and gone.
I am back in the Mid-Atlantic where temperatures are at least 10 degrees lower than they were in Florida - people, it was fricking COLD in Florida last week. It was the-price-of-produce-is-gonna-skyrocket cold. It was wrap-the-trees-and-bushes-so-they-don't-die-in-the-middle-of-the-night cold; i'd have pictures of that except i'd have had to go outside to take them.
Okay, honestly, it was only really cold the last few days of my visit; the beginning of the week was chilly, but fine. I spent the first few days with my dad -you saw the golf pictures and there will be golf cart pictures to come- and went to my mom's on the 23rd.
She had started the decorating and had put the lights on the tree, but waited for me to finish. This year she really wanted to do the tree in gold ornaments, which turned out lovely,
with the old tree topper reworked into a Victorian angel.
We added other gold tableauxs around the living room
with some of the nutcracker collection.  
I love those guys.  
Did you spot the sneaky Rat King hiding from the princes?
It was just mom and me for Christmas morning.
Each year we give each other another gift-limiting challenge. This year we were each only allowed to spend $20 to do presents and a stocking for the other. It was really fun to shop for bargains and make some of my presents. If you look at that pile it is hard to believe that there is only $43 under the tree. (we each went over by a little more than a dollar)

It was stockings first and then presents.

Don't you love that mom made it look like the reindeer was holding my candy canes? It was a leisurely morning of unwrapping and telling stories and comparing bargains. We both talked to my brother and my sister on the phone and relaxed.
Mom let me cook Christmas dinner -turkey and fixings- and this year we decided to do it at an actual dinner time -6pm- instead of a holiday dinner time -1pm or 3pm- which allowed me to be leisurely in the food preparation. It was staring to get cold, but we put on jackets and ate on the linae with mom's neighbor, Miss Celiey.
I like trying new things and changing holidays up a bit, but there are some habits and traditions that endure. Christmas morning we always have Pillsbury cinnamon and orange rolls. We have for my entire life.
Now cinnamon rolls make sense to me, but i have no idea where the orange rolls came from. I swear that they are only in store during the holidays and i would cry a bucketful if we didn't have them on Christmas. Warm pastry dripping with orange icing tastes like Christmas morning to me.
For reasons unknown, i stick the bows that come off of my boxes to my head.
I'm sure that it probably started when i was really little and my siblings stuck stuff on me, but to this day when i take a bow off of a box i feel compelled to stick it on my hear, regardless of who is around and how many bows are already there.
And, of course, there has to be a tour of holiday lights. My dad always drives us around looking for new lighting displays. This year we took a golf-cart constitutional around the park one night and the next night we went to Cape Coral to find one of those crazy peoples' houses where they hook everything up to a computer and sync a show to music.

This guy had over 119,000 lights. It was magnificent and totally worth getting a bit lost in the poorly lit back streets of Cape Coral (why does that place not have street lights? creepy)
I miss my parents and enjoy spending time with them over the holidays.

Let's try this again...

So about a bajillion posts ago - or several hundred, mayhaps - i added a quote block to me sidebar with the intention of changing it every week. I think maybe i had picked Wednesdays.
Needless to say, that didn't happen.
As the new year rapidly approaches and i work out what 2011's resolutions will be, i know that i want to work on consistency in my life. Now that the doctor and i have a pretty good handle on how to make me better -we think- i want to take control and change my flounderings to flourishings. Instead of setting myself up to fail with grand plans of sweeping changes, i want to take baby steps towards a more productive life starting with establishing some schedules.
To that end I rededicate myself to my blogging and start with the intention to change Glimpses From the Commonplace Book every 7-10 days, perhaps with a quick post about why each quote was chosen.
Today, i've added a delightful exchange from the movie Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium that challenges our concept of time:
Magorium: That's the last of 'em. 37 seconds.
Mahone: Great. Well done. Now we wait.

Magorium: No. We breathe. We pulse. We regenerate. Our hearts beat. Our minds create. Our souls injest. 37 seconds, well used, is a lifetime.
So often we find ourselves saying I just don't have the time.
Sometimes it is true that we can't dedicate a large chunk of time to a task, but does that mean that we have to abandon it altogether? We each have the same amount of time to spend every day and we all make choices about how we spend it. It feels like a lot of that time is allotted against our wishes, but at the end of the day we are choosing to work a certain job, be committed to a certain cause or attend to our families and friends in a certain way.
We can make different choices, even if it doesn't seem like it.
But even more importantly, i like that this quote details the things we do even when it seems like we are doing nothing but waiting. Every second can be filled with a kind thought, a prayer, a mental puzzle, planning or meditation. There is more time available to us to be the people we want to be if we start simply by being mindful to capture our lives 37 seconds at a time.

Monday, December 27, 2010

How you can tell it is a few days after a holiday

-hot turkey open face sandwiches
-bread and turkey both pulled into pieces so that you don't get knives dirty
-plastic forks
-paper plates
-green bean casserole and stuffing is long gone
-still plenty of cranberry salad left
-only new food cooked is tater tots

-eating on tv trays in the living room cause the table is still covered in pies
Hope you are enjoying your holiday!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Fore!

What sport is the least likely that you can imagine me playing?
If you said Any sport, I'll give you partial credit, but the answer we are looking for is golf.
Golf.
What the heck is up with golf?
Hit the ball hard.
Walk to the ball.
Hit the ball hard.
Walk to the ball.
Hit the ball hard.
Walk to the ball.
 Hit the ball gently into a hole.
Repeat 18 times.
Is that even a sport?
I mean, the audience has to stay quiet when you play. What kind of sport doesn't allow cheering?
 Anyhoo, validity aside, golf has always been in the background of my life cause my dad is an avid golfer. I once had my picture taken outside of Augusta (if you know golf, you know why). But i've never had any interest in learning the game. I loves me some Putt-putt, but the actual game of golf? Nope. However, this year i have been considering that i might want to go to a driving range. Hitting things really hard seems like a great way to blow off some steam. But i've never even swung a club before. Heck, i wasn't even sure how to hold the club. Since i am in Florida visiting my dad, i asked him to teach me how to hit a golf ball.
There is a little area at the end of his street that is set up
for that very purpose:
There are tees and clubs and balls all ready to go across from an open field where the only thing you could accidentally hit is the aluminum recycling wagon (and no, you can't turn around and hit balls into the lake; they seriously frown upon that).
Dad showed the proper way and then walked me through grip, feet placement, torsion, swing and follow-thru:
I can report that i did better than i thought i would.
The golf swing is crazy unnatural. Keeping my wrists locked was really hard and i had to talk myself through each step on every swing. I tried a few different lengths of club and -no surprise here- need a short one to have any accuracy. I was able to get a few to fly straight with some loft. I still have no interest in playing an actual game, but with this lesson i at least feel like i can go to the driving range without looking like a total dweeb.
As an added bonus, this also counts as a new thing for December.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

outrigger canoe surfing

When i first found out that i'd be going to Hawaii, I decided that while i was there i would take the opportunity to do one truly new, adventurous thing that i really couldn't do anywhere else.
Though i'm desperate to parasail after my chance in the Caribbean was cancelled do to high winds, i know that i can do that at just about any beach.
I really want to fly in a helicopter and that is a traditional, touristy thing to do in the islands, but I wanted something different, something that you just don't hear about often, so i went for outrigger canoe surfing.
These multi-person canoes are based on traditional, Polynesian designs with a floaton attached for extra stability in hard chop. They are beached right in the thick of Waikiki and you launch in the middle of swimmers and surfers and everybody.
It is a little frightening, but cool. BTW, if you are ever swimming in Waikiki, canoes have the right of way so if one hits you, technically it is your fault - remember that.
There was a crew of paddlers and a captain who steers and chooses our waves. We paddled out beyond the wave breaks,
and then worked on getting the boat properly turned and positioned to catch waves. The four paddlers are working on alternating sides to provide the power to move against the tide and every so often the captain calls Switch and you change the side that you are working.
It is all about timing and teamwork; here is a clip of me in action: video
Inspiring, no?
Once the boat is in position
facing the shore you wait.
And wait.
And wait some more.
After all the paddling it is a nice break to sit and gently rock in the boat as little waves move under you. When the captain spots a swell he wants to catch he orders Paddle Fast and you pull as hard and fast as you can, still keeping in sync with the lead paddler until the captain orders Stop and you are flying across the water under tidal power

Is it super fun?
Oh, yes; yes it is.
After the ride, you start paddling out again and do it all over. The tour i booked was for catching 3 waves. It was nice that instead of a time limit it was an experience limit; you stay out however long it takes to get 3 good rides so you are guaranteed a great experience regardless of how long it takes with the weather conditions. Also, since i booked online i got a free CD of pictures and video.
How was that shot? you wonder.
Dude on a surfboard. Really.
A dude on a surfboard with a waterproof digital camera was keeping pace with us. I had no idea that he was even there until i heard someone in the water calling my name and the other paddlers told me to turn and wave.
It was hilarious.
This was really an experience like nothing else.
I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

lunar eclipse on the winter solstice

So this morning was the first total lunar eclipse to fall on the winter solstice in over 300 years. Now that is an event to both behold and share so I got up at 3am so that you didn't have to; just another service we offer here in the Nikiverse.
It was the best possible viewing conditions at my house - crisp, clear, no trees and late enough that a lot of city lights were off. In fact, i don't think i have ever seen so many stars over my house.
So beautiful and still.
The moon was high in the sky directly over Orion, coppery orange and darkening when i went outside. The clearness of the sky, the chill in the air, the creeping shadow of the Earth: it all felt like a movie. I watched totality through binoculars. It was amazing and made me feel small, in a good way. I took pictures to post for you: 

yeah... about that...
I tried different settings, different zooms and even shooting through the binoculars, but not a single image turned out right. If you click to enlarge that image you can just see it in the lower right-hand corner. Maybe something magnificent things are meant to be seen in person.

Bishop Museum

The Bishop Museum in Honolulu is part natural history, part local culture and part science center. It is a collection of several different themed buildings situated around a large common area, sort of like a Hawaii-specific Smithsonian.


It is situated on a hillside overlooking the city of Honolulu so you can see the skyline clearly as you move from one building to another or sit and eat lunch on a bench.
You couldn't take pictures in most of the cultural buildings so i have no pictures of the sperm whale skeleton or the feather standards and capes and the thousands of other cool things that i saw, but you could take pictures in the travelling exhibit space and the science center.  
Did i mention that it is windy?
My favorite thing in the science center was its central volcano Obviously, since the entire state is a chain of active and dormant volcanoes, the science of geology is key. inside of this massive model there are text panels and hands-on activities to explore various parts of a volcano and even a way to climb around inside the walls and then slide down.
At the top there is bubbling magma
with buttons to manipulate gas spurts
and lava plumes.
Cool.
Underneath the model there is the Hotspot theater where there are demos on both the cultural/religious explanation of the formation of the islands and the science of a hotspot volcano. In this picture the second performer is pouring lava.
Yes, real, honest to goodness lava.
They heat volcanic glass until molten and then pour it right in front of you. It is amazing. You can feel the heat blast even though the audience is a safe distance away. You can hear it cracking as it cools and they pass around different types of lava.
If you ever find yourself at Bishop i highly recommend this demo. It was one of the most astonishing things i saw in Hawaii.
One of the others was the near constant rainbows in the clouds. The rain would be blown in from somewhere else so it would be wet, but sunny or dry with rainbows.
Amazing.