Monday, December 31, 2007

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Nice Weekend

The weekend has come to a close. It turned out to be a busy one. Ezmerelda went to the dealership on Saturday for her 30-day service. (Side bar - does anyone else name their vehicles? I think just about every car I've ever owned has had a name. Derek laughs at me. Just curious if anyone else had this, apparently, odd habit.) That ended up taking most of the day.

While I was waiting, I spent some Christmas money. Finally got some new sweaters and, of course, I just couldn't have a shopping trip without expanding the shoe collection. After the shopping venture, Ez still wasn't ready so I decided to head to my friend Rhonda's house to practice our duet for Sunday. Nothing like waiting a little, eh? But it was an easy piece. We put it together in about 20 min. We spent the rest of the time catching up.

Finally got the call that I could pick up the car. Headed home for a while & then met Gayla & Heather for dinner at Pei Wei. Mmm. I loves me some Pei Wei! Had a terrific visit, as always. Those girls keep me in stitches. Gayla was introduced to the fine art of a stick shift - keep the clutch IN when the car's on & in gear. =) Lots of giggles over that.

Sang two services today. Went splendidly. Ventured to the grocery store for the annual New Year's Day crock pot o' beans. Then came home for a little siesta. Well, it was more than a little nappy-nap. Adda and I enjoyed about two hours. It was nice though. Had a little dinner. Derek came home from the neighbors where he was watching the Cowboys stink it up. Skeet & Kelli came over & we watched Bourne Ultimatum. Great movie - might mean a little more to me if I had ANY clue what the series was about. But great movie nonetheless, especially in HD.

Got the bag packed for my super exciting day at work tomorrow. Now it's off to bed.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Birthday Wishes

Happy birthday to my daddy!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Now We Work

And today, we work. Actually, I work. Derek is off until 2008...theoretically anyway. When last we spoke, we got interrupted by the cell phone, which means he may actually be working too. We'll see.

Yesterday, for me anyway, was a very relaxing day. I did a little bit of straightening around the house. But mostly, I played with my new toys. Have quite a few pictures loaded on the new digital picture frame. That's pretty snazzy, I tell ya. Have to figure out how to put music on it for an even niftier slideshow.

Also got my iTunes library loaded onto the new iPod Nano. My Mini has all but crapped out on me. I can't complain. It's lasted four years and been put through much abuse. My new toy plays video & stores pictures. I don't know what to do with myself and all this new technology.

Too bad I didn't think to load a bunch of video to watch today. It's going to be so very quiet at work!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

And Everyone Rested

Whew. Christmas day was a whirlwind but altogether a terrific day. Today, we clean up. Well, actually, Derek is working. I'm (sorta) cleaning up and putting the house back together. I think I've actually spent more time at the computer. But who's counting?! =)

We started Christmas day at Derek's parents. Yummy breakfast and then packages. There was no shortage of good loot this year - as always, we're very spoiled. Derek got the Bluetooth earpiece he wanted, along with the new Simpsons movie & 360 game, some clothes, and a few throw-back-to-the-childhood toys. I got a beautiful tourmaline pendant, a digital picture frame that also plays music, several pairs of slippers (since I've literally worn all my others out), pjs, and clothes. We enjoyed visiting after the big gift opening. Then we went to visit Derek's grandfather at the assisted living center. He opened his presents and just enjoyed having us there. He's such a sweetheart. We got the car all packed and then headed for home to unload and reload for the next stop.

My brother & Olga hosted this year's Christmas festivities, which was nice - so nice that I didn't even put up decorations this year! We had a fabulous dinner - fried turkey compliments of Chef David, taters, salads, etc. Then the package-opening commenced. We went a little crazy this year, so it took us over two hours to open gifts. You see, we like to open packages one person, one gift at a time so we can enjoy seeing what everyone got. We really racked up this year! Derek got several gift cards, some clothes, and his favorite - chocolate. I got several stamp sets on my "wish list," a desktop Cropper Hopper organizer, nifty kitchen linens, clothes, and a bunch of other stuff. My trunk barely held everything!



Many thanks to our family who, as always, went above and beyond. Thanks to David & Olga for hosting everyone. It was a houseful, but a great time was had by all. Thanks to all who sent a little note or a little something this season. We're truly blessed with wonderful family and friends.

We hope your Christmas was full of as many blessings as ours!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Might Just Make It

Whew. The whirlwind of gift-buying is finally over. Ordinarily, I'm finished shopping way before now. For whatever reason, this year things just didn't come together as they usually do. So I was one of the (unfortunate) souls out shopping yesterday. Blech! No fear, I got up early & avoided most of the crowds...and I managed to get the remainder of the presents.

So how do you guys feel about gift cards? This year, the media debate about this very topic has been interesting. In my humble opinion, gift cards are great in several instances: 1) you don't know the person well enough to buy them a "real" gift; 2) you don't want to insult someone by buying something too big or too small for them; 3) the person has a hobby, like scrapbooking or cardmaking or embroidery, and they would enjoy shopping for said hobby themselves; 4) the person asked for gift cards and even was so kind as to give you a list of places from which you could purchase said gift card(s); and/or 5) it's easier than racking your brain & you know the recipient won't mind. There are some people who are offended by the "thoughtlessness" of gift cards. Hopefully, everyone on your list has made this clear if they share that opinion. Anyway, long story short, gift cards were popular on my list this year--both giving & getting.

I have a few last-minute cards to make in which to put said gift cards (see above). See, at least I'm thoughtful enough to hand-make a card holder. Then the wrapping of "real" gifts must commence. Ordinarily, I try to wrap as a buy. But I've been lazy this year and have left 100% of my wrapping for the next few days. I hope to get all of that done today so I can clean house & make food tomorrow.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Update

Derek's grandmother came through surgery fine. She is now back in her room, alert, and in some pain. They twilighted her instead of putting her completely under, since she cannot handle full anesthesia anymore. Hopefully she will require no more procedures and this will solve the slow heartrate issue. Continue to keep her in your prayers.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Prayers

Please say a prayer (or several) for Derek's grandmother. She has been in the hospital the last few days with a very low pulse (in the 30s). They're not absolutely certain what's causing this but have opted to put in a pacemaker to see if that brings it up. She's really not well enough for surgery, but this is the only viable option at this point. The surgery's tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Busy, Busy

Though my singing schedule has slowed to a halt (almost), everything else seems to be moving at warp. This weekend was no exception. After a week of rain, my house was an utter disaster. So priority one before we left on Saturday was to get the house clean. That, of course, took longer than expected. With a dog going in & out, not to mention people, there were a lot of tracks to clean up. I did finally get the carpet in order, but the tile is still beckoning to me. But in a way, I'm glad b/c Dori tracked in fresh dirt all across the kitchen last night. Yesterday, after being groomed on Sunday, she decided it would be fun to tromp through the mud puddle--the only mud puddle. Just like a kid.

Anyway, got the house clean & started putting a major dint in the mounds of laundry. Which left me time to really put a dint in the Christmas cards. I'm happy to report that I'm halfway through making the twenty-plus cards that should go out. So tomorrow begins the first mailing. Some of you on the list may actually get your cards before Christmas this year--shocking! The other half will be a crap shoot depending solely on how hard the mailmen want to work the end of the week before the holiday.

Saturday night was Derek's company party at the Gaylord. I wasn't planning to get in a hurry to get there...until Derek called to tell me that it was averaging more than an hour to park. Wha? So I got it in gear & left a little earlier. While it didn't take me an hour, it did take about 30 min. Apparently, this was the weekend for Christmas parties. Couple that with the ICE show going on, and you had a recipe for a busy hotel. Our room, a suite overlooking Lake Grapevine, was very nice; but I don't think I've stayed in a "not nice" room at the Gaylord. The party was alright. There were a lot more people there this year, so for me, it wasn't as fun as previous years b/c we were so spread out & not able to visit as well. But all and all, a good time was had by all. Dori had fun staying home with Ms. Kelli, her favorite neighbor.

We got home about lunchtime on Sunday. I made the grocery list b/c I figured this weekend would be better than next for that big trip. Dori went to "get beautiful" about midway through the Cowboy game. And I hit the grocery stores. Going during the game was brilliant. The stores were crowded, but they weren't nearly as packed as I'd expected. I shudder to think about this coming weekend. And unfortunately, there are several things that I just couldn't buy until then due to spoilage. But at least I got the big trip out of the way. Running in for a few things will be daunting but nothing like facing an entire monthly list.

That cold I was fighting a few weekends ago has finally crept up and bit me. I got really stuffy Sunday night and it's kinda gone from bad to worse in the days since. Granted, it's not as bad as some people I've heard cough-coughing the last several weeks. I think the Zicam and Airborne have fended off the worst of it. I just wish they made softer Kleenexes. My poor nose. And on my gosh, my lymph nodes are screaming today. Clearly there's a war going on in there.

Other than that, I have a few more gifts to buy. Eek! My husband can be slow at decision-making. I hope he's done before the weekend. Otherwise, he's on his own on those. I'm going nowhere near a mall! But my wrapping operation must get underway this week. I haven't even begun that process yet. And you know, I like to be all froo-froo about it. And there's an odd rehearsal or two. We'll see if it all gets done.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Thanks for Sharing

The weekend flew by, as weekends do when they're full of things to do. Derek went on a company-sponsored hunting trip. So I was home alone, not that I accomplished anything domestically-related. I had a full weekend myself. The concert at LHUMC went extremely well. It's the best we've ever sung actually. I was so pleased, particularly after the (typical) rough dress rehearsal. We really shined at performance. I wish we had a recording, but alas, our sanctuary is not equipped. But everyone in attendance has just raved and rightly so.

With that concert over, I'm coasting into the new year. This is the first year I can really remember my schedule slowing down going into Christmas. And honestly, it's such a welcomed thing. No stress. No worries over scheduling. Or how I'm going to be eight places at once.

So the start of my weeks of coasting brought a very unwelcome guest ... a stomach bug. Lovely. Had I realized when I woke up on Monday morning that I wasn't well, I would have just stayed home. However, I felt fine. So despite waking up late thanks to an alarm clock (operator) malfunction, I hurried in to work...only to leave four hours later after revisiting breakfast. Thankfully though that was the only meal kind enough to say hello a second time. I slept the rest of Monday and managed to make my own chicken noodle soup for dinner. Slept a little later on Tuesday but still went to work. Apparently, this lovely little bug is making the rounds in several places. So wash your hands often!

It's hard to believe Christmas is only 13 days away. I still have shopping to do! Nothing big. But still. I'll be braving stores this weekend, I'm afraid...unless I can convince myself to make those stops on the way home from work. Either prospect is daunting. I just wish it felt more like Christmas -- enough of this stupid hot weather already! I'm ready for REAL winter!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Concert Invitation

This has been another rather hectic week. For one, I successfully avoided coming down with the full-blown version of some kind of upper respiratory bug. That little battle began last weekend when I woke up with a sore throat that grew steadily worse as the days went on. I, of course, took myself straight to the doctor on Monday to be sure it wasn't some bacterial bug. My doctor deduced that the sore throat was likely caused by drainage resulting from a severe allergy flare-up. Gee, you think all of that wind could have anything to do with it?! Anyway, several days of extra rest and a huge load of vitamin C seemed to do the trick. (Ultimately the throat swab came back negative for strep or any other kind of bug.) The sore throat subsided by Friday and is now completely gone ... at least for the time being. And I'm not looking that gift horse in the mouth!

I say all of this b/c I'm the soloist in a big classical piece tomorrow evening. So aside from the fact that the sore throat attacked me last weekend in the middle of the NETCS concerts, I had to remain well for this weekend's performance. Naturally, that means I had another week full of rehearsals (several of them late ones). So getting that extra rest was a sacrifice of some working hours, but hey, that's what sick time is for!

Today's dress rehearsal went as dress rehearsals go ... terrible. But I'm a firm believer in the "bad rehearsal, good performance" mantra. Indeed, our final, brisk run-through of the piece proved much better than the first go-round. And I think it will be a stunning performance on the whole. We've never hired an orchestra this big, but I believe it's money well spent. There is certainly no shortage of talent amongst the players ... or the singers.

So if you're free, I would like to extend an invitation to you. Please join the music program of Lake Highlands United Methodist Church for "A Christmas Gathering." The evening concert will be preceded by dinner ($7 adults, $4 children - no family pays more than $20) at 5 p.m. in the Family Life Center. The free concert follows dinner at 6 p.m. in the sanctuary. All facets of the music program will be performing, including children, youth, handbells, and adults. The evening concludes with the chancel choir's presentation of Rutter's Magnificat with Susan Fox, Whitney Dewell, Kenton Kravig, and Ben Plocher as soloists.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Early Christmas Surprise

Derek seems to outdo himself every Christmas. Every year I wonder how he will top the last. Well, he got a jump start on Christmas this year. And I really wonder how he's going to top this one. Thursday afternoon on my way home from work he called to tell me he had a surprise for me. He'd cleaned out the garage so I could park my car in it. I've been bugging him about this for a while now, especially since it's dewed a lot lately. And I hate having to defog my car in the morning. I'm lucky I have time to get where I'm going much less to get the windows in my car clear. Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised that he'd gone to all the trouble. Little did I know that there was an ulterior motive to that effort.

So I get home and convince him to take Dori for a walk. He tries to dissuade me from the walk, but I insist and he acquiesces. So we get Dori all ready. She's just as excited as ever. We leave, but Derek takes a different way than we usually do. I thought it was odd but didn't really give it too much thought. We walk around the corner of the house and this is what I see in my driveway.








I was completely speechless. I all but had to pick up my mouth off the ground with my own two hands. To say that I was surprised is the biggest understatement I've ever written here. Now my gifts for him seem a little ... well, just not quite enough. But he's happy with them. And I love my car! (Real photos soon)

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Victorian Christmas

The Northeast Texas Choral Society certainly began its 10th season with a bang. This weekend, the chorus presented "A Victorian Christmas," complete with period costume, at the Hopkins County Civic Center. In all my years participating in this group or attending concerts, I cannot remember better attendance. And I certainly cannot recall better singing!

It was such a joy and a thrill when Carol Allen, director extraordinaire, invited me to sing "O Holy Night" with the group. As a charter member of NETCS, I, of course, jumped at the opportunity and was particularly thrilled to find that my schedule allowed my participation in the festivities. What an honor to sing with such a fantastic group of people! They were nothing but gracious to me--the girl who moved away to sing in "the big city"--and fell over backwards when I opened my mouth to sing. You see, it's been five years since these great folks have heard me sing. That's five years of voice lessons. That's five years of growth in sound. The sound engineer, in the nicest way possible, asked me to back away from the microphone a little bit. I take that as a great compliment. Needless to say, people were a little taken aback by how much my sound has grown while I've been away singing in "the big city."

But I'm certainly blown away by how much this group of singers has grown in their sound and professionalism. To think where it all began. And to reflect on where it is now. Wow. "A Victorian Christmas" will be hard to beat, and it will certainly be talked about for many weeks, if not years, to come. Congratulations, Northeast Texas Choral Society on ten terrific years of music. I wish you at least that many more! Thank you, thank you for allowing this hometown girl the chance to make music with all of you again. What an honor and privilege!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Concert Review

North East Texas Choral Society’s Christmas concert offers glad tidings of comfort and joy
By TERRY MATHEWS News-Telegram Arts Editor

Dec 2, 2007 - If last night’s sound check is a true indication of what is to come, we’re in for a great weekend of music.

Linda Riddle (left) and Ellen Atkins got into the spirit Friday night at sound check. “A Victorian Christmas,” presented by the Northeast Texas Choral Society opens Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Hopkins County Regional Civic Center.

Director of Music Carol Allen has chosen an ambitious program that runs the gamut of holiday favorites, from “Silent Night” to Mel Tormè’s “The Christmas Song.”

This year marks the group’s 10th anniversary and they are going all out to make it a performance to remember.

“We wanted to do something special this year,” Allen said in an interview earlier this fall. “We want to bring in the holiday season with gladness.”

The stage is all gussied up and the singers will be decked out in full Victorian attire. As with all their shows, they’ve brought in additional musicians for accompaniment.

They’ve added a real “sugar plum fairy” and they’ve brought in some very special guests that are guaranteed to make everyone say, “I didn’t know they could sing.”

Mary Groner and Suzy Hamilton decorated the lobby with all the traditional holiday trimmings and it really sets the tone for the holiday experience.

“The minute you walk through the doors, the show begins,” said Allen. “We've set the mood with Christmas greenery, a decorated tree, poinsettias, mulled cider, Christmas cookies and ushers in full Victorian costumes.”

The chorus opens with a mix of Olde English carols and a Norwegian song, “O Yule Full of Gladness.”

The program includes favorites like “Silent Night,” “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” “Sleigh Ride,” and “Silver Bells.”

They’ve included a children’s sing-a-long, with words to the songs included in the handsome printed program.

“We’re so proud of the printed program,” Allen said. “We’ve dreamed of something like this for years. It really is a keepsake.”

Sulphur Springs native Susan Foster Fox, a former choral society singer who now lives in the Dallas area, is performing with the group. Her solo on “O, Holy Night” provides one of the show’s best moments. It’s hard to believe so much sound and so much power comes from such a small package, but this girl delivers some very special magic.

Just when you think you’ve heard it all, Allen and her singers pull something new out of their bonnets and stove pipe hats.

The arrangement of “Jingle Bells” evokes Barbra Streisand, but let me assure you that no one is going to rain on the choral society’s parade.

The family of Mickey and Barbara McKenzie have underwritten the costs for the society’s two performances.

“We’re so fortunate to enjoy such great support,” Allen said. “We’re so grateful to the McKenzies for believing in us.”

Mea Culpa

Because I was actually going to see my mom on her birthday, it never dawned on me to put up the usual happy birthday post. So....better late than never.



Happy birthday mom & my friend Melissa and everyone else with a Nov. 26th birthday!