Monday, December 31, 2007

My Tornado

After a relaxing six days in Michigan, my life has become a bit of a whirlwind over the last four.

First, the relaxing part. As usual, Michigan with my family was great. We brought Zelda along like we did last year, so the car ride was a little cramped (11 hours now, since we're an extra hour north after the move). She likes meeting new people, or remeeting old ones as the case may be, so it was just too good of an opportunity to pass up.

We celebrated Christmas three times in total. Despite my earlier naysaying, the last of them ended up being white after all as we passed over the rain/snow line on our way up to Midland Christmas afternoon. Being one of those families that still celebrates with presents, I got a few things worth mentioning: a new microwave (Thanks Mom & Dad); an assortment of music, TV, and movies to add to our sensory entertainment choices; a D&D mega-adventure (anyone up for a little Elemental Evil?); and enough food to last me until June. In a bit of a surprise, no one hooked me up with any comics or video games (staples of the last few years). That's probably all right as I have a bit of a backlog in both categories right now.

When we weren't hanging out with extended family doing Christmas related things, we spent a lot of time relaxing. It was nice to not be sitting in front of a computer for most of my waking hours. I worked on the Hitchhiker's Guide omnibus I brought with me and we finished watching "The War" which we had started back at Thanksgiving. It's a lot to take in over such a short period of time, but to those with a DVD rental service and a passing interest in the last great World War, I would highly recommend it.

Anyway, the tornado took over starting with Thursday's trip back home. On the way into Chicago, our windshield got struck by a large piece of debris from the truck in front of us. Nothing too serious, but bigger and way more annoying than a little pebble impact, especially since it's right in the driver's eyeline. Incidentally, let me know if anyone knows a reputable auto glass place in Minneapolis. When we got home, we found ourselves locked out of the house because our catsitters had inadvertantly locked the part of the door that we only have one key for (and they currently had it). So we had to make a 45-minute side trip over there to pick it up, meaning we got home around 8:00, but didn't get into the house until 9:00.

The next day we had plans to drive down to Iowa to visit with some of Meaghan's high school/college friends. The weather was pretty lousy on the way down, but after skating by numerous ditched cars for 4+ hours we made it safe and sound. Among others, we got to see Mike & Andrea (our Jersey friends) which is always a good time, and as a special bonus got to see Meaghan's friend Austin. He won some kind of lottery to come home for the holidays from where he's currently stationed in Kuwait. We got back from all of that sometime around 3:00 AM. 20 hours of driving in two days is officially a lot.

Sunday was our own private Christmas. Meaghan and I typically wait until some date when we're not around all the rest of the family to exchange gifts. This meant that Saturday had to be used for putting the finishing touches on those gifts (wrapping, shopping for stockings, even some construction). We were also invited to a wedding reception at the Germanic-American Institute in St. Paul. Two of our local friends, Kate and Nolan, tied the knot after 3+ years of dating, so we popped over there for a couple hours of merriment. After finishing my Christmas preparations, I crashed and burned around 9:00.

Yesterday was fantastic: we opened presents, watched more episodes of the Gilmore Girls (now on season 5) than I'd care to admit, listened to music, watched Pan's Labyrinth. We basically just had a completely lazy day. I won't share all of the presents that we got for each other, but I will introduce you to the newest member of our family.

This is our new gerbil, Sylar. He spends his time digging, eating, and serving as eye candy for the cats and dog. Despite the name, he's a very friendly guy.

The tornado started up again today. I ran out of vacation so I have to work, and we have two New Year's Eve parties to go to tonight (one of them down in Rochester). To top it all off, I was woken up not once, not twice, but three times this morning by the sound of horking pets. (Seriously, who wants to be fed at 6:45?) Ain't life grand?

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday, too.

Monday, December 24, 2007

So Much For Our White Christmas

When we arrived here at my parents' in SE Michigan on Thursday, there was a wonderful 4-6 inch layer of snow on the ground all but ensuring us with a "White Christmas" this year. Two days of 40+ degree weather and a half inch of rain later, and all that beautiful snow has disappeared.

To add insult to injury, AccuWeather tells me that we've gotten over an inch of fresh snowfall back home in Minneapolis since we left. Oh well, I guess that's a price worth paying to be able to celebrate Christmas four times (one down, three to go) with my family.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Whee! Sledding!

It's continued to snow off and on throughout the week (8 inches total so far), so we've done our best to get outside and enjoy it as much as possible despite the bitter sub-freezing temperatures.

If anyone's partial to sledding, we've got a saucer and some nice hills over in Powderhorn that you can come enjoy. We've only been out there twice so far, but it's been a lot of fun. Even Zelda likes going down the hill. Don't worry, she's not in the sled... just next to it. If I were one of those people with a cool digital camera, here's where I would upload pictures of winter fun. Instead you'll just have to use your imaginations. (Note: I do have a digital camera, but it's not very cool and I don't know where the USB cable to upload pics to a computer is.)

Oh, and if anyone was interested we made it through two LotR movies over the weekend: Fellowship on Saturday, Two Towers on Sunday. I've never seen the extended version of Two Towers and Return of the King before, so I'm loving how seamlessly all of the additional footage fits in.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

We're in the midst of a Winter Storm Warning here today in Minnesota, as a few of the 6-12 inches of snow we're supposed to get has already fallen. Here's hoping my landlady shows up to plow the driveway like she said she would, otherwise I guess I know how I'm spending my day tomorrow.

We're going to celebrate by playing outside with the dog and then warming up with a bunch of hot chocolate and tales of Middle Earth. I just got "The Two Towers" and "The Return of the King" for my birthday (thanks, Ma & Pa Horvath), so we're going to see how many of the extended editions we can get through. I suspect just one, but we'll see. Nothing says winter like hobbits.

Happy Belated Thanksgiving

Considering I was planning on posting a lot in November, I'll confess that only managing one measly post was pretty pathetic. Here's to turning that around this month.

To that end, I'd like to wish everyone a belated Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you all had a wonderful time wherever you spent it. After an aborted attempt at hosting the holiday for Meaghan's family this year, we opted to go back to my parents' in Michigan where we always have a good time.

This year was no exception, as we got not one but two turkey dinners (neither of which my mom had to cook - although she helped with one). On Thanksgiving day we went to Mount Pleasant for dinner with my dad's side of the family. It was a crowded affair, as there are an awful lot of my generation's children running around these days, but it was a good time. We got to watch the Lions lose (as is tradition), and I got to catch up with cousins, aunts, and uncles. We didn't make it back to Michigan at all this summer, so I hadn't seen any of them since last holiday season. A lot of them didn't even know I'd moved to Minneapolis (they're apparently not reading this blog). I'll need to try to fix that.

On Friday, we went to the "Grand Eye-Opening" of the new Detroit Institute of Arts. The DIA has been undergoing extensive remodeling over the past six years, creating unique new spaces and ways to view and become engaged by art. They celebrated completion of the project by hosting a giant 32-hour party and giving free admission to anyone who wanted it. As a fan of art museums, I thought this one was pretty cool.

They don't really have any extra-special exhibits on display just yet, so the star really was the museum itself. Absolutely none of the exhibit halls was your standard rectangular room, as walls arced and jutted all over the place. Couches and benches were the norm to ease your feet while still being able to enjoy the exhibits, and they came complete with companion art books so you could learn more about the types of art you were seeing. Some rooms were even themed (a bit like being at Disney World, but not in a bad way): the religious art exhibit halls were like walking through the inside of miniature Gothic cathedrals, there were multiple plazas for resting and eating that looked like European courtyards surrounded by many-windowed buildings. All in all, a very neat place to go and spend a day from time to time. I hope it works out for them.

Saturday was our second Thanksgiving dinner. This one was up in Midland with my mom's side of the family. There weren't so many people at this one, as only one of mom's siblings has kids and they all live out on the East coast. So after helping lug a vintage 1986 TV to the basement (to replace the 1985 TV that had burned out a few months back) I spent some time down in the "Man Cave" with my Uncle Bill watching football and chatting about life. Good times.

We actually watched a lot of football over the weekend, much to my sister-in-law's chagrin. There was the Lions game on Thursday, state high school championship games on Friday and Saturday (as is tradition), and some college games on Saturday, too. It was a pretty rotten weekend for teams I was backing: the Lions lost, Kansas lost, Tennessee won (the luckiest sons of a gun in all of college football), the Midland Chemics (Uncle Bill's alma mater) lost in the Class 2 state final. Of teams I cared about, only Hawaii (I love to see those small conference teams get into the BCS) came away with a victory.

I would be remiss if I ended this without mentioning a couple more things:

1) Ken Burns' new documentary "The War" is as good as they say. I only watched the first episode of my mom's newly purchased DVD set so far (I'll watch more at Christmas), but I felt that I learned more about WWII in those two hours than I'd known previously. It's one thing to know of a lot of things (Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, German aggression in Europe, etc.), but it takes something like this to really fit it all together in a way that makes sense. It's similar to a radio documentary I just heard the other day about Eugene McCarthy's (who I'd never heard of) bid for the 1968 Democratic presidential nomination. It really put the events of that tumultuous year (MLK Jr. assassination, RFK assassination, Chicago protests, etc.) together for me in a way nothing had before.

2) I already knew this, but hadn't written about it here before. I'm going to be transformed into an uncle in March! My brother Steve and his wife Mandy are slated to have a son, Søren (like the Danish Existentialist) in March. I don't know if they're actually going to use the cool 'ø' with the stroke in it, but I think that would be pretty neat. A hearty congratulations goes out to them. I'm looking forward to meeting the new addition early next summer. Maybe he'll even change my opinion of kids younger than the age of 5. We'll see.