Monday, December 31, 2007

December Reading Round Up

As 2007 draws to its close, I find myself at approximately 115 books read for the year. I say approximately because I know I've read more books in December than I can remember and all the books are starting to run together on me. There was way too much going into my brain, and I'm grateful that in 2008, I'll have some time to not read. I'm also pissed off at myself for not finishing the 2 books I'm halfway through right now, one of which I started in freakin' Florida for crying out loud, and the other I started 2 days ago.

But I wanted to do a year-end round up, so here's what I know I read in December, with of course the by now familiar spoiler warning (particularly with the Superman book and the Water for Elephants book).

1. The Clothes They Stood Up In and The Lady In the Van by Alan Bennett. Two short stories turned into a book. The first details the travails of an upper middle class, childless British middle aged couple who return home from the opera one night to discover that their entire apartment has been cleaned out, right down to the toilet paper roller. While the husband is dealing with the insurance companies and police, Missus finds she likes the simplicity of this new spartan existence. But when their material goods are unexpectedly found, how will they react?

The second short story is I guess a bit of a memoir about when Bennett had some crazy old lady park her van in his yard and refuse to move it. Social services tries to help the lady, neighbors attempt to help, but at the end of the day, she dies in her van, surrounded by piles of junk and it turns out she has money in the bank and could have done quite well for herself. The narrator (or author) tracks down the woman's brother who tells her tragic story.

I honestly expected more from both stories--I thought perhaps the storyline with the wife realizing that "stuff" doesn't make you happy could have gone somewhere, but that was over all too soon when tragedy strikes a second time. As for the crazy old lady in the van, the story just made me sad. Maybe I've been working with sickly old people too long. Not one of my favorites this year.

2. Happiness Sold Separately by Lolly Winston. Eleanor and Ted's marriage is pushed to a straining point when Eleanor finds out that Ted has been having an affair with his personal assistant Gina. The feelings between the characters are complicated. Eleanor and Ted have been struggling with infertility for years. Gina is a single mother whose son Toby has just come to live with her and who hates her guts. Although Ted breaks off his affair with Gina when Eleanor finally becomes pregnant, he can't turn his back on the boy, and when Eleanor miscarries and Ted is involved in a serious accident, things resolve themselves for the betterment of all involved.

I thought this was a really great chick lit type book. I felt for all the characters, even though they each had moments when they were wholly unlikeable. In spite of not usually being in favor of things ending the way they did in this book, I was happy with the way the story resolved itself, and I am now looking forward to reading my second Lolly Winston, Good Grief, which I have on my "to be read" pile.

3. Water for Elephants by Sarah Gruen. The new book club is reading this as its second selection, a story of life beneath the big top among the crazies on the circus.

Jacob Jankowski is a 90-something resident of a nursing home, who is pulled into his memories of life on the road with a circus after a circus sets up stakes outside his home window one day. Jacob recalls with startling clarity how is parents were tragically killed in a car accident one day while he was finishing his final year as a veterinary student at Cornell. He runs away from school, torn by the shock of his grief, and hops aboard a circus train. He is finally hired on to be the show's veterinarian by Uncle Al, the shady man who owns the circus and meets the beautiful Marlena, who is married to complete headcase August.

The book spares no delicate feelings in describing the hard knock life of circus performers, both animal and human. If you're a horse fan, you might not love what happens to many of the horses, but there are times the animals triumph and you cheer for them.

I enjoyed the book, and I didn't think I would. I read it very quickly, trying to get it finished so that my sister would be able to get it and read it, and I was pleasantly surprised by what I found to be a gripping story, good writing, and satisfying finish. I'm squeamish around books when animals get injured or killed, but even that in this book didn't keep me from finishing. Good choice. I look forward to discussing it with the ladies.

4. Superman: Secret Identity by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen. Clark Kent is a teenage boy who is bothered by his name. He gets gifts from family and friends that are always related to Superman somehow, and he gets teased at school because of his name.

But then, suddenly, he discovers it's all true. He has Superman's powers, and he must come to grips with the fact that he can do everything Superman can do. How he chooses to use his powers, and how this discovery affects his life and everything he does, including having children of his own, makes for one great graphic novel read.

I'm not ashamed to say, at the end, I even got misty eyed. I really like Superman, and I like these kind of off-beat re-imaginings of his story. I'm not a graphic novel person, but Joe keeps giving them to me and I keep finding the ones I like more and more, and this is one of them. A quick but good one.

5. Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah. Ok, this book took me for-freaking-ever to read, but it was an addicting fluffy bit of a novel with a cast of characters that you wanted to root for the whole way around.

Dr. Julia Cates's reputation as a brilliant child psychiatrist is blown when one of her former clients shoots and kills a bunch of classmates and commits suicide. Her practice crumbles and then she receives a call: her sister, Ellie, chief of police in their Pacific Northwest hometown has got a situation on her hands that only Julia can solve: a little girl has emerged from nowhere, wild, uncontrollable, fierce, with a wolf pup in her arms. She is non-verbal, and Ellie is at her wits' end trying to figure out how to help this girl. Julia comes in to save the day, but is beleaguered by scientists, social workers, and the courts as she tries to help "Alice" unlock the secrets of her past, while Julia and Ellie try to sort out their complicated lives as well.

This was a great mystery, romance, psych book, and I enjoyed every last minute of reading it. All the relationships in the book rang true, from the complicated relationship between the sisters, between Ellie and her deputy, between Julia and the hunky doctor, and between Alice and the whole town. It was a little saccharine the way the entire town came together to keep the outsiders away from The Wolf Girl, but otherwise, I thought it was well done and gripping.

So that's it. I wind down 2007 with 112 books officially read (though I think it's more!) and 34889 pages read.

To sum up December:

Great: Water for Elephants, Superman: Secret Identity, Magic Hour, Happiness Sold Separately

OK: The Clothes They Stood Up In...

Total pages in December: 1534.

Though I did read The Last Days of Summer outloud to Michael, so can I count that twice? :-D

I'll be posting a full out 2007 review of the year later on today when I wake up.

Happy 2008 and Happy Reading! If you try something like this in the new year, I'd love to hear about it!

Welcoming In the New Year...New Year's Eve

All is calm at the Kosior house, the General snoring soundly, he will wake up in the New Year, secure in the knowledge that it feels exactly like the year he fell asleep in.

I am sitting here alone, in front of the computer, chatting with my friend across town because we were both too lazy to get up and go to each other's houses. And I'm cradling in my hands what I hope will be the last glass of soda I'll drink.

Yup, among my other goals for this year, I am going to forge ahead on my plan to really start taking better care of myself--which incidentally is a real pain in the ass--and part of that is to quit drinking soda.

I'm sitting here, sipping on my last Pepsi, feeling like a cigarette addict puffing slowly on his last cigarette. The glass is cold and frosty in my hands, lots of ice, just like I like it, but as I'm sipping it, I have to be honest, it really doesn't taste all that wonderful. I think, mercifully, I'm starting to lose my sweet tooth. It must be all the cakes and cookies I've baked over the past year. Sugar just doesn't taste as good as once it did.

So at the stroke of 12, I'll take my last swig and hopefully be done with it... It's going to be hard, we've been flat out drinking it for years. But I'll be thinking of the benefits to my teeth, my skin, my body without it and hopefully that will help me push through the cravings.

I wanted to have another reading resolution this year, so since Lesley and I visited the Margaret Mitchell house on our recent trip to Atlanta, I've decided that this year, I will finally read Gone With the Wind. When I told my mom this resolution, she said, and I quote, "It's about time!"

My other resolution has to do with being more environmentally conscious, or as Michael says, "Don't tell me we're going green!" But yes, we're going a little bit green. I'm pulling out as many canvas bags as I can find to take to the grocery store. I'm hoping to figure out how to build a compost heap and being composting out back. We're cancelling our trash service and trying to reduce the amount of trash we generate by separating out our recyclables, burning paper, and composting food waste.

We'll also be working on saving money. We've discussed meal planning and have made up a list of "acceptable foods" and have started drawing up a monthly menu. Going out will hopefully return to being a novelty, something special for special occasions. I've managed to get all my books for book club via PaperbackSwap and I'll start using the library more regularly for books I can't get my hands on. No more book sales at the Wilderness Library or Orange County Friends of the Library Bookstore, especially not to buy books I just want to trade anyway. I've bought supplies to make and bring my lunch with me on the road, and cancelled my participation in the office water cooler fund--instead of paying $45 for the privilege of paying for the secretaries to drink water daily that I drink one glass per week of, I'll bring in a gallon from home once a month and save myself big bucks.

And finally, I want to wish my dad a hearty congratulations. Tonight, at the stroke of midnight, he is officially retired from being the town judge in our little town, a position he held with honor for 20 years. I'm proud of him and what he managed to do. I hope he enjoys his free time.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

New Years MeMe from Melissa

My friend Melissa posted this on her blog and asked anyone else who wanted to to's a random list of favorite from 2007.... She made up a few categories of her own, and I'm amending at least one of them since I didn't take a summer vacation :-D

Best Album: I don't really listen to albums any more. The only full out CD's I've bought this year are the new Celine Dion and the Josh Groban Christmas CD. So I'll point to them as my favorites.

Best Non-Fiction: I read a fair number of non-fiction books this year, but my favorite had to be Father Knows Less by Wendell Jamieson. It was so informative, easy to read, and fun all at the same time.

Best TV Series: LOST (for as much as we got to see it) and Pushing Daisies

Best Fiction: The Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger. YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK! And no, it is NOT A BASEBALL BOOK!!!!!! Read it!

Best Kids’ Music: Don't have kids, wouldn't know, definitely don't care!!

Best Movie: Sicko was awesome.

Best Sign of the Apocalypse: Danny Bonaduce flinging his little friend around and then thinking we all want to see him naken in a porn rag and some porn rag actually paying him to pose!

Best Come Back of the Year: Matchbox 20

Ok Melissa's categories:

Best Old TV show you are just getting into: I've been just starting to watch Boston Legal, but it's still on TV, so I don't know if that counts?

Best grocery store: Wegman's in Fairfax

Best (Summer) Vacation: My favorite vacation this year was our trip to Las Vegas. Total freedom, lots of outdoorsy stuff, going someplace we'd never been before, it was amazing. I also enjoyed our trip to Myrtle Beach with Mike and Lesley. It was so much fun to be on vacation with them and I hope we can all plan another trip away soon!

Some Susan Categories:

Proudest Accomplishments this year: Finally completing a New Year's resolution! Getting into an excellent place mentally for the first time in years. Completing NaNoWriMo for the second year in a row.

Goals for Next Year: Taking better care of myself, choosing simplicity over the chaos of every day consumer-driven life. Maybe, just maybe, finding a church to belong to. Joining the local photography club, starting a writing club, and reading Gone with the Wind.

Most Exciting Sports Moment of the Year: Tonight's Patriots game, where they went 16-0 and shattered a whole pile of records; second place goes to the Red Sox winning the Series again

Saddest moment of the year: Everyone leaving after Christmas; realizing that I don't actually give a crap, and how far we've fallen away from what used to make us so happy and how it doesn't now. The blow up with my dad and sister.

Happiest Moment of the Year: Touchdown in Vegas; Annual 3 Kings Dinner; Discussing 2008 with my husband and realizing we are on the same page about life

I guess that's about it. I'll tag whoever the heck wants to post this on their own blog! :-D

It's Official: Wii is Awesome

So, my wonderful husband bought me a Nintendo Wii for Christmas, and it's officially the greatest gaming system I've ever used. I gave up on video gaming after the original Nintendo because I couldn't figure out the controls on them. There were ten million buttons and arrows and it was all too much to remember.

However, the new Wii looked like it was right up my alley. Point, click, move around and it moves with you. So I asked my dad for one for Christmas, but he wasn't able to find one. Through a coincidence, Michael knew a guy at work who turned out to be selling a Wii and Michael bought it on the spot.

We now have Wii Sports, M&M Go Kart Racing, Dancing With the Stars, and Cooking Mama, and I'm addicted to all of them. Even cooler is that Michael can play the bowling game on it, so we can have some fun (and once we get another controller in a week or so, we can compete, which will be a blast!). I mean any system that allows a blind guy to play video games is more than alright by me.

The day after Christmas we went out and bought a new TV for the Wii and the games. We had a go kart tournament right in the living room, and my dad, Lucas, Judy, and I were screaming and yelling like we'd won the lottery when we finally broke the 1 minute mark. We were jumping around so much, the angel fell off the top of the Christmas tree. It was hilarious.

I've been playing Dancing With the Stars full out for 2 days now, and it is hard, but in a good way. Every time I score a 29, I get so pissed off, I keep pushing it to see if I can hit a 30. And Michael loves it because there's a lot of audio for the scoring, so he can tell what's going on.

Wii are lovin' it. What fun!

Friday, December 28, 2007

It's (Mostly) Over

What a ride. I can't believe Christmas has been and gone for another year. It was a great time, full of the usual family fun and strife, madness and mayhem--my sister delivered on being cranky, my dad on being loud, my mom on being excitable, and yet it all worked. I honestly can't believe it came and went so quickly.

And now, having dropped Judy and Lucas off in Alexandria after a final lecture from my dad about how it's an hour of *his* way (sorry, Dad, it's 2-3 hours out of my way, since I don't have to leave the house unless I have to take them home), I'm sitting here in a quiet house, a house I worked so hard to straighten up and is now covered in the tiny post-present detritus of Christmas (think twist ties, little plastic bags, shreds of wrapping paper, pieces of tape, and someone even stuck stickers on my coffee table), and all I want to do is take a nap, and I just might do it.

This may be the first year the Christmas tree comes down early. Our big Epiphany dinner is next weekend and with a tree this big, we don't have room for people to sit and eat. The nativities will stay up till all is said and done, however.

It was a great Christmas. We got lots of great gifts. The General surprised the crap out of me by giving me a Wii for Christmas. It's easily the most simple game system I've ever played, and my God is it so much fun. I need to get some more remotes for it, but we have some new games and it's an absolutely blast.

My mom surprised all of us by getting each of us a mug from the school where we went to college. I was very, very happy she got me a Manhattan College mug instead of a UALR mug, but it was such a great moment when we all pulled out our mugs and said, "Hey! What the heck?!"

My dad got me a talking GPS for use in my regular and business travels and we've been having a blast with that. I was hauling down I95 the other night as we all drove to spend Christmas night at Reagan Airport with my sister, who was working, and it told me to take a sharp left. It would be impossible to take a sharp left off I95 at any portion of it, but the GPS was insistent. Fortunately, that has been its only foible to date.

And finally, despite what you may read on her blog, no one accused my sister of ruining Christmas. I gotta defend the family here. We don't roll like that. :-D It was a wonderful day, a wonderful week, and a few times, I found myself having to take a step back and go upstairs and let my eyes leak a little bit. It has been 9 long years since we were all together for Christmas, and it was so special and wonderful. So even though I'm no longer juggling cars in the driveway, cooking dinner for 7, logging out my husband from his computer, tripping over the dog, annoying my sister, snooping with Joe, playing the Wii with Lucas, or refereeing between my parents, I'm so sad it's over, and I hope it won't be the last time that my family is together for the holiday.

It's hard to come to those decisions and I know already that we'll all be split up again for Easter, but it was nice to have a Christmas we could all spend in love and (at least on my end) in gratitude for our little ragtag band of merry makers.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Waiting for Christmas

Well, all the preparations are complete at the Kosior family compound. The last presents have been wrapped. The house is clean, top to bottom. The beds are made, the towels washed and put away. The last batches of cookies are baked. The rabbit is clean, albeit pissed off. My mom is in Fayetteville, NC. My dad is leaving in the morning. Plans are made to pick up Judy, Joe, and Lucas on Sunday. There is nothing left but to sit and wait. For me, that is the hardest part of Christmas. I'm still like a kid, sitting and waiting on those last precious days to tick by till the big day, when it's over in a flurry and suddenly there's nothing left for another year. So, even though the anticipation is killing me, I'm going to enjoy these last few moments of quiet before the storm.

Today, I was reading over our newsletters which friends have sent us and re-read the one from Annette, which she signed, "See you in January!". I can scarcely believe it. In another month, I'll be meeting the Glecks and seeing Annette for the first time since the bad sunburn of '04. That's a darned good feeling too.

Michael's carpool buddy called tonight and he was out with his two sons, who wanted to come over and see TomTom. It was so much fun having kids in this house. They were only here thirty minutes, and I was exhausted by the time they left (to say nothing of the daggers TomTom was shooting me--and he has now taken up what I can only hope is not permanent residence in his box), but I loved every minute of those boys being here. And Jamie Lynn Spears is pregnant. Who says God doesn't have a sense of humor? < /bitterness >

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

To Do List

Well, my to do list is getting longer instead of shorter. I found out last night that my mom is coming early--a good thing for sure! But I've had to revamp my time frames just a scootch. Plus, the General's toilet busted, and we can't have that happening with a houseload of people descending upon us this weekend!

Actually, it doesn't look that bad. Lots of it is wrapping gifts, buying a couple last minute items, and baking a few final batches of cookies to replace the ones that got eaten (note to Sera: I call those peanut butter Hershey Kiss things "peanut butter blossoms" and I seem to have made it my mission to eat what I've baked, so another round of those pups is in order!). We had a neighbor over to visit Mike while I was at the new book club on Sunday and apparently he was munching the whole time. hehehehe I love him!

Sunday, hopefully, we can all sit around and relax. I haven't frosted the sugar cookies, nor have we decorated the gingerbread men so that we can all do it as a family activity on Sunday. The last time I watched my dad fumbling with a pastry bag I nearly wet my pants laughing, so I'm really looking forward to that.

I've gotten barely any reading done this month--maybe 3 books. I'm halfway through 2 more, but just can't seem to get it done. I guess since reading 100, the wind went out of my sails, but at least I did get to 110, so that's making me happy. Time, time, time, I'm glad I didn't wait till now to try and finish!

That's all the news that's fit to print for now. I'm so excited that it's Christmas.

Here's the tree, all decorated. As you can see, the angel's head is crammed into the ceiling. Last year, we ran out of room for all our ornaments. This year, it looks like we dont' have any on. YES!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Cookies Are Baked

Well, yesterday was an absolute whirlwind of flour, sugar, chocolate, jam, "and etc." to quote my favorite book of 2007. But in the end, the cookies are baked. And it really didn't make that many. I mean, we have a lot, don't get me wrong, particularly when Lucas fell in love with his own brand of oatmeal raisin cookies and baked a triple batch, but not as many as I would have thought. The big hits were oatmeal raisin (obviously), Chex muddy buddies, peanut butter blossoms, chocolate chips (Lucas baked 'the Big Cookie' by dumping a lot of dough into one lump and 'seeing what would happen'), and of course, the Contessa's Linzer tarts, which are not fully assembled, but we enjoyed baking the hell out of them and eating the ones that broke.

In addition, we have shortbread, raspberry bars, magic cookie bars, chocolate almond thumbprints, chocolate chip meringues, jam thumbprints, peanut butter, gingerbread men, sugar cookies, and who knows what else. My brain is drawing a blank. We used Splenda for baking a lot of the time, and it baked very, very well. I was really happy with the way the cookies that had been Splenda'd turned out. I think we have about 300 cookies or so downstairs.

There is the usual draw-muh going on, much of which has proved to me what a good guy Lucas really is. And last night we drove around in the rain light peeping, always one of my favorite activities.

Today we are heading to Judy's pretty early to have the new book club kick off, and then my office Christmas party is on Monday. Then only 4 days and I'll have ten days of FREEDOM. Friday was awful--I cried all the way to work and then discovered that Judy, Michael, and Joe all took the day off, the bastards. I feel a sick day coming on. hehehehehe (I have 3 days of sick time to use or lose before the end of the year, and it's not looking like it's going to happen.)

That's life from Fredericksburg.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I've Reached My Limit


If I hear Mariah Carey screeching "All I Want for Christmas Is You" one more time, I think I'm going to go home and push the Q-Tips in a little bit too far, if you catch my drift.

It was a good song, like 3 years ago. And every time I scan the dials trying to find a station playing Christmas music, but some weird coincidence that's the song that always seems to be playing.

I get it. All you want for Christmas is me.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Big Game Hunters

Every year around this time, I start to feel kind of manly. Michael will come home some December evening and hear, "Well, honey, I think it's about time." He readily agrees and after a nice supper, we pack it into the car, grunt a bit, and head to Home Depot to bag the big one. Our Christmas tree. As my mom said last night, I am defintely my father and my grandfather's child/grandchild. They always wanted the big ones, and so do I now.

Now, to be fair, it hasn't always been to Home Depot. In Boston, we used to hit a little tree stand outside of IHOP. In Acton, we bought a tree from the Lions Club. In Centreville, much to my chagrin, we had an artificial tree. But now that we're here, well, you can bet your life on the fact that we've got a real house and we're getting a real tree. And they seem to be growing. Home Depot has been very, very good to us, tree-wise. They never seem to run out, and I've even helped Judy get a tree there twice at the last minute, which is great.

I'm no longer contented with some placid little six foot tree. I like a big one. I like it "branchy" and "full" and TALL. I don't want to dwarf my tree or be able to touch the top of it without a stepladder or a chair. No, no, no. Last year's was a monster. 8 feet tall, very nice. But this year, I was determined to outdo even that.

This weekend is the tree trimming time. It's early, and I don't know how I'll feel about it, because I never have a a tree up this early. But I wanted A Good One, so sacrifices had to be made. Plus, the crew is coming down to bake all day on Saturday, so we'll decorate at the same time.

So, Michael and I headed out last night. I could feel the blood pumping as we headed to the store, "Gonna bag me a big one!" coursing through my brain. And then, a dose of reality. We pulled up to the store and their nursery was locked up for the night. "Oh no!" I said, and Michael was unhappy about it to, but we decided we might as well go on inside and find out what was what.

We went inside and headed out to the nursery and you could get in from outside. Bingo. We were in like sin. And then as we headed for the trees, an older fellow (like in his mid to late 60's) came up to us, and I knew this was the year. "Looking for a tree, are you, madam?" he said in a perfect, clipped British accent.

I had found Paradise by Home Depot. The British practically invented Christmas, well except for Jesus and God and all that, and of course, I'm a sucker for a British accent anyway, and I love England and everything about it.

"Yes we are," I replied, flashing him a dazzling smile as he sized up me and the General.

"What kind of tree are you after, then?"

Michael took the lead on this one, since he was well aware of my requirements. "She wants a big one, chief."

"Well, we've got your eight and nine footers over this way."

"I think we only have 8 foot ceilings," I said.

"Well, you'll want an eight footer then, I expect."

I nodded in agreement.

"Right this way."

So we tromped off, like a safari team, ready to find and bring down the biggest of the herd.

We struck gold on our first attempt. A beauty of an 8 foot Frazier fir, very branchy, nice and full, no big holes, pretty fresh, not a lot of shedding. Steve grabbed it and gave it a good shake, complimented us on our choice and said he'd cut an inch off the bottom and wrap her up for us. Sounds fine, so we all strolled over to the cutting and netting area, ready to grab our catch. But all was not well in Treeville.

"Dear oh dear," said Steve. "This tree's trunk is split, come have a look."

I went into THE RESTRICTED AREA and looked. Steve showed me where the truck was indeed split from the bottom up about 4 inches. It wasn't a very deep split, but he looked at me and asked, "Do you reckon that's a problem?" (I L-O-V-E love when British people say 'reckon' since I associate it with such a rednecky kind of word here, but they make it sound so posh.)

We pondered the situation and finally I said, "Well, I suppose you could cut off that much of the trunk."

Steve was disappointed in me. "Aww, but then you lose some of its glorious height."

"True, true."

"We'd best have another look around."

So, I collect up the General again, and we go back on the floor. He and I head in the direction of the balsams, but didn't have much luck. Steve reappears. "You head over that way, and I'll look over here." So we headed around one corner and he heads around the other. Michael and I are pulling trees out, he's giving them the obligatory fluffing of the branches to the ones I think might be good prospects, when suddenly Steve pops up again.

"I think I've got one for you," he says. And I know, I just know, Steve hasn't let me down.

We tromp over to another section of trees and Steve pulls out a dandy. Nine towering feet of beautiful green, lush balsam. "Wow!" I said, the stars in my eyes, "what do you think, honey?"

Michael fluffs up the branches, and he can't reach around the tree, a key requirement. Seriously, the tree was like 4 1/2 feet across. We declared it a winner.

"I'll just shave an inch or two off the bottom, then, and you put it in water straight away when you get home." Roger, Steve! "I hope you haven't got a convertible!" We assure him that we do not and he disappears, comes back with a hand truck, and cuts, nets, and hoists the tree onto the cart. He leads us to the cashier, and I am puffed up like I won the lottery, the General is quite pleased with our selection, and we head up to pay, and Steve has lost the price tag in the branches. So he disappears to find the price and I think, "Well, that's that, we'll never see him again", particularly when he radios up the SKU and we check out. Michael and I each grab a side of the hand truck and go outside. I tell him I'll be right back and I go to get the car while he holds down the fort.

I roar up, throw a blanket on top of the car to keep it from getting scratched, and we're just about to throw the tree up on top of the car, and are considering it due to the fact that the thing is quite heavy, when Steve reappears.

"I suspected you could do with a bit of help."

Right you are, Steve.

"Yes, thank you!" So I go around the back of the car and pull out my bungee cords, the same cords I've been using for the past 3 years to haul trees and Steve looks at me with total dismay and says, "No bungees, madam" and shakes his head sadly. And I note that in his hands he has the biggest roll of twine I've ever seen.

"We're going to tie it down, then?" I ask helpfully. He shakes his head affirmatively, and begins to whistle "Here We Come A-Wassailing" as he singlehandedly picks that tree up and hurls it onto the car. Then he starts to inspect the underside of the car and shakes his head forlornly there there's nothing to tie his twine to. God help us, he finally zeroes in on the rearview mirrors and begins happily tying away. Then, he does a loop across and through the back doors, and then around the gate door in the back. I inspect his work as he goes and finally I boldly declare, "You must have been in the navy! You know your way around a knot." to which he replies, "It comes in handy a time or two." Then, he runs into a knot and he needs some assistance. He says, "Madam, may I borrow your finger?" I don't know why, but that just cracked me the hell up.

Finally, it's roped on there, and I grab Michael and lead him to the car and tell him to get in carefully. Steve says, "Well, I hope you can get in after all that, and a Merry Christmas to you!" and disappears into the store.

I drove home feeling as shiny as a new penny and then we had to get out and get the tree in. Took some doing, but we got it off the car and hauled it inside. We get her in the tree stand after managing to maneuver around the dining room table and all, I stand it up, and of course, scratch up the ceiling. Yeah, I don't have room for a nine footer.

So, I head out to the shed and grab my pruning shears and give the tree a little haircut on top. It fits, so long as we don't try to put the angel up on top, which is going to happen one way or another. I may have to give it another little shave, we'll have to see.

'Tis a beaut, though, probably the biggest we've had since The Squirrel Tree (which I am sure I have blogged about in the past, but I can't find the post right now). There is still twine wrapped around my mirrors, which I'll remove today. The house smells so great, my favorite thing about balsams, and this weekend she'll be decked out in her finery! I'll post pictures then.


The emails are rolling in, I sent out pictures of the tree naked for my fellow revelers who will be here at Christmas to see.

Mom: Tis a beautimous tree and I can’t wait to see it!!

Dad: Looks great, Kate. I can't wait to see it live.

Joe: Holy Merry Christmas! Susan you are truly a Christmas Ham! :)


Oh, what the hell. Here's a picture of it au naturale.

Monday, December 10, 2007

New Video Addiction

If you're looking for some awesome comedy about the creation of the universe, a God who's kind of a weenie, and a really HAWT Jesus, go to, click on "Shows" and watch all the episodes you can of "Mr. Diety". It is absolutely hilarious and really very smart.

Sunday, December 09, 2007


So, on Cyber Monday, I was doing some Christmas shopping and was on They are heavily promoting a new device called Kindle. For the price of $400, you can purchase this "revolutionary electronic-paper display" device which "looks and reads like real paper".

It has wireless technology, so if you're laying in bed and the mood strikes, you can say, "Hey! I need to read 'War and Peace'" and download it instantly (for a price, of course) to your Kindle and then read.

You can download free samples, you can download blogs, you can download newspapers and magazines.

You can use it to email word documents and photos.

It holds over 200 titles at a time.

Short of making you dinner, this thing does it all. And it's sold out.

I've been thinking about it. Trying to decide how I feel about it. Here's how I feel:

hi, i'm pissed off

First of all, there is a wireless, portable reading device with the look and readability of real paper already available and it doesn't cost $400. Let me introduce you to it. It's called A BOOK. You can get them for free at your local library. You can get them for free by trading for them online. You can get them cheap at your local bookstore and read them over and over and over again. And there's no storage limits--you can buy as many as your house can hold if you want to.

But let me get this straight. I should buy a $400 piece of equipment that I will then have to pay $10 or so for each book I want to download? For the price of one Kindle, I can buy 100 used books at a used book store, or I can buy several hundred books at my annual library book sale.

Technology isn't always the better way. This kindle doesn't have the smell of an old, worn, well loved novel. You can't stroke the pages that are smooth with age and a thousand turnings. You can't crack the spine on a Kindle the way some people so satisfyingly do on a new paperback. You can't give your Kindle books to friends and tell them how much you loved the book and hope they'll love it too.

I have been on vacation and seen people spend dinners on their phones connected to work. I have been on vacation and seen people so desperate to check their email or read stuff on line that they can't think straight--they drive to cafes and hook into wireless ports because the world will end if they don't find out if someone emailed them--they turn their back on the ocean, the mountains, the Grand freakin' Canyon, all to be wired up and connected when they should be taking a break.

And now a bunch of them are turning their back on books. What a crying shame.

Christmas Meme from Melissa

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
I like wrapping paper--it's more fun to rip than genteely open a bag.

2. Real tree or artificial?
REAL! I had an artificial in Centreville just because I didn't want to drag a tree up the stairs and all and I nearly cried. Must be a real tree.

3. When do you put up the tree?
December 20th or so. This year will be early. But my mom was allergic, so we always put it up late, plus we don't take it down till after Epiphany, so it's up a lot longer than most people's trees are.

4. When do you take the tree down?
January 6th or so.

5. Do you like eggnog? I love the homemade kind, but not the crap they give you in a box at the store.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? I'm not sure. I remember getting a Cabbage Patch Kid was pretty exciting. As a teen, I remember the year my parents gave Judy and I stereo systems was a banner year. The presents are great, but I just have fond memories of other things besides that, and they stick out more.

7. Do you have a nativity scene?
Oh hell yes. I have my grandfather's old cardboard nativity from the 1920's that is still puttering along. I have the Willow Tree nativity that my dad built up for me (I have 3 sets of shepherds and animals!). I have a hand carved nativity from the Holy Land. Plus a cheapy from the Dollar Store that I used in Arkansas.

8. Hardest person to buy for?
My husband! And Joe.

9. Easiest person to buy for?
My sister.

10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
My grandparents gave me underwear once. And my parents' friends gave me socks. I remember weeping over the socks and being too embarrassed to show off the undies.

11. Mail or email Christmas cards?
They went out yesterday. For once, I'm on time!

12. Favorite Christmas movie?
Love Actually. It's not really a Christmas movie Christmas movie, but I love it anyway and it takes place at Christmas.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
This year, I've been picking things up since July. Unusual. I usually follow my father's trend and go the last 2 weeks before Christmas. I still do have a few things to buy, but I'm mostly finished.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
Christmas, wedding, and birthday presents. I don't need "stuff" hanging around that I don't like or won't use.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
Yorkshire pudding! Christmas cookies! Trifle!

16. Lights white or colored on the tree?
COLORED. White is so boring. I like my tree and my house to have pizazz.

17. Favorite Christmas song?
My favorite carol is "O Holy Night" although I saw a choir sing it all hip and jazzy yesterday and it pissed me off.

18. Travel for Christmas or stay home?
Stay home.

19. Can you name all of Santa's' reindeer? Yup

20. Angel on the treetop or a star? Angel.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Christmas morning. Despite heavy lobbying from us as children, my parents never caved on this one.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? The word "Christmas" disappearing from promotional sales items (um, hello, you wouldn't be having these sales if it werent' for Christmas and oh, by the way, people who don't celebrate Christmas generally don't put a big decorated tree in their house, so don't put it on the front of your catalog and then call it a "family tree" or a "holiday tree". Do you think we're stupid?); turning Christmas carols into advertising jingles (I HATE that); can't go shopping for anything without getting run over by harried people...

Click HERE for a video about the above little rant.

23. What do you love most about Christmas?
Baking, decorating, singing, seeing family and friends, getting Christmas cards, putting up the tree, the sights and sounds and smells of one awesome holiday.

I have gotten this survey through e-mail several times but posted it back here and feel the need to tag people....if you are reading this and haven't posted this to your are it!!! :) Post away! :)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Random Thoughts on a Saturday Morning

1. Christmas cards are done!! (Barring any surprise arrivals in the mailbox) WOO HOO! I'm so glad to have that over with. I just have to mail them this morning.

2. Project Runway really sucks this season. They really built it up for us--these are the best designers we've ever had, this is the best season yet, and to me, it's really falling flat. I think the challenges have been boring, the designs have been a yawn, and the cooked up drawmuh amongst the designers has been dumb. The only thing I've been glad about is Carmen getting the boot two weeks ago. I couldn't stand her. The people left that I can't stand are people who, if they left, would take what little pizazz the show has left with them. I hope it heats up, because I am watching what happens and I'm very disappointed.

3. My cell phone is beeping downstairs. Presumably this indicates that the battery is dying. Crap.

4. My sister and I may very well be geniuses. We were discussing the Hollywood writer's strike the other day and came to a conclusion. Practically no one seems to care. Why? Well, the conclusion we came to is that TV execs have been messing around with the schedules so much that it's hard to notice that there's nothing on. For instance, I'm a big-time LOST fan. But last year, they would show lost for 3 weeks, then it was gone for a month, then it was back for a month, then it was gone for 6 weeks. This just seems to me like those weeks when they messed with the schedule. The only people I really hear complaining are late night talk show buffs. But I don't watch it, so I don't miss it.

5. I need an address book. People need to quit moving. I opened my file last night, which admittedly I haven't updated in ages, and it still had my sister living in China, I didn't know half the people I know now who get cards, and a bunch of people in the box are dead. That sucks.

6. Time to get moving. We're going to a Christmas concert today and Michael has invited some Pittsburgh fans over for tomorrow's Steelers-Patriots game. I'm going to have to get some major cleaning done. Yesterday I cleaned out my closet and bureau and have 2 boxes of clothes for the Goodwill. Wonder what today will bring. :)

Friday, December 07, 2007

Ok, It's Like Christmas Early

I couldn't even sleep...

Click here to read the article about me in today's Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. I even LOVE the picture.

Thanks, Laura and Bob, it was a lot of fun.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Cookie List!

Well, I've sat down and compiled a list of all the baking to be done, inspired by Jacalyn, who is ahead of the curve and is already baking as we speak.

So, here's what's happening in the Kosior kitchens for Christmas:

~ Sugar cookies (ok, I'm cheating on these because they're a pain in the tush to make and the refrigerated dough is nearly as good as homemade and they'll be covered with frosting anyway)
~ Chocolate chip*
~ Peanut butter*
~ Oatmeal raisin
~ Chocolate raspberry bars
~ Magic cookie bars
~ Chocolate almond thumbprints
~ Ginger snaps*
~ Mini Linzer tarts (the Contessa makes a good cookie and for Christmas they're worth the effort)
~ Shortbread

Non-cookie items

~ Fudge
~ Mini Cheesecakes
~ Chex Mix "dog chow"

Items marked with an asterisk indicate they will be made with Splenda.

Hopefully this will be enough for us and the parties we're attending. :) The weekend of 12/16, I'll be buried in flour, sugar, and chocolate. What a way to go.

Head Bunny Update

If there is one thing in the universe my rabbit loves more than life, carrots, and a good drink of water, it's brussels sprouts. I gave him one a couple of months ago and he literally tried to stuff the whole thing in his mouth. It was hilarious.

So, the other day, Joe and I were at the store to get stuff to make dinner and I found a stalk of brussels sprouts. I didn't even know they grew on stalks. But here is how they grow:

So, I bought a stalk. And I brought them home, and whacked off a piece and gave it to TomTom. He went absolutely bananas. I went in a couple of hours later, and not only did he eat the sprouts, he ate the stalk! I gave him another piece last night, and it's gone this morning. And that's not all...

Suddenly, he's turned into SuperBunny. For a while, it took an act of Congress to get him out of his room. Now, I open the door in there, and the only way to keep him in is to throw him some sprouts. Otherwise, he runs like he's being chased by Glenn Close, hurls himself up onto the chair in the General's office, and proceeds to get a running leap and launch himself through the air into the hallway. I'm going to have to set up the video camera and try to get some footage--it's extraordinary. I want to get him a theme song.

He could take on Bionic Buns, no problem.

So, if you have a lethargic rabbit, try sprouts. They seem to like 'em.

What a Five Years It's Been

Five years ago today, I came home and found my husband standing in the living room, waiting for me. And I knew. I just knew. He'd lost his job. We were newly married, had been married only 7 months, had bought a townhouse only 4 months prior, and now he was unemployed.

Terror struck. How were we going to pay our bills? Christmas was coming--how were we going to deal with that? What would become of us? Michael'd been trying to find a new job for months prior to losing his job with those jerks, and there was nothing.

I remember that the night after it happened, the church where I would go to choir practice was having a living nativity, and we went and I spent the night in tears--it was so beautiful. I remember taking great hope as we came around a bend, following our shepherd tour guides, and suddenly a swell of music and a flash of light and three angels stood on a hill in white, and I took such hope.

Eight months later, the unemployment was running out, we were in danger of losing our condo, our realtor was a real piece of work, and again, a ray of hope, a letter from Washington that Michael had a job.

If someone had told me this day five years ago not to worry about it, that in five years I'd own a full out house all to myself in Virginia, I'd have asked them what they were smoking. To a certain degree, I miss those days when we had so little money that we clung to each other and did not do anything that we couldn't do for free--except that we managed to squeak out a trip to Niagara Falls for our first wedding anniversary.

I know how much I take things for granted--our fine home, never really having to worry about the cost of a meal or if I need something I can go out and get it and not worry about it. In the coming year, I hope to re-shift my priorities and change some things. I want things to feel special again--meals out, getting a new camera or computer, and not just feel as if I can get "stuff" any time. I am reading a book at the moment called The Circle of Simplicity, which will, I hope, guide me on my way. I want to reconnect with people and disconnect from buying, buying, buying.

So, that's my New Year's plan for next year, along with a few other smaller goals, which I'll write about closer to time. And in a couple of weeks, I'll be attending another living nativity and hope it'll be just as moving as the first one.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

December: Where's the Year Gone?

And so, we've reached December, and only 24 shopping days till Christmas. As usual, my sister and Joe are here to help me string lights and decorate the house. We are thinking of going to cut down live pines today as well, which I'll stick in some water until I'm ready to decorate it. Due to my mom's pine allergies, we never put up a tree until around December 20th when I was growing up and I find that if I put one up any earlier, I tend to get sick of it after a couple weeks and want to take it down.

So for now, I'll put up a few decorations here, a few there, and eventually it will all add up. Two weeks from now is the annual Kosior Cookie (or is that Cookies Kosior?) extravaganza. I plan to make a pile of cookies--ginger snaps, chocolate chips, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter, chocolate almond thumbprints, chocolate raspberry bars, magic cookie bars, sugar cookies and probably a few things I haven't thought of. I like to eat Christmas cookies, sure, but I also like to give them and this year I have a lot of social things towards the end of the month where I need to contribute cookies. So that's the plan.

My shopping is not close to done yet. But I suppose I take after my dad in that regard--wait till the last minute. Nothing I want to get anyone falls under the category of "traditional" gift, so I'm not too worried about. The main thing I have to get to now is Christmas cards. I have been woefully lax the last 2 years, really paring down our list, but I think I can handle it. This is probably the least bit stressed about the holidays I have ever been.

What does make me sad is that NaNo is over and I met my 100 book goal. The really sad thing with NaNo is that when I'm procrastinating on writing, I tend to do things I've put off. Like, I re-organized all my books, made all the lists that give meaning to my life, finished book #100 on my reading list, caught up with friends, put up my photo galleries from our trips, etc. I know that if I hadn't done those things, I'd be freaking out, but I'm a bit at loose ends!

Still, I know I'll be busy enough shortly and grateful for these quiet moments before the insanity. Hope everyone out there is feeling peaceful this morning too.