Monday, January 29, 2007

Busy, But Warm

Sorry you haven't heard from me lately, but this has suddenly become a really busy time for me.
First I want to give you the details on our new vent-free gas fireplace. When Stan was in town a few weeks ago we didn't really make any set plans, so we ended up at Home Depot. I had mentioned at lunch that I had been thinking about getting a gas fireplace insert for our wood-burning fireplace in the living room, but I didn't really know anything about installing it or the cost. And I'm never too keen on working with natural gas or electricity (some irrational fear of being blown up or electrocuted, I guess), but Stan made it all sound very simple. So we did a little shopping and ended up finding fireplaces 50% off at Lowe's. We bought all the pipe and tools we needed and headed home to run a gas line. Part of the project involved me drilling a one inch hole through eight inches of concrete. Hammer drills are AWESOME! I didn't think I could do it and felt a great sense of accomplishment when it was done. The project took most of the evening, but we didn't encounter too many problems. Thanks again, Stan. You were really helpful, there is NO WAY I could have done it on my own. So now we are enjoying lots of warm, cozy evenings by the fire. It heats up the living room really quickly.

Extra projects at work have been running me ragged the last few weeks. I'm currently working on a project to develop a training program for new managers. My piece is due this week, so I'm here working on it at home tonight. Last week I got a call from my manager, who asked me if I could participate in a training video that night. I hate to say no and it sounded like fun, so I was working on that until about 9:30 that night (but I was the lucky one, my manager was there until almost 1:00 am!). So I'm going to be portraying the drive-thru teller in an upcoming sales training video that will be rolled out to every branch in the bancorp (over 1100 offices!). Don't worry, I didn't get anyone's finger caught in the drawer. I've also been helping to train a new manager who has been a handful (I don't even want to get into it, he makes my blood pressure go up...). Additionally, I was asked to take on more of a leadership role in our Young Banker's Club. So this year instead of just leading one school, I am helping to facilitate the program at six schools. The last two weeks have been packed with training sessions, school meetings, and team meetings.
I'm not complaining about any of this. I love being busy and really appreciate all of the opportunities I've been given. But Sunday Sarah and I were so exhausted we didn't get off the couch all day. It was awesome. I highly recommend it whenever you have the chance.
So anyway, that's most of what I've been up to. I'm hoping some of this activity will level out in the next few weeks, but somehow I doubt it.

Good Friends, Good Food

We had a nice weekend catching up with our friends. Friday, Matt and Amanda called and invited us to Vinoklet Winery where they had their rehearsal dinner. They have a Friday night dinner where you get a bottle of wine, a salad, your choice of meat or fish, buffet of sides and dessert for a set price per couple. You get to taste all the wines before you choose, and you cook your own meat out on this huge grill. It was a long, relaxing, last-minute treat to have dinner with 2 of our very best friends.

Saturday, our friends Doug and Sue came over for dinner at our house. We made a big Italian meal starting with good crackers and cheese, and ending with gelato, amaretto, cream soda and coffee liquor floats. And of course we drank more wine and lots of gin as usual. We've hung out with Doug and Sue a few times lately and are really enjoying getting to know them better.

Tonight, I'm meeting my friend Brian for dinner. He used to work with me, and now I don't get to see him very often, so it's a treat when we can get together.

Monday, January 22, 2007

A Long Winter's Nap

I know Whitman's Sampler has been in hibernation much of January, but we've been super busy as usual. The week before last, Dad came to visit and was able to spend 2 nights with us and 2 nights with Katie. It was so nice to see him without an agenda, and of course we kept him busy with (unexpected) projects (more on that later from Kevin). I was sad to see him leave, but it's nice to know that he'll be back in a few months with Candy when Baby Hulme is born. The day that Dad arrived, Kevin's parents passed through town on the way to Florida, so we all had dinner and Kevin got to show off our new kitchen. It was nice for Dad, Keith and Kathy to see each other in person since they keep in touch by reading each other's blogs.

That weekend I spent nearly 9 hours shopping for and making Katie's baby shower invitations. It was fun, though, and they're so cute, IMHO. I've gotten lots of compliments on them, and they really set the theme for the shower (ABCs), so I'm pleased. Katie really likes them, too, which is what matters most. Shower preparations will keep me busy the next few weekends, but I like doing that kind of stuff and want to pace myself so I don't have a hundred things to do the weekend of the shower.

This past weekend we relaxed a lot and watched 4 movies. Saturday night we had a "fiesta" at home and made enchiladas, pico de gallo and guacamole; drank sangria; ate fried ice cream; and watched "Nacho Libre." It was a good winter's night en mi casa. Sunday we woke up to 3 or 4 inches of snow, the first accumulation of the season. Kevin got to use his snowblower, I did laundry and we made a big pot of vegetable soup. And watched more movies.

Tonight, Katie and Matt are coming over to eat pizza and watch the new "Heroes." I can't wait!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Speaking of sinks...

We had an awesome time at my staff holiday party on Saturday. It was a little bit of a smaller group than usual (we're down one employee right now and a few others couldn't make it) but definitely no less fun! We had a gift swap (I almost ended up with a Scarface Pimp Cup *don't ask*), played some games, and had some drinks and good food. The party kept going until about 1:30 am, I'm always happy when people stay late. I assume it means that they are all having a good time!
There seems to be some kind of tradition forming for someone to break something every year at this party. Three years ago, someone broke Toshie's holiday food bowl. Two years ago it was a wine glass. I can't remember last year, but I'm sure there was something. This year, someone broke my bathroom faucet! It wasn't really his fault though. I knew that the "cold" knob had not been working very well for a while, but hadn't done anything to fix it (the "hot" still worked fine!). When he went to turn it, the ceramic handle just broke in half. He felt really bad, but I told him not to worry about it. I got a new one today, I'll try to get it installed this week.
Sunday we got our decorations down. I always love getting the decorations out, but it is always nice to have the house back in order.
Aunt Linda called us on Saturday and invited us to join them for dinner at the Montgomery Inn Boathouse Sunday night. We didn't have anything planned and haven't spent much time with them lately, so we gladly accepted the offer. We had a really nice time catching up with them, we need to get together more often.
Actually, that's one of my New Year's resolutions; to have dinner guests in our home at least once every month. We always talk about having people over, but never really do. Hopefully we'll follow through with it. I love having people over and we have so many good friends that we rarely get together with. So be prepared, you may be getting an invitation soon!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Everything but the kitchen sink!

As Sarah mentioned, the kitchen project is pretty much complete. After our trip to Ikea I was able to install the last "custom" cabinet (I had to cut it down a little, but my new table saw **Thanks Stan & Candy** did the job perfectly) and put a new top on the dishwasher to match our new base cabinet. I had also painted the dishwasher to match the other appliances. Sarah was in charge of painting the door trim and she did a fantastic job, as she always does when it comes to the details. The final step was installing end pieces on all of the wall cabinets. They went up pretty easily and I am very happy with our results. We picked up a few other things; some pull outs for our base cabinets, the drawer hardware, and some "doggy tail" towel hooks (see if you can find one in the pictures). The last thing I have to do is refinish our sink. I have the epoxy, but I have to prep the surface and it is a multi step project that will take a weekend. Perhaps we'll get that done next weekend...
I'm looking forward to having my parents and Stan visit this week so they can see the result of our efforts firsthand.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Christmas Recap

We had a great Christmas this year. During our time off, we had a great mix of socializing, relaxing alone and finishing some projects (including cleaning out the basement and making a huge trip to Goodwill on Christmas Eve). On Christmas Eve, we pulled out the new china and made a great Italian dinner, then watched some movies. We spent Christmas day alone with the furbabies (including Valentine), except for a few hours at the Carusos' annual holiday open house.

Wednesday, we headed up to Edgerton to spend time with Kevin's family. We made a trip to Ikea to get what we needed to finish up the kitchen (more to come on that from Kevin). And we celebrated with both immediate family and the entire Whitman extended family. We came home Saturday night, so we had a few days to chill and get some things done before returning to work. Oh, and for New Year's Eve, we hung out with Matt and Amanda. They made lots of yummy munchies which we ate while we played games and watched Dick Clark. And we made a lot of noise at midnight, which was unusual and very fun.

Next, we have Kevin's staff's holiday party at our house Saturday night, then we'll officially de-holiday the house on Sunday.