Archive for December, 2006

Early Christmas – New Tent!

A number of years ago I bought myself a tent.  It was four person tent and proved to be rather large and heavy for my needs.  I had the best intentions when I purchased it.  I was thinking Sean and I would be squished in a two person tent, so I upgraded a bit.

Well, it turns out Sean’s never made it out camping.  So the four person tent is usually occupied by me… and Jimmie (Henry is not approved for camping as he likes to aroo at everything).  Every now and then the large tent pays off– Kipp or Ryan Schutt occassionally crash in my tent and it’s come in handy at the Relay for Life.  But for the most part, it is an overkill.

 
Big Tent – Bigger than the Picnic Table!

Since I want to get more into backpacking to expand my hiking range, I’ve been talking about a light weight tent for some time.  Santa (aka Sean) heard me loud and clear.  This year he ordered me a Fast and Light Hubba Tent from MSR Corp.  It weighs 3 pounds and is designed for 1 person and their gear (or in this case, their dog).  You should have seen me when Sean came home Friday night and pulled the dainty little stuff bag from behind his back.  I jumped up and ran over like any little kid does on Christmas day!  I’m not sure, but it is possible I squealed.

We immediately set it up in the living room.  Jimmie immediately jumped in.  Meanwhile Henry immediately ran away (another reason he is not approved for camping). 


Vicky and Jimmie in new tent…. in our living room

 The tent is so light and compact that when I decided to try it out that evening, I picked up the assembled tent and carried it upstairs to the deck.  So Friday night (yes, in December), Jimmie and I slept on the deck in the new tent.  We both had ample room.  In fact, Jimmie slept beside me, leaving plenty of room at my feet and head for “gear”.

We didn’t quite spend the entire night outside.  At 4:30 AM, I woke up and felt a bit chilly.  I realized if I was chilly inside my nice comfy sleeping bag, poor Jimmie with his thin greyhound coat was probably freezing.  Truth be known, he looked fine.  He was curled up in a ball, sound asleep, with no signs of shivering.  But– I hopped on that rationalization nonetheless.  🙂

And since the tent is so light and compact— I just carried it back with me inside and waited until the next morning to put it away.  Which by the way, is much easier to do.  No more lying spread eagled and rolling around like a moron to push out excess air!

I’m very excited about my new gift– it’s going to open up a lot of hiking doors for me!  One trip I definitely covet using it for– an overnight trip to Rice Fields.

December 17, 2006 at 11:05 pm 3 comments

Vicky’s Business Travel Essentials

Tomorrow afternoon, I leave for a business trip.  I’ve traveled quite a bit for business the last three years.  Since I’ve had a lot of practice, I’m very adept at my packing procedure.  For example, my Bowman Handbags Travel Cosmetic Bag is always perched in a basket on my sink.  All I have to do when I leave, is put in my deodorant and toothpaste and I’m off.  Everything else has a permanent residence inside the bag.

But it isn’t toiletries and clothing the help me make business trips personal.  For this post, I thought I would highlight some of the items I carry with me that provide fulfilling trips with memories besides conference rooms and server closets:

  • Rollerblades – It is my policy to travel with my rollerblades.  I have a business trip to Traverse City, Michigan in 2001 to thank for this.  On that trip I spent an evening walking the beautiful TART trail.  It was a lovely walk, but it was marred by envy.  A number of rollerbladers whizzed by me and each time I cringed and longed for my own skates.  Now they come with me (even overseas) and I make it a point to skate in new states as I go.  With Massachusetts in October, I’m up to 17 states. (Related Post: Rollerblading – 16th State)
  • Journal – This is an absolute must.  Waiting at gates, riding on trains, and spending evenings alone at hotel rooms is the perfect time for me to catch up on journal entries.  London is near and dear to my heart and I wonder if it is the city I love… or the fact that I get so much writing and introspection done there. 🙂  (Related Post – Travel as a Learning Tool in Journal Excerpt: An Evening with Talib Kweli)
  • GPS – Rollerblading is my priority, but I also like to take my GPS with me on business trips.  It allows me to explore the area and find some off-the-beaten-path parks and novel areas while searching for geocaches.
  • Dramamine – I started using this stuff when I was in the throws of emetophobia.  It would give me the comfort of knowing I wouldn’t get motion sickness.  That is no longer a worry of mine, but much like Viagra was originally envisioned as a treatment for hypertension, I found a side effect of dramamine to be much more valuable.  I’ve come to appreciate the ability of guaranteed sleep.  I pretty much sleep on planes regardless, but the dramamine ensures a timely decline and a restful slumber.  Delays, turbulence, uncomfortable seats and bad entertainment don’t bother me when I’m in my own induced hypersleep.  And when we land, I’m typically ready to go and start my adventures.  When I am only in town for 25 hours and I want to rollerblade, geocache and explore– being rested and ready to go is a wonderful thing.  Of course, my practice may bother the other passengers.  When we went to Las Vegas in 2005, my colleague, Mark Duncan, reported that he could hear me snoring even though he was seated numerous rows away! 🙂
  • Cell Phone and Cell Phone Charger – I rarely call my husband on trips anymore.  Instead we text message.  When I travel a lot, even when I’m discovering a lot and seeing great scenery, there are still points where my mood is dampened and I miss home.  My husband seems to have uncanny timing during those times.  I’ll suddenly receive a text message or picture from Sean, usually some kind of inside joke or reference, that is just downright hilarious.  I crack up and I’ll feel connected to home. 
  • Address Book and Stamps – I love letter writing and for the girl on the go, what better means than post cards?  You have no choice to keep your message short and quick, but you still get to reach out to the people you’ve been thinking of.  I’ve also taken advantage of hotel time to catch up on full blown letters.  I specifically remember writing Kevin Dublin from a hotel in Michigan and writing Emily Hackett from Kentucky.
  • Running Shoes and Workout Clothes – I like to take advantage of the free gyms facilities in hotels– particularly the eliptical machines and the stationary bikes.  There are exceptions, but for most business trips, I’m exercising every night– be it geocaching, rollerblading, walking or taking advantage of the gym.  I find exercise to be absolutely essential. 
  • Eugene Sheffer Crosswords – I’ll print out a series of Eugene Sheffer crosswords to work on during my trip.  I’ll work on them at the gate, on the plane and most importantly, I’ll work on them when I go to dinner alone and am waiting for my food.  (Related Post – Crossword Coincidences)

When I look back, I’ve seen so many neat places and have gone on so many great adventures.  Some of this I do have to attribute to my company– as they chose to send me and they took care of the bill.  Some of it, I have to attribute to the customers– they welcome me to their facilities and treat me so very well. 

But the financial backing of my company and the hospitality of my customers alone is not what made the trips great.  I’d like to think it’s the choices I make on how to use the downtime, that really makes the trips shine.

Here’s hoping for another shining trip! 🙂

December 17, 2006 at 9:27 pm 7 comments

Kodo and the Christmas Miracle

Today, our temporary tenat was returned home.  It turns out her name is “Kodo” and she belongs to a nice family in Radford.  The mother reported that they knew the ferret wasn’t in her cage, but thought she was still in the house.

“I set up food and water downstairs,” she said, “and it kept getting eaten.”

My mother used to exercise a similiar tactic for lost gerbils.  She’d see food getting eating and toilet paper getting ripped up and would know the animal was alive and well.

Noting the depleting food supply, the family had no idea that Kodo was roaming at large outside.  And apparently, they have a mystery animal inside eating piles of ferret food.  That’s another problem all together!  Anyway, the mother was starting to get worried.  Her children kept asking about the ferret and its whereabouts and she didn’t have an answer.  Then she saw the signs Jennie and Shawn put up in the neighborhood.

“It’s a Christmas Miracle!” the mother told me.

I’m not sure about “miracle” but I was certainly pleased to make their day and to see the children, all dressed up for an evening pageant, embrace their beloved pet.  Witnessing their joy made the trip well worthwhile.

It seems Christmas Miracles are worthwhile financially as well.  The mother gave me some money for our troubles.  Sean and I had so much fun playing with the ferret, we probably should have been paying them for the pleasure! 

Anyone else want to hire me and Sean to play with their pet for four days?

December 17, 2006 at 7:23 pm 7 comments

Why I’m Not on American Idol

There are a few reasons why I think I enjoy programming after normal business hours.  Lack of phone calls and interruptions is a pretty obvious appeal.

I think another factor may be nostalgia.  When we were children, my father used to go to work in the evenings and weekends and he would take me and my siblings along.  While Dad worked, we’d each take a desk and play office– calling each other’s extensions, writing memos, photocopying “important documents” and one time accidently discovering a porn magazine in the desk of one of my father’s subordinates (Dad was not especially thrilled with that discovery of ours).  I also recall races up and down the hallway to the cafeteria.  There was something invigorating, something exciting about being in that office building at night.  

Finally, a third possibility has come to mind lately– I think I enjoy after hours work because I like to sing along to music.  I’m a horrible singer, so it isn’t a luxury I can indulge in when there are witnesses around.  As a result, my routine has become at 5:30 I’ll unplug my headphones and start playing music through the speakers.  There are still others lingering around, so I may sing along to choice phrases– but very softly.   Eventually someone comes by to tell me I’m the last one in the building.  At this point, I have total freedom!  I increase the volume of my speakers and I increase the volume of my participation.

This evening, Ana came by to tell me I was the last one left and I commenced my crooning.  Things were going well– a half an hour had passed and I was very much enjoying accompanying Kanye West with my shaky, offkey rendition of  “Family Business”. 

 All the diamond rings, they don’t mean a thing…. mean a thing… mean a thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnngggg.

Suddenly I heard laughter behind me and a sarcastic, “You’re awesome!”

I turned around to find my co-worker, Chuck….. AND his wife.

How…. embarassing.

December 14, 2006 at 11:44 pm 3 comments

Score One for the Messy!

There are disadvantageous, of course, to having a messy house.  For example, thoughts or concerns of the state of your house may make it into your dreams.  🙂

But, every now and then, there is a benefit and tonight was one of those occassions.  My friend, Jennie and her husband were driving home from work when suddenly they noticed a strange animal running down the road.  It was a ferret!  They couldn’t just leave it so they stopped and picked it up.  The animal was very friendly and well behaved.  It is obvious it was well taken care for, so the couple planned on keeping it safe while they posted signs and searched for the owner.  The only problem was– they couldn’t keep a ferret in their house as their dogs would go crazy.

But…… Sean and I can!  One of the perks of having a messy house is you can be laid back and as a result be hospitable to animals.  My brother-in-law is welcome to bring his ~70-pound “puppy” with him when he comes in for Tech games.  Sean and I are often able to come through for friends when they need a dog sitter on short notice.  And…you have a lost ferret that needs a temporary refuge?  Yup, Sean and I can accomodate. 

Afterall, what’s another animal going to do to the house that Henry hasn’t?  🙂

Anyway, pictures of our temporary tenant:


Ferret


Ferret in The Simpsons room with newly purchased food and toys

December 13, 2006 at 10:07 pm 1 comment

Gwyn’s Birthday Party

Today was Gwyn’s Birthday party.  It was a modest event– pizza, parmesan chicken, close family and friends.  There was one exception to the modesty which was a fancy Penguin Igloo Ice Cream Cake Ann and I made over the course of the last two days.  Ann had found the recipe in an issue of Martha Stewart Living:

  

Yesterday, we made the chocolate cake lining and then put in alternating layers of vanilla and chocolate ice cream and then put it in the freezer to set overnight.  All we had to do today was to decorate it and add the penguins.  Easy, huh?   Well, last night I was perusing the internet for some pictures to include in my blog.  I should have known we were in for some trouble when one of the search results included the phrase, “Damn you Martha Stewart.”  It turns out the white chocolate butter cream icing recommended by the magazine was very runny and would not hold its shape.  So after some struggles with that, Ann made her own batch of regular butter cream icing and which behaved significantly better.   Still, with that delay, we finished the cake literally two minutes before the guests arrived!

We had to improvise without marzipan, so we made the penguins out of leftover butter cream frosting.  For the most part, the icing worked well, but it had trouble supporting a lot of verticle weight.  As a result, the penguins ended up being a bit pudgy.

“Those are some well-fed penguins,” Larry observed.

Apparently, Penn feels the penguins aren’t the only things that are well-fed.  Penn named some of the penguins.  The most plump blue one, Penn dubbed, “Fat Grandpa.” 

Incidentally, the other blue penguin Penn named, “Penn.”  Penn kept waving to his butter cream counterpart and greeting it, “Hi Penn!  Hi Penn!”  The two Penns seemed to have a good friendship going.  But then just a few minutes later, real Penn had no qualms of biting little Penn’s head off.

It took some coaxing to show Gwyn what to do with the candles.  Both Ann and Penn demonstrated the act:

I think it was a group effort, but both candles were successfully extinguished.  So I suppose little Gwyn’s wish will come true.  She’s too young to article her wish outloud.  But I suspect food is involved. 🙂

More pictures from Gwyn’s Birthday Party are available on my Flickr site.

December 10, 2006 at 8:26 pm 1 comment

Invasion of the Orange Dorks

Today, the dogs and I went for a quick hike.  We decided to tap into some of the many trails in the Poverty Creek area.  Unfortunately, when we arrived there were signs at all the trailheads reminding people, “IT’S HUNTING SEASON!” and  instructing everyone to wear orange.  I checked my back of the car and alas, nothing orange.  Guess I am not as good as a Hokie fan as I thought.

So, the dogs and I drove back home, fetched some orange apparel and then returned to the trailhead.  The dogs wore their bright orange life jackets and I wore Sean’s “Orange Effect” T-shirt.  Together, the three of us looked like big dorks. 

Henry was especially unfashionable.  His life vest is way too big for him.

We didn’t see a single person on our three mile journey (up and back down the Prickley Pear trail).  Of course, that doesn’t mean a camouflaged hunter did not see us.  Who knows. 

I can, however, report with certainty that none of us were shot.  So perhaps our attire did have some advantages afterall. 🙂

December 10, 2006 at 7:30 pm 5 comments

Christmas Cookies

Earlier this week, my mother-in-law wrote:

Traditions are wonderful things to share, whether you combine some of your family’s and some of Sean’s family’s traditions or start your own.

Today, I was able to revise a tradition and share it with my friend Ann.  Every year, my family spends the day after Thanksgiving baking and decorating cookies.  It started when we were young.  We’re all grown up now, but that doesn’t stop us and our equally grown friends from participating in the yearly cookie decorating.  

A group of adults decorating cookies certainly brings forth new themes.  For example, a broken cookie is no longer a means for tears.  It is now an opportunity to get creative with red icing and make bloody stumps and appendages.  A Christmas tree elegantly decorated with the word “BEOTCH” is another design decision we didn’t quite capitalize on as children.  Here is a shot of last year’s effort.  I believe the Jackass cookie is the work of Aaron Evans, whose proven to be one of the best cookie decorators over the years.


Xmas Cookies 1995

This year, I wasn’t home for Thanksgiving and the timing was different, but cookie making and decorating was still done.   This year the participants were myself, Ann, Penn and little Gwyn (though Gwyn was more of a taste tester than a decorator).  We baked all day!  At times, Ann and I had two mixers going at once and three baking sheets were in constant circulation.  We made:

  • Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Sugar Cookies in the form of Snowmen, Candy Canes and Christmas Trees.  Penn and I used a variety of sprinkles and a delicious homemade butter cream icing Ann made.  Penn was especially good at embellishing the Christmas Trees and Candy Canes with the heart shaped sprinkles.
  • Peanut Butter Cookies with a Mini-Reeses Peanut Butter Cup in the middle.
  • Phifer’s Oreo Truffles which had a crushed Oreo and cream cheese filling and a milk chocolate outside with a white chocolate drizzle.  Penn was integral in mixing the filling!  After kids went to bed, Ann and I had a good time coating the goodies in chocolate.
  • Most importantly– we worked on a Penguin Igloo Ice Cream Cake for Gwyn’s birthday tomorrow.


Xmas Cookies 2006

It was a fun day and I’ll have to agree with my mother-in-law.  Traditions are wonderful things to share– especially with young children like Gwyn and Penn.

…even if it means an absence of bloody stumps and words such as “BEOTCH” and “JACKASS” 😉

December 10, 2006 at 12:47 am 6 comments

You Must Assimilate to My Hobbies – Part II

Well, it looks like I don’t have to make the actual product selection to corral people into my hobbies.  A few weeks ago, some co-workers and I pooled our money together to get a gift certificate for one of our buddies’ birthday.  We got this thank you email from him.  With complete freedom to buy what he wanted, he chose to equip himself with a GPS for…. geocaching!


From: James I
Sent: Mon 12/4/2006 10:56 AM
To: Alex H; Vicky H; Tim K; Kevin L
Subject: REI GIF Certificate Presents
I would like to let you guys know that I have made a purchase with the B-day present you so thoughtfully gave me. I have made an order for an GPS unit that will allow me to get into a hobby that I have never been able to do before…….GEOCACHING! I would like to thank each one of you again for such an awesome gift and I am sure me, Annie and Jason will have hours of fun getting lost in the woods 🙂http://www.geocaching.comThank You,James


P.S.  Ann reports Penn has been wearing his rollerskates around the house and he took them to his day care’s Show and Share.  

P.S.S.  If I continue to get 1 person to adopt 1 of my hobbies each week, in a mere 5,687,194 years every person in the United States will be rollerblading, geocaching, hiking, letter writing or journal writing! 🙂

December 9, 2006 at 10:17 am 3 comments

Rebecca Randolph

My Grandma Turnock had a number of lady friends that were around frequently during my childhood.  I’d see them at parties and potlucks and every year for the watching and betting on the Kentucky Derby.  One of those friends was Rebecca Randolph.  She was around so frequently, in fact, that I used to call her my “3rd Grandma”.  

Rebecca was very viligant about volunteering.  She volunteered at the Prince William County Symphony, where she took my siblings and I to a few times when we were young.  She also volunteered at Potomac Hospital.  When my Grandma Turnock was there, Rebecca was always on the lookout for opportunties to improve my grandmother’s stay.  Since my grandmother’s death, Rebecca and I have corresponded through letters.   Last Thanksgiving (2005), my mother and I visited her.  She wasn’t at home at first so we waited.  It turns out Rebecca Rebecca was off volunteering– reading to a child who had been in a car accident!  Rebecca was shorter and more frail than I remembered, but still opinionated, fiesty, and quite the story teller.  

Anyway, Rebecca passed away last week after a full ninety-three years on this good earth.  She didn’t have any children of her own, but she certainly had an influence on my life.  I suspect I am not alone.

Rebecca Randolph’s Obituary from the Potomac News

December 7, 2006 at 11:23 pm Leave a comment

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