Wednesday, January 30, 2008


I've been working on this blanket all winter, and I am finally DONE! I've never made anything quite this big before, so I'm excited about it. It's a gift for my mother-in-law... She was complaining just before I left to come over here that she doesn't have any throws to match the decor in her living room. Well, she soon will! I've got it in the mail to her now. I can't wait until she gets it!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

roman goats

Christmas and New Year's

Christmas and New Year's both were quiet, uneventful affairs for us. We spent most of Christmas Day at the house. Bran Was on duty Christmas eve, which could have been much worse that it was. On the ship, he would have been stuck there for the full 24 hours that he was on duty. With the Unit, he only had to go in for little while that morning, and pick some guy up at the air port. (Actually, it was Bryan, a guy that was later at the Christmas party we went to. He's in a few of the pics I took.) Then, he had to go back Christmas morning to do the security rounds. But after that, it was just hanging out here until about 3, when we went to Christmas dinner. It was being hosted by Jason and his girlfriend Heather. It was nothing fancy. Jason and Heather did the ham, the stuffing, and the pumpkin pies. We brought deviled eggs. Everybody else took care of everything else. It was an interesting time, though... Staying with Jason and Heather was Jason's ex-wife, Crystal, who had come to visit their son, Jason Jr. Odd though it was, everybody involved seemed totally cool with the arrangement. The dog, Rebel, was cool too. He's old and mellow, and not at all freaked out by all the people who had invaded his territory. He just wandered from cluster to cluster begging scraps of food, and attention. After a few hours (I think we left around 7) we went back to the house to resume our quiet day.

It was definitely different from any other Christmas that I've ever experienced. I'm used to going from house to house visiting various branches of the family, all that over the course of 2 or three days. There was none of that sort of thing this year. But like I said, it was nice.

New Year's was much the same. We spent New Year's Eve together at home. Once I coaxed Brandon away from the computer (he had just set it up downstairs, where we have the Internet connection), we lit all the candles in the living room and snuggled on the couch. We talked for a long time, but when I started to doze off around 10:30 or so, I told him to get back on the computer to play with the guys, if he wanted. (I knew he wasn't sleepy.) I woke up just after midnight to what it must sound like in a war zone. You know all of those cool fireworks that are illegal in the US, except for specially licensed people? Well, over here, there are available to the general public, and the Germans go all our for New Year's. And the Americans in the area do too, since they can't do it back home. Anyway, I caught Brandon saying something about "souds like Call of Duty 4 out there" so I grabbed my phone to check the time. Sure enough, we were about 10 minutes into the new year. I called out a Happy New Year to Bran and went back to sleep.

The next thing I knew, He was scooping me up from the couch. It was about 2:30, and time for bed. Ha, like I hadn't been in bed, or close enough to it, for four hours already.

Ok...I know what you're thinking. Because, I had been thinking much the same thing all day. "How lame is this?!? Here we are, in Europe, and we're not doing anything for New Year's? Nothing???" Well, I say to you, and to that niggling voice in my head, that at least I was with Brandon. The year before last (count down to 2006) Brandon was on duty on the boat, so I spent New Year's Eve with my cat. (That was the day I'd brought him home from the SPCA.) Now, that is lame. So I'm counting my blessings. And even if it wasn't some crazy awesome Euro party, it was greatly enjoyable. I'm not all about that staying up all night thing, anyway.

My New Job

I also started work at the end of December. My first official day was the day after Christmas, but I'd started before that because they were so short handed. There hasn't been too much from me to learn. Most of it has been the specific ins and outs of how this particular store operates, but I've done the retail thing before and it really doesn't change all that much from one place to the next. They've had me doing a lot of organizational stuff there, which it great for me. No one else on staff really likes that job, so they happily relinquished it to me. I started by reorganizing the beading materials section, because that was the worst. I also wanted to take stock of what we had, and what we needed to get. With that task done, I moved on to other areas of the store. I don't need to be trained on loading the kiln and such, since I already know how to do that, and I'm good to go on all the basics for a lot of what we carry. I'm lost when it comes to some of it knowledge of painting, with oils, acrylics or watercolors, knitting, wood work, sculpting and framing leaves a lot to be desired. For those things, I have to plead ignorance when someone asks me for help or advice. Or, at best, I can direct them to one of my co-workers.

I'm currently being trained in the framing shop, so that if they need me to I can cross over to help them out. It's an interesting process... And it's a skill that I'm glad I'll have. That way, I can take my projects in and frame them myself. I'll still have to pay for materials, but at least I won't have to pay for the labor and I'll get to use their equipment. In a few months, one of the permanent employees will be PCSing with her husband, and my boss has indicated that she wants to train me to take her position. I'll be learning to do inventory, so I'll have another bullet for my future resume. I've also been absorbing as much as I can about crafting from the other girls at the store. Several of them are bing into sewing and quilting, and there is a lot that I don't know about those as well. It's great! This is such a great job for me. It is perfectly fitted to my skill set, and I have the opportunity to learn so much more. Yay!

Roman Goats

Sarah and Peguy have been out of town for the holidays, so Bran and I have been spending most evenings just hanging out. We've found a rhythm of sorts... Sometimes I cook a big meal, sometimes I just throw something together, and sometimes we fend for ourselves. (I try to keep us stocked with bowl noodles, ramen, hot pockets, and mac & cheese for those nights.) Then, I'll sit on the couch and read, or work on one of my blankets with a glass of wine. Bran will chill on the computer, sipping on beer or rum and coke (I'm using the work 'sip' liberally here), and checking up on sites like fark, penny arcade, icanhascheezburger or playing games with the guys. When that gets boring, or when he's waiting on the comp to finish doing something, he'll grab his guitar and serenade me.

That, I think, is the best part. He's playing his guitar again! There for a long time, he wasn't interested in it, but for the last few weeks, he's been printing up songs and learning (or relearning) how to play them. My favorites are House of the Rising Sun and Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd, not Incubus). I wish you could all hear how good he's getting to be. I just hope he stays with it.

Anyway, one of the times that I was on the couch with a blanket and he was at the computer, he stood up and said, I think I need another Roman goat." I dropped the blanket into my lap and looked at him blankly for a moment before it clicked. Rum and coke, he said. Not Roman goat. But that's what he should have said, because that would have been funnier. It will never be rum and coke to me again. :)

Sunday, January 6, 2008

where was i?

Ah yes, snowboarding.

The Monday after the Christmas party, Brandon came home from work and asked me if I would like to go skiing that weekend. Feeling adventurous, I said 'sure', but then I didn't hear anything else about it all week, so I thought it had fallen through. Until I went to pick Bran up from work on Thursday. Instead of going to the car, he led me to the Dive Locker, which really isn't a locker at all but the building where the dive team part of Unit 2 works. The trip was still on after all, and Wally, one of the divers, had some gear for me to try on. Pants, a jacket, gloves, and snow boarding boots.

Wait, I thought we were going skiing? Right?

Wrong. Wally also had an extra snowboard and set of bindings for me to use, and everyone else was going to snowboard, so skiing was out and snowboarding was in. After we left the dive locker, we stopped by the Outdoor Recreation center to rent a board and boots and bindings for Bran. It was about $40 for the weekend, and if he decided to keep it for the season, they would apply that $40 to the cost of a season rental. Ok, that's cool. Let's see if we like it, first.

By the by, you know those pictures of Bran in the snowboard that were taken at the house? That was Thursday night, after we got home with the board.

Anyway, fast-forward to 7am Saturday morning. We all met up at the dive locker to car pool/caravan to the ski resort. We were some of the first people there, since most of the people were late. Christian walked in at about 7:15, and without a word to anyone, went straight to the coffee pot. I said good morning, he said "ungh." At that point, Brandon informed me that Christian is not a morning person.

Side note: Before that day, Christian had never been snowboarding. But, in anticipation of that opening day at the ski resort, he had gone online and purchased a complete set of snow boarding gear. And when I say set, I mean set. His board hadn't arrived yet, but he was all tricked out in black and red Spider cold weather gear. The pants, the jacket, the gloves, goggles, everything. And, the Spider logo is, unimaginatively, a spider. So he had little spiders embroidered all over his clothing. On the back of his leg, on the arm, on the shoulder, every where. And, being the impish little morning person that I am, I decided to have fun.

"Gill, hey Gill. Gill. Gill. Hey, Gill!" (I'm not really sure how long I kept that up, but you get the idea. Oh, and it's still the same guy. His name is Christian Gill.) "Gill, You have a spider on your pants."

His only response was to reach toward me with his hand open, and then squeeze it into a fist. "It's too early in the morning for that kind of shit from you."

Then I asked if he was still planning to drive. No answer. So I asked again. This time he looked at me and said, "What did I just say? It's too early for that." And to Brandon, he said, "Is she always like a broken record in the morning?" To which I responded, "Do it till it's funny." That was for Brandon's benefit, mostly.

Anyway, by this time, he had his coffee ready. He took one sip, sighed in apparent ecstasy, and answered me. After that, he was his usual civil self, and I just shook my head at those crazy night owl people, who need a coffee IV to get going in the morning.

Ok, back to the main story line. We finally got on the road at about 7:30. I slept through most of the ride, but Bran woke me up when we got into the mountains to look at the scenery. Which was beautiful. We were climbing ever higher into the snow covered mountains, so the view was becoming increasingly beautiful. Everything was coated in white powder...The trees, the road signs, everything. And, you could see where a snow plow had gone through to clear the road: there was a wall of snow on either side of the road, at least 4 feet deep! We passed houses that were buried in snow up to their windows, and higher! They had cleared out only the spaces in the driveways, and paths up to the front doors. There were huge icicles hanging off of the eaves too, easily large enough to use for a sword fight. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get any good pictures. I tried but they all came out blurry.

It was just crazy. And do you know what the temp was outside? Right about 10°F.

But I didn't know that, until we got there, and the guys started opening up doors. I changed into my gear in the back seat of Christian's truck (the windows were tinted) and didn't set foot out of the car until I was fully geared up. And I was still freezing. My fingers started to burn with the cold almost immediately. It seemed to take an eternity for everyone to get ready, but we finally trouped over to the lift ticket kiosk and got everything ready to go.

We all pretty much started out on the Bunny Slope, where the veteran boarders taught us noobies what to do. It was interesting... Tromp up the hill. Sit in the snow. Fight to get the bindings fastened with hands encumbered by bulky gloves, and the cold. Stand up, and try not to fall on your face.

That last part is a lot harder than it sounds. When I started out, I thought I was doing great. I would just hop up and cruise on down the little bunny slope, plop down on my butt, undo the bindings, and do it all again. I did it about half a dozen times and was feeling pretty good about myself. So good, in fact, that I decided to brave the real slope with the guys. I rode up the ski lift with Ski, so that he could help me with getting off at the top. I didn't have any trouble with that, amazingly. I just got out of the way and sat to do up the bindings. But when I got up, I started to zoom down the slope. I was going too fast, and I knew it. So I made myself fall, so I could "control" it.

At this point, Wally informed me that I had no business trying to go down the mountain with my board pointing forward. I would go too fast, and because I didn't know how to control the board, I would end up killing myself. What I needed to do, was to get up so that my board was perpendicular to the direction I wanted to go, namely, down. Well, that's just great. It would have been nice if someone had given me that bit while I was still on the bunny slope. You know that warm fuzzy sense of accomplishment that I was feeling earlier? Yeah, that went right out the window. Or down the mountain. Or whatever. As it turned out, I could only 'hop up' with my board angled down. In order to get up the right way, I had to crab walk my arms forward until my butt was almost above my ankles, then shove off of the ground with my arms while keeping my weight perfectly balanced back on my heels. Then, once up (I think I actually managed the feat once or twice) I had to keep my weight on my heels. To go forward, I had to ease my weight forward just a tiny bit. Too far, and I would slide too fast and end up digging the front end of the board into the snow, and go down.

Ski, bless his heart, stayed with me the entire time. When it became apparent that I couldn't get up on my own (after the first time or two, my arms just couldn't muster the strength to launch my body weight up) he started helping me get up so I could at least get down the mountain. I can't tell you how many times I fell. Most of the time, it was either on my butt or my knees, but I did have one rather spectacular face plant. Thank God for the goggles I was wearing. Eventually, I just gave up on the board and decided to walk the rest of the way down. I was about 3/4 of the way down anyway, and I'd fallen hard on my wrist. I didn't want to push my luck.

So, I went to the ski lodge for lunch. Tete (pronounced tay-tay) came in shortly after I did, so I had some company. Then, just as he was leaving, a big group of the guys came in. I stayed in the lodge for probably about 2 hours, as the guys from the group filtered in and out for lunch. Bran was one of the last ones to stop for food, and when he went back out, I went with him. I didn't want to punk out in front of all those guys, half of whom were SEALs, and I figured I owed it to myself to try at least one more time. Besides, I didn't have any pictures of Bran on the slopes. They were going up the Big slope this time, so I grabbed my board and tagged along. The plan was to take a few pictures, try the snow boarding thing one more time, and if I still sucked, I could just sit on my board and ride down that way.

Well, I got my pictures. I tried again and again, but after I fell on my ass for about the 100 millionth time, I decided that it was time to try using the board that way. I sat in the middle of the board, with one binding in front of me and the other behind, with my legs crossed Indian style around the one in front. But wouldn't you know, that I couldn't do that either? There was no way to control it, really, and not a whole lot to hold on to. I kept sliding off of it to one side or the other. When my naughty bits slammed into the binding in front, I decided that enough was enough.

Now that you have a fantastic mental picture of me bumbling my way down the mountain, let me tell you about Brandon. He took right to it, like a fish to water, the bastard. He was no pro, certainly, and he did his share of falling, but on the whole he spent more time on his feet than off of them. On that second time down the mountain, he was the one who stayed with me, to help me and give me pointers. When i gave up on using the board as a sled, he convinced me to try boarding again. He'd help me to my feet, and then stay by me to help me balance. He did a lot of falling at that point, but that was because I kept knocking him down. I eventually gave up again, vowing to walk the rest of the way down. I sent Bran on ahead, with a promise to meet him at the lodge at the bottom.

The only problem with that plan was that we had gone down the wrong side of the mountain. You see, back at the top, I was having such a hard time controlling the board that I actually went down the wrong way. I kept trying to correct, taking my board off and walking back in the direction that I wanted to go, but I just kept going in the direction of the steeper slope. So, since Bran stayed with me, we both ended up going the wrong way. And let me tell you, it was even hard to walk down the damn mountain. The snow had been packed down in a few places, but mostly it was just fresh powder. I was trudging through knee deep snow on a steep incline, lugging a snow board with me. Call me what you will, but it was hard! I'm a Florida girl, remember? Anyway, I finally got to the bottom, only to realize that I had no idea where to go. I knew that the lodge was, in general, *that way* but I had no idea how to get over there. There was a bloody mountain in my way. So there I was, trudging forlornly through the snow, wondering where my husband might be and how I might get back to the rest of the group. I wasn't paying attention to where I was walking, and whooops! Down I went into a little ditch in the snow. There was a creek running through there, so even though the snow was built up on either side of it, and almost above it, it still left a cleft in the snow. Thankfully, I didn't get wet, but I was definitely stuck. The snow was too unstable for me to push myself out, and I still had that damn board to worry about. There was a little family not far away, playing with their baby in the snow, who saw me fall. They were watching me, and kind of laughing (who could blame them?) so i asked them, in German, to help me. They spoke English, though, and after the guy helped me out of the ditch, I asked them how to get back to the lodge. But they pointed me in the wrong direction! Apparently, the main lodge was *that* way, but the lodge I needed to get to was *that* way. I was just about to sit down and cry when Brandon comes around a bend, and starts walking toward me.

Salvation! The couple directed us to a foot path paralleling the main road through the resort, so that's where we headed. At first, we went in the direction we needed to ultimately go, but we realized that it was taking us down the mountain. We needed to get back up, and then over. So we back tracked, crossed the street, and found a path leading up and in the right direction. It took us a while, but we got there . And, my knight in green camo carried my board (and his) the whole way. Needless to say, as soon as we got back to familiar ground, I went straight to the lodge, ditched the board, and ordered a mug of gluhwein (hot, spiced wine) and stayed there until the lifts closed.

Now, don't think that the day was miserable, and a total loss. It was a learning experience, to be sure, and one that I won't soon forget. I did a lot of laughing, at myself, mostly, and learned a lot about the guys that Bran works with. I had a good time, trials and all. Since then, Brandon has gone with them twice more. He loves it! I don't know about him being "addicted". Especially since the last time he went, they came home early because it was so ridiculously crowded that you couldn't even get on the lift. He spent all his time in line, waiting to get on. We do have a trip scheduled for the end of this month, to Garmisch, which is another skiing town/resort. Brandon ended up renting the board for the full season, so he will definitely be snowboarding, but I plan to try my hand at skiing. I've been told that it's easier, which is definitely a good thing. But, just in case, I plan to bring a book and my sudoku puzzles. :)