Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Quick & Tiny Change

A note to the actual humans (as opposed to spam-bots??) that read and comment here.... I decided to make a quick and tiny change to the commenting process here, and now you'll have to do a word verification. I've had to delete spam from my last 3 posts and it's just no fun! So, hopefully that extra step will deter them (but not still comment away!) from posting their lame-o adverts on my blog.
Okay...I've got some errands to run and lunch to eat and a shower to take (but not one to prepare for...we've postponed the Rock Star shower until further notice!) .....

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Catching Up

 It seems like a while since I've written on this blog...
but I've been busy. Sort of.
Busy planning a baby shower that may or may not go on as scheduled, as the baby was born early and is in the hospital.
Busy decorating (or not) for a baby shower for which the decorations have never arrived. Even though they were shipped 40 days ago. (and therefore also busy finding the appropriate wording to request store credit from the place that shipped them... I know it's not their fault if it's lost in the mail, but it's not my fault either!)
Busy sitting on the couch and watching American Idol, Nip/Tuck, the Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, and Cycle 13 of America's Next Top Model, when the "short" models were given a chance.
Busy catching up on sleep after last weekend's Virtual Crop at ScrapVillage.
Busy choosing knitting projects, starting some and frogging. Just can't find something I want to work on right now!
Busy cleaning up my house, because David will be here in 20 days and he is slightly less tolerant (or oblivious?) to messes than I am. And also because it's possible that I'm hosting a baby shower here on Sunday. But I've only gotten one RSVP, and it was a "not coming" anyway, so maybe I don't have to have the place that clean after all!
Busy trying to catch up on the blogs to which I subscribe in Google Reader. This morning I had 1000+ unread posts, and now I'm down to 362. I start off by "speed-reading" (which is really just looking at the pictures as I scroll through) the ones I don't really care about reading. Which kind of makes me think I don't really need to subscribe to them.
Busy planning some meals for February... I doubt D will be keen on my new rotation of Triscuits, salad, ramen noodles & Christmas cookies.
And, most excitingly, busy with my new volunteer gig with the Girl Scouts. My first meeting was on Thursday and I was there from about 3 until almost 9! I'm with a small troop of Cadettes, 6th-8th grade, and I'm already booked for the first two Saturdays after David gets back. Oops. And I'm waiting to find out when I'll be put on the cookie sales schedule!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Storm Dancers

I will now continue with the posts I promised to write about my trip to Greenland!
Things here have been crazy.......but that's another post!

   Anyway, I was supposed to leave Greenland on December 30, the day before our 5th anniversary. But you know what? I was having so much fun eating at the chow hall and playing video games and watching Oprah and being with David that I just didn't want to leave!  When I turned on the weather channel slide show and saw that a storm was expected on Wednesday/Thursday, I started to entertain the hope that maybe, just maybe, I would get stuck there for a few extra days.
   At first, it was just a thought..."wouldn't that be fun if the storm came and we ended up spending our anniversary together?" and then, after the deputy commander of the base said, "You're supposed to leave on Wednesday? I don't know if that's going to happen!" an obsession was born. The slides on the weather channel said the same thing as they had before, but I was certain that if Lt. Col. Wigg said that, it was because he had some extra information that hadn't been shared on the weather channel yet. Suddenly, I was checking the weather like a fiend. I started telling people, "Oh, I'm not leaving on Wednesday after all. I think I'd prefer to leave on Saturday." (Well, that was mostly because the chow hall was going to be serving the soup I really liked on Friday and I wanted to stay for that!) David told me that the sign that the storm was coming was rising temperatures. I watched the temperature like a hawk! I got excited everytime it got just one degree warmer.  When we were outside, I told David we needed to do a "Storm Dance". He complied and did a storm dance. I shouted at the sky, a la Ted Mosby in the How I Met Your Mother episode "Come On", in which he needs to make it rain. I needed to make it storm.

So I did.

The weather started really getting worse on Tuesday, but we were still in storm condition Alpha (storm expected within 24 hours). There were a couple of times when David said, "I can't believe we're still in Alpha!"  On Tuesday afternoon, we went to the terminal to drop off my luggage  Someone there said that they weren't sure that the plane would even come. But, still, they took the luggage, so I tried not to get too confident in my storm-starting skills. We asked what time I would need to be there on Wednesday and they said to keep checking channel 53. That's the airport channel. As nothing was changing on the airport channel, and we were still stuck in Alpha, I started losing confidence. That night, I created a storm dance and performed it for a full minute. When we woke up in the morning, my flight was still listed on the airport channel. I was sad...and I felt so defeated! We went out somewhere (breakfast? or maybe to see if the Danish Police Inspector was there to stamp my passport?) and as we were walking out the door, we heard the announcement that we had moved into storm condition Bravo.  I felt a tiny glimmer of hope that maybe we'd get put into Charlie before I left, then I'd be stuck in the building! By now (I think) the airpot channel had posted that my plane would be delayed about an hour or two. David could barely see while driving. But still, my plane was scheduled to come, and we weren't going into Charlie. David couldn't believe it... and I started to get scared. Originally, I only wanted to stay because I wanted to stay. By this point, I wanted to stay because I was afraid to leave! The winds were crazy and there was just tons of snow blowing around... I'm not a nervous flyer, but I started to freak out a little at the thought of taking off in that weather.
   Just before we left for the terminal for the delayed flight, I turned on the airport channel... and saw a wonderful thing: "The AirBus has been diverted to Sondrestrom. Updates will be posted here as they are available." I was so excited!!! But not as excited as I was a little while later when the airport channel said, "The AirBus has returned to Copenhagen and will not be coming to Thule today." I was just thrilled!!! I was practically shouting, "WE DID IT!! WE DID IT!!"
    And, then, the best thing of all was that we still were not in Charlie! So we were still able to get to the chow hall for the most delicious lunch of the week... stir fry! In the early evening, we went to the post office to help pitch mail and we turned on the airport channel and saw that my plane wouldn't be coming for me until Saturday the 2nd! We went to the club for wings and everyone knew I'd be happy with the storm coming! We made just enough storm come to prevent me from leaving, but not to keep us locked up on David's favorite eating-day of the week!

This is us @ 11pm, 1 hour before our anniversary and 3 hours before S.C. Charlie.
    We finally went into Charlie at about 0200 while we were sleeping. We were stuck inside for 36 hours, so we had no choice but to spend our entire anniversary together! We ate microwave soup for lunch and oven pizza for dinner.  We played games, watched movies, and just enjoyed being together! We watched the storm through the window, marvelled at our storm-inducing powers,  and stayed up until 1 in the morning so we could countdown to 2010 with Ryan Seacrest. And promptly fell asleep at midnight and 30 seconds, New  York time.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

12 of 12: It's My Birthday!

January's 12 of 12 is the one I always remember to do because it's my BIRTHDAY!!! Every month (or just some of the months, if you're me!) there's a big bunch of bloggers that participate in a fun photo project hosted by Chad Darnell. This year's Jan 12 was really different than last...when I was out running in shorts along the ocean instead of trudging through the snow in a long sleeve, fleece, jacket, tights, pants, headband and hat.
I remembered to charge the battery for my new camera the night before so I'd be ready first thing in the morning. I checked my e-mail and had lots of notices about messages on my Facebook wall:

1. Living Room, 0907

I checked the weather (33 degrees) and looked out the window. The snow was pretty slushy, so I figured that today would be the day that I'd venture outside for a run. These pretty plants poking through the snow caught my eye as I ran down my street. I liked the red berries and the purple cabbage, but didn't stop for long as a gigantic German Shepherd was barking at me.
                                              2. My street, Thetford. 1009

I ran through the wooded path and then through the neighborhood in which I first looked at a house. I ran on the sidewalks when they were covered with enough snow not to be slippery, and then switched to the roads when the sidewalks were too icy. As I got closer to the town centre though, I had to just walk because everything was slippery!! Now that I'm old (ha!) I can't risk taking a fall!
3. Thetford. I can't remember what church this is, and I looked twice just to make sure too! And the Bell. 1038

I was able to do more running on my way back home, but when I got to Melford Common, it was suuuuuuper icy, so I shuffled all the way down the street, slooooooowly!
4. The Black Horse, Thetford on the way to Melford Common (Magdalen Street?).  1046. This is where my friends and I eat dinner every Wednesday.

5. Thetford, across the street from the Black Horse. 1047. I always go past this building and think, "I wish I had a purple door!" Oh least I have a purple laptop!

6. My street, Thetford. 1055. This is my favorite sign. I always slow down, but I've never seen any plants cross the road! Ha!

After I came home, I called the photo printing place on base and learned that it would be more than double the cost to get photos printed there than in my town centre. So I walked back to town and got my photos done at one hour. Which meant I needed to just walk around and waste an hour. Which meant that by the time I got home, I had spent nearly 3 hours walking and running around in the 33 degree weather. So I needed some soup. I would eat soup in 120 degree weather because I just LOVE soup. Today I opted for Ramen noodles because I always make them in the microwave and I was very cold and very hungry. And then I only have to wash one bowl instead of one bowl and one pot.
7. Living Room. 1257. Lunch.
Then it was time to get the invitations done for the baby shower I am hosting. I had been waiting on the ones I ordered to arrive, but it's just getting too close to the shower date, so I ended up having them reprinted. They'll probably be sitting in my mailbox next time I check the mail!
8. Living Room. 1458. And see my purple laptop making an appearance in this photo? It's not really that purple. More pinky-purple than in the picture. I love it!

I spent some time on the phone (because it's my birthday and I was content to stay home and receive phone calls!) and then I went upstairs to get some stamps & inkpads so I could put the finishing touches on the invitation envelopes. When I came back downstairs, I saw a little card that had been put through my mailslot. It said "sorry we missed you" and it was from a florist. I opened the door and sure enough, there were these pretty flowers sitting on my snowman doormat! No wonder David had said earlier, "Oh, you're planning to e home all day? That's good."
9. Front Porch. 1730. My birthday flowers from David.  
I put the flower on the coffee table for a little while, but then I needed to get to work on those invitation envelopes so I ended up moving them to the step tansu.
 10. Living Room. 1740. My flowers! And my screensaver that reminds me of my dad's old clock.

11. Living Room. 2100.  A little late to be eating dinner, but I was on the phone at normal dinner time. Time to take a break from invites (see them half-stamped in the background?) and eat a salad and watch Countdown.

12. Living Room. 2130. All done! It's a rock-star themed shower mostly because the mom-to-be has tattoos. So I was so happy that I had this tattoo-style stamp set in my collection! And so happy that my mom sent me a Stampamajig for Christmas so I could get the wings in just the right spots!

13. Living Room. 2300. And an extra one because I miscounted while I was uploading. (Or maybe it's not extra and I miscounted while I was typing.) This is a present from my Aunt Margie. I can hardly believe my will power, because I've had this present since Monday and... I DIDN"T OPEN IT UNTIL MY BIRTHDAY!!!! I swear! I must really be growing up!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Looking back at 2009

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before? Swam with dolphins, pet stingrays, accepted 3 TMO shipments by myself, rented a house, went to Greenland!

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I don’t remember my resolutions…so I’m guessing that means “no”. This year's resolutions aren't going to start until my birthday. So I have another day and a half of being a lazy, sloppy pig.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? One of my best friends, Ami. And several of my other friends, too, like Skip, Beth, Katie. Oh! And my cousin Stephanie had her baby right at the beginning of the year!

4. Did anyone close to you die? Thankfully, no. We weren’t necessarily close, but my uncle passed away and that was sad.

5. Did you visit anywhere exciting? Greenland! Grand Cayman! Jamaica! Edinburgh!

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009? A husband who lives with me instead of across the ocean! Visitors. And a job would be nice!

7. What date from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? January 29...the day we left Okinawa. May 14… the day David found out he made Master Sergeant! December 24... when David sang me a special song.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Moving. Learning how to pop popcorn on the stove.

9. What was your biggest mistake? One that I’m already learning from.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Nothing out of the ordinary.

11. What was the best thing you bought? a British voltage speaker thingy for my iPod

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? David for working so hard & making Master Sergeant!

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? I don’t know…or don’t remember.

14. Where did most of your money go in 2009? Airfare!

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Getting stuck in Greenland! Glee!

16. What song(s) will always remind you of 2009? Home by Michael Buble, Don’t Stop Believin’ (both Journey & the Glee Kids versions)

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? Happier because David is getting ready to come home instead of leave!
ii. thinner or fatter? I‘m guessing thinner, because all of the pants I bought right around this time last year are big on me. We were in “we’re leaving…we better eat all the things we love to eat in Okinawa while we still have the chance” mode!
iii. richer or poorer? Richer, but not much since I haven’t had a job all year!

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Knitting, scrap booking, reading, running, and spending more time with David.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Eating sweets, bickering with David on the phone.

20. How did you spend Christmas? The best possible way….. with David. In Greenland!

21. Did you fall in love in ‘09? A few times… first with my new little cousin Marissa, then with Glee, and all over again with David in December.

22. What was your favorite TV program? Glee, Survivor, Big Love, Countdown, Ugly Betty, So You Think You Can Dance, season 3(again!)

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? Nope.

24. What was the best book you read? Marley & Me, Nineteen Minutes

25. What was your greatest musical discovery? uh…the cast of Glee!

26. What did you want and get? A piano! A slim camera. A purple laptop!! (although technically, this was for my birthday, so I shouldn’t have “officially” gotten it until 2010!)

27. What did you want and not get? a guitar necklace from etsy, a Survivor buff, a box bag

28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I turned 28. I wasn’t working, so I ran along the seawall and took a bunch of pictures. David came home for lunch and we went to OnoKauKau, the Hawaiian restaurant for kalua pig. For dinner, we (once again) went to Marino’s for pasta and when we came home, David gave me the cake that he decorated for me!

29. What’s one thing that would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Being able to move to a new place with David instead of by myself… I can’t wait for England to start feeling like OUR home.

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009? Pretty much pajamas or running clothes! And there was that week in which I lived in bathing suits!

31. What kept you sane? Running, knitting.

32. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Mr. Schuester from Glee! I’m sure there’s more, but right now, I only have eyes for Mr. Schue.

33. What political issue stirred you the most? I didn’t really get too involved… but I suppose it’s nearly impossible not to have an opinion on health care.

34. Who do you miss the most? Okinawa. I know that’s not really a “who”…but it’s what I miss most. Our friends, our life, the warmth, the blue skies, running along the ocean, my job, my husband!

35. Who was the best new person you met? I met a lot of good new people… my friends Sandi and Jessica among others.

36. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009? Enjoy what you have while you have it. I was so ready to get out of Oki…and spent much of the rest of the year wishing I could go back there!

37. What are your New Years Resolutions for 2010? Take time every day to do something for my body (running, yoga, Wii fit, walk, etc.), for my brain (read, piano, speak French, crossword puzzle, etc.), and for my creativity (knit, scrapbook, make a card, sew, etc.) Oh, and I suppose for my house (dishes, vacuum, straighten up, etc.) But instead of my resolutions beginning on Jan 1, I’m going to begin them on my birthday… maybe it will be more meaningful that way. Maybe.
The topic of my next post will be Greenland again... I just wanted to get this posted so I could get rid of the document on my desktop!

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Christmas (near) the North Pole!

One of the main reasons we chose the dark of December for my trip to Thule was because since we've known each other, we've never spent Christmas apart! We met in 2003, and didn't spend a Thanksgiving together until 2005. We're currently batting a .500 with Valentine's day, and I'm pretty sure the only years we've been together at Easter have been 2006 and 2008. But we've always been together at Christmas! We just weren't ready to break our streak (since it's the only streak we've got left!) so we did our darnedest to get me there for our seventh Christmas together!
We celebrated our first Christmas in Germany, with D's family when his brother & sister-in-law were stationed at Ramstein. The next Christmas was in Indiana with my family, right before our wedding. Four Christmases in Okinawa (the first one with my mom!) and this year, we celebrated Christmas in the Arctic Circle! Just like Santa!

Christmas is kind of bittersweet since being with my family was always really what Christmas meant to me... so we always try to make it really special no matter where we are or who we are with.
I make our Christmas candles, like my Grandma (pineapple slice, banana & maraschino cherry), and I buy frozen pierogi and tamales. They're not even close to being as good as the homemade ones, but they'll have to do! We watch A Christmas Story, and we open our presents on Christmas Eve (that may be David's favorite tradition that I introduced him to!), then check out what Santa brings us on Christmas morning. He always puts an orange, a mini-notepad and scotch tape in our stockings, just like he does at my Grandma's house.

And we've added to the mix: decorating our tree with Christmas music and always putting the same three ornaments up first, celebrating the first Christmas card we get in the mail, Christmas Pasta on Christmas Eve, and breakfast casseroles on Christmas morning.  Last year, we hosted dinner on Christmas Eve, so we put opening presents on hold until our guests left, because I love the way the tree looks with the wrapped presents underneath it. When the guests weren't leaving (a bunch of guys playing Rock Band), I left and went out for a run. I WISH I could make that a Christmas tradition, a Christmas lights run at 11pm on Christmas Eve...but we're not in Okinawa anymore, so I don't think it would be warm enough (or safe enough) to do that!

Well, this year was a little bit different......
First of all, David didn't have a tree in Greenland.
So I had to stuff ours in my suitcase:

Heehee... David had the idea (I had it too, he just said it faster than me!) to use his projector to put a picture of our tree up on the wall, with the presents underneath it! It was pretty cool!

We opened our presents on Christmas Eve.....well, the rest of them anyway, because it's so hard to wait! We are secretly 7 years old. But we hadn't opened any of the presents my mom sent, so we still had all of those and a few from each other left to open. Then, we went to play board games with a few people in another dorm building. As is typical, I totally rocked Taboo. Everyone was impressed. Then we went back to David's dorm for Christmas dinner. We took a plate of cookies. David had asked me to make Christmas Pasta, but I would've had to pack or mail the ingredients and I just didn't get around to it. Plus it wouldn't have been the same because I wouldn't have had Italian sausage, just ground beef. And Italian sausage makes me so much happier than ground beef. Yum. So we missed it this year...maybe we'll have Christmas in July? Anyway, had I made Christmas Pasta 1---it would've been too many cooks in the tiny little kitchen and 2---we would've all gone into carbo-coma! There was lasagna and spaghetti and garlic bread. And that was the menu. So David and I were certainly the only ones who even noticed that the Christmas Pasta was missing!
We also didn't have Christmas candles, but we did have plenty of cookies!

The people on D's floor did a Secret Santa gift exchange, and as I had mentioned before on here, my Secret Santa had to leave unexpectedly. D took 2 presents from "under" our tree and put them under the tiny tree in the day room for me. The guy I bought for was excited about his gifts...especially the homemade Buckeyes! His list of suggestions was "Ohio State t-shirts, Ohio State sweatshirts, Ohio State slippers". I bought the gifts for D's guy too, who listed "Chicago Bears" and that's it. He liked his new shirts & hat so much that he went and changed into them before going to work karaoke at the club! Everytime I saw him after that, he was wearing his new Bears hat (thanks, Mom, for sending it!)

After that, we went to the club, because it was Thursday and therefore, Karaoke night. David is apparently pretty much the karaoke star of Thule! People kept telling me what a great singer he is and how they hate singing after him. :) I think the first song he sang that night was Push by Matchbox 20. I couldn't tell you all the others he sang because he sang tons of them! We were there for a long time and later in the evening, D went up to sing another song. I heard him say, "If you've been out here recently, you know that I've been practicing a song to sing to my wife. If you haven't met her yet, she's that beautiful girl sitting back there." And then I didn't know what to do, so I just kind of waved. And all the girls at the table said, "aawwww" and David sang "Home" by Michael Buble'. It was the sweetest thing. He sang it so well and the words were just perfect. I love that song, I love Michael Buble, and I love David, so I was really about to cry! I had tears filling my eyes the whole time.
Here's some of the words:
Another aeroplane, another sunny place, I'm lucky I know, but I want to go home I've got to go home
Let me go home, I'm just too far, from where you are, I want to come home
And I feel just like I'm living someone else's life. It's like I just stepped outside when everything was going right
And I know just why you could not come along with me, this was not your dream, but you always believed in me
Another winter day has come and gone away in even  Paris and Rome I want to go home. Let me go home.
And I'm surrounded by a million people I still feel alone, let me go home Oh I miss you you know
Let me go home, I've had my run, Baby I'm done, I gotta go home. Let me go home, it'll all be alright, I'll be home tonight, I'm comin' back home.

Anyway, I told David that that was the best gift of Christmas. I had heard the song (it's been on my iPod for quite some time) and thought that the words were fairly appropriate to our situation, but to have had David hear the song, think the words fit, and learn it and practice it so he'd be able to sing it for me was just so touching. Now I cry everytime I hear the song! :)

We stayed at the club a little while after that too and sang a few more songs. I even made my stage debut with David. Only because there was only one other person besides us in the room by this point. Then I went up again because I wanted David to sing Sweet Caroline, just so I could do the "bah-bah-baaah" parts. Let me tell you, I was a huge hit! The crowd came back after that and David sang a few more songs too.

On Christmas day, I woke up before David, but didn't peek at the presents from Santa (he always hides them underneath blankets, one for me and one for David). When he got up, we saw what Santa had brought... he brought me a new camera, which I really wasn't expecting (I had already gotten a digital piano/keyboard as an early Christmas present!) and he brought David a NY Giants jersey.

We went outside and took some pictures before we went to the chow hall for dinner. Christmas dinner was turkey, ham, cranberries, stuffing, potato-leek soup, sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes. It was yummy and I had been looking forward to it all week, especially since I hadn't had Thanksgiving dinner this year!

The little tree at the Dundas Buffet Restaurant (aka chow hall)

Outside Headquarters

Me and Santa's sleigh! It's actually an old sleigh that was found in Sept 2005 (?) at the polar ice cap.
Does it look kinda cold & windy?
I thought it was freezing (well, below freezing!) at -17. I talked to D yesterday and he said it was -50!!!! OMG!

Christmas day night, we went to the community center for game night and played with our new Wii game (Family Game Night 2) and then switched to Apples 2 Apples which was lots of fun.

So, to make a really really long story (sorry!) short, we had a unique, but still very merry Christmas! And we didn't have to break our streak!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

On Top of the World!

So, as you may know, maybe because I said so once or twice, or maybe just because you are very intuitive, this year while I've been in England, my husband has been in Greenland. He's in the U.S. Air Force and has been for 10 years and a few months... and he's been lots of places. I've been lots of places, too, but he's been to more places and different places and even got paid to go there. I've never been to South America or the Middle East, but, thanks to the AF, D has. I think this is really unfair, so when he went to Greenland, I was pretty bummed that he was going to another place that I'd never go to. Seriously...if he went to, say, Poland or Florida or something for work, it wouldn't be too upsetting, because I could go there sometime in the future. But Greenland... who in the world goes to Greenland?
Well, *I* did!

We had been talking for quite some time about spending Christmas together at Thule (the base in Greenland)
(If you want to learn more about Thule, see maps, read about the mission, etc. check here.). Because you never know what the weather (and the plane!!) will have in store, D was concerned about having me attempt to fly in on the 24th... if the plane broke, I'd be stuck at the airport in Baltimore all alone for Christmas! So, he got a special approval for me to come on the 17th and stay for 2 weeks! (And it was a good thing, too...because the plane was not able to fly on the 24th and didn't arrive until the 26th!)

What was Greenland like?
Well, I was waaaaay up at the top, just 8 or 900 miles from the North Pole!
(see where all the yellow lines join together?)

It was dark. It was cold. There was snow.
(this is driving me crazy now because my text is centered instead of on the left!)
24 hours of darkness..... it never got light. It was dark at 4 in the afternoon. And noon. And 9 in the morning. On my first full day there, I woke up at a normal time and David was at work. He came to pick me up for lunch at 11, and when I walked outside it was just kind of weird! Because it looked like 11pm, but I was heading out to eat lunch! It was crazy! The moon was out all the time. And we all had reflectors on our coats.

When it's 24 hours of darkness, reflectivity is very important!

David had to work most of the time I was there, so I spent my days reading, watching Oprah 3 times a day (twice on AFN and again on actual ABC!), watching Christmas movies, playing with my pink DS, and eating Christmas cookies! My mom sent some and I had sent some too.

He picked me up for lunch at the chow hall every day and I loved it! It costs $3.30 per meal but you get to eat as much as you want. My favorites were Tuesdays and Wednesdays... Taco-building and stir-fry-to order, respectively. So good. The only downfall to taco & stir-fry day was that I didn't usually have enough room for soup or salad bar!  We walked around the BX (which took about 3 minutes since it's so tiny!) after lunch most days too. I guess that is the routine.

Most nights, we ate at the chow hall for dinner too, but a couple of times a week, we went to the TOW club. That's short for "Top of the World"! Because, well, that's practically where we were. I had a Ruben, a "Security Forces Burger" (pepperoni, pizza sauce, and mozzarella cheese) and a BLT. One night we shared a Polar Bear Pizza with D's buddy (it wasn't really made of polar had pepperoni, sausage, ham and bacon, I think), and we went for wings twice. Wednesday night is wings night. I guess we ate at the club more often than I thought! We also ordered food from the club one night because that's D's Sunday night football routine. We had pizza from the club on the first Friday I was there, because each Friday there is free pizza at game night. Video games mostly, but one Friday we played board games, too!

When D wasn't at work, we spent our time shaking presents, going to the community center for game night or to play Scrabble or watch movies (the theater AND the popcorn are free! We saw The Time Traveler's Wife and The Goods). We also went to the gym. D lifted, I ran on the treadmill and we also played Becsketball (shooting baskets with my own very special scoring system...1 point for hitting the backboard but missing a basket, 2 points for hitting the rim and bouncing off without making a basket, 4 points for making a basket, and 10 points for making a "nothing but net" basket.) and we set up the tennis net and played a little indoor tennis. Neither of us has played in over a year, and usually D is waaaaaaay better than me, but apparently, my rust shakes off more quickly than his does. Or maybe it was all the practice I had been doing playing Top Spin 3 on my pink DS! ;)  One day we went bowling and I can't believe I won the first game! Actually, I'll have to check with David to make sure I'm remembering's so unfathomable that I think I might be making it up. On the nights we went to the club, we usually played pool or darts. Once, I won at 301! I was amazed! I also won at pool, but that's because David cheated for me and moved balls around. The juke box at the club is free! So is playing pool & darts. And so is the cab ride to the club (or to anywhere on base!) One night at the club, I played the slot machine "Enchanted Forest" or something. I picked that one because it had unicorns on it and I love unicorns! Unicorns must love me too, because I won $3.28! Actually, I had put in a dollar to play, so I guess I only won $2.28. And when I went to cash out, I only got 3 dollars because the club doesn't pay out coins. I made history as the lowest cash out ever at the Top of the World Club at Thule Air Base. I wonder if they are going to make a plaque for the wall or something. The guy said that the lowest he had ever seen before that was $40. I blew that record out of the water! David always goes and sings karaoke on Thursdays, but he didn't sing on the first day I was there, so I only got to see him on one karaoke night (because we were stormed in the other Thursday I was there), but that was fun. More on that later. One day we went to the little museum on the base too. It was interesting, lots of old equipment, pictures, etc. And we also went to the Telepost Danish/Greenlandic(?) post office and gift shop. So, basically, I did EVERYTHING there is to do there.  

The first Sunday I was there, we went into storm condition Charlie right after brunch. When we were in Bravo, D said that we'd better get to the chow hall and hope we could get through our meal before they "called Charlie". Charlie means you're stuck in your residence until the commander decides it's safe enough to start driving around again. (Weekend brunch, by the way, was fab...omelets, eggs & pancakes to order as well as assorted meats and fresh fruit). Anyway, even when we weren't in Charlie, we spent some time in the room (because as you read about in the paragraph above, there wasn't too terribly much else to do) and we played games (Phase 10, Scattergories, Risk, Jenga), watched movies, played Rock Band, read, and played Jeopardy. I'm still the Champ. On Sunday, David was really hoping NOT to go into Charlie, because he likes going to the other building to watch football.

One day, we drove off of the main base toward another part of base that's up on the mountain. Apparently that's where the stuff that the base is there to support is. That's when I really got a sense of just how dark it is there! Because we were away from the lit-up buildings and then D turned off the headlights so I could see! He was trying to help me make out the outlines of things along the way, but it was really hard...mountains, islands, and the Greenlandic Ice Cap. We also saw the AF tug boat (that I could see) but even right by the boat, it was really hard to see the water. I didn't like being by the boat, because 1. I think it's old and kind of creepy looking, 2. I was scared that we might get eaten by a polar bear or a giant pack of Archies (Arctic foxes) and 3. I thought, "If there were a Lifetime Movie set at Thule, this is exactly where the husband  would take the wife to murder her." Oh, and 4. I was freezing!
On my last day at Thule, after breakfast, the full moon was bright and the skies were clear since a storm had blown through, so I could finally see Mount Dundas which was huge (but I never even saw it there until that day!), and the water and island in the bay.

I liked being there and having nothing to do but spend time together! I'm so glad that I got the chance to go there......there aren't many people who will, not that many spouses even visit, and they certainly don't get to spend as much time as I did there. The whole time I was there, I kept having moments where I just felt in awe, that a place like that exists in the world, that I was there, etc. And I'm glad that I got to see where David has spent his year. He had told me about it, of course, but I don't think words or pictures are enough to describe the experience to anyone. And now, the final countdown begins...D will be coming home "next month"! It's so fun to say that!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

6 Airports, 5 Planes, 4 Countries and...

41 hours and 14 minutes.
And then I was in Greenland!

I had to leave the house so early to get on the National Express bus to the airport that I didn't bother going to sleep on the 15th. I had no problem sleeping through the entire bus ride, luckily waking up just in time to see signs for Heathrow. I don't think the bus driver made any announcements about arriving there (it had more stops afterward), so I'm really glad I didn't sleep through my airport!
I got checked in and was happy to learn that my bag was checked all the way through (except for my AMC/military flight of course). The airport was freezing and I was still exhausted. I was asleep the minute I got on the plane! I wasn't sure I wanted to sleep on the short flight to Dublin, because I wanted to be tired enough to sleep through the trans-Atlantic flight. I had an aisle seat, which made me happy.

The most bizarre thing happened in Dublin... I cleared U.S. customs. When the customs officer with the New York accent handed me my passport and said, "Welcome back!," I was still under-rested and easily confused enough to wonder whether maybe I had already taken my long flight! I hadn't. :) I got on the plane, once again, an aisle seat! And this time was even better... there was nobody else in my row, so I was able to lay across the seats and sleep my way to JFK. I stayed up long enough for the meal.

Landed in New York and...didn't have to do customs. But I did have to pick up my bag and drop it back off at my American Airlines flight. I had lots of time at JFK so I enjoyed an Auntie Annie's pretzel-dog, wrote out some Christmas cards (but couldn't find a mailbox) and did quite a bit of window shopping. Lots of nice shops in whatever terminal I was in at JFK.

Continuing my lucky streak, I was assigned an aisle seat again on the way to BWI. And, once again, I was asleep before take-off. At BWI, I picked up my luggage and found my way to the military/AMC terminal. David had drawn me a handy map. He had written that they closed at 6, so I needed to go straight there. I showed up and almost freaked out because there was nobody there...and it was only 5! I began to worry that they closed at 4...because sometimes I see 1600 and think 6 instead of 4. I walked closer and saw that they would be opening 6 hours before my flight...which was scheduled for 0200. So I figured I'd go hang out at the USO until 8 and then head up to check in. But I caught a glimpse of a mail box, so I wrote a couple more cards and put them all in the box. By the time I walked past the desk again, there were people working there. I got on the list for Space-Available travel and was assured I'd make it on the flight, and instructed to come back at 8pm to drop my bag. So I headed down to the USO.

Have I ever taken time to sing praises to the USO here before? It is such a wonderful organization! On my way down there, I walked past "Operation Welcome Home" preparing to welcome home a big group from the desert. I thought about standing there and being part of the party, but that kind of stuff gets me weepy, so I moved on. The USO at BWI did not disappoint! The volunteers were friendly and they had lots to offer. I put my luggage in the storage area and was glad to be free of it for a while! I got on the internet and read an e-mail from David. He informed me of a storm at Thule that might delay my plane a little. I chatted with a mil-mil couple who was PCSing from Ramstein to Colorado. Then a man came up and said he overheard me saying that I was on my way to Thule. He was going there for the first time for 3 weeks. He said, "I don't know if we're going to make it out of here tonight". I told him that David had e-mailed me and said the storm should just delay the plane a little bit, but then I realized that David was probably just telling me that to keep me from getting worried... this guy's contacts had told him that the plane probably wouldn't be able to come in on Thursday...and possibly not on Friday either!
I wrote out the rest of my Christmas cards, had an ice cream bar, an orange, and a cup o' noodles (I love the USO!) and sat around reading, playing with my pink DS (I don't know why I always call it my pink DS and never just my DS. But I do.) and talking to other people who were hanging out at the USO. We got lucky that a big group was coming in, because the USO, which normally closes at 10, stayed open all night! I stayed there until the fire alarm went off! Seriously! Right around midnight. Then Max and I headed up to check on the status of the flight to Thule. The lady said they were just going to delay it for an hour, so we could go ahead and go through security if we wanted.
There were about 12 of us waiting for the plane.
Before we could get on the plane, we had to get in this weird contraption that moved us. It was like a time machine. Or like we had already gone through a time machine before we got in it... it seemed like a bus or a subway car. The driver closed the door and the whole vehicle jerked like crazy. Then we started to lower down to the ground... we traveled for about a minute, and then had to raise up again to connect to the plane. The "veterans" of this trip said they have no idea why they use this machine, as we could've just walked the 20-30 feet to our plane on our own. They also explained that on the return trip, it has to go all the way around the airport because the machine is too big to make the turn into its "parking space". Weird!

On this plane, I had the row to myself again! Loved that! I fell asleep right after the snack and woke up just about in time to hear the pilot say that the weather at Thule was making it impossible for them to clear the runway so we were being diverted to another airport! Oh no! We were at Sondrestrom, a little further south in Greenland. It was light outside there so seeing the terrain on the way in/out was really neat. No houses, etc. Just craggy mountains. We sat there for a few hours and had a little snack. Then I made the mistake of stopping in the souvenir shop where I saw.... YARN! I had to buy some! Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?) I had no idea what the exchange rate was... it was only later when they started talking about how much the snack cost in Danish kroner vs. dollars that my mind started making the calculations about how much I spent. Oooops.

Back on the plane, the flight attendants served us breakfast and I was really excited that since there were so few passengers, they let us have BOTH entrees instead of having to choose. That was really a relief, because I really wanted the pancakes, but the omelet was served with bacon and I wanted bacon!

We landed a couple of hours later and it was pitch black. I think it was 2 pm! I had no idea though, because I had been traveling for so long! As we got off the plane, a bunch of people shook our hands saying "Welcome back!" and "Welcome to Thule!" and "We're glad you're here, Rebecca!" It was pretty weird. And really cold! Once we were in the airport, I gave the girl my passport and my letter from the commander and then I saw David around the corner! He wasn't allowed to come into the area where I was, but he told me where I needed to go to get my bag (they only let 5 people in at a time) and waited for me to walk out into the hall. I was really excited to see him! We went directly to his dorm building because I was dying to take a shower! When I walked in his door, I stopped the timer on my watch... it was 41 hours and 14 minutes from my door to David's door.


My first UK cookie party was a success!
I've heard of a couple of different ways to do cookie exchanges, but I've kind of settled on my way: invite a certain, small # of people and have them bring their cookies counted out and pre-packaged. So that means that I need a pre-RSVP before I give the invitations so I know how many cookies to tell people to bring!

I was really lazy, overwhelmed & running low on time, so I just did a digital invite this year.
Unfortunately, I had a cancellation before I sent out the invites, but since I was running so late, it was too late for me to think of someone else to invite (and it would've been obvious that they were "second string!") so I just decided to make 2 kinds of cookies so everyone would still take home 6 dozen different kinds of cookies. (You can see my day of cookie/party prep here)

I decided that this year's "party favor" would be tiny knitted mittens...but I didn't finish them all in time for the party. Luckily, 2 of my guests live right nearby, so I promised to bring their mini mittens later!  I figured it was more important to get the dishes all wiped off and the beverage station set up (hot water in my carafes for hot apple cider, hot chocolate, and a variety of teas, plus eggnog, gingerbread eggnog, and of course, milk!). I had just finished vacuuming when my first guest, Jaclyn, arrived. I got the snacks set out and soon everyone was here.
My cookie party menu pretty much stays the same and is pretty much all red & green... sun-dried tomato-pesto dip with goat cheese, hot broccoli dip, spinach balls and cherry cheeseball. I also put out fudge, Buster bars & Buckeyes. In Okinawa, everyone loved the cherry cheeseball and the sun-dried tomato-pesto dip. Here, the broccoli dip & spinach balls were the big hit!

We ate, chatted, and took home lots of cookies:

Pumpkin-Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies (me)
Orange Infused Snowballs (me)
Egg Nog Cookies (Jaclyn)
Peanut Butter Blossoms (Wendy)
Pecan-topped Cheesecake cookies (Robyn)
Cranberry White-Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies (Sandi)
Maple Snickerdoodles (Concetta)

They were all delicious, and I have lots of them in my freezer since I couldn't possibly eat them all in the 2 days between my party and my flight!

Blog-break over!

I disappeared kind of suddenly there, didn't I?
After my busy day of baking cookies, I had a busy day of finishing the preparations for my party (including finishing up 6 pairs of mini-mittens as party favors!) on the 13th. The days following the cookie party were a whirlwind of cleaning, packing, and to-do lists. I left at 0130 (local) on the 16th and arrived in Greenland at 1445 (local) on the 17th. You can try to figure out the time difference or just come back in a day or two to find out how long I traveled! I just got back yesterday... my house was freezing! Today I went and picked up a whole lot of mail and got a new tire put on my car because it was shaking like crazy. And now I have lots to do...unpacking, laundry, new brake pads, baby-shower prep, clean-up, mailing out Christmas presents..... and blogging!

Because it (*might*) hold me accountable... I'll make a quick list of blog posts I hope to write this week.
1. Cookie party
2. Traveling for almost 2 days straight
3. Greenland
4. Christmas
5. Storm Dancing
6. New Years
7. Home Again
7. January Goals

In the meantime, check out my "places I've been" map... I've now been to every country in North America!
Visited Countries

Visited Countries Map from TravelBlog

(Actually, I don't know if this image is working...but it's too late to tinker with it right now. Just trust me...all of North America is colored in!)
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