Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!!

My first memory of New Year's Eve is of me and my sister spending the night with our great-grandmother (my mother's grandmother). We would ring in the New Year with Grandma Mabel, Jackie Gleason, Lawrence Welk, and Grandma's tuna macaroni salad with Ritz crackers.

My favorite New Year's Eve memories are the years my son (who will be 28 this April) and I spent watching Nickelodeon's Count Down while we held night long Yahtzee marathons.

This New Year's Eve finds Hans, Wilbur, and me in our little apartment along with my youngest daughter, who, while on Christmas break, is apparently suffering from a nasty bout of food poisoning (I'm not sure if she'll ever order a grilled chicken sandwich from a mini mart again). So far today, all she's been able to ingest is: one bite of toast, some Gatorade, and a half can of coke. Wilbur has been full of sympathy and has spent far too much of his time with his head deep in the toilet with my baby girl who could really do without his concern.

Maybe not the best way to start off a new year but hopefully things will get better.

This Thursday, Hans, Wilbur, and I will drive to Charleston, South Carolina where our Knotty Cat has been languishing since the beginning of November. We will then restart our journey south to Florida, and hopefully the Bahamas.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Very Merry Christmas

I found one big roll of wrapping paper at Target (can you tell!) and still have a ton left over.

One of the only safe places to keep everyone's gifts was on top of Wilbur's crate (a place he avoids at all costs but still ended up spending some time out on Christmas Eve**).

**where bad little pitties go who eat things they aren't allowed to.

Hans is a Leo so I was very happy to find a cute little lion ornament that I taped to one of his gifts.

Wilbur was very happy too (STUFFY!).


We caught him with Hans' lion before he did too much damage.

Monopoly! For the boat!

When I first met Hans a few years ago he reminisced about the time he and his two brothers nearly came to blows over a game of Monopoly. Insults (Socialist! Greedy Pig!...) flew and the game only ended when the board, tokens, motels, and money went flying in all directions.

Of course I thought this was terribly endearing and asked, "How old were you?" expecting to hear they were perhaps ten or twelve.

"Oh, it was just a couple of years ago," was the answer.

Last year when I mentioned to Hans' younger brother that we like to play Scrabble and that I hate to lose he said, "Whatever you do don't ever play Monopoly with him, a few years ago he actually made me cry."

So here I am with my present and Hans insisted on taking pictures.

If I'd know pictures were involved I would have done something with my hair.

Wow! A box full of newspaper!

Oops! Here's another present.

I remember doing this very same thing to my grandmother years ago.

Uh-oh, a VistaPrint box.

Please tell me he didn't get me dirty business cards.

Sonofagun another present.

I wondered why the hell I could hear Hans cutting and taping for so long when I knew he only had a couple of presents to wrap.

And finally the last box.

A dolphin pendant for my necklace.

In years past, Hans has given me a sailboat and a light house, and I'm hoping dolphins really are good luck because I'll be wearing this when we get back on the boat.

Wilbur loves the holidays.

At Labor Day he (stole) ate most of a pumpkin pie.

At Thanksgiving he (stole) ate most of a butterscotch creme pie.

And last night on Christmas Eve he ate (stole) a whole bowl of shrimp.

Ahhh! Visions of thirty shrimp tails are dancing and hopefully digesting in his head!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

'Tis the Season

We're still tying up loose ends of things that need to be taken care of before getting back on the boat (and we're really hoping that Hans' new Canadian passport gets here on time!) but instead of boring you with those details I'll post about the holiday season instead.

Christmas has come to mean many things to me over the years.

When I was in the first grade it was the sheer excitement of making paper chains for our Christmas tree out of green and red construction paper, watching The Grinch and Rudolph on TV, fighting with my sister over who got to hang what on the tree, Santa Claus, and of course all those wonderful presents.

When I had kids of my own, and it was all about waiting until they were asleep (which seemed to take forever) so I could try to quietly sneak all their presents under the tree, and I can still remember how thrilled they were when I (with a lot of drama) complained that Rudolph and his cronies had left chomped up bits of carrots all over our deck, and did anyone happen to see Santa's sleigh tracks (made at around 3 AM with a broom handle) on the deck?

Then I was suddenly single with two jobs, and three kids who didn't care if I put up a tree or not as long as they got presents. Honestly, I tried to keep the Christmas spirit alive, but it's tough when December was the month the township snowplow knocked over my mail box and when I called my dad for help, I had to first get past my mother (who doesn't have a job but wants to tell me about what a bad day she's had and how my father is driving her crazy). It's the December where it snowed every single day and I found myself shoveling the driveway (in between my two jobs) at both 7 AM and midnight thus leaving me feeling like a wrung out dishrag, or the infamous December when the muffler fell off my car and the starter on my daughter's car died, and the only time I had left to shop for presents was Christmas Eve.

And finally, December is the month of the company Christmas party. The entire month.

Oh sure, Christmas parties are just peachy keen and tons of fun when you're an attendee of one or perhaps two, but just try being a waitress for an entire month times ten years of them and then see how you feel.

Putting up with beer deaf drunks, bossy wives who envision themselves as Mistress of the Manor, discovering the freezer is broke when it comes time to serve 48 scoops of liquid ice cream, struggling with fifty pound trays of dirty dishes on your shoulder all night long because for some reason everyone wants to congregate in the only narrow doorway to the room... I did this for over ten years and I'll never forget the weekend I clocked in over 32 hours (in addition to my full time job) from Friday night to Sunday evening at a beautiful private club.

I still remember how tired I was on Friday night (and was already wondering how the hell I would make it through Sunday) after the first party ended at around 2 AM and we still had to tear down the banquet tables and put up round ones for Saturday's brunch. After Saturday's brunch we tore down those tables, completely rearranged the dining room, ordered pizza, and folded about a thousand napkins in preparation for The Big Party.

The Big Party was thrown by a wealthy local contractor who was a good customer, employed a lot of townspeople, and we were to be on our best behavior.

I knew it would be an interesting night when I saw men arriving in everything from filthy jeans and flannel shirts to leisure suits and cowboy boots, to women in ball gowns and homemade tattoos to flannel shirts and cowboy boots.

At these parties the waitstaff is usually given three to four tables of eight to ten people each. The menu is set; meaning everyone gets the same soup and salad, and a choice of three entrees (beef, fish, chicken, and the occasional vegetarian dish). This allows everything to run smoothly (for the most part) and hopefully a good time is had by all.

I immediately knew I was in trouble when I discovered that one of the men I had to wait on had such tremendous BO that it made my eyes smart and I felt like I had my nose jammed deep in his armpits all night long. He exacerbated the problem by dousing himself with an entire bottle of Aqua Velva and I then spent the rest of the night taking a deep breath before launching myself at his table, expelling it after I left, and ended up feeling like a Japanese pearl diver for the remainder of the evening. I felt very bad for the man at my next table who had a terrible speech impediment and I acted like I didn't notice it at all and was very patient even though we were expected to get our orders to the kitchen 'yesterday'!

No one understood that their Prime Rib would be 'medium' (and no I can not turn medium into rare!) and all the men ordered an end piece. Just how many end pieces do you think a prime rib has I wanted to ask.

As I was madly clearing soup cups, dropping off salads, refilling water goblets, and serving drinks, a man from a neighboring table (not mine) flagged me down, and since I had to be polite and couldn't say "Sorry you're not my station," I was forced to acknowledge him.

He was of the 'filthy jeans' club and he and his cronies were having quite the wild time. He was laughing so hard he could barely speak but unfortunately he did. "I want you (by now he was doubled over with laughter), I want you (snicker, snicker) to take this ( he held up his cup of untouched french onion soup) to that table ( he pointed to a table clear across the room) and tell them (snicker, snicker, and by now his friends were guffawing with laughter too) that it's from me."

I was stunned, decided to take my chances (after all it was my word against his), said, "No," and walked away.

In the middle of trying to serve the main entree one of my customers stopped me and instructed me to watch him. He then went through a very dramatic demonstration wherein he performed a magic trick and bent a spoon. By now I was numb with disbelief as I'd realized earlier in the evening that this particular group of construction workers were the very ones responsible for building the elementary school that all of my children had attended. I still thank God that I never possessed that nugget of information when my kids were younger or I probably would have ended up with ulcers because I surely would not have been able to afford send them to private school.

Anyway, the magician waited with bated breath for my praise.

"Wow!" I exclaimed, and he glowed with pride. "Honest to God!" and here I placed my hand over my heart and he sat up even straighter. "I haven't seen that trick since the sixth grade, and I wasn't impressed with it then either!" As I walked away his friends howled with laughter and punched him in the arm.

I did feel horrible though when the man with the speech impediment gave me hell on one of my trips to his table. He had been shut off at the bar for being drunk, was very upset, and implied that I was the one responsible. I'd only served him one beer and having no idea what he was talking about I assured him I'd done no such thing, but he never did believe or forgive me.

After dinner, along with clearing tables, we were required to continue running drinks for everyone. I was standing at the bar waiting to place an order when the bartender, without missing a beat, and while shaking a whiskey sour said to me, "Laura, would you please go into the kitchen and see if you can find the remainder of this gentleman's tie? He seems to have misplaced it." It took me a moment but I looked at the man next to me and nearly died when I saw that his necktie did indeed stop short about three quarters of the way up his shirt front. I felt my face burn and I waited in horror for the 'gentleman' in question to raise hell about being insulted. Instead, he gave me a big smile and after he left I realized he was same man who'd been ordering CC & gingerale from me all night long (and lucky for me I hadn't noticed the tie issue since he'd been sitting down) but was really getting 'well' whiskey and 7UP because the bartender said he'd never notice.

An executive and his wife got into huge fight and she retaliated by jerking all over the dance floor in her very low cut gown with one of the construction workers, who having no idea he was being used, turned beet red with the unexpected pleasure of being chosen, and the exertion of trying to keep up with her.

The last of the guests left at around 2 AM and once again we had to rearrange the whole dining room for Sunday's brunch. Only then were we finally able to sink our exhausted bodies into the comfortable sofas of the darkened bar and enjoy the moon sitting low over the frozen lake. With beers in hand we gossiped about the single 'sequined evening gown' who seemed to spend quite a bit of time with the married 'Fu Manchu mustache', found out some of the guests had taken bets on which would happen first; the executives wife's dress would 'fail' or her dance partner would drop dead, and tried to figure out a remedy for getting the smell of sour sweat out of my nostrils.

We got through Sunday's brunch, and re-set for a late afternoon company party which I'm sorry to say was very staid and therefor very boring (ie: no sequins, magic tricks, cowboy boots, or dirty dancing), and finally after cleaning up the dining room from that party I went home.

I'm still not overly fond of Christmas, mostly because I will never forget the overwhelming feeling of futility I endured for so many years, so it shouldn't be a huge surprise to hear that I still don't put up a tree or decorate (but I'm not a complete Scrooge and have stored all my treasured ornaments in a box in my sister's basement). But Hans is a whole different story.

You can see Hans has put up not just one, but three trees!!

I just shook my head and said, "Fine, but you're the one who gets to take them down after Christmas!"

Merry Christmas, Happy: Holidays, Hanukkah, and Festivus, or just plain old Bah Humbug to one and all from Laura, Hans, and Wilbur!

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Whole Lot of Nothing Going On.

This has been a very cold December and no one knows it better than our Wilbur. When we try to get him to go outside to do his business, he does what I call an illegal U-Turn which means he whips around and heads back inside before his hindquarters even get near the frigid cold air.

Today he was terrified and tried to get away from the snow flakes that were falling around him and ended up looking like someone trying to dodge acid rain.

Actually it was kind of sad because he's such a sweet dog and I hate to see him afraid of anything.

I spent today condensing a bunch of food provisions from their cardboard boxes to zip lock bags.

Since Wilbur will be sailing with us, he felt the need to supervise.

I had quite a few Hamburger/Tuna Helper dinners and I was surprised to discover that each and every one of them requires a different amount of water/milk/and butter.

And since I packed more than one type of dinner in each gallon zip lock bag, in addition to including an identifying part of the cardboard front of the box, I also had to cut out the directions. Dear God, this is getting complicated!

Here are the gutted boxes sans their identifying fronts and directions.

Two storage boxes have now been condensed into one!

Now for the mystery of the missing fitted sheet! I mentioned quite awhile back that I'd misplaced one of the custom made fitted sheets for our boat. I had literally gone through the entire apartment and even though I never throw anything away I still couldn't find it.

And then today I finally decided to either finish the backpack I started to make this summer from scratch (meaning no pattern) or just throw it out. Anyway, I unzipped my bag and discovered that in an attempt to see how it would look with something in it, I'd stuffed our sheet into it!!! I'm thrilled to pieces because only yesterday I'd checked eBay for queen size fitted sheets and the only one I could find started at around $20.00 and I would still need to alter it.

This is my still unfinished back pack complete with raw edges.

Here it is!!!

The missing fitted sheet!!

And since a back pack is great for taking provisions to the boat, I'm going to go ahead and finish this one. At least I'll have something to carry our sheets in.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Baby, it's Cold Outside!

And just leave it to the Knotty Cat to find a way to take advantage of it.

When we left our girl in Charleston, SC this fall we debated about whether to winterize her or not. And since we were (and still are) going to return to her at the end of December, before it really gets cold, we were advised not to.

Well guess what? Not only is it going to get cold this weekend, the temperatures are expected to plummet into the teens.

In South Carolina!

So not only did we suffer through the hottest summer on record this year, we are now experiencing the coldest it's not even winter yet on record.

After receiving a concerned call from the boat yard (where the Knotty Cat has been drying out) that they were expecting temperatures in the teens this weekend, we needed to make a decision. Should we just pay them to winterize her, or should we rent a vehicle (which we would need for at least three days) and drive down there and do it ourselves.

We would also need to decide whether Wilbur would made the trip with us or spend a few expensive days at Doggy Day Care where we've discovered he's hugely popular and always welcome.

In the end it was cheaper to have the yard do the work but what kills me is that it's only going to be needed for a total of three weeks!

Honest to God, three weeks!

Today we were informed that the Knotty Cat has been successfully winterized and I swear I can hear her purring all the way up here because yet once again, she's gotten her own way.

What a Prima Donna. She should give lessons!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Even more boat stuff!

Last week after my little rant about how difficult it is to get accurate information about sailing to the Bahamas, I received an email. It was from the Bahamas and I immediately got the same sinking stomach feeling I got the time I was sent to the Principal's office in the second grade and lived in fear for months afterward that my parents would find out.

Only after remembering that the Bahamas aren't exactly in my back yard, and anyway I just dare them to find Hans and me in a city that even after two years I still haven't fully learned to navigate, I opened the message.

Tremendous relief flooded through me when I realized it was not from an unhappy Bahamian government agency but from a friend of Hans' brother, and she lives in Elbow Cay. Michaela was very kind and offered to help us in any way she can and suggested we purchase The Dodge Guide to Abaco.

We've already bought quite a few navigational guides and Hans felt this was a bit redundant but since I've elected myself as the 'Queen of Everything to do with The Knotty Cat' I vetoed Hans and bought Mr. Dodge's book anyway. It arrived today.

Every time I turn around there's another package at the door and it's always something for the boat. In the last week alone we received a spot light (obviously used but we're going to keep it anyway), a propane detector (which I hope is not a reflection on my cooking), and just today....

The Abaco Guide!!

Hans also went to our local Verizon store and bought a FiveSpot Global Ready 3G Mobile HotSpot (say that 3 times fast after a couple of bourbons!).

Here is Hans proudly holding some of our latest acquisitions.

Supposedly, this 3G Mobile HotSpot will allow us to pick up a Verizon signal while we're in the Bahamas thus allowing us to use our computers! If it works we won't need the horribly expensive SSB radio system that a lot of sailors have had installed on their boats.
If it works.

So on the creative front I made a Beach Bag from some beautifully (and very heavily) embroidered fabric I bought in Ireland a few years ago.

This can be used for anything from shopping to shower room duty.

I also transferred some nautical charts to fabric.

And here is a wristlet I made from one of them.

I think my next project with the rest of them will be a tote bag of some kind that we can use to haul provisions.

Don't let it be said that the Knotty Cat isn't stylish!

Tomorrow we have to head on over to West Marine in order to pick up even more things that we've ordered.

I believe in my next life I want to come back as a tremendously needy boat!