Erica's Blog

The Try Something New Everyday experiment

Today I made Snowman Soup

I like to put together cute goodies to give to my coworkers in lieu of Christmas cards.  In year’s past, I have given the candy cane meaning and the M&M Christmas Story.  This year I found Snowman Soup!

Snowman Soup couldn’t be easier.  All you need is hot chocolate packets, your favorite chocolates, candy canes, marshmallows and goodie bags.

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To put together just insert each ingredient in the baggies.  I used a loaf pan to keep them upright as I loaded the baggies.

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Now…in all the posts I saw about Snowman Soup, the marshmallows just laid mingled with everything else in the baggie.  I couldn’t do it.  I’m sure no one worries about the sanitation of marshmallow…no one except me.  I felt compelled to wrap each marshmallow in cling wrap before putting them in the bags.

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Here’s a close up of the goodies…

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And here’s a close up of the tag I used.

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And the final Snowman Soup!  Happy Future Snow Days!!

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Today I tangled with a Mad Elf

Y’all should feel sorry for this Mad Elf.  He’s been locked away in the bottom drawer of the fridge for almost a month.  The bottom drawer has been used for “unclean” or “limited” foods while I have been on the Clean Eating Challenge.  He’s been face down somewhere between the 3 alarm habenero pepper cheese and some kielbasa I’m saving to make jambalaya with.

I found this beer at Whole Foods during one of my trips a few weeks ago.  The description of the beer on the sign sold me.  Cherries…Honey…Chocolate.  Yes, yes and oh yeah!!

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I scooped up a pint to try one evening after the challenge ended.

Tonight is the night.

I’ve had a Christmas kinda day.  I’ve done holiday shopping, dropped some gifts off at the post office, played Santa delivering some toys to a charity and other holiday errands.  Now it’s time to settle in to crochet on my grandad’s Christmas gift and watch a holiday favorite…The Walking Dead.

Ok, so maybe the latter isn’t so “ho ho ho”…

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I poured the beer in the glass.  It has a reddish brown color…quite festive!! With the first sip, I clearly tasted the cherries and chocolate.  I cannot taste the honey as much but overall it’s a sweet beer so maybe that’s the honey’ s contribution.  This beer is brewed in Hershey, PA…the chocolate capital!!

Final verdict: A delicious seasonal treat!!  Gives ya a warm tingle all over!!  I totally see Santa sipping this after a long evening on the 25th.

I’ll take this Mad Elf over some small, creepy guy hanging out on a shelf any day!

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Today I crocheted by flashlight

It’s the day before Thanksgiving, which means I’m one of those millions that are traveling over the river and through the woods heading to an awesome Thanksgiving feast.

But in my travels, I have encountered a problem.

As you know, I have this practically impossible crafting project underway with a tight deadline…it must be wrapped, with a bow, and under the Christmas tree by December 24th…midnight at the latest.  As such, I have grand plans to crank out some stitches on this long weekend.  Right now it looks like a placemat…my goal is for it to look more like a bath towel by the weekends’ end.  I planned to accomplish much of its growth while traveling.

Unfortunately, with this winter time change, my crafting light, aka the sun, disappears around 5 pm.  Which means lost productivity!!!

Nah Nah I say…I got keep the yarn ball rolling!

But I cannot use the car light, because that would blind the driver.   So I tried a small flashlight.  It had a clip that I attached to my shirt so that the light shone down on my work.

Now, this solution failed to be fool proof.  Every bump in the road moved the light off my work.  I also had to sit just a certain way for the light angel to be right so I could determine if I was double crocheting (correct) or octuple crocheting (very not correct).  I would adjust the light to perfectly illuminate my work and could crochet for a bit.  Then the vehicle would hit a bump in the road.  I would arch my back and be able to crochet a bit more…then *bump bump*…arch my back some more (my chiropractor would kill me if he knew)…ok, back in business…*curve* oh crud…now I’m trying to crochet but also move my work to follow the light… *bump bump*…St Louis Arch has nothing on me…*pothole* Holly Fazollis…

But I crocheted a couple more rows so I’ll call it a win 🙂

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Today I walked the Million Bulb Walk (and Cuddle Duds)

The Norfolk Botanical Gardens creates a beautiful light display in celebration of the holiday season called the Million Bulb Walk.  This is the first year I’ve visited the display.  Normally, you would enjoy the lights from the comfort of your car however for a short period of time they open it for visitors to walk through the one mile path.

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Gingerbread peeps and candy confections welcome you into the gardens.

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Flowers and rainbows begin the light tour.

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No light display could ever be without fireworks!

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Caterpillars, mushrooms, butterflies and daisies…

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Close up…

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A rose…

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A sunflower…

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This Christmas tree was just one of several that was synchronized to the Linus song and Trans Syberian Orchestra – Christmas Eve/Sarajevo.

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I love shooting stars! 🙂

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A cutiepie elf!

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A busy elf.

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Wow…what a walk!  I started in Norfolk but ended up in the North Pole!

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Beautiful trees!!

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More beautiful trees!

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Happy Holidays!! 🙂

After reading this, you may feel like you’ve seen the whole show.  No worries…there’s still a ton for you to see!

P.S.  I did not see one bulb burnt out…I looked…obsessively…believe me, you would have gotten a picture!!

Side Something New:
I knew tonight would be in the 30s and despite my plan to wear jeans and a sweater I also knew I’d be freezing my bootie off.  Earlier I found Cuddle Duds at Walmart and decided  tonight would be a great test of their worth.

Cuddle Duds are new fangled long johns.  No longer do you have to suffer the old timey, waffle fabric long johns.  Now they use microfiber as insulation.  The advantage is a less bulky, more effective method to hold your body heat.

I purchased both the top and the bottoms for $20.  As I opted for the black pair, with just them on, I look like cat woman!!! lol. Meow…I then put my jeans and sweater on.  Immediately I felt warmer and loved that I didn’t feel like the Michelin Man like you do when you have on so many layers.

Overall, they kept me toasty on a fridged walk.  Definately a great investment!!  As I’m losing weight (down 36 lbs!!) I tend to get cold easily.  I’m truly pondering an whole wardrobe of these to get through winter!!  Or Bradley Cooper…either one would probably keep me equally warm 😉

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Today I began a crocheted bedspread

In my family, we draw names for Christmas.  I reached into the hat, chanting “someone easy…someone easy”….and drew my grandad.  Bummer!!  Love him dearly…but what do you give a man who wants for nothing?

I’ve mulled it over for weeks.  I tossed ideas around like a basketball game warm up.  Everything I thought of, I ended up talking myself out of.

We just celebrated his birthday in October and I completely struck out.  He used to like John Wayne westerns and I thought an easy to use, portable DVD player would reignite his love for those movies.  And if it worked out, it would make future gift giving easier.  The family could give additional movies, headphones, etc.  So I found a super easy player…just one button to operate.   I even found a John Wayne movie with 2 movies!  I charged the player up and prepped it with the movie ready to go.  When he opened the gift, he could just press play and see John Wayne shooting his gun, taking the bad guys down, and riding off into the sunset with the little lady.  I knew giving this kind of gift was a gamble…but if it worked, it would be perfect for him!

Yeah…not so much.

He was as kind about it as he could be but inevitably he told me he didn’t want it.  Luckily, I had cooked him a double batch of jambalaya and baked a pie my grandmother used to make for him.  He was just as happy with those as anything he recieved and needless to say, the only part of those returned to me were the empty dishes.

So my gift to him has to be something special and something that serves a purpose.  If I don’t pick the right thing this time, I know it will end up like all the others…living in the same box it originally came in and collecting dust for an eternity.

I mulled all these factors over and decided on a handmade, crocheted bedspread.  My grandmother always made hand work so I know he’ll understand the love and time that goes into it.  Hopefully that alone will encourage him to keep and use the gift.  And winter is coming (think Game of Thrones)…so a cozy blanket will keep him warm on cold, blistery nights at the Wall where he’s ready to ward off beasts and creatures that threaten…oh wait…sorry, kinda got swept away…

Anyhoo, let me throw in a few disclaimers.  I’m first and foremost a tatter…then a knitter…then a cross stitcher…then a crocheter.  So crocheting isn’t my strong suit.  Second,  the largest crafting project I have completed is a scarf (knitted).  The longest (timewise) project I have completed is a tatted doily (30+ non consecutive hours).

So…of course I would decide to take on crocheting a twin size bedspread the month before Christmas.  Piece of fruitcake, right?!

Today I researched different stitch styles.  There’s a whole slew of crochet stitches…probably as many as there are elves in Santa’s workshop.

I settled on the granny square stitch (pun a happy accident) but found a video that converts the end product from square to rectangle, ideal for bedspreads.  Youtube rocks!!!

I acquired the yarn a few nights ago…I just happened to be in the craft store…I kinda go there some…ok, frequently….well, practically nightly.

I love this yarn! It’s truly simply soft…
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The video I found seemed easy to follow however the instructor assumed the viewer had experience in the granny stitch.   Luckily I did.

First step: Chain 58 stitches.  This took me 8 tries.

Try 1…I’m rusty at crocheting but remembered I liked a particular hook brand.  I have both Boye and Susan Bates but couldn’t remember which I preferred.  Of course, I started with the Boye and realized it’s not that one.

Now, reader beware…I’m about to get all craftastic-nerdy on ya.  The Boye hooks are great…I love them for thicker yarns as the hook shape allows for more room.  They also just look like a traditional crochet hook and probably my first so definitely a sentimental favorite.  The Susan Bates hook has a sharper, more narrow head which seems to grip the yarn better.  My chain stitches come out more even with the Susan Bates and in the end, the whole foundation of your project is the chain…so even is key.  I’ve tried the Addi hooks.  Love their looks but they seemed too bulky in my hands.  I guess I’m an old fashioned, steel hook girl.
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Once I found my preferred hook, I reworked the chain only to realize I didn’t count (Try 3).  I recrocheted the chain but had split the yarn (downside of using Susan Bates hooks) early on so had to take it out (Try 4).  I then reworked the chain only to not be happy with the tension (Try 5).  I redid the chain concentrating on the tension and the yarn, but forgot to count again (Try 6).

Ok…gonna focus on it all and make this work.
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Try 7 looked great.  *happy dance*  I figured I could move on to Step 2, begin row 2 which is the granny square stitch.  As I added the granny square sttiches, I realized my tension was too tight.  Ugh!! *not so happy dance*  I always knit and crochet tight.  So I took the whole row out, started again and finally recrocheted it to slight perfection.

Finally!!  The first row 🙂
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And second!
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I worked on the blanket all afternoon and evening…
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Geez…seeing as this is my largest crafting undertaking,  I envisioned it going faster than this.  You know, like I’d be done by now.

And I thought if this worked out well, I have a few other difficult to buy for peeps on my list that could use an Erica-made cozy blanket.  But at this rate, my grandad might have it by next Christmas!!  And the thought of doing others seems laughable now!!

I’m thinking with the holiday next week I can get pretty far on it.  I’ll keep ya up to date on the progress here. 🙂

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Today I met a 40 foot Rubber Ducky

Our local art museum has been closed for renovations.  As part of it’s reopening, it invited a rubber ducky to bob around in the water in front of the building…but not the rubber ducky bath toy from your tub…or mine…rather, a 40 foot tall rubber ducky.

The rubber ducky, created by Florentijn Hofman, is an art piece which travels the world to bring a sense of fun and renewal to everyday places.  This particular duck has happily bobbed in London, Sydney, Taiwan and Pittsburg to name a few places…and he decided to visit us in Norfolk…only the second American destination he has traveled to…we’re on the map!

The duck is slated to float away tomorrow so I knew I had to visit him (or her…it’s hard to lift a 40 foot ducky to determine it’s gender) today!  I arrived in the afternoon and parked further away than most of the crowd.  The weather lent itself to a nice stroll.  Also, as my pictures will show,  I got to sneak up on it 🙂

Yellow blob…

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Oh…it’s a ducky…

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Shhh…. (Elmer Fudd voice)…Be vewy, vewy quiet!…I’m hunting wubbeh duckyies…

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Nope…he doesn’t see me yet..

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Oh no..I think he spyed me!

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Ah ha ha ha…caught him!

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Look at that cute, smiling face!!  I have to say…this brought much fun and happiness to my Memorial Day!! 🙂

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Today I had quite the Valentine’s Day dinner

Happy Valentine’s Day awesome peeps!!  I hope Cupid was good to you.

Ready for my story?!…it’s a doosie!

So, after work today, like a good procrastinator, I raced to the store to obtain a Valentine’s Day gift for hubbie. Now, I did purchase a small gift a few weeks back and it arrived yesterday.  Unfortunately,  the gift didn’t turn out like I wanted and I became concerned hubbie may not like it.

I cannot give, in good consciousness, a bad gift.

Therefore, today I fought the Valentine’s Day procrastinator crowds to get a great gift.  Having the bravery to fight the crowds on the actual holiday should earn you 5+ bonus points.

My husband is a whiskey fanatic…so much so he’s opening a distillery.  As such, here’s the gift:
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For those who aren’t avid drinkers (this includes me), anytime you gift a bottle of alcohol that comes in a box, drinkers eyes light up.  In whiskey, while shopping today, I realized a correlation.  All cheap bottles come with just the bottle.  Round boxes indicate the mid priced alcohols.  Square boxes will drain your 401k.  I opted for a round box.  I still said “ouch” at the register but hey, a small price to pay to retain my good gifter status…oh, and yah, my guy is worth it….or so I thought…

There were two types of shoppers in the store at 6 pm on VDay.  The procrastinators (me!) and the sobbers.  I didn’t realize I needed a mop to visit the spirit aisle.  Really, aisle 1 in the spirit section, the sale aisle, a guy trying to pick up a sales clerk…He was crashing and burning….I’m pretty sure his fate was sealed when he said “You know babe, I can see the future…and I see you leaving my apartment tomorrow morning…with a smile on your face…”  You could hear the slap in aisle 15…

Aisle 2, flavored spirits, a nicely dressed lady was a crumpled mess on the floor, wailing.   Luckily, I had some tissues in my purse and handed her one…package…She proceeded to tell me about her cheating husband and how all men stink (she used more expressive language but I think you get the picture)  40 minutes and 40 tissues later, she chose a bottle of Baileys and a pound of chocolate.  A combo to cure any broken heart…

Aisle 3, whiskeys,  that’s my exit from heartbreak alley.  Now, I know nothing about whiskeys…I thought because I attended that distillery tour…I was kinda like an expert…uh, not so much…I stared for a good while, read all the descriptions and still had no clue.  I realized another lady shared the aisle and dazed look with me.
“Any clue?” I asked.
She said “Not a one…”.
I replied “I’ve been to a distillery.”
She said “Does it help to know what to buy?”
I replied “No…not really.”

We stared blankly for alittle while longer.

She said “Did ya see the chick in aisle 2?”
I replied “Yah…so sad!  I felt bad I ran out of tissues!”
She said “Yah…I bought her a 8 pack of paper towels and she went through them in 15 minutes”
“Oh wow…my heart just aches for her…and I feel alittle emotionally drained”
“Same here” she returned.

Then we heard it.  Our ears perked up at and our eyes widened at the same time.  We heard another wailer coming down the aisle…we both just grabbed the first bottle our hands found and we scrambled to exit in the other direction.  My shirt was already tear soaked from the first girl and my tissue supply was depleted…and I don’t know how to handle a guy in tears!

Whew!…close call!  I revise my previous statement..5+ points for gift shopping on a holiday…100+ points for surviving the emotional minefield of Valentine’s Day.

Don’t get me wrong…I’ve spent many a Valentine’s Day alone…I just did my wailing at the craft store…and knitted up handkerchiefs on the spot for all of us wailers to share.

I headed home, we exchanged gifts (I got a board game), and then went to dinner.

Earlier in the week hubbie mentioned a trip to the Thai restaurant.   Since then, it’s all I could think about.  On my way home I mentally planned my order…chicken pad thai or pad prik?  Hmmm….chicken pad thai…extra sweet sauce!  Fresh rolls or no fresh rolls?  Hmmm….fresh rolls…extra sweet sauce!  Tea or water?  Hmm….chia tea…extra creamy!  Dessert?!  Nah…I am on a diet after all…

So we drove to the restaurant to find it packed and 6 people waiting.  I couldn’t see any staff so it didn’t look good.

Oh Cupid!  Now what?!

Hubbie says “We could always go to the hot dog stand a few doors down.”

Really?!  Did he just suggest to take me on the most romantic night of the year…to a hot…dog…stand?

“Oh honey, are you sure we could afford such a splurge…I mean, don’t put me on a pedestal so high you can’t reach me…I mean,  nothing says I love you the mostest like a weiner on a bun does” is what I wanted to say…what came out was “Ok, sure…That sounds great.”

In his defense, he asked the obligatory “Are you sure?”

How am I supposed to respond?!  What I thought was…well, let me just leave that to your imagination.  What I said was “Yes…I am sure.”  I mean, in all honesty, eating Thai at midnight versus having hot dogs now and being in my pjs by midnight…sadly, there was no right answer…

So there we sat…eating hot dogs…while watching an Olympic hockey game…

My heart is all a flutter…no…wait…oh…it’s just heartburn.

I know…I know…just try not to be too jealous of my ubber romantic evening…

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Today I sparkled in the New Year

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Happy New Year!

2014 will be the best yet!

So the only right way to properly ring in the New Year was with sparklers!

I’ve always “sparklered” for July 4th but never for New Year!

It’s a must!!

Happy 2014!!! 🙂

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Today I attended Christmas Mass

This year I felt it important to attend a church service in celebration of Christmas.  I usually always mean to get to church but my to do list becomes a monster of its own and takes over.  The monster tried to steal my service again this year but I conquered!!!

The plan was to attend the 3:30 pm service at the local Baptist church on Christmas Eve.  That time worked out great…I worked until noon…had a few hours to wrap up any loose ends, attend service and then go light hunting.  Super slick scheduling!  But after work, during my loose ends, I realized my brakes were grinding.

Is that bad?

We have determined I’m not a car chick so I didn’t quite understand the significance of it.  I stopped in at the local car shop between errands and “got the talk” from the car dude.

Grinding brakes are bad…no more driving…repair required asap…small fortune…they are closing up shop…Merry Christmas.

Fiddle sticks…

I limped the truck to the nearest chain shop and they took pity on me.  Got the truck back into the shop and they delivered the news…truck broke…time to buy the Buick Enclave…they called Santa and will have it delivered Christmas…

ok…sorry… that was a bit of a Christmas wish…the reality: brakes gone, brakes AND roters need to be replaced for the grand total price of $800!!!

Can you say OUCH?!?!

Luckily they could do the work same day and would be ready by 4 pm.  Light hunting was scheduled for 6 pm.  Two hours to do loose ends…scheduling now not so slick…

Luckily, I live close to a Catholic church…they cater to those of us with schedule monsters…a service schduled every two hours.  I have been raised and consider myself Baptist but I have family that are Catholic ( and have much respect for the religion ).  In the end, I believe God would rather have me at any service versus no service so Catholic it is.  After light hunting, at 9 pm, I pondered the 9:30 pm service but I had some Santa stuff to do and really needed to make it home.   I pondered the midnight service but honestly the day tuckered me out…and I would hate to catch Santa in the act of delivering my Enclave.

7:30 am Christmas Day service was the answer! !

All in all, I’m thankful everything worked out the way it did.  The message spoke of the meaning of Christmas as the aweing passion of God’s love.  Hearing that first thing Christmas morning really set the perspective of the day’s events.

The only thing that mattered today was love.  Loving our family,  loving our neighbor, valuing time together versus what gifts were under the tree.  Sure, I knew this…but experiencing a sermon emphasising the message seemed to add a lasting weight to the thought.

I spent the day surrounded by my family…I’m blessed beyond measure just to be able to say that…I pray the same for you.

Merry Christmas! 🙂  God bless!! 🙂

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Today I tried to decorate the Christmas tree by myself

My Christmas tree is naked and ashamed.wpid-20131215_182315.jpg

It’s December 15th and does not even one ornament adorning it’s ample branches.

The branches droop in sadness.

My life has been crazy busy over the last few weeks…appointments, friend’s gatherings, shopping, holiday events, working…I’ve been juggling better than Spunky the Clown!  Evident by the missing blogs.  I promise you, I have been doing something news everyday and have notes all about what my adventures…but the clock runs out of time each day!

Traditionally, I decorate the Christmas tree well before December 1.  I ideally like to have the Christmas tree decorated before Thanksgiving (however I don’t light it…to have respect for Turkey day).  I find getting the Christmas tree up early fills the house with Christmas cheer and gives me a full month to enjoy it’s splendor.  To decorate the tree, I cue up the movie White Christmas, make hot chocolate with a heaping amount of marshmallows, have friends or family around and go to town unpacking my lifetime of ornament collecting.  Each ornament has a story or meaning.  Some are homemade, some stolen from my parent’s collection and some tokens I’ve collected along the way.  I also re-read all my annual letters and laugh at their contents.  Annual letters are one page summaries of that years events that get packed away with the decorations at the end of the season and become rediscovered the following year.  I have some from my early twenties that are a hoot.  In each one I declare the guy I’m dating at that time “is the one” and turn all the a’s and o’s into hearts when I write of him.  See, my goofballness goes way back.

Back to 2013…hubbie did break out the tree for me a few weeks ago but time had not allowed for the decorating.  The house was empty and my schedule was clear.  By golly, I cannot stand this bare tree any longer!  I’m breaking out the decorations and doing this junk myself!

My Christmas decorations are stored in the garage in a loft space that requires a ladder to get to.  I don’t go out into the garage much.  Freaky things live out there!  Spiders, cobwebs, jumping crickets…I have nothing to do with anything that has more than 4 legs!!

So, I wearily open the door.  Two tiny spiders scurried up a web.  I had an involuntary body shiver but persevered through the entrance.  Luckily, the ladder still stood by the Christmas area so no heavy lifting or awkward maneuvering required.  Score!  As I climbed the ladder steps, I heard some scurrying across the garage.

I stopped instantly!  What the heck is that?!  Visions of monsters, ugly aliens and the boogey man came to mind

I thought to myself: “Maybe it’s the cat… Sure…it’s the cat!…Totally it’s the cat!”

Then I heard it again…scurry scurry scurry…rustle rustle rustle

Hmm…could that still be the cat?  It’s not sounding like the cat…

I looked around from the top of the ladder to see if I could see any clues to elude to what the noise maker could be…I peeked and peered and even stood on my tippy toes to catch a sighting.  I caught a sighting alright!  A mouse ran up the edge of the large garage door and then took a huge leap…(I mean like an epic leap of faith!)… sailing through the air with all four of its leg spread-eagled, to land somewhere on the floor a few feet away.

I stood there on the top step of the ladder in total shock…Did I just see what I saw?!  No…maybe that was something else … like … a bat … or … a bird … or … a tailless squirrel … no…the shape was not right…

I came to realize: IT WAS TRULY A MOUSE!!  ACK!!!!  Instant HEEBEE-JEEBEES!!

I scoped my immediate area looking for any other ninja mice…seeing none I RAN!  I scurried down the ladder and ran into the house, slamming the door.

I can try to be brave when facing insects, arachnids, dust and cobwebs…but I draw the line at leaping mice who obviously have a death wish.

Maybe it’s not so bad waiting…what’s a few more days for my He-Man, Fighter of All Things Creepy, Warrior to have some time to rescue my cherished decorations from the savage garage.

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