Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Are Throne Beds Really Necessary?

For Christmas, we made the bold move of leaving metropolitan Denver for the first time since our move here and headed to Colorado Springs.  It was a great destination since there is a lot to see and do there.  The weather was perfect, and we enjoyed the sights. 

As a treat, we spent Christmas night at a five-star hotel, which was way too ostentatious for our taste.  Everything, including our throne bed pictured above, was just too much.  The place was pretty in a very fussy way, but, as Barry pointed out to me, five-stars leaves no room for improvement - it should be perfect.  And the service really left a lot to be desired.  At dinner, we had to almost tackle a busboy to ask for some water after we sat at our table unnoticed for quite some time.  But the staff there has definitely been taught how to apologize with the best of them.  Before you can say "Italian renaissance", some staff member is telling you how sorry they are that you were kept waiting.  I couldn't help but think that if they used all of the time that they spent apologizing actually serving their customers, it would probably work out better.

We stopped at the beautiful Air Force Academy and saw the iconic chapel above.  The setting and the building were breathtaking.

Garden of the Gods was equally beautiful.  This is something that I've wanted to see for a long time, and it definitely lived up to my expectations.

So really a great trip for Christmas, but the nagging question still remains: are throne beds really necessary?  I think not.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The 94 Stages of Moving

The name for this post comes from the Stages of Grief.  Depending on what you read, there are either 5 or 7 stages of grief.  Personally, I go with the list of 5 - denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  I'm not comparing moving to grief, but it's a monumental life event that doesn't just happen in a day and is done.  Moving is a compilation of many different experiences, feelings and just plain work.  

I've been told that moving is one of the most stressful things in life.  However, when I tried to verify this, I found this to be untrue, according to the experts.  For example, with death of a spouse at a score of 100, moving is only a 20 - barely an inconvenience.  So, with this in mind, here is one person's closeup view of the joys of moving.

1.  Starts with acceptance.  The reality is that the move is going to happen and it's hard to know what to do first.

2.  Get the old house on the real estate market, which means extracting a lot of extra things from the house, closets, etc.

3.  Find a new place to live.

4.  Start packing up and giving away until you reach the point of the actual move, as seen in the above photo.

5.  Get where you're going and face a wall of boxes.

6.  Gear up the courage to start opening all of the boxes.

7.  Once the boxes start to be opened, chaos ensues.

8.  Chaos continues for a long, long time.  

9.  Chaos becomes a way of life.

10. - 93.  Unpack, put away, give away, clean up and settle in.  This is a long term project.

94.  Enjoy your new life, new home and thinned out possessions.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Bless GPS

Being in a totally new place, I seem to have approximately one million errands to run in locations that are foreign to me.  Thankfully, there is navigation to gently advise me when I need to turn in 1,000 feet to get where I need to go.

Relying so heavily on GPS, and being directionally-challenged, made me think about how I ever found anyplace before.  Immediately preceding navigation in my car, I used Mapquest or Google as I planned my route and printed out the instructions.  But what came before computers?  

Way back in the day (and it really wasn't all that long ago), we simply used maps.  There were two kinds:  (1) the comprehensive spiral bound books where you had to turn to multiple pages to figure out your route and always seemed cumbersome to use and (2) the fold-up map that was even more cumbersome than the book version because there was never really room between you and the steering wheel to open up the entire map.  The fold-up map always seemed to be torn just where you needed to look.

So I'm still wondering how we ever did get anywhere we needed to be in the pre-GPS days.  Do I just not remember being lost all the time?  Or was there some other magical means for finding destinations?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cooking High

You know how a box of rice or cake mix has a section in tiny, tiny print that says "High Altitude"?  Like you, I always ignored this part of the instructions.  It certainly didn't apply to me - until now.

While I never thought I was a great cook, I gave myself credit for being an average cook, someone who could put together a meal and get it on the table without causing any serious digestive problems for the people eating my food.  There were even moments when I personally enjoyed my own cooking.

But since moving to Denver, I've been surprised by many things, including that cooking is a whole new ballgame up here a mile high.   I've made a couple of meals that were just not good and I'm not even sure yet how to correct them.  I tried to make pea soup but the dried peas just cooked and cooked and cooked - they never did get soft and mushy.  We wound up eating the soup anyway with semi-hard peas.  I also made some hard rice one night.  Even an attempt to make microwave popcorn failed.  I put the bag in for the suggested time and, when the microwave shut off, the bag was, well, flaccid is the word that comes to mind.  It was just sad and soft, not at all puffy and full as it should have been.

So I looked up high altitude cooking on the internet and got my first lesson. Apparently, water boils at a lower temperature up here.  Consequently, it takes longer for the foods to cook because they are cooking at a lesser temperature than they would in some normal place like Atlanta.  I was woefully wrong on this - I thought it would take less time since the water boiled faster.  

Once I realized the error of my ways, I felt obligated to do something I almost never do - just in the interest of culinary science, of course.  I bought a brownie mix (not just any brownie mix - I went all the way with caramel pecan brownie mix) and followed the directions for high altitudes (add more water and flour).  I'm pleased to say that it worked beautifully.  

Now I have to get working on my flaccid popcorn.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

To Ugg or Not To Ugg

Before I moved to Colorado, I couldn't understand why anyone would buy Uggs.  They are not attractive and yet so popular.  It was one of those great unknowns that I didn't spend a lot of time pondering, but it was a source of confusion to me.

Since I actually moved to Denver without owning a pair of boots, I went shopping for a pair as soon as I got here (yes, even before we moved into our apartment).  Having lived in a warm climate since 1984, I was totally clueless about what I should look for in a boot.  I really didn't know what features were required.  But, since it was November, I feared that snow, sleet and ice were just around the corner and I needed to be ready.

Cherry Creek Mall was awash in Uggs.  Every store seemed to sell them, and they appeared to be on every shopper's feet.  I promised myself that I would leave with something stylish, i.e., not Uggs.

After doing a once-around surveillance of the entire mall, I finally got the courage to enter a shoe store, spilled my guts to the saleslady about my ignorance of all things boot-related, and asked to try on some boots.  Of course, she brought out some Uggs, and the customer near me waxed poetic about how much she loved her Uggs and would wear nothing else.  

As I started to try on the first pair, the saleslady told me that Uggs are meant to be worn without socks.  What?   Do you mean that you wear them like fuzzy slippers out into the cold, cruel world?    Hmmmm.  This required some thought.  I wasn't ready to commit and left the store without a purchase.  

I headed back to Nordstrom and told my sad bootless story to a shoe salesman there.  Of course, he said I needed a pair of Uggs.  He brought some out and told me they are meant to be worn without socks (so the other saleslady wasn't just kidding me - it was actually true).  I have to admit that putting them on, they were the footwear equivalent of a well-loved teddy bear:  soft, fuzzy, warm and comforting.  

Now the confessional:  yes, I bought a pair.  They are black and short, so they sort of blend in, but I still think they're ugly.  After all, they are named Uggs.  I've been wearing them for about a month now and have to tell you, no matter how they look, they really are the equivalent of wearing fuzzy slippers outside and, right now, I need that teddy bear comforting, even on my feet.  

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Stop the Music - Please!

One of the least fun aspects of moving (as if there were lots of fun parts) is having to call a variety of businesses to make changes to accounts, report address changes, etc.  Today was especially bad as I tried (unsuccessfully, I might add) to make a change in our escrow payment for our mortgage.   After listening to endless prompts on the phone and stupidly following all of the orders, I was put on hold and forced to listen to loud music, with a dollop of advertisements and products that the bank offered.  

This made me think about why these businesses believe that this noise pollution, which is not nice to listen to, is a good thing to force on innocent people while we wait.  I personally would like silence with an occasional update on how long I will have to wait until I get to speak to an actual human being.  So what are the businesses thinking?  Could it be something like "maybe if we annoy the callers enough, they'll hang up and leave us alone"?  Or do they actually think that it's a benefit to the folks on hold?

Once I did get to speak to an actual human being, he told me that Customer Service could not help me, so I was transferred to their Insurance Department.  After another wait there, another actual human being told me that their computers were down and to call back.  When I called back and waited again, a third actual human being told me that the Insurance Department could not help me and sent me back to Customer Service, where I spoke to a fourth actual human being (after waiting, of course).  She told me that I needed to speak to someone in the Escrow Deletion Team, and she transferred me to a fifth actual human being.  This person could not help me either and told me that I needed to speak to the Insurance Department.  He was not impressed with the fact that I had already spoken with two Insurance Department actual human being employees.  I could see that this could go on all day and asked to be excused from all of this fun.  I couldn't listen to another stanza of the "on hold music". 

I was amazed when actual human being #5 expressed his sincere hope that he had met all my expectations and delivered excellent customer service.  I just grunted and hung up.   Where would I begin?  Did he really want my entire rant, starting with the music and going through the whole experience? I think not.  And you readers probably don't want to know about it either. Sorry, but we all need to vent.  I just want to do my venting in silence, without the "on hold music" background noise.

Monday, December 6, 2010

What No One Told Me

So no one told me that I needed to create a whole new skin regime when I moved to Denver.  Not that I really had a "skin regime" in the South.  My basic practice was to wash with whatever soap was on sale and hope for the best.  When that doesn't work, it's helpful to find a talented cosmetic surgeon.

I was told about the snow.  I was told about the cold.  I was told about the altitude.  But no one told me that my skin would start to crack like the San Andreas Fault.  Literally.  The top of my thumb now looks like a demilitarized zone.  To the east, is peeling skin, and to the west, dead skin.  In the middle, is a deep crack that feels like it looks - an open sore.  The sad part is I see other fingers joining the ranks, and I fear that I've already lost the battle.

So I'm starting to slather - a word I've never actually used before.  We have large bottles of lotions with pump tops in almost every room and run to them frequently for the nectar they deliver.  I've gone from no lotions to lotions for my face, my eyes, my lips, my hands, my feet, my body.  It's a sad state of affairs when the body I've known for all of these years starts to shrivel up right before my eyes.  In just a matter of weeks.  What will happen over the years?  I hate to think.

So, you who live in more humid climates, embrace that moisture and please send some my way.  Quickly.  Please.

Postscript to my first post:

I've waited to start the blog in the hope that I could make it look great and creative.  But, alas, I forgot about all of the other stuff that needed to get done after a substantial move.  And I also forgot how technically challenged I can be and how my IT Guy (a/k/a Barry) would be too busy with a new job, new location and new life to help me right now.  So rather than wait until I am an old timer in Denver, I'm launching anyway, without a worry as to how the blog looks right now.  Maybe someday, when my skin is soft and supple and I have time to fool around on the computer, but until then . . .