Holiday Greetings 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Everyone!

A few years ago, when I started this blog, my intention was to compose regular updates as things happened and then, at Christmas or New Years, simply send out greetings and point folks to those blog entries to let them know what had happened over the past year.  Yeah, you can see how well that has worked!

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After the Dig
The Deobald Hacienda – December 23, 2009

Considering that I haven’t done an update in quite a while, here are some highlights from the past two or so years …

July 2008 – India

From August of 2007 to June of 2008, Steven worked in Pune, India for Thoughtworks, the company he had also worked for in Calgary.  Since he hadn’t used his entire travel allotment while he was in India, he graciously offered to fly us over to India during the summer of 2008.  We spent three weeks there, and, without a doubt, it was one of the most interesting experiences of our lives.  We began in Pune, where Steven still had an apartment, then did a week’s touring in Kerala, in southern India.  From Kerala, we flew to Delhi, where we did a brief tour before travelling to Agra to do the obligatory Taj Mahal thing.  Finally, we went back to Pune and spent a few days while Steven attempted to wrap up loose ends there.

The groom draping flowers on the bride
Stone fence posts
Exterior wall and moat
A Hindu Wedding Stone Fence Posts in Kerala Red Fort in Agra

For those who have the time or inclination, I did actually blog that experience in rather painstaking detail.  If you are interested, you can begin the journey here.  And for the visual learners in the crowd, you can check out all our pictures from the trip here.

February 2009 – San Francisco

Because Irene is usually quite busy at work in February, we have seldom made use of the February break as a holiday time.  However, this year, we decided to change that by joining Dwight and Penny, Irene’s brother and sister-in-law, in a trip to San Francisco.  Since we weren’t able to get flights out immediately on Friday or Saturday, we only arrived on Monday, which made for some action-packed touring.  We did a number of architectural walking tours and a peculiarly interesting driving tour with The Urban Safari.   We also did all the obligatory San Francisco things: Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf, and the tram cars.

San Francisco is an incredibly compact city, which, together with an excellent, easy-to-use public transportation system made a condensed tour like ours a bit more do-able.

Cal & Irene
[url=]Palace of Fine Arts[/url]

Staying Behind for the Shot

View from Twin Peaks Palace of Fine Arts Muir Woods National Monument

For more pictures of San Francisco, you can check here.

June 2009 – Cal Superannuates

After 31 years in the education business, I finally made up my mind to retire in June – well, sort of.  Our local agreement allows us to superannuate but then continue to teach for one more year.  So that’s what I have done.  This is my “double-dipping” year, so I’m actually receiving my teachers’ pension and full salary.  In the coming year, we’ll have to adapt to a considerably reduced income.  I haven’t yet decided exactly what I’ll do to occupy my time.  For years, I swore that I would never substitute, but as I get nearer to the deadline, it begins to hold some appeal to me, particularly the level of income and the flexibility.  It would still allow me to pursue some hobbies and perhaps travel a bit.  We’ll see.

Spring, Summer, and Fall 2009 – Kitchen Renovation

Over the past few years, we’ve been picking away at the task of updating our house, which is now some 25 years old and showing signs of its age.  In an attempt to avoid becoming the subject of an episode on My Parents’ House, we began by replacing windows.  That necessitated replacing trim.  Since we’ve never liked the faux wood trim that came with the house, we decided to replace all the trim.  Well, since we were going to replace trim, then, really, we might as well do floors before we do the baseboards.  So the entire upstairs (minus bathrooms) got re-done in hardwood.  And so it goes.

In a way, the kitchen renovation actually began last winter, when we removed the overhead cabinets that had obscured our sight-line between the kitchen and dining room for 20 years; Irene had always detested these. Even though they were handy from a purely practical standpoint, from a design standpoint, they were awful.  These cabinets got re-deployed in a make-over of our office area.  (Once you get rid of the kids, you get to re-commission their bedrooms for other purposes, one perks of the empty nest.)

New Office Cabinets

The office make-over allowed me to resurrect and refine some latent cabinet-making skills from my youth that I hadn’t had the need, opportunity, or tools to use in a long time.  I installed the re-purposed cabinets on my side of the office, and built matching cabinets for Irene’s side. Having some success with the cabinets in the office gave me the confidence to tackle the rest of the kitchen next.

We chose to rip out a closet-style pantry area and replace it with custom pull-out pantry units and some upper and lower cabinets.

The cupboard is bare; the old pantry stripped of shelving
Did I mention how much I hate drywalling?

The plan behind the pantry unit begins to take shape


Granite veining detail

Pantry Before Pantry During Pull-outs Before Finishing Pantry Before Counters Pantry Work Area w Granite

The other major change to the kitchen was to create a breakfast bar on the dining room side of the peninsula.  To support this, I built two taller cabinets which also served to make up for the space we lost by removing the overhead ones.

Installing breakfast bar cabinets - one down
ditto; new gas stove in background

Finally, a breakfast bar

Partition & First Cabinet Second Cabinet and Paneling Final with Counters Reverse View w Backsplash

Finally, I built some china cabinets in the dining room to make up for space lost in the kitchen and in the buffet, which we plan to move out of the living room. We also re-finished the ceilings with a texture because the old popcorn ceiling wasn’t reparable, and we added some lighting.  That took until about Thanksgiving, and we’ve been taking a rest from renos since then.

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China Cabinets New Lighting over Breakfast Bar New Lighting in Dining Room

August 2009 – Chicago

In February of 2009, Steven left Thoughtworks and moved to Chicago to join DRW Trading Group.  After most of the renos were finished – in fact the day after the granite went in – we flew to Chicago to spend a week with him.  Even though we had more days than we had had in San Francisco, our time in Chicago seemed equally busy, as we tried to cram as much into seven or eight days as we could.  We went on several architectural tours, including one devoted specifically to Frank Lloyd Wright.  We visited several museums and art galleries and a botanical garden.  And we ate – a lot.  Steven and Melissa, his girlfriend, were determined to give us as many gastronomical experiences as possible.

Steven's Loft Cloudgate - AKA
Steven’s Loft The Bean Sunset Over Chicago Skyline
(from sailboat)

We also celebrated our anniversary while we were there, and Steven, very thoughtfully, had booked us an evening sail with a chartered sailboat.  We spent the evening drinking wine while we watched the sun set over the Chicago skyline.    Very nice. The weather cooperated by giving us some spectacular skies.  Unfortunately, we were unable to photograph some of the best scenes, since very low light and a moving sailboat don’t lend themselves to picture-taking.

While in Chicago, we also attended a play (Up!) at the Steppenwolf Theatre and a comedy night at Second City.  Overall, it was a full week.   We returned from Chicago just in time for me to return to work.

Christmas ’09 finds us all healthy and happy.  Steven is already home (Melissa is in Las Vegas at her parents), and Aaron and Jaimie are coming home later on Christmas Day from Regina.  We think they’re crazy for trying to be in both places in one day, but, hey, they’re young, so we’ll let them.  Sooner or later that trip will hold much less appeal for them, so we’ll accept their generosity while it lasts.

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and good times with family and friends throughout the holiday season!

One thought on “Holiday Greetings 2009

  1. Great update, mini skirt version – long enough to cover the topic but short enough to keep my/our attention. Great to hear from you and maybe just once in the coming decade well actually maybe once or twice in the next year we will actually stop as well blow through or should I say by Gull Lake
    Merry Christmas and all the best to you and yours.
    Bill and Maureen.

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