Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The gift that keeps on Leeching

In July I had this great idea to make a cross-stitch for my niece right after she was born. Since they decorated the baby's room in animals, that's the type of pattern I looked for at the store. The kit I selected is a baby animals kit called Cuddly Critters, which is definitely nowhere near a weekend project. Why didn't a choose a small simple one? Mostly because they were either ugly, uninspired, or Winnie the Pooh (which my sister does not like). Also, I really wanted to do something nice for them.

So I worked on this cross-stitch during part of the summer, but not extremely diligently. I worked on it when on the phone or watching TV, and occasionally I rode my bike to the park and sat there stitching for hours. I also stitched while in the car and not driving on the ride back across country (that I still need to write about).

So around Thanksgiving I was really starting to worry about the state of this project. I worked on it during the semester, but there is really only so much free time in a day that isn't spent sleeping. I had planned to spend the week after our final working on it all day, but a research paper refused to be finished before then and thus it usurped the stitching project. So what did I do after driving to Virginia? I spent 2 days sitting in my parents' house stitching on the couch either in front of the TV, listening to an audiobook, or listening to Christmas music. I basically moved only to help our old blind dog, eat, sleep, and go out to buy a frame for the finished project.

I actually didn't end up finishing it in time, although almost all of the cross stitching is done. Tonight I'll finish the cross stitching, and then I can spend the next few days on outlining and adding my embellishments. I already added my niece's name to it, so next to be added is her birthday.

As you can tell, my life has become consumed with stitching. I'm still glad I chose this design and this project, because they really seemed to like it. I framed it, wrapped it, and gave it to them on Christmas anyway, and my niece started pointed at it and giggling. Since she's 5 months old I assume she was not mocking my work, but maybe she's a natural art critic. Hopefully I'll finish it before leaving VA again in a few days just so that I don't go crazy.

Every few years I end up on some time consuming cross stitching adventure, so at least I probably have 2 more years before I have a time eating goal created from thread again. But then again I am crazy, so I might just find a new project before next Christmas!

Up and Down the East Coast

Driving around holiday time is always interesting. Sometimes there is so much traffic that the drive to my parents' house takes 16 hours, other times there isn't much traffic and it's only the usual 11. Luckily I break it up so that the first day is driving to New Jersey to see my boyfriend's family, and the second day is the drive down to Virginia.

Last Friday was the New Jersey trip. Amazingly, we hit little traffic in Massachusetts, Connecticut, or even New York! Well, when driving on the roads we were supposed to be driving on we hit little traffic. When we were at the end of the Palisades Parkway in NY, we accidentally exited onto I-95 North instead of I-95 South! Yes, that means we crossed the George Washington (GW) bridge! Oh, the shame and horror! To my defense (as I was the driver) they didn't tell you which lane split to which direction until you were at the split and the signs had so much information on them I couldn't find an I-95 South or NJ Turnpike symbol in time to make a decision! And Tim wasn't really paying attention either.

For those of you who also live in horror of the chance event of having to drive near NYC, you understand what's coming next. Except that you don't yet know that we also managed to make this mistake around the beginning of rush hour traffic. For those of you who have not had the experience: it's as horrible as I'm sure you imagine.

Not only did we NOT know how to get back on I-95 going South, but once we found the right road (I-87) to get us there, we were in bumper to bumper traffic. I blame the majority of this problem on the inability of NYC drivers to actually drive with ANY sense at all. For instance, in the two lanes that lead us onto the bridge, a car was parked in one of them. This is not a street, but an ON RAMP that has a shoulder on the right and not the left (the car was on the left). So all cars in our lane had to merge into the other one to get around it. There was also a tractor trailer stuck behind the car and just idling. I'm not sure if he needed to also get over and pass it since he had no turn signal blinking.

It also didn't help traffic that instead of merging, cars were passing on the shoulder of the first stage of the ramp and causing a traffic jam at the end of that stage when they tried to get back in. Is everyone in NYC just narcissistic?

Once we finally ended our multi-hour detour, we ran into yet another traffic jam at the beginning of the turnpike. Apparently 3 lanes were being merged into 1 EZPass if you got in a left lane to have the quick toll payment, you made a grave mistake. Which is of course what I did.

However, getting past the first few exits of the turnpike gave us open road, and the rest of the drive was relatively smooth, especially for NJ! We only arrived about 3 hours later than expected...

The next day was surprisingly easy. The toll plaza at the end of the turnpike had a ton of traffic, but the quick drive through EZPass lanes were relatively clear! I probably saved 30+ minutes just from having an EZPass. It was one of the happiest moments I had for days!

The beltway around DC was stress free compared to how it normally is (think: incredibly annoying), and despite the fact that my exit wasn't labeled well AT ALL I still managed to take it. The rest of the drive was fabulous except that my iPod battery died and I was stuck in silence for awhile. No, my radio does not currently work in my car, thank you.

I'll take that second day of driving for any trip, and I hope that's the type of drive I have for the drive back right before New Years!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Winter Wonderland!

house with snow
It's absolutely beautiful here in MA. It snowed all afternoon and evening last Thursday, then began again very early this morning. I think at this point we have gotten at least 8" but probably more. When we walked down to the market yesterday for breakfast, we had to walk through some non-shoveled area and it came to the top of my snow boots! Since this is only the beginning of my 3rd year in the Northeast, this much snow is still very exciting for me! The best part is that the picture above is from days ago.

Although I do enjoy snow, and am loving sitting here near the window watching it fall, it's still a bit stressful. I have my one and only exam tomorrow afternoon, and if school is closed tomorrow I'm not entirely sure when the make-up exam will be. Since my family lives in the southern part of the states, I'm leaving on Friday so that I can get home a few days before Christmas (I take 2 days to get home). So any time after Thursday is impossible! Luckily, we rarely have school closings and they are only on days like today where it started snowing heavily in the early morning, so I suspect that it will not be delayed.

On a similar note, last Thursday was very interesting. I was "lucky" enough to need to drive down to CT to pick up a bridesmaid dress for my cousin's wedding. I left in the morning at 10, which should have put me there by 11:30 and back by 1:00, hours before the snow was supposed to start. Well, I was almost to my exit in CT when I hit snow. I decided to continue on since I was almost there, but of course the snow decided to fall heavy enough that we had to slow down. I finally arrived at the store around 12:00. All of the entrances to the shopping center are steep, and I had so little traction that my poor car had to try multiple times to get over the lip at the top and get back on the road. There was a scary moment where I didn't think I'd be able to get back on the road.

The drive back home, usually 1.5 hours max, took 3 hours! Driving on a I-91 was about 15mph except for the few places where the pavement was visible, giving a whopping 30mph for a mile or two! The entire drive was fairly tense, since slowing down and starting back up were both hazardous. It was great to see everyone driving cautiously though, and not too many people driving exceedingly slow for no apparent reason. The only crazy driver I saw was in a utility van, who was zipping in and out of traffic. He was going "fast" so probably about 30-40mph. How he didn't wreck with all of the snow still falling I have no idea.

Today I hope to take time to "play" outside, and call it a "study break" (as if that's not what I'm taking right now!). Hopefully I'll get a great picture of me standing in snow up to my knees to send to my relatives with 60 degree weather. Why am I going south for Christmas when I have a guaranteed white one up here?