Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Weekend Between Christmas and New Years

We're home now ... it took us about 9 hours of driving, some of it through some very thick fog on Friday, but driving through fog was a lot better than what the 17 (yes we counted) abandoned (and sometimes on their roofs) cars and 2 overturned semis ran into along the road on I-80 and I-35. Given the weather (blowing snow) that we dodged after leaving Peoria early on Monday, and what we dodged on the trip home (freezing rain/ice and snow), we timed our return home just right.

Adding to the discomfort was me coming down with an impending case of norovirus; Lauren had come down with it on Christmas Eve day, and sure enough, I started coming down with it on Friday, enough so that we toyed with stopping off along the route in the Amanas or in Des Moines if I couldn't make it home.

Fortunately, we didn't stop, and we pulled into Maryville roughly around 7:00 Friday evening. It was just in time, too, because I've spent the weekend recovering from the flu, and I'll probably ask to work from home tomorrow because of it. Lauren's on winter break right now, but she's been recovering a little bit as well.

All in all, it's been a great holiday so far (stomach flu and weather notwithstanding), and we each got a bit of what we wanted for gifts: iTunes gift cards (to lay in a stock of new apps to add to the collection I have when I finally get an iPhone), a nice sweater, and a handy travel tea mug with built-in strainer for me to use on my commute; CDs, an iTunes gift card, a nice spa kit, a small brooch, and, in a deferred birthday gift, a deep massage for Lauren at Starved Rock while we were there. For both of us, we also got a nice package of smoked salmon from Linda and Jim, my sis and brother-in-law living out in Oregon. We also got ourselves a "joint" gift earlier in December with the Complete Monty Python's Flying Circus DVD set off of Amazon.

I think, though, the best part about the holiday wasn't the gifts (nice as they were). The best part was reconnecting with friends and family through Christmas cards, phone calls, and visits; we're hoping that this continues on through the year. Oh yeah; if you are reading this and you didn't get a Christmas e-card from us, check your e-mail's inbox (or your junk mail or spam filter, if the note got caught there). We did send you an e-card ... trust us.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Where we're spending Christmas

Richard and I used to come out to north-central Illinois at Christmas to visit my parents, sister, and her family. However, with my mom (the matriarch) dying a year ago Tuesday, my father recuperating from open heart surgery with my sister's help, and nobody in my family feeling like hosting Christmas this year ...

Richard and I came out to LaSalle County anyhow! In my way, I honor my mother, who would not let quickly worsening health get in the way of her Christmas preparations.

A fireplace in the Great Hall, Starved Rock Lodge

This year, we decided to stay at Starved Rock Lodge, a massive example of National Park Service Rustic architecture built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Starved Rock State Park has been voted one of the Seven Wonders of Illinois, and the Lodge is the jewel in its crown.

I have cherished Starved Rock, and especially the Lodge, since my childhood, but I had never stayed overnight there.

Our room. Note the knotty pine.

The rooms in the "old" east wing are paneled in knotty pine and are small but cozy. Given the immense Great Hall with its massive stone fireplaces, the views of winter scenery from the windows, the Jacuzzi, sauna, and pool, the restaurant with its own blazing fireplace ... staying in the hotel room isn't necessary.

Blazing fireplace in the restaurant. I'd like footage of this for my personal Yule Log DVD.

Today, we'll eat brunch in the restaurant, and then drive the sleigh (Honda Fit) to Ottawa and Marseilles to greet family and deliver Christmas presents.

Happy Holidays, all!
-- Post From My iPhone

Thursday, December 18, 2008


You may not be able to notice, but we upgraded the weblog this evening. I added a Twitter feed and changed the template to allow modular customizations. We lost the Weather Channel sidebar, but substituted a Google widget in its place.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Home Alone, Part 2

It's just me home alone this week. Lauren is currently in Peoria, IL, after flying out Monday for her dad's open-heart surgery. Fortunately, the surgery went off without complications, and he's now recovering.

I would be there with her, but due to a slip-up on someone else's part at work, I had to stay in the office (or, in this case, work from home due to the roads and winter weather), and work on a project with a next-week deadline. I'm hoping (weather permitting) to follow her up there on the weekend, where we'll head up to Ottawa/Marseilles and spend Christmas.

It hasn't been all bad. Staying home has let me catch up on a few things and take care of a few items heading into the trip and the holidays. Working from home is pretty good when I can get it (sleeping in until 7 rather than 5, and no 2-hour down, 2-hour back commute, are both things I could get used to). As long as the internet connection stays up, I've got groceries, and the freezing rain/possible ice storm tomorrow stays the heck away from Maryville, I'll be fine.

Even so, I do miss her. A lot.