Monday, 29 December 2008

Happy Christmas

I meant to get this posed ages ago, but I've been fighting for computer time!

Santa was good to me this year. He brought me the most awesome adventure! Steve (my brother-in-law) and I each had an envelope. Apparently Dad'd had to tell Lois about it, so she didn't get to open the present. Inside the envelopes were 2 pieces of paper that had been cut up into puzzles, then mixed together. So Steve and I spent 5 or so minutes figuring out what the photo in the puzzle was. It was someone snowmobiling in front of Old Faithful. So I guessed, 'We're going snowmobiling through Yellowstone?' And my folks said, 'Yes!' Oooooh boy! I was excited!! My folks live about 2 hours from the Montana side of Yellowstone. Unfortunately, the snowmobiling only leaves from West Yellowstone, which is the other side. A 5 hour drvie away. So as soon as we could get cleaned up and ready, we jumped in Jeeves (the Jeep) and headed out.

The drive over was kind of fun. We saw hundreds of dear and antelope grazing on the field stubble. We saw a few buffalo, too. And loads of hawks, and even one bald eagle. But when it got dark, we realised we were driving into a storm. It took us quite a bit longer to drive what ought to have been the last hour. It was snowing pretty hard. But that was ok, because it meant we'd have fresh snow for the morning's adventure. And they definitely had plenty of snow in West Yellowstone when we arrived. (Our 'parking space' at the hotel. When I jumped out of Jeeves, I was thigh deep in snow.)

Turns out, they'd not had any snow, all winter, then all the sudden last week, wham -- 26 inches in one night. But it'd been so cold (20 F was the high when we were there, and it hit 0 F just as we were leaving to go back to Billings, with a low of -13 F. That's -7 C to -13 C and the low was -25 C. Cold.) that the snow was too dry to compact. So when the park services would come through with the grooming machines on the trails, the snow wouldn't compact down. That meant that when the big 'Snowcoaches' (vans with snowmobile treads for wheels) came through, they tore up the trails, leaving big gullies and hashed snow behind. Made for hard work keeping things on the straight and narrow. But it was seriously good fun. We started out around 9.00 am (we arrived to the shop at 8.00, but it takes a while to get suited up) and got back just a bit before 5.00 pm. So, it's quite a long day. You go out to Old Faithful (30 miles from West Yellowstone), watch the eruption, video have lunch, and come back to West Yellowstone. I know that doesn't sound like much, but along the way you stop and see hot springs, geysers, mud pots and hopefully a few animals. We didn't see as many animals as we'd hoped to, but it was still fun! And exhausting. By the time we got back to West Yellowstone, we were shattered. The cold is so draining. Poor Lois said she'd never really been warm enough the whole day. The rest of us had been fine, up until the last hour, or so. Dad was warm the whole time. Lois was really suffering on the last hour. We popped her in the front seat of Jeeves and turned on the seat heater and the regular heat full blast. Even still, it wasn't 'til we were most of the way home that she (well, all of us, really) finally actually warmed up. But it was worth the cold. At one point as we were zooming along the snow I remember thinking, 'Thank Goodness Mom and Dad moved away from Mississippi.' It isn't that there's nothing to do in Mississippi, because there's loads. But the problem is, it's either too hot, or not warm enough to enjoy most of it! And, of course, I like snow. I know. The rest of the world thinks I'm absolutely insane. But I do. I like shoveling it. I like driving in it. I like playing in it. I like looking at it. I like snow. And I'd really missed it since moving to England and my folks moving to Mississippi. But now that they're back North, I'll get to play in it again! Yeay!!

We got home around 10.00 pm, which was really pretty quick. We'd had to go kind of carefully the first half, because all that snow had turned to ice on the roads. But we still made it in a little under 5 hours. We were really glad to get home and out of the Jeep, though! And especially glad to get into bed. It was a really long, tiring day. But so much fun. This is one of the highlights of my life!

Monday, 22 December 2008

*sniff*

Baby, it's cold outside . . . And boy is it! -18 F (-25 C) I'm freezing! And I've caught a cold. *sniff* *sniff* I helped put up and take down the Nativity Display last week. That was kind of fun, but putting it up, I was jetlagging, then taking it down, I was plague ridden. *sigh* If I'd been awake and healthy, it would have been much easier! Never mind. I'm trying to keep warm, drinking lots of hot tea and orange juice, and get a good amount of sleep every night, hoping I'll be healthy for Christmas!!

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

It's Not Called A Red-Eye For Nothing

I've arrived! Wooh hoo! After quite a long flight half-way across the world (ok, not quite an accurate judgment, but close enough for government work!) I've finally arrived in the USA. Actually, all of the flights were remarkably smooth for being the middle of winter. Especially the middle of winter over the North Atlantic. There have been times I've flown to the States where I wasn't able to get up for the whole 8 or 10 hours because of bad turbulence. Not this time, though. It was only mildly bumpy once or twice. And, miracle of miracles, I was able to sleep on the plane!

. . . Of course, that might have had something to do with the insane hours that I was keeping up till I flew out.

My friend kindly offered his flat in London as a jump-off point for the airport Monday morning. He said we (I was traveling with Sara, the American student at Essex) could come in and stay the night on his sofa, and he'd help us get on the train/coach to our respective airports. So we said yes. Of course, the real reason he wanted us (well, me) to come in was because there's a monthly Blues night in London that happened to be the night before we flew off. So we said yes, and had an absolute ball dancing the Blues. Blues is a type of Swing Dance, really slow. It's all about smooth, careful movements, punctuated by quick, sharp steps. Really fun. Got 5 months worth of dancing with my friends done in one night! But it meant we didn't get to bed til sometime after 3 in the morning. And that was after 20 minutes of sleep the night before. I must seriously be insane. Fortunately, I didn't have to be up til 8.30. Yeay. "Sleeping in". But it was such a fabulous night of dancing. I'm really glad I didn't miss it.

Of course, nothing ever goes completely according to plan. I had to dash through the Detroit, Michigan airport. Customs took absolute ages. And the baggage didn't come for yonks. I was exhausted and had a headache, and was literally running through the airport in my socks! And then, when I got to the Minneapolis, Minnesota airport, I had time to get food, but I didn't have any money! I had absolutely 0 USDolars! So, that meant by the time I got to Billings, Montana (10.30 pm) I was starving. And still had a headache. And it was freezing. And as far as my body knew, it was 6.30 in the morning! Yeah, the 3rd all nighter in one week! Glutton for punishment, I guess. Oh, and Mom and Dad got confused. They thought my flight didn't come in till 11.30. So I got to the airport, collected my bags... and still no one there. I waited around a while, and no one showed. Now, I don't have any money (remember?), and my UK mobile phone was not able to get a signal, so I didn't have any way of calling. I tried calling collect, but the phone was doing something weird. Mom'd answer and then it would disconnect. So I finally went around to the car rental desks and talked to the staff at Hertz, and begged to be allowed to use their phone. Since it was local, they said fine. So I called, and Mom's like . . . What are you doing here? I'm like, umm... Waiting? So they came and collected me, and I finally got to go home. But it was COLD waiting for them! -18 F! Yep. That's cold. I walked outside and nearly coughed up a lung. The poor lungs said, 'Aaaah! What is this?!? Get it out!' It's cold.

Anyway, I'm at my folks. My suitcase arrived with me, for a change. And I'm doing a bit of recovery from the term. It's nice. Really nice.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

I'd Like Another Week in My Day, Please!

I've been SO BUSY this last couple of . . . months. I just can't believe it. And this week has been no exception. In fact, it's been pretty much insanity. I had an all nighter, teaching (after not having slept!), Young Women's (more on that in a future post . . . I hope), YSA parties, Teaching, Cleaning, Teaching, Pampered Chef Party at my house, Teaching!!, collecting Essays from London, cleaning, packing, putting out small kitchen fires, cleaning up after small kitchen fires, another all nighter, PhDing, TEACHING!!, getting my house ready for the house sitters, Supervisory Meeting and a talk to prepare. No, I haven't done ANYTHING this week. Ha ha. I'm so tired, and there's really no point in going to bed now. It's just gone 7.00 am, and I have to be up for Church in 2 hours. That'd be worse than just toughing it out and sleeping tonight (that's another story, I'm staying at a friend's tonight, in London. Probably won't get much sleep. *sigh*) I honestly can't say when I've been this tired before. I'm sure I have been, but just at the moment, I can't think when. But on the up side, the house looks pretty darn good. I've finally got the office sorted. It's been begging for help since I moved in, pretty much. But I just never had the time/energy to devote to it. But with people coming to stay in the house, really kind of needed to get it finished up. The mural looks fabulous. Mum's brilliant! :D

I'd love to say, 'Off to bed, now'. . . but I'm not. Going to do some more cleaning/tidying. *sigh*

Monday, 8 December 2008

P.S.

That marathon marking essay? Yeah. An all nighter. AND I stayed up and taught a 2 hour class. It's now midnight. I still haven't slept. Think I'll go do that now. I really thought all nighters were the domain of the student! Not the lecturer!!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

DONE!!! . . . 'Til Friday. *sigh*

I just finished marking the last essay for QMUL. It's taken me 2 weeks. Same amount of time I took for Essex. Not bad. Means I'm all done marking essays. At least . . . 'til Friday when I have to collect the final essays for QMUL. But I don't have to have them back 'til January! Yeay!! :)

Friday, 5 December 2008

Let The Christmas Season Begin!

A couple weeks ago Sara had this brilliant idea to go into London to watch the lighting of the Norwegian Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square. Every year the Norwegian people give the Birtish people a Christmas Tree as a thank you for the help given during the Second World War. This tradition got started in 1947, I think they said. Anyway, it's been 62 years since they started (we all know how my maths skills are. Someone else figure out if I remembered the date right or not!) We had a great time listening to the brass band and two church chiors. Really good fun. We'd got a little rain in the middle of things, but it quit pretty fast, so it wasn't miserably wet. Just slightly damp.

Here's the video of the lighting. The man speaking is the Mayor of Oslo. (Sorry the video is sideways. I forgot that if you turn the camera, it takes the video sideways. Ooops.) video