We are home safe and sound, and glad to be back in Colorado after a few fun-filled days in sunny Arizona.
We left the house at a reasonable morning hour on Monday and drove down to Denver, where we met the choir director from our church, who had offered to drive us to DIA.
The choir director was also taking two relatives to the airport at the same time to catch two other flights, and the earliest flight left quite a bit sooner than ours, so we arrived at DIA with 3+ hours to spare until boarding.
The flight to Phoenix was bumpy but uneventful (thank you, Frontier) - although I was mildly distracted and a bit unnerved by the passenger on my other side, who crossed himself about a dozen times during the 90 minute flight.
CLH's dad had "enjoyed" Monday morning by having a root canal, so he had the day off and was able to pick us up at Sky Harbor. We then drove to Tempe, to CLH's grandma's house where CLH's dad and brother are currently living and where we stayed for the week.
We got settled in, played some cards, had a nice steak dinner (the first of many enormous meals this week), and got out some board games.
Tuesday morning started with a jogging/walking session around the neighborhood for CLH and me, in preparation for the week's upcoming gluttony. Beautiful weather - it was probably in the 60s, and not a cloud in the sky.
We met my cousins B&C for brunch/lunch at 11:30 at a place called Crackers Cafe, which has evidently been around for awhile but has recently expanded and now has a location in Tempe. It was great to see them, and we spent quite awhile catching up on news from the last 12 months. (By the way, if you ever get to Crackers, I highly recommend the granolacakes with blueberries, strawberries, and whipped cream. No dessert necessary.)
We spent Tuesday afternoon playing some games with CLH's family (parcheesi on the patio = excellent), reading our books, etc. I dropped CLH off at our old church at 5 pm so he could run through some of his organ pieces. His grandma, dad, brother, and I came back at 6 to hear him play the pieces.
Then we headed out for another gigantic meal: good Arizona Mexican food at Garcia's. After splitting a sampler plate with CLH (including a beef taco, cheese enchilada, beef chimichanga, and chicken burrito, plus rice and beans), I was ready to head home and maybe rest my eyes a bit, but I was then reminded that we were off to see a movie.
We drove over to Arizona Mills, the closest mall to the apartment complex where CLH and I lived for 2 years.
Somewhat to my chagrin, the decided-upon movie was "New Moon," the group vote having rejected "2012" and "Julie and Julia." I saw the first Twilight movie with CLH when it was in the theaters, and I can kindly say I would not give it a rave review. Whoever described it as "soft porn for teenage girls" was right on. Robert Pattinson does not appeal to me. (What's up with the hair, dude?) (And the totally sleazy mannerisms?) (And the creepy stare?)
So the movie was okay, but I wouldn't jump at the chance to watch it again.
--> Warning: Off-topic rant approaching. <--
There is this scene in the movie where Bella, the female lead, who is not a vampire, goes with her vampire boyfriend Edward back to his house where he lives with like 6 other vampires. They are all "good" vampires and they don't kill humans, but some of them have been "vegetarian" for longer than others. It's Bella's birthday and she is unwrapping a present when she gets a paper cut and her finger bleeds, like, a tiny little bit. This one vampire smells her blood and goes all crazy and tries to kill her, and then all the other vampires get wound up and have to leave too, except for the "dad" vampire who fixes her up.
So my thought is: Is Bella never going to menstruate? Seriously? In the whole two movies (and in all 4 of the books, according to CLH), there is never any mention of a feminine cycle or anything like that. Is Edward the vampire boyfriend thinking about these things? Will Bella not be visiting him or his family for 1 out of every 4 weeks? Or is that supposedly not an issue for the vampires, but they can go nuts over an itty bitty paper cut? Come on!
--> End of rant. <--
--> I'm sorry, I have one more Twilight-related thing to rant about after all. <--
The most hilarious scene in the movie, to me, was this part where Bella and Edward and one of the other "good" vampires are in Italy. There is this council of like boss/police/chief/leader vampires who are in charge of punishing vampires who break laws. There are three of these dudes, but one of them is clearly the head honcho. He has some special power where he can read other vampires' thoughts if he holds their hand. So he holds Edward's sister's hand, sees her thoughts. He holds Edward's hand, sees his thoughts. Then he gets all curious and wonders if he would be able to read Bella's thoughts, since she is human and not a vampire. So he takes her hand, and then says something dramatic like, "Alas, I see nothing!"
All I was thinking was, you know, that doesn't necessarily mean your powers don't work on her! May not be much of anything going on in that pretty little head....
--> Here ends the Twilight rant. For real. <--
So that was Tuesday night. CLH's dad, usually an early-to-bed, early-riser kind of guy like my dad (but more extreme!), kindly came to pick us up from the theater at 10:30.
On Wednesday morning, CLH got up and jogged for awhile (good for him!) but I was lazy and stayed in. Turns out that jogging on a sidewalk hurts your joints and muscles a lot more than jogging on a treadmill. Go figure.
Danishes and fresh citrus for breakfast, then reading, playing cards, playing board games, playing Beatles Rock Band (with wooden kitchen spoons as drumsticks, awesome!), and listening to piano lessons for the rest of the morning and afternoon. We also got out some piano/piano and piano/organ duet books and played Christmas duets on CLH's grandma's two pianos for awhile.
CLH's grandma made lasagna in the crock pot (who knew you could do such a thing?) for an early dinner. CLH and I then drove back over to our old church, which was hosting Tempe's annual interfaith Thanksgiving Eve service this year. A bunch of different religious groups participate - Episcopal, Catholic, Presbyterian, Congregational, and Methodist churches, the local Jewish synagogue, the Mormon temple, the Salvation Army, and an intercultural/interfaith dialogue group that usually has some Muslim representatives. A different congregation hosts the service every year, on a rotating basis.
We arrived at 5:45 for choir warmup and rehearsal. They have a community choir composed of choir members from all the different churches. They usually just sing one fairly straightforward anthem during the services, and help lead hymns, etc.
Since our old church was hosting it, we got to see lots of our old friends from that congregation. The service went from 7 till about 8:15, then we stayed out on the patio for almost an hour after that catching up with people we hadn't gotten to see for 12-18 months. It was really a great time.
On Thursday, we woke up and opted to prepare our bellies for massive intake ("Get me mah stretchy pants!") by jogging/walking again. This time, CLH's dad's dog Dusty got to come along for part of the workout. He wasn't too great for walking (weaving all over the place) but was a good jogging buddy since he had to try to keep up (on little short cocker spaniel legs). We dropped him off at the house after a block or so, but I think he had a good time.
Later in the morning, CLH's 9- and 11-year-old cousins came over for a visit. Their parents are recently divorced and they were going to spend Thanksgiving with their mom instead of with CLH's uncle, so that was our only chance to see them. They've grown up quite a bit since I last saw them, and it was neat to see that they seemed to be getting along a lot better with each other.
At 11:30 we headed over to my cousins B&C's house for our first of two Thanksgiving dinners. We were joined by about 20 extended family members, plus a couple close friends from church. All the "little" kids are now between 6 and 11 years old and have also grown up a lot. I had a great time catching up with family. And, of course, we managed to eat probably more food than we intended - including ham, mashed potatoes, fresh fruit, giant green olives, and of course pumpkin pie and chocolate fudge for dessert.
By 3 pm we were back at CLH's grandma's house for Thanksgiving dinner with that side of the family. We were joined by one of CLH's uncles and his family, plus some other family friends. CLH's mom stayed out on the east coast, and it was weird to have a big family gathering without her. Our second dinner included turkey, mashed potatoes, two kinds of sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, rolls, and your choice of mince and/or pumpkin and/or chocolate pie for dessert. (I only had chocolate pie. But I did have two pieces.)
The gathering wound down around 6 pm. CLH's dad, grandma, and I chatted in the living room for awhile while CLH practiced "Bye Bye Birdie" on the piano. Then we opted for leftover turkey sandwiches and a late game of parcheesi before bed. (Make no mistake, CLH's family may seem mild and kind, but they play a vicious game of parcheesi. Show no mercy.)
We were up at 7:30 this morning to get packed, have a quick breakfast, make a couple more sandwiches, and hitch a ride with CLH's dad back over to Sky Harbor. Upon arrival, we found that our flight had been rescheduled to leave 15 minutes earlier than we expected, so we made a timely arrival in Denver around 12:30 pm.
Our choir director picked us up again, brought us back to our car parked at her house, and we stopped by our church so CLH could spend a little time running through Sunday's hymns and service music on the organ. I used that time to stop by Target and gas up the car. Then it was back up I-25 to wonderful Windsor.
It really feels good to be home, although I am very glad we decided to take the quick trip to Arizona. Four days was just about the right amount of time and I think we were able to do everything and see almost everybody that we wanted to see. Now: just need to get back into academic mode for 3 weeks, then some serious Christmas time!