Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Wildlights at the Columbus Zoo, etc.

Friday December 11, 2015
Friday night we (my sister and her family and my husband and I) all decided to take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather (temps in the high 60s, low 70s) and see the Zoo Lights at the Columbus Zoo. Another reason for going Friday night was to possibly attend the taping of a WBNS Channel 10 special about the Zoo Lights with Zoo Royalty, Jack Hanna.
Since taping started at 6:30pm (and was broadcast live apparently), and most of us still had to get home from work and have dinner first, none of us arrived in time to be part of the studio audience, nor did we even know which building they were using. However, none of us minded since it was just nice to be there at the zoo.
Andrew and I arrived first and texted the others about the traffic jams we ran into on the way (there's lots of construction on the main artery to the zoo), so that probably slowed down a lot of people.
Since we had purchased our tickets in advance (online), we didn't have to wait in any lines and sailed right through, which is always nice. We made our way over to the pond which had lights on the tiny islands in the middle of it as well as around the perimeter. The reflections definitely add to the beauty of the display. We ended up standing next to a barrel with a fire in it to keep visitors warm, not that lack of heat was an issue on the somewhat tropical evening. In addition to the lights, I enjoyed watching a tiny toddler bouncing up and down to the beat of the music before his mother would scoop him up and bring him closer to her before he'd get away and resume his previous position once again.
After my sister and her kids and my sister's friend and family arrived, we met up and watched the light display from a different vantage point around the pond, then walked around to see what animals were still on display (not many!). The reptile building and aquarium were still pretty full (minus the penguins), but we only saw the reptiles since there was too long a line to get into the aquarium. While in the reptile building, among other things, we saw the boa constrictor pen that reminded us all of the scene in the first Harry Potter film where Dudley Dursley ends up behind the glass with the snake.
We really liked the Tinsel Town exhibit which contained little dioramas from various Christmas themed movies and a display of character mannequins, etc. Of course there was a display from A Christmas Story and another with Star Wars characters (which were out of proportion according to Andrew since Yoda was the same size as C3PO).
Some of the animals we saw: an elephant, a sleeping (not hibernating) bear, a sleeping tiger, a red panda, and a 10 day old monkey that was a stark orangey red, in direct contrast to its grayish black parents. 
We ended up staying til around 9pm, so we definitely feel like we got our money's worth. Great weather, beautiful lights, wonderful evening!
Sunday December 13, 2015
Church Play Sunday! This weekend both the local churches near our house were having special pageants of sorts, and as they were back to back, I was able to attend them both.
The first was held at Scioto Ridge United Methodist Church and was called "Erin the Allergic Shepard," and was about a shepard allergic to her sheep (though the role was filled by a boy). It was super cute, and for children (who aren't professionals), the singing wasn't bad and not too off key. Also, about 98% off the children seemed to follow their cues (of a parent volunteer sitting in the front row miming so they could follow along). After the play the children gathered around and were read a picture book by one of the parent volunteers. The pages were displayed on a screen, but were often on the wrong page, so I soon stopped following along. I dashed out while boxes of pizza were being set out on tables in a room across the hall.
My church, St. Brendan's, was having a live manger following the 5:30pm Sunday service. Knowing I would probably have some extra time before mass, I signed up to man the Welcome Center situated on the east side of the Gathering Space. So far, both times I have done that, I have yet to have anyone approach me with any questions, but it's an easy job at least.
After mass was over, it was my job to make sure two bowls of candy got handed out to all the children. Luckily one of my fellow volunteers (and her daughter) on the Arts & Environment committee helped me out with that by taking both bowls leaving me free to man my booth. I was surprised that there was actually some candy left, and I told adults they could feel free to have a piece or two. Any leftovers will be handed out next weekend after all the Christmas services.
By the time I was done inside the church, the live manger, located under a brightly lit star in the south end of the parking lot, was completely surrounded by curious parishioners. In addition to adults playing the roles of Mary, Joseph, and the three wise men, there was also a real live baby who was the child belonging to the two adults who volunteered to be Mary and Joseph. That's dedication for you!
To the left and right of the manger were pens containing a llama, a donkey (named Shrek!), a goat, a couple sheep, some rabbits and one or two other animals I can't quite recall. I petted most of them, but none were quite as smooth as our very own kitty cat.
Inside the school cafeteria was a Christmas party with free cookies, pastries, hot chocolate and water. We also each received Matthew Kelly's latest book, Rediscover Jesus and a copy of the 2016 calendar. Since my sister and her kids were indulging in the desserts (though they had had an early dinner), I decided just to make the desserts my dinner. I very much enjoyed nibbling on my desserts while sitting on the steps to the stage having a chat with my sister and her kids.
On the way home I decided to take the long way around the neighborhood so I could see the various Christmas lights. Some people really go to a lot of trouble, and my kudos to them for making the neighborhood a more cheerful place. I suppose it's nice that not everyone does displays or the light pollution would be just phenomenal (picturing the scene from "Christmas Vacation" when the Griswolds literally blind their neighbors with the brightness of their display).

All in all, a nice weekend (due as much to the unseasonably warm weather).

Friday, December 11, 2015

Top Ten Stand-Out Moments of 2015

1) Being first in line at the grand opening of the Dublin branch of Clothes Mentor and having Karen later join me to be second in line, then going on a wild spending spree once the doors opened (I think we were awarded with a $25 gift card too).

2) The Friday we visited downtown Cleveland – the West Side Market, the Great Lakes Brewery and especially the open museum night at MOCA, which was a really unexpected surprise.

3) Attending a Tailgate party at a local hotel (Crowne Plaza Hotel) with Andrew. The food was good (and free!), the weather was nice (we sat outside on the patio), and we even had enough time for me to show Andrew around my gym (and prove to him that the track really is the Bahamas!)
4) Getting an armful of free crackers from the Ritz truck (in front of the Crowne Plaza Hotel) after being let out of work two hours early due to a nasty computer virus that crippled our computer system.
5) The Monday before we left for vacation in October when we took a walk around the Scioto Run estate. It was late afternoon and an absolutely lovely day. The houses and landscaping were gorgeous and it felt so nice to have that free time just to take a walk (we had both taken the day off).

6) Riding in a Hot Air Balloon with Andrew over the Rio Grande Gorge in New Mexico. Even though it was my second ride, I was happy because Andrew seemed to enjoy it so much and thanked me for a really good birthday present.

7) Spending most of a weekend up in Kent where we both attended college. We met friends for dinner (a former coworker and KSU alumnus & his wife) and had really great conversations about travel over dinner and then adult beverages across the street at a favorite watering hole (Ray’s Place). In spite of the gray, dreary weather on Saturday, the weather improved and we had a nice visit.

8) Running the Flying Feathers Four Miler – actually running all four miles and doing it in 47 minutes proving you don’t know what you can do until you try!

9) Attending the annual tree lighting ceremony in downtown Hilliard and then watching the ice carver sculpt a block of ice while showering the children in the crowd with the icy debris.

10) Spending the whole day in Cincinnati visiting museums, eating out, and enjoying all the pre-Christmas scenery and activities in the city.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Second Half of November

Andrew's parents arrived for their ten day visit on Friday November 20th. We took them to Windchimes, one of our favorite local Chinese restaurants, for dinner. In fact, the portions were so generous that some of us even had leftovers for another day!

Saturday November 21, 2015
Today’s outing of the day was a trip to the Giant Eagle Marketplace at Kingsdale Center. We took them there on their last visit here about four years ago, just after the Marketplace opened. In fact, one of the employees saw them wandering around and even offered to give them a personal tour, so we didn’t even see them again for about an hour! This trip mostly consisted of us dragging them around while we stocked up on food for the week. I don’t think they would have minded spending a bit longer, but Andrew isn’t that keen on shopping and didn’t want to spend all afternoon there. Plus, he wanted to get home and have lunch.

In the evening we split up so the guys could attend the Mozart Clarinet Concerto at the Southern Theatre while we ladies attended the Darby High School production of “The War of the Worlds,” which lasted just over an hour. It probably felt like the end of the world to our meager little audience since the Buckeyes just lost their game in the last few seconds, moments before the play began.
(cast photo - we thought the kid in the blue plaid shirt looked a lot like Callum)
Since Karen and Mike’s house was on the way back, we popped in for coffee and conversation before retiring back to Chateau May where we watched several episodes of “Tiny House Hunters” before heading to bed.

Sunday November 22, 2015
Today was an activity-packed day for the Mays. For starters, there was the 11am contemporary service at Scioto Ridge United Methodist Church. Though I offered to drive them, the elder Mays opted to walk to church. I’m not sure why, but for some reason it reminded me a little of “Little House on the Prairie,” though the Ingalls would have arrived by buggy, as most attendees did.

It was a lovely service with a very entertaining sermon/homily and I told the minister as much afterwards. Meanwhile, Colin had a nice long chat with the organist since Colin & Ann’s church in Hereford is currently shopping for a new organ. Never hurts to shop around and ask advice from others! (which I explained to them that I did before I bought my Honda Fit when I popped in on some neighbors to ask them about their Fit).

While we were having a chat with some other parishioners after the service a neighbor I didn’t know I had on Darbyshire somehow knew I lived on Wenwood and asked if we wanted a ride. Ann & Colin were a bit hesitant, but I talked them into it not wishing to offend our neighbors, and knowing that it would be a long and exhausting walk back for the elder Mays (and we still had more places to visit on our agenda). Much thanks Mr. and Mrs. Waid!

Our next stop was lunch at the North Market. Unlike the West Side Market in Cleveland, which is enormous (and more than one building), and most other European markets, the North Market isn’t that big, so we didn’t figure it would be too exhausting for them to walk around. Also, we didn’t figure the meal selection would be so vast that they couldn’t make up their mind. They selected curry from Flavors of India while I bought a waffle sandwich from Taste of Belgium next door. Andrew joined us with a rather large (but apparently normal size) pretzel from Bretzel. I later stopped over there too and bought some pretzel twists to eat at home later. Ann purchased a box of Macaroons for us too, which we look forward to eating as soon as we finish the last of our Thanksgiving desserts.

From there we drove over to the Wexner Center to see the After Picasso exhibit which featured works by many of Picasso’s contemporaries including Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollack, Jasper Johns, and Roy Lichtenstein (who apparently attended Ohio State at one time). Everyone seemed to enjoy it, but I think Andrew’s mum was tired of walking, so the elder Mays sat and watched one of the continuously running videos, which are perfect for when you want a break, or are particularly interested in the subject matter. I thought the collection was very interesting and I only wish we could have taken pictures so I had examples from which to draw inspiration for my own art. They did sell a catalog, but it was quite expensive and just another item to clutter up my bookshelf. At least the free brochure had some good examples.

(above - this was one of my favorites that was recreated by Anton Henning)
When I got home from the food pantry later that evening, Andrew’s dad was snoring loudly in the living room, so we obviously exhausted them, which is why the rest of their visit was a lot more low key with them mostly sitting around our living room (though Andrew did take them to the Ohio History Center and a shopping trip on another day).

Thursday November 26, 2015
Someone told me Thanksgiving is the day one species ceases gobbling and another starts (gobbling). How true!

As far as the highlights of the day go, running the Flying Feathers Four Miler Race is definitely at the top of my list. It was held in Dublin in a neighborhood bordering Glacial Ridge Metro Park, so we ran some city streets as well as paved trails through the park. There were 4500 runners signed up, so we got stuck in a bit of traffic on the way there, but managed to park across the street from where the race started. By across the street, I mean, a mile away, but still closer than some of the other parking lots. In spite of the long walk, we still had plenty of time waiting around, and I wish I had worn one more shirt that I could have removed later. We were given free hats and gloves, both of which I eschewed because they impeded me using my I-Pod. The race began at 9:10am and it took us about 10 minutes just to get to the starting line. Also, there was a mixture of clouds and sun, so we were intermittently hot and cold, but managed to survive it and sweat some as well!

All I can tell you is four miles is a long distance, especially as we did a circular circuit, so there really wasn't much doubling back. Every time I looked into the distance I could see how much further we had to go and it was pretty discouraging, but I kept at it and managed to pass quite a few people. Andrew was nice and stayed with me most of the time. I was pretty happy when he flashed me 3 fingers for 3 miles completed. I knew I could complete the last mile after that. The long and short of it is we both RAN the entire length, occasionally having to slow down for other runners. Statistically speaking, we started out with a 16 minute mile pace, but then ended up doing about a 13 minute mile pace. I am proud to say Andrew and I completed the 4 miles in 47 minutes. We both got a pretty substantial (heavy) medal and a bottle of wine (Malbec and Sangria) for completion (along with a long sleeve runner's shirt). I was so proud of myself. I should also add, though we were both tired, neither of us were so shattered that we couldn't walk the mile back to our car. I probably could have run, but didn't want to drop my bottle of booze!

Mom and dad later joined us for lunch and dinner (after making a run back to Karen’s to finish fixing the wiring in her dining room and clean up the resulting mess). Mom, Ann, and I also went for a walk after lunch to enjoy some of the warm, afternoon sunshine. All total I figure I probably walked close to 7 miles today, which should hopefully offset some of the holiday overeating.

(group photo November 2015)
Friday November 27, 2015
Today we went over to the Weers for our annual Thanksgiving celebration. The guest list included 4 Denisons (Mom, Dad, Jim & Gwen), 4 Mays (myself, Andrew, Colin & Ann), and Mike’s brother, Steve.

It was very much a typical Thanksgiving celebration as far as food, entertainment (football on the telly, cards on the table) and family go. Hence, I think I can safely say the elder Mays can cross of ‘Experience a traditional American Thanksgiving’ from their Bucket List. In fact, we even saw they had the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on the television when we returned from the race yesterday. Not sure how much of it they watched, but at least they had it on.

This year I learned all about Franken desserts (where you combine desserts to make a new creation like pie and cake (piecaken) and got to sample Pumpkin Dump Cake which was made by one of Karen’s mothers-in-law. In fact, she even let me take home the leftovers. I plan to add that to the menu next year in lieu of the traditional pumpkin pie.

Saturday November 28, 2015
Tonight the rain let off long enough that we could dash out to a movie without getting too wet, so we treated Andrew’s parents to a showing of “Brooklyn” at the AMC Lennox. Because of how crowded it was (the movie opened the day before) we had to sit in the front row, but thankfully not in the closer seats on the floor. It was a really good movie, but Andrew said he worried it might have hit home a little too much for his parents, since like Eilis, he ended up emigrating to America after marrying me (though there was a 6 year lag in between). Here’s a plot summary of the movie: “An Irish immigrant lands in 1950s Brooklyn, where she quickly falls into a new romance. When her past catches up with her, however, she must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within.” Thankfully both of his parents seemed to enjoy it, and there were no tears either during or after the film.
Sunday November 29, 2015
I took his parents to church (at St. Brendan’s) with me where they got to meet our pastor, Fr. Bob, who is also a Brit (from St. Austell, Cornwall). Fr. Bob said he'll pray for them on their return journey since a hurricane is due to hit the UK soon (of which Colin & Ann were unaware). Apparently Yorkshire is expected to get a lot of snow, where rain is expected further south. That seems pretty typical for December, so I doubt they’ll have too much trouble getting back.

After church we went to downtown Hilliard for lunch at Abner’s and afterwards drove them past First Responder’s Park and over to the historical village where they had a very quick look around. Though it was sunny, it was also a little cold and breezy, so they didn’t want to spend too long outdoors.

Bon Voyage & Safe Travels, Colin & Ann!