28 December 2009

A flurry of family and friends

i thought we had a manageable "must visit" list for michigan, but with regular intervals of snow slowing the already torturous car driving, our energy got zapped fast.

first up, we managed to snag a few hours with good friends ntina and ben. they graciously offered to pick us up in sarnia and drive us to clarkston (where daves parents live), have lunch, and drop us off. after an early morning start to travel, it was great to have this last leg of the trip be energized with the laughter and chatter of comfortable friendship. our hour long car ride seemed to be gone in a flash and we found ourselves at "the union" in downtown clarkston. we had a nice lunch in this lively, open space. perfect for absorbing the baby chatter and inappropriate comments that inevitably exited our mouths. us girls dug into chicken pot pies (mmm, comfort food) while the boys carefully combed the beer board. we were sad when lunch came to an end, but we both had family meals and visiting to get to.

once inside the whipp house, we parked our crap in a guest room and said hello. its been a while since daves sister and her (now) husband were able to spend the holidays in the same house, on the same days as us, so it was nice to see them. while we waited for dinner and for grandma to get picked up, we located the stuff we had bought from amazon recently and had sent to the house.

i got some new shoes (slip ons...for when i can no longer tie my shoes) and dave got a bundle of wires and electronic stuff, not the least of which was a new digital camera. he was practically jumping up and down to get to michigan to be united with this thing. after hours of reading reviews and having me personally touch/hold/use dozens of cameras in local camera stores, he decided on a replacement for the digital camera weve had since 2002. its not the most idiot-proof of the point-and-shoot variety, but we wanted something to meet other needs and hopefully last for several years adequately documenting monsters every move.

okay, and...moving on from the camera...the point of us being back was to visit people. so, grandma arrived and a nice, easy dinner of soup (white chicken chili for some and oyster stew for others), salad, and bread was had.

(whipp family: me, courtney, megan, mary ann, dave, dave, jeanne, and picabo)

christmas eve faded into christmas day which was very slow and relaxed. the weather helped sustain the pace of the day with its ugly soggy rain that melted all the snow off the frozen lake. :( in the evening we had thanksgiving for dinner (yay!) and enjoyed some great desserts by daves dad. an apple tart and a pumpkin pie. yum!

but, two days of visiting in one spot was soon to be overshadowed by the rush of what was to come. saturday we woke up and prepared for the snowy drive out to grand rapids. we had lunch with daves paternal grandmother in her retirement home. the slow, multi-course "meal" allowed for a nice long catch-up visit which was welcome because it had been over a year since we had seen her. the next stop was daves paternal aunt/uncles house (also in grand rapids). we sat and chatted with them about several things, including their desire to make nova scotia their next vacation destination. cool.

the last grand rapids stop was to my paternal uncle/aunts house. these guys are always good for a mental boost. the whole family is very welcoming, they decorate their house full up for christmas (even though they have a college age kid and a senior in high school), my cousins are really fun and nice girls, and my uncle is very similar to my dad in looks, build, and mannerisms so i feel like im home in a way. anyway, we had a good visit and meal with them before we hit the snowy roads home. it had been coming down all day and grand rapids snow is nothing to laugh at. it took us an extra hour to get home, putting me in bed at about 1a. long day!

sunday we were back at it though. this time we hit the rest of my family. lunch was at my maternal grandmothers house in dearborn with my two aunts and their families. my one cousin on that side of the family was there and we had a nice non-traditional holiday meal of spinach pies, cabbage rolls, cheesy potatoes, hummus, tabbouleh, and bumpy cake for my cousins birthday. we played catchphrase (the "old" against the "young"...the young won almost every round. yeah.) and they suggested baby names (for a girl, Hali, to commemorate halifax, or for either a girl or boy, Nova, to commemorate nova scotia...i dont know, but nova kinda has a nice ring to it...).

(thomas family: dave me, patty, john, alex, rena, michael, and gayle)

we didnt feel like we had spent enough time there when the clock struck the hour for us to head to my paternal sides dinner. my grandpa and the grand rapids folks were gathered at my aunt and uncles house in plymouth. we opened presents like we have almost every year since i was born, and welcomed our first adorable gifts for monster. ah baby stuff, so cute/soft/cheery. then we had pizza and a dessert buffet (i shudder to step on the scale at the next dr appt). after catching up, watching the lions lose (shock and awe), and playing with the new puppy, "angel," we packed up and headed home in the snow again. at least it wasnt a super late night this time.

(me, monster, cousin linnea and her food baby; dohring family: belinda, kailee, me, linnea, jean, dave, john, arthur, michael, angel, and brian)

monday signaled the end of family visits and the beginning of friend visits. first up was lunch at cafe maries in ann arbor with old coworkers. good people who are kind enough to drive in from surrounding areas to continue to see me, even though we havent worked together in years. thanks! :) i however was not thankful for the snow. it had started snowing sometime before my eyes opened and when we were on our way to ann arbor from clarkston we had a fun time navigating between the idiot michigan balls-to-the-wall drivers and the fraidy-cat hazard-light drivers...ah, some things never change. we did arrive safely though, and i got to hear about all the crazy family stories those guys always bring. good stuff.

then dave and i went cruising ann arbor. he nabbed lunch at bagel fragel, which was in a new, larger space, and then we went looking for beer. the dalhousie geology department is having a "beers of the world" party in january and dave wanted to represent michigan well. figuring some would have been able to encounter Bells beer before, he opted for the more rare, yet still stellar with wide appeal brand of Jolly Pumpkin. because daves favorite beer selection locale closed (bella vinos on plymouth rd) we went to main street party store. i dont know why i enjoy beer stores when i dont like the liquid myself, but i like helping dave decide what to try next. i was proud to direct him to a limited edition batch of brews from one of his favorite places, Shorts. he bought three to try. go me...or whatever.

with time to kill after the beer store, we toured all the main strips of ann arbor to see what was new, gone, updated, and still lively. when we had had enough nostalgia, we grudgingly made our way to our storage unit in canton. joy. and there were near white outs of snow still going on in spots. driving down I-94 was typical michigan when we were in furious snow one minute and the sun was out the next. good times.

(driving east on I-94; same road, same drive, less than 5 minutes later...)

anyway, spent the record shortest time at storage and were actually able to easily locate all of the items we had come looking for. whoa! then we headed back for ann arbor, stopping at a target store for some inexpensive maternity clothes before plopping our butts down at the new jolly pumpkin brewery on main street.

(our old life in a 10 x 10 cell)

at the top of daves "to eat at when we are in aa" list, we sat upstairs in this nice space and ordered a drink and appetizer. dave got a cask-conditioned duel porter with cranberries and i got a non-alcoholic berry mojito. dave enjoyed his drink and i found myself liking mine. it was very tangy but was well-mixed with a good flavor balance of berry, lime, and carbonation. my problem was i felt a little pressed for time, so i guzzled it when really, its a drink to be sipped. our bread and dips appetizer was also really good: generous portions, nice presentation, and great flavors. we were pleased to see this often overturned or vacant spot on main street to have found a robust resident (and the recently passed michigan restaurant smoking ban [yay!] wont hurt the place either).

(dave and beer at jolly pumpkin. for more beer info, see his blog.)

all this in five short days, and there was more to come...

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