Sunday, December 30, 2012

Home for the Holidays

I had a wonderful visit down in Connecticut with my family for this holiday season! I headed down to Bethany last Sunday morning with the idea of spending three days there with Mom and then Wednesday in Glastonbury with Dad and Lisa.

I was extra excited for Christmas this year because of some amazing news: my brother was hired as a police officer for Bristol, Connecticut and will be starting the Police Academy the first Friday in January! I'm so very happy about this. Greg has been trying very hard for a long time to get a job as a police officer. I know he's going to do an amazing job. Of course, he'll have to work over the holidays for the next few years, so I was looking forward to spending this Christmas with him especially.

We spent most of Sunday just hanging out, which was great. Mom made a bunch of cookies and candies. I got to spend a lot of time with my wonderful nephew dog, Demo. His grandmother spoiled him and gave him one of his holiday gifts early.

Monday morning, Greg and kicked off the day with a trip to the gym. I wanted to do some running and Greg has been keeping up with all his fitness for testing for the police and the academy.

I had gotten to visit with Seth's family before I left for Connecticut. They got me an amazing Nike gym bag that I got to take to the gym for the first time over the holiday. The bag is amazing and held my towel, gym clothing, shoes, and accessories. There is even a cool pouch that's felt-lined for my iPhone and delicate items. The bag also had a place where you could put a laptop making this bag work for more than just the gym.

After the gym, we headed home for Christmas Eve. Mom and I made steamed wontons and bacon with water chestnuts. For dinner we had steak with spinach and cheese, which Mom had ordered from the market. They were absolutely giant. Greg, Mom, and I all shared one.

We also took time on Christmas Eve to exchange gifts. Demo, like last year, got a giant bone.

I got Mom new L.L. Bean slippers (in blue!) and a car part for Greg's new BMW M3. I received a running hat from Greg and the Insanity: The Asylum Volume 2 exercise DVDs from Mom. Asylum 2 is the next program after the Insanity and Insanity: The Asylum DVDs that I have done a couple of times before. I just finished a second round of Asylum to prepare for this new workout.

I plan to start the Asylum 2 30-day program tomorrow. The program consists of seven workouts and, like Asylum 1, seems to focus on sports training, strength, agility and speed, and plyometrics. As with Asylum 1, you use hand-weights, resistance bands, and an agility ladder.
Today, in preparation for starting the program tomorrow, I did the 25 minute Agility Tutorial workout. This was an introductory workout designated to familiarize you with the agility moves you'd be doing in the ladder for Asylum 2. I thought, having done Asylum 1 where I did lots of work in the agility ladder, that this would be easy for me, however, the moves are much more complex and involved than in Asylum 1. I ended up doing the Agility Tutorial workout twice so that I could make sure that I really had the moves all ready so that I can go fast when I start the program tomorrow. I'll post more complete reviews of each DVD as I do them over the next few weeks.

Tuesday morning, I woke in Bethany for Christmas Day. I made a call to the Sibley's to with them a happy holiday and talk with Seth. I then jumped into gear helping Mom get everything ready for when Aunt Geraldine and Uncle Jimmy came over. The theme for this year's table was minimalist "white Christmas".

We had a wonderful day celebrating as a family, eating tasty hors d'oeuvres and dinner, and just enjoying each other's company.
Late in the evening, Greg's girlfriend, Grace, who unfortunately had to work, came over to visit. She and Greg gave me the most amazing gift!

This tea set was made by a woman Grace knows at work. As an extra special bonus, Grace helped make the saucers. The teapot is very squat and reminds me of some of the Japanese cast-iron teapots I've seen with a similar shape. I love this set, and am drinking tea out of one of the cups now as I blog.

Wednesday morning, I was planning to head over to Glastonbury with Greg so that we could celebrate with Dad and Lisa. Since we didn't have to be in Glastonbury until lunch time, I had time for one last meal in Bethany.

My favorites! Home-made cinnamon rolls (or "sticky buns" as they are known in our house).
In Glastonbury, we had a delicious and healthy frittata for lunch and then did one last gift exchange with Dad and Lisa. I had gotten Dad and Lisa both running clothing as they are both getting more and more into running and had just gotten a treadmill from the gym where Greg used to work. (The gym is moving and was selling some of their equipment.)
Some of you might remember that I was knitting Lisa a beautiful cabled wrap for Christmas. Unfortunately, there was a disaster with the finishing.

Very sad. Mom and I are working on cleaning it up so that I can maybe give it to Lisa for her birthday in April. I'm thinking at this point, it would only be for around the house. At least it will still be warm.
After a great visit with Dad, Lisa, and Greg, I headed back to Amherst very eager to start work with my gift from Dad and Lisa, a beautiful Chinese teapot.

Dad ordered me this Yixing Duo Zhi teapot from my favorite tea store, Tea Trekker. I was super excited to start making green-style oolong tea in it. (This was the tea I chose to use with this teapot. With teapots like this, you can steep green-style oolong, dark oolong, or puerh teas. You pick one variety and use the pot for that only.)
Before I started using my teapot though, I had to clean it and prepare it for usage. The teapot came with detailed instructions for cleaning and "raising" your yixing teapot.
I had to first rinse the teapot in warm water, then I had to place it in a large pot, cover it with water, and simmer that water with the teapot in it on the stove for thirty minutes. I was careful to make sure the water stayed at a constant simmer and didn't get too hot.

After the teapot got off the stove and the water cooled, I rinsed it again, this time in hot water, and then set the teapot aside for two days to dry.
The teapot was dry on Friday night, but I felt like it still had a strong new clay smell, so I went ahead and did the entire cleaning process again with the rinsing and the sitting in simmering water. I'm glad I did, the teapot smells much cleaner this time and should be ready for it's first usage this evening. I can't wait!
Over time, the pot will become seasoned from the tea I put in it. I actually want to see if I can find someone who does tea ceremony, so I can watch them with their teapot and see how they wash the outside of the teapot when they make their tea. (This is supposed to help give it a nice luster.) I know there is a woman at Mount Holyoke who does tea ceremony on Wednesday evenings. She does Japanese tea ceremony, and I have a Chinese teapot, but I think it would be worth going anyway.
It was a wonderful holiday season! I had a great time visiting with my family. Now, Seth and I are looking forward to having his parents and mine over on New Year's Eve for our annual party. I'm also looking forward to going down to Bristol on Thursday to see my brother sworn in as a Bristol police officer. Such exciting times!

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