Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve traditions and a pictorial ode to Christmas trees

As I write this, I'm listening to the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King's College. Aaron printed out the program so I can follow along. I do this every Christmas Eve at 10:00 a.m. EST, even if I'm at work (which thankfully, I'm not this year). This afternoon, wrapping will be accomplished (mostly by Aaron because I suck at wrapping). Tonight we'll go to Trattoria Roma for dinner before heading to church to sing two services. When we get home after midnight, we'll sit in front of the fire and drink white Russians (no idea why, but it's our tradition and it's the only time we drink them). This year, for the first time in a long time, we're also exchanging gifts with each other. I'd tell you what I got for Aaron, but unlike Facebook, he actually reads my blog.

Let's talk trees and decorations. We usually have three trees: an all white tree in our FROG (Finished Room Over Garage); a real tree in the living room; and a small artificial tree in the foyer. There's a really great story behind the last one, but I'm going to wait to tell it until maybe next year because this year we didn't put that one up, in fear of what the cats might do to it.
See how pretty it is...
...until SeƱor Gato Negro gets into it.

On our real tree, we had gotten in the habit of just putting all red balls on it. This year we decided to incorporate our traditional ornaments in there. Here are some of them:
I think this is from the year Aaron was born.
Aaron usually gives me an ornament each year. Two very appropriate ones for me:

"Our First Christmas - 1991;" From Lucca, Italy when we were there in 2010;
An ornament from my young friend Josh the year he was six;
Mickey Mouse ornament from our trip to Disney in 2011
Some ornaments creep us out, but we still put them on the tree:
I'm not a fan of birds, so I don't like the bird
ornaments, but strangely we have several
Aaron hates this one; he says it gives him


We currently have three cats, but our first two cats were Mingo and Wrigley. They were littermates. We lost Wrigley in 2009, and Mingo just died this past February. So we got a little sentimental when we found these:
My brother made wooden ornaments for each
cat. This is Wrigley's. We got a little teary.
Mingo loved this ornament. He would get it
off the tree and carry it around. Often I'd wake
up in the morning and find it next to the bed.
This one made us outright cry.


This is a classic each year. We laugh like
fools every time we go to hang it. Why?
Because the first year we hung it, I tried to
hang it by the reins, which looked
ridiculous. You probably had to be there.


One of two sets of bells which we consider
"tree alarms" because we know the cats are
under the tree when we hear the bells.

The finished product

A couple years ago we got these large ornaments that we hang from the ceiling. Since the ceiling is basically sub-flooring, we can do this with a staple gun. Pretty cool, huh?

I've had this rug since I was a baby.

I hope you are celebrating old traditions this year as well as making new ones.
Merry Christmas!

The Gila

Monday, December 17, 2012

Nothing Makes Sense

For the most part I try to keep my blog posts light. This is not one of those.

My heart breaks for the families of the 20 young children and the 6 selfless educators who lost their lives on Friday to a senseless act of violence. I cannot fathom the depth of their grief.

I weep for the children and adults who survived, and for their families. I believe the psychological fallout from this tragedy will be greater than any of us can imagine, or will ever know.

I feel terrible for the family of the shooter.

There is still so much we don't know.

But here's what I do know:

The ONLY time it is appropriate to keep flashing a mass murderer's picture on the television screen is if that person is still at large. Do not give these killers any more publicity. Just stop it.

This country needs to have serious, meaningful discussions about BOTH gun control AND mental healthcare. And then the discussions need to lead to some very real change. And it needs to happen now. Politicians need to grow a pair and forget about party politics, LISTEN to each other and DO SOMETHING, really truly accomplish something of relevance.

I have friends who also have blogs, and I purposely did not read their posts the last few days until I could get my own thoughts written down. But now that I've done that, I've read some of their words as well, and if you're so inclined, I encourage you to take a look.

Candy, who tells us that Love IS Louder.

Stephanie, who wishes for Peace all around:

And in the meantime,

Rest in Peace

Anne Marie

May we remember YOUR names and faces.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Happy Birthday, Dad

Circa 2006 - I love that tie;
Aaron has it now.

So it's 12/12/12, and a lot of people are making a big deal out of it, and indeed it's kind of cool. It also would have been my dad's 70th birthday. He was so looking forward to turning 70 on 12/12/12. Here are a few pictures through the years (there's one from when he was little that I REALLY want to add, but now I can't find it, so there may be an update to this post someday).

John Willis Tickner and
Gwen Ann Tickner, 1967

My dad and mom (John and Patty), early 1970's

My wedding 8/24/91; he co-officiated
and walked me down the aisle.
My brother John Mark's wedding 5/23/98

Hunting season

One of the last pictures of JWT. My mom's cousins brought my grandma over to visit.
It was a good day all around and I cherish this picture.

My dad had his flaws (as we all do) and as much as he sometimes drove me nuts, I do miss hearing his voice and us giving each other a hard time. Dad always wanted Swiss steak and pecan pie for his birthday dinner, so I hope he's enjoying that today.

Happy Birthday, Dad.


Monday, December 10, 2012

It's What We Do

We just wrapped up our two busiest weeks of the year. I'm exhausted, but exhilarated at the same time.

I've been singing all my life, and both Aaron and I grew up in musical households. We met in college singing in the Wittenberg Choir, we've sung in church choirs our whole marriage, and in January of 1992 we auditioned for the Columbus Symphony Chorus. Singing with that group led us to First Community Church, where we both are now members of the Chancel Choir and the Chamber Singers.

So, on Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend we began our back-to-back "hell weeks," culminating in the symphony's Holiday Pops concerts one week and then the church Christmas concert the second week. Here's how the schedule looked:

Sunday 11/25 - two church services, then Chamber Singers rehearsal

Tuesday 11/27 - Symphony Chorus rehearsal

Wednesday 11/28 - Symphony Chorus rehearsal with orchestra

Thursday 11/29 - Full run-through with orchestra

Friday 11/30 - Holiday Pops concert

Saturday 12/1 - Holiday Pops concert (preceded by our annual Fancy Dinner with chorus friends)

Sunday 12/2 - Holiday Pops concert

Monday 12/3 - I had a quick run through of a solo for the church concert

Tuesday 12/4 - Chamber Singers rehearsal

Wednesday 12/5 - nothing!

Thursday 12/6 - Chancel Choir rehearsal

Saturday 12/8 - Chamber Singers rehearsal with orchestra at 9:30 a.m., followed by Chancel Choir rehearsal, which went until about 12:30.

Sunday 12/9 - one church service; concert at 5:00

Oh, and we work full time, too.

Now, there have been years in which we've had even MORE going on, like the year we sang the entire Messiah with the symphony the weekend before Thanksgiving. And there were the years in which we had FIVE Holiday Pops concerts in three days. And there are people we sing with who have even more going on than we do, and/or they have children to take care of.

But in the end, we love it. We are fortunate to be able to sing some exquisite and exciting music and we get to do that together.

It's what we do.

Stay tuned,

The Gila

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

#4 - MoJoe Lounge: I Forgot the Rule

As you may remember, MoJoe Lounge is connected to Cup o Joe, both by ownership and physical space. Prior to this visit, we'd only been to MoJoe for drinks. We've heard high praise for their brunch, particularly the Bloody Mary, which has Guinness in it. We did not go for brunch; also, we were there for the fall menu, and they recently switched to their winter menu, so much of what I write about may not be available now. Oh, the trials of following a strict restaurant order.

We walked to MoJoe on a Friday evening, which also happened to be Aaron's birthday. Naturally, we started with drinks. Aaron had an Oak Heart Ginger Mojito, which he declared to be fresh and delicious. I had the Pumpkin Martini.

Friends, if you like pumpkin pie, get yourself to MoJoe (assuming it's still available; the martini special now is probably some kind of peppermint nonsense). This concoction is served in a glass rimmed with cinnamon and sugar, and it's so smooth and autumnal that I forgot the rule about martinis.

Why yes, I just created my own e-card.

While "sipping" on martini #1, we shared the Hummus Plate (cilantro-lime hummus with pita and veggies and feta). The pita bread was warm, as it should be. Don't even bother serving me hummus with pita unless it's warm. As we like to say, this was a delightful snack.

This, my friends, is a panini.
Martini #2 probably arrived before we even ordered the next items. Aaron switched his drink to an Espresso Martini. I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich, which included gouda, monterey jack and cheddar cheeses, and fries. Aaron ordered fish tacos (which they had to redo because he had ordered no sour cream and they came with sour cream on them at first).

Aaron loves being the background.

For "dessert" Aaron had a pint of porter. I had martini #3.

So far on our tour, this was our favorite. Cozy ambiance, quality food and fantastic drinks. Needless to say, I went to bed rather early that night. But it was worth it.

Next stop: Dane's Dessert Cafe!

Stay Tuned,

Spidey and The Gila

Friday, November 30, 2012

A Slipper By Any Other Name . . . Is a Biscuit

Today's topic is nicknames. You already know how I got the name Gila Monster. Here are some other terms that I use.

In his biscuits and M&M pleasures
Biscuits and Pleasures
I can't even remember how long it's been that Aaron started calling slippers "biscuits." I don't even know why (and I don't think he does, either). But that's what he calls them, and now we have loads of people all over the country calling them that as well.

"Pleasures" are flannel pajama pants. This term was coined by Aaron's sister Stephanie who turned us on to them years ago and said that when you put them on fresh out of the dryer, they are "pants o' pleasure." We've shortened it to pleasures, and it can also refer to yoga pants or sweats; basically your comfy clothing.

So, the next time you get home in the evening after a long day, or tomorrow morning when you're up and making coffee, put on your biscuits and pleasures.

This is what we call Tabasco sauce. 'Nuff said.

Spidey, Sappy and Boo
Spidey is Aaron. This is a great nickname for him because he climbs on everything. He should also be great at yoga because he can position his body in ways that most of us can't comprehend.

Sappy is his sister Stephanie. Our niece Lauren couldn't say "Aunt Stephanie" when she was little, so it came out "Aunt Sappy," and the name stuck. Lauren also went through a phase in which everyone was Uncle so I was Uncle Gila and Steph was Uncle Sappy, but she now has the genders figured out.

Boo is the youngest sister, Cynthia. That nickname has been around since before I met her, and Aaron still calls her that. This can get confusing because to nieces and nephews, Aaron is "Uncle Boo." (And that one started when our oldest niece Jacqueline was little and Aaron would play peek-a-boo with her.)

Bad Boiler
This refers to an upset stomach. It was really funny when Jacqueline was visiting us (she was maybe 5 at the time?) and I wasn't feeling well. Aaron kept saying "Aunt Gwen has a bad boiler." Then Jacqueline went home and one day in the grocery store they walked down the aisle with the Pepto Bismol and she asked her dad "is that what you get when you have a bad boiler?" 

You might need this if you've had too much Joy.

You know the saying, "six of one, half dozen of the other," meaning that with either option you get the same result? Well, Aaron used to say "six and a half dozen." When I finally clued him in to the real phrase, I said, "what you're saying is 78." And so now, whenever we have a choice of two similar options, we just say "78."

So there's a little insight into our secret code words. What are some of yours?

Stay tuned,

The Gila

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Restaurant Stop #3 - Cup o Joe

I have to confess that Cup o Joe is the one place on our list that we will visit more than once. That happens on Sunday mornings when we don't get coffee made at home so we swing by here on our way to church. We decided to allow this caveat only because we get the coffee to go. But now we had arrived at the scheduled visit, so on a brisk Saturday morning, Aaron and I walked to Cup o Joe for some breakfast.

For those readers who aren't familiar, Cup o Joe is our local alternative to the "evil" Starbucks empire. They have eight locations in the Columbus area, including one at the airport where Aaron always gets pre-flight coffee. It is an offshoot of Stauf's Coffee Roasters, also local, and they partner with locally-owned suppliers for the bagels and sweets they sell.

Aaron ordered his usual 7:01 A.M., which is the coffee of the day plus a shot of espresso. I usually get an Almond Joy latte, but today I decided on a seasonal coffee, Pumpkin Spice, to which I added cream and cinnamon. I had an onion bagel with cream cheese, Aaron had a slice of roasted vegetable quiche, and we shared an apricot scone. I don't know where the scones come from, but they are delicious, and the apricot was a new flavor for us; we'll be getting it again for sure... when we can go back.

Obviously, this isn't one of the more exciting stops, but it's still a solid choice for a weekend breakfast, and their coffee rocks. This particular location is also connected to Mojoe Lounge, which is the next stop on our journey.

Stay Tuned,

The Gila

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Nieces and Nephews

I've been participating in "30 Days of Thanksgiving" on Facebook, but today's thankful post deserves more space so I'm writing it here. Today I'm thankful for our four nieces and two nephews. Here they are, along with some of my favorite pictures of them:

Jacqueline Marie is a sophomore in college studying animation. She's talented, my shopping buddy, her smile is amazing, and I want her to be my personal makeup artist.

Jeremy Michael is a high school junior. He's the middle child, the peacemaker, the one who asks questions like "what if the sky was purple?" He is currently on the high school wrestling team.

James Matthew is in 8th grade and he's the comedian in the family, always coming up with "James-isms." He plays basketball and is trying out for wrestling. He has eyelashes to die for, and I love his hair.

Lauren Reay is in 7th grade. She's musical, athletic and beautiful. She won her conference championship in cross country and also plays basketball and softball.

Julia Lynn is in 2nd grade and she's our little princess. She's also really smart and she's pretty good on the soccer field.

Kathleen Anne (Kate) is four years old. She's a fierce soccer player, she loves Dora and Santa, and she has the cutest dimples.

When the kids come to visit there are two things that always happen: our M&Ms supply decreases, and we get a fashion show of my shoes. This year Lauren actually fits in my shoes, and I gave Jacqueline two pairs of my boots.

Every other Thanksgiving we are fortunate enough to have all the nieces and nephews with us so I make them get a picture taken all together. Jeremy wasn't with us this year due to wrestling, but here are some of the Thanksgivings past:

I love you guys and I'm so proud to be your Aunt Gwen/Aunt Gila (and I know Aaron/Uncle Boo feels the same).