Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: A Review

I started this blog after 2011 had already started, but a year in review post still seems appropriate.  This is the closest I'm going to get to a Christmas letter, so if you were eagerly waiting by the mailbox to receive our Christmas greeting; sorry, this is all you get:
  • Work: I spent most of the year working at a client that could have been the inspiration for both the TV show: The Office and the movie: Office Space. (You may have noticed my recent increase in blog posts... my tour of duty at that client finally ended Nov 30, and I'm looking forward to exciting new client ventures in 2012.) John started the year doing free lance work, even directing some commercials in Hollywood, and has spent the last few months doing a steady gig for Hit Entertainment.
  • Pets: Nicippe and Nestor are still our favorite little furry friends.  We had a scare earlier this year when we learned that Nestor has cancer, but given the elapsed time and lack of symptoms (other than the very obvious lump in his abdomen), his prognosis now seems very good.
  • Parties!: From 2 fabulous wedding showers to many poker nights at our house to the best Cinderella Slumber-Party Themed Bachelorette Party a girl could dream of, we had a great time partying with friends and family this year.
  • Our Humble Abode: At the beginning of 2011, we had only about 3 months experience as home owners.  Now, we have a small do-it-yourself project turned full bathroom remodel, new oven and washing machine, and new furniture to add to our home making experience.
  • Travel: We took several trips this year - Hot Springs, Arkansas to watch North Texas Basketball in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament; Tortola and Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands for our Honeymoon (with a stop in Puerto Rico and an unplanned stop in Miami); Los Angeles, California to watch more North Texas Basketball; and several trips to Houston to see my parents, grandparents, and cousins.
  • Getting Crafty: I've started to get a little crafty this year.  I made a door hanger 'H' that's now on our front door.  I finished Christmas stockings for me and John.  And I even made some custom jewelry.  I've been taken into the Pinterest phenomenon and I'm excited to try more new things.
  • April 30th: John and I made everything official and tied the knot! We had a great time at our wedding and cannot express enough the thanks we have to our family and friends who helped to make the day special. I think a good summation of how things went is this - Several people asked me after the wedding, "If you had it to do over, what would you do differently?"  I have pondered this question over the months since our nuptials, and I can honestly answer: "Nothing. I wouldn't want to change a thing."
All this leads to the question: What lies ahead for the Hansens in 2012? Obviously, we don't know for sure, but a few things are on our horizon:
  • Another trip to Hot Springs for more Hot Hoops
  • A vacation to Greece for me to meet some of John's family
  • Maybe, possibly, conceivably, after more consideration, and with no promises - taking steps in the direction that could result in me needing to make another stocking.
  • Some new home ownership adventures in renovation
  • A new client experience for me that will likely be my first introduction to the world of traveling for work
  • And hopefully many other fun and exciting things
I hope 2011 was a good year for you and yours, and I wish you all the best possible 2012.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas

We went down to Houston to see my parents for Christmas this year.  For Christmas Eve, my parents' church asked our family to light the Christ Candle during the Christmas Eve service.  My grandparents, parents, and cousins (who have 2 kids) are all members of the same church, so there are 4 generations of the family that are members there.  Jonathan, John, and I joined the group to make a pack of 11 to light the candle... of course, only 1 person lit the candle and 1 other read the scripture... I guess the other 9 of us were just for moral support.  :)  After the service, we went to my cousins' house for a Mediterranean themed Christmas Eve Celebration.  We ate some great food and enjoyed socializing with family and friends.
4 Generations of the Moore Family - ready to light the candle at church

We did the traditional Walton Family Christmas on Sunday morning, including stockings and gift exchange.  Then, the rest of the family in town joined us for a nice lamb dinner and Happy Birthday Jesus cake.
The 4 stockings on the left have been around for at least 26 years.  Mom started working on a stocking for John a few weeks ago... It's not quite finished though, so it was pinned to another stocking for the big day.
The tree at my parents' house just before we tore into the presents

We had a fun and relaxing time with my family, and when there weren't Christmas related festivities, we (Jonathan, John, and I) could generally be found on the couch...
Wii Fun - They're playing basketball in this shot
In addition to several Wii games, we also had fun adding new Miis to our collection... including Mr. and Mrs. Claus, Abe (Lincoln), and Sacajawiia (spelling intentional - Jiisus and Einsteiin have been in our Mii family for a while).

We enjoyed our Christmas with the Waltons and are looking forward to Christmas with the Hansens later this week.

Merry Christmas, All!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A New Perspective

I was a late adopter to the smart phone phenomenon, particularly given my job in IT Consulting.  When I graduated from college, I still used a Motorola RAZR (There's a new RAZR out now, but I'm talking about that old flip phone that was "amazingly thin" in 2003.)  For almost 2 years, I held out against strong peer pressure to get a smart phone - I really didn't see the need to spend $400 on a phone and then spend an extra $30 each month to use it.

iPhone 3G - My First Smart Phone
Eventually, though, I gave in and decided that the ability to check work email without lugging my computer around was worth the data plan.  We have a family plan with AT&T, and at the time (late 2009), the only option that met my criteria for a good smart phone with AT&T was the iPhone.  The 3S was already released, so I was able to buy a refurbished iPhone 3G for $50 from our employee discount program (I still wasn't going to pay a lot for the phone).

I had that phone for a little over 2 years.  For a while, it was quite nice and was a dramatic change to how I used my phone.  I never did figure out how to do some things I wanted (I didn't want to deal with jail breaking my phone), but it met my needs.  When iOS4 came out, the phone's performance deteriorated significantly.  Also, all the apps updated to fit with the capabilities of iPhone 4.  My iPhone 3G couldn't keep up.  My favorite example was to have someone else with a smart phone click on their Facebook app at the same time I did, and then watch the phones load the app.  My phone would take somewhere between 30 - 75 seconds to open the Facebook app... everyone else's phone opened the app in 10 seconds or less (generally less).

Since my iPhone purchase 2 years ago, AT&T has added several Android phones to their options, and I was pleased to get a much more customizable phone... It's a handheld computer; I ought to be a able to customize it like a computer (of course, I've never had an apple computer, but from what I hear, the "no options" thing appears to be a general apple issue).  Anywho, I again used my employee discounted phone rate and was able to get a refurbished phone for $0.01!  The case I got cost more than the phone!

HTC Inspire - My New Phone
I research for a while on which phone I would get to replace my iPhone.  The HTC Inspire was one of AT&T's first 4G phones.  It came out in early 2011, and I patiently waited to see how people reviewed it after having it for several months.  (It was very hard to be patient). I finally got my new phone last week, and after about 1 week of ownership - I Love It!

The hardware is nice and sleek, the camera takes much better pictures (If you want an example, just compare pictures in my recent posts - the stocking pictures taken with my iPhone and the Santa Stacker picture with my new phone), the screen is nice and big, and it still fits in my pocket.

The real improvement though is in the Android operating system.  I love the widget concept that means I don't have to open my favorite apps to get a quick view.  The people app links all my Facebook, Outlook (work), and Google (personal) contacts in one place, with no duplicates.  The Google Talk app puts my voice mails into text so I can read them in addition to hearing them (it's not perfect, but still pretty awesome).

I have done a lot of customization, and there's still more that I plan to tinker with to configure it just the way I want.  The Android is definitely a more open operating system.  I love all the options - It's giving me a whole new perspective on smart phones.

Yay for my new toy!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Spectacle of Spectacles - Revisited

A little while back, I posted about our Spectacle of Spectacles.  Well, since then, I had an eye doctor visit myself and got a new prescription... that means: More New Glasses.

If you're keeping count from the last post, I had 2 pairs of prescription glass that I wore in my old prescription: 1 pair of sunglasses and 1 regular pair.  I've retired both of those pairs of glasses and added 3 new pairs to the mix.  :)


Monday, December 19, 2011

One of the Perks of John's Job

Vendor Gifts!

In the spirit of holiday giving, several of the vendors that John works closely with have sent holiday gifts to his office... I particularly like John's vendor gifts because many come in the form of chocolate, and we all know who that's really for.  Though, John does get to eat some himself.

This Santa Stacker had goodies in each level - An assortment of mints, peppermint bark, white chocolate and peppermint covered pretzels, and peppermint - chocolate popcorn.
I particularly liked the Santa Stacker because it doubles as a new Christmas decoration that I can reuse in coming years... though I wish it could also magically refill itself with chocolate each year too. :)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

I've been working on personalized stockings for our house since early November 2010.  I must admit that not much happened on the stockings between early January and mid-October 2011, but it still took about 4 months to finish both. 

Growing up, my family had these personalized stockings for each person, and I thought it would be a neat tradition to continue for our new family.  Of course, my childhood stocking still hangs at my parent's house for our Christmas celebrations there.  So, last year I picked out 2 new stocking kits to make for me and John.  I'm really excited that both are finally finished.

A close up of John's - Ioannis is phonetic Greek for John

A close up of mine - I actually finished mine about a week before Christmas last year.
Beyond the stockings we have a few other Christmas decorations around the house:
The Big Christmas Tree

In the Dark!

Our College Spirit Christmas Tree.  This is the fist tree we owned, and it's bright Green (Kelly Green is for UNT) with Silver and Gold ornaments as a shout out to the Green and White of UNT and the Green and Gold of Baylor.

Snowman Wreath - I got this for Christmas last year, so this is the first time it's been up as a decoration.

NOEL Snowmen - I've had these snowmen bringing Christmas cheer for many years starting with my dorm room in college.
I also put out green and red guest towels and piled some extra ornaments decoratively on the coffee table.  We don't have a lot of Christmas decorations, but it's a nice touch.  I like that the house looks festive, and I'm sure I'll add a little each year.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Hot Hoops in Hollywood

Okay, so maybe not actually in Hollywood, but we were in LA at Loyola Marymount University... LA doesn't start with an 'H' though, so you'll have to pardon my stretch to "Hot Hoops in Hollywood".  (If you're confused, see my Hot Hoops in Hot Springs post for the origins of that phrase.)

This past weekend, John and I went to LA to watch North Texas in a basketball tournament at LMU.  Other than the trip out to LA and losing 1 of the 3 games, we had a fabulous time.

To start... our experience traveling to LA was a bit less than ideal.  We boarded the plane on time (10 PM), but about 10 minutes before we should have been in the air, one of the flight crew came on the speakers to tells us that the first officer had been injured in a car accident on his way to the airport for our flight.  (Why they boarded the plane is beyond us... unless they were just trying to make the flight count as an "on-time" boarding) They had to bring in a replacement first officer.  Some noted that given the car accident, we probably didn't want the original first officer anyway. 

They allowed people to get off the plane, but we didn't want to lug our stuff back off, so we just slept on the plane (most people got off, and we were able to stretch out).  Before we stretched out though, we chatted with an odd fellow who was a bit pompous (He always flies Delta and never flies in the economy section, but he Needed to be back in LA that morning).  He's a dermatologist, who very obviously wanted to imply that he has famous patients. It was strange conversation that I won't go into in detail, but I will share the advice he gave to me and John after discovering that we are newly weds - To Me: "Stay Sexy"; To John: "Keep Performing". 

The plane didn't actually leave until about 1 AM (2.5 hours late).  When we finally got to the airport, we went out to meet the rental car bus, since all the rental car places are offsite at LAX.  We waited for 45 minutes, watching several rental buses come by multiple times, but never a Thrifty bus, which is what we were waiting for.  John tried calling Thrifty, but all we could get through to was the national number, and we (both John and the national Thrifty office) couldn't get anyone at the local office to answer the phone. Finally, a Hertz driver who had seen us on multiple passes to pick people up for Hertz stopped and asked who we were waiting for.  He was kind enough to give us a lift because he felt sorry us and didn't have any Hertz passengers at the time.  (He got a nice tip for his generosity.)

When we got to Thrifty, there was indeed someone behind the counter... why he wasn't answering the phone, we don't know, but we did ask why the bus that was idling outside never came to get us when we were waiting for almost an hour.  His response: "The bus is running to the airport every 15 minutes... [pregnant pause] but the drive is on lunch break right now".  It took longer than it should, given that he had no other customers, to get our car and get on our way, but the bus still didn't move the whole time we were there.  Why was the bus driver on "lunch" break for at least 1.25 hours (and that's just what we can confirm)?  Why did the driver take a lunch break when late flight customers who've already paid hadn't been picked up yet (we booked through a deal with American, so they knew which flight we were on)?  Why didn't they even apologize or ask how we got there without the bus?  No Clue.

Moral of the Story: Thrifty = Bad; Hertz = Good.  Never rent from Thrifty.  I've never rented from Hertz before, but they're getting my business next chance I get.

We finally got to my brother's condo around 4 AM (without all the delays, we originally expected to get to his place at 1 AM).  Needless to say, we were exhausted.

The rest of the trip went much more smoothly.  We watched a 90-45 victory for North Texas in the first game on Friday.  On Saturday, we enjoyed the Baylor victory on TV before heading out to the only UNT loss of the weekend (Lost to Columbia, who I now hope wins the Ivy League Championship because we were not expecting that one).  Then, on Sunday, we watched a great game with the host school, Loyola Marymount.  UNT lead almost the whole game, but it was relatively close and a good game throughout.  LMU has beat ranked opponents this year, so they were a formidable opponent.  I also enjoyed spending time with my brother in the evenings in LA, and he even came to the Saturday game.

Shoot-Around at half time for the last game - I took this because I decided that I needed at least one picture from our trip. - Note the small crowd (Only Loyola's game on Friday had a decent turnout - though there were more people on our side so it wasn't quite as dismal as this photo looks), and note the odd small area with wood bleachers on top.
The other big excitement of our trip was in the final game when I got warned by a campus police officer - Yes, you read right: Me, not John. - Like many people do, I took advantage of the quiet to yell a loud, quick "AWoo" right as one of the LMU players was trying to shoot a free throw.  No words, so it wasn't profanity or taunting, which I could understand people getting upset over - I don't like that either.  But people do what I did all the time, particularly when your crowd is small because you can't make much of an impact to distract the shooter with a sustained yell if there's only a couple people.  Several other people did the same thing during that game both before and after me, and they weren't warned by the police.  For some reason, this police officer just decided that a fan making noise at a sporting event was inappropriate when I did it.  I was obviously confused, and no one around me understood it either.  I didn't press the matter with the officer though because I definitely didn't want to get kicked out.  I think John was proud.

To top off the end of trip, when we got to the airport on Sunday, we discovered that the team was on our flight back to Dallas.  We got to chat with several of the coaches and players, which was great fun.  Apparently, while I was in the ladies room, John felt the need to tell the head coach about my encounter with the campus police at the game.  The team was great - Fun to watch on the court and very nice in our interactions at the airport - a few players come up to us to thank us for making the trip.  (Though I did get a head shake from the head coach for wearing my Baylor hoodie when I got cold before we boarded the plane)

All in All, a fun time in LA.