Sunday, December 14, 2008

two hot chocolates and a baby please--make it virgin

This week Nicole and I entered a new social realm...that's right, celebrity status.  Saturday was the annual Hampton City Holly-daze parade.  The Hampton city ward's entry was a float depicting the Nativity scene.  We were asked last week to play the parts of Mary and Joseph on the float.  I was of course chosen for my superb ability to grow facial hair.  Since the early age of 17, I have progressed from shaving every other week to every other day.  However, in about a week, with some extra effort and concentration and a slight diet change, I was able to produce this beauty.

Nicole, on my left, made an excellent Mary.  The parade was on Sat evening.  It was actually fairly cold.  We were able to hide our excess layers under our ultra-frumpy robes that we wore.    We were joined on the float by the three wise men, two shephards, and a little angel.  Thankfully with the added help of some hand warmers and some hot chocolate from our thermos we were able to keep warm.

During the parade things went well; Nicole knelt on the float and I knelt behind her.  I spent most of the time trying to look pious and waving and pointing at the crowd while shouting things like "Merry Christmas,"  "Great to see you," and "How you doin'?"  I must say, that being famous is a lot of fun, but it's a lot of hard work.

Also this weekend, we went up with the youth from our ward to DC again to see the lights at the DC temple.  It's no Temple Square, but 450,000 lights is still extremely impressive.  On an environmental note, all of the lights on display this year were LED instead of incandescent.  I am behind this move 100%.  Although these bulbs consume less power than traditional ones, they put out a great deal of light.  So much in fact, that when you're close up and your pupils are already dilated because it's dark outside, you can smell your retina's burning.  It's kind of like looking at thousands of little laser pointers all at once.  

We were also fortunate because Nicole was able to come along as well, which was great.  On the way up, everyone stopped at a place called 5 Guys.  5 Guys is a my favorite place to get a burger.  It's like the In and Out of the East Coast, but much tastier.  We then stayed the night again at my brother's.  On Saturday morning we went out to eat and had some great French toast with cinnamon sugar and almonds.  It was so good.  Anyway, here are some pictures of our trip.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A peek inside my soul

As many of you may recall, a while back on this blog, I mentioned a certain Porsche video that I saw as a youth that permanently altered my way of thinking. Laugh if you want, but this video has a very special place in my heart. Anyway, after literally years of searching, I have finally found it online. I should note a small correction that the commercial is actually for the 1995 911 993.

Without further ado, here it is for your viewing pleasure. I would recommend that you have a box of tissues nearby as you watch it.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

We drove 32 hours to Black Friday, and all I got was this lousy ice scraper

Well it's been about two weeks since I posted last, and I know that there's at least a solid 1-2 people who might or might not be wondering what has been going on with us. I will attempt to fill you in.

First and foremost, I should mention that we had an excellent Black Friday. This year we decided to go the Champaign, IL Walmart for to do our Black Friday shopping. Conveniently, Nicole's brother and sister live in Champaign, so we decided to stay with them where we were also joined by my family. The drive out was good. I picked Nicole up right at work and we immediately set off. 12 hours later, we arrived at our destination. I would like to mention that I am grateful for energy drinks--I was wide awake all the way there.

To kill time while we waited for Walmart to open, we celebrated Thanksgiving. As per tradition, on Thursday morning, I went with Nicole's brother-in-law to play football. I scored four touchdowns and had a handful of interceptions (I also threw about six interceptions). Anyway, needless to say, all that awesomeness isn't cheap. As any of my professional athlete colleagues will attest, dedicating your life, or at least one day a year of it, to excellence in a demanding sport such as 4 on 4 two hand touch football extracts a heavy physical toll. My body was stiff for the next four days and my stride was reduced from 'confident twenty-something' to 'nursing home patient shuffle'. Thankfully, over the holiday, I was able to focus on my recovery by eating and sleeping and eating a lot.

The food at Thanksgiving is always some of my favorite and, as always, was very good and very plentiful. Nicole and helped prepare the turkey.

On Black Friday, we got together with the rest of America, loaded up in a minivan, and went to Walmart. We arrived at 9 am or so and found lots of people. We spent a little time walking around and marvelled at Walmart's generosity for putting things on sale for so cheap. As we got to the checkout I was definitely in the Christmas spirit. In the checkout line, we waited and watched our cashier scan items one at a time as slowly as possible for the three customers ahead of us. However, I almost didn't notice the half hour go by because I was so full of Christmas cheer. It wasn't until he finsihed with the lady in front of us, turned off his light, and said "Sorry, I'm closed," that the little light of 'Christmas joy' and 'peace on earth' went out. Anyway, another register line and a few choice words later, Nicole walked and I shuffled out of Walmart. We also made stops at Circuit City and the mall. All in all, we made some very good purchases; unfortunately, due to the sensitive nature of the season and our readership, the only deal I can tell you about was the really great ice scraper we bought at Walmart.

Friday, we played games with the family. I won at Settler's of Katan; which I have never done before. Settler's is fun game that is a sort of a cross between Monopoly and Risk, but in the same spirit allows you to win through ruthelessness and being oportunistic. For example, as I was wondering what resources were in the game, the following took place:

Matthew's Sister: I'll trade you three grain.
Matthew: You have three grain?
Matthew's Sister: Yes
Matthew: Good. I'll play my monopoly card. I'd like all the grain please. (evil laugh)

While playing together, we enjoyed a lot of good snacks. My favorite was the Parmesan and Roasted Red Pepper cracker spread. Some may ask, "isn't it wrong for one person to eat half a pound of cream cheese spread and a box of Wheat Thins in an hour?" Maybe.

Anyway, to cap off an already excellent weekend of excess and indulgences, Sat. we went to Springfield to see some old friends and have a fat night. Fat night is a Cragun family tradition that now involves multiple deep fat fryers, two gallons of cooking oil, and anything you have ever thought of that has been fried. This time we did mostly classiscs such as shrimp and onion rings, as well as some new fare such as green beans.

When Sunday came, it was time for us to head back. In order to give ourselves plenty of time, we left at six o' clock. As punishment for driving on Sunday instead of going to church we were given 20 hours of misery to feel guilty and repent. When we went out to the car on Sun. morning, we found that two-three inches of snow had fallen on the ground. It made for very sloppy conditions. At Indianapolis, the snow changed to rain and continued to rain to Columbus. Columbus to West VA was decent, however, once in West VA, the rain started to stick and freeze again. Then traffic started backing up outside of DC. We spent about an hour sitting outside of DC. We dropped Eric off in DC and got to take a break at his house for about half an hour. That left us with the remaining trip from DC to Hampton. Things actually went fairly smoothly until we go to Fredricksburg. Unfortunately, there was an accident in Richmond and I-95 was backed up 30 miles to Fredricksburg. After two and a half hours of stop and go traffic, we finally made it to Richmond. From there the traffic cleared up and we made it home at 1:00 am. Fortunately Nicole could sleep most of the way because she had to work early the next morning. All said and done, having the opportunity to be with family for a few great days made it worth it.

Since then, school has been winding down for me. I had one final and have one more this coming week; then I'll be all done until next semester. Work has had it's ups and downs for Nicole, but the week finished on a great upswing which was nice.

On Monday, for family home evening, we got our Christmas tree. Because we were pressed for time, we went to Walmart. To display there selection of trees, they tie a rope to them and hang them from the ceiling like dear carcasses after a hunt that are about to be gutted. We walked around and found a really nice one. It's actually flat on the back, but that worked out great because it means it sits closer to our wall.

On Friday, we went to downtown Newport News where we saw the Holly-daze fireworks show. It was actually very good. The setting was nice because the display was low to the ground at a small pond in the middle of the downtown. On top of that, it was surrounded by buildings so the results were a great display that echoed enough to knock your fillings loose. I must say that NN put on a great show, and if I wasn't worried about being stabbed or shot, I might consider living there.

Anyway, Christmas season is in full swing in the Cragun household, and it's shaping up to be very merry with lots of Yule Tide cheer.