Sunday, January 7, 2018

The year that was … new beginnings and other great adventures!

We had been dreaming of a white Christmas, and yes, just the day before Christmas, the skies grew gray and then down it came. It snowed all night so when we awoke Christmas Eve, there it was! Indeed, “The snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even.” Packing the Jeep with food and gifts for a Christmas Eve celebration at our grandkids’ house was a first for us at our new place in Windsor as this was the very first time we were carrying items out of the house and to the Jeep! Yes, a pleasant change from all the months were it had become a case of moving items from the Jeep into the house. 

The Jeep has taken a beating over the last year as the workhorse for all that the move entailed. First it was moving precious belongings to a storage facility and then moving them out of storage and to the new house. And then it was piled high with cardboard cartoons as it ferried material back and forth between the house and the local recycling center. Finally, it became the go-to vehicle to carry new furniture and shelving between local retailers and the house – thank goodness for the Jeep. As this was an office move, as much as house move, it was the Jeep that carried all of our most valuable assets – files and old magazines.

However, there isn’t really anyway to discount just how meaningful Christmas truly is for Margo and me as it was nineteen years ago that Margo made a much earlier move out of California to Colorado in the lead up to our wedding and so, at this time of year, there is just a little nostalgia that creeps into our conversations. Not to mention, where did those nineteen years go, by golly!

Margo takes it upon herself to make sure we always have enough treats for Christmas. Not surprisingly to read, for Margo it is a repetition of rituals dating back to her youth in Warsaw, Poland. Yes, it was platefuls of deviled eggs that had her attention when I snapped the photo above, but rest assured, this wasn’t the only thing Margo was working on. There was also borscht soup, some pierogi dumplings and a strong vinegar-flavored bigos.

Whatever your cultural heritage, there was definitely something on the table that you would enjoy and with a mixture of Australians, Poles and Germans happily celebrating the time-honored Christmas Eve feast, even with the addition of three grandchildren all under five, it was an enjoyable time. On the other hand, returning to our home for a quiet cocktail reminded us why it is good to be a grandparent …

On the other hand, it wasn’t until after the New Year celebrations had ended that we were able to finally pull out of the refrigerator a prime piece of beef – a 3.4lb bone-in rib-eye steak. Paired with a fine bottle of 1998 Henschke Keyneton Estate (Shiraz / Cabernet / Malbec blend from South Australia’s Barossa Valley), it proved to be an enjoyable evening and yes, a very peaceful way, for a belated welcome celebration of the New Year. Even though this bottle had been moved a number of times, it had stood up very well and was a wonderful drop of red. Shame we have no more of this particular vintage but then again, it is always good to drink old wine.

Apart from time spent with the grandchildren, New Year celebrations this year were rather muted with just the occasional outing with good friends. We are most definitely settling into our new surroundings and have several friends now as neighbors. And the more we chat to folks the more we come to realize that the “Car of the Estate” is most definitely the Corvette. And the runner-up award would have to go to the Mini!

Each day we pass an open garage there seems to be a Corvette parked inside, so many in fact that I simply have lost track of who owns what. But it is nice to know nearly every neighbor is a car family and to hear that the neighbors now constructing the house right alongside us apparently own a very large car dealership in Ft Collins. And oh yes, it is a Chevrolet dealership where they are selling new Corvettes! 

Given that I am always multitasking it shouldn’t take anyone by surprise to see that my desk is always liberally littered with publications and printouts. It was Harold Geneen who headed the conglomerate ITT at its peak who once observed, "You can know a person by the kind of desk he keeps. If the president of a company has a clean desk then it must be the executive vice president who is doing all the work.”

Business never slowed this holiday season. The first week of each month sees Margo and me working on a digital publication simply called, NonStop Insider. If you want to take a look at what this publication looks like (and to check out Margo’s editorials), check out this link: and make sure you scroll down the home page to where it says, Read the latest edition of Insider.

We have been publishing this digital magazine for a year and a half now and as tough as it is to coordinate and as much work as it necessitates as we lobby our colleagues for articles, it is keeping Margo and me very much engaged with the HPE NonStop community. And just a short time ago I noted in a post to our NonStop community blog of how it has been thirty years since I first walked into the North Sydney offices of Tandem Computers. If the passage of nineteen years bothered me at all, then thinking about thirty years passing by isn’t something I am prepared to dwell on for too long.

Our new house – yes, clearly our new home – has a main floor office which Margo and I are extremely thankful we persevered in having built. Who needs more bedrooms on the main floor when a main floor office means it is only a short walk to the kitchen. The morning commute? Well, what can I say; should have looked into doing this years ago! 

Perhaps it was part of the festive season. Perhaps it was being reminded more than once to sort it all out. But no matter; while Margo was attending to the grandchildren I grabbed the ladder, some pins and a hammer, and hung the last picture that made up the three piece collection. It now frames the staircase that descends to the basement and features the piano, the violin and the bass. All by the same artist, a favorite of Margo and I, Sabzi, who paints abstracts that are full of color and life with just a touch of romance.

You may also notice that we have some of the curtains installed. Finally. But there are still a lot more drapes and curtains to come as they continue to miss-measure and miss-supply them but, hopefully, in a month or two, we will have the rest of them delivered and installed. We are quickly running out of patience with the temporary blinds that have been hung in their place but it seems that the fabric we liked, well what can we say, we used up the entire inventory on hand. Watch for more complete images of the final results in future posts.  

In December we took very few road trips. I arrived back in town following my short trip to Madrid early December and we have been here ever since. So it has been a period punctuated with short trips to Starbucks as we went about our final shopping excursions for the year. Being as cold as it was outside there was no need to worry about the coffee being too hot as it seemed only right to be drinking extra hot coffee as snow fell outside. And of course, we also had to dress for the occasion.

However, being at home for the duration meant we spent time not only writing the articles for our new digital publication but also sitting quietly at our desks ordering more and more stuff online from Amazon. Mark this as a first: Margo and I had something delivered every day during the last weeks of December. Be it an occasional table, a wool rug or runner, or even kitchen appliances and household consumables, we gave Amazon a run for their money and it really worked.

We even scored a free runner as Amazon dispatched a second runner when they realized they had lost the original somewhere in transit. But when both showed up, Margo explained to them in no uncertain terms that they would be losing a lot of money if they wore the return shipping charges so yes, they gave in and we kept them both!

Christmas Day however proved to be an especially quiet day. The highways were practically empty. Shops were shuttered. People had all headed inside. Nowhere was this more potently illustrated when, on a whim, Margo and I returned to Boulder to walk its famous Pearl Street Mall only to find absolutely nobody strolling along the thoroughfare. It was extremely cold so that may have had something to do with the absence of foot traffic but the skies were blue and there was an abundance of sunshine. So we had the whole place to ourselves.

For a short time, that is. After walking just three blocks, we gave up and hurried back to the warmth of our Jeep. Yes, just chalk it up as one more trip in the Jeep although it is now better equipped to handle the season. We put on new tires (Yokohoma), replaced the rotors (StopTech) and pads (Hawk) and with almost 110,000 miles on the odometer in just four years (since we bought the beast), contrary to the expectations of all those off-road pundits that questioned our sanity in buying a Jeep, it hasn’t missed a beat.

Yes, it was around this time last year that I was involved in a traffic incident that took the Jeep off the road for a month but here’s the surprise. It came back from the body shop in better condition than when we first picked it up new at the dealership – the body shop had gone over the alignment of the body panels and lined them all up properly. Wow! And now, with new tires and brakes and a fresh wheel alignment we should be good for another 100,000 miles.  

Like almost everyone else on the planet, we watched the New Year celebrations beamed to us directly from Sydney. Each year this extravaganza seems to outdo the show of the previous year. Even as they continue to search for new and novel ways to integrate both the Harbor Bridge and the Opera House into the fireworks display, it is hard to argue with the finished product. Watching it on our laptops, Margo and I “Ooohed and Aaahed” with the best of them as each burst of color erupted on our screens. So much so, in fact, that we have put the wheels in motion to return to Sydney to see it for ourselves next year!

The plans are very much in the conceptual stage with a couple of dates already being penciled in on our calendars but it has been many years since we last returned to Sydney and Margo has never seen the city in the run-up to Christmas and the New Year. Just to see Santa’s ringing their bells outside shops and railway stations all dressed in traditional European winter attire, is a sight not to be missed! It was all the way back in 2013 that we last returned to Sydney and for a couple who routinely visited the city two or three times a year for almost a quarter of a century, it simply is a case of being away from those far-off shores for way too long. 

Yes, this has been the year that was – the sale of one home and the construction of another; three months living out of trailer parks as we dealt with one failure after another with the RV, our beloved company command center. Too many times to Las Vegas in the heat of summer as well as not enough time in Colorado’s overlooked State Parks. On the other hand, we saw the Hot Air Balloon Festival in Albuquerque even as we turned in to Zion National Park for a breather. I did have to fly as there was a trip to Dallas and another to Madrid.

The good news is that as 2017 came to a close, business picked up and we enter 2018 with all the clients we wanted – yes, our books are full. And that’s always a nice position to be in as the year unfolds. It turns out that Sydney will not be our only trip overseas this year as there will be a couple more and that is most unusual for us but about those adventures we will leave to another time.

And as for the cars, with winter they are on battery tenders in the garage and a forlorn lot awaiting the first signs of spring and yes, 2017 was the first year we didn’t buy a car in all the years we have been married! Run; the apocalypse is about to erupt. Just kidding but it only added to the overall novelty of the year where so many different and unexpected events took place.

And with that, it’s time to head back to the kitchen for a slice of cheese and a quiet drink. So yes, as we raise a glass to all our friends and everyone who reads these monthly posts, our best wishes to you all and may the year be prosperous as it is kind to each and every one of you!