Happy Holidays!

Rather than printing out a whole bunch of photos in a letter to stuff into Christmas cards, I've decided to take the easy way out and put all the letter info here.  The photos are in a Picasa web album. So, finally here is my very late holiday letter.
If 2011 had a theme, it was travel.  Destinations included Orlando, FL; Anaheim, CA; Washington, D.C., Atlanta, GA; Amman, Jordan; and the country of Georgia (four times).  Food was also a common theme.  I ate very well this year. :-)

The travel spree started in Amman, Jordan at the Middle East Scientific Institute for Security for a workshop on Confidence Building Measures to support the Biological Weapons Convention.  I was fortunate to spend a day at Petra with a pair of fellow workshop attendees.  This set the stage for what became a trend--sightseeing at ancient places.  Petra was easily the oldest site, with structures dated as early as 1st C BC. 

In February, my sister and I celebrated her birthday by participating in the Disney Princess Half Marathon.  We eschewed the tutus, but did wear skorts and pink shirts for the event.  I decided to go all out and lose two toenails as well.  While we were at it, we did a Segway tour of EPCOT which was a whole lot of fun. We rode the Hollywood Tower of Terror so we could scream like little girls, followed immediately by laughing ourselves silly.  The other silliness inducing ride is the Big Thunder Mountain Railway, in which we purposefully slide into each other while experiencing centripetal forces during the tight turns.  Later in the year, I visited Disneyland.

In February, I made the first of several trips to Washington, D.C. and met up with one of my Petra buddies. She works at the State Department and was kind enough to give me a tour.  I failed to take photos of the inside tour, but I was able to look down the hallway toward the Secretary's office suite. Other highlights of the tour included seeing the doorway in which the Secretary stands while making statements.  Jennie and I noted that there are a whole bunch of marks in the floor from the heels of the women Secretaries.  These women have made an impression in more ways than one.  I also saw the Secretary's dining room and the reception rooms where foreign dignitaries and their entourages would wait for meetings.  I even got to have my photo taken on the balcony at the top of the building. (The Secretary doesn't get to go out on the balcony due to security concerns.)  Jennie would have taken my photo in the briefing room but there was an actual briefing underway. A subsequent trip to D.C. saw me enjoy a spectacular meal with co-workers at an Alsatian restaurant in Reston, VA. We also had a decent view of the cherry blossoms while driving around the city.

In May, I made the first of four trips to the republic of Georgia.  I was lucky to get in quite a bit of sightseeing during these trips.  I have now been to the east and west ends of the country, with a brief dip down to the southern border with Azerbaijan. I've even dipped my toes into the Black Sea. There are hundreds of centuries old churches, of which I have seen only a handful.  Many of these churches have frescoes and icons that are just stunning.  For giggles, I had lunch at the KGB cafe (motto: "Still watching you.").  Next year, I'll have to catch a performance by the state ballet and opera companies, plus visit some of the many museums in Tbilisi.

In the course of the Georgia trips, I've also now been through the Paris, Amsterdam and Munich airports.  I've had beer and a pretzel in Munich, a croissant and coffee in Paris and a Starbucks latte in Amsterdam.  While on the subject of food, I've eaten far more than my share of khatchapouri (Georgian cheesy bread) and cucumber/tomato salad.  I had dinner at an authentic Arab restaurant in Amman and discovered that I like Turkish coffee.  While there were lots of US fast food chain restaurants in Amman (Pizza Hut, Burger King, Domino's, McDonald's) only McDonald's had a visible presence in Georgia.

 The weekly cookie baking tradition started at my last job has continued.  The entire building now knows they can often find a sweet treat in my office.  It's been a great way to meet people in the other technical groups.  I even heard someone refer to me as "evil temptress" when walking by with someone from outside the building.  For the annual office Christmas treat day, I decided to try something completely new and make cookies decorated with royal icing.  My decorating skills aren't very good, but when the subject is a melting snowman it's perfectly acceptable when lines are crooked and shapes are wobbly.

On the knitting front, it seems like I've been darning holes in socks more than I've been knitting them.  Quite a few of my handknit socks are approaching 8 to 10 years of wear, so it makes perfect sense that they would be wearing out.  I haven't made as much progress on knitting replacements as I'd hoped, though I have at least slowed down the rate at which I've been accumulating new sock yarn.  I think the production of new socks at least matched, if not exceeded, the influx of new sock yarn.  The same can't be said about lace yarn.  I did find a yarn store near the office in Tbilisi but have so far managed to refrain from buying anything.

That's it for 2011.  I haven't got any travel planned for 2012 until March when I return to Georgia.  Sis and I are making plans for a repeat of the Disney Princess Half Marathon in February 2013 for her birthday, since it's one of those birthdays ending in zero.

Wishing you all the best for 2012!


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