Cowden Covered Bridge

On our way to meet up with James’ family down in Southern Illinois, James took a minor detour (very common for him to do!) to see a covered bridge outside of Cowden.  I couldn’t remember ever seeing a covered bridge in person, so I was pretty excited once I realized where we were heading. Before I realized where we were heading, I was slightly frustrated with James because the GPS said to go left and he went RIGHT and ended up on a narrow twisty curvy road headed in the opposite direction of where we should have been heading! I guess James had purposely distracted me so I wouldn’t see the sign that said “Covered Bridge” with an arrow to the right!

The bridge we ended up seeing was the Thompson Mill Bridge, which was built in 1868 and is the narrowest covered bridge in Illinois.

Overlooking the covered bridge while standing on the current bridge that replaced it!

We didn’t stay very long, but it was still pretty neat to see an actual covered bridge close up and in real life!

Day trip to Southern Illinois

Saturday, James and I got up early and headed down to Southern Illinois to meet up with his brother (& his family) and sister (& most of her family). His brothers’ family had been patiently waiting to go back to China (they were waiting for all the paper work to come through for the baby boy they recently adopted) and now that they are able, are planning on leaving later this week.  They won’t be back in the US for at least two years, so this was the last chance for all of us to see them before they left! We met at Aunt Becky’s house (out in the country, not far from Mount Vernon) and spent the whole day trying to stock pile quality time to last us until we can see everyone again!

Even though it was dreary outside, inside was the exact opposite with plenty of great food (which Joanna made and James helped with!), lots of babies and little ones to enjoy, some friendly domino playing, and lots of time to just enjoy each other’s company. Being new to the family, this was a great chance for me to really get to know everyone and realize what a totally amazing family I was lucky enough to marry into!  James took a ton of pictures (as normal), so I’ll let them speak for themselves!

It was a much needed day that was over way too soon, but we wish Jerry and his family luck and happiness in China and hope to see more of Joanna’s family again soon!

James’ non-birthday party

James hates having attention focused on him; especially if it involves presents (this means Christmas and Birthdays!).  Yet, I’d been thinking of something special to do for his birthday and wondering when to have a house warming get-together of some kind, so I decided to mash the two ideas together and have a *non-birthday* party on James’ birthday!  Including appetizers, dinner, dessert (no birthday cake), and games afterwards (what self respecting non-birthday party doesn’t have games!!). It took me a while to get James warmed up to the idea, but I finally got him to agree as long as I promised to tell everyone this was not a birthday and to not get him anything!

Saturday morning Mr. “I don’t want any attention on my birthday” woke me up a little after midnight singing “Happy Birthday to Me, Happy Birthday to Me”… very cute, but slightly under appreciated since I had been sleeping pretty good up to that point!  After getting back to sleep and waking up at a decent time Saturday morning we got got the house, food, and ourselves ready for the party!  Amazingly we were doing good on time and had everything under control as our guests started arriving.

I had only invited a few friends from work (in order to not completely shock James’ system) and almost everyone was able to make it, even with the really thick fog that had been around most of the day.  James and I gave the grand tour of the house to everyone who hadn’t been there before and also tried to ply our guests with lots of appetizers!  It was a great mix of people and everyone was able to relax and have a good time.

Dinner turned out really good as well, even though James had really been doubting the edibleness of my mashed potatoes since he is the one who normally makes them and because I had made them the night before and reheated them in the oven Saturday evening.  There were many laughs at the table (especially when James started playing with one of the candles and made a HUGE mess) and much food eaten! Especially dessert!  I made cherry delight, James made chocolate chip cookies (with and without “balls”) from his moms recipe, and our friend Liz made her amazing Andes Mint brownies (which are to die for, especially with some ice cream!).

Unfortunately because of the weather and other circumstances everyone had to leave before we could get any game playing in, but we did have a great time talking and laughing, and overall James definitely had a very good *non*-birthday party!

Since this wasn’t a birthday party, James didn’t open his gifts until later in the evening after everyone had left.  As the pictures below show, he enjoyed opening his cards and gifts and even got a good chuckle out of a few of them!

After opening gifts, I left James to look through his loot and started picking up from the evening.  Overall we had stayed pretty on top of dishes and such during the day, so there really wasn’t that much to do and the clean up went pretty quick.  Yet, as I was finishing up, I noticed James had collapsed in front of the fireplace and looked like a little kid who had thoroughly enjoyed his birthday, but was completely beat!  How adorable!

James crashed

James crashed in front of the fireplace after his party

Katrina’s Wedding

Saturday afternoon I headed to Peoria to see one of my very good friends’ daughter get married.  I’ve known Michelle and her family for over ten years, so I can honestly say I can remember when the bride (Katrina) was “this” tall (hold up hand to about 4ft).  Katrina and her groom have known each other since they were children, making the wedding especially sweet!

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to stay for the reception due to the weather and road conditions, but I the wedding was absolutely beautiful and I’ve never seen a happier couple!  Best wishes to the new Mr. & Mrs. McDonald!

First Big Snow of 2010

Wednesday night the snow started and when we woke up Thursday morning the snow combined with the wind had completely covered our driveway.  James was up and on the tractor before I was out of bed, making sure the lane was clear so I could get to work.

The snow was still coming down and it looked pretty awful outside, but Richland was still open, so I was determined to get there!  James finally came in right as I was finishing getting ready and said that the practical side of him thought I should be able to make it to work ok, but the side of him that loves me thought I should stay home!  What a sweetie!  Anyway, I decided to brave the weather and headed into work.  Yet, the road were so bad and with the wind were only suppose to get worse that I called James around 11AM to tell him I was coming home early.  He called me back right around noon to tell me to NOT come home because there was no way I could make it up the lane.

The wind had caused the entire lane to drift shut and it was just too much for his tractor, so he was working on an alternative and would call me when I could come home.  I finished up some work and then decided to head to Argenta and hang out there until James let me know I could come home. Luckily, I wasn’t in Argenta (enjoying the many amenities at Casey’s) long before James called to tell me the only way to get home was through the field! He had plowed a path that started right as you turned onto our lane from the road and came back out onto our lane shortly before the bridge.

Thus, to get home Thursday afternoon, I had to drive through the fields!!  I had to do this again Friday morning, but after asking around, I found someone who could come and plow us out! It took him 2 hours, yet when he was finished we had a nice clear path down our lane! Whew, first big snow/wind down… hopefully not too many more to go this year!

J Jones Christmas

Ok, so maybe it wasn’t technically Christmas, but since there was exchanging and opening of gifts, an excellent dinner, and some family game time, I am officially labeling our evening at James’ dad’s as the J Jones Christmas (our 6th and final!).

James’ dad called Friday morning to wish us a Happy New Year and to let us know that Joanna, Tom, and their grandson Lycan would be at his house Sunday evening through Tuesday morning.  Given this time frame, he wondered if we could come out Monday night for dinner, and we happily accepted.

James picked me up from work Monday night and we headed out to Bethany.  Upon arriving everyone decided to exchange gifts and as you can see from the pictures below, Lycan was right in the middle of things helping out!

Afterwards we had a relaxed meal and then Gene, Alice, Joanna, & James played a quite a few hands of 42 (a domino game similar to the card game Hearts).  I had never played any domino games before, so I sat back and watched (trying to pick it up via osmosis) and also downloaded and installed some updates and stuff to Gene’s computer.

It was a great night, with James even “Shooting the Moon” and getting it (this is domino/42 lingo for saying he got all 42 points for the first hand of the game)!

Note from James:

“Shooting the Moon” is a little bit more involved than what Kona makes it out to be, but granted, she’s not experienced in the ways of 42.  42 is a domino game that we played everytime we’d get together with Grandma and Grandpa (my mom’s parents).  My grandparents were anti-(everything) but especially anti-gambling; so there were no games with dice or cards in them while growing up.  Therefore, I don’t know a lot of the card games, and although I can find the probabilities of getting a certain hand in poker, I really can’t play poker.  Well, this game of “42” was okay because it was dominoes, not dice or cards.  It doesn’t matter that people can (and do) gamble on dominoes, they’re just not associated with it like dice and cards are.  Anyway, there are 7 hands (tricks) in a game and there are points associated for the 5 or 10 spots (dominoes that have a sum of the pips of 5 or 10, the 5-0, 4-1, 3-2, 5-5, or 6-4).  Those counters add up to 35 points and then you get one point for each trick you take.  The maximum you can get is 42 points, hence the name of the game.  The minimum bid you can make is 31, which means that you can lose a 10 spot and one trick and still make your bid, but if you miss any more, then you go set and lose whatever your bid was.  A perfect hand is 42, which means that you get all of the points and your opponents get none of the points.

Still with me?  Okay, the game is played to 100 points and you can go in the hole.  On the very first hand of a game, you have the option to “Shoot the Moon.”  This means that you’re bidding 100 points that you’ll have a perfect hand.  If you get all the points, the game is over with that one hand; if you lose even a single point, your score is now -100.  So there is significant risk.

The hand I picked out had 5 trumps and 2 doubles.  If no trumps are played, then the highest domino of whatever was laid is the top one and doubles are always the highest.  The problem is that I had the 5 trumps and I had the double, but I didn’t have the second highest trump.  So, as long as one of my opponents didn’t have both of the other trumps, I was safe.  But if either one of my opponents had both trumps, I was doomed and we were going down 100 points from the start.

As soon as I saw that Tom  and my dad both had one, a huge sigh of relief came, and I laid down the rest of my dominoes to show that I had them all.  It was quite exciting; I can’t say that I ever remember shooting the moon and winning before.  It might have happened, but I was usually a pretty conservative bidder.

Of course, I later wondered just how “lucky” I was.  So I sat down and figured out the possibilities.  There are 9 ways* that the 2 trumps could have been dealt to the other three players.  Only 2 of those resulted in me losing, so I had a 7/9 chance of winning when I bid.  Yes, it would have been disappointing if it would have happened, but I had a pretty good chance of winning.  Now, the 2/9 is an a priori probability.  That is, once I saw my hand, I had a 2/9 chance of losing and a 7/9 chance of winning.  The chance of getting the hand I got is no where close to that good.  That’s why shooting the moon doesn’t happen more often.

* How are there nine ways?  There are two trumps remaining; a high one and a low one.   This table shows the way that the dominoes could have been distributed.

[table id=2 /]

Grandpa’s 80th Birthday!

Saturday morning we slept in a little before enjoying the hotel’s continental breakfast and packing our suitcase.  Most of the family was staying at the hotel Saturday night as well, but with work starting back up on Monday, James & I both had too much to do at home to stay another night.

After packing up the car we decided to head over to the west side of town where the “Mega” screen movie theater is located.  We were in pretty good movie going spirits after Avatar the night before, so we thought Sherlock Holmes would be a good bet for an early afternoon movie.  Wow, were we wrong! Not even 15 minutes into the movie, James leaned over and whispered that “Avatar was a lot better”.  Then another 45 minutes into the movie I looked over and he was asleep!! Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t awful, but the good parts were interlaced with long drawn out parts that were boring!  After a while, I even ended up asking James, “how much longer???”.

Once the movie was finally over, it was a little late for lunch, but we definitely needed to eat something before we went to the church for Grandpa’s party, so we ended up stopping at Culver’s for a small bite to eat (and of course a Turtle Sundae!).  While we were there, I called my mom and found out they were planning on being at the church by 4:45 to set up decorations and stuff, so James and I planned on getting there around that time so I could spend some more time with Ty & Austin and help get things ready.

It was great to see Ty & Austin again and hear about everything they’d been up too over the last week, but even better was that more and more family started showing up!  Shortly before the party was to begin (at 6PM) everyone was there and having a good time, including getting pictures!

After pictures, appetizers, and socializing, we ate a delicious dinner and continued to catch up with everyone!

We then all gathered around the stage to watch the video Dan had created for Grandpa.  It contained short video clips from all of the “kids” and Grandma, and was quite touching to watch… I saw a number of teary eyes (especially out of Grandpa!).  We then gathered around the cake for a short speech by Grandpa and then birthday cake!

Along with all this fun, we also took the time to get a group picture of EVERYONE… Well everyone but my cousin Katie, yet this was still a major accomplishment!  Then we did a kids with Grandpa & Grandma and a grandkids with Grandpa & Grandma picture.

The night was a huge success! It was so nice to have so many of us together and to see family I hadn’t seen in forever!  Everyone seemed reluctant to leave, but hopefully many of us will be back together again for Ty & Austin’s wedding!

New Years Day

New Years Day, James and I traveled to Downs for a family dinner at my Grandma & Grandpa Jones’.  This was probably the last time they’ll have so many of us in their home since they’re moving to a retirement community later this year, so it was really important for as many of us to be there as possible.

On the way, we decided to check into the hotel room Grandma had reserved for us in Bloomington, so that way we wouldn’t have to worry about it after dinner.  Getting to the hotel was no problem, but when they asked for the name the reservation was under we ran into a slight problem.  They didn’t have a James & Kona Jones listed anywhere… yet, after some checking, they did find a James & Kona Davis! This is probably because the address list that Grandma and Grandpa distributed had our names listed the same way.  It was funny that this was the “Jones” celebration and we’re Joneses and they had the wrong name for us.

After getting everything straightened out, we headed over to Grandpa & Grandma’s for dinner.  When we got there a number of family members were already there, yet even more showed up as the night went on!  Grandma had set up a couple of places around the house where there were a number of things that she wouldn’t have room for when they moved and asked that everyone go through it and take anything they wanted.  I went through it with Aunt Linda and found a tropical fish watering can that I thought would look amazing out by the pool this summer!

The evening was very enjoyable and it was great to see family from Texas that I hadn’t seen in probably 6-7 years!  Everyone seemed to have a good time catching up and sharing some laughs with each other.

Before we knew it, time had flown and it was time to leave.  James & I had tossed around the idea of going to a movie, so after checking the movie times (nothing started until 10pm), we decided to grab something small to eat and then see It’s Complicated.  When we got to the movie theater, James was ahead of me and paid for the movie and got our tickets and some 3D glasses.  3D glasses?? Yep, he got 3D glasses, which didn’t seem right for a romantic comedy, but when I questioned him about it he told me that’s what they gave him.

So, what did we really see that required 3D glasses? Avatar!!  James really surprised me because I had wanted to see it, but he hadn’t seemed interested in it at all!  The movie was 162 minutes long, but was so good and action packed I never even got tired (and it was after 1AM when the movie got done!). James even admitted to enjoying it, which made going to see it even better!  Afterwards we headed back to our hotel room to get some sleep!