Monday, December 29, 2003

Cross Stitch Gallery

One of the things I wanted to accomplish while I was on "vacation" was to set up a gallery of my completed cross stitch projects at Mission accomplished! If you're so interested, you can view my Gallery here. I'll also add a permanent link to the sidebar. I'm still adding a few more photos to the gallery - some pics that I took at my mom's last week with the digital camera didn't turn out, so I need to reshoot the next time I'm over there. Check in for updates somewhat frequently, including updates on my current Work in Progress (WIP) - a birth announcement for H. (no, I'm not behind or anything).

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Christmas Wrap-Up

No, I didn't get stuck at Walmart on Christmas Eve, it's just been very busy since then. Walmart was surprisingly un-crowded on Wednesday, so much so that after going to the bank I did some last minute shopping. Then I came home and made one more batch of cookies - oatmeal raisin for M., since he always complains that I never make any cookies he likes.

We had a wonderful holiday - we really enjoyed ourselves. We spent Christmas Eve at my in-laws and all of the children were very good. H. received so many nice presents and only one duplicate. Christmas morning was so much fun. H. did a great job opening presents. I was amazed at how into it she was. She tore the paper and looked for the present without getting distracted by the box or paper. We videotaped the whole thing, of course. She absolutely loved the sliding board from my parents. She got the hang of it really fast. Then it was on to my parents' house Christmas Day afternoon for more food and present opening. H. received more wonderful presents, including an Elmo car from my sister that she can't get enough of. Same sister bought M. and me this cool pine tree with bears on it for our family room. It's almost six feet tall and lights up.

The day after Christmas was supposed to be dedicated to putting the entertainment center together, since we were having company Saturday. M. and I worked on it for about an hour and it was a monster. My parents called around noon and I begged them to come help us. They got here around 2pm and M. and my dad worked on it pretty much straight through until 9pm! But it looks really good now! I got all of my knicknacks set back up and the family room looking half decent in time for company. But we definitely need a bigger TV with this new unit. Our 25" looks lost in the center cabinet.

Saturday we had friends over for dinner and more presents (more!). I cooked a whole turkey, the first time I had ever done that. I've only ever cooked a turkey breast before. But it turned out good, I thought, along with mashed potatoes and peas, plus lots of dessert, including cookies. There aren't that many left from the almost 12 dozen we started out with.

So today I'm just relaxing before going back to work tomorrow. The only chore I'm going to do is laundry. We're going to watch football and eat leftovers and play with H's new toys. And wait for the long-awaited Ravens-Steelers game at 8:30pm tonight. I wanted to get to bed early tonight for going back to work, but unless the game is a blowout, that won't be happening. Go RAVENS!!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Bah, Humbug

Okay, I'm not in a very Christmas-y mood right now. My vacation is going by very fast and I'm not getting anything accomplished. Or, I should say, I'm not doing any relaxing and working on projects I want to work on.

Sunday we visited friends in the outer reaches of northeast PA. They bought a new townhouse back in April and this was our first chance to see it. We had a great time and it's wonderful to spend time with college friends I don't get to see very often, but man, was it a long drive - close to three hours. Especially with a one-year-old and a cranky husband. We took the turnpike home and chopped almost a half hour off the drive time.

Monday was crazy busy. H. had her 15-month appointment at 8:30am - she's 23 lbs, 13 oz and 31 and 1/2 inches long - plus she had to get four shots, including a flu shot, which was still available. Then we stopped into my work to visit a few people who didn't get to see her at the Christmas party. Then, it was off to my parents' house. My mom and I took H. and K&K to Sears for a late Christmas portrait. I thought the girl that helped us was very rude as it pertains to the coupon we were using, but that's a rant for another day. After lunch, we all played outside for a little while, since it was in the 50s for the first day of winter. We got home around 4pm and that's when my real adventure began.

My IP at home is MSN and there was a disc in the mail on Monday to upgrade to MSN 9. When I tried to install it, I kept getting an error message that the .NET Passport system that verifies e-mail addresses and passwords was unavailable, making me assume it was a problem on the part of MSN. So I tried to get online several times last night and at various times throughout the day today. I still kept getting the same message and was starting to get annoyed. So I finally called MSN support. Turns out I didn't have enough memory to install the new version, which is why I was getting the error message. Wouldn't an error message telling me what the real problem was been more helpful? So I reinstalled MSN 9 and it appeared that the installation was a success. But when I went to log on, the sign-in screen was scrambled and I couldn't log in. I tried re-installing and re-starting, but nothing worked. So at 10pm, I called back with my new problem. I was on the phone for over an hour and still couldn't get the problem corrected. Microsoft didn't want to admit that I could have received a bad disc, which I suggested since this was the second problem that I had with it. Finally, after much back and forth and a whole wasted evening, I found my old MSN 8 upgrade disc and loaded that back onto my computer and voila, I'm finally back online!

So after braving the grocery store the day before Christmas Eve and baking two batches of chocolate chip cookies, I'm finally catching up on my journal/blog reading and writing what I thought was a quick entry. (I'm rambling now, but it's after midnight.) And I just realized after dinner that I actually have to go inside Walmart tomorrow! I never withdrew the money I needed for four cash gifts, so I have to do that tomorrow and my bank is inside Walmart. If you don't hear from me by the end of the week, I'm still trying to get out of the parking lot.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Christmas Miscellany

I have eaten enough food in the past two days to last until the New Year. And it's not even Christmas yet! Yesterday we had our department holiday lunch at a local Italian restaurant and eveything was delicious. Then today, everyone on the floor brought in a dish and we ate all day long. I just ate one of the tiramisu brownies I made (a Pampered Chef recipe) and if I do say so myself, they were yummie. There's a few left to take home for Mark.

I'm off work all of next week - YEAH! I'm so looking forward to it, not that it's going to be particularly relaxing - doctor's appt. on Monday, cookie baking on Tuesday, then Christmas Eve at the in-laws and Christmas Day at my parents'. Maybe I'll get to relax on Friday. But being at home also means I'll be on my slow computer, but I'll try to post a few updates and finally fix the Santa pictures. I tried to fix them again last night and I couldn't get them to load. In addition to my scanner saving everything at 100%, it also defaults to bitmap instead of jpeg or tif. Maybe I'll add "read the scanner manual" to my list of things to do while I'm on vacation!

Very Happy Holidays to everyone!

Monday, December 15, 2003

Rest of Weekend

In addition to the Christmas party, we had a pretty busy weekend. As planned, we bought the new entertainment center Friday night, which needs to be put together. There are currently four giant boxes sitting in my family room. Who knows when we'll get to that! Then we had a very nice dinner at the Outback. When we first got there, I went to use the restroom and who was standing there but H's babysitter and her little girl. They were there with some neigbors of theirs. K&K and my younger sister all spent the night. Before leaving for the party on Saturday, M. and I squeezed in a quick trip to get a tree while H. was napping. Then M. stayed home to put up the Christmas lights before the next round of bad weather while we went to the party.

After the party, we headed for my parents' house. We got there around 4pm and my mom said my other sister was coming over around 6pm, so why didn't we all stay and have dinner, then we would have cake for Vanessa's birthday, which was Sunday (the big 3-0)? I hadn't planned on staying there all night. And my sister didn't show up until 6:30, so we didn't get home until 9pm.

Sunday we stayed in since it was snowing/sleeting/raining. We did bring the tree in the house and get it in the stand, but that's it. It needed to fall out some, so I'm going to try to get the lights on it tonight, then decorate it tomorrow. I did finish wrapping most of the presents I had, in addition to getting all of the laundry done and keeping H. entertained all day. I hate it when we can't even go outside for a little while. We all get a little stir crazy.

This week is going to be a busy week. Work is hectic, since most people will be out next week (including me!), and I have errands to run every day at lunch, plus trying to finish up all the decorating and such at home.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Christmas Party

The children's Christmas party through my work on Saturday was fun, if not a little hectic. There were over 130 kids in attendance, not counting the various parents, grandparents, etc. who also attended. The entertainment kept the kids well occupied and the gifts they each received were very nice - definitely not just from the dollar store. H. received the Little People school bus, which she doesn't have, Little K got a Daphne Scooby Doo Barbie and Big K's present was a PDA/radio, which she thought was the coolest thing around.

H. had the typical one-year old reaction to Santa - she screamed her head off as soon as we got near him. But luckily, there was also a Mrs. Claus in attendance and she was fine with her. We weren't able to get a picture of all three of them together, so below are the photos of H. with Mrs. Claus. and K&K with Santa.

Edited 1/1/04 to add photos.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Mouse in the House

I forgot to tell you my mouse story from last night. We usually get a mouse in the house every year when the weather first turns cold. Earlier last week, I thought I heard one and said something to Mark about buying bait. Then, last Saturday when I moved one of the Christmas boxes down in the basement, there was an empty nest made out of insulation (of which Mark quickly disposed). Last night, I was in the kitchen cooking dinner and Mark was in the basement working out. I heard banging, but thought it was just his weights. When he came upstairs he says, "I saw the mouse and tried to catch him, but I lost him."

Around 9pm, I was sitting on the floor in the family room wrapping presents when I saw IT run across the baseboard! My reaction was so stereotypical it almost made me laugh. I actually let out a little squeal and had an overwhelming urge to jump up on the sofa. I called Mark down and we spent a half an hour chasing this thing around the family room (I did more pointing than chasing and tried to stay on the opposite side of the room). After much moving of furniture, including a bookcase, Mark finally caught him by the cellar door. The whole thing just creeped me out. I went back to wrapping presents, buy my eyes kept darting around the room looking for the tiniest bit of movement. I hope this little fella didn't have any friends.

Happy Anniversary

Today is our fifth wedding anniversary. I can hardly believe it's been five years already! So much has happened - a house, a baby. And I don't know how I managed to plan a wedding, get married and go on a honeymoon all right before Christmas. I can barely plan just for Christmas now. I remember getting back from our honeymoon on Dec. 20 and opening all of our wedding gifts, then opening more gifts just a few days later. It all seemed like so much!

So we're going out to dinner tonight, probably to the Outback, but first we're going to purchase my anniversary-slash-Christmas gift - a new entertainment center for the family room. The one we have now is very cheap looking (maybe that's because it was cheap), so I'm excited to have this much nicer piece of real furniture. I guess it's a good thing we didn't get a tree last weekend, since it goes right next to the existing entertainment center and this one is much bigger. Now I can get this set up and decorated, then we can put up the tree sometime this weekend as well. Before or after dinner, we also have to squeeze in a quick trip to Target for my last Angel Tree gift and I want to stop at the Verizon store in the mall and change cellphone plans, since I'm not getting my money's worth right now. Then tomorrow is the children's Christmas party at work and I'm taking H., K&K. Hopefully I'll be able to post some pics on Sunday.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Christmas Songs

I thought I'd steal an idea from Melissa and write about some of my favorite Christmas songs. I don't think I can call them Christmas carols, since most of them aren't very traditional. Last year, I stupidly packed all of my Christmas CDs in with the Christmas decorations because I didn't have any room left in my CD rack. Right after Thanksgiving, I was in the mood for Christmas music, but I had no idea which box the CDs were in. I finally found them last weekend when I was decorating.

One of my all-time favorites is Clint Black's "'Til Santa's Gone (Milk and Cookies)." I just think it is the cutest song and very catchy. I get excited every time I hear it on the radio and finally broke down and bought his Christmas CD two years ago.

Keeping with the cookie theme, George Strait and Asleep at the Wheel have a song that I only first heard last year called "Christmas Cookies." I found it on a MCA compilation CD last year and bought it. Another "cute" song (sorry if I sound like Jessica Simpson.)

Another fun song is Alan Jackson's "I Only Want You For Christmas," which is on the "Honky Tonk Christmas" CD. I don't have his newer "Let it Be Christmas" album. I also love Ricochet's version of "Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!" Great harmonies - I wish they were still together as a group.

This year, I asked for both the Jackson 5 Christmas album and the Muppets Christmas with John Denver on CD. I have both of these albums as records and Mark makes fun of me every year when I play them, scratches and all. I started my own tradition that I play the Jackson 5 album while we're decorating the tree. I love every song on that CD. And no one can top Miss Piggy singing "5 Golden Riiiiings!"

No list would be complete without Elvis' "Blue Christmas," as well as another one of his that's a favorite of mine - "Santa Claus is Back in Town."

On the more traditional side, Martina McBride's version of "O Holy Night" will blow you away. John Berry's version isn't bad, either. I also like both Kathy Mattea's and Trisha Yearwood's versions of "New Kid in Town," which I would consider a "New Classic" Christmas song. Then, of course, there are the non-country favorites - Bing Crosby's "White Christmas," Nat King Cole's "The Christmas Song," and Johnny Mathis' "Sleigh Ride." And as a child of the '80's, no Christmas is complete without hearing "Do They Know It's Christmas?"

Finally, I must include what I consider to be the two most depressing Christmas songs ever and I usually turn the radio station when I hear them - Toby Keith's "Santa I'm Right Here" and Elvis' "Mama Loved the Roses."

E-mail me some of your favorites, ones I might be missing out on.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Just in Time

Looks like we bought that 4WD truck just in the nick of time! We were hit with about 4 inches of snow Thursday night into Friday, then another 4 or 5 inches Friday night into Saturday. The drive to and from work Friday was not fun, taking about an hour each way instead of the usual 30 minutes. We were somewhat unprepared, as I realized now that H. is walking, she would need a pair of snow boots. We didn't go anywhere Friday night, but by early Saturday afternoon, our street was plowed and the mail had been delivered. H. took a 3-hour nap Saturday afternoon (and I took a 2-hour one), then we went to the bank and to Walmart for a pair of snow boots (see how long I managed to stay away from Walmart?).

The weather foiled our plans for getting a tree on Saturday and for M. to put up the Christmas lights on Sunday. I finally started decorating the house on Saturday before my nap (I never should have stopped to rest), but it's only about halfway finished. I did get to go shopping on Sunday with BFs Na and Wendy. We went to the outlets in Gettysburg, a trip we take every year for Christmas shopping. I showed amazing constraint in the Old Navy outlet, only buying a red turtleneck, which I planned on buying ahead of time, and a new pair of gloves. The rest of my purchases were Christmas gifts. I now only have one family gift left to buy, plus two gifts for the "Angel Tree" at work and a couple of little things for M. And I need to payoff H's toy layaway some time soon. I'm feeling somewhat caught up after this weekend, but I definitely need to start wrapping the gifts I have and get that out of the way. I off to make a new to-do list.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Abu el Banat

I thought last night's episode of The West Wing was better than others from this season, although no Christmas episode can top Season One's. The episodes are better when the writers work in elements of the characters' personal lives - CJ's dad's illness, Bartlet's relationship with his daughters, etc. - instead of just focusing all on issues. What's going on with Toby's twins and Andi? I'd like to know more about that. It's unrealistic that being a new father would not affect his work in some way.

I think I'm going to start calling my dad "Abu el Banat" - as the father of three daughters and three granddaughters, I'm sure he identified with this episode.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Big, Bad Walmart

I'll admit, I have a love/hate relationship with Walmart. Before we moved into our house 4+ years ago, I never shopped there. Now, I shop there all the time because we live in a small town and it's the only major retailer around without driving 20-30 minutes. They can't be beat on price when buying everyday essentials like toilet paper and diapers, and our local Walmart is a Super Walmart with groceries, too, that are often much cheaper. As much as I shop there, I am also big on supporting local businesses. I do most of my grocery shopping at the family-owned regional grocery chain, especially meat, fruit and other perishables, which I have not found to be of good quality at the Super Walmart. I rent videos from the mom-and-pop store instead of Hollywood Video and we order pizza every weekend from a local shop instead of Domino's or Papa John's.

The whole union labor issue aside, there have been times when I think Walmart is taking advantage of the American public and we all just go along with it. Case-in-point is the cost of baby formula. Hayley used the Infamil Lipil with DHA/AHA, a fairly new formula a year ago. It cost $3.82 a can at my local Walmart. At the Walmart near my parents, about 30 miles away, it cost $3.60/can. We're not talking a nickel here - that's a $0.22 difference. And when, at one point, I was buying up to eight cans a week, that can quickly add up. I finally approached someone in Customer Service at my Walmart with a receipt from the other Walmart about the difference in price. The response was some song-and-dance about how they set prices based on other area stores are charging, etc, etc. Well, two of the local grocery stores in the area didn't even carry this type of Infamil - they were only carrying the "regular" Infamil since the Lipil was still so new. There really wasn't anywhere else I could buy it, and I felt that they were charging as much as they could get away with because they knew that. Still, whenever I went to my parents' house, I would stock up on formula from that Walmart. Either way, they still got over $3 out of me. Like I said, love/hate.

And now, this latest news. I am a big fan of the debit card. It keeps me from charging things on a credit card and helps with budgeting. However, about a year ago, my bank started charging $0.25 for every debit card transaction where you used your pin number, but not on transactions processed as "credit" with your signature. Fine, no problem, I just transact everything as a credit function and it doesn't effect me either way. But now Walmart, where I use my debit card at least two times a week, is going to stop accepting signature-based debit transactions and only accept PIN-based transactions. The company that broke the record less than a week ago with single day sales of $1.52 billion on Black Friday says it's too expensive to process these transactions. Instead, they're going to push that cost back on the consumer.

I wish I could say I would stop shopping at Walmart, but I know that's not true. It's just not possible where we live - they have the monopoly right now and as a family on a budget, it can't be denied. But let Walmart be forewarned that I'll be the gal holding up the check-out line by writing a check instead of using my debit card. Also, it will be interesting to see how this plays out at my local Walmart because my bank is located inside the Walmart, the very same bank that has issued the MasterCard debit card.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003


Please read Evany's entry entitled "the weighting game." It's a wonderful essay on society's perception of what women weigh and what they should weigh. It nice to know I'm not alone out here! I, too, am sick of the coverage of Renee Zellweger and how she has to "beef up" to 135 to play "pudgy" Bridget Jones, who is always struggling with her weight. I couldn't agree more with everything Evany says!

Monday, December 01, 2003

Reading Update

You can add #53 Dead Ringer by Lisa Scottoline (who has a great author's website) and #54 Emma by Jane Austen (from my required reading list) to my list of books read in 2003. Although now I think I'm going to take a little break. I have to return my books to the library this afternoon and I don't think I'm going to check out any new ones, not that I don't have plenty of books on my to-read list sitting on shelves at home. But I'm working on a couple of cross-stitch projects (another hobby), one of which I need to finish before Christmas, plus I need to do all of our Christmas decorating, finish shopping, wrap presents, etc. When am I supposed to have time to read?
Holiday Weekend

Welcome back from the long holiday weekend! Actually, I had to work on Friday and I thought it would be a quiet, slow day, but I never found the time to post. We had a great family Thanksgiving. I did pretty good in the not-overeating-department until dessert, when I had a piece of pumpkin roll and two pieces of pumpkin pie. Hayley ate quite a bit, too, with my dad feeding her cheese and pretzels, then dinner, then she ate a whole piece of pumpkin roll all by herself. She also did all her tricks for everyone and they were all so excited to see her walking.

On Saturday, we bought a new truck. As Mark said, "Our first new vehicle together." We'll probably have to repeat this process next summer by purchasing a minivan. How did we both end up needing new cars at the same time? Mark got a white Silverado 2500 HD with 4WD, which we've been needing for a couple of winters. We live at the bottom of a big hill that was hell last year. So now I'm getting a few new car insurance quotes. I've been wanting to switch companies for awhile since our rates keep increasing every six months, so I figured this was a good excuse for some research.

Sunday was a nice quiet day at home. Hayley took a three-hour nap (and I took one for about a half hour) and we watched the Ravens beat up on San Francisco. It's great that we finally have an offense that's fun to watch. I can't believe they scored 44 points in back-to-back games. Next week's game vs. Cincinnati for first place in the division should be awesome!

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Buddy Jewel

After my comment about Buddy Jewel in my CMA recap, I heard his newest release on the radio yesterday afternoon while driving home from work. It's called "Sweet Southern Comfort" and I loved it! I only heard the end and I still loved it. I think it has all the makings of a hit song, so I take back my comment about becoming a one-hit wonder.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003


Since I can't think of anything interesting to write about, here's a gratuitous photo of Hayley from our trip to Luray. This is one of my most favorite pictures of her to date.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Goal Accomplished

By finishing Judgment Calls by Alafair Burke last night, I accomplished one of my goals for this year, sort of a New Year's resolution I made. My goal was to read atleast 52 books in 2003, averaging out to a book a week. And I finished with seven weeks to spare! Here's the list of what I read, in alphabetical order by author. I didn't link to or comment on all of them. And one day I should write an entry about all of the series I read - you'll see some info about them here.

2003 Reading List
1. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott*
2. Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson*
3. Grizzly by Christine Andreae
4. Smoke Eaters by Christine Andreae
5. The Miss America Family by Julianna Baggott
6. Flashback by Nevada Barr - Part of the Anna Pigeon series that I absolutely love. Fuels my unfulfilled dream of becoming a park ranger.
7. Judgment Calls by Alafair Burke - First in a new series by the daughter of James Lee Burke.
8. Four Blondes by Candace Bushnell - I've previously written how much I hated this book.
9. Tell No One by Harlan Coben
10. Gone for Good by Harlan Coben
11. Every Dead Thing by John Connolly
12. Amanda Bright @ Home by Danielle Crittenden
13. Speaking in Tongues by Jeffrey Deaver - A non-Lincoln Rhyme novel that was pretty good.
14. The Bone Vault by Linda Fairstein - Another series I read, this one from the original "Law & Order: SVU." Linda Fairstein was the real head of this dept. for NYC. I often see her on NBC as a legal consultant for such topics as the Laci Peterson case.
15. Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding - I've previously written how much I loved this book! Anxiously awaiting the movie.
16. The Zygote Chronicles by Suzanne Finnamore
17. Swimming Sweet Arrow by Maureen Gibbon - Not in my usual genre and a little too offbeat for me.
18. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman*
19. Cold Hunter's Moon by K.C. Greenlief - First in a series. A little quirky, but interesting.
20. The King of Torts by John Grisham
21. Motherhood and Hollywood by Patricia Heaton - cute collection of stories from the star of "Everybody Loves Raymond."
22. Beneath the Ashes by Sue Henry - Another series I read, and one of the few I've read out of order. Availability at the library is to blame for that.
23. Daisy Miller by Henry James*
24. Why I'm Like This by Cynthia Kaplan - a fabulous collection of short stories, ranging from summer camp to motherhood. I can't remember how I heard about this one, but I would definitely recommend it to others.
25. A Perfect Evil by Alex Kava
26. Purgatory Ridge by William Kent Krueger
27. Every Secret Thing by Laura Lippman - see previous entry
28. Ghost Riders by Sharyn McCrumb
29. The Nannie Diaries by Emma McLaughlin
30. Apocalipstick by Sue Margolis - Brit Chick lit with a great title!
31. Slow Dollar by Margaret Maron - most recent in the Deborah Knott series, a terrific series set in North Carolina. A family tree is provided at the front of each book to help keep track of Deborah's huge family.
32. Last Lessons of Summer by Margaret Maron - a stand-alone by Margaret Maron
33. Sphere of Influence by Kyle Mills
34. Angel Fire by Lisa Miscione
35. The Darkness Gathers by Lisa Miscione - the mistake-laden book (see previous entry)
36. Unfit to Practice by Perri O'Shaughnessy
37. Presumption of Death by Perri O'Shaughnessy - Another one of my favorite series. We almost went to Lake Tahoe on our honeymoon because of these books (but we chose Sedona, Arizona instead).
38. Suspicion of Madness by Barbara Parker - Yet another favorite series. Very sexy mysteries set in Miami.
39. Four Blind Mice by James Patterson - part of the Alex Cross series
40. The Beach House by James Patterson - wasn't as crazy about this stand-alone Patterson book. I think I could tell that he didn't really write it.
41. I Don't Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson - Quite frankly, I found this and The Nannie Diaries to have a depressing side. No more "Mommie Chick Lit" for me - I have enough to feel guilty about.
42. The Whole Truth by Nancy Pickard
43. Grave Secrets by Kathy Reichs
44. Bare Bones by Kathy Reichs - Still another favorite series. Grave Secrets I didn't like as much, but Bare Bones was back on track.
45. Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter
46. Birdbrained by Jessica Speart
47. Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe*
48. Dead Clever by Scarlett Thomas - Thoroughly enjoyed this mystery originally published in 1998 in the UK. Chick lit with a mystery twist. First in a series and I'm looking forward to the others.
49. The Appearance of Impropriety by Walter Walker*
50. Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner
51. In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner - I can't say enough how much I love Jennifer Weiner's books and her blog.
52. The Devil Riding by Valerie Wilson Wesley.

The books marked with a (*) are from my "Required Reading" list. I should probably write a whole entry about this, too, but the short version is that I have a book called What to Read that I use as a personal guide to read books I normally wouldn't read or should have read somewhere along the way. I'm embarrassed to admit that I cannot remember reading Little Women in its entirety as a girl. And I don't think I would have appreciated it as much as I do as an adult and a mother. I loved the following quote from Marmee:
"I want my daughters to be beautiful, accomplished, and good. To be admired, loved, and respected. To have a happy youth, to be well and wisely married, and to lead useful, pleasant lives, with as little care and sorrow to try them as God sees fit to send."

So I'm off to read book #53 (as soon as I leave work, of course). Keep checking the sidebar for my current title.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Happy Movies

It's amazing the little things that will make me happy. I ventured into the world of today based on a recommendation from my dad the shopaholic and went a little crazy buying cheap movies. I almost screamed, and did let out a little "Yeah!" when I found a VHS copy of Shag. I love this movie! We watched it atleast once a week in college and just about had the whole thing memorized. And now I have a copy of my very own! Don't ask me when I never bought it before now.

Then I found copies of North Shore, another high school/college favorite. For some reason, my sister and I were obsessed with this movie in high school. It ran repeatedly on cable and we even had a dubbed copy at one point. Back when I was on maternity leave, I was up with Hayley at 3am on a Saturday night/Sunday morning and North Shore was actually on. It was all I could do not to call my sister.

These cheap purchases just made my Monday a little brighter.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

CMA Recap

It seems that a lot of journalers like to recap the big award shows on their sites – Emmys, Grammys, MTV music and video awards, etc. I don’t think I’ve seen/read anyone who’s recapped the Country Music Association awards (CMAs), so I thought I would. I’ve been a die-hard country music fan since 1993 and a somewhat fan for years before that. The first real concert I ever saw was Alabama, Juice Newton, Johnny Lee and Mickey Gilley. This was during the Urban Cowboy craze and Alabama was the opening act, if you can imagine. We’ve all come a long way since then, so here’s my take on the 37th annual CMA awards.

The show opened with the first of many musical performances – Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett singing “Five O’Clock Somewhere.” An upbeat way to start the show. The audience acted like it was a big surprise that Jimmy Buffett showed up, but the second microphone set up next to AJ was a giveaway.

Vince Gill came on as the host for the twelfth consecutive year. Has it really been that long? He made a bunch of jokes about his weight, which has fluctuated over the years, but I thought he looked pretty trim this year. It was, however, an unintended segue for introducing Wynonna to present the first award of the night.

Wy made some greeting/joke that was so flat she had to repeat it. I still didn’t get it the second time around. Let’s just announce the winner for Video of the Year. My pick was Brad Paisley’s “Celebrity,” a fun video, but Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” won instead. A legitimate pick, since CMT did actually play this video. Cash’s son and daughter accepted the award.

Then there were two back-to-back performances – Toby Keith with his new single, “I Love This Bar” and Brad Paisley singing “Celebrity,” introduced by Bachelorette Trista and William Shatner, both of whom were in the video. Leading up to the show, Keith was predicted to be the big winner of the night, since he has the most nominations and is long overdue for a big night.

The next award presented was for Vocal Event, which is always one of my favorites. I wanted Sheryl Crow and Kid Rock to win for “Picture,” but I thought Toby and Willie Nelson would win for “Beer for My Horses.” I was wrong on both counts – AJ and Jimmy Buffett won instead. Jimmy Buffett looks like the actor Peter Michael Goetz (father-in-law Mr. MacKenzie in Father of the Bride).

Then Martina McBride sang her new single, “In My Daughter’s Eyes.” I heard her sing this live back in August and was just blown away. As a new mother of a daughter, it brought tears to my eyes. She is also one of the best live performers I’ve ever heard and she didn’t disappoint.

Brooks & Dunn quickly followed with another performance, their latest single “You Can’t Take the Honky Tonk Out of the Girl.” Other than the title being too long, I have a love/hate feeling for this song. I think the chorus is great, very catchy. But the ABCB rhyme scheme of the verses just doesn’t work for me. At the end of their performance, Vince Gill brought out their award for Vocal Duo of the Year, which wasn’t going to be presented during the program. Why, I don’t know. Is it because they’ve won every year but one since 1992? Montgomery Gentry is the only legitimate competitor in an otherwise lame category. There’s been some talk that this category will be absorbed into a combined Duo/Group of the Year award in the near future.

A quick shot of Brad Paisley in the audience shows he is not with new wife Kimberly Williams. Could she not get from L.A. to Nashville for the show? It would have been nice to see them together.

Then the award for Single of the Year is presented, which goes to the artist. Johnny Cash wins again for “Hurt.” Artistic value aside, I don’t think this song should have won. I listen to five different country music stations in our region and not a single one of them has ever played this song, to the best of my knowledge. The same thing happened a few years ago with “Man of Constant Sorrow” from the move O Brother, Where Art Thou? The “major market” station in our area wouldn’t touch that song with a ten-foot pole, but after it won a few CMAs, they hypocritically played it all the time. They certainly did not contribute to any of the success it had achieved. It will be interesting to see if I hear “Hurt” on the radio this week. Toby Keith has now lost three awards already. Will he stay through the end of the show?

CBS is airing a lot of holiday commercials already. Does this just seem way too early or am I in complete denial that Christmas is less than two months away?

After the commercial break, Tim McGraw sings “Red Rag Top.” I don’t know why he chose this song from earlier in the year, especially since it was controversial when it was released since it alludes to the issue of abortion. An audience shot of Faith Hill at the end of his performance reveals Anthony Clark sitting in between Toby Keith and Faith. How did he luck out and get that prime seat?

Next award is Song of the Year, which goes to the songwriter instead of the artist. Another surprise winner, Randy Travis’ “Three Wooden Crosses.” Even though it was considered a gospel song, radio stations around here did play it a lot throughout the summer.

I’d like to know where they film the commercials for Walmart? Our Walmart is a SuperCenter and it doesn’t look anything like the stores featured in these commercials. Aisles and aisles of DVDs and video games? I think there’s one aisle for these products in our Walmart.

It’s now 9pm, so I’m going to have to switch back and forth between the awards and West Wing. Norah Jones and Dolly Parton came on to perform, so I’m not missing anything. I’ll admit I don’t know anything about Norah Jones, other than she’s the daughter of Ravi Shankar and I get her confused with Michelle Branch.

George Strait performs next, a new song. He is the reigning king of country music. I could listen to him sing the phone book. And the new song, “Honk if You Honky Tonk” is fun.

More back-to-back performances by Terri Clark, who I’ve always liked, and Rascal Flatts. I’m surprised the CMA showed their “controversial” video in the background while they performed. I don’t find any of the three of them particularly attractive and they all have strange hair-dos, especially for country music. And what’s with the ugly fringe shirt/vest the lead singer is wearing?

Finally, an award is presented, this one for Album of the Year. Joe Nichols is my long-shot favorite, but I’m just glad he was nominated. Johnny Cash wins again. I think Toby Keith is getting shafted by the sympathy vote. He probably would have won in the three categories Johnny Cash has taken, but I guess it’s just not meant to be for him this year.

Then Kenny Chesney sings his new single. Is he wearing the same pants as Tim McGraw? Followed by Patty Loveless – I’m glad she’s back and performing on the show. I’ve always like her, too.

The Male Vocalist award is presented next. I think everyone was surprised that Alan Jackson won again. He won 5 awards last year, including this one. He ranks right up there with George Strait and I have all of his albums, so I for one am not disappointed that he won over Toby Keith.

Vince Gill is making fun of his weight again. Had he really gotten that bad? I don’t recall what he looked like at last year’s show.

Now they’re cramming in all the Horizon Award nominees, along with some others. Joe Nichols, a new favorite of mine, although I thought he looked nervous while he was performing. Allison Krauss – I was never a big fan of hers for not particular reason, other than I think she’s really goofy. Blake Shelton, another Horizon Award nominee. This category is really between him and Joe Nichols, who have had the most commercial success in the past year.

Then Vince Gill introduces Shania Twain and makes a funny joke about bellybuttons and she performs her latest single in really ugly shoes/boots. We won’t even get into a discussion of Shania here, but I’ve never really cared for her and never will.

Another Horizon Award nominee, Gary Allen. I don’t like him either, so it’s back over to WW for a couple of minutes. I flip back – did I miss an award? It seems like they haven’t given one out in awhile. Vince is introducing this year’s Hall of Fame inductees, who were way before my time. Plus, Hayley is crying and I have to run upstairs and check on her.

Dierks Bentley takes the show into a commercial break and when they come back, the other two Horizon Award nominees, Darryl Worley and Buddy Jewel, perform. Darryl Worley looks like my brother-in-law, but would someone please tell him that the George-Michael-late-‘80s-two-day-growth beard is way over? Tell Kurt Warner, too, while you’re at it. And I was pleased to see Buddy Jewel get a nomination. I thought Nashville might think he was something of a joke since he’s the one who won the “Nashville Star” competition. But he does need to release another song or else he’s just a one-hit wonder waiting to happen.

Mike O’Malley and Anthony Clark from the CBS show “Yes, Dear” give out the award for Vocal Group of the Year. Why is Mike O’Malley wearing a beret? Is that his dress hat since he couldn’t wear a baseball hat to cover his bald head? Lonestar should have won in this category, considering the number of hits they had this year, but Rascal Flatts wins instead. I really don’t understand their success. Personally, I think they’re a mediocre group. But it was a nice touch that they wanted to “give” their award to Alabama, since this is their last year to be nominated before retiring.

Faith Hill looks very classy as she presents the award for Female Vocalist, which must also be awkward since she’s not nominated this year. But Martina McBride wins for the second year in a row and is very humble. She recognizes each of the other nominees, even goofy Allison Krauss. Then Vince Gill gets his turn to perform, bringing out his daughter to join him on background vocals.

The Horizon Award is presented and the winner is Joe Nichols! I’m so happy I actually let out a little cheer. But then there’s a technical mistake as they flash Blake Shelton’s name on the screen while Joe is giving his speech.

The Radio Stations of the Year for each market are briefly recognized. No one seems to mind that a station in Nashville wins every year for Large Market. Wouldn’t you think they have an unfair advantage?

It’s 10:45 and I’m starting to think this isn’t going to be over by 11pm. They finally do the big “Johnny Cash Tribute.” Why did they wait so late in the show to do this? I’m barely awake. It should have been planted right in the middle for all to see instead of squeezing it in at the end.

Entertainer of the Year is the last award, so maybe we are going to wrap things up by 11pm. George Jones comes out to present. Why they have given this job to him, I do not know. He’s not a smooth presenter and true to form, jumps right into announcing the winner. Was he supposed to read the names of the nominees first? But the winner is Alan Jackson! I think most people are shocked. I won’t argue as to whether or not he deserved this award this year. I love him! Oh, there’s a quick shot of Toby Keith in the audience. So he did stick around – good sport!

Vince Gill comes out to close the show and actually has to stretch it. I think George Jones was supposed to read the names of the nominees and now they’re a couple of minutes short. Not a very smooth ending to the night.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Book Review

It's been awhile since I've read a book that I couldn't put down. But I just finished Every Secret Thing by Laura Lippman and it was one of those books. What a great thriller! She does a fabulous job of unfolding two parallel stories - one from present day and one that took place seven years ago. I couldn't wait to find out what happened! As someone who more often than not can figure out whodunit, I was surprised by several revelations in this book.

Every Secret Thing is a stand-alone from Lippman's "Tess Monaghan" series, which I'm embarrassed to admit I have not read. But I'm getting ready to log onto the library catalog and reserve the first book in the series and get started right away. Why haven't I read these books? Especially since they take place in Baltimore. It was great to read about all the neighborhood references in Every Secret Thing. I'm jumping on the Laura Lippman bandwagon.

PS - Yes, I lied about posting the pictures from Halloween. First, I didn't log on at home because I was too busy reading. And second, I forgot what a huge mess the computer area is. We bought a new filing cabinet to put next to the computer to also serve as a table for the scanner and printer, but we encountered some space issues and temporarily gave up on doing anything. So I can barely get to the keyboard and the seat of the desk chair is stacked high with magazines that were on the old table. But it's on the to-do list for this weekend, so I'll try to get caught up.

PPS - The Internet filter at work won't let me view Is it getting hung up on "lipp" with two p's as an indicator of porn? Hmmm...

Monday, November 03, 2003

Halloween and the Rest of the Weekend

Halloween was a blast! I think I had more fun than Hayley did. She looked a little overwhelmed most of the time. But she looked adorable in her bumblebee costume. We went to my parents' neighborhood to trick-or-treat. That way, I could see my nieces and it's just easier to get around than in our neighborhood. My friend Wendy brought her daughter Meghan (the piggie on the left), who's two and a half, and we trick-or-treated for about an hour or so. Then I was exhausted from pulling the wagon around! Hayley hardly had to do anything at all. (Edited 11/8/03 to add photo.)

On Saturday, we just enjoyed the absolutely beatiful weather we have been having - 80 degrees in November! I wish it had been like this last year when I was on maternity leave. Instead, I think it rained every day last fall, then we had snow before Thanksgiving. I let Hayley crawl all around the yard and explore. She loved watching the leaves fall out of the sky. However, I didn't realize how wet the ground was and she was a bit muddy when we were done. Mark and I watched The Hunted with Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio Del Toro, which I thought was pretty awful. The story was very rushed and wholly unbelievable. Like we're supposed to believe Benicio Del Toro is from West Virginia? And every time he spoke, which wasn't often, it sounded like a struggle to disguise his accent. This was the first time we had rented a movie since the new TV season had started, so we're very behind in our movie watching.

On Sunday, we went to a birthday party for Mark's great-niece (I always say "Mark's" because I am definitely not old enough to have a great-niece), who was turning three. We stayed for a couple of hours and had a good time. It was actually pretty relaxing. Mark's one sister couldn't make it because they were moving this weekend - right into our neighborhood. We did have a 30-mile buffer zone from all relatives, but now Mark's sister, husband and two kids are about five minutes from us. I drive by their house every day on my way from picking up Hayley. We tried to stop in Saturday night when we went to rent the movie and pick up subs, but no one was there. They must have been inbetween loads. I'll have to try and stop by one day this week.

But I've saved the best news for last, if you've made it this far through this rambling post! As of yesterday evening, Hayley is officially walking!! She'd been getting closer and closer, and had been taking some steps with Mark and me coaching her. But last night, we were in the family room and I was sitting in the chair and she had pulled up on the TV tray next to me. Then she just walked away - about 6 or 7 steps. She did it all on her own! I was so excited, I started screaming. Mark wasn't home yet - he was on his way. She did it a few more times for the video camera and again when Mark got home. The look on her face was priceless - she's so proud of herself and all the accompanying cheering and clapping. And I can't tell you how happy I was that she did it at home instead of at daycare. One of my biggest fears since she was born and I haven't been able to find part-time work or a way to stay at home is that all of her firsts would happen and I wouldn't be around. This, of course, is second only to the monkey fear.
Morning Headline

I saw this headline on Yahoo! this morning when I logged in at work. This is my worst nightmare come true! I have a thing about monkeys.

Friday, October 31, 2003

National Park Statistics
In case you were wondering, the 2002 visitation statistics for U.S. National Parks are now available.

The Top 10 Across All Parks (Park, Historic Site, Monument, etc...) are:
1. Blue Ridge Parkway
2. Golden Gate National Recreation Area
3. Gream Smoky Mountains National Park
4. Gateway NRA
5. Lake Mead NRA
6. George Washington Memorial Parkway
7. Natchez Trace Parkway
8. Delaware Water Gap NRA
9. Gulf Islands National Seashore
10. Cape Code NS

Of the 10 on that list, I have been to 4, although not necessarily in 2002.

Strictly by National Park, the Top 10 were:
1. Great Smoky Mountains
2. Grand Canyon
3. Olympic
4. Yosemite
5. Cuyahoga Valley
6. Rocky Mountain
7. Yellowstone
8. Grand Teton
9. Zion
10. Acadia

I've been to 3 of these, although when I visited Cuyahoga Valley, it was still designated as a National Recreation Area.
A Story for Halloween

During a brief conversation with my mom the other day, I found out the house my sister is renting has a story surrounding it. The reason it was available to rent is that the person living there recently died - in the house. The owner asked my sister if she had a problem with that and she asked, "Well, he wasn't murdered, was he?" The answer was no, so she didn't think much else about it. But now they're moved in and have met a few of the neighbors and she asked one of them how the guy died. Turns out he hanged himself in the basement! The basement is unfinished and on one wall is a big "I Love You" in spraypaint, which my sister thinks might have been his suicide note. So now she's totally creeped out whenever she has to do laundry. Doncha think the owner could have atleast painted over the "I Love You" before someone else moved in?

Monday, October 27, 2003

Weekend Update

Mark and I both took off from work on Friday and the three of us had a fall lovely weekend away. We rented a cabin in Luray, Virginia near Shenandoah National Park and the George Washington National Forest. We had gone there back in May, just the two of us, and it rained the entire time we were there. This time we decided to take Hayley with us - she must have been our good luck charm.

We stayed in a different cabin this time and it was very nice. It was a newer cabin with beautiful views of the river and fall leaves, but no hot tub like last time. We hiked three different trails in the National Forest, a hidden gem that's often forgotten in the shadow of Shenandoah and Skyline Drive. The forest is free (!) and the three trails were handicap accessible (re: stroller accessible), which was convenient and easy. Especially since the only handicap-accessible trail in Shenandoah is closed because of tree damage from the hurricane last month.

The Storybook Trail is a short trail that takes you to a breathtaking overview of the valley, the river and the Blue Ridge in the distance. Other than a cold I'm fighting off, it was a fun and relaxing weekend. Pictures will be forthcoming, of course (digital camera forgotten in the hub-bub of leaving).
Hayley was great for the whole trip. It's about a 4-hour drive and she wasa fine in the car, sleeping most of the way home on Sunday. She was also good in every restaurant we went to, entertaining those sitting around us instead of eating. And she even slept well, even though she was in a strange place. However, the time change has her all screwed up - it's probably going to be another sleep-deprived week. She woke up at 5am today after going to bed very early last night. I'm hoping our regular routine of work/sitter gets her back on schedule in a day or two.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

TV Blogging

I just checked the NBC website to see if The West Wing is new or a repeat tonight and here is the summary of tonight's episode (which is new).

The only TV or movie reference they could think of for Gary Cole is "Office Space?" Really? How about his turn as Mike Brady in both of the Brady Bunch movies? Maybe enough people don't remember "Midnight Caller," the TV show that put him on the map? Or my personal favorite, the role of Jeffrey MacDonald in the mini-series "Fatal Vision."

Incidentally, I saw Gary Cole in a commercial for an upcoming episode of "Karen Sisco," (which I'm not going to link to because I don't watch it) and thought, "But he was just cast as the new vice president on The West Wing." It seems like quite a few characters on WW do double-duty on other shows, most notably John Amos, who always seems to have a couple of TV shows going on at the same time. He's had quite a career, if you ask me.

PS - For those of you looking for info about Siegfried and Roy Halloween costumes, you won't find it here. I had two separate entries, one about the Roy incident, and another linking to cool 70s & 80s Halloween costumes, but the two are not related. I can't tell you how many referrals I've had from Google for people searching on those two key words. I can't help you out, but you're free to stay and look around!

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Morning Report

I don't think this sounds like a "Suicide and Falling Fatality," do you? I'm thinking more murder/suicide. I'm going to search around to see if the local/area newspaper has more facts, because I definitely don't think this is the whole story.

This also reminds me that I never linked to a fascinating article on the suicide rate from the Golden Gate Bridge (via Nancy Nall). As a frequent reader of the NPS Morning Report, it immediately made me think of the same allure that our national parks have for people who want to take their own lives. I don't know if there have been any articles written about it, but there should be.

From the NPS Morning Report, October 21, 2003
Canyon De Chelly National Monument (AZ)
Suicide and Falling Fatality at Face Rock Overlook

Ranger Chris Blacksheep came upon a parked vehicle at Face Rock overlook on Spider Rock Road on the morning of Sunday, October 12th. He found the body of a woman in the passenger seat and a note with instructions to notify her daughter. The Navajo Nation Police Department and Apache County Sheriff’s Department were contacted; officers from the latter took the lead in the investigation. When the woman’s daughter was contacted, officers found that she had left her home in Maryland with her husband. A search was begun the next day in the area below the overlook, which is at the edge of a sheer, thousand-foot sandstone cliff. On Tuesday morning, the woman’s husband was found about 400 feet below the rim at the top of a talus stone. A state police helicopter arrived, but could not land in the canyon due to turbulence. The body was subsequently recovered and brought out by vehicle later that afternoon.
[Submitted by Chief Ranger's Office]

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Pumpkin Patch

We took Hayley to the Pumpkin Patch for the first time today - she was too little last year. She got a kick out of riding in the wheelbarrow. It was nice and sunny out, but a little windy. It's so much fun doing these things when you have a little baby.

The not-so-fun thing is the continued sleepless nights. She was up from 2:30-4:00am last night. She slept pretty good Friday night, but woke up very early Saturday morning. In addition to her cold, she's definitely going through some major teething. One molar came in on the bottom and another is breaking through on the top, both on her right side. I assume this means the ones on the left side will soon follow, so this could go on for awhile!

Friday, October 17, 2003


I finally got a good night's sleep last night! I read recently that when learning to walk, babies' sleep cycles are often disrupted. Hayley has certainly been living up to that, combined with the cough she's had for the past week or so. Everyone at daycare has been sick, but so far she's only had the cough - no runny nose, no fever (knock on wood). Wednesday night, she woke up at 2:30am and was wide awake for over an hour until she finally settled down and went back to sleep. For the last two weeks, she's barely been sleeping through the night, waking up frequently when she can't find the pacifier or just having the coughing wake her up. Love those new "Simply" medicines from Tylenol. She's been taking "Simply Cough" at night without any extra medicine in it since she hasn't had a fever. And last night she fussed around 11:30pm (and I was tempted to turn the TV back on to check on the baseball game. Little did I know what I missed - Boston was winning when we went to bed) and that was it. Slept like a baby the rest of the night!

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Classic Halloween Costumes

I haven't seen anything this funny in a long time! I was laughing out loud at my desk at work! (Courtesy of Throwing Things.)

I actually went as a Rubik's Cube for Halloween in the 6th grade, but my costume was much better than a store-bought costume. It was a large box and I cut out arm holes and a hole for my head to go through, then I decorated the outside of the box with colored squares. I was a scrambled cube, not a solved cube. The only downside was that the box was so big, it was hard to hold my treat bag open with two hands. Definitely the most awkward Halloween costume I've ever had!
Weekend Update

Sorry I've been so bad about posting lately. With everything going on around me, you'd think I'd have something interesting to post, but as soon as I get in front of the computer, I'm at a loss.

We spent the weekend enjoying the beautiful Indian summer we're having here. Hayley went to her first big craft show on Sunday - The National Apple Harvest Festival in Arendtsville, PA. It's my favorite craft show of the year and I missed not going last year (since Hayley was only three weeks old and I hadn't even left the house yet.). It was super-crowded since the weather was so perfect for an outdoor event, but we enjoyed it. Hayley did great being in the stroller for such a long time and even took a nap for about an hour.

On the sister front, they have found a place to rent not too far from their old house, so it's still close to work. And it's a rowhouse instead of an apartment, so there's a yard for the dogs. They get the keys tomorrow and will probably move what's left of their stuff this weekend. They've starting looking at both house plans and pre-fab modulars as options for rebuilding.

I could have some news to post this afternoon. I try not to talk about work, but there's supposed to be some big announcements coming at a meeting after lunch, so if it's anything worthwhile, I'll let you know.

Monday, October 06, 2003

Siegfried & Roy

I'm glad Mark isn't the only one who gets Siegfried & Roy confused with Penn & Teller.

Saturday morning, after I had been up since 6am with Hayley and Mark woke up just before 8am:

Me: Roy from Siegfried & Roy was attacked by one of his tigers during a show last night.

Mark: Which one is he? Is he the small one?

Me: I don't know, I think they're both about the same size. He has the darker hair. They'll probably show a clip coming up on the 8 o'clock news.


Mark: That's not who I was thinking of. Who was I thinking of?

Then it finally hit me what he meant by "the smaller one" earlier.
Me: Penn & Teller [plus hysterical laughter].

Mark: What do they do?

Me: They just do magic. They don't work with tigers.

Fascinating conversation at 8am on a Saturday!

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Some Good News, Finally

Well, my sister and brother-in-law made it back from their trip last Monday night and went to see the house first thing Tuesday morning. I talked to her last night and she seems to be handling everything pretty well, considering. They actually found some more of her jewelry, which we had been searching for on Sunday, so that was a spark of hope.

Today, the insurance adjuster came and everything is starting to move forward. He had a copy of the official police report and it was ruled an accident, which is a huge relief. He gave them a small check to get started with to buy food and groceries and such, and when they find an apartment, they can fax him the lease and the insurance company will send a check for the security deposit right away.

What a relief! I'm so glad things seem to be working out and they can start to put all this behind them and rebuild. I'll probably go back down there this weekend to help go through the rest of their stuff. They want to get whatever's left out as soon as possible so they can demolish and start rebuilding. They're anticipating it will take almost a year to complete everything because with close to 4000 houses in Maryland destroyed by the storm, all the contractors will have more work than they ever imagined, so I'm sure every step will require a waiting period. But atleast this is a small step forward.

Monday, September 29, 2003


I wasn't going to post today, because believe it or not, this weekend was worse than last weekend's storm-damaged weekend and I'm very sad and upset and not really sure what to say. My sister's house caught on fire Saturday night, and as destroyed as it seemed from the storm damage, it is far, far worse now. I don't want to say too much because they're very worried about what the insurance company might infer, but this was definitely a very tragic accident. They were out of town when it happened and aren't even making it back until tonight. [Side note: Northwest Airlines does not consider your house burning down an "emergency," only a death in the family. They wouldn't let them change to an earlier flight to come home yesterday - it would have cost $400. I definitely won't be using them ever again as an airline carrier.]

The neighbors rescued their two dogs, but their two cats died from smoke inhalation. They found Luna in the bathtub Saturday night and unfortunately, I was the one who found Pooh Sunday afternoon as we were trying to salvage some of their belongings. In a way, I'm glad I found him because I certainly wouldn't want my sister or brother-in-law to have found him later this week. We also got rid of all the cat food, feeding dishes and litter box so they wouldn't see them when they finally get home. The dogs are at my parents' house, which can't be easy because they don't have a fenced yard.

I've never known anyone whose house has caught on fire, only what I've seen on TV, and the devastation is terrible. Smoke and water seemed to do more damage than the actual fire. They literally now own just the clothes on their backs and anything else they had packed for their trip. Thank God my sister's wedding album was still sitting in her truck where she placed it when the floods came. And by some miracle, her hope chest was only charred and warped on the outside. Everything on the inside was soot and water free. Her wedding dress and other wedding mementos are now in my family room. My mom took home a bunch of wet photographs and was going to try to dry them out - her baby portrait collage, her baby photo that was mounted with her bronzed baby shoes, pictures from trips to Hawaii and their cruise...

Needless to say, I've been a little distracted at work today. I hardly slept at all last night. Everytime I closed my eyes, all I could see was their destroyed house. I feel so helpless and don't know what to do. Mark and I haven't even been in our own house long enough to accumulate any extra furniture. The only thing I have to offer is our old kitchen set, which is currently serving as a catch-all desk in the family room. I wish my sister and I wore the same size clothes, but alas, she is in the 4-6 range and let's just say you'd probably need to put a "1" in front of those numbers for me.

I'm sorry if this is a bit incoherent and rambling. Everytime I look at my hands and see the black still stuck under my fingernails, I just want to lay my head down on my desk and cry. I can't wait for my sister to get home tonight, even though I don't know what to say to her. I just want them to be home, wherever that might end up being.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

TV Blogging

Does anyone watch Yes, Dear on Monday nights on CBS? What was up with their new daughter on the season premiere this week? She was just born toward the end of last season and now she's a toddler who appeared to be older than the little boy they already have. Do they think this is a soap opera or something, where kids who are five suddenly turn 15 overnight? Did they think we wouldn't notice?

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Jinxed Again

I obviously spoke too soon. We've had buckets of rain since yesterday evening and this morning we awoke to water in the family room. Half of the carpet is drenched and the part near the door where the water came in is not only wet, but muddy, too. We dealt with this once before, when the remnants of Hurricane Floyd came through four years ago. I think we got cocky because we've been in a drought situation the last two years and thought we had solved the problem. Mark stayed home today to try and clean up the mess. I hope we can salvage the carpet.

Then, when I dropped Hayley off at the sitter's, they didn't have any power again. They lost power last week when we did, but it went off again around 5am this morning.

Major inconveniences, but I keep reminding myself things still aren't as bad as they are at my sister's. I talked to her over lunch yesterday and the house is looking more like a total loss. The right side of the house is now sinking and is noticeably lower than the left. A FEMA representative came to the house yesterday morning and gave them all the paperwork for aid, but they're still waiting for the adjuster from the homeowner's insurance to come and do their inspection.

I'm sure there will be more news to come.

Monday, September 22, 2003

One-Year Update

Hayley's one-year check-up occured as Isabel was moving in late Thursday afternoon, so here are the belated results. Her visit to the doctor went well and she is progressing normally. She weighed in at 22lbs, 7oz., gaining about a pound and a half from her 9-month check-up. Her length was 29 and 3/4 inches, about an inch growth. We made the switch from formula to regular milk over the long Labor Day weekend and she's only drinking from the bottle twice a day - first thing in the morning and last thing at night. The doctor was pleased to hear she could say "human words" like "bye-bye" and "no." She's walking by holding onto the furniture, has been drinking out of a cup since February and is always on the go.

Some more one-year birthday party photos as well:

Dressed in her birthday finery

And one with the official birthday hat

Two cakes - one for Hayley and one for everyone else

Sharing cake with Pop Pop

"Cake Face" says it all

The aftermath - I call this one "The Massacre of Raggedy Ann"

Interesting article from the Sunday New York Times Book Review about "Classroom Classics" - Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm, etc. (NY Times requires free registration)
Hurricane Isabel

Well, I'm finally able to post about how we survived the hurricane. We lost power around 3:30am Friday morning. I had to go to work without showering after getting dressed in the dark. I didn't realize until Friday night that I had on two different earrings all day. We spent Friday night at my parents' house, who were virtually unaffected by the storm, other than losing a few shingles off the roof. Our power came back Saturday around noon, but we didn't have cable until 2:30pm on Sunday. Luckily, the Ravens were the 4 o'clock game on Sunday! Our only loss was a few perishables in the refrigerator. We were even able to save all of our meat from the freezer by storing it at my mother-in-law's.

We consider ourselves extremely lucky considering what is happening all around us. We made an appointment back in August to have our trees pruned before winter because there are many dead limbs hanging way up there and we didn't want to have one fall on the house. How we managed to escape any damage during those high winds is beyond me! Our neighbors across the street weren't so lucky. They had a tree go through their roof that caused some serious damage. How did we not hear that? Around the corner from us, another neighbor had a tree fall across their above-ground pool.

But by far, the worst is the damage my sister has suffered. She and my brother-in-law live on the water in Baltimore. On Friday, they had close to 2 feet of water in every room of the house. They couldn't see their backyard at all, nor the pier that usually sits two or three feet above the water. The water did recede Friday afternoon and didn't return with high tide - a small blessing. And somehow, it didn't leave behind a lot of mud, mostly sticks, leaves and other debris. But all of the carpet and furniture is ruined (and they just had new carpet installed in the entire house back in the spring). She told me on the phone that all of the floorboards and some of the walls were buckling, but I couldn't imagine it until I saw it in person Saturday afternoon.

Her hallway was like a rolling, wavy miniature golf course. In the center of the one bedroom was a giant hump like a pitcher's mound. Their back deck was no longer attached to the house. Railroad ties that had surrounded gardening areas were 20 or 30 feet from where they should have been. You could see the high water mark all the way around the house, both inside and out. They still had about two feet of water in the crawl space, which is the only thing that saved them from having 4 or 5 feet of water inside the house instead of 2 - the crawlspace filled up first. And, of course, the smell was awful - that sour, stagnant water smell (those of you from Baltimore would know it as "Back River").

They are still waiting for the insurance adjuster to come. You can imagine how backed-up they are! She's afraid they're going to have to tear down the house and start over. I was surprised at how well she was handling everything. Nothing of great sentimental value was lost (she put their wedding album in her truck) and amazingly, most of the appliances were still working after the water receded. Ironically, they never even lost power, but had to turn it off once they found the water.

So we spent the weekend counting our blessings that everyone was safe and sound and hoping for the best for my sister and her house.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Happy Birthday, Hayley!

Today is my baby's birthday. I can't believe she's one! Only one short year ago she looked like this.

She came into this world at 4:30am and she must have retained some memory of it, because she woke up very early today - at 5:15am.

Tomorrow is her one-year check-up and we'll find out how much she weighs and how tall she is.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Book Talk, Pt. 2

While reading over lunch, another error. Again, not my typo:

p. 246 "He had interests in the trade of guns, heroine, women - everything went through him."

I finished this book at lunch - thank goodness!
Book Talk

I was planning on writing an entry today about the book I'm currently reading (see links toolbar if you can find it) and how the editing is so awful and I keep finding all of these grammar mistakes - very obvious ones. Then, I read Jennifer Weiner's Sept. 14th entry and had to laugh in agreement with the remarks about "poorly edited books." I love reading mysteries and thrillers, and yes, most often, I can figure out who the murderer or the bad guy is before I reach the end. Some are good, some are bad, but I love the genre regardless. And I'm one of those people who mostly likes everything I read. A book, or even a movie for that matter, has to be pretty bad for me to give up on it before the end.

With the book I'm reading now, The Darkness Gathers by Lisa Miscione, the grammar mistakes are so glaring that it's distracting. And it's very obvious that whoever edited this book at St. Martin's Minotaur did a very crappy job. Relying too much on SpellCheck? Here are the examples, all revolving around the same word. Remember, these are not my typos, this is how they are printed in the book:

On p. 76, "His face darkened a bit. 'Like I said, I've been warned to step off. I have to follow the rules here or I'll loose my career. I'm not a free agent like the two of you. I loose my job and my kid doesn't go to college, my wife doesn't get medication for her diabetes. Do you understand that?'"

And again, on p. 202, "Now that you are with me, I couldn't bare to loose you again."

Ugh, is this crazy or what? Twice in the same paragraph, then the same exact error again 200 pages later! The word 'loose' was actually used correctly in some places, but it was distracting because I felt like I had to re-read the sentence to make sure.

This is the second book in the series featuring Lydia Strong and Jeffrey Mark. I love reading serials because of how the format allows for strong character development and the reader gets to know and love characters over the years as they age and experience different things. I thought the first book in the series, Angel Fire, was okay but not great, and decided to give the second one a shot. Aside from glaring typos, the problem I have with this series is how the main characters get involved in the cases they are working on. Lydia is a true crime writer whose boyfriend is a former FBI guy owns a high-end private detective/intelligence agency. In both books, they have approached the local law enforcement working on the case to offer to help and their assistance has been gladly accepted.

From the many other mysteries, legal thrillers, police procedurals and the like that I have read, this is wholly unbelievable. In most cases, local law enforcement hates the interference of anyone else, whether it's a state agency or the federal government coming to take over the case. I realize this is just a small detail to the overall story being told, and that there has to be some element of unbelieveability in mysteries, but again, it's very distracting to me the reader because it's always in the back of my head.

Some day soon, I'm going to add a page about all the different book series I read, along with some thoughts, but I think I'll just stop after book 2 in the Lydia Strong series and leave it at that. There are many other books on my "to read" list than to waste my time with poorly edited, unfocused mystery books.

Have you read this book? Do you agree or disagree? Leave a comment.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

The Big Bash!

Yesterday was the big day - the 1st Birthday Party! Of course, it rained here, so I ended up with 40 adults and 12 kids under the age of 7 all in the house, but it all worked out. We moved some furniture around and it stopped raining later in the day, so people (the smokers) were able to go in and out.

Hayley was an absolute angel throughout the whole day. She really dug into the cake, as you can see below. (Yes, beautiful photography composition with the trash can in the background!) And she was blessed with a ton of presents - we have great family and friends. I'll have more pictures and details soon, but I wanted to post one as soon as I could.

(I haven't figured out how to downsize photos from the digital camera without cropping. They keep bumping my links bar down the page, they're so big!)

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Where the Deer and the Antelope Play

It's scenes like this that make me love where we live.

We see deer out back quite often, but they usually stay behind the stone fence and eat the corn in the field from the farm behind us. But for some reason, on this particular morning, Mama Doe and her three babies (you can only see two in the photo) wanted to explore our whole yard. Hayley and I stood at the sliding door for a good ten minutes, just watching them. I took the picture through the door and without a flash, so I wasn't even sure if it would turn out.

We may not be able to get DSL or cable Internet access, but we have this!

Monday, September 01, 2003

Baby Front

This past week has been amazing on the baby front. Hayley is at the age where she is doing something new every day. She finally starting pulling up on things that are above her head and I must say she's pretty steady on her feet. She can also climb the stairs. The first time, it was just the bottom two steps. As of Saturday, she can do a whole flight. Completely supervised, of course! Because of this, we've had to go a step further with the babyproofing and block off all exits, plus move breakable items up another level out of her reach. She's into everything!

Also, over the weekend, we made the big switch to milk only - no more formula! She won't be one for a couple of more weeks, but I wanted to do this while I had four whole days in a row at home (I'm off Tuesday, too.). It's been going pretty smoothly, except she's also teething, and I'm never quite sure if she's just being fussy or if she's hungry from the switch. A work in progress.

Last Saturday, Mark's mom bought her a cute little ride-on toy - a fire engine - that she absolutely loves! At first, she could only go backwards, but by the end of the day, she was flying all over the house on it. Here's an actual photo from our digital camera - the one built into our camcorder. I think the color on the batch of photos this time around is a little funky, but atleast you won't have to wait a month to see her newest feat.

I was hoping to do some more catching up, but there's a thunderstorm moving in and I can hear thunder now, so I better log off and shut down. More soon!
Vacation Photos
Don't ask me why I've waited so long to post these - I've had the pictures developed for weeks. I wish I could upload photos from work. It's hard to find the time to do it from home. Anyway, here are a few shots from our trip to Myrtle Beach.

Hayley on the beach, properly shaded under her umbrella.

A neighbor gave us the idea of taking a small baby pool to the beach and filling it with ocean water, to help keep baby cool without having to walk down to the water every 5 minutes. I thought this was a great idea, especially since we didn't know if Hayley would like the beach or the ocean water.

The three girls, dressed up to go out to dinner.

And since you haven't seen a picture of me yet, here I am holding Hayley. This was the night we went to the Dixie Stampede.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Ever since vacation, I feel like I've been jinxed. There was the trip itself and the petty annoyances that made it not such a great trip, followed by: me leaving my lunch at the babysitter's while I took Hayley's bottles to work my first day back after vacation; a rainy outdoor concert where we didn't get home until 2am; my car breaking down; and last night, our phone being dead and small, microscopic ants coming from the side of the oven. For some reason, we had no dial tone after work yesterday, even though I had a message on the machine when I first got home. When I called our number from the cell phone, all you would get is a busy signal. So I spent close to a half hour on the cell phone with the phone company, while trying to clean up the ants and feed Hayley her dinner, and then the phone company wanted me to go test the outside line to see if there was a dial tone there to determine if it was an inside or outside line problem.

Hopefully, things will be looking up soon. I'll get my car back tomorrow (no more Deathtrap) and when I called home after lunch today, the phone rang and the machine picked up, so hopefully that's all fixed. I need some good luck/good kharma to come my way.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Car Update
The garage called at 2:47pm. It was the starter and it will be fixed late tomorrow or early Wednesday. I can't wait to get my car back!
I can't believe how incredibly lame last night's "E! True Hollywood Story: The Real World" was. About 15 or 20 minutes into it, I realized they couldn't get permission to show any clips from any of the seasons and I thought, "Two hours of interviews of past cast members describing what happened instead of actually seeing it?" No thanks! How boring! Not even worth doing if you can't use clips from the show. It was only briefly interesting to see what some of the earlier cast members looked like now.

Otherwise, my weekend was very enjoyable, especially with the fantastic weather we had here - high 80s and no humidity. I spent Saturday night as a long overdue and much deserved Girls Night Out. Nadine, Wendy and I ate pizza and played the 20th anniversary edition of "Trivial Pursuit," which ended in a draw when I had to leave to pick up Hayley from my parents' house. And, as I said sarcastically to Wendy, "what a bunch of girls we are" as we spent the evening flipping back and forth between NASCAR and pre-season NFL football.

I really needed a night out after the day I had on Friday. After I dropped Hayley off at daycare, I got into my car and it wouldn't start - completely dead. We tried to jump it, but nothing. I'm not even sure if it was the battery, since I still had lights and the radio. So I had to call AAA, the first time in all the years I've had a membership, and they towed it to a local garage. This was all happening while I was supposed to pick up a cake for work on my way in for a big ceremony we were having later in the morning, of course.

The garage said they couldn't look at my car until Monday morning, so I'm still waiting to hear something. If they haven't called by 3pm, I'm calling them. In the meantime, I'm driving my mother-in-law's 1983 Mustang convertible - otherwise known as the "Deathtrap" and very practical for driving around a small child. I shouldn't complain - I should just be grateful that I have a vehicle at all right now.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Okay, it's not perfect, but it's late, so I'll try to fix the aesthetics tomorrow. At least you can read the part about me, if you're so inclined.
Update about me!
I'm finally putting the rest of my expanded Blogger service to work and I think I added a new web page to this site - the ubiquitous "100 Things," which you can link to from this entry, or hopefully from the link on the side bar. Let's give it a try, shall we?

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Morning Report
I love reading the daily "Morning Report," which is issued every day by the National Park Service as a summary of various incidents that occur in our National Parks. Most of the entries are hum-drum petty crimes, while others are more serious. But what makes the report so interesting is the style of the editor and writer. He has such a deadpan delivery on incidents that I wonder if he sees the humor in them, even in serious situations. I get the feeling he takes his job very seriously. Here are a couple of examples just from this week:

Morning Report from August 19, 2003
Mammoth Cave National Park (KY)
Arrest for Child Sexual Abuse

On July 16th, rangers received information regarding a possible sexual abuse incident that had occurred in the park. Investigation revealed that Robert Felker of Cave City, Kentucky, had camped with a female companion and a 12 year-old child at Houchins Ferry campground in late May or early June. While staying there, Felker attempted to fondle the child and also tried to coerce him into having sex with his female companion. The child's parents became aware of the incident when they noticed the child making sexual advances toward a younger sibling. When asked about his behavior, the child – who suffers from severe ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) – told his parents that he had learned it on the camping trip. The female companion who was present was identified and corroborated the child's story. The case was presented to a grand jury, which returned a sealed indictment against Felker on August 6th. Law enforcement specialist Brad McDougal and ranger Miranda Cook arrested Felker in nearby Glasgow, Kentucky, the following day. At the time of his arrest, Felker was dressed in the cowboy costume he wore as part of his duties as a performer at a local theme park that caters to families with children. Ranger David Alexander is the case agent.
[Submitted by Wayne Elliott, Chief Ranger]

Morning Report from August 20, 2003
Voyageurs National Park (MN)
Conviction for Illegal PWC Operation

On August 8th, a federal magistrate found Kyle Glennie and Kalan Wagner guilty of illegally operating their personal water craft in the park and refusing the lawful order of a federal officer. The conviction stemmed from a lengthy international pursuit of the two jet skiers on the afternoon of July 15, 2002. Ranger Karl Spilde was contacted by interpretive rangers when two jet skis passed the park tour boat at the west end of the park. Spilde placed his marked patrol boat within a narrow passage ahead of the jet skis and attempted to stop Glennie and Wagner, who had three young adult female passengers with them. They disregarded Spilde’s orders and continued further into the park. Spilde continued his pursuit for about 30 miles and requested air support from the park aircraft. Due to the high speed of the PWC’s, the jet skiers were able to reach a remote island before Spilde, drop off their passengers, and return. They passed Spilde and twice pulled ashore at cabins within Canadian waters as the park aircraft, piloted by Tom Hablett, followed them. When they saw the plane, they returned to park waters and the pursuit resumed. Although the PWC’s were operated at speeds estimated to be in excess of 60 mph, the operators were nonetheless able to entertain Hablett with hand gestures as they raced along the water. The 80-mile pursuit ended when the operators pulled into a Canadian marina and moored there, preventing Spilde from contacting them. Canadian and U.S. customs officials were notified during the pursuit, but were unable to provide support. A subsequent plain clothes site visit by the chief ranger led to verification of the operators’ identities and jet ski registrations. They reentered U.S. waters late that evening and were greeted by a Border Patrol agent. Sentencing will be scheduled at a later date. The incident remains under investigation by Canadian customs officials.
[Submitted by Jim Hummel, Chief Ranger]

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Complaint Department
Here's the first of my complaint letters from vacation and, I think, the most serious.

Rocky Mount - Days Inn Golden East
ATTN: Manager
1340 N. Wesleyan Blvd.
Rocky Mount, NC 27804

Dear Manager:

On Thursday, August 7, 2003, my family and I stayed at your establishment with my 10-month old daughter. This was not a planned stay and we did not have our travel play yard with us, so we requested a crib for our room, which was offered as an amenity by your hotel.

The crib we received was in an unacceptable condition. The first thought that entered my mind was a report I had seen on Dateline, well before I even had a child, about the dangerous condition of many hotel cribs. As you can see from the enclosed photo, the crib we received was missing slats, creating a space large enough for an infant’s head to become lodged or stuck. The crib was also rickety and unstable, as it was missing one of its wheels. I tossed and turned all night, afraid that the crib would collapse during the night and injure my child.

If Days Inn is going to offer cribs as an amenity to its guests, I would expect that the crib provided would be in a safe, working condition. This one incident marred an otherwise pleasant stay at your hotel. Our rooms were clean, the price was reasonable and the children enjoyed the outdoor swimming pool. I have stayed at other Days Inn locations before, but this was the first time I needed a crib and I was very disappointed. I would appreciate a response to know how you plan to address this safety issue. For your information, I have enclosed a copy of the transcript from the Dateline report on hotel crib safety, as well as a checklist from the Consumer Product Safety Council regarding hotel and motel crib safety. I think if you use this checklist on the Gerry® brand crib we had in our room, you will find it does not meet these standards.

In addition to those copied on this letter below, I will also be posting a copy of this letter on my personal website to make family, friends and other readers aware of our experience. Thank you for your attention to this matter.


Andrea [Last Name]

CC: Joseph R. Kane, Jr.
President & CEO, Days Inn Worldwide
1 Sylvan Way
Parsippany, NJ 07054

Lea Thompson
Dateline NBC Correspondent
c/o NBC News
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10012

Nychelle Fleming
Children's Product Hazards Specialist
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Council
Washington, DC 20207-0001