Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Merry Christmas!

Happy Holidays everyone! I can't believe it's all over and done with after all the planning and doing. We had a wonderful weekend full of lots of family and presents. As usual, we spent Christmas Eve at M's mom's house. All of the children and grandchildren were in attendance, an unusual occurance with so many, so it was great for everyone to be together. H. received some cute little outfits from her Mimi and Aunt B, along with some baby doll equipment from Aunt Doody. The Walmart gift certificate from M's brother didn't last long - we spent it today on a the Shrek 2 DVD.

We got home from M's mom's around 10pm and M. and I honored one of the sacred rituals of parenthood - staying up until all hours assembling H's Christmas gifts. Her "big gift" this year was a kitchen set, which we've had for months, but never even opened the box. I thought it would be along the lines of a Little Tykes product - 4 or 5 big pieces to snap together with some stickers to slap on. Wrong! This kitchen set was in a million pieces. Every piece needed to be assembled - doors, handles, knobs, plus stickers. It took just over an hour to put it together, but it was well worth it. It's really cute and H. just loved it. My parents' came to watch H. open her presents and she performed for her audience. She was so excited when she first came downstairs, I don't think she knew where to start, so she just rolled around on the floor for a couple of minutes in sheer happiness, not unlike a puppy dog.

We didn't have to be at my aunt's house until 4pm on Christmas Day, so we just relaxed and played most of the afternoon. Dinner at my aunt's house pretty much met my (low) expectations - too crowded, too hectic and too smoky. We barely stayed two hours and I didn't even open any of my presents there.

Since my aunt had Christmas Day this year instead of my mom, we went to my parents' house on Sunday for an extended celebration. It was much more relaxed and you could watch everyone open their presents. My parents gave M. and me a portable DVD player for the car, which we had been wanting. (Another purchase at Walmart today was a carrying case for it.) H. loved all of her presents, but I think her two favorites were the Wiggles guitar from Aunt J. and Uncle T. and the Dora ViewMaster with reels from M. and me.

I still had off of work yesterday and today, so it's been very relaxing, in addition to trying to get the house back into some sort of order. I work Wednesday and Thursday, then have off again on Friday, so it will be a nice, short week. On Saturday, we'll be going to our annual get-together with W. and N. at W's house this year, which I'm really looking forward to.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

2004 Reading List

I may finish one or two more books before the end of the year (wishful thinking), but for now, I present for your perusal my 2004 Reading List. It was a banner year for me - I tried to make the most of my lunch hours! I think the list reflects quite a bit of variety, although I didn't do that well with my self-imposed reading list for catching up on missed classics or literature this year. However, I did read more non-fiction than I usually do. The upcoming year should bring some more new and different titles to the list, with the English classes I'm taking next semester. I'll link to some, but not all, of the books below and add some additional thoughts if needed. Enjoy!

Some observations, for those of you who might not know or wonder. Most of these books are from the library. I don't think I bought a single new book this year. As I've said previously, I heart and that's where I buy most of my books, anywhere from six months to a year after they are originally released. Of the 69 books below, 50 or so came from the library. If not from bookcloseouts, the others came from used book sales or were borrowed from friends.
  1. Bigfoot Dreams by Francine Prose (from my required reading list)
  2. Prejudicial Error by Bill Blum (legal thriller)
  3. The Gypsy Man by Robert Bausch (For reasons unbeknowst to me, I love reading books set in Appalachia. This book is a few years old, but I just discovered and thought it was very well done.)
  4. Blow Fly by Patricia Cornwell (Catching up on this series in early 2004, however, I don't think I'll read the 2004 installment, Trace. I think I've given up on this series.)
  5. The Sculptress by Minette Walters (This is the third book of hers that I've read. Everyone I know who reads her books never has anything bad or negative to say about them and I agree.)
  6. The Kills by Linda Fairstein (series)
  7. The Quality of Life Report by Meghan Daum
  8. Nowhere Else on Earth by Josephine Humphreys (excellent historical fiction – read my previous entry about this book)
  9. Jemima J by Jane Green (chick lit)
  10. Savage Run by C.J. Box (series)
  11. The Country of Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett (required reading list - I actually read this one online - thanks Project Gutenberg!)
  12. Swimming by Joanna Hershon
  13. Smoke Screen by Kyle Mills (standalone from the author of the Mark Beamon series)
  14. The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
  15. The Perfect Elizabeth by Libby Schmais
  16. The Big Bad Wolf by James Patterson (Yeah, I know, these are so easy to read they're practically freebies for the year. I know some people can't stand his books, but I haven't grown tired of the yet.)
  17. Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani
  18. Big Cherry Holler by Adriana Trigiani (I fell in love with this trilogy this year, as written about in a previous entry. I was able to purchase all three paperbacks from bookcloseouts and would take them to a deserted island with me.)
  19. Elegance by Kathleen Tessaro (Probably falls into the chick lit category, but very well written and a very original premise.)
  20. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Kidd Monk (Even though this has been on the bestseller list forever, I read it based on a recommendation from Eliza. It was moving and touching and I can see why Eliza's loved it at this time in her life, much like the Big Stone Gap trilogy appealed to me.)
  21. Islands by Anne Rivers Siddons – (She is one of my favorite authors, because I'm a sucker for good Southern fiction. I had to wait four years for this book and I liked it, but the ending too much like “Outer Banks,” the original books that started me on ARS.)
  22. High Country by Nevada Barr (series)
  23. Milk Glass Moon by Adriana Trigiani
  24. Bleachers by John Grisham
  25. 3rd Degree by James Patterson and Andrew Gross
  26. Mystic River by Dennis Lehane (I wanted to read this before I saw the movie and I did. I'm not sure why some people didn't care for it. I thought it was excellent overall. I'm so glad Lehane isn't one of those authors who feels the need to explain every term or abbreviation like some authors do. For example, there was a reference to the local K. of C. and I'm sure some editor out there wanted him to tell the audience it stood for Knights of Columbus, but he stuck to his guns. It was refreshing not to be talked down to as a reader.)
  27. Forty Words for Sorrow by Giles Blunt (First in series. I didn't get to the second one yet, but I will. Lots of plot twists and the writing was so detailed, I could easily visualize this book as a movie.)
  28. Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen (Required reading list. This is the first one of her books I have ever read and I've been missing out. Hopefully I get to some of the others in 2005.)
  29. In the Forest of Harm by Sallie Bissell (This was the first in series and I went on to read the other two, even though they weren't that good. The story lines were predictable, but I liked the main character and wanted to find out what happened to her.)
  30. Flashover by Suzanne Chazin (This was the second book in the series. It had been awhile since I read the first one (2002), but there was a major overuse of similes and metaphors that I found annoying: "The pain was excruciating, tearing into her flesh like a pack of wild dogs. It [the fire] banked lower and lower, like a murderer working his way down a flight of stairs. Then, one by one, the bottles of perfume on her dresser began to shatter as if they were being picked off in a shooting gallery. The heat was on top of her now, sizzling like hot butter across the surface of the mattress. And then she heard it – a popping like gunfire, then cracks like footsteps on a frozen lake." All of these are from just one page in the beginning of the book!)
  31. Shiny Water by Anna Salter
  32. A Darker Justice by Sallie Bissell
  33. Call the Devil by His Oldest Name by Sallie Bissell
  34. No Second Chance by Harlan Coben
  35. Property by Valerie Martin (historical fiction)
  36. Third Person Singular by K.J. Erickson
  37. Live Bait by P.J. Tracy
  38. Between Sisters by Kristin Hannah
  39. Diary of a Mad Bride by Laura Wolf (I breezed through this one in a couple of hours in the car on the drive home from vacation)
  40. The Saving Graces by Patricia Gaffney (I waited a long time to read this one and thought it would be great, but I found it kind of dull. The language was rather dated for a book taking place in the late 1990’s, such as the use of the word “straight” as an adjective to describe a variety of things.)
  41. The Last Juror by John Grisham
  42. Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella (first in series)
  43. Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane (The twist at the end really threw me. I think I need to read this one again.)
  44. The Little Women by Katharine Weber (A very unique book, but I thought the ending was rushed.)
  45. Murder on Ice by Alina Adams (Reinforced that cozies are not for me.)
  46. Isle of Palms by Dorothea Benton Frank (There's that good ole Southern women's fiction again.)
  47. Just One Look by Harlan Coben
  48. Bloodstream by Tess Gerritsen
  49. Carrie Pilby by Caren Lissner (If you're not reading Caren's blog, you should be. She has a wonderful sense of humor.)
  50. Journal of the Dead by Jason Kersten (non-fiction/true crime)
  51. Winter Range by Claire Davis
  52. Liars and Saints by Maile Meloy
  53. The Shape of Snakes by Minette Walters
  54. Unlucky in Law by Perri O’Shaughnessy (series)
  55. The Vanished Man by Jeffrey Deaver (series)
  56. America (The Book) by Jon Stewart, et al.
  57. An Open Book by Michael Dirda (non-fiction)
  58. Little Earthquakes by Jennifer Weiner
  59. Killing the Shadows by Val McDermid (I'm more amazed every time I read one of her books. They are fabulous!)
  60. Monday Mourning by Kathy Reichs (series)
  61. Shopaholic Takes Manhattan by Sophie Kinsella
  62. Open and Shut by David Rosenfelt
  63. Killer Smile by Lisa Scottoline (series)
  64. Bookends by Jane Green
  65. Fireplay by Suzanne Chazin (For the record, she must have gotten a new editor for the third installment in the series. I didn't notice the crazy overuse of descriptive language per #30)
  66. Dead North by Sue Henry (series)
  67. Bad Girl by Michele Jaffe
  68. Thirty Nothing by Lisa Jewell
  69. Darkness Falls by Margaret Murphy

Monday, December 20, 2004

Stressed Out

Holiday craziness has set in and things have been super-busy. I'm not just saying that, I really have been busy. I've been so busy I haven't even finished a book in over a week!

The work trip to NYC was good, other than the lousy, rainy weather. I went to the Ground Zero site, only three or four blocks from the hotel, and the South Street Seaport, which was too much like Harborplace for me to be excited about it. After the seminar was over, I actually took the subway back to Penn Station instead of a taxi, which I figured was a better choice at 4pm on a rainy Friday afternoon.

Saturday (Dec. 11) was the children's Christmas Party that my work hosts every year. I took H. and my two nieces, as I did last year. They had a great time and really like the presents they received. Big K. got Pictionary Jr. and wanted to play it right away. When we got back to my parents' house, we played two rounds and had a blast. We were laughing so hard, our sides hurt. It was most fun when K&K were drawing.

Saturday night I got the lights on the tree while half watching that awful, cheesy Dale Earnhardt movie on ESPN. (M. kept saying, "Are you sure that's not Jeff Foxworthy playing Dale Earnhardt?" It was really his hair that bothered me the most.) We had originally planned to go out to dinner for our anniversary, just to the new Ruby Tuesday's, but H. fell asleep in the car on the way back from my parents' house and slept the whole night through. So I made crab cakes instead, one of Mark's favorite dinners. H. and I spent most of Sunday decorating the tree and it looked wonderful. However, around 12:30am that night, M. and I heard a terrible crash from downstairs. That's right, the tree fell over in the middle of the night, landing right on the coffee table. My worst nightmare! We got it upright, but I didn't really have time to survey the damage. I was completely stressed out on Monday because I was fighting off a cold, we had to go to that concert that night for work and the babysitter was coming as soon as I got home, with a living room full of broken glass. So I went home at lunch to try and clean up as much as possible. Somehow, there were only about four or five broken ornaments, none of which were especially meaningful to me, so I think I dealt with the whole situation pretty well. I finally got the tree back together Tuesday night, even though it doesn't look as good as it did.

The tree, before it fell over

The busy week continued, with deadlines at work since my boss is now out until after the first of the year, along with our department holiday lunch. Friday night we went to a dessert party hosted by N. and her friend, which was very fun and much more than just dessert. Mimi watched H., which she was so excited about. H. likes visiting her Mimi and playing with the Pekingnese dogs, plus they all got to watch Rudolph together.

Saturday consisted of finishing up the wrapping presents and napping, in between football games. And oh yeah, all the lights on the tree stopped working. I think we blew a fuse, since H. kept turning the lights on and off. Luckily, it was the fuse in the first strand of lights, so it was easily solved. I swear, I don't think the tree liked being in the living room this year and is rebelling. We'll have to move it back to the family room next year.

On Sunday we did some early shopping at Walmart and Target. I finally found a new teapot. You wouldn't think that would be such a hard item to find, but the selection at Walmart was terrible, so it was Target to the rescue. Now I only have a few gift cards left to buy and my shopping will be complete, hopefully with a few days left to spare. And, let's hope that the tree will hang on until atleast Saturday morning!

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


Last night, my boss took everyone in our department, with spouses, to a musical performance at the local theater. I wasn't sure what to expect, and no one was really looking forward to an event on a Monday night in the middle of the holiday rush, but I was pleasantly surprised.

The performance we saw was by a group called Barrage, and if you ever get a chance to see them, I would highly recommend it. It's hard to explain what kind of music they play. There are six or seven fiddle players, along with percussion and guitars, but it's not bluegrass or country music. They played songs by Simon & Garfunkel, Guns N Roses and the Beatles, all in their own style. It was a high energy show, incorporating singing, choreography and humor. Not a lot of fancy set or wardrobe changes, so you get a lot of music for your buck. Plus who's not up for a little rhythmic clapping every now and then?

Monday, December 13, 2004

Dream Come True

Those of you who know me well know that this is totally me. Where can I find out about opening a franchise? I could start decorating it with my collection of cereal memorabilia that's currently on display in my kitchen. [Thanks to Old Hag for the link.]

The cafeteria at my college was known for the above-average quality of its menu, but there were also about 20 bins lined up along one wall with every kind of cereal you could imagine. We thought nothing of topping off a full dinner with a bowl of cereal before heading back to the dorm. And even before H. came along, my kitchen cabinets were filled with Frosted Flakes, Lucky Charms and Honey Smacks. My only nod to more healthy cereals is Cracklin' Oat Bran, which is yummy without milk as a snack.

And while we're strolling down memory lane, read this great entry from Caren about taping songs off the radio with a hand-held tape recorder, before moving up to the much-cherished stereo with a dual-cassette player. Sadly, my love of music has changed much the way Caren's has and I can't remember making a mix tape after graduating from college. And like her, I really need to sit down and investigate iTunes and start downloading some music. I have no excuse now that I have the cable internet connection.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Random Thoughts Before I Take Off for a Few Days

Is anyone else envisioning an all-Pennsylvania Super Bowl?

I’m a big catalog shopper and love taking advantage of free shipping offers. But when did they get so outrageous? $50 used to be the standard, which was doable, but now the minimum seems to be $60 or $75! You’d have to buy 4 large housewarmer candles at Yankee Candle just to take advantage of that “deal.”

With 3 holidays, 2 vacation days and a two-day seminar, I’m only in the office for 16 days in December. And my boss will be out of the office for 5 of those. Plus there will be the requisite holiday lunches and parties, too.

I haven’t received any Christmas cards yet! Where are the early birds? I’m picking mine up at lunch today and hope to address them while I’m on the train to NYC, so expect to see yours soon.

This sounds like the same philosophy used many moons ago by Macy’s, a la Miracle on 34th Street.

Christmas anxiety is rearing its ugly head. Being gone for two nights (almost three) in the middle of the week two weeks before Christmas is not helping. I'll be sitting in a seminar for the next two days, thinking about all the things I need to do (finish shopping, finish wrapping decorate the tree, bake cookies). Plus, M. is watching H. the entire time I'm gone, a first. I know he'll do a great job, but it won't keep me from wondering if she's only going to eat cookies and fruities for dinner every night.

This will be the longest I've been away from her. M. and I went away for a two-night weekend in May of 2003, otherwise, we've only been apart from her for one night here and there. I guess it's time to start branching out more!

Monday, November 29, 2004

You Know It's Time to Lose Weight When:

A. At Thanksgiving, your sister tells you she thought you were pregnant and just not telling everyone yet.

B. All the size XL sweatpants you bought at Old Navy are too tight.

Feel free to add to the list in the comments.
Holiday Weekend

I'm back at work, listening to Christmas music on the radio. The local lite station has already made the switch to Christmas songs 'round the clock. We'll see how long I last before I have to change the channel.

Thanksgiving was wonderful, as usual, other than the extremely windy conditions. Always a great holiday and less stressful than Christmas. Dinner at my parents' house with the traditional trimmings - turkey, dressing (or filling, as they say here in PA), mashed potatoes, peas, marshmallow salad (or ambrosia, if you prefer, sans JELL-O), pumpkin pie and pumpkin roll, and of course, birthday cake for my sister, J., whose birthday was Friday. My parents also celebrated their 38th wedding anniversary, which already has me stressing about what we should do for their 40th. I'm thinking a big family vacation (Disney?) instead of a party, but I haven't run it by anyone else yet. Any ideas?

I had one Black Friday experience, which was a trip to Michaels for refill pages for my scrapbook, along with some other odds and ends. (I rarely go shopping on Black Friday - I prefer the day after Christmas more than the day after Thanksgiving. I'd rather sit at home and watch all the holiday decorating shows on HGTV.) This was around 4pm and I had H. with me. There was a long line to check out - only 4 registers open with two lines, each feeding into two registers. They lines were moving very slowly, but I didn't hear any rumblings from the front, so thought it was just the usual. But then, I get to the front of the line and the checkout girl tells me, "You know our registers are down, right?" No, I didn't know that. "Well, they've been down for about 45 minutes. We can bag up all your stuff, then if you can wait, we'll ring it up when the registers are back online." Ah, technology! Absolutely no back-up system in place for handling this kind of problem on the busiest shopping day of the year. While I was trying to get more information from the girl, by some miracle in the heavens, the registers came back up and I was able to check out. The machine still wouldn't take my credit card, so after waiting 5 minutes for the transaction to time out, I ended up writing a check.

Life was back to normal on Saturday - grocery shopping and laundry. H. took a three-hour nap after having very short naps on both Thursday and Friday, then the three of us went to the Festival of Trees at the Timonium Fairgrounds. It wasn't very crowded and not quite what I thought it would be. The trees were interspersed throughout the building, competing with craft vendors, food and the silent auction. The floor plan could have been better to make it easier to see the trees, but it was entertaining for a couple of hours and there was a carousel to ride, which H. enjoyed.

On Sunday, I launched into cleaning and holiday decorating. I scrubbed the kitchen floor, which it needed desperately, then started putting away all the everyday knicknacks to make way for the Christmas decorations. The living room looks so bare, but shiny, waiting for me to carry boxes up from the basement. I did finish decorating the china closet, putting out my holiday china and matching accessories, plus sticking the wreath on the front door, which is the easiest thing to do first. I'll keep doing a little bit each night this week, but I didn't want to put anything out on the tables in the living room until we bring in the tree, which we'll probably go get this Saturday. We're going to try putting the tree in the living room this year instead of the family room, since H. has completely taken over that room, plus there's more furniture than there used to be in the family room (last year's entertainment center Christmas gift) with no place to move it to to clear a spot for the tree. We'll give it a try and if we don't like it, we can always switch back next year.

The next few weeks are going to be very busy, well into January - tree and decorating this weekend, a short trip to NYC for work, the Children's Holiday Party at work, shopping and wrapping, baking, etc., but I've got a plan and I'm looking forward to it all!

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Has He Ever Actually Talked to a Student?

What does the comment below say about MSU Assistant Vice President Chuck Gagliano's opinion of the intelligence of the average Michigan State student? If I were a student, I would be insulted.

Gagliano said he has not noticed Michigan State students eating more
protein and fewer carbohydrates. "I'm not even sure they know what carbohydrates are," he said.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Welcome to the 21st Century!

I'm updating from home, via my cable modem! First a Starbucks in town, now this! Everything loads so fast, it's like being at work. I should be able to update with pictures more, since I could never add photos from work. Case in point, I've updated the Halloween entry with some photos, although the actual costume pictures are still on the roll. More to come...

Monday, November 08, 2004


I'm being punished for taking a two-hour nap yesterday, although I don't know why. With the time change last weekend, H. woke up at 5:30am most mornings last week, instead of the usual 6:30am, including a 5:30am wake-up call Sunday morning. So while she was taking her nap yesterday, I took one, too, from about 2pm-4pm. I woke up from that terrific nap with a headache, which seemed to be gone by dinner.

I usually have some trouble falling asleep on Sunday nights, so I stayed up and watched all of the Ravens game (which was worth watching to the end), then went to bed around 11:30am. Well, 1:30am rolled around and I was still wide awake, and the headache had returned. So I got up and took some Excedrin, then lay down on the couch for about an hour, reading. I went back to bed at 2:30am, but still didn't fall asleep until well after 3am!

So I'm paying for my two-hour nap with minus six hours of sleep. I'm looking forward to the dull headache, sandpaper eyes and achy neck I'll be experiencing all day, not to mention the malaise that should set in after lunch. Happy Monday!

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Halloween and Such

Sunday was a terrific day all around. The weather was so beautiful, a perfect fall day. M., H. and I spent the morning outside, jumping in the leaves that M. blew into a big pile, then walking up and down our street collecting different colored leaves.

H. didn't want to come inside. I think I took almost a whole roll of pictures of her playing and she hadn't even put her costume on yet! We had carved our pumpkin the night before (while watching To Kill a Mockingbird), but H. didn't really know what to make of it. She stuck her hand in the pulp once and that was enough for her. After we finished and the pumpkin was lit, she kept trying to blow out the candle and make a wish. "It's not your birthday!" I tried to explain to her.

After H's nap and the Ravens' game, we drove over to my parents' neighborhood for trick-or-treating with K&K. Wendy and Shane came too, with Meghan, and we had a great time. H. as Raggedy Ann stood out among our three princesses - Big K was a fairy princess, Little K was Belle and Meghan was Cinderella. I thought H. would be more excited to walk around this year, since she didn't even know how to walk last year, but I guess she's still a little too young. After the first couple of houses, she wanted to be carried. But she did go up to everyone and hold out her bag, saying "Trick or Treat" and "Thank you" some of the time. We were out for about an hour and that was plenty for everyone.

Pictures will follow eventually, as usual. The digital camera I've had my eye on has come down in price some and is tempting me., especially with 12 months free financing. I need to go to Circuit City this weekend to get some software for the computer before we get our cable modem installed next week (finally!), so we'll see if I'm able to resist it or not. It would certainly make updating this site easier and more timely!

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Atleast We Still Have Halloween

(I apologize in advance [and warn you] for a second throw-up related entry.)

Last night was H's last tumbling class of the eight-week session, so a Halloween party was planned. I picked H. up and the babysitter already had her in her Raggedy Ann costume. She looked so cute! So off we drove to tumbling and we were about halfway there when H. started to get really fussy and telling we she wanted to get out of her carseat. I thought she was just excited about the party, but about a minute later, without warning, BLAAA! She got sick in the car, all over her Halloween costume. We pulled off the road into a bank parking lot so I could check on her. Luckily, I had her regular clothes in her diaper bag, so I changed her out of her messy costume. Then I had to explain to her that we had to go home, we couldn't go to tumbling class and the party. She wasn't too upset - I think she wanted to go home, too. I took her temperature when we got there and no fever and she was fine for the rest of the evening. I think it was a combination of teething and a wet cough she's had for the last week or so. The combination of drool and phlegm (sorry to be so graphic, but that's kids) just upset her stomach by the end of the day yesterday. So I have no cute pictures from the Halloween party to share. You'll have to wait until after Sunday!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004


Not to bore you with too many baby stories, but H. is at that age where she's doing lots of cute, smart things and just getting so big! She's starting to have more of a long-term memory about certain things.

Last night, we were playing with her Dora MagnaDoodle and I noticed the triangle piece was missing. I asked her if she knew where it was and she said, "I'll get it." She went all the way upstairs and found it on the floor in the living room and brought it back down to me. "Triangle," she said as she handed it to me.

This morning, as we were getting ready, I mentioned that today was a tumbling class day. "Tumbling class," she said. "Gibberish, jump in castle, gibberish!" Last week at class, they had a small blow-up jumping castle for the kids and she remembered it from last week without any prompting.

Please feel free to comment about how smart she is!

Tuesday, October 19, 2004


Things I accomplished on Saturday:
  1. Finished reading America (The Book) ("Laugh out loud funny!" - Andrea)
  2. Took a two-hour nap
  3. Watched Walking Tall (It was Mark's turn to pick a video. After it was over, I compared it to a really bad episode of Walker, Texas Ranger.)

Notice that none of the above involved scrubbing, dusting or cleaning of any kind.

I was a little more productive on Sunday, but only in my creative efforts, not in regard to any sort of housekeeping. (There's a line from the Halloween episode of Bear in the Big Blue House [I told you it was my favorite episode] that I think I'll adopt as my own. Lois the telephone operator is hard of hearing and misinterprets everything. When everyone shouts Trick or Treat, she thinks they say Dirty Feet and says, "Oh, you don't have to worry about that. As you can see, I'm a very casual housekeeper." That describes me to a T!) Nadine and my mom and I all went to a Scrapbooking Flea Market in the morning. It featured a variety of vendors from the area, most offering significant discounts, and we were able to find quite a few good deals. I bought a bunch of stickers, including some Sesame Street stickers, and a bunch of paper that was only ten cents a sheet. That night, I completed two quick pages in Hayley's album - 4th of July and Halloween from 2003. I'm going to a workshop this Friday, so I hope to keep the momentum going.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Girls' Guide to Football - NOT!

I don't know why I even clicked on this link. How foolish I was to think it would be useful, instead of condescending and nauseating!

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Hayley's Animal Sounds

Dog - woof, woof
Cat - meee-ooow!
Cow - moo, moo
Snake - sssssssss
Monkey - ooo ooo, aaa aaa
Elephant - she makes a sort-of honking sound, but waves her arm around like a trunk, so you know it's an elephant
Duck - quack, quack
Chicken - bawk, bawk (She sounds just like the Cadbury bunny)
Frog - ribbit
Skunk - P.U. (and she holds her nose)
Lion - Rrrrrrr! (which also sounds the same as Tiger, Bear and Monster)

And my favorite...

Horse - Yee Haw! (I taught her to say this while riding her rocking horse, and now all horses are identified as Yee Haw! She also clucks her tongue so it sounds like the clopping of horse hooves.)

In addition to her repertoire of animal sounds, she can also identify many others - bat, squirrel, fish, turtle, bird, rabbit and more - thanks to this very cool Noah's Ark book from Aunt Na.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Big Update

Sorry for the delay in posting. I tried updating from home last week so I could post some pictures, but either my computer was acting up or Blogger wasn't cooperating, so I just gave up. So this entry will be sans photos, unless I can add some later tonight.

I feel like we haven't been doing very much, but looking back over the past two weeks, it has been fairly busy. We did the pumpkin patch thing this weekend, going early Saturday afternoon. H. had a ball, riding in the wheelbarrow and checking out all the pumpkins. She found a little tiny gourd pumpkin still out in the field and had to have it. "My pumpkin," she told us the rest of the day. She took a nap with her pumpkin and slept with it that night, too. The whole trip reminded me of last year, when she couldn't even walk yet and had to ride in the wheelbarrow. Halloween should be so much fun this year. We've been practicing "Trick or Treat" and of course, she can walk this year, so even better! The Disney Channel has already shown my favorite episode of "Bear in the Big Blue House," the Halloween episode, twice - once last week and again this morning.

We continued the fall festivities on Sunday, going to the Apple Harvest Festival, my favorite festival of the year. It was very crowded, but bearable, even though they ran out of pit beef just after we got there. My replacement grilled chicken sandwich was a disappointment. H. was an angel all day, mostly cooperating with staying in the stroller. My dad took her to play in the petting zoo and other children's activities for a little while, so my mom and I could shop. I didn't buy that much, just a few little Halloween items.

I slept terribly last night and I was exhausted after walking around all day. I fell asleep just before 10 (I didn't see very much of the Battle of the Beltways), but M. kept waking me up to tell me I was snoring. The nerve!! Then, H. was up at 3:30am, coughing. She was up for about 40 minutes or so, until she finally went back to sleep. I think she just had a dry throat from the festival, which was very dusty. She wasn't running a fever and still woke up at her normal time this morning. So I'm feeling that after-lunch tiredness.


The pictures I was trying to post last week were of my sister's new house. After just over a year of waiting and living in a rental unit, their new house was set on its foundation last Thursday, Sept. 30. My mom was there for the big delivery and said it came in 4 big pieces and that it was really cool to watch them put it together. It will take about another 4 weeks to hook up the electric, plumbing, etc., but what really matters is that the house is actually there! And it's huge! Their old house was just a small rancher, but this one is two stories, with three bedrooms, a sunken jacuzzi tub in the master bath and lots of windows and French doors looking out over the water. It's really a three-story house, because the new foundation is 12-feet high, then the house sits on top of that. They still have a lot to do - painting, installing the floors, etc., before they can move in, but after months of inactivity, things are finally progressing.


H. has reached that age where she's hooked on the same video for days or weeks at a time. About a month or so ago, it was all Nemo, all the time. By the time I had told my mom to buy her a stuffed Nemo for her birthday because she loved him, we had moved on to Lilo & Stitch (which is a very weird little movie. I had a hard time getting into it at first). Now it's The Little Mermaid, which we also have to listen to in the car all the time. (And I can't wait for Disney to release this one from "the vault" so I can get it on DVD. There are about 20 annoying minutes worth of previews and commercials at the beginning of this movie. I may get desperate and have to hit eBay.) I wish I could describe the way H. says Ariel. Let's just say I think I'm the only one who understands what she's talking about. It looks like this week will be Beauty and the Beast, which she wanted to take to the babysitter's this morning. I still have Sleeping Beauty, A Bug's Life and The Jungle Book on the shelf, waiting to be watched.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004


I updated the Birthday Party and Ocean City entries with pictures, if you care to take a look.

Sesame Street Live: Elmo's Coloring Book was fun on Saturday. H. really enjoyed it - clapping along and dancing at all the right parts. I think she had just as much fun looking at all the other little kids who were there. She got a little antsy during the last 15 minutes or so, which was fine. That just means she's not ready to go to the movies yet. But now I'll have to consider whether or not to take her to see Nemo on Ice.

Sunday was very relaxing, as I promised myself it would be. We went and finished our grocery shopping early in the morning, then while H. was taking her nap, I made homemade spaghetti sauce. The house smelled wonderful all day! I watched football and the Brady Bunch, and we spent some time outside, since it was such a beautiful day weather-wise. More than I can say for today. We're experiencing the remnants of Hurricane Jeanne and it's been pouring all day and it just started to get very windy.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Brady Bunch Marathon

At 2:36pm this afternoon, I e-mailed this link to Nadine. At 2:37pm, I received the very same e-mail link from Sheila. Yeah, I know, we're really big nerds, but we don't care.

So I'll be watching this most of the weekend instead of anything else I might have had planned.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Reading Update

I read three books since I last updated my "Currently Reading" link. Maybe I should list more than one book there along the lines of current and just finished, but I'm definitely a read-one-book-at-a-time kind of person.

Anyhoo, I read Bloodstream by Tess Gerritsen, a paperback I picked up at the used book sale this summer for 25 cents, mostly as filler in between trips to the library. It's classified as a "medical thriller," but I would categorize it more as horror. All I have to say is, don't read this book if you ever want to eat pork again.

Then I read Carrie Pilby by Caren Lissner, which has been on my to-be-read list every since I started reading her blog. It was a quirky, funny book that I really enjoyed, and more than worth the $1 I had to spend to get it via inter-library loan from another library branch. I'm already looking forward to reading Starting from Square Two.

Finally, I plowed through Journal of the Dead by Jason Kersten in one day. I started it during lunch at work, then stayed up until 11:30 that night to finish it, even though I knew most of the story. I can't remember the last book that made me stay up that late! Journal of the Dead is the true crime account of Raffi Kodikian (who is from Philadelphia) and David Coughlin, friends who got lost in the desert in Carlsbad Caverns National Park in 1999 and one of the friends ended up dead. It's not a black and white case of murder and Kersten fairly presents the facts from both sides of the story. [One note: There was an annoying error in the book that's tough to overlook when you're reading non-fiction because it makes you question what other facts might be incorrect. Kersten is comparing the hometowns of Coughlin and Kodikian - Boston to Philly - and compares the Charles River to the Potomac River. I'm assuming he meant to reference the Schuylkill River, since the Potomac runs through Maryland and DC, not Philly.]

Birthday Party Hangover

I'm still recovering from the birthday party on Sunday, or the house is any way. The weather cooperated and we were able to have the party outside in the yard, complete with a bouncing house.

It was a little windy, but at least the sun was out. All of the kids seemed to have a good time and the "Pin the Cookie on Cookie Monster" game went over pretty well.

The only bad part of the day was right before we were going to sing "Happy Birthday" and cut the cake. H. got stung by a bee right in the center of her thumb. It took us awhile to figure out what was wrong. I had never, ever heard her cry like that before. Her poor little thumb was swollen and red and hard as a rock. We held up the party for a half hour trying to get her calmed down, which wasn't helped by the fact that she hadn't had a nap that day. But she recovered enough for us to sing and open presents, of which she received a wonderfully varied assortment - clothes, toys, baby dolls, computer games, DVDs, etc. We have wonderful family and friends who are very generous! (H's thumb was much better the next morning, no longer swollen and just a little sore by the way she was bending it.)

So now I'm still trying to clean up the house. There are presents or boxes in every room and dishes that need to be put away. Our trash day is Fridays, so we've been stuck with party trash all week, including a big box that one of the presents came in that is still sitting in the middle of the living room. And I need to get started on thank you notes, too. We're picking up H's photos from Sears tomorrow night, so I'll be able to include those with the thank you notes, which is good timing. But I don't know when I'll have the time to start those since the rest of the week is booked solid. Tumbling class tonight, Sears tomorrow night, Fall Fest in Westminster Friday night and Sesame Street Live Saturday afternoon. My plan for Sunday is to lay in front of the television and watch football for nine or ten hours (and maybe write a few thank you notes).

Friday, September 17, 2004

Happy Birthday!

Happy 2nd Birthday to H! When she woke up this morning, she was already two, since she was born at 4:30am.

I forgot to mention that we went for her two-year check-up last Friday morning. She weighed 27 lbs., 13 oz., and measured 34 1/2 inches. I asked the doctor about how she seems so much taller than most of the other two-year olds we know, but she said her height, weight and head circumference were all plotting correctly on the growth chart and everything was normal. I guess we can blame me for her big bones.

The weather outlook for Sunday has improved as of this morning. Rain ending by mid-day on Saturday, with Sunday cool and sunny. Let's hope the forecast is correct!

Thursday, September 16, 2004

The O.C.

I figured I better post about last weekend, since the coming weekend is descending quickly. That's the only problem with going away for the weekend - you spend the rest of the week catching up on all the stuff you didn't get done around the house.

The girls weekend in Ocean City was terrific. We had a great time and the weather was fairly cooperative. We arrived late Friday, so we didn't get to do anything but get the kids into bed, but we squeezed in a lot of activities on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday, we went shopping at the outlets, where I got H. the cutest outfit to wear for her birthday party. Then we went swimming in the afternoon, even though it was somewhat overcast and the water was freezing! The evening included dinner (shrimp for me, since I never get to cook it anymore now that M. is allergic), then the boardwalk. Meghan and H. got on some rides and we walked around a little bit.

On Sunday, we went to the beach in the morning, which I always think is more work than it's worth. I know, I'm not a beach person. I wish I could be, because in theory, it sounds fun, but when your almost two-year old poops while she's wet and covered with sand and you only brought a diaper (no wipes), it's just not that fun. (I stripped H. down and rinsed her off in the ocean as my solution.)

But the girls enjoyed playing in the sand and got to use the new sand toys I bought them. We left around 1:30 in the afternoon, so it was a wonderful but short trip. W.'s condo is awesome and it's in a great location; we're already planning another girls only trip (without the kids this time). I only hope W. and I didn't scare Na off from ever having kids. Spending the whole weekend with a three-and-a-half-year old and an almost two-year old can be a lot to take.

So I've spent the rest of the week catching up - laundry, going to the grocery store, plus party preparations for Sunday. I'm not holding out much hope for the weather. I'm sure the remnants of Ivan will be here by Sunday and I'll be stuck with 15 kids inside the house with only one measly game of "Pin the Cookie on Cookie Monster" to keep them occupied. Atleast I shouldn't have any trouble sticking to my "three-hours max" rule for kiddie parties.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Photo Session

Okay, I couldn't link to the online photos from Sears (you could only send out a mass e-mail for access), so here are two from the photo session. I know, too cute for words. I'll let you come up with your own.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

I'm a Woman and I Read Crime Fiction (plus, a mini-book review)

I've had this entry rumbling around in my head for a few days, then I read Sarah Weinman's post about gender and crime fiction and decided to expand, so please bear with me.

A few books ago, I finished Murder on Ice by Alina Adams, after finding out about her when she guest blogged on Sarah's site. Reading this mystery made me remember why I prefer thrillers (legal, medical, psychological, etc.), police procedurals and even P.I. novels to mysteries that feature "amateur sleuths." The whole premise of an amateur sleuth who is forced into an improbable mystery-solving scenario during the course of their day job is annoying to me. In the case of Murder on Ice, TV researcher Bex is asked by her producer boss to find out who killed a figure skating judge involved in a scoring scandal. And of course, she does. But this just isn't realistic enough for me. There were so many problems with this scenario, I don't even know where to begin (the police were convinced the murder was really an accident, etc.). On top of that, the plot of the book just wasn't very well written. On atleast three separate occasions, the main character Bex paused to reflect on the "clues" by doing the following:
  • Chapter 5, p. 89 - "So. It was time to review."
  • Chapter 5 (still), p. 94 - "Again, it was time for Bex to summarize what she knew." Did that much really happen in five pages?
  • Chapter 11 - "It was time to review."

If the plot is so convoluted (and it wasn't, just lame) that the character needs to actually state that she needs to review everything, than maybe it's time to go back to the drawing board.

Also, this probably would have been a much better book if it had been written in the first person instead of the third. There were lots of conversations taking place inside the main character's head that would have come across better in her own words. But, I'll just chalk this up to a reminder that I don't like cozy or amateur sleuth mysteries and will try not to get sucked into another one again.

All that being said, let's get back to Sarah's thoughts on gender and crime fiction. Most women probably do read cozy and amateur sleuth mysteries more so than other types of crime fiction and may be more drawn to female writers than male writers. Regarding Murder on Ice, there are probably very few men who would be interested in a murder mystery about women's figure skating. I, myself, am often more drawn to female authors such as Nevada Barr, Barbara Parker, Dana Stabenow, Patricia Cornwell, Linda Fairstein, Margaret Maron, Minette Walters, Lisa Scottoline, Kathy Reichs, Val McDermid and others. But I also love James Lee Burke, Harlan Coben, C.J. Box, Richard North Patterson, James Patterson and John Grisham. Take Dana Stabenow for instance. She writes two series, one with a female main character and one with a male. I like them both. I love the dark side of James Lee Burke's books and the fact that Dave Robicheaux is a flawed hero.

But I think the key thing about why I choose to read these types of books is that most of them are much more believable and therefore, more real, to me. It's much more plausible that a police or other type of law enforcement officer (obviously), private detective, lawyer or medical examiner would be involved in solving a crime/murder than a chef who comes across dead bodies every time she leaves her house. Since these seem more real to me, the drama and the character development offer something more as well. I think that's why I also prefer series, which most of the above are, because the characters grow and develop over time and the reader gets to know them. But I'll save my thoughts on all the different series I read for another day!

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Holiday Weekend

A fairly quiet holiday weekend (the calm before the storm of being away this coming weekend, followed by H's birthday party on the 19th). M. raced on both Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, H. and I just hung out together, cleaning and going shopping. While H. napped Saturday afternoon, I relaxed in the hammock, reading my book in the comfortable, breezy weather (insted of cleaning the bathroom). And I did something I swore I would never do - I got H's hair cut at Walmart. Atleast I didn't get my hair cut there! And I was desperate, since my hair salon was closed on Saturday and I wanted to get her two-year picture taken this weekend.

On Sunday, we went to my sister's marina for swimming and a cookout. The pool water was freezing, of course, since the evenings have been so cool lately, but still fun. It's amazing to see how much H's swimming has improved since the beginning of the summer. She really moves her arms and legs and hardly tips over anymore. She'll have an opportunity to practice some more this weekend when we go to Ocean City with the girls.

The only bad part of the day on Sunday was an accident that occurred out on the water. An older man who was sailing with two other people was hit in the head by his sailboat boom, knocked unconscious, then fell in the water and drowned. There was a little bit of news coverage about it Sunday evening, just one of several Labor Day weekend boating accidents in Maryland.

And on Monday, we did go to Sears and have her two-year portrait taken. It takes 48 hours for the proofs to be posted on the Sears website, so check back late Wednesday or Thursday for the link to see her in all her adorableness.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004


Here are some links I've been hording, if you're interested.

A few about the Grand Canyon, one of my most favorite places, which is why this first story was completely annoying. Here's a link to an article by a guy who was thoroughly unimpressed by the Grand Canyon. He must have a heart and mind made of stone. Luckily, there were others besides me who disagreed with him. (Need a password for the LA Times? Try idahogolfer and mustang or go to BugMeNot, a wonderful resource!) Also from the LA Times, a sad story about being unprepared and not knowing your limits. Definitely worth reading! And finally, sad in another way, an article about how all of the new plans for the Grand Canyon, after the opening of the new visitor's center, have been backburnered, mostly due to lack of funding.

In the late 1990s, after years of debate, the feds agreed on a long-term plan: have people park farther from the rim and build a light-rail system to bring them in, at a cost of something like $170 million. Meanwhile, the Park Service and the foundation would together raise money and build a $31-million "greenway" — more than 70 miles of trails on the South and North rims for walkers, bicyclists, wheelchair users and a few bits for equestrians.

But then, in 2000, came the big detour. Look, said Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Appropriations Interior Subcommittee, this is too bold and costly for a park whose visitor figures have gone nearly flat. So, just a few days after Alston arrived as superintendent, Regula's subcommittee gathered at the park and pulled the plug on the light-rail plan.

The bit about visitors is true; from 1994 to 1999, visitor numbers climbed less than 1% per year, and the numbers have since slumped further. But let me tell you, outdoorists, it's a uniquely educational moment to stand amid these fumes and idling engines and consider that, by the reckoning of Congress, this place and its parking lots just aren't crowded enough.

Oh, the irony, when every news story about the national parks for the last five years has been about overcrowding. The Grand Canyon was the 10th most visited National Park Service Unit and the 2nd most visited National Park overall in 2003.

Finally, one more National Park article. I didn't read this article until Monday morning, but the first thing that immediately came to mind was Dick Cheney's speech and political rally at Ellis Island on Sunday. Last time I checked, Ellis Island is still a unit of the Park Service and therefore a federal facility. Once again, the Bush administration is living by its own set of rules.

Busy, Busy, Busy

Work has actually been very busy lately, which is cutting into my time to update! And there's hardly any time at home to update. So here's a quick review of our weekend:
  • My mom spent the night on Thursday, then she and H. and I went to Philadelphia on Friday to visit family, with cousins who are the same age as H. We hadn't seen them all in over a year, so it was great to see how much everyone had grown and changed. All the kids played really well together and we had a good visit.
  • On Saturday, we were supposed to go to a wedding for M's niece. We drove over an hour for a wedding that was supposed to start at 2pm. (Are you catching on to use of the word supposed?) We arrived at the church at about 1:45 and the parking lot was completely empty. I didn't think too much of it because M's family is usually late for everything, so we waited a few more minutes. Still, no one else had showed up, so we got out of the car and went into the church. It was completely empty, too. We tried calling M's brother's house, but there was no answer, so then we tried his mom. She answered the phone, much to my surprise, and I asked her, "Aren't you on your way to the wedding yet?" Her answer was, "No, it doesn't start until 4pm." Well, the invitation I'm holding in my hand says 2pm. Apparently, M's niece had called her about a week ago and said they were changing the time from 2pm to 4pm. Well, no one ever called us! M. talks to his brother just about every day and had talked to him that morning. Not that it was his responsibility to tell us the time had changed. That would be the bride's. So we left and stopped by my parents' house, since we were nearby. M. was so pissed. He didn't want to go to the wedding in the first place and now we had wasted our entire afternoon. We could have waited at my parents for an hour and a half, then gone back to the church, but M. was so mad that no one had bothered to call us that he refused to go back. I was in complete agreement. So we drove back home and that was that. He talked to both his mom and his brother the next day and the wedding was fine, but we have yet to receive a phone call from the bride with an apology, which I think we're owed. We'll probably never get it, but I just might hold on to my gift until we do.
  • More driving on Sunday to a baby shower in Reading. M. watched H. so it didn't feel like she was in the car the whole weekend, taking her swimming at his mom's instead.

Then it was back to work on Monday. I feel like I didn't even have a weekend. I'm looking forward to the long holiday weekend already. H. and I start our "Mom and Me" tumbling class tonight, which will be for the next eight Wednesdays. No, I won't be doing any tumbling, but in this class, the parents are out on the floor with the kids to try and keep them focused, then, when she eventually moves to the 2 1/2 year old class, she'll be out there on her own.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Close Call

H., M. and I went down to M's mom's to go swimming yesterday afternoon. It was warm in the sun, even if the water was a bit chilly, and H. had been talking about "the pool" all weekend, so we didn't want to disappoint her. About five minutes before we left, H. injured herself on the dining room table. It was scary for a little while because Mark's mom has a rectangular, glass-topped dining room table that is right at H's eye level. And of course, she hit the table right in the corner of her left eye. She has a teeny, tiny cut in the very corner of her eye, but we're extremely lucky she didn't injure her eye. (It makes me cringe just thinking about it.) She fell asleep on the way home and stayed asleep for awhile once we got there, but when she woke up, she said, "Uh-oh, boo-boo," and pointed to her eye. It was a little bruised and puffy, but her eye was white and clear, which was a big relief. I was ready to take her to the emergency room just to be on the safe side, but she didn't seem to have any trouble with her vision and she wasn't upset or cranky or anything, so M. talked me out of it. She seemed fine this morning and was happy to show her boo-boo to the babysitter when I dropped her off. Whew, a close call!

Thursday, August 19, 2004


I turned the TV off last night after Paul Hamm fell on his vault attempt and was in 12th place. How surprised was I this morning to learn that he had won the gold? Very! It's a shame NBC feels it's necessary to show the completion of a premier event like this after 11:00pm. This was a true Olympic moment and I wonder how many Americans actually saw it live (or NBC's definition of "live"). I almost gave up before 11pm, when they switched over to swimming and the promo in the corner said 'More Men's Gymnastics in 16 minutes.' I didn't know if I would make it the 16 minutes, but the women's relay was exciting enough to keep me awake. But I can't keep staying up until 11:30pm every night. It's starting to catch up with me.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004


I stayed up until 11:30pm last night to watch the Men's Gymnastics team finals, which was a little bit of a nailbiter. I think the US team should be proud to take home the silver medal. I fell asleep right away, but then H. woke up at 2:30am and would not go back to sleep. After several attempts to get her to settle down, I finally brought her into bed with us and turned on the TV for a little while. Lo and behold, NBC was re-airing the Men's Gymnastics final. I didn't need to stay up at all earlier! I could have gone to bed at 9pm and watched the finals with H. in the middle of the night. If only there was some way to predict when she is going to have these bad nights!

I never did figure out why she was up and she didn't go back to sleep until 4am. She wasn't warm and wasn't particularly fussy, just wide awake. She might (still) be teething or maybe she just has Olympic fever. I should have nice dark circles under my eyes by the time the Olympics are over.

PS - If you like Sarah Weinman's style, check out her Olympics blog.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Country Music Chat

I just discovered that the Nashville correspondent for USA Today, Brian Mansfield, is conducting online chats on country music. I don't know if this was the first one or not (I find USA Today's chat archives hard to navigate), but I'll definitely be checking in for more.

On Lonestar's CD I'm Already There:
"The album and the single did extremely well. The industry might have perceived it to be a little too similar in nature to 'Amazed' (which won a ton of awards) to give the awards to the band again. I've liked some of those ballads, too, but they pretty much turned into country's REO Speedwagon after they got rid of John Rich (now of Big & Rich)."

Other topics touched on during the chat that are always swirling around in my head: lack of variety on today's country music stations, female country artists earning airplay and raves for one of my faves, Joe Nichols.

(Okay, I just found an archived chat from June 15 that I'll have to go back and read. Maybe it's only once a month for country.)

Monday, August 09, 2004

Andrea's Etiquette

Rule #1

Children's birthday parties should not last longer than three hours. If guests wish to stay longer than three hours, wonderful, but the main events of food, cake and presents should be accomplished within the three-hour timeframe.

We attended a family birthday party on Saturday for a five-year-old. The invitation said the party started at 4pm, so we arrived at 4pm. Chips and pretzels (no dip), pita bread with hummus and a (one) hot hor d'oerve were served. Coke, Diet Coke, water, wine and beer were available (no caffeine-free sodas except for diet). And that was all that was served until dinner was finally served at 7:30pm. 7:30pm!! We were all ready to chew off an arm at this point. And sadly, it became a case of eat and run. As soon as we finished eating, I changed H. into her pajamas and we left. We had driven almost two hours to get to this party (and most of the other guests had driven about an hour), so we had a long drive home. We didn't stay for cake and we didn't get to see the birthday boy open his presents.

There are many things wrong with this scenario. (1) I had to entertain H. for three and a half hours at someone else's house. And H. was not the only toddler or child at the party. There were six or seven others there as well, with no organized games or activities. (2) The party was for a five-year-old, not an adult. What time does he go to bed? It wasn't going to be any time soon, after chowing down on chocolate cake at 9pm. (3) People who bring a gift to a party deserve to see it opened by the receiver. There's no rule that says presents have to be opened after cake. He could have opened his presents while we were waiting for four whole chickens to slow cook on the grill.

This party will now officially be known as The Worst Birthday Party Ever.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Good Luck, Continued...

One of my DVD wishes from my wish list has come true - American Dreams will be out on DVD on September 7. And although it wasn't on my original list (and it should have been) - the first season of 21 Jump St. will be released on October 26. Yeah!
Natalie's Good Luck Must Be Rubbing Off...

Because I actually won something in a contest. Yesterday when I got home from work, there was a package from Time-Life books. I haven't ordered anything in awhile, so I wasn't expecting a package. I opened it and there was a paperback copy of Nicholas Sparks' The Notebook, along with a letter from I had won one of their monthly drawings for a free book! Maybe I should go buy a lottery ticket tonight.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

The Streak

"I hate The Streak.
There. I said it.

I know it's blasphemy. I know I'm going to hell just for thinking it.
But I hate The Streak."

-Eric Neel

I think the very fact that published an article (albeit a negative one) about Cal Ripken's streak almost 10 years after he broke Lou Gehrig's record and almost three years after he has retired speaks volumes about why fans think it was an important accomplishment. And here are a few other things Eric Neel failed to address in his column:
  • Cal Ripken was taking the field and "doing his job" everyday in an era where professional athletes from all sports were being paid millions of dollars to simply warm the bench. Sports fans were disillusioned with cry-baby athletes who whined about every ache and pain, and increasingly distanced themselves (or much worse) from the fans, while the fans themselves were paying higher ticket prices to see mediocre talent. Cal Ripken was a true role model, especially for the younger fans. As I'm typing this, I'm having trouble thinking of a current, active professional athlete who I would want my daughter to admire.
  • Fans also knew that once Ripken broke The Streak, it would be the end of an era. Never again will we see a consective-game streak from any of today's athletes. Never again will we see an athlete play for one team for his entire career, (especially not his hometown team).
  • Ripken's desire to play did not, as Neel believes to be the truth, "cost him, the Orioles and the fans." We have Peter Angelos to thank for that, not Cal Ripken.
  • Speaking from very personal experience, I honestly believe that Cal Ripken single-handedly saved baseball in 1995 by pursuing The Streak. How many fans would have tuned in at all following the strike-shortened 1994 season?
  • Neel fails to address any of the same criticism or venom toward Lou Gehrig. Does he feel the same way about Gehrig, even though the same thoughts usually come to mind when his name is mentioned?

Baltimore sports columnist Peter Schmuck has his thoughts here (The Baltimore Sun now requires free registration - sorry).

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

One Moment in Time

This article made me feel really old. Twenty years ago? Mary Lou Retton, Mitch Gaylord, Tim Daggett, Bart Conner, Matt Biondi, Rowdy Gaines, Steve Lundquist, Greg Louganis, Flo Jo, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Mary Decker Slaney. Did all that really happen twenty years ago?

Like Adam over at Throwing Things, I'm also a big fan of the Olympics. I was in my glory with back-to-back Winter Olympics in '92 and '94, and the free time of a college student to watch maximum hours of coverage. This year, all eyes in our household will be on hometown hero Michael Phelps. It will be interesting to see how the media handles either side of the story - if he wins more than seven medals or if he doesn't. Baltimore Sun columnist Laura Vescey already has her take on it. Ten more days to go!

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Niagara Falls Travelogue

As promised, here is the post on our trip to Niagara Falls. As I said, overall it was a wonderful trip, but we probably could have come home on Thursday - I think we were all ready - but, lesson learned. Here's the day-by-day play-by-play:

Sunday, July 18

We hit the road around 9am, but we couldn't seem to get in a good road trip rhythm. We hit the McDonald's drive-thru before breakfast ended at 10:30am, then a bathroom break for M. somewhere else along the way. We had just cruised through Williamsport around 1pm when H. started getting fussy. Thinking she was getting hungry for lunch, we started looking for a place to stop when - blah! - carsickness! Our poor little H. We had to pull over on the side of the road in the rain and change all of her clothes. The carseat was also affected, so I took the pillowcase off my pillow and used it as a cover for it. She was fine for the rest of the ride after that incident, but I think my new-car smell is gone. H. was actually fine for most of the time in the car, thanks to the portable TV/VCR we borrowed from my parents. It was six hours of Barney, with a little Teletubbies thrown in for good measure, and she was occupied.

Just before getting on I-90 outside of Buffalo, M. decides maybe we should ride by the dragway that's in the area, "just to see what it looks like." After some scrambling with the map, I got us there via a detour through the Buffalo suburbs. I think this was the long way, but the last-minuteness of it all threw me off. We did a drive-by and there wasn't much to see. It was kind of a run-down track and they don't race on Sundays. So we finally got on I-90, only to get stuck in a traffic jam to pay a 15-cent toll on the NY Thruway. We burned way more than 15 cents worth of gas waiting in line for a half hour! We crossed the border into Canada without any problems, then proceeded to get stuck in another traffic jam trying to drive the two miles to the hotel. As we found out later, the directions from the hotel website take you the long way. The other problem was that the hotel was in the heart of the tourist district and there were fireworks over the falls Sunday night, so the placed was packed. The only thing I can think to compare it to is the Ocean City (MD) boardwalk on a Saturday night. But we finally made it to the Quality Inn Clifton Hill and checked in. We unloaded the car, then went to get our first unobstructed view of Niagara Falls, just as they were being illuminated for the evening. Very impressive! Then we dined at the Hard Rock Cafe, which may not have been the best choice after our long day. H. was a little overstimulated by all the music and people and barely ate any dinner. That was the first and last night we bought her her own meal from the children's menu - another lesson learned. She ate off of my plate the rest of the trip.

Monday, July 19

Monday dawned a little gray, but not raining, so after a hearty buffet breakfast at the Golden Griddle (which was part of the hotel complex), we walked down to ride the Maid of the Mist. (Our hotel was in a great location - we could walk to most of the major attractions and restaurants.) I had been to Niagara Falls when I was ten years old and one of the few things I remember about the trip was riding the Maid of the Mist and having to wear these smelly rubber raincoats that I'm sure thousands of people had worn before me. Well, welcome to the modern age. Twenty-two years later, visitors are now provided with disposable plastic raincoats. There was even a child size for H. The boat ride was very fun. We laughed the whole time and got soaked. H. wasn't afraid at all, even when the boat was rocking back and forth right next to the falls. She just kept saying, "It's raining, it's raining."

After drying off, we caught the PeopleMover shuttle to go a few miles north to the Botanical Gardens and Butterfly Conservatory. We thought H. would enjoy this, since she loves insects of any kind. But we had to keep her in the stroller most of the time while in the Conservatory because she would try to catch the butterflies (and maim them in the process).

We ate lunch there, too, then headed back to the hotel. After a nap (for all of us), we went to the swimming pool, which I think was H's favorite part of the trip. The outdoor pool was nice, with a big pool and a kiddie pool, both with cool dragon slides. H. got right on the baby slide without even blinking and went down it about a hundred times while we were there.

Dinner Monday night was at the Rainforest Cafe, which I thought H. would like more than she did. She liked the snake in the gift shop, of all things, but not the elephants or gorillas. And thunder is another new word she's added to her vocabulary.

We pretty much followed this schedule for the rest of the week. We would leave the hotel around 9am for activities or sightseeing, then return after lunch for a nap, then a swim in the pool and dinner out. It worked well for trying to keep H. on some kind of schedule.

Tuesday, July 20

On Tuesday we went over the state park on the New York side of the falls, which I thought would be full of trash, graffitti and god knows what else, based on the "the Canadian side is much better than the US side" adage we heard from everyone and from things I had read, too. But the state park area was very nice. It was clean and safe and there was quite a bit to see there. We went to the visitor's center, then walked to both Prospect Point and Goat Island for up-close views of the falls.

We saw plenty of rangers and other park personnel throughout the park and I was rather impressed with it all. I think the US side has made a lot of changes over the years, but hasn't been able to shake the reputation yet. Plus, my overall observation was that there wasn't much to do on the US side in terms of entertainment. We saw plenty of hotels near the falls and the casino, but very few restaurants or shopping choices. Those were definitely all in Clifton Hill.

After the park, we went to the Power Vista Power Plant a little ways up the river for a tour. This was one of the things I picked to do because I thought M. would like it, but I really liked it, too. We practically had the whole place to ourselves and it was very informative. And there was plenty of room for H. to run around instead of being stuck in the stroller.

We were stuck in the indoor pool in the afternoon because of thunder, althought it never actually rained, then we went to dinner at Applebee's, which was uncrowded (yeah!). Afterwards, I went to exchange money at the casino (I had read that they gave a good exchange rate) and the guard at the door made my night. M. stayed outside with H. while I went in and before entering the casino floor, the guard asked, "Age, please?" I said 32 and he said, "Really?" I laughed and said, "Yes, but thank you for asking!"

Wednesday, July 21

On Wednesday we went back and forth across the border several times. We drove to the Buffalo suburbs to visit the Fisher-Price Toystore, based on Wendy's recommendation. I was in heaven! I bought H. a bunch of Christmas presents, plus a new toy for her to play with now. I could have stayed there for hours. There's a toy museum next door, with exhibits featuring the old version of the Little People (oh, how I wish I still had them!), along with other old wooden toys and classic Barbies. I bought two Raggedy Ann items in the gift shop (they were on sale).

In keeping with the children's theme of the day, we went to Explore and More, which H. absolutely loved, of course. She could have spent all day there! But we stayed for a couple of hours, enough time for her to try all of the stations. And I found out from my sister Ness that there's one in Gettysburg, so we'll definitely have to make a trip to that one (and it's inexpensive, too!).

We came back across the border for nap and pool time, then went across again in the evening to the towns of Tonawanda and North Tonawanda, which straddle the Erie Canal. They were having their annual CanalFest the week we were there and on Wednesday night there was a car show.

It was a beautiful area, with all these boats out on the canal, but let me tell you. I have been to a lot of festivals and carnivals in my day and I have never seen anything this crowded (the picture doesn't begin to show how crowded it was out on the closed streets). It was wall-to-wall people, which made it somewhat less enjoyable. But we got some dinner and looked at all the cars, then sat by the canal for awhile to watch the boats and listen to music.

Thursday, July 22

As I said earlier, I think we were all ready to go home on Thursday, so it was a quiet day. We drove up to Niagara-on-the-Lake, which is north of Niagara Falls, right where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario.

It was beautiful! Lots of Victorian B&Bs and quaint shops, bike and walking paths along the river and spectacular scenery. I told M. I'd like to go back there some day for a long weekend, just the two of us. We didn't visit either of the historic forts in the area, just drove by them, but just the drive was pretty enough.

One last visit to the pool, then we just ordered pizza to eat in our room while packing up.

Friday, July 23

Home Sweet Home. We left around 8am and made it home by 3:30pm. An uneventful ride home, thank goodness. H. couldn't wait to visit her little friend, Jenna, up the street, and we gave her the Nemo fish hat we had bought for her. And we gave Jenna's mom a little thank you gift for watering our hanging baskets (although she said she only had to water them twice - it rained every other day while we were gone).

So it was a great first family vacation for the three of us. I'm already looking forward to planning the next one. Where can we go next year??

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

"Lite," Adult Contemporary, Easy Listening, Whatever You Want to Call It...

I've been listening to the local "lite" station on the radio while at work this week. It seems the radio on my desk will only tune in to few stations now (was someone messing with it while I was on vacation?) and this one was the most tolerable. However, by the third day, it's getting a little stale. The general rotation each hour appears to be:
  • Celine Dion
  • Elton John
  • Whitney Houston
  • Elton John
  • Movie soundtrack theme song
  • Elton John
  • Billy Joel
  • Elton John
  • something from the '70s
  • Elton John
  • Journey (which I've actually enjoyed. I need to break out my Journey Greatest Hits CD.)
  • Elton John
  • Lionel Ritchie
  • Elton John
  • Country cross-over ballad
  • Elton John
  • Gloria Estefan

I think you get the picture. I'll be purchasing a new radio for my desk over the weekend.

Back from Beyond

No, I didn't drop off the face of the Earth. We were on our first family vacation last week and I'm still recovering. M. and I took H. to Niagara Falls from Sunday through Friday and overall it was a wonderful trip. I'm currently in the middle of writing a massive entry about it, which I hope to have posted by Friday, with pictures (which are the hold-up, of course). So things should return to normal around here soon!

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Operation Gatorbait

Large quantities of bread and marshmallows were seized as evidence.

Via the NPS Morning Report

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Happy Fourth (On the Sixth)

Yet another busy weekend! Is it time for vacation yet? We had a wedding to go to on Sunday night, believe it or not, so Sunday during the day was kind of a wasted day. M. and I were going to take H. swimming at her Mimi's house, but it was overcast and cloudy all day and we thought it was going to rain at any minute. Well, it never really rained, then it was time to get ready for the wedding, a "black tie optional" affair at 6:15 in the evening.

The wedding was beautiful, once of the best ones we've ever been to. It was a traditional Jewish wedding, but very personal to the bride and groom. The bride was Na's older sister and her groom was someone she knew from her days as a camp counselor who suddenly became more than a friend. The wedding party was small and included a groom's maid. I know this is more common nowadays, but this was the first wedding we had been to that had one. Na and Henry both looked wonderful in their formal attire and everyone was beaming.

At the beginning of the reception, they showed a slide show/video with baby pictures of both the bride and groom, then included video of Alicia getting ready that morning, as well as footage from the actual ceremony. Too cool! When the groom works for IBM, you have connections.

We didn't get home until after midnight, a late night for us. Mimi watched H. for us, but we brought her home with us instead of having her spend the night. I don't know why we didn't, because M. went back to his mom's the next day to take H. swimming. He was the babysitter for the afternoon while I went to the Orioles' game.

I had won the company tickets at work for the day. There were four tickets, but M. didn't want to go. (I believe his exact words were, "I'd rather go to the Wiggles concert than sit through a baseball game.") He likes all sports except for baseball. Na was still busy with wedding activities (an after-wedding brunch before the couple left on their honeymoon), so Wendy & Shane & I went. The seats were awesome - box seats just past first base, about ten rows back from the field. The only bad thing was the heat - game time temp was 94 degrees. But it was a good game - the O's actually won - and we enjoyed some Boog's pit beef sandwiches and stuck it out until the end of the game. It had been several years since I had gone to a game, probably the longest dry spell of my life, so it was nice to go back and enjoy a game. (The dry spell is a long story, but for those of you who don't know it, I used to be a huge Orioles' fan, went to tons of games every year, and worked at Oriole Park while I was in college. Then came the MLB strike of 1994 and I was one of the fans they lost and never really regained.) It felt good to get excited about baseball again and it felt good to hang out with my friends for awhile and it felt good to do the wave with 30,000 other people. All in all, a wonderful way to spend the afternoon.

Should He Stay or Should He Go?

Mike Krzyzewski has decided to stay. And in doing so, Coach K has proved himself to be a class act once again. Just read these comments about why he chose to stay at Duke instead of being lured away to the NBA. Most coaches would just have seen the dollar signs and not looked at anything else. He's one of the main reasons I've been a Duke fan for over 15 years.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Movie Meme

Passing along this meme from Natalie. Bold the titles you've seen, add an underline if you own it, then add three more titles that aren't listed at the end. Let it be said that I do not own a lot of movies and the ones I have bought recently have been kid videos or DVDs. And thanks to the vagaries of cable, there are quite a few movies on this list that I've seen good portions of, but have not actually seen the whole movie. So I was being honest when I didn't bold "The American President," "Die Hard" and others.

01. Trainspotting
02. Shrek
03. M
04. Dogma
05. Strictly Ballroom
06. The Princess Bride
07. Love Actually
08. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings
09. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
10. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
11. Reservoir Dogs
12. Desperado
13. Swordfish
14. Kill Bill Vol. 1
15. Donnie Darko
16. Spirited Away
17. Better Than Sex
18. Sleepy Hollow
19. Pirates of the Caribbean
20. The Eye
21. Requiem for a Dream
22. Dawn of the Dead The original.
23. The Pillow Book
24. The Italian Job
25. The Goonies
26. Basketball
27. The Spice Girls Movie (Spice World)
28. Army of Darkness
29. The Color Purple
30. The Safety of Objects
31. Can't Hardly Wait
32. Mystic Pizza

33. Finding Nemo (Yes, I own this, but have not actually seen it.)
34. Monsters Inc.
35. Circle of Friends
36. Mary Poppins

37. The Bourne Identity
38. Forrest Gump
39. A Clockwork Orange
40. Kindergarten Cop
41. On The Line
42. My Big Fat Greek Wedding
43. Final Destination
44. Sorority Boys
45. Urban Legend
46. Cheaper by the Dozen The original.
47. Fierce Creatures
48. Dude, Where's My Car
49. Ladyhawke
50. Ghostbusters
51. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

52. Back to the Future
53. An Affair To Remember
54. Somewhere In Time
55. North By Northwest
56. Moulin Rouge
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
58. The Wizard of Oz
59. Zoolander
60. A Walk to Remember
61. Chicago (It's on my wishlist)
62. Vanilla Sky
63. The Sweetest Thing
64. Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead
65. The Nightmare Before Christmas
66. Chasing Amy
67. Edward Scissorhands
68. Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert
69. Muriel's Wedding
70. Croupier
71. Blade Runner
72. Cruel Intentions
73. Ocean's Eleven (the remake, since it didn’t specify)
74. Magnolia
75. Fight Club
76. Beauty and The Beast

77. Much Ado About Nothing
78. Dirty Dancing
79. Gladiator
80. Ever After
81. Braveheart
82. What Lies Beneath
83. Regarding Henry
(My least favorite Harrison Ford movie, in case you were wondering.)
84. The Dark Crystal
85. Star Wars
86. The Birds
87. Beaches

88. Cujo
89. Maid In Manhattan
90. Labyrinth
91. Thoroughly Modern Millie
92. His Girl Friday
93. Chocolat
94. Independence Day
95. Singing in the Rain
96. Big Fish
97. The Thomas Crown Affair (the remake)
98. The Matrix
99. Stargate
100. A Hard Day's Night
101. About A Boy
102. Jurassic Park
103. Life of Brian
104. Dune
105. Help!
106. Grease
107. Newsies
108. Gone With The Wind
109. School of Rock

110. TOMMY
111. Yellow Submarine
112. From Hell
113. Benny & Joon
114. Amelie
115. Bridget Jones' Diary
116. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
117. Heavenly Creatures
118. All About Eve
119. The Outsiders
120. Airplane!

121. The Sorcerer
122. The Crying Game
123. Hedwig and the Angry Inch
124. Slap Her, She's French
125. Amadeus
126. Tommy Boy
127. Aladdin
128. How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days

129. Snatch
130. American History X
131. Jack and Sarah
132. Monkey Bone
133. Rocky Horror Picture Show
134. Kate and Leopold
135. Interview with the Vampire
136. Underworld
137. Truly, Madly, Deeply
138. Tank Girl
139. Boondock Saints
140. Blow Dry
141. Titanic
142. Good Morning Vietnam
143. Save the Last Dance
144. Lost in Translation
145. Willow
146. Legend
147. Van Helsing
148. Troy
149. Nine Girls and a Ghost
150. A Knight's Tale
151. Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey
152. Beetlejuice
153. E.T. (My very first DVD)
154. Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone
155. Spaceballs
156. Young Frankenstein
157. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
158. American President
159. Bad Boys (Which one? Will Smith or Sean Penn? I’ve seen both.)
160. Pecker
161. Pink Floyd: The Wall
161. X-Men
162. Sidewalks of New York
163. The Children of Dune
164. Beyond Borders
165. Life Is Beautiful
166. Good Will Hunting
167. Run Lola Run
168. Blazing Saddles
169. Caligula
170. The Transporter
171. Better Off Dead
172. The Abyss
173. Almost Famous
174. The Red Violin
175. Contact
176. Stand and Deliver
177. Clueless

178. William Shakespeare's Romeo+Juliet
179. Dangerous Liaisons
180. I Am Sam
181. The Usual Suspects
182. U-571
183. Capricorn One
184. The Little Shop of Horrors (the one with Jack Nicholson)
185. Die Hard
186. The Flamingo Kid
187. Night of the Comet
188. Point Break
189. Chatterbox
190. Secretary
191. Breakfast at Tiffany's
192. American Beauty
193. Pulp Fiction
194. What About Bob

My additions:
195. Sixteen Candles
196. Under the Tuscan Sun
197. The Parent Trap (the original)