Friday, December 23, 2005

The Fruits of My Labor

Here are a few gifts I made this year:

Seven pillowcases for the nieces and nephews on Mark's side of the family. Two Disney Princesses, two Strawberry Shortcake, two Spiderman and one Lizzie McGuire. I made these all this morning.

Stolen directly from the pages of the holiday issue of Martha Stewart Living, these very cool cookie cutter Christmas ornaments are for my sister and brother-in-law. I had seen these Hawaiian-themed cookie cutters but didn't really think my sister could use them for anything. Then, my mom had the Martha Stewart magazine and there was this great idea for making ornaments from cookie cutters. So back on Thanksgiving, I stole a few of their pictures from when they went to Hawaii and had copies made and here is the result.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Elrod Hendricks 1940-2005
Longtime beloved Oriole dies at 64

I was completely shocked to read the above headline and article just now in this morning's Sun. It's so sad - and today would have been his birthday, too. (Proving once again that you are more likely to die in the two weeks before or after your birthday than any other time of the year. John Spencer died four days before his birthday last week. Start paying attention to celebrity deaths and you'll see how often it happens.) Elrod Hendricks lived in Randallstown and my junior year in high school, he spoke at our class ring ceremony and handed out the rings to my entire class. I think the Orioles and the city of Baltimore are really going to miss him.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


While shopping on Sunday, one store had a display of stuffed polar bears that moved - one large one and four cubs. After we counted the baby bears, H. and I had the following conversation:

H: Is that the mommy bear? (Pointing to the large bear holding a cub).
Me: Yes, it is.
H: Where's the daddy bear?
Me: Maybe he went out to look for something to eat.
H (completely deadpan): Or maybe he's dead.
And then she just walked away.

I can only blame the Disney movies and their demise of one parent, usually the mother. She recently watched The Lion King. Maybe that's why the idea was in her head.
Ninny Update

Two nights of sleeping and no problems! Can it be true? If so, that will be the best Christmas present ever for me. She asked for it once each night, but we reminded her that she didn't have it anymore because we gave them to Santa and that was it. Yeah!!

Sunday, December 18, 2005


We had some exciting happenings today! H. and I went to the mall to finish up our shopping and to visit Santa. For the last couple of weeks, I've been prepping her for the visit with Santa, hoping we could get her picture with him. All along, she's been saying that she would stand in front of him, but not sit on his lap. Okay, that's good enough for a picture. In the car on the way to the mall, we talked about Santa again and practiced what she was going to say when he asked her what she wanted for Christmas. After this, a few minutes went by and she said, "I want to give this to Santa." I turned my head to see what she was talking about and she was holding out her ninny (her pacifier, which she is extremely attached to). I asked her if she was sure and she said yes, even after I explained that she wouldn't have one when it was time to go to bed tonight and she would have to sleep without it. She said yes again and that she was a big girl.

So we got to the mall and waited in line to see Santa. When it was her turn, she walked right up to him and handed over the ninnies (there was another one in the car, so we gave him two). It was so cute! Santa said, "We do something very special with these," and he hung them on the Christmas tree. (There were a few others hanging up there, too.)

Then H. told him she wanted "Dora toys" for Christmas, but would not sit on his lap or even stand in front of him to have her picture taken. She was done, thank you very much. I think she was a little traumatized by giving up her ninnies, since as she was getting back in the stroller she said, "Can we go home now?" And seeing Santa was the first thing we did at the mall! But she was a real trooper and I bought her a Dora nightgown to wear tonight to celebrate her big accomplishment. Let's just hope I'm not up all night because she's crying for her ninny. (I did scour the house once we got home and found two other ninnies, which are now hidden away in the medicine cabinet, just in case, but hopefully this is the real deal and we can finally get rid of it.)

The coolest thing happened to me on Saturday - I won an iPod Shuffle! Some time in the fall, I had filled out a tear-off card from a display in the grocery store (for some product I don't even buy) and voila, a few months later, a free iPod arrives in my mailbox. I haven't set it up yet (that will be my reward for turning in my last paper of the semester, which is due tonight by midnight), but I'm anxious to load it up and see how it works. Good thing I decided not to ask Santa for one.

Monday, December 12, 2005

2005 Reading List

Well, I guess it's time to post this, since I don't know if I'll able to squeeze in any other books between now and the end of the year. Maybe one or two after Christmas, since I have the week off. The return to school really put a dent in my free time and reading, but of course, I did finally get to read some classics that I had long neglected. Even though I didn't read as many books this year as last year, the total balanced out to a book a week, which isn't too bad, considering how busy it seemed like I was. Some highlights: I plowed through two new series that I love - see Denise Hamilton and Meg Gardiner below - and read quite a few sad books about 9/11. I finally started Laura Lippman's Tess Monaghan series (long overdue) and read one George Pelecanos book. The links below are to previous posts with my thoughts or comments about the books. (I really slacked off in this area, after getting off to a good start at the beginning of the year.)

1. The Jasmine Trade by Denise Hamilton
2. Twelve by Nick McDonell

3. China Lake by Meg Gardiner
4. High Country Fall by Margaret Maron
5. My Antonia by Willa Cather (English class)
6. Sugar Skull by Denise Hamilton
7. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (English class)
8. Garnethill by Denise Mina
9. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (English class)
10. The Big Sea by Langston Hughes (English class)
11. Entombed by Linda Fairstein
12. Suspicion of Rage by Barbara Parker

13. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (English class)
14. Most Wanted by Michele Martinez
15. Mission Canyon by Meg Gardiner
16. Drama City by George Pelecanos
17. The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams (English class)
18. Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan (English class)
19. Paradise by Toni Morrison (English class)
20. Hard Truth by Nevada Barr
21. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (English class)
22. Render Up the Body by Marianne Wesson
23. Cold by John Smolens
24. Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
25. Missing Justice by Alafair Burke
26. 102 Minutes by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn
27. Jericho Point by Meg Gardiner
28. Night Fall by Nelson DeMille
29. Fade by Kyle Mills
30. Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson
31. The Wonder Spot by Melissa Bank
32. Shadows by Edna Buchanan
33. Rococo by Adriana Trigiani
34. The Hundredth Man by Jack Kerley
35. Baltimore Blues by Laura Lippman
36. Devil’s Corner by Lisa Scottoline
37. Case of Lies by Perri O’Shaughnessy
38. Charm City by Laura Lippman

39. Absent Friends by S.J. Rozan
40. Blood Hollow by William Kent Krueger
41. The Innocent by Harlan Coben
42. Innocence by Kathleen Tessaro

43. The Death Collectors by Jack Kerley
44. If Looks Could Kill by Kate White
45. Rituals of the Season by Margaret Maron
46. To the Power of Three by Laura Lippman
47. Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespeare (English class)
48. Sweetwater Creek by Anne Rivers Siddons
49. Hamlet by William Shakespeare (English class)
50. The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare (English class)
51. Close Case by Alafair Burke
52. Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner
53. Macbeth by William Shakespeare (English class)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Conversation with H. at 6am this morning:

H: "Tonight, I want to watch that movie with the bad witch. Where she tries to take the pretty red shoes. The Wizard of Oz. " (The Wizard of Oz was on TBS several times this weekend and we watched some of it before bedtime on Saturday night. Also, H. was a witch for Halloween, so she's keenly aware of witches right now.)

Me: "I know we watched that movie the other night, but we don't have that DVD. I think K&K have it. Maybe we can borrow it the next time we're over there."

H: "Or we can get it at the movie store. Tonight."

Please keep in mind that she's only 3!

I'm surprised she even wanted to watch "The Wizard of Oz" at all, considering that since last Sunday the 6th, we have watched E.T. every day, sometimes parts of it twice a day, without fail. She's obsessed with E.T.! She finally relented and watched some of The Grinch movie (which led to the E.T. obsession in the first place, since she saw a preview for it on the Grinch tape) on Sunday, so it was pretty much a whole week of E.T.

Also since Sunday, I think her thoughts haven't been able to keep up with her vocabulary. Suddenly, she's been using the word "something" (or sumpin', as she says) an awful lot, I guess when she can't find the word she's looking for to express herself. I'm pretty sure she wasn't doing this at all on Saturday, but there was the word "something" a lot on Sunday and every day this week.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Bad Karma

My bad day continued yesterday, even after the redeeming lunch. When we got home yesterday evening, I went to put some of the groceries in the downstairs fridge. I opened the door to the basement and heard a noise like the washing machine was running. It couldn't be running since we just got home. I went all the way down the steps to find that a pipe had broken in the laundry room where the water comes in from the well. The water was spraying upwards across half the laundry room. The whole basement should have been flooded, but by some miracle, I had left the lid on the washing machine up Sunday night and the washer was filled to the brim with water. That's atleast 15-20 gallons of water that should have been all over the floor! The five-gallon trash can full of dryer lint on the floor next to the washer was also full of water. It was truly bizarre how it was spraying almost directly into the washer. Otherwise, we would have had a huge mess on our hands. Mark shut the pump down and called his plumber friend, who arrived in 15 minutes and repaired the broken joint on the pipe.

This is the third plumbing incident we've had in less than a year, maybe even six months. Both of the pipes under the kitchen sink burst back in August, a pipe connected to the dishwasher was leaking down through the ceiling of the laundry room before that, and now this. I'm starting to wonder if we need all of our plumbing replaced before we have a major incident.

Oh, and I cut my thumb on a knife while washing the dishes last night, too.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Not A Good Start to the Week

I woke up as usual this morning, got in the shower, etc., then I was standing in front of the mirror about to dry my hair when I noticed something just above my left hip. I thought it was a mole that was irritated because it was really dark, but upon closer inspection, I realized it was a TICK and it was EMBEDDED in my skin. Of course, M. was already gone for the day, but luckily H. was still asleep. I was surprised at how calm I remained as I went to get a tissue and the tweezers, even though I was freaking out in my head. It was hard to see and reach, because it was just far enough towards my back instead of on my side, but with some maneuvering, I did manage to get the blood-engorged sucker (engorged with my blood!) out of my skin. This was followed by an all-over body check for any more. It was all I could do not to wake H. up and check her from head to toe. (Well, that paragraph should get me some interesting keyword hits from Google.)

Needless to say, I had the heebie-jeebies for the rest of the morning and since I couldn't get a good visual angle on it, I wasn't sure if I had gotten all of it out and whether or not it was a deer tick. Once H. woke up, I had her get dressed right away while I examined her. I was like a mother gorilla checking her for nits. She was clear. I can only guess that the tick found this host on Saturday when H. and I were playing in the yard in the afternoon, including lying in the grass. Which really gives me the creeps, because I changed clothes at one point on Saturday and took a shower Sunday morning. We were out in the yard Sunday morning, too, but just on the swing set, so I guess it could have found me then, too.

I dropped H. off at school, then headed straight to the doctor's office, which opens at 7:30am on Mondays, thank goodness. I pleaded my case and they were able to see me almost right away. The doctor I saw, not my usual doctor, was very nice. I did get all of the tick out, which was good, and it was a deer tick, a female, which was not good (I had saved the tick in a tissue and baggie to show the doctor), but better than if it had been a male. As a precaution, I have to take a course of antibiotics to ward off any potential Lyme disease. What fun! And no surprise, my blood pressure was through the roof when the nurse took it - 154/100! I think I was having a partial panic attack.

My day improved slightly at lunchtime. I dropped my prescription off at Walmart, then had 30 minutes to kill. While wandering around, I found that the Dora dollhouse I had on layaway was marked down $10 (!) and I found a copy of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas on DVD in the bargain bin for $4.88 (hee, hee!) (Note to Christian Slater: It makes me sad to see so many of your movies in the bargain bin.) So maybe I can salvage this afternoon.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween

Friday, October 28, 2005

H's New big Girl Room

Hayley's New Big Girl Room

H. is home sick today with some kind of stomach flu (fun!), but it gives me some time to update the site and add some photos.

Here is the bedroom as it looked when we moved in 6+ years ago. A good shot of the "Pandas Playing with Beach Balls."

And now, the new room. Ta da!

We still need to find some things to hang on the wall and I'm on the look out for a bulletin board, some picture frames and lampshades, but it's mostly done.

Friday, October 14, 2005

"On Their Own"

The Baltimore Sun has published a fascinating, four-part series called "On Their Own," which follows two Baltimore City high school students during their senior year. In addition to facing the challenges of attending an inner-city school, the two students are also homeless. The series is inspiring, heartbreaking, frustrating and hopeful. All of the problems that plague inner-city life are present - drugs, gangs, crime, absentee parents, etc. That these two young men could still get up and go to school every day without parents there to push or guide them is an inspiration. Neither of them would have made it without assistance from several very involved teachers as well as the principal.

As detailed and complete as the series is, it also raises more questions than it answers. What can be done to save Baltimore's schools (breaking up the overly large high schools was a step in the right direction)? What can be done for homeless teenagers who are in limbo between a foster-case system that caters to younger children and adult shelters that don't want to take in teenagers? What can be done to make students strive to envision a life beyond their own crime and drug-riddled streets, a vision that includes earning a high school diploma as the first step? It is well worth your time to read this very memorable series of articles. You won't soon forget the two young men profiled and many readers have already posted messages to the Sun's message board asking for updates on their progress.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Friday Funnies

For your enjoyment - How to Dance Properly. I like "Elaine Ripped Me Off" and "Hanging Out... Casual." Make sure you read the commentary at the bottom of the page, too. (link via groovygrrl)

I'm feeling a little more accomplished than I did last week, although I'm still majorly behind at work. (Hmm, I wonder why. Check the date and time of this post.) I've already finished my Shakespeare homework for the week and hope to do some more math tonight. And, as of right now, I'm completely on the ball with Christmas shopping. That's right, I said Christmas shopping. I went to Walmart on Wednesday and made a toy layaway for H., with a few other miscellaneous presents thrown in for K&K. H's big present this year will be the Fisher-Price Dora Dollhouse. It has a million accessories, so I thought that would a good answer whenever anyone asks me what to get her for Christmas. "Well, I got her the Dora Dollhouse, so any of the accessory sets would be great - living room, bedroom, swimming pool, etc." Nice and easy! And my mom has already bought her this for Christmas, so I put one game on layaway, but that's another good thing to be able to tell people as a present idea.

H's really into her baby dolls right now. She changes their diapers and puts them to bed and pretends that they're sick and need to be taken care of. She has lots of doll accessories, but not a decent crib, so I'm going to order her one that I saw in a catalog some time soon, so that can be another present to check off the list. Last night, I pulled my Cabbage Patch dolls out for her to play with and she loved them, maybe because they're a little bit bigger than her babies and they have hair. It made me feel really old when I saw the 1984 and 1985 dates on their bottoms.

I need to find a new hiding place for Christmas presents this year. Last year, I hid them in the dowstairs bathroom with the door shut, but now that H. is potty trained and actually uses that bathroom now, I need a new spot. Maybe somewhere down in the basement, but there's not a lot of room to manuever as it is.

Thursday, September 29, 2005


I've been in some sort of a funk lately and I'm not really sure why. I'm starting to wonder if I have adult ADD. (Is that possible if you didn't have it as a child?) Or I'm just completely overloaded. I can't seem to finish anything I start or get started at all on some projects. And this is across the board - home, work and school. I've reached the point where I have so much to do, I don't know where to start, so I end up doing nothing. I have many unfinished projects at work (in addition to some other weird stuff that's going on there), I'm so far behind on my math homework I'm not sure when I'll be able to catch up, and I think I'm grouchy because I don't have any time for reading (check out the sidebar), or watching TV or other hobbies right now and I'm not getting enough sleep.

Part of the problem is that I need to stop overbooking myself so much, even if it is something I really want to do. (Even though I should start doing it now, maybe I'll make it a New Year's resolution.) After this weekend, things are looking pretty good scheduling-wise, so maybe things will ease up a bit.

Because of H., school and hobbies, I've significantly cut back on my TV viewing. I've only added one new show to my viewing schedule (Reunion on FOX, which is on tonight. And because I've only chosen this show to watch, I"m sure that it will be canceled and then I'll be too far behind on any other new, hip shows that I'll be totally out of the loop.). I can't watch any 8 o'clock shows, especially dramas, because we're usually finishing up bathtime, getting ready for bed and reading stories to be in bed at 8:30 (on a good night). Then it usually takes another half hour to pick up the mess from the day, straighten up the kitchen and do atleast one household chore, like a load of laundry. So that brings us to 9 o'clock to finally sit down and watch TV. But I've also had to cut out a couple of 10 o'clock shows (like Medium on Mondays, although we usually have football on now anyway until about 10:30) because I really need to go to bed before 11pm atleast a few nights a week. And in the middle of all of this, I'm supposed to be doing 30+ math problems every week and struggling my way through Shakespeare while participating online!

Okay, I'm glad I got all of that off my chest. So now I'll leave you with a funny toddler story before I sign off. The other day, as we were riding in the car, there was a motorcycle in front of us and the driver wasn't wearing a helmet. H. noticed and said, "He's not wearing a helmet." Then she paused for a minute and continued, "That's bad choices." And she was very adamant about it. This is something they have been learning about at school - not wearing a helmet, not buckling up, etc., are all "bad choices."

The work day is over and I'm off to the Goodwill Store to see if I can find something appropriate for The Awesome 80's Prom.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Just Another "Sine" That I'm Getting Old

The scientific calculator that I'm using for my current math class is the one I've had since junior high. I went online today to see if I could find the user's guide for it, since I've forgotten how to use some of the functions and it was causing problems for me last night while trying to do my homework on exponents. I don't think it's a good sign that my calculator is in the "Datamath Calculator Museum." Maybe I could sell it to this guy.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Get Out a Hankie

If you gotta go , this is the way to go. What an incredibly sweet story.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Out of Touch

Jeez! I take the day off from work, so I'm away from the computer and the Internet all day and I didn't really watch any TV today either, and Britney has her baby and Kenny & Renee break up!

Monday, September 12, 2005

Who Needs Pictures

I do! Here are some photos from last week and this weekend.

Tuesday was the first official day of pre-school, so here's H's "first day of school" photo. I do believe this is an all-Old Navy outfit - shirt, skort, shoes & socks!

N., W. & I went to see Brad Paisley Saturday night at the Baltimore Arena. The show was really good, a little short, but still good, since we finally got to see B.P. in concert. It was the annual benefit concert for Cystic Fibrosis, which always has a top-name headliner, but it's probably set up a little bit different from the regular tour show for whoever is performing. Brad Paisley was very entertaining and of course, easy on the eyes, too.

While I had my girls' night out, H. spent the night with her cousins, playing Bratz, painting, and other fun stuff.

Coming soon - before and after pictures of H's new big-girl room.
So That's How They Did It

My question about how the newspaper staff at the New Orleans Times-Picayune continued to publish the newspaper has been answered.
Study: Housework helps with hypertension

This must be some kind of cruel joke. I'm just going to pretend I never read it.

Friday, September 02, 2005


I feel guilty going on with regular day-to-day activities when things are so atrocious and devasting in New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf. The New Orleans Times-Picayune is still publishing online (and how they are doing this, I don't know) and definitely has a more local angle you can't find with the national networks. I'm spending way too much time online, but the situation is changing so drastically every day and it's so overwhelming, I want to stay informed. I think it's easier to read the news reports than to watch the evening news coverage. I pretty much cried all through dinner last night, especially any time they showed a baby or small children.

Just my two cents - if you're having trouble deciding which charity to donate to, my sister felt that the Salvation Army was the most helpful organization to her after Hurricane Isabel, so I sent my money their way. First hand experience speaks volumes. (The money collected at Walmarts around the country (and ours already had a collection bucket out on Tuesday) also goes to the Salvation Army.)

My mom is coming over this weekend to help me paint the other bedroom. We bought H. "big-girl" furniture last weekend, which is on order, but should be here shortly. If it's here in time for her birthday, that would be great, so everyone can see it. You can check it out here. (We ordered the twin headboard (no footboard), the dresser with mirror and a nightstand. The sleigh bed version was gorgeous, but would have taken up too much room in the tiny 8 x 10 room. I'm already worried about fitting in the dresser, but we'll have to make it fit.) I've been trying to get a little bit more done in that room each night this week (when I can tear myself away from CNN), including packing up stuff that is mine that I have no where else to put (except in boxes in the basement) and removing the "panda bears playing with beach balls" border paper left behind by the previous owners. The plan is to paint the ceiling white and the walls with Kilz (to cover up the not quite Pepto Bismol pink currently on the walls) on Saturday, let it dry overnight, and then paint the walls half pale yellow, half peach the following day. Tonight I need to spackle in all the nail holes and M. needs to disassemble the daybed.

Keep New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in your hearts and minds and let's hope we see some positive stories coming from there this weekend.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

There's One Born Every Minute

I just read this article from yesterday's Baltimore Sun and immediately wrote a check and dropped it in the mail to the assistant principal. I also included about $10 worth of "Box Tops for Education" that I had accumulated, but never dropped off anywhere. I think this is a situation where every little bit helps, so I hope it does. It's a shame that situations like this even exist to begin with in our public schools. (If you're interested in helping out, too, the mailing address for the school can easily be found online.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Odds and Ends

It's already August 16 (Elvis Death Day) and I haven't posted at all in August. Shame on me! The usual excuse, we've been busy since returning from vacation. Lots of children's birthday parties to attend, plus I just started planning Hayley's for September. My new addiction to iTunes is taking up most of my computer time at home. I'm trying to cram in reading a few more books before my next round of classes (math and Shakespeare) start the day after Labor Day. I'm hosting a small scrapbooking workshop this Saturday. I actually went to the movies on Sunday, the first time in three years, to see Must Love Dogs. (The movie industry is right to be worried about declining attendance. On a Sunday afternoon that was pushing 100 degrees there were only about 10 of us in the theater. All women, by the way, and yet the usher felt it was necessary to walk up and down the aisle with his flashlight three or four different times.)


September is shaping up to as busy as June was - Brad Paisley concert, scrapbooking flea market, Hayley's birthday and party, back to school, various doctors appointments (easier to schedule when my boss is on vacation) and an open house at work (the first one in seven years).


Somehow, without even realizing it, I just read back-to-back books titled The Innocent and Innocence. They couldn't be more different. The Innocent is the latest from Harlen Coben. I've liked all of his standalones (I've never read the Myron Bolitar series), which are fast-paced and tightly written, usually with a slight twist at the end. This one wasn't one of my favorites. It required too much suspended belief on the part of the reader and you could spot the surprise ending well in advance. Innocence is the second "chick lit" book from Kathleen Tessaro, but I would say it's a little darker than most chick lit. I loved her first book, Elegance, which I thought was very creative, and her second offering didn't disappoint. Likable, well-drawn characters, with a happy ending, of course.


I still owe you a vacation round-up with photos. It's coming.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Mountain Reading

I only read three books on vacation, which is kind of sad. It should have been more, especially with an almost ten-hour car ride both ways, but I got bogged down with book number two and should’ve given up on it, but didn’t.

I finished Laura Lippman’s Baltimore Blues, the first in the Tess Monaghan series, in the car on the way to the Smoky Mountains (after reading some magazines on the first part of the drive that I had been stockpiling). I’ve been meaning to read this series for a long time, but the fact that my branch of the library carries all of the titles in the series except for the first one is the only plausible explanation I have for not getting into this series sooner, especially after I loved Every Secret Thing so much. This first book in the series was good, not great, but that didn’t stop me from reading #2, Charm City, after vacation (and finishing it today during lunch) and I definitely think I’ll work my way through the rest of the series. The thing I liked least about Baltimore Blues is how much Tess mocks Baltimore. As a local, I feel she should be more like the people she mocks (a Baltimore accent, eat seafood, etc.). She comes off as more of an outsider to Baltimore than someone who was born and raised there.

Vacation book #2, the one that slowed me down, was Devil’s Corner by Lisa Scottoline. I have read all of the books in her “all-female law firm” series and really enjoy this series set in Philadelphia. But for some reason, I just couldn’t get into this book at all, which is considered a standalone novel, but still features a young female lawyer, an AUSA, in Philadelphia. The story moved very slowly, after a fast-paced opening sequence, and dragged on for way too long. The romantic side-story was too convenient and unbelievable. The friendship between the two female main characters, one black and one white, was more realistic and interesting, but couldn’t carry the entire novel. I read this book every afternoon while H. was taking her nap and still didn’t make very much progress. And considering that we didn't have very many cable channels to distract me, that’s saying a lot. I finally finished it the night before we left.

That left me free to start Case of Lies by Perri O’Shaughnessy on the long ride home. This is another series that I read, the Nina Reilly series set in Lake Tahoe, and another one that I really enjoy. This is book #11 in the series and it didn’t disappoint. Based on an interview I read at, it may be a couple of years before we see Nina Reilly again, which will seem like a long wait. But Case of Lies was definitely better than Devil’s Corner, since I finished it before we made it home.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

TV Notes

The only negative about our vacation was the cable TV in the chalet we rented. I called it "less-than-basic cable." We had all of the Big 4 networks, plus UPN and the WB, but the rest of the few cable channels we did have were very random. We had both E! and Style, but no MTV or VH-1; we had The Golf Channel, but not ESPN. And we didn't have any news channels, which was very odd, so we felt more out-of-touch than we usually do on vacation.


Don't you hate it when you come home from vacation and your cable system has changed all of the channels around? Actually, they only changed four, but it doesn't seem to make a lot of sense. All 3 sports channels - Comcast SportsNet, ESPN and ESPN2 - used to be all in a row - 38, 39 & 40, very convenient. Now, ESPN and ESPN2 are 35 & 36, with Turner Classic Movies interrupting the sports flow at 37 before getting back to Comcast SportsNet. 39 & 40 are now Sci-Fi and The Cartoon Network.


Starting Monday, Lifetime will be airing reruns of The Golden Palace until September to compliment their classic reruns of The Golden Girls (which I watch all the time). I'm sure Oscar-nominee Don Cheadle is thrilled to be reminded of this acting gig. When we were in college, we actually used to watch "The Golden Palace" on Saturday nights before we would go out. (It's not as geeky as it sounds. Atleast we were going out later!)


I taped the Lifetime movie "The Dive From Clausen's Pier" last night, since I've been trying to go to bed before 11pm, but who knows when I'll get to watch it (I still need to watch the Elvis mini-series I taped back in May). I also want to watch the "Beach Girls" mini-series that's starting on Sunday. I'll decide after the first two-hour installment if I'm committed to the whole five weeks (unlike "Into the West," which I gave up on after the first hour and a half. It was a little too gory for me.).

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Greetings from Gatlinburg

We're back! We made it home from vacation around 7pm Friday night. The car ride was long both ways, but we survived and had a great time in the Smoky Mountains. More about our trip to come.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Americans: U.S. Transit Attack Inevitable

I've been saying this ever since I took the train from Baltimore to NYC back in December. I printed my ticket from one of the credit card kiosks, so no one checked my ID to see if it matched the name on my ticket. No metal detectors or X-rays for passengers or luggage. Even if you've never been there, you can imagine how crowded and busy Penn Station in New York is on any given day. And it's underneath Madison Square Garden! The explosives the bombers in London were carrying weighed less than 10lbs each. Imagine if they had all been together on the same train instead of in four different locations.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

National Park Scorecard

In searching for vacation information, I came across this article from the July/August 2005 issue of National Geographic Traveler. How sad that my two most favorite parks are ranked "Rock Bottom," while the one that's closest to us in proximity is ranked barely above that at the bottom of the "Facing Trouble" category. I wasn't surprised that GSMNP was on the endangered list, not just because of the pollution that threatens the park on a daily basis, but the gateway cities do leave something to be desired in terms of environmental protection. As much as I love visiting Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, it does bother me how the restaurants and shops in Gatlinburg go right up to the park border without any type of buffer zone.

However, I was surprised to see Shenandoah at "Rock Bottom." I think the ranking is more based on environmental conditions than the gateway cities. We've stayed in Luray (central gateway) and Waynesboro (southern gateway) and drive through Front Royal (northern gateway) on the way to Luray. The town of Luray, with a Super Walmart and other "suburban amenities" is a good five miles away from the entrance to the Park and is not overly developed, in my opinion.

Also, I disagreed with the low ranking of Mammoth Cave NP, another park we've visited. I thought it could have been higher, although water pollution is a serious issue. We were there during peak season of early August of 2000 and I felt like we had the whole place to ourselves. The day we took a 7-mile canoe ride on the river we never saw another person. The two gateway cities are very small and underdeveloped and closer to the highway exits than the park boundaries. I'm not really sure how to interpret the "trinketization" comment.

The summary at the end of the article shows how embarrassed the US should be that our parks are doing so much worse than the ones in Canada, which are better funded and do a better job of putting environmental concerns before people.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street?

We spent just about the whole weekend outside. On Saturday, we went to J&T's pool to celebrate my mom's birthday. The weather was perfect for swimming and the kids spent all day in the pool. When we first got in, I think H. forgot how to swim from last year. She wouldn't let go of me, but about 10 minutes later, it all came back to her and she turned into a little fish. She was jumping off the steps and can kick her way across the width of the pool. We didn't leave until 6:30pm, which means we didn't get home until 7:30pm and we still had to get everything ready for Sunday at Sesame Place. Somehow, H. stayed awake the entire ride home, even though she didn't have a nap and must have been exhausted from the sun and swimming. It was for the best, though, because she desperately needed a bath.

We were up bright and early Sunday morning and W. and her daughter M. arrived at about 8:30am. We were on the road by 9am, with the girls happily watching "The Lion King" in the backseat. We arrived at Sesame Place right at 11am and it was very crowded. We got the last space in the preferred parking lot, and then headed out to brave the heat and the crowds. Our plan was to do the non-water rides first, and then we ate lunch, watched the birthday parade, then changed into our bathing suits to hit the water rides. We were so hot and sweaty at this point that I ignored my usual dislike of very public swimming pools and cooled off. The pictures of H. with Elmo and Big Bird are in Wendy's camera, since both of us had to accompany our little ones to sit with the characters. Otherwise, they wouldn't have done it at all.

On Monday, H. started "school" at the new daycare/preschool. She did great, just like I thought she would. She went through three pairs of training pants, but made it through the afternoon dry. On Tuesday, she only needed to be changed once. I think she was already adjusted this morning because when I dropped her off and was lingering before leaving she told me, "You can go to work now, Mommy." What was I worried about?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Coming Up for Air

Okay, so I lied about getting back on track after my class ended. There just aren't enough hours in the day! I thought things were going to settle down, but we received some news last week that threw us for a loop. Last Tuesday, our babysitter told us she was going back to work and wouldn't be babysitting anymore. And that her last day of a babysitting would be Thursday, June 23 (that's tomorrow). Yes, she essentially gave us less than two weeks' notice. So we had to initiate a frantic search to find someone new. The timing couldn't have been worse, since school just let out a couple of weeks ago, so places that may have had openings were full. Luckily, the daycare/preschool that our neighbor attends had a last minute opening. We went for a site visit Friday after work and I think it's going to work out. It's more preschool than daycare - more structured, more routine - which I think H. is ready for at this point anyway. And they will also focus on potty training, which has been going quite well recently, we just need to get all the way there. So we may not have been planning for it, but I think it will turn out to be a good thing to switch daycare. Now I'm trying to get H. excited about going to "school" and hope that she's not too upset about leaving the sitter's.

In the midst of all of this, I had to squeeze in doctor's appointments for both H. and me, and state inspections for the van and car that are due before the end of the month. Yes, we're still sick and have been since Memorial Day and now it's almost the 4th of July. There wasn't a whole lot the doctor could do for us, "Just let it run its course, but come back in two weeks if you're still not better." I think it is almost gone, but we're both still coughing a lot at night. And my blood pressure was up again - I wonder why!

Our weekends continue to be busy. We went to a birthday party for my mother-in-law on Saturday (instead of going to K&K's ballet recital), and then went to the races on Sunday to watch M. race. Our neighbors went with us, so H. had someone to play with and it was nice to have someone to talk to and hang out with since M. is always so busy while we're there.

Coming up this week, I have an event to attend for work Thursday night down in Baltimore, and then my mother's birthday party on Saturday at J's pool, followed by our long-planned trip to Sesame Place on Sunday with W. and her duaghter M., which I'm really looking forward to. Then H. starts at the new daycare on Monday. Thank goodness the following weekend is a four-day weekend. We don't have any plans for the holiday yet, so I'm hoping to spend quite a bit of the weekend studying for my final, which is on the 9th in the morning. I'll be so happy when this class is over! Then it will be time to start thinking about vacation and everything we need to get ready for that. I'm definitely in need of a vacation right about now!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Wild Kingdom

Here's what was in our yard this evening after work when H. and I went outside to play.

M's not wearing any shoes because I was screaming for him to come outside. I'm sure he thought H. was hurt or something.

We've had snakes in the yard before, but they've always been at the top of the yard near the wall and the cornfield. (And I think they've always been smaller than this one.) This one was on the patio right outside the sliding doors. We practically stepped on it before I saw it. Yuck!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Killer Bloggers (Not Really)

The headline for this story on CNN cracked me up:

Pennsylvania Uses Bloggers to Lure Tourists

I was waiting for the next line to be "to their deaths," or something like that, but no, PA is paying six "roadtrippers" to visit various tourist spots around the state, then blog about their experiences. Think they would be interested in my Dutch Wonderland story? The "Visit PA" blogs can be found here. I think they should make all of them live in a house together for the summer, too and broadcast their adventures online.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Strange But True

First, the whole thing with the Dover school district, and now this. Pennsylvania is gaining on Florida as the land of strange and weird and embarrassing news stories. I think I'm ready to move back to Maryland, inflated housing prices and crime rate be damned. Give me an old-fashioned murder headline any day versus these far more troubling stories.
(Thanks to Bookslut for the NY Times link.)

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Holiday Weekend

Our holiday weekend was both busy and relaxing. I took Friday off for a 4-day weekend and waited for the new refrigerator and washing machine to be delivered. They were actually early! My delivery time was between 10:30 and 12:30 and they arrived just before 10. That was more work than I thought it would be, taking everything out of the old refrigerator and putting it back in the new one. However, taking all of the magnets, photos and magazine clippings off the old fridge and putting them back on was the most time consuming!

After that was finished, I commenced with shampooing the carpets, also more work than I thought it would be. The stairs needed the most attention and I had to use the manual hand tools to get them clean, so it took a long time. Then I also cleaned the rugs in our bedroom, the upstairs hallway and the living room. I ran out of steam (no pun intended) before I could do H's room, which really doesn't need it, and I knew I wasn't going to do the family room, which is too big. Next time, I'll hire someone to do this job.

The local Farmers/Amish Market has a cruise night on the last Friday of every month, so we went over there for a little while and looked around at all the cars before getting some dinner, especially since it was a nice evening to be outside. They had a pretty good turnout and M. might take one of his cars up there next month.

On Saturday, we went to Dutch Wonderland and had a fantastic time (I was tempted to say "wonder"ful). It wasn't too crowded, even though the parking lot looked packed when we pulled in. There was only one ride we really had to wait a while for - the Old Tyme Cars on the "Turnpike." H. loved all the rides and wasn't scared of any of them, even the roller coaster and some train-like ride that whipped you around the corners. She really wanted to get on the swings, but you had to be atleast 42 inches for that ride. The only thing she didn't like was the real, life-size Duke the Dragon. She was starting to drag around 2:30, right around nap time, so we headed out just as it started to rain. Good timing! And it was nice to go somewhere that was barely an hour away and still get home with most of the afternoon and the whole evening left. We might consider getting a season pass for next year.

M. went racing on Sunday, so H. and I had a quiet day to ourselves. We were outside for hours, playing on the swing set, using the sidewalk chalk and blowing bubbles. H. took a long nap while I finished and submitted all of my homework well before midnight. The only bad thing about the day was that we both had runny noses and by Sunday night, I was feeling a full-blown cold coming on.

On Monday, we went down to M's mom's for lunch so he could also help her open up the sunporch. I was also able to go to Circuit City while we were down there and buy my new digital camera. I'm very excited, even though I haven't used it yet. My brain has been too fuzzy from my cold to comprehend all the buttons and features, but I did charge the battery. Hopefully, that means more timely pictures posted here!

Then it was back to work on Tuesday, even though I didn't sleep very well Monday night, since I can't breath through my nose. Finally this afternoon, my head no longer felt like it was going to explode, but most of the cold has moved into my chest instead. I hope this cold doesn't last very long because I have too much going on to be out of commission.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Beginning of the End

I'm ashamed to admit I broke down and bought H. one of these. Nieces K&K play with the regular version all the time and when we were over there last Saturday, one of Little K's friends had the baby version and H. was just enthralled. She was occupied for hours. I didn't just give in after days of contemplation, I actually stopped on our way home that very night and bought one. Instant gratification!

Monday, May 23, 2005

Playing Ketchup

Well, let's see, what's been going on recently? I'm still feel like I'm busy all the time, but in a good way. I got a 95 and a 98 on my Amer Lit final exam and term paper/presentation, respectively. I was quite pleased with myself, considering it had been eleven years since I had to do anything like that, and it was completely different this time around with a full-time job and a family.

My niece Kaitlyn broke her arm last week. She fell off her bike and landed directly on her elbow. It's more of a hairline fracture, not a big break, but the doctors want to keep an eye on it because it's right at the growth plate in her arm. Luckily, it's her left arm and not her right.

I returned my camera again because the film/negatives are getting scratched inside the camera again, obviously a defect with this specific model. So I'm definitely taking the refund and using toward a digital camera instead.

Mark and I went to the Alan Jackson concert in Hershey Friday night. It felt more like October than May; I was wearing my winter coat, two pairs of socks and my hiking boots. The concert was great, but a little short. AJ only sang for about an hour and fifteen minutes. I had to wonder if it was because of the change in venue and perhaps the weather, too. On Tuesday, an announcement came out that the concert was moved from the stadium to the smaller pavilion, presumably because the show wasn't sold out, which is surprising. The best part of the show was the hat I bought. On the drive up there, I said to Mark, "I hope they have a hat with just his initials on it and if they do, I buying one." And they did! So now I have a very cool (if slightly overpriced) blue and black "AJ" hat. (An evening out nowadays is a very expensive venture - concert tickets, dinner (even an inexpensive one at Pizza Hut), hat, babysitter.)

Last weekend, we bought a new refrigerator and washing machine, which will be delivered this Friday (you gotta love 0% financing for a whole year at Sears). I'm taking off work for an extended holiday weekend to be home for the delivery, as well as to shampoo the rugs. Exciting stuff, I know. I just remembered yesterday that when they move the old refrigerator, the wall behind it will still be Pepto-Bismol pink. I never moved the fridge when I painted the kitchen white back when we moved in.

Upcoming events between now and the end of June: Dutch Wonderland one day this holiday weekend (weather dependent; if it rains all weekend, we'll probably go see Madagascar instead); the Julie Andrews lecture/talk; a wedding; Kaitlyn & Kara's dance recital; Father's Day (which we'll probably spend at the races); and a trip to Sesame Place. (If all goes according to plan, we will have visited four amusement parks by the end of the summer if we go to Dollywood and Splash Country while on vacation). So stay tuned for more!

Monday, May 16, 2005

Bad Decision

NBC announced today that "American Dreams" will not be returning at all next season. I'm so glad it will be replaced by quality programming such as "'Fathom,' about a creepy new form of sea life, and 'Inconceivable,'" a medical show set in a fertility clinic." "American Dreams" is the kind of show another network should pick-up -- Lifetime, Hallmark, WE, Oxygen, etc.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Pac Man Fever

Well, this makes me feel very old. I fondly remember Nadine in elementary school, reselling Pac Man scratch-off trading cards for 25 cents each. What an entrepreneur!

I hope to be back to the journal in full force after tonight. I took the final for my Amer. Lit. class on Saturday and my paper is due tonight by midnight (and yes, I'm still working on it). Hopefully, things will return to normal after that. I'm already thinking about what to read now that I will have some spare time again, plus I want to assemble all the scrapbook pages I pre-cropped a couple of weeks ago. I miss my hobbies!

Monday, April 18, 2005

Catching Up

Can you tell my other class started? I don't have time for much of anything right now. Work is the busiest it has been in a long time, plus I'm trying to squeeze in the classwork for two three-credit classes. I'm so glad I chose the staggered Spring semester instead of starting both classes the same week in January. What a difference in the work load! The American Lit class will be over by May 10 at the latest (depending on when I turn in my term paper), leaving me with only the Grammar class, which started the Monday after Easter. The Grammar class is a lot of work - tons of exercises every week, online interaction, a weekly quiz and some group work, which isn't always easy online. Every week since the second class started, it's taken me the whole week to complete all the assignments for both classes and get them posted by midnight on Sundays. It seems like I'm spending more hours on the Grammar class, but that's probalby because I'm actually doing assignments instead fo spending a majority of my time reading, which I don't even really notice when I'm reading books for the Lit class.

I'm starting to get overwhelmed because looking ahead on the calendar, we have plans every weekend from now until Memorial Day. I'm supposed to have the Mother's Day cookout at my house, but I think I'll have to back out and let someone else host it this year. Or else I'll never get my term paper finished.

I need to start reading Toni Morrison's Paradise tonight, so the new Nevada Barr will have to wait. I read a little bit of it over the weekend, but I'm not really getting into it yet. I think I feel guilty whenever I spend time on "pleasure reading" instead of doing schoolwork right now.

Monday, April 04, 2005

The Poconos

M. and I ran away to The Poconos this past weekend. It was the first time we had been away just the two of us since May 2003, so it was long overdue! We were asleep by 10pm on Friday and Saturday and I got about nine hours of sleep both nights! Even though the weather didn't cooperate (inches and inches of rain all day and night on Saturday, then snow when we woke up Sunday morning), it was very relaxing. We went out for breakfast Saturday morning and didn't leave the condo again until dinnertime. I read all of George Pelecanos's Drama City, which was great, and started Kristen Gore's Sammy's Hill, which was so horrible that I stopped after thirty pages and read The Glass Menagerie for my American Lit class instead. We rented Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason and Ladder 49 to bring with us and watched both of those, so I feel like I actually accomplished a lot while we were away!

My parents came to our house to stay with H., since she never sleeps very well when she's at their house, and it worked out well. She was so happy to see us. "I missed you!" she said over and over again when we first got home.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Book #14

I was really looking forward to reading Most Wanted, the debut legal thriller by Michele Martinez, but what a big disappointment it was. I almost gave up on it a few times, but I stuck it out until the end and it was rough. The worst part of the book was the dialogue - absolutely horrible and unrealistic. And the extreme overuse of exclamation points was distracting and annoying. Characters were exclaiming on every page! Was Elaine Benes editing this book? I believe Most Wanted is intended to be the first in a series and perhaps the writing and dialogue will improve, but I probably won't bother if there's a second installment.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

"Male Potty Trainer"

This is a result from a search engine service we receive at work for specific key words related to new patents filed with the US Patent Office. I don't know which is worse - the invention itself or repeated use of the phrase "member extension" in this context. Also, I did not make up the title for this post - that's the name of the invention.
A toilet seat reminder device installed on a toilet. The reminder device consists of an extension member attached to the toilet seat in a location that blocks access to the toilet flush handle when the toilet seat is in the raised position. The extension member may also be installed on the toilet lid. The extension member is readily attached to the toilet seat with a pressure sensitive adhesive or by a clip engaging the seat. The extension member may be made of foam, plastic or rubber and may be formed into an attractive shape to catch the interest of the target male audience. The extension member is also scented to provide an additional fragrance in the bathroom. A warning graphic is applied to the bottom surface of the extension member and is visible only when the toilet seat is raised.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Weekend Wrap-up

Interesting. I picked up the copy of Most Wanted from the library and I was surprised it was a trade paperback instead of a hardcover. Then I realized that the copy is an Advanced Reader's Copy. I don't think I've ever encountered that at the library before. Is that allowed? The cover only says "Not for Resale," so I guess it's okay to lend it for free via the library. Any input, library friends?

H. and I had a very productive weekend. By noon on Saturday, we had both gotten a haircut, went to the grocery store and gone through the car wash. When we got home, I swept and mopped the kitchen floor and had most of the laundry done. So I didn't feel guilty taking a short nap Saturday afternoon.

On Sunday, H. and I went to the mall and actually found everything we were searching for - a gift for the guy at work who fixed our home computer, Easter shoes for her, work jeans for M. and paint for moving forward with H's new "big girl" bedroom. The only thing I was disappointed about was that Sears does not carry most of the Land's End bathing suits in their stores. I wanted to try on a couple of different styles I had seen in the catalog, but they didn't have them. Now I might have to order several and return the ones I don't like.

H. was very interested in seeing the Easter Bunny, but not actually interested in getting near him. We waved to him as we walked by and she said Happy Easter, but that was it. Quite frankly, I thought he was a little scary, too. He was very large and, unlike Santa, doesn't talk, which is a little disconcerting.

PS - Good news, the county library system has dropped its $1 ILL/on-hold fee as of March 1. (It went into place last March 1 due to budget cuts.) Now I can catch up on some books I couldn't get at the local branch without paying the $1 fee (not that I minded giving my dollar to the library every once in a while). However, this alters my buying habits on bookcloseouts. I would often by a book for $2.99 or $3.99 if I was going to have to pay $1 to get it from another branch anyway.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Books 11 & 12

Since we spent three class weeks on The Grapes of Wrath, I managed to squeeze in two novels recently - Linda Fairstein's Entombed and Barbara Parker's Suspicion of Rage. Both of these books come from two of my favorite series and neither disappointed this time out. The Fairstein novel, the seventh in the Alex Cooper series, was full of interesting trivia about Edgar Allan Poe and made me want to visit the Botanical Gardens and Hall of Fame in The Bronx. Suspicion of Rage is the eighth book in the Gail Connor and Anthony Quintana series and this one is set in Anthony's native Cuba. Parker's dialogue within relationships is very real, whether it's a conversation between husband/wife, father/son or step-siblings, and I learned quite a bit about Cuba, a country I know very little about. Coincidentally, I was trying to finish this book Wednesday night just before the "90 Miles Away" Cuba episode of The West Wing came on. Personally, I thought the book was more interesting than this week's episode. (Trying to depict Kate Harper as some kind of Sydney Bristow was lame.)

Now this weekend I have to read In Cold Blood for the third time (I haven't read it since 1992), plus a copy of Michele Martinez's Most Wanted is waiting for me at the library.

Thursday, March 17, 2005


Yeah, that's me with the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile! I know you're jealous.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Happy Day

Almost 11 years after graduating from college, I finally made my last student loan payment today! I've been looking forward to this day for a long time and always imagined throwing a party or something to celebrate. But these loans that were such a big part of my life at one time now seem pretty small. At one time, they were the biggest monthly bill I was paying and it seemed the end would never be in sight. But now that I (we) have two car payments, a mortgage and daycare as monthly bills, the loans pale in comparison. Nonetheless, having a little bit more wiggle room at the end of the month now will certainly be welcome!

Wednesday, March 09, 2005


Obviously, my little bit of excitement about Nashville Star didn't even last a week, since I forgot that it was on last night and went to bed at 10pm.

Friday, March 04, 2005


Add this to my list of reasons not to like monkeys of any sort. And I don't know whether to laugh or cry about the whole idea of a chimp birthday party.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Nashville Star 3

I'm trying hard to get excited about tonight's premiere of Nashville Star, but I'm not. I like Leann Rimes as host - I think that might work, but I'm not crazy about the judging line-up. I didn't think they could find anyone worse than The Warren Brothers, but Bret Michaels? Ugh! Phil Vassar is a good choice, since he was a songwriter for a long time before breaking through as a performer, so he should have some insightful comments. But I don't think they need two artists as judges, with just one industry exec. How about someone else from the industry? It made perfect sense to have a DJ as a judge, or a programming manager - someone who actually chooses the music that is played on the air. Also, for me personally, Friday nights at 10 was a much better time slot than Tuesdays at 10. Central-time Nashville seems to forget about us poor folks on Eastern time!

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Disney on Ice

3 Tickets $75. Ariel light-up wand $16. Soda and popcorn $9.75. Parking $7. The look on H's face as she watched the show - priceless.

The ice show was stressful, but fun. Traffic going into Baltimore Saturday afternoon was horrendous and we were 15 minutes late for the show. But once we got settled in, it was very enjoyable, other than H. going to the potty 3 times. I can't even get her to go 3 times in a row at home! And I definitely don't think we're ready for Disney World yet. I could barely handle a two-hour ice show at this point. I can't even imagine a week in Orlando!

We had planned to go to the Outback for dinner afterwards, since we had gift certificates to use, but when I called ahead after we left the show, the wait was two and a half hours (at 6pm), so it was subs for dinner instead. It was probably for the best, we were all so exhausted. I took a "nap" at 9pm, only to wake up at 10pm.

What a great TV weekend. I love "31 Days of Oscar" on TCM. Tootsie Friday night, To Kill a Mockingbird Saturday afternoon and Superman Saturday night (all commercial-free), plus Maryland v. Duke, with ESPN's College Game Day live from College Park. At 10:30 last night, we were switching between the basketball game, the Bud Shootout and the first NHRA drag race of the season.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Amer Lit

I'm sure my English professor has never had a student like me. In just three weeks, I've compared Willa Cather's My Antonia to John Grisham's A Painted House and The Great Gatsby to "Pimp My Ride." I'm not really sure how my mind works sometimes. Pop culture is taking up way too much room in my brain.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005


Wow, no entry in February yet and it’s already the 8th! I’ve been keeping busy with various activities and work has been very busy, cutting down on journal time. I’ve got lots of random thoughts bouncing around in my head, so here goes.

My online class is progressing smoothly, but it's definitely taking up some free time. I finished The Great Gatsby yesterday in anticipation of this week’s class discussion and I’m kind of rereading it again to catch all of the symbolism. I also squeezed in the second Eve Diamond novel, Sugar Skull, by Denise Hamilton, but I feel like I'm off to a slow start reading-wise this year.

Other reading time has been taken up by cross stitch. I started a small new project a couple of weeks ago to get me back in the swing of things. For most of 2004, I spent more time scrapbooking than cross stitching, so I’m trying to find a balance for all of my hobbies. N. and W.endy and I went scrapbooking at a workshop Saturday night for a few hours, so I didn’t feel torn about cross stitching on Saturday afternoon and little bit on Sunday.

Only one cute toddler story – H. and I were in the grocery story Saturday morning and they pipe in music throughout the store. The song Accidentally in Love from Shrek 2 came on and H. starts saying, “Shrek, Shrek!” I said to her, “You are really smart – or else you’ve seen this movie too many times!”

I’ve been trying to watch some of the new mid-season replacement shows, but all the ones I like seem to be 10pm shows and I just can’t force myself to stay awake and commit to another 10pm show. I’ve tried watching Medium a few times (when I actually remember it’s on) and I like NUMB3RS, but I have yet to make it to the end of an episode, even on Friday nights.

Over the weekend, I caught an episode of MTV’s My Super Sweet 16. Based on this one episode and commercials for an upcoming episodes, I have to say this is one of the most hideous “reality shows” on television. I can’t even put into words how over the top these wedding-scale banquets with formal dress, bands and limos are. A thousands of dollars party topped off with a tens of thousands of dollars present (a new car). For my Sweet 16, I had five or six girlfriends over for dinner and a movie and my big present was an Orioles baseball jacket! I wouldn’t expect a party of this scale unless it was a bat mitzvah or a wedding. (Any my apologies to S., but the girl in this episode, Jacque, reminded me of her – in looks only, not behavior!)

And finally, I must recommend this new website, from one of the guys over at A List of Things Thrown Five Minutes Ago. I wish I had thought of this!

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Book #5

I finished My Antonia on Monday during lunch, the first of eight novels I will be reading this semester for my "American Lit since 1914" class. The class officially started on Monday and so far, the online interface has been great. For some reason, I was really nervous about posting my first response to a discussion question and probably spent way too much time crafting it, but I think I just needed to do it and get it over with, which I finally did around 10:30 Monday night. I'm still trying to figure out my time management for this class and I'm unsure of myself with it being online. I feel this urge to check the site all the time to make sure I'm not missing anything, but I don't want to over think it. I should be spending three hours a week for a three credit class for the online part, plus another few hours outside "the classroom" doing reading and research. I'm thinking I should pretend this is either a MWF or TuTh class from my old college days and just commit to those days for being online instead of spending ten minutes here or a half hour there just checking for updates.

I now have all of the books for this class and was able to find most of them on bookcloseouts, plus I already had two of them. Most of the books I haven't read yet (only In Cold Blood and The Joy Luck Club), so I'm looking forward to being "forced" to read something new. I scored my best deal yesterday afternoon when I found a used copy of The Grapes of Wrath at the library for only 25 cents.

But now that I've finished My Antonia, I'm stuck. I haven't started another book yet, because I feel like I should start reading the next book for class. I have to remember this is only one three-credit class and I should still have time for pleasure reading before starting The Great Gatsby.

Friday, January 21, 2005

True Crime

I have always been fascinated by the Jeffrey MacDonald case. Fatal Vision was one of the first true crime novels I ever read and I clearly remember watching the miniseries with my parents when it first aired (and I still watch it every time I stumble across it on A&E or another channel - it sucks me in). One of the figures from the book, of a floorplan of the house marking the spots where blood was identified (and each family member had a different blood type, making it easy to identify) is still burned in my memory. I've had Fatal Justice, MacDonald's rebuke to Joe McGinniss's book, on my to be read list for ages, but haven't been reading a lot of true crime lately. This article in today's Washington Post, along with the hour I spent afterwards perusing MacDonald's website, renewed my interest in the case and makes we want to reread Fatal Vision and follow it up with Fatal Justice. MacDonald is in a federal prison in Maryland now, recently married to a woman who lives in Howard County. One of the more interesting statements in the article is that until the mid-1990's, most people would not have even considered claims of prosecutorial misconduct or government/military interference, but "people are more willing to concede that the government or the courts could make such a terrible mistake," thanks in part to "CSI" and DNA technology. The case has turned up in the news recently, with MacDonald applying for parole for the first time and continuing DNA testing on evidence from the case. He has also added Tim Junkin, lawyer and author of Bloodsworth (a Maryland true crime case) to his defense team.

Monday, January 17, 2005


Snow in the Smokies today. Well, there was a little bit of snow here today, too, but it's much prettier in the mountains!
Book #4

High Country Fall is the 11th installment in Margaret Maron’s Deborah Knott series – more of a cozy series than crime fiction, but one of my favorite series nonetheless. I’ve been reading this series since 1996 and, for me, is has yet to get stale or predictable. In High Country Fall, Deborah jumps at the chance to fill in for another judge in the mountains of western North Carolina during the peak of fall – and to escape the wedding plans of her overzealous relatives now that she is engaged. Although she is barely in town for a week, Deborah attends a party where a fellow guest goes missing and gets involved with solving the mystery. Maron’s stories and clues are straightforward, but subtle, so I’m always left doubting my choice for who the killer might be. In this book, the discovery of the killer is somewhat anticlimactic after Deborah is involved in an unrelated, life-threatening accident, but the story also moves Deborah’s personal life forward another notch, leaving me waiting for the next book in the series (Rituals of the Season to be released in August 2005) and hopefully, the wedding of Deborah and Dwight.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Book #3

China Lake
By Meg Gardiner
(purchased on bookcloseouts)

I discovered this author and series via Sarah's website as well, with a brief review on the side bar and a mention of how Meg Gardiner’s situation is a bit unusual. She is a U.S. writer who lives in the UK whose books are set in California, but are only published in the UK and Canada. Thanks to bookcloseouts, I was able to purchase the first two books in the series, China Lake and Mission Canyon. The main character, Evan Delaney, is a freelancer legal researcher and part-time author with a lawyer boyfriend who has temporary custody of her nephew. Just as she is about to give her nephew back to her brother, the boy’s mother reappears, bringing along the quasi-cult she belongs to, The Remnant, a group that is preparing for The End. The action in this thriller begins right away and never stops. Evan and her family are swept up in what The Remnant has planned and meet resistant at every step when they try to stop the group. A slight suspension of belief is necessary to believe all of the interlocking elements and characters that must come together throughout the story, but that’s what makes reading books like this an escape. My only complaint, and that’s because it’s a pet peeve of mine, is the “overexplaining” of terms that I feel most people, or atleast most mystery/thriller/crime fiction readers, should be familiar with, such as acronyms like CDC and ATF. Maybe it was more for the benefit of readers in the UK, who many not know these terms. Also, a long explanation about Botox as a hot, new cosmetic procedure (and biological weapon) that Evan had never heard of didn’t hold up. Has it only been since 2002 that Botox has become a part of our everyday language? Regardless, Mission Canyon is sitting on my shelf waiting to be read.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Finding the Perfect Words

I love this paragraph from a Christmas story by Margaret Maron:

Amber nodded, and I looked at our hodgepodge tree. A crystal snowflake from Ben's sister hung beside a paper butterfly Ruth had painted when she was nine. Dangling from the branch below were a glass angel Ben and I had bought on our honeymoon and a Star of David that Ruth's best friend had made from gilded toothpicks. Everything on the tree was like that-a messy, three-dimensional scrapbook of times and places and people we had loved.

This is exactly how I think of our Christmas tree.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Scrap Happy

I spent my birthday weekend in Gettysburg, scrapping away. Way back in early fall, N. & W. & I signed up to attend a weekend-long scrapbooking workshop through my Creative Memories consultant, which turned out to be the perfect birthday gift for me, since it was scheduled for this weekend.

We arrived at the hotel on Friday afternoon, checked in, and got started right away. The whole weekend was wonderful, with lots of activities, door prizes, meeting new people and, of course, plenty of scrapbooking. I completed 33 12x12 pages over the weekend, including finishing H's first year (plus three months) album. I was also able to start on my other travel album and get all of my calendar pages for 2005 set up. We took a short break on Saturday afternoon to visit Boyds Bear Country, but other than meals, we pretty much participated non-stop. And I do mean non-stop! N. stayed up all night Friday night, not going to sleep until Saturday morning at 9am. W. and I called it quits around 1am and woke up to find that N. never came back to the room. But she finished the album of the cruise she had taken back in October and was working on something new. W. pulled the almost all-nighter Saturday night, staying up until 5:30am after N. and I left around 2am. W's goal was to complete the year 2003 in her daughter's album. We were up at 8am both days to be present for the 8am door prize and to earn tickets for the grand prize drawing. As usual, we didn't win anything the entire weekend, although I did receive a nice little birthday gift and balloons Sunday morning. At the 8am drawing Sunday morning, our entire table of 8 was present, the only complete table out of 225 people, and we still didn't win anything.

But the weekend was a great success and we're definitely going to sign up again for next year and maybe find one or two other weekends we can go to this year, since we were so productive!

While I was away, H. stayed with Daddy Friday night, then with my parents on Saturday. I went there to pick her up Sunday afternoon and we had a nice spaghetti birthday dinner for both my dad and me with everyone there. Although H. didn't sleep very well while she was at their house, I think we have definitely turned a corner for potty training. She consistently went all day both Saturday and Sunday, at somebody else's house no less, so this was a real breakthrough. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for continued progress this week.

Friday, January 07, 2005


It's bad enough that I'm turning 33 over the weekend, but I shouldn't have to come home to find a direct mail piece inviting me to subscribe to "MORE," the magazine for women 40 and over. Uh-uh, no way.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Book #1 and Book #2

As one of my unofficial New Year’s resolutions, I’m going to try to write more short reviews or commentary about the books I’m reading (and to keep from boring you with only toddler stories). January 5th and two books down already, so here goes.

The Jasmine Trade by Denise Hamilton
(from the public library)

Book #1 of 2005 is the first in the Eve Diamond series written by Denise Hamilton, originally published in 2001. I believe I found out about this series from a post or link on Sarah’s website and since I love series, I decided to check it out. Eve is a beat reporter for the LA Times, which is a legitimate profession for getting involved in a crime, so that appealed to me right away. Even though she’s young, she has a somewhat tragic past, which is slowly revealed throughout the book and is part of the motivation for some of her actions. I liked the basis for the story – Chinese immigrants adapting to life in America and “parachute kids,” a topic I know very little or nothing about, so learning something new made the story more enjoyable for me as well. Eve is a likable character (who wouldn’t like someone with a dog named Bon Jovi?) with room to grow, so I’m sure I’ll check out the second book in the series, Sugar Skull. Other than a few trite phrases from some characters (Eve’s boyfriend jumping from the shadows to yell, “Drop the gun, Michael!” during a climatic scene), it is a well written, fast-paced mystery that made me want to read more about Eve Diamond.

Twelve by Nick McDonell
(from the public library)

Twelve is not a crime fiction book, just a regular old fiction book from 2002, which I probably added to my “To Be Read” list from a review in the NYTBR. I say that because otherwise I probably never would have read this book. I only finished it because the chapters were very short, so the pace was fast and I finished it in a few of hours. I actually started this book at the end of 2004, then set it aside for several days while reading the Denise Hamilton book, so it definitely didn’t hold my attention.

Apparently, Nick McDonell is a whiz kid who wrote this book at age 17 and it received all kinds of praise. I found it terribly dull and boring. None of the characters were particularly likable, just a bunch of self-involved, selfish rich kids living in Manhattan and doing whatever they pleased, mostly drugs. I found it hard to keep all of the characters straight, since they all knew each other through “a friend of a friend,” none of them had any qualities to make them stand out from the others and chapters would go by before some of them were mentioned again. A superfluous murder and arrest added little to a story that already jumped around randomly. The surprise ending wasn’t a surprise at all – you could see it coming from a mile away – nor was it very original. The epilogue only addressed what happened to one of the characters, leaving you to wonder about the fate of several others. I think I’ll stick with crime fiction for awhile.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Scrapbooks Create $2.5 Billion Industry

How interesting to see the above headline and article on Yahoo! this morning!