Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What's for Dinner

I am COOKING dinner tonight. Can you imagine? And B is not even home. I told a friend of mine that I would bring dinner over. They're having a sad day because they had to have their dog put down. She was old and frail and deteriorating. Having gone through that with our cat, Adelaide, last year, I know what a downer it is. So I thought I would give them a nice dinner to look forward to.
I'm making Beef Burgundy. It's a recipe from way back in the Moms Online days. I've been making it probably since 1996 or so (at least back in the days when I actually used to cook!) Never actualy met Cheryl, the person who posted the recipe. Her screen name was Nickaduck, she was a message board buddy.
For today, I increased the recipe by one half to feed both the other family and me and the girls. So instead of 2 lbs. of meat, I used 3. Instead of 1 cup of wine, 1 1/2 cups. Etc. etc., etc. With it, I'm making mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls and a salad with greens, toasted pecans and blue cheese dressing. No tomatoes. My friend doesn't like tomatoes in her salad.
This smells heavenly while it's cooking in the crockpot all day! It's also good with rice or with noodles.
"Back in the day" I used to have a specific bottle of wine that I used for this recipe. When I went to buy wine yesterday, I had no clue what kind to get. Any hearty, dry red wine should be fine. Technically, burgundy is a region where wine is produced, not an actual kind of wine. From what I can tell, the red wine is close to pinot noir. A cabernet would be good too. DO NOT USE MERLOT! It makes it a funny grayish purple color. I used a Cote d'Rhone - completely different region. But I like the wine. And I try to use a cooking wine that I actually like to drink.

Beef Burgundy - Nickaduck

Recipe By : Cheryl (
Serving Size : 6 Preparation Time :0:00
Categories : Beef Crock Pot

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
2 slices bacon -- chopped
2 pounds sirloin tip or round steak -- cut in 1 inch cubes
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon marjoram
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 clove garlic -- minced
1 cube beef bouillon -- crushed
1 cup Burgundy wine
2 tablespoons cornstarch
mushrooms -- sliced

In large skillet cook bacon several minutes. Remove bacon and set aside. Coat beef with flour and brown on all sides in bacon mixture. Combine steak, bacon drippings, cooked bacon, seasonings, bouillon and Burgundy in crock pot. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or until meat is tender. Turn control to high. Add cornstarch (dissolved in 2 tablespoons water); cook on high 15 minutes.
Add sliced mushrooms with cornstarch mixture, if desired

Rant of the Day

:::::::rant on::::::Our neighbors across the street have been working on their house since FEBRUARY! Every day, there are at least two -- usually three or four -- contractor trucks. This family has three cars of their own, and they park them on the curb in front of their house instead of in the driveway. So the contractors park in front of my house.
It's a mild annoyance. I don't particularly like having workers hang around every day, but that's okay. But occasionally things get out of hand. Today, they are having gutters replaced. Not only are the trucks parked in front of my house, but they are blocking my driveway and my mailbox. They have stuff strewn all over MY lawn and they are walking on our grass as they go in and out of their trucks.
I just went and spoke to them and they did move their trucks further down the street so they're not blocking our mailbox. The mailman won't deliver if he can't get to the mailbox.
I just wish this endless renovating would be over. I can't imagine WHAT is left to do. Just when I think i's over, the painter trucks, tree removal, plumbers, carpenters, electricians, etc. show up again.
::::::rant off:::::: Have a good one!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Crusade of the Day

The Overprotective Mom strikes again. M came home from school on Friday, all up in arms because her teachers told her that girls weren't allowed to bring purses to school anymore. The school already has a rule about backpacks. You can bring them to school, but you have to put them in your locker at the beginning of the day and leave them there until you leave at the end of the day. During the day, in and out of classes, you can't carry backpacks.
But purses have always been a different story, and both MandL have been in the habit of carrying purses during the school year. Girls of that age NEED their purses. Especially at certain times of the month, KWIM?
Well, I thought it was curious that L wasn't told this rule by her teachers. So I inquired at the office this morning when I was dropping off the PTA newsletter for proofreading. The school rule is that girls can carry purses as long as they aren't oversized, like book bags or tote bags.
So I've emailed M's teachers to ask about the new policy. If it's a rule only for their team, then they need to let parents and students know what's expected. I asked for them to put something in writing explaining the reasoning behind the rule and exactly what the rule is.
So, I'm on the warpath, waiting to see what the outcome will be.
Update: M's Science teacher called me tonight. Apparently, a fashion trend towards large bulky purses has become burdensome. The directive to leave purses in lockers is coming from the administration, but isn't being unilaterally enforced as of now. Apparently he called M out of class and spoke to her this afternoon. And she was mortified, of course! He said her purse is "large" but there are many more that are much larger and that she's welcome to bring a small purse to class, but she'll have to leave the bigger one in her locker.
It sounds like the teachers will be talking about it more at a meeting and hopefully come up with a clear policy.
So, I'm satisfied that they *can* have a purse, just not a big one.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

All Quiet on the Home Front

The girls are off at a church retreat for the weekend. B is home, although he is asleep at the moment as didn't get off a ship until 3:30 am. The cat is snoozing.

I'm trying to complete the PTA newsletter. Deadline! Pressure! Thank goodness for quiet house and an empty day to accomplish it.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Overprotective Mother Update: Snark Alert

Just have to share a snarky comment. Last night was Open House at the girls' school. Thank goodness B was home! He went to M's classes and I went to L's. Except for first bell German. They are both in that class together. Their teacher actually told me, "They are so happy to be together!" I thought I would fall over. She's kind of nutty and wacky. But then I asked them about it. L said, "Yeah, I don't really talk to N***** or S**** and the rest of the kids are kind of weird. M's the only one that won't laugh at me when we're practicing our German words.' ??!?!? What? Could it be? They actually LIKE each other finally? Just a little bit? For 50 minutes in the morning?

Okay, that wasn't the snarky part. It was snarky. But off-topic snarky.

The snarky thing is this... The mother, the one who said I was overprotective because I sometimes wait at the bus stop in the morning? She -- or her husband -- did NOT attend Open House. Harumph. (:::::::::snark mode off::::::)

The Other Queen

One of my favorite blogs, Book Club Girl has a new post about Philippa Gregory's newest book, "The Other Queen." There's a video of the author talking about the book and even a giveaway!

I've been a fan of Gregory's books for many years now. A friend insisted that I would love "The Other Boleyn Girl." I was skeptical. I'm not much for historical fiction, it was a big paperback and the cover made me think that it was some kind of bosom-heaving Fabio romance novel. But, I gave it a chance and was hooked. It's the story of Henry VIII and the beginnings of his relationship with Anne Boleyn. It was made into a movie that was released earlier this year. If you saw it, let me assure you -- THE BOOK IS BETTER!

Philippa Gregory has released several other novels about Tudor England since TOBG, and the latest one has just been released. "The Other Queen" is the story of Mary, Queen of Scots. I can't wait to read it!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Overprotective Mom

I am pondering a comment that M made to me today. First, some background. The girls' bus stop is at the end of our street. It's not a far walk, but it is a walk. I can see the corner from our house if I look out an upstairs window. All through elementary school, we (either B or me or both, depending on our schedules) walked the girls down to the bus stop each morning and met them there each afternoon. If it was raining or cold, we drove them down. We waited with them until the bus picked them up each day.
Starting in middle school, we still went with them in the mornings (usually I was meeting my neighbor to go walking after they got on the bus), but we let them walk home by themselves in the afternoon. I still pick them up if the weather is bad. In 7th grade they started going up to the bus stop themselves, but I watch from the window. So far for 8th grade, they are going on their own and I still watch from the window. But if I am going out at the same time the bus comes, say to yoga or the gym, I drive up at the bus stop with them.
I have to know that they get on the bus safely. It's just a thing with me. I just can't rest easy unless I know they're on their way. Sometimes the bus schedule is erratic. On more than one occasion the bus has been late, or not come at all, and I've had to drive the kids to school.
For another thing, our neighborhood is swarming with contractors every morning. It seems every other house has a landscaper, painter, carpenter, tiler, exterminator, roofer or other worker at their house during any given day. That's a lot of strangers in and out of the neighborhood. It makes me a little nervous sometimes. So I just like to have a visual that the kids get on the bus.
There is only one other kid at our bus stop. Since 3rd grade, she has always come to the bus stop alone. Her parents leaves for work before the bus comes. If it's raining or cold, she stands in the rain or cold unless we invite her to sit in the car with us. And yes, I have driven her to school with the girls when the bus never arrived.
Well, M mentioned that this girl, said, "My mom said that the reason your mother is so overprotective is because you are her only kids."
?????? I'm so overprotective? Because I make sure they get off to school in the morning? This mother doesn't know anything about me except that I occasionally wait with the kids at the bus stop! The girls have never socialized with this particular girl because, well frankly, they don't like her. Back in 3rd grade, she and M had some conflict - she actually hit M during a kickball game in PE. And her lack of self control is still evident in 8th grade. The first week of school, she took a writing assignment out of another boy's notebook on the bus and proceeded to tease him about it and then rip it to shreds.
I'm going to be stewing about this all day. I don't know why I'm letting it bother me. I know that I'm not overprotective. We give the girls plenty of age-appropriate freedom. But we do insist that we know where they are (generally the swim club or a friend's house) and that they have a cell phone with them.
I feel like this mother is in judgement of me somehow. It's that old working mom vs. stay-at-home mom defensiveness. That somehow she is saying "She has nothing better to do than be neurotic about her kids" because I start my mornings by getting them off to school even though they're 13. That she is critcizing my parenting in some way.
Okay :::::::inhale:::::::exhale:::::::: I have better things to do than worry about this. Like pick up L during her lunch bell and take her to get a smoothie because her jaw is aching from her orthodontic work and she can't chew. And call the school district office and order a copy of their English text book so they don't have to cart that mammoth hardback book back and forth to school. And work on the PTA newsletter.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Friday Feast

Okay, I didn't quite get this up by Friday. So we'll call it Monday Morsels this week.

What is the weather like today where you live?

HOT! Hot and summery. The girls were at the pool all day (last day that it is open for the season). We had a taste of fall earlier last week, but it felt like summer all weekend. I am not complaining, though, considering how bad things are in Texas.

On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being highest, how career-minded are you?

What type of window coverings do you have in your home? Blinds, curtains, shutters, etc.?

Shades on most all the windows. Vertical blinds in the family room on the sliding glass door. Pretty much valance type curtains on all the windows. The only room that has drapes is one window in my bedroom.

Main Course
Name something that instantly cheers you up.

My cat.

How many times do you hit the snooze button on a typical morning?

None - I don't wake up to an alarm.

Answer these about yourself by posting a comment - or answer on your own blog and leave a link!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

What Will I Do?

My (latest) favorite make-a-meal place is closing down at the end of the month. This is the third one in the last year. Boohoo. A little history: I'd started patronizing a "meal-preparation-center" a couple of years ago. It's a place where you go and make dinners, and then keep them in the freezer until you're ready to eat them. This was such a lifesaver for me. I like to cook, but I HATE making dinner. I hate trying to think of what to make. I can't plan ahead to save my life. I never had the right ingredients on hand. I was annoyed when the girls complained about what I made. And so often I was away from home during the pre-dinner preparation window.

So this was truly a good solution for me. I'd stock up on 8-12 meals at a time, which would last us about a month. (We eat out a lot, and I don't really cook a full dinner when B is working and not home for dinner.) Most of the meals took about 30 minutes to prepare, but they were quick and easy and complete -- I didn't have to remember to buy tomato paste or cilantro or teriyaki sauce. And it worked out to be fairly reasonable - about $20-$25 a meal. It would cost me about the same to purchase the groceries to make those meals. (Sure, I could spend less on groceries, but not to make the variety and quality of food that we got.)

For a while, business seemed to be booming. Five of these meal preparation centers (MPCs) opened within months of each other. But now they've started dropping like flies. First, one changed to only pick-up, ready-to-eat meals. Each week they have 2 choices. Not what I'm looking for. Then the next one shut down their local store and consolidated with a store in another location, one that's too far and too inconvenient for me to do very often. Then the latest, my favorite, announced this week that they are shutting down. Boohoo.

There are still a couple of places left around town. But they are part of national chains and a lot of the food is pretty processed -- using already frozen ingredients or things I can't really identify. The places I'd patronized previously were independent, local places, using fresh ingredients and with a chef doing the prep work.

So, what will I do now? I might have to actually *cook* dinner every night! Eeek!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Your Birth Verse

I thought this was neat. You enter your birthday and it generates a scripture verse based on the numbers. For example, mine is John 10:29, "My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand."

Try it for your own birthday, and then leave a comment and share the verse!


Saturday, September 6, 2008

Hanna Update

8:14 am: Getting windier and there have been some downpours. Power went out about 6:30 am but came back on by 7:30.

10:30 am: Rain has stopped, but still some wind gusts. Power has flickered a couple of times but has stayed on. We're getting bored. L just woke up. The girls don't know what to do with themselves since the swim club (their social hub this summer) is closed. B is playing Guitar Hero.

1:30 pm: Pretty much a done deal. Still occasional wind gusts. Everyone is being way lazy.

3:24 pm: Power is off again. The generator is running so we have tv and wifi. And a functioning kitchen, so we can cook dinner. Not that I'm planning to make dinner. It's CORN -- Clean Out the Refrigerator night.

8:34 pm: Neighbors came over to hang out. They don't have a generator. Just as they rang the doorbell, the power came back on. Everything is clear now. B and I went for a walk about an hour ago. Lots of debris (leaves, sticks, pine needles) everywhere, but all looks good. One of our neighbors had a tree fall down and crash down on another neighbor's shed. Hasta la vista Hanna!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Friday Feast

I am copying this from my friend's blog: Is It Morning Already?

When was the last time you had your hair cut/trimmed?

It was mid-August. I get it cut and colored every six weeks. I never leave the salon without scheduling another appointment.

Name one thing you miss about being a child.

The freedom from responsibility... knowing that my parents would take care of things.

Pick one: butter, margarine, olive oil.

On toast: butter. For cooking: olive oil.

Main Course
If you could learn another language, which one would you pick, and why?

Probably Italian. We became friends with a family from Rome while they were stationed here for a couple of years. We're hoping to go visit them next summer.

Finish this sentence: In 5 years I expect to be…

Healthy, wealthy and wise.

Hanna is Headed Our Way!

Tropical Storm Hanna is supposed to make an appearance this weekend. Not much is expected, just storminess ... rain and wind. And it is supposed to pass rather quickly because Sunday is supposed to be a lovely day. This morning started out quite sunny and nice, but the clouds are thickening up now and I expect the rain will start by the time the girls get off the bus.

The last time we had a hurrican threat was 2003, with Isabel. We didn't have any damage, just a power outage that lasted several days and lots of debris everywhere. The kids missed a whole week of school, though, and ended up having extended days for the second semester of school.

We have a generator now, so even if the power goes out, I'm not too worried. Our generator runs everything in our kitchen, family room, and master bedroom/bath. So if we lose power, we won't be suffering too much, except for a lack of air conditioning!

Hanna is not the last show of the season though; I'm worried for those in the path of Ike next week.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Confessions of a Shopaholic

Last night I saw a preview for the movie of Confessions of a Shopaholic. It looks like it won't be out in theaters until next year, but I am looking forward to it. I enjoyed the book -- and the follow ups (Shopaholic Takes Manhattan, Shopaholic & Baby, Shopaholic Ties the Knot, Shopaholic & Sister). Sometimes it's weird when books are made into movies -- the book is always better! But this looks like it will be cute. I hope that it will be appropriate for the girls to see also.

BTW, I saw the preview while watching the premiere of the new series, 90210. I used to love the original show ("back in the day" - how did I get so old?), but I'm not sure what to make of the new one. Definitely racier. One of the first scenes shows a guy sitting in a car with a girl's head in his lap, ahem. Nothing explicit shown, just implied. The girls want to watch it, but I just don't know. Still have to think about it some more. I wish there was a way on the DVR to edit out that scene!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

First Day of School

It's the first day of school! Here are some pictures. We have a tradition of snapping some pictures before they leave for the bustop.

8th graders!

And now some pictures from past years:

3rd grade

4th grade

5th grade

last year - 7th grade

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Blahs

I am just not motivated to post anything lately! It is the case for this blog as well as my site. These last few days of summer are slipping through my fingers, despite trying to hold on to them. All I feel like doing is LOUNGING indulgently in the lack of routine and structure, sleeping in, watching too much TV and blowing off everything.

I finally finished reading The Pillars of the Earth; what a marathon! I started reading it at the beginning of July. If you're not familiar with it, it is a loooong book -- over 900 pages in my copy. It's not that I didn't enjoy the book; it's a great story! But I get tired of reading the same book all the time, so I would switch to other books for a break. We are discussing it at my lunch book club this week, so I finished it just in time.

To clarify: I am in three book clubs. One is my Mother/Daughter Book Club. We only meet in the summer, and only do one or two books. (Looks like it will only be the one for this year, unfortunately.) The other is my Monday Morning neighborhood book club. That meets the first Monday of the month from October through June and has about 25 members from my neighborhood. We met last week to choose the books for the next year.

The third book club meets one Friday a month during the school year, over lunch at someone's house. There are probably 8-10 members; not everyone attends regularly. The host chooses the book for that month. We're doing Pillars of the Earth for September. We gave ourselves all summer to read it, but it will still be interesting to see how many people actually got all the way through to the end.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Back to School

Well, not for the girls. Their first day is Tuesday, September 2nd. Don't rush it; we still have a few days of summer left.

But I was back at their school this week. There was a PTA meeting Monday afternoon, and then a welcome-back luncheon for the teachers today and I volunteered to help with it. I got to say hi to some of their teachers from past years, and meet a couple of the teachers that they'll have this year. (Considering that they're on different teams this year, there are a lot of teachers to meet!) I also helped their teachers from last year do some packet-stuffing.

I'm going back up to the school tomorrow for an orientation in the guidance office (I volunteer once month answering phones during the secretary's lunch hour -- well, it's actually only 30 minutes). And after school starts next week, I'll be there both Tuesday (in guidance) and Wednesday (volunteering at the front desk).

:::::::::sigh:::::::: I'm not ready to go back to school!!!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Who Knew PB&J Could Be So Good?

While shopping at Fresh Market I picked up some peanut butter that has really struck my fancy. I just want to lick the jar clean. It's from the Peanut Butter & Co and it's called White Chocolate Wonderful. If you can imagine, it is peanut butter blended with white chocolate. HEAVENLY! It is not overly sweet, but it definitely takes the flavor of peanut butter up a notch. And the pb texture is much better than what you'd get at the grocery store.

They also have several other varities which I want to try!! Like cinammon raisin, dark chocolate or honey. The company also sells jams, candies and nuts. From what I'm reading on the company website, they also have a sandwich shop in NYC.

The website has a store locator feature or you can purchase products online. If you're so inclined, t's quite a treat!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Book Club Books for 2008-2009

Well, there were some surprises in the list of books that were selected for my book club at the meeting tonight. From the list I predicted, six were on the list:

The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian
Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
The Year of Fog by Michelle Redmond
Mao's Last Dancer by Li Cunxin
Miracle in the Andes by Nando Parrado (we did this in my other book club)
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

The others that were chosen were:

When a Crocodile Eats the Sun by Peter Godwin
Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas
The Nine by Jeffrey Toobin

Looks like I've got some good readin' to do!

Book Club Meeting Tonight!

Tonight my book club is meeting to select the books for 2008-2009. This is always a very exciting meeting for me. I can't wait to see what we pick!

Back in June, we put together a "summer reading list" -- books that people have nominated for the next year. Sort of like "the long list." There were nearly 50 books on that list. Over the summer, members of the two books clubs in our neighborhood (one meets in the morning, one meets at night) have read books from the list to screen them. Tonight, we'll vote on the top nine that will be our book club selections for our October - June meetings.

Some of the contenders that I think will be picked:

The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani
The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian
The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
Water for Elephants by Laura Gruen
The Year of Fog by Michelle Redmond
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch (we usually stick to books that are only available in paperback, but this one has a lot of support)
Mao's Last Dancer by Li Cunxin
Miracle in the Andes by Nando Parrado (we did this in my other book club)
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
The Red Pony by John Steinbeck
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

(We usually choose one "classic," so it will be one of those last three.)

It is often a contentious and laborious process to pick the books. We try to make everyone happy. We try to have every book reviewed by at least three people; that way there is a tie-breaker if one likes it and one doesn't.

I will let you know how things go! It's *almost* as exciting as watching the Olympics ... but not quite!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

My Not-So-Quiet Night

Both of the girls were supposed to babysit tonight. B and I were looking forward to a quiet night at home. We bought steaks to grill on the new grill and were going to watch the Olympics. We were talking about how our family life is reaching a new phase, where the girls have their own social lives and we'll be left on our own more and more. (Not that I'm complaining -- it's been 13+ long years since we've enjoyed that lifestyle!)

Then M's babysitting job was cancelled. Oh well ... No romantic evening, but still a quiet night at home. Then she went to the swim club ... Quiet night for just the two of us was back on! Then B got called to work, so he left to drive to Baltimore. Oh well. Quiet night with the house all to myself! Yipppeeee! I poured a glass of wine and settled in to finish reading my book (Loving Frank by Nancy Horan - I'm reviewing it as a potential candiate for my book club.)

Then it all fell to pieces. M called from the swim club and asked if "they" could come back to the house with her and watch a movie. Who is "they", I ask? Three girls and two boys ... FIVE friends. And two of them are boys. EEEK! I am not ready for this!

I laid down some ground rules - they have to stay downstairs in the family room. No coming up into my office/playroom to play Wii, or going into any bedrooms. No "purple" (boys=blue, girls=pink, contact between boy+girl=purple!)

So much for my quiet evening at home. I'm now banished to my room, although I will make occasional "passthroughs" to check on the scene. And I will keep a listening ear on the family room. If it gets toooo quiet, that's not a good sign either! Too bad we got rid of our baby monitor -- it would come in handy for eavesdropping right about now!

(The worst part is when L finds out that M had a little party get-together while she was babysitting. You'll be able to hear the outrage five states away!)

Update at 9:00 pm: Another friend is on her way.......

Take Your Daughter to Work Day -- New Pictures Added

B took M on a ship with him yesterday! It's something she's always wanted to do, but he wanted to be sure that she was mature enough to handle it. Plus it had to be the "right" ship - at a reasonable time, in decent condition, and a situation where he could get her home afterwards.

They left from the Virginia Beach office, so they stayed overnight. All of the pilot offices have sleeping rooms, like hotel rooms. M said she didn't sleep well; she was nervous about being in the room by herself and getting up in the morning. They got called about 4:30 am.

B said she did really great. She's done a "practice climb" on a ladder once before when we took a ride on the pilot launch. She climbed a few rungs on the ladder, but didn't actually get on the ship. That was the part that made me so very nervous about all of this. If you've ever been on a cruise, you may have seen how a pilot boards/deboards a ship. Well, cargo ships are generally much taller off the water, with much longer ladders. This ship -- the "Marvelous Ace" -- wasn't too bad. They said it was about 20 steps on the ladder. But keep in mind that both the pilot launch boat and the ship are MOVING ... in the open water. I was nervous about it. B does it so much that I really don't give much thought to the actual danger of it all, but thinking about M up there, dangling off the side of a ship -- eek! (If you want more information about how pilots board ships, there are a couple of videos at YouTube that give you a good idea. Like this one and this one.)

M had fun, but she was a little bit bored. They got on the ship about 5:45 am and got to Baltimore about 2:30. Then they had to drive back to Va. Beach. On a summer Friday. Through the tunnel. Let's just say it took a while. What should be a four hour trip took more like five.

Here are some pics of M on the bridge wing of the ship. That's the Bay Bridge in Annapolis in the distance.

B sent me some more pictures this afternoon. Here is M coming down the ladder when they got off the ship in Baltimore.

Here she is on the launch after getting off the ship.

There's the ship that they piloted - the "Marvelous Ace." It's a ro-ro ship, that's why it is so boxy. (Ro-ro=roll on, roll off. They carry vehicles. This one was full of Subarus. I think they said 1,500 Subarus.)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Some New Pictures

Some cute pictures of the girls from today.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Volleyball Update

L has chosen a team! We had a lot of angst over the decision, but after getting some scoop from another mom, I think she is with the best possible coach for her. She really needs someone she can learn from. The club she's going with is definitely the most convenient for us. They have their own facility that's only 15 minutes away, as opposed to the other options that practice at different places all over the place. We don't know who else is on the team, but I don't think it matters much to her, as she didn't really know any of the girls anyway. She has several friends on her rec league volleyball team, but none of them are interested in playing at the club level.

So, we're now committed to volleyball in a big way -- financially, for one, but also timewise (they practice three times a week and generally attend 2 out-of-town tournaments a month.) Should be interesting!

Mega Sleepover

The girls had three friends sleep over last night (for a total of five girls!) They call camped out in the family room, sleeping on the couch and air mattresses. They had a mega movie marathon, ate pizza and ice cream, and laughed well into the night. Actually, I was surprised -- they didn't stay up that late. I was envisioning it going on until the wee hours of the morning, but I think they were all asleep by 1:00 am.
These are fun times for middle schoolers. Well, until the girls all go home and I try to get M&L to clean up the family room! Then it won't be too much fun for any of us ...

Monday, August 18, 2008

No News

Well, we're still in limbo.

M&L did get their schedules. They are on different teams. I called the school this morning to find out why and the guidance counselor said she didn't know and would call me back. So I don't know what's going to happen. M is -- once again -- in all the same classes with L's best buddy. Life is just not fair. That's mainly what L is upset about. M does not want her schedule to change even one iota - she is happy with it as is. L wouldn't mind being moved into M's team, but she realizes that she still wouldn't be in classes with her friend. So we'll wait and see what the counselor says. I did talk to the girls' friends who are twins, and they are on the same team. Go figure. Update: I heard back from the counselor. Apparently, the request letter was received and the girls were slated to be together on yet a third team. So she offered the option of switching to that team, or leaving things as is. As M would be extremely upset about moving, I asked her not to switch them. I did ask if L could be switched into M's team and she said she didn't think so because the Advanced Science classes were already very full, but she would check into it. But, I don't think it will be possible, and they will just have to deal with two different teams. M is happy -- L is uneasy. It's definitely a huge convenience for them to have the same teachers/classes/homework assignments/test schedules/projects, etc.

We are also still waiting about volleyball. We are waiting to hear back from one of the coaches - well, actually two coaches. We were supposed to get a call yesterday, but didn't hear anything. We will have to make a decision tonight to go with the one team that we are definite about. Which is fine; that is Lauren's first choice and not a bad option for her first year.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Waiting for Word

Lots of anxious waiting this weekend. The middle school schedules were supposedly mailed out yesterday, so we are thinking that they will appear in the mailbox today. That's been the pattern for the last two years, anyway. Last year, we were at Smuggler's Notch when the letters came, so our friend got our mail and called us with the news. (I'll never forget it - we were at the Ben & Jerry's ice cream factory when she called!)

The middle school is organized into teams, and there is no clear "winner" among them, so I am not worried about their placement. I'm more concerned with their scheduling and who else is in their classes. I'd requested for them to be on the same team, but not the same classes, but to have the same lunch bell. This has worked out great the last two years, but this year there is a new principal and I don't know if she will approve the request. Plus, there is so much DRAMA dealing with the fallout of who is in class with who. For both 6th and 7th grade, L's best buddy was in all of M's classes and L was NOT HAPPY ABOUT IT! As if it was somehow M's fault.

We will also be hearing the outcome of the final volleyball tryout. After the mega-marathon weekend of tryouts before the lake, L has one final tryout tomorrow morning. Then the coach will call all the girls and let them know who she has chosen. We have heard back from two teams already, and will make a decision after we hear from this third one. I really want L to have the final say because I want her to be happy. I want her to like the coach and the other girls -- this is a big commitment, with three practices a week and traveling to weekend-long tournaments twice a month. All three of the clubs have advantages and disadvantages. One is more expensive, but much more convenient. One is more elite and competitive, but also more clique-y. One is well-organized, but the coach is not as personable.

So, we'll see! I will have some news -- both academically and athletically -- to share by Monday!

Bird in the House!

ACK! Last night when the girls got home, a bird flew in the house. I think it had been hiding in the wreath on our front door, so when they opened the door, it flew right in. It probably took thirty minutes to shoo it out the sliding glass door. I closed off the doors to the kitchen, dining room and foyer so that it could only get in the kitchen and family room. Then I cowered behind the dining room swinging door, peeking at the chaos and shouting instructions to the girls.

They tried shooing it out with a broom. They tried trapping it in a towel. Finally, it landed on the tile floor in the kitchen and M slammed a box over top of it. Then she nudged the box across the floor and scooted it to the sliding glass door opening. L manned the door, and as soon as it fluttered out on to the deck, she slammed the door shut so it wouldn't come back in.

My crystal ice bucket got broken amidst all the shooing and swooping and shouting and swatting. Luckily that was the only damage! I had horrible thoughts of it leaving a bird poop trail all over everything, but there were just a few feathers left behind.

Of course ... B was not home. He's working. He did call several times throughout the process trying to offer us some advice, and ultimately he took it upon himself to call a neighbor to come help us. But by the time he got here, the bird was gone.

Tweet, tweet.

Friday, August 15, 2008

More Pictures From the Lake

My friend dropped off a CD off her pictures, so here are some more shots of our lake vacation. (You can click on any of the pictures to view a larger version of the photos.)

Sunset Cruise on the Pontoon Boat

That's M in the middle with two friends. They're getting ready to go tubing on the hot dog.

All the kids. Well, minus two of the 9-year-old girls. That's M on the far left (in the water) and L peeking out behind the two girls in the pink.

L with our friends' dog, Cassie.

M getting ready to jump off "The Cliffs."

B on the jet ski.

L and her best buddy.

M and friends.

Pictures from the Lake

Thought you might like to see some pictures from our trip to the lake. I'm terrible about carrying the camera around and never taking pictures. Luckily, two of my friends that were also there are bigtime photographers and scrapbookers and are always very generous about sharing pictures with us. However, I haven't heard from them yet, so I'll share a couple of the meager shots that I took.

Here's B and M on the jetski.

Here's M swimming with Cassie (that's the dog!) and a friend. The water is so clear and fresh - very nice!

Here's a sunset shot. We usually took a sunset cruise each night after dinner, which often ended up transitioning into a "starlight cruise" because we had such a good time and didn't want to head back! You could see millions of stars and several people caught sight of shooting stars. (I never got lucky -- I was too busy chatting, I guess!)

Here's B and L on the jetski. The girls love to drive the jetskis, but they have to be a little bit older before they can drive it solo without an adult accompanying them.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Another Olympic Question

WHAT THE HECK ARE THOSE TECHNO-OUTFITS THAT THE FENCING COMPETITORS WEAR? They look like space suits, with wires and blinking lights. Here's a picture.

This is Ridiculous

High School Band Can Play at Disney, But Can't Ride the Rides (click for link)

This article was in our local paper this morning. The band at Great Bridge High School has played in the parade at Disney World every four years for the last sixteen years. This year, however, the school board has approved their marching in the parade, but students are prohibited from riding any rides or attractions while at Disney. WHAT???

A new rule implemented in 2006 prevents field trips to amusment parks and water parks for safety reasons. So the school board is doing the band a favor by agreeing to let them go at all. PUH-lease.

By the way, this is not our school system; it's a neighboring town.
These kids have worked hard - they practice in the summers, after school, do fundraising, etc. M is in orchestra, and I know how much extra time and effort the kids put into it, and that is just on the middle school level. If they are going to do the work, invest the time, and pay the money to go to Orlando, then they should be able to enjoy the rewards -- fully.

It reminds me of the Howard Jones song, "No One is to Blame."

You can look at the menu but you just cant eat
You can feel the cushions but you cant have a seat
You can dip your foot in the pool but you cant have a swim
You can feel the punishment but you cant commit the sin
And you want her and she wants you
We want everyone
And you want her and she wants you
No one, no one, no one ever is to blame
You can build a mansion but you just cant live in it
Youre the fastest runner but youre not allowed to win
Some break the rules
And live to count the cost
The insecurity is the thing that wont get lost
And you want her and she wants you
We want everyone
And you want her and she wants you
No one, no one, no one ever is to blame
You can see the summit but you cant reach it
Its the last piece of the puzzle but you just cant make it fit
Doctor says youre cured but you still feel the pain
Aspirations in the clouds but your hopes go down the drain
And you want her and she wants you
We want everyone
And you want her and she wants you
No one, no one, no one ever is to blame
No one ever is to blame
No one ever is to blame

Five Things I Can't Live Without

1) San Pelligrino -- I stopped drinking Diet Coke this past spring. No real reason behind it, just the thought that soda is a lot of unecessary chemicals. Then when I tried to stop drinking it, I realized that I was addicted to the caffiene. I literally couldn't get through the day without it. So I was even more motivated to give it up. Now I only drink water, and I love sparkling mineral water. I prefer SP over Perrier, but I also like some store brands (Target, Fresh Market). And I love Voss - the bottle is so cool - but it's so dratted expensive.

2) -- As much as I read, this is the perfect way to feed my book habit ... and clear out my bookshelf when I'm finished with a book. It's a place where you (obviously ... duh) swap books with other members. They don't have to be paperbacks, by the way. It's free to request a book; instead, you incur a cost when you ship a book to someone else. Then, when they receive the book, you earn a credit you can use to request a book from someone else. It's costs about $2.00 - $2.50 to mail a book, depending on how big it is. So ultimately that's much cheaper than buying books at the bookstore.

3) My iPod Touch ... I think that I've explained that one pretty thoroughly already.

4) Summertime tomatoes from the garden -- I could eat them every day for every meal. Sometimes I get lucky and my mom hooks me up from her garden. Other times I have to buy them from the farm market. I love them plain, with a little sprinkle of salt, or in salads with some fresh mozarella and basil, or on sandwiches, nice and squishy so the juices soak into the bread.

5) Conair Infiniti -- As I've gotten older my hair has gotten much curlier. If I want it to be straight at all, I have to use this. The nice thing is that you can use it like a blow dryer, and straighten it at the same time. Yes, it's clearly infomercial fodder, but I did NOT buy mine from an infomercial! I bought it from, thankyouverymuch.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Questions About the Olympics

1) Why do the water polo players wear those little bonnets on their heads? Does it offer some protection from getting hit in the head, or is it to keep the water our of their ears? Why don't they wear goggles like the swimmers?

2) Does it bother anyone else that the Chinese gymnasts are believed to be underage and there's nothing that anyone can do about it? Would I care as much if they hadn't gotten the gold medal? I think they clearly deserved to win, but it just bothers me when people don't follow rules.

3) Why are there different events for men's and women's gymnastics? I wonder when, historically, the men's apparatus were designated as Horizontal Bar, Pommel Horse, Rings, Parallel Bars, Floor, and Vault while the women only have four: vault, floor, uneven bars, beam. Why don't men do beam? Why can't women do rings?

4) Why do the divers shower before they do their dives?

5) Has there ever been a situation where two teams from the some country (for example, beach volleyball) had to play each other for the gold medal?

Just some random thoughts. I think I've been watching too much coverage!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mother/Daughter Book Club

Before our lake trip, we hosted an event that I look forward to all year long. It was our 4th annual Mother/Daughter Book Club. I wrote all about the history of our club and this year's selection as a guest contributor at, so you can read all about it here. I truly, truly love this experience, which I hope I conveyed accurately in the article, so I wanted to share it here also.

I highly recommend the book we read - Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer. It was a great read. It might be a tad scary for younger readers - I know L would have been freaked out by it even as recently as last year. She's such a worst-case-scenario worry wart!

We're hoping to meet again one more time this summer to do To Kill a Mockingbird. I'm not sure all the girls will get through it in time (especially M&L!!) but we plan to show the movie and even a brief discussion will be worthwhile, since most of the girls will be reading it in English class during the school year.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Sound of an Empty House

The girls left for camp this morning. They'll be at Rockbridge Alum Springs with their Wyldlife group. (Wyldlife is the middle school version of Young Life, a non-denominational Christian organization for teens. I know -- the first time I heard "Wyldlife", I thought, "What the heck? It sounds very inappropriate!" But it is a terrific organization.)

They were very excited. They've been going to sleepaway camp since they were 7, but this is their first experience with this camp. Last year we were in Vermont, but several of their friends went and loved it. This year we changed our Vermont week so that they could go. And I expect we'll have to do the same for next year!

There were five busloads of kids that left this morning. Lots of kids they know from school but I hope they also make some new friends.

It's kind of sad and lonely in the house without them ... but not that sad! I love having the peace and quiet and a short break from the ...ummm... DRAMA!! ... of thirteen-year-olds!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Watching the Olympics with My Kids

I have always enjoyed watching the Olympics. It's one of the rare times when I feel there's something worth watching on TV. My TV time increases about ten-fold during those weeks.

It's only been a day so far, but I'm really enjoying the way that M and L are taking an interest in the events. They can relate as fellow athletes this time around. We are all following the swimming competitions. L is endlessly fascinated with the volleyball - both beach and indoor. (As am I, those beach volleyball boys are cute!) M is interested in field hockey and basketball.

They won't get much chance to sit in front of the television as they will be away at camp Monday - Friday. But we'll tape some events for them, and enjoy their enjoyment of this international spectacle.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Back From the Lake!

We are back! I ended up being able to stay an extra night with M, because B brought L home for her friend's bat mitzvah.

We have a fantastic time this past week, but boy was I feeling adrift without internet access. There was nothing, nada, zilch. On the one hand, it was quite liberating - it sure does free up some time in the day when you're not spending it at the keyboard! But I really did feel out of touch. I have a ton of catching up to do.

Pictures and details coming soon!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Bubby Cat

I introduced you to the girls, but I have to introduce another member of the family. This is Bubby -- aka Bubster. His real name is Comet. When we found him in 1998, we named him after one of the girls' favorite books: Comet's Nine Lives about a cat in Nantucket. But somehow his name transitioned to "Bubby". We even named our boat after him - the "Bubby Cat." (Our boat is a catamaran, so it seemed only fitting.)
Last summer Bubby was diagnosed with diabetes, which means that he requires shots of insulin twice a day. It's kind of a pain, but we've made it work. We all learned to inject the shots, so the girls are really good about helping with it too. He's a great cat!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Jon & Kate Plus 8

Crisscrossing the lines of personal life and work for a moment ... I have a blog post and poll on my site about the television show Jon & Kate Plus 8. If you're not familiar with it, it's a series on TLC about a family in Pennsylvania who have 7-year-old (8 now? I should know this) twin girls and 4 year old sextuplets. That's the 8 the title refers to: 2 + 6=8 kids. Jon and Kate (Gosselin) are the parents. I have always loved the show. It's one of the few that I record on the DVR and actually go back and watch (mostly because it is not available through iTunes or I could watch it on my iPod Touch.) Watching them makes me life seem so much more normal and manageable!
But the show is coming under fire and there's a lot of controversy about it recently. Which you can read about in my blog post at But, would you also take a moment to vote in the poll, and even leave a comment over there if you feel so inclined? I would love to see some more discussion (and pageviews! Okay, I'm being honest!) on the topic.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Packing the Car

One thing that I hate about going on vacation is packing the car. Most of our vacations lately have involved air travel - so the hard part in that is packing the suitcases. Then they fit in the car no problem. But packing for a driving trip is so much more annoying to me. First of all, we tend to bring everything but the kitchen sink. Then, making it fit in the car in an orderly fashion is just beyond me. Usually this chore falls to Brian - it just seems to be a man thing, and anyway he is so much better at it than me. But he's working today, so it's up to me. He did get the bigger suitcases and the drink cooler in the car for me, so there wasn't too much heavy lifting. Everything is in it now and hopefully it will stay put until we arrive at the lake!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Off to the Lake!

I'd hoped to schedule posts to drip every day while I'm away, but I'm not sure I've completely mastered how to make that happen with blogger. It's a really handy feature that I use all the time at my site. So, my brand new blog effort may sit idle while we're gone to the lake.
We are going to Smith Mountain Lake with six other families. From what I understand, cell service is spotty, so I don't have much hope for internet access either. I am not taking my laptop, but I will have my iPod Touch, so if I do get a wireless signal, I will send an update via that.
I am looking forward to it; it's our first visit but everyone says it's lovely. We are looking forward to doing some boating, hanging out with friends, and just relaxing. I'm taking several books: The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, which will likely take me months and months to finish, so I read it sporadically. But I also reading Austenland by Shannon Hale, and hoping to start Loving Frank by Nancy Horan, which is my summer reading assignment for book club.
Have a great week - and stop back next weekend for an update about the lake!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Ten Things I Love About My iPod Touch

Brian got me an iPod Touch for my birthday last year. I'd hinted that I wanted one, but knew it was really an indulgence beyond necessity. I already had a perfectly good iPod Nano. Luckily, his covetousness won out; by getting me the iPod Touch, he inherited the Nano!

Since last year, the iPod Touch has really increased in functionality. First there was an update adding email access and weather reports. Now that Apple has allowed third party developers to offer applications, there are even more fun things that I use it for. So here's a list of things I really love about it:

  1. Safari Browser: After being away from the Apple interface for several years, it was so lovely to discover the simplicity of Safari. I like it so much on the iPod Touch that I've started using it on my laptop.

  2. Reading My AOL Mail: The iPod Touch makes it really easy to access and utilize AOL mail, even easier than doing it on my laptop becasue I can bypass the AOL program and just get the mail.

  3. Updating Facebook: Who could ever imagine that I could give me friends real-time updates about my sailing vacation, from an isolated island in the Caribbean called the Bitter End?

  4. Units App: This is the handiest thing ever. It's a new app that you download that lets you instantly convert things - currency, measurement, weights, time etc. I don't really know why it thrills me so to know how many weeks are in 12 years. But it sure did come in handy when our friend from Italy was visiting and she wanted to know what 90 degrees was in Celsius or what a $25 shirt from Aeropostale would cost in Euros.

  5. My Beddy-Bye Playlist: I made a playlist of my favorite soothing, relaxing songs. Like Pachelbel's Canon, Andrea Bocceli and John McDaniel. Whenever I listen to it before I fall asleep, I always sleep really well!

  6. My Pictures: It's like having a wallet-full of snapshots, without the "full" part. I uploaded some of my favorite pictures from the sailboat trip, and then I always have them handy to show to people. Or just to look at in a quiet moment and relive the happy memories.

  7. Trism: This is a totally addicting game. All kinds of games because available for the iPod Touch when Apple introduced it's App Store earlier this summer. This one is a puzzle game where you connect triangles to form triads. I spend way too much time playing it!

  8. Audiobooks: I can't read in the car - it makes me sick. But I can *listen* to books on my iPod Touch. Up next: Mommy Tracked by Whitney Gaskell.

  9. TV Shows: I'm not a big TV-watcher, but I do have shows that I really like. And I can download them on my iPod Touch and watch them whenever. That way I'm not tied to the TV schedule - or even tied to the DVR box. I can watch it in the car, walking on the treadmill at the gym, waiting in the dr.'s office (or during volleyball tryouts). My favorite shows are The Tudors, Grey's Anatomy and old episodes of Sex & The City. I also download the free shows - usually pilot episodes of new programs.

  10. Notes: There's a little notepad feature that I find really handy. Like when Kim and I were traveling in Arizona and wanted to keep track of expenses. But I love the Notes feature most because there are little surprises there - whenever the girls get their hands on my iPod they will leave me little messages in the notes. Like this one, "Hi mom! How are you? The bathroom will look amazing! You don't need to worry about a thing just be happy and pray about it. It will work out fine." -- that one's from Meredith. She was playing with my iPod while we were in Home Depot stressing over the details of our bathroom renovation.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

All Volleyball All the Time

One of my daughters, L, is trying out for volleyball this weekend. After several years of playing rec leagues and making the school team last year, we've agreed to let her try out for a "club" -- an advanced travel team. We had no idea what we were getting into! She is trying out for three clubs in our area, and we really don't have a sense of whether she'll make any or all of the teams. She is attending multiple tryout sessions -- two today, three tomorrow -- and we've cut our lake vacation short to accommodate all these tryouts. I'd (silly me!) assumed that you had to attend *one* tryout session; oh no, you have to go to all of them (3-5 per team!)

The fact that she willingly gets out of bed at 7 am on a Saturday morning and eagerly jumps in the car indicates to me just how passionate she is about the sport. She wants to play all the time. She participated in a beach volleyball club over the summer, but unfortunately our travel plans and bad weather meant that she missed more than she went. But she was always doggedly determined to be there - urging us to drive down to the oceanfront even when storm clouds threatened, in the hope that the session wouldn't be cancelled.

I'm glad she has an activity that she is so passionate about. I know that M feels a little bit of jealousy and animosity that her sister is taking the sport to the next level, and that it will mean some sacrifices on her part. Starting with the delayed start of our lake vacation this weekend!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Tax-Free Shopping

It's a tax-free weekend in my state, which I think is a marketing strategy more than a real benefit to consumers. But I bought into it anyway (literally!!) and took the girls to the mall today to do some shopping. Clothes, shoes, and school supplies are tax-exempt; unfortunately books are not!

We weren't really out to buy clothes. The girls have plenty and I don't really buy them school clothes until into the fall because it stays so warm here through September. But L needed some shoes to go with a dress for a bat mitvah that she is attending and both girls needed new bras.

We started at Victoria's Secret because we had some coupons. The manager was just opening the store when we arrived and she was soooo incredibly helpful. If you have ever shopped foe bras with your teen/tween daughter --or if you have ever been a teen/tween and had to shop for bras with your mother, you know that it is an excrutiating experience. Luckily, Victoria's Secret has the cool factor working for it, so the girls don't mind going there. And this saleswoman was so terrific - helping them find their sizes and styles and generally making it fun and pleasant instead of a horror.

Then we go to check out and what do we find? There is a MALE working the register!!! Since when do they let men work at Victoria's Secret?? That definitely made things a bit uncomfortable for the girls, especially when he tries to induce me to apply for their credit card program so that we can get discounts on "bras and panties." I can just see the girls cringing as he says the word!! I'm sure he is a perfectly nice guy, but he needs to find another line of work!

Meet My Girls

These are my twin daughters. This picture was taken at The Baths, in the British Virgin Islands. We stopped there during our sailing vacation in June.  I love that they are grinning from ear to ear - it's an indication of just how much fun we had on that trip!

Welcome to My Blog!

After years of writing a blog at  my work site, I've recently been inspired to create a personal space to share my thoughts and daily experiences. I've really enjoyed reading  the blogs of my online buddies, like Leeann at Is It Morning Already? and Lori at The Simple Life at Home and I'm looking forward to following in their footsteps.  Let's get started!