Thursday, March 30, 2006

A real hat for an imaginary friend

I've been on a message board of fellow moms for several years now, and even though I've never met most of them, they are so dear to me! I call them my imaginary friends and am grateful every time we move that I have these friendships that follow me wherever I may go.

We talk about everything from parenting to cooking to sex to reality TV (I just read the reality TV threads in case the subject changes to parenting, cooking, or sex), and a couple of months ago, the topic of Flying Spaghetti Monster hats just happened to come up. (To learn more about Flying Spaghetti Monster, click here.) My imaginary friend Deana mentioned that she thought I should make her such a hat, and I laughed it off.

I couldn't stop thinking about it though. Plus I was bored to death with knitting socks, so I thought it might make an interesting diversion if nothing else. I really got into the project though and found myself giggling madly as I crocheted. Fred and the kids even got in on it, urging me every time I thought I was finished that "It needs more noodles!"

I sent the Flying Spaghetti Monster hat to Deana last week, and she was thrilled to receive a present and honored to be touched by His Noodly Appendage. Doesn't she look positively saintly in her new hat?

Personally, I think next she needs a vanity plate for her car:

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Spring Break vacation

Oh, it feels so good to have a nice travel story to blog again! We just got home this evening from our Spring Break trip to Utah, where we had such a fantastic time. I couldn't wait to get up here to the computer and start going through my pictures.

John and Michelle, my brother- and sister-in-law, have lived in Utah for several years now, but this was our first chance to get out there and visit them. In fact, this was our first opportunity to meet Morgan and Paige, and we hadn't seen Caroline since she was a baby herself! Annabelle enjoyed near-celebrity status as a real, live girl-cousin--Caroline and Morgan couldn't get enough of her.

The weather was almost balmy when our plane landed Saturday afternoon, but it snowed several inches during the night and continued to snow for most of the next day. John went with us up to Brighton, where Annabelle and I hung out in the cafeteria drinking hot chocolate while John and Fred went skiing and Mike went snowboarding.

It was too blustery and snowy to mess with trying to take photos on Sunday. Fortunately, Monday was beautiful, so Fred managed to get the camera out:

While Fred and Mike were enjoying their adventures on the mountain, Michelle and I loaded up Caroline, Morgan, and Annabelle and took off for the mall. The shopping conditions were perfect, and we scored big-time. Everything Annabelle tried on fit perfectly, and Michelle got 2 pairs of shoes. (Dansko needs to start paying me a commission. I'm like a missionary for the First Church of Comfy Footwear.) Best of all, I FINALLY found a comforter set that I loved, and it was marked down to $60 from $230. When we came out of the mall with our purchases, I was so dazzled by the sight of the looming snow-covered mountains that I had to whip out my camera. This is what a good day of shopping in Utah looks like:

Yesterday was gray and drizzly, so we hung out at John and Michelle's house in the morning and then went into downtown Salt Lake City in the afternoon. The temple really is something to see:

Here's our little gang, posing for a group shot in front of the temple:

Annabelle wanted a chance to play in the snow, so after seeing the sights downtown, we headed back toward Brighton and stopped along the way so that she, Mike, Caroline, and Morgan could sled while Michelle and Paige waited patiently in the nice warm car. It was wet and sloppy on the mountain, but we all had a great time. Fred and John revisited their childhood by pelting each other with snowballs, and the kids had a blast sliding down the hill. I snapped this self-portrait of Fred and me:

Here are Morgan, John, and Caroline sharing a moment in the snow:

I wanted a video clip a la "Jackass" from the sledding, but I was too chicken to do it myself. Fred was willing though and shot this clip for me:

Annabelle had taken special care in costuming Pellet for our Utah adventure, and she was happy he finally had a chance to strut his stuff in the snow:

We arrived back at John and Michelle's house last night wet, cold, happy, and HUNGRY. We ordered pizzas from The Pie and stuffed ourselves silly.

We spent today making our way back east by way of Dallas, stopped at the Outback in Louisville for supper on our way home, and were greeted at the door by one love-starved pussycat. Eddie has apparently taken a vow never to leave our side:

  • I have posted all of my unedited Utah pictures here.

  • Thank you SO MUCH to everybody who took the time to sign my Guest Map. I love seeing where you guys are from! If you haven't already signed, it's never too late.

  • A special thank you to John, Michelle, Caroline, Morgan, and Paige for being such fantastic hosts and helping us to have such an incredible time. We're already making plans for our next trip to Utah!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Setting out cookies and milk for the farting-pig people

A while back, I mentioned that I was getting an awful lot of hits from people who were finding my blog using search terms like "farting pig." It's still going on, and I am really taking a perverse amount of pride in this. I guess one takes one's traffic where one finds it.

I just did a quick survey of my stats for the past 24 hours. Of my 92 hits, a total of 38 people got to this blog courtesy of the farting pig. When you take into account that of the remaining 54 hits one is my mom, and one is my dad, and one is my sister (who only looks at the pictures and never reads the text, so really I could tell you some stories about Jenny, and she would never know--unless Kim rats me out, Kim being yet another of those 92 hits), the farting-pig people are a LOT of my audience.

Being a people pleaser, I wish that I had something to offer to make them want to return another day. And yet, what do I have? The subject of flatulence rarely comes up here, and I hardly ever feature livestock--just the occasional wooden horse. So I can only hope that maybe these people, who obviously share my twisted sense of humor, will find something worth returning for.

One thing I have found is that the enjoyment of farting pigs transcends geographical boundaries. According to my sitemeter, these readers have come from all over the States, from Canada, from the UK, from Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, Turkey! The farting pig is universal.

We will be leaving for Salt Lake City for 5 days on Saturday, and I doubt I will be blogging again between now and then. I have a HUGE favor to ask while I'm gone. See my Guest Map over in the sidebar? I haven't made a big deal out of it, and so far a grand total of 4 people have stuck a pin in the map (THANK YOU, Ivy, Claire, Gretchyn, and Clara!! :::smooch:::). It would make me so happy if while I'm away, maybe you might consider adding a pin from your corner of the world.

You don't have to leave an email address or a website. You don't have to identify yourself as a fan of the farting pig. In fact, feel free to add a disclaimer, something to the extent of "I do not favor the farting pig, and it is merely a coincidence that I arrived here during the season of the porcine tooter," because really, this invitation goes out to all my readers. It will mean the world to me.

Happy belated Pi Day!

Perhaps it escaped your notice, but Pi Day was last week. March 14th, 3/14, get it? Like pi, which are square, if I recall my math lessons correctly.

I don't know how you celebrated, but I'll bet you a nickel you didn't have as much fun as I did. Mike came home from school in a real stinker of a mood about the following homework assignment: "Write a paragraph that makes sense, in which each word has the same number of letters as the digit in that place value of pi taken out 35 places." And lo, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, and truth be told, Mike didn't behave much better than I did.

He pleaded with me to write a note exempting him from the assignment. I told him he must be sniffing glue. He said, "Well, I just won't do it then!" I said fine. He was horrified: "But I'll get a homework stamp!!!!!" Then just do the darn work, I suggested. He proclaimed it impossible. I proved it to be quite possible by jotting down the following poem:


I love a yummy chocolate.

To easily slurp two pints luscious chocolate.

Swallow chocolate, joy of day!

Calories from heaven.

To gobble down for all eternity.

Now to quickly spoonfeed,

Maybe of delicate tiramisu.

OK, it's not great art, but you try it if you're so clever. Mike was unimpressed and continued to moan and snarl for quite some time.

I fairly danced out of the house that evening on my way to a meeting, leaving Fred to deal with more of the Pi Day fallout once he arrived home from work. When I returned that evening, the kids were in bed. "How was your evening?" I asked. Fred's evening was apparently fine. "REALLY?" I demanded. "No homework problems you would care to share?" Nope, none. It seems Mike finished his homework while Fred was out picking up the fried chicken. This is patently unfair. Why should I be the only one to enjoy the holiday fireworks?

Mike chose an ocean theme for his Pi Day writing, which I just saw for the first time yesterday. (Remember, he was asleep when I got home that night, and I'm barely functional when he catches the bus at 7 a.m.)

Sea: A bird, a clam's waterhome. To follow among the great breakers. Albatross soaring, sea horses arc in awe. Lobsters lark around. An oyster, blue for all eternity. And so, quickly albatross soars. So beautied, balladed . . .

And so another Pi Day has come and gone. I think that next year we should celebrate with pie instead of creative writing. They may not be square, but they sure are easier to make!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Mail call

I was delighted to receive a box of German goodies the other day from my friends Amy and Sibylle:

From left to right, we have:

  • the second volume of Der Dativ ist dem Gentiv sein Tod, which translates loosely as "Dative is the Death of Genitive." I love to ponder linguistic oddities, and this book is a collection of essays on interesting points about the German language. It's rather slow reading for me, as I have to consult my little yellow dictionary often, but I'm really enjoying it.

  • chocolate! Yum--what more is there to say, especially with my mouth stuffed full of chocolate?

  • a DVD of "The Sound of Music," dubbed into German for the first time in honor of the film's 40th anniversary.

  • a dishtowel from Amy's trip to Ireland (I decided somewhere during my travels that dishtowels make perfect souvenirs--they are useful, take up next to no storage space, and remind you of all the exotic places you would rather be than your kitchen).

  • noodles, noodles, and more noodles! Again, yum! German noodles are the best noodles.

  • a CD of the soundtrack to "Les Miz," again auf deutsch. Everybody sing!

    Hörst du, wie das Volk erklingt? Von uns'rer Wut erzählt der Wind
    Das ist die Symphonie von Menschen, die nicht länger Sklaven sind
    Jedes Herz schlägt, wie es kann, unsere Herzen trommeln laut
    Alles fängt ganz von neuem an, wenn der Morgen graut

  • the original German version of a book that Annabelle really likes--I, Freddy over here; Freddy, ein wildes Hamsterleben over there. I'm currently reading the English version and will then attempt the German one. I'm figuring it has to be easier than the genitive-killing dative book.

  • a DVD of "Der bewegte Mann," starring Til Schweiger. I just wish I could have Sibylle with me when I watch it so that she could translate the parts I miss!

  • 2 dozen chocolate surprise eggs, what we call in our bastardized German "Kindereggs." I don't care for them, but Mike and Annabelle think they're little ovoids of heaven right here on earth.

Thank you, Amy and Sibylle, for keeping me stocked with German goodies!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Still here . . . just very quiet

Hi, everybody, I'm still here. I seem to have taken a vacation from blogging--a blogcation? I wish I had planned on doing so in advance, so that I could have enjoyed my little break instead of feeling constantly guilty about my inability to post. Instead, I kept meaning to write, day after day, until finally almost 2 weeks had slid by. So, let's see . . . what have you missed? Hmmmmm . . . not much.

Fred has been making quick trips here and there to exotic destinations such as Syracuse, NY, and Fort Jackson, SC. The kids are continuing to enjoy school and are doing quite well, as evidenced by this most recent round of report cards. It would be unseemly for me to brag about their grades, so instead I shall just tell you that nobody brought home any consonants.

And me? Now that Gold Rush is over (except for the thank-you notes and after-action report I have yet to write), I have turned my energies toward a huge indexing project. It seems to dominate most of my time and leaves me little enthusiasm for playing around on the computer.

The good news is that I have lots of pictures that I have been meaning to blog, so I shall try and get those posted over the next few days. I want to leave you with a little something to remember me by when I disappear next Saturday for another 5 days. We are all headed out west to Salt Lake City to visit Fred's youngest brother and his family! I may or may not try snowboarding again while we're out there. Here's an idea--why don't you go to the old blog and revisit our Thanksgiving snowboarding adventure from 2 years ago while I try to think of something to write about?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

What have we done?!

For most of our last year in Germany, Mike begged for a guitar and guitar lessons, so we promised him that once we got settled back in the States, we would make it a priority. We bought him an acoustic guitar in October, and it rarely left his hands after that (only for meals, showers, and Xbox 360). Our house was filled with lovely melodies. And it was good.

We knew from the beginning that his ultimate goal was to learn to play electric guitar. He really started begging a few weeks ago when his guitar teacher (who happens to own a music store) let him mess around on one. We finally decided on a deal whereby Mike would buy the guitar and we would buy the amplifier.

This, we informed him, would definitely have to be a basement toy. What we hadn't counted on was how effectively our air ducts transmit sound! Our house throbs and pulsates with the sound of music. Very loud music.

I'm afraid that I am a consistent disappointment to Mike. He plays a bit and asks, "Recognize that?" Sadly, the answer is always no, prompting Mike to inquire as to whether or not I own a radio. I do indeed own a radio, but Mike doesn't play NPR's greatest hits.

He is counting on you, my cool readers, to recognize his music. So now, ladies and gentlemen, it's time to play Name Those Tunes! Don't let him down.

Note: You might want to turn your speakers down a bit. Or even don protective ear gear:

Mike also says to tell you that he welcomes suggestions for songs to learn.

Relax, Eddie

My poor, uptight cat:

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Gold Rush--the after-action report

Gold Rush last night was a smashing success! This is a huge annual fundraiser for the Ft. Knox OCSC (last year it brought in close to $40,000) and involves planning on a scale at least as grand as the allied invasion of Normandy. Perhaps even more so, as the Allies didn't have to worry about coordinating fake horse races, a live auction, a silent auction, a sweet shop, a general store, blackjack, poker, and a shooting gallery. And food. Oh, and dancing girls:

If you click here, you can watch the dancing girls do their thing. I think the 2 on the either end are especially fetching.

I was in charge of the "Run for the Gold," the fake auction and subsequent racing of fake horses. Here are some of this year's racers waiting patiently in my back yard to get hauled over to the club:

I decorated 2 of the horses myself. I am pleased to introduce Unikolt (The Pottery Pony), named by my sister:

and Sure Thing (The Trojan Horse), named by my (previously invisible) friend Claire:

Unikolt sold for $80 and Sure Thing went for $110. Overall, the horse auction raised $1,255, which will go towards the club's welfare budget for next year and will support many worthy causes. I'm especially delighted to announce that Sure Thing was the champion racer for the evening and won his new owner a Dell computer!

I have been tied up in knots for the past couple of weeks worrying about the math involved in figuring the odds to pay out on the winning horse: "Where a, b, c, d, e, and f represent the total amount wagered on each horse and the total equals x . . . " It was all "blah blah blah Ginger" to me. Fortunately, we had students from the Armor Officers Basic Course helping out for the night, and I got assigned a crackerjack math team:

My friend Sherri, who has decorated horses for each of the past 2 Gold Rushes, warned me not to get too attached to my ponies. I guess I didn't pay close enough attention though, because by the end of the evening I was a little sad that Unikolt and Sure Thing wouldn't be going home with me. My kitchen seems so empty without them! Fortunately, Sure Thing's owner is a friend of mine, and she has promised me liberal visitation rights.

I was happy, however, to bring home a signed first edition of Nelson Demille's latest book, which I scored for $40 in the silent auction, AND the ugliest monkeys known to man. Gaze in awe at their ugliness:

Don't you think it looks like that one monkey is puking into the leaf? You can't tell it from the pictures, but the cookie-jar monkey's head comes off when you remove the lid. I've been secretly lusting after them ever since our pricing party for the general store last week, so when Fred was looking for something to spend his gambling winnings on, I sent him off on a monkey hunt.

We didn't get home until well past midnight, and it has taken me most of the day to recover. Still, I'm glad I participated in Gold Rush . . . and I'm REALLY glad it's over!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Bonnie and the ponies

I was worried that moving to Kentucky might mean getting caught up in betting on horse racing. I just never thought I would be so involved in the racing of fake horses.

There I was, peacefully minding my own business, when my friend May came over to chat. Wham, bam, thank-you-ma'am, and the next thing I knew, I was spearheading Run for the Gold, a part of the Fort Knox OCSC's annual Gold Rush fundraiser. Get it? Gold? Fort Knox? I'm slow--somebody had to point that out to me.

Basically here's how Run for the Gold works. Twelve volunteers decorate little wooden horse cutouts, which are then auctioned at the beginning of Gold Rush (this coming Saturday night). There are 3 "races," in which the horses move according to the roll of a die. The first 2 races are the qualifying heats, with the top 3 finishers from each moving on to run in the big race at the end of the night. The owner of the horse that wins this race receives some fabulous prize (yet to be determined).

During all 3 of the races, the crowd is invited to "bid" on the horses using the chips that they get with their entrance ticket. Yours truly here has to do the math to figure out how much everybody wins. There is ALGEBRA in last year's after-action report. How horrifying is that?!

It looked for a while like we were going to have trouble getting all 12 horses farmed out for decoration, so I decided to take on 2 of them. I've been working hard on my horsies. Really. I have.

OK, so there's no photographic evidence of my efforts, but I have been hard at work. I'm decoupaging both horses, so I have been all about the tiny scissors and glue. (Given that I am our designated family photographer, there rarely are photos of me. I have often said that one day Fred is going to divorce me and submit the kids' scrapbooks into evidence during the custody battle. "Your honor, you can clearly see that this woman has had nothing to do with those children. Ever.")

I've been taking in other people's horses as they get finished, prompting Mike to ask: "Are we running some sort of shelter for these things, or what?" I think my horses are looking pretty cool, but some of the competition is STIFF! Here's a picture of a couple who are currently hanging out in my basement:

I'll post pictures of mine once Fred and Annabelle get them finished. I mean, once I get them finished.