Monday, December 31, 2007

Poster child

Long after I stopped being a "young adult," I have continued to enjoy reading YA literature. Give me a good Lois Duncan or the latest volume of Princess Diaries, and I am quite happy.

One YA author whose work I have enjoyed over the years is Chris Crutcher. His books involve teenagers who are dealing with big problems, and there is usually a strong element of athletics interwoven in the plot.

Mike is currently working really hard on his 100-yard breaststroke and is hoping to take it to the state competition in February. He goes to practice with the team but also puts in a fair bit of his own time, whether by lifting weights in the basement or running with his dad. I'm really impressed at how dedicated he is, and I thought he might enjoy reading Crutcher's book STOTAN!, so I tucked a copy in his Christmas stocking.

Here's what Publisher's Weekly said about STOTAN!:
To be a Stotan (a cross between a Stoic and a Spartan) is to push one's physical and emotional capabilities beyond the limit, as four high school swimmers find out when they accept the challenge of a week-long endurance test devised by their coach. Though it is swim team captain Walker Dupree who narrates, this is every bit as much an ensemble novel as it is four individual stories. Each young man pursues a personal goal, but together the team pursues demons outside the group, ranging from an "anonymous" neo-Nazi association distributing offensive newspapers to the abusive father of one of the boys, who drives his son to suicide. But a demon bigger than any individual or group effort comes along when illness strikes one of these Stotan young men. Then the team finds out that you can't always make sense of everything, you can only go after it with your best shot. Crutcher has written an involving, realistic novel; though it deals with tough, unsolvable issues it is often leavened with humor.
Fast forward from Christmas to the swim meet last Thursday in Bowling Green . . .

I looked over and saw Mike, wet from his last event, listening to his tunes, and reading his book. I couldn't resist snapping a picture without him noticing:

I sent the picture to Chris Crutcher along with an email explaining how happy I was to be able to share my enjoyment of his writing with my son. I got back a nice note and a request for permission to post the picture on his website. I said sure, so now Mike is featured prominently at the top of the page. You should go over there now and check it out!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

LeavingLeft on a jet plane

Fred and I drove up to Louisville this afternoon to take Mike to the airport so that he could catch his plane to Tucson. He's going for a week to visit his friend Nick. He's so excited; I kept marveling that this can't be the same kid who cried at sleepovers in the second grade. That doesn't seem like that long ago, but he certainly didn't have any second thoughts as we bid him farewell at the security line:

After we deposited Mike at the airport, Fred and I went to do a little shopping. Apparently, the dress code for school next year is "business casual," and given that he spends most of his waking hours in uniform, Fred's business casual wardrobe leaves a fair bit to be desired. We have decided to work on it a little bit each month so that we don't get hit with a huge clothing bill at the last minute. So today we went to Kohl's and got him a camel hair blazer, a pair of dress pants, and a pair of blue jeans (not for school but just because he desperately needed them). We made a quick stop at the mall, where I ran into Sephora to get some makeup that I needed. The crowds were crazy, so we didn't stay long.

For supper, we decided to go to Lynn's Paradise Cafe, which I have been dying to try. Lynn's Paradise Cafe is a cool little spot near downtown with good food and funky decor. According to Esquire magazine (2002), it is "one of the four most fun restaurants in America." As we sat at our table, I kept noticing little touches, like the dinosaur on our table and the fake legs hanging out of the wall and the bottlecap mosaic. Fred had an omelet, and I had the potato pancakes with herbed goat cheese. All the food was great, and we will definitely be going there again!

Mike called while we were shopping at Whole Foods after supper to let us know that he had arrived in Chicago. I guess he's somewhere in the air between Chicago and Tucson now. I hope he has a great time!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Too stupid for my camera?

Did I mention that Fred gave me a new camera for Christmas? It's a beauty, the Panasonic DMC-TZ3. I took it to today's swim meet in Bowling Green and faced the learning curve. After being a Sony girl for over 3 years, it's going to take me a while to get used to some things, but I think in the long run, it's going to be perfect. Today though was not so perfect.

I started off by using the video feature to record Annabelle's 50-yard freestyle. Somehow though, as soon as I started recording I also pushed to stop recording. Therefore, at the end of the race when I pushed again, thinking I was stopping it, I was actually starting it, just in time to capture 12 breathtaking seconds of footage of ceiling, feet, and empty pool as I wandered back to the bleachers.

For her next race, a freestyle relay, I decided to experiment with the burst mode and shoot some stills. I took this picture, which I was quite please with (I'm not down-sizing any of the images in this post, so feel free to click and see the full-size version):

I admired it on my way back to the stands, where I found Fred cheering wildly for some girl in the pool. Who, I inquired, was that? Oh, just Annabelle. Yes, I had taken pictures of the WRONG KID! Everybody around Fred got a good laugh out of that.

Fortunately I also took this picture, thinking it was Annabelle gearing up for her dive, and you can see her cheering and waiting her turn:

I tried video again for Mike's 100-yard breaststroke, because he likes to be able to critique his form afterwards. First, I almost did a repeat of what I did when I tried to tape Annabelle, so I had to start the recording again shortly after his dive. I was a little disappointed in how jerky the quality was:

A practice clip that I shot in the heat before came out fine, so I think it was just a combination of shaky hands and being too close to his lane.

What was NOT disappointing was his performance in the race. He was seeded last in his heat, but he finished fourth. At 1 minute, 17 seconds, and change, he had managed to shave a couple seconds off his time and was ecstatic when he came out of the water:

I shot more stills in burst mode for the freestyle relay that followed immediately. I didn't get anything as good as I got of NOT Annabelle, but here's his dive, which I pulled out of this original photo:

I also managed to get this semi-close up out of this original photo:

It's nice but not as cool as the one I got of NOT Annabelle. Still, swim pictures are really hard, and these are better than any others I've ever taken before, so that is progress. It's a little demoralizing for me to have trouble with something I'm used to being pretty good at. I'll keep working with my new toy though (and maybe even read the instruction book), and I hope to have progressively better pictures to share here soon.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Friday, December 21, 2007

Metaphorically snowbound

We drove to Rochester on Monday afternoon and made it home without any major snags. Since then though, I have been playing whack-a-mole with duties and deadlines, smacking each one down only to see 2 more pop up in its place.

Christmas is kicking my rear end this year. Remember the cards I started working on back in mid-November? I am just now getting around to mailing them. I think my shopping is finally done, but there's still wrapping to be done and food to be bought, cooked, and consumed. I think I would enjoy Christmas more if it weren't an annual event.

Sometimes it startles me when I see myself in a Cathy cartoon, but this captures the essence of my Tuesday and Wednesday so perfectly:

I am going to have some non-holiday fun tonight though! My friend Angie and I have tickets to see the new "Sweeney Todd" film up in Louisville. On Halloween night, when Annabelle came running home to announce that one of the neighbors actually knew she was Mrs. Lovett without needing to be told--Angie is that neighbor. Should be fun!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Yup, definitely snowbound

Ah, home sweet Holiday Inn Express!

Fred and I went to the airport this afternoon to turn in the rental car, re-book our flight for tomorrow, then take the shuttle back to the hotel. Well, nobody at the counter would talk to us at first, as all they were "authorized" to do was "help" people use the do-it-yourself check-in kiosks. I called NW and was told yeah, I was free to rebook but everything tomorrow is full. Then there was a rumor (out of the NW people) that we would be flying this afternoon first to St. Louis and then to Detroit. Then (finally) the flight was cancelled. At that point, they handed out the emergency rebooking number, and I managed to renegotiate by phone. Fred re-rented a car, we got another room at the hotel, and we're flying out of Rochester tomorrow afternoon.

I'm am told that there was much squealing with delight at Maya's house when the girls were informed of the change of plans.

Let's hope the roads are clear between here and Rochester tomorrow. They were saying at the Northwest counter that nothing will be leaving Syracuse until Tuesday or Wednesday.


Greetings from snowy Syracuse, NY! We arrived on Friday, and Maya was waiting anxiously for Annabelle:

Fred and I turned Annabelle over to Maya and her mom for safekeeping for the weekend, grabbed our luggage and rental car, and headed 3 hours south to Split Rock Resort in Lake Harmony, PA. We got checked into our "room," which was actually an apartment with a huge whirlpool tub and a gas fireplace, and Fred taught his classes at the conference. We went out for dinner and then started anxiously watching the Weather Channel. We had been lucky in dodging Friday's bad weather and getting everyone where they needed to be, but Sunday (today) was looking dicey.

Fred hated to cut out early on the conference, although he was done teaching on Friday and our only real official event on Saturday was the big dinner. Still, they were predicting a buttload of bad weather for Sunday morning, and I asked him what he would tell one of his captains to do. He had to admit that in that case his advice would be to get the hell out of Dodge, so that's exactly what we did.

We traded our gas fireplace and whirpool tub for a quite acceptable room at the Holiday Inn Express at the Syracuse airport and waited for the bad weather to hit. Sometime around midnight it did indeed hit, snowing all night and then turning into the dreaded "wintery mix" (doesn't that sound like a Chrismas breakfast cereal? "I would like a bowl of wintery mix, please").

Annabelle is continuing to have a fantastic time across town with Maya, and I have to wonder if they didn't pretty much wish this snowstorm into existence. The universe is not equal apparently to the whims of determined 12-year-old girls.

Meanwhile, I'm playing weather detective and trying to figure the likelihood of us getting out of here, through Detroit (ha ha ha ha!), and back to Kentucky tonight. I wouldn't mind being stranded for an extra day too terribly much, although this certainly doesn't get my indexing project done or my Christmas cards and the rest of my Christmas presents sent. I just want to know NOW, not after I have the pleasure of hanging out at the Syracuse airport for hours on end and then stressing about the possibility of getting our hotel room again. Is that too much to ask?!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mental block

When we picked Ginger up from her breeder, one of the many extra items we were given was a nifty little folder with her shot record in it. I carried that folder back and forth to the vet's all last fall as she got the rest of her shots, but when it came time to board her for our trip to New York, the folder was nowhere to be found. At the last possible moment, I wound up having the vet fax a copy of the record to Fred at work, and that's what we took to the kennel as proof of immunization.

Fast forward to this year . . .

When I took her in for her shots this fall, I had the vet's office make me a new copy of her updated shot record since I knew we would be boarding her for a little weekend getaway we're leaving on tomorrow. Today though, when I was getting her stuff together in preparation for her stay at Doggy Camp (food? check. blanket? check. toys? check.), once again I couldn't find the stupid shot record! Fortunately, the kennel has a fax machine, so the vet was able to fax it directly out there.

What am I DOING with the shot records? Do I wander the house at night, tearing them up and burning the pieces? Our kennel is a very nice place, but I have to think maybe my subconscious mind is trying to avert us boarding her. Either that or the papers are buried somewhere on my desk.

We're off bright and early tomorrow morning for a fun weekend!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The weather is messing with me

It's 63 degrees out there right now, people! 63 degrees, and it's supposed to hit 68. We had days last week that didn't get out of the 30s, and they were so windy and nasty. But today is downright balmy! We have Fred's office holiday party today, and I'm wearing a sleeveless red sweater, jeans, and sandals. I'll take along a cardigan in case it's cold in the restaurant.

I know I should just enjoy it, but I'm looking at our highs for the rest of the week--51, 46, 44, 38--and I feel this sense of dread. Winter is coming for me. But right now it's playing with me.

I really need to live in a warm climate. This just isn't my natural habitat.

Saturday, December 08, 2007


Every year at the holidays, Fred's unit has a door-decorating contest. This year Fred's office went for the sentimental vote. They decorated the wall around the door with pictures of deployed soldiers:

Adam, the son of Fred's deputy, played the part of a young boy dreaming of Daddy coming home from the war:

The office won the prize for Most Traditional:

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Freedom--so close I can almost taste it

This semester will be DONE soon. I'm currently sitting in my last class, waiting for the prof to post the final. My other class is over, and yesterday I turned in the paper that is due tomorrow. It has been a really good semester, but I'm dying to get on with vacation.

Oh, he's getting ready to post the test! Must go!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Cinderella (and fella)

Here are a couple pictures from our formal last Saturday. This was taken at the beginning of the evening:

And this was taken later that night, after the official part of the evening concluded:

Fred is wearing a shirt I got him for Christmas but gave to him early. I told my friend Amy exactly what I wanted, and she had it made for him in Korea. Pretty cool, eh? A lot of the guys in Hawaii had shirts like this that they bought when they were TDY in Korea, and Fred always regretted that he hadn't bought one as well. No more regrets!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Why be a turkey . . .

. . . if you can be an Eagle? Here is Mike with the trophy he got tonight at the football/cheer banquet:

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Two parties and one near tragedy

Fred and I went up to Louisville last night for his office holiday ball. Then this afternoon, we were at the club here on post for the CG's holiday reception. We were just getting ready to leave the reception and blow off going to the commissary in favor of ordering pizza for supper when Fred got a message on his Blackberry that some friends of ours had been in a traffic accident back up in Louisville.

They got side-swiped by a semi, and their car is pretty much totaled. The dad stayed at the scene of the wreck waiting for the tow truck while the mom and 2 kids went ahead to the hospital in an ambulance. Finally, a cop took the dad to the hospital, and we met up with everybody there.

Fortunately, everybody is OK although definitely shaken up. Everybody got a good dusting with shattered glass, and the mom has a banged-up wrist. It's amazing though when you consider how very bad it could have been that things turned out as well as they did.

We spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out in the ER and then took them home. Then Fred and I went through the BK drive-thru and brought home supper. I'm just signing on long enough to post this, because I have a date with "Desperate Houwewives" in a few minutes.

The parties were a blast; the accident, I think we could have all done without. Still, this was definitely one of those "best worst days of your life" situations. We're happy that our friends were so lucky!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Go, Team Orange!

I don't have much time, as Fred and I are getting ready to leave for our holiday party up in Louisville. It just didn't feel right though after a month of daily blogging not to "hug" my blog today.

I've been meaning for ages to mention that my cousin Laura's daughter Lauren is a contestant on the Discovery Kids show "Endurance: Fiji." It's kind of like "Survivor" for kids only without the extreme physical deprivation--probably because that would be child abuse.

I set my DVR to record the show when it first started several weeks ago, only to realize after the fact that my stupid cable package didn't include that channel. So I missed the first episode, although I was able to add the channel in time to tape a repeat showing. I never got around to watching though, so pretty soon I had about a half dozen episodes saved up. Last week, Annabelle and I sat down and had an "Endurance" marathon, and now we're caught up and totally hooked.

Normally the new episodes air on Saturday nights, but I notice that it's not on tonight. Next week, however, they're showing the first episode. I guess the show is on break for the holidays. At any rate, it's a perfect opportunity for you to get caught up if you're not already watching. Just make sure you cheer for the orange team!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Let me eat cake

When we lived in Germany, one of my favorite places to go was the Hotel Morgenstern in the Odenwald. They had a cafe there that made the most amazing cakes. One that I remember with particular fondness was called a Käsesahnetorte (literally, cheese-cream cake--flavored like cheesecake but a totally different texture). When Annabelle and I went to visit her friend Katherine last month, Katherine's mom Elke taught me how to make a very similar cake using Greek yogurt. We translated the recipe's ingredients to English and the measurements to American measurements. It goes something like this:

For the bottom, cake layer:

  • 1 stick plus 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 and 1/8 cup sifted flour
  • 1 teaspoon (slightly less) baking powder
Beat butter until fluffy. Beat in sugar. Beat in eggs, one by one. Stir in the flour. Line a springform pan with parchment paper and brush with butter. Pour batter into pan. Bake at 340 degrees for 15 minutes. Cool. Remove parchment paper, and return cake to springform.

For the top, cream layer:

  • 1 and 3/4 cup cream
  • 450 grams Greek yogurt (Sorry, not sure what this equates to in American measurements. This is a large yogurt container. If you don't have Greek yogurt, strain the yogurt through cheesecloth for several hours to drain out excess liquid.)
  • 1 packet of gelatin
  • large can of mandarin oranges, drained
  • 3/4 cup sugar (maybe a little less.)
Dissolve gelatin in slightly less than one cup boiling water and set it aside to cool. Mix the yogurt and the sugar together. In a separate bowl, whip cream with a little sugar and add to the yogurt mixture. Stir in the gelatin. Add orange pieces. Pour on cake. Chill 3 hours.
Here is Katherine's little sister Annika with our cake:

When I made the cake at home on my own, I chilled it overnight to make sure it was good and firm. I also reserved a couple cups of the cream mixture before adding the orange sections. First I poured the part of the mixture with the oranges on top of the cake layer. Then I topped it off with the plain cream mixture so that the top would be smooth.

I wish I had some cake right now. It would be the perfect way to celebrate the successful end of NaBloPoMo!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Best business on one wheel

I received the following email this morning from

Dear friends:

We need your vote one more time! Your previous vote helped us reach the finals in the Forbes Magazine Boost Your Business contest. The grand prize is $100,000.00. Many of you know that we’ve outgrown our little warehouse. The award would serve as a down-payment on a new store with more space. That would enable us to put more products in the showroom, making them more accessible to our friends and customers during visits.

The contest is now in your hands. Forbes has set up a Web site with details on the 5 finalists. Your vote, along with our presentation score, will determine which company is the winner. Forbes’ panel of judges has not yet published our scores. Please vote for us today. Would you consider forwarding this request to your friends? Please accept our sincere thanks for helping us reach the finals.
I know I've said it before, but I will say it again: is a fantastic business! We've ordered a couple of unicycles from them as well as numerous shirts and DVDs. Their shipping is prompt and their customer service is always excellent. I know that (based in Georgia) is also a supporter of my friend Gretchyn's daughter's school's circus (in Pennsylvania). That's part of their educational mission to get 1% of the US population on one wheel.

Go here to vote for!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Mild panic

I have had it in my mind that my last big paper for this semester is due Friday, December 14, the last day of the semester. I discovered the other day, however, that no, it is actually due Friday, December 7. That's next Friday. Ack!

On the one hand, that'll be nice, as it will mean my holiday starting a week sooner than I had expected. On the other hand, I have to write this paper, and I just lost a week of working time that I thought I had!

Again, ack!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Christmas card saga continues

Remember how I said on Sunday that I had gotten the cards ordered and how happy I was? Well, ha! Fred picked them up last night, and I was Not Happy when I saw them.

How many trips had I made to Walmart to make certain that what I was seeing on my monitor was what would come shooting out of the big printer at the store? At least 5 or 6. Maybe 7. When I picked up the Saturday sample, I knew that this was (FINALLY) The Picture, and so I ordered the cards.

The kids on the cards, however, were not the kids in The Picture. As pale and pasty as Boo Radley, they were so light as to appear almost transparent.

So this morning I marched into Walmart and got my money refunded with a minimum of fuss and bother. Tomorrow I get to go back, upload my picture from the kiosk in the photo department, order a single test card, evaluate, lather rinse repeat until I have a card worthy of ordering by the gross. Or maybe I'll just go to Walgreens instead. I don't know--I feel like Walmart and I have been through so much together at this point that I kind of hate to walk away. Maybe I'm just in an abusive retail relationship though.

And in other news, the particularly observant among you might notice that I have spruced up a little bit around here. I finally added some links in my BlogRoll that I've been meaning to add for some time. I'm not done yet though!
I also went back and did a little catch-up blogging from our summer vacation. If you are so inclined, you can read about:

My next order of business is to get caught up (and stay caught up) responding to my comments. Baby steps, baby steps . . .

Monday, November 26, 2007

Missing Mr. Stinky

I wrote on my old blog several years ago about Mr. Stinky, the plant my mom brought back from Hawaii for me. (In that post, however, I mistakenly implied that the German name for the plant--Aasblume--meant a flower that smells like ass rather than a flower that smells like a corpse. Es tut mir leid.) I keep meaning to get Mr. Stinky (or at least a cutting that I can root) every time I'm home in Florida, but for some reason it never happens.

Mr. Stinky has bloomed several times in the years that he's lived with my parents, but it never happens when I'm around. Behold this amazing picture my dad sent me last August of the Stinkster's latest flower. In fact, go ahead and click on it to see it bigger so you can better see the flies!

Wouldn't that make for one frightful corsage?!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A holiday craft for you

We spent this afternoon setting up the tree and decking the halls. I also got the cards ordered, and they'll be ready tomorrow, which is a huge relief.

I thought tonight I would share a neat holiday craft that we did back in Hawaii and that we have enjoyed each year since then. The kids even made them as gifts for their teachers at Waimalu Elementary. Behold the amazing clothespin wreath (as seen with last year's cards on it):

Basically, you take a clotheshanger and stretch it into a circle. Open it at the top and string it with red beads and clothespins that you have painted in 2 different shades of green. Close up the top again, slap on a bow, and voila! Your wreath is ready to hang on a wall and make a cheery display of your holiday cards.

Am I Martha Stewart, or what?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Giving new meaning to the term "e-card"

OK, I'll admit it. I suck at mailing stuff. I probably should just accept it and start buying "sorry I missed your birthday" cards in advance, but that would be like giving up on hope.

At any rate, today is my dad's birthday, and a couple weeks ago, I bought him a really cool card. And then never managed to get it in the mail. So I'm posting it here instead:

Happy birthday, Dad! Hope it's a great one!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Here, have some videos

Sorry, I've been too busy eating and visiting (and running to Walmart again for yet another test pic) to blog anything much today. So here, have a couple video clips I think are kind of cool:

Pachelbel Bedtime

William Tell (Mom) Overture

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Well, Thanksgiving 2007 is almost over. In fact, the only thing standing between me and the end is a slice of Derby pie. (I also have pumpkin pie for the more traditionally minded.)

I like Thanksgiving. It's a nice, food-oriented holiday without all the emotional baggage that seems to accompany Christmas. I had a good time working to prepare a feast for my appreciative audience. In fact, this year I'm thankful for my relatively low-maintenance family, who worked with me to get the meal on the table and who were willing to overlook its imperfections (like the fact that I forgot cranberry sauce. I hate cranberry sauce, but duh, what was I thinking?!).

When everything was on the table, I had to stop for a moment to take a quick picture:

Fred's dad took a picture of me taking my picture:

It took an afternoon of dozing in front of the TV before any of us could even think about handling dessert. We're ready now though!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Remind me to turn off the AC tomorrow

Stupid weather. Last Thursday it was c-c-c-cold. We even had snow flurries! Then for the past few days we've been having a warming trend. Today it was in the 70s and rainy. I actually had to turn the AC back on! But tomorrow we're expecting a high of 41, which is probably more normal for late November in Kentucky but still too cold for my tastes.

I feel kind of bad when I gripe about the cold. It's almost like I'm cheering for global warming. I complain, and a polar bear falls through the ice. That's a tough burden to carry.

I really belong in Hawaii.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Before I forget to post today!

Today has been a crazy-busy day. I spent most of it in Louisville, where I bought fleece-lined Crocs for Mike (who had been envious of Annabelle's), SCORED on a new skirt for myself at Macy's, bought new makeup at Sephora, totally struck out on finding a new dress for the holiday ball that's coming up way too soon, and bought some last-minute goodies at Whole Foods. I also made yet another trip to Walmart to pick up yet another trial holiday photo, but I think I'm getting closer to resolution.

Fred was supposed to come home tonight. He has been in Vegas and Dallas since late last week. Last night, however, he called to say that he's having to make a quick stop by San Antonio on his way home. So now he's not getting home until tomorrow night, and this little change in plans means that he is now going to be flying on The Day Before Thanksgiving (may God have mercy on his soul). I hope his day isn't all "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles," but I told him that he should prepare himself to spend the night in a roach motel with John Candy, just in case.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Picture this

I'm so sorry. I promised a recipe, didn't I? I just couldn't get it together for today though. I sent in my indexing project late last night, and I spent today working on our Christmas card photo, going to the commissary, and going to Walmart (twice--as part of working on our photo). I need to finish shopping for Thanksgiving and get this filthy house clean before Fred's parents arrive on Wednesday, plus I've still got a few weeks of school left this semester, and I really should get cranking on that last paper.

As I've been editing our holiday photo, I've been thinking a lot about a book I'm reading called The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less by Barry Schwartz. Booklist says:

Who woulda thunk it? Here we are, in the early years of the twenty-first century, being driven bonkers by the staggering array of consumer goods from which we must choose. Choosing something as (seemingly) simple as shampoo can force us to wade through dozens, even hundreds, of brands. We are, the author suggests, overwhelmed by choice, and that's not such a good thing. Schwartz tells us that constantly being asked to make choices, even about the simplest things, forces us to "invest time, energy, and no small amount of self-doubt, and dread." There comes a point, he contends, at which choice becomes debilitating rather than liberating. Did I make the right choice? Can I ever make the right choice? It would be easy to write off this book as merely an extended riff on that well-worn phrase "too much of a good thing," but that would be a mistake. Despite a tendency toward highfalutin language ("the counterfactuals we construct can be tilted upward"), Schwartz has plenty of insightful things to say here about the perils of everyday life.

I'm in the middle of a section about 2 types of people: maximizers and satisficers. The quick and dirty is that maximizers agonize over making the best possible choice every time, while satisficers aim for the "good enough." Can you guess which group is happier overall with their choices? It's not the maximizers, and I'm afraid that's me, especially when it comes to my photos.

When I started planning this picture, I was determined to be a satisficer this time. This was not going to be a repeat of the time that I had a friend bury us to our necks on the North Shore of Oahu, stick Santa hats on our heads, and take our picture, only to not use the picture because it just wasn't as good as what I had in mind.

Instead, I wound up sewing a dress for Annabelle and a shirt for Mike, both out of the same Hawaiian print, and dragging them back up to the North Shore. I don't remember which of the photos on the 2 rolls of film that I shot made it as The Picture, but here is a representative sampling:

They look pretty happy considering they each cried at least once that day. Of course, they were probably scared of me. I vaguely recall throwing a hissy fit of my own and saying something about "If YOU don't care if your grandparents have a nice picture to look at on Christmas morning . . . " but it's all fuzzy after that. So I wasn't going to do that! I was gonna be a satisficer if it killed us all.

I started off so well. On the way home from Saturday's swim meet, I told the kids to shower and change into reasonably coordinating clothes when we got home so we could go take the picture and I could get an early start on the cards this year. I already had a location scouted out, just down the street at the credit union, in front of a pretty bush. We tossed a couple barstools in the van and took off for our photoshoot. Not even an hour later, we were back at home with some 50-odd photos to choose from.

And that is where I began the long, lonely slide from satisficer to maximizer. First I had to decide which picture (or pictures, because now some card formats allow for more than one shot) had the best chance of making the grade. I solicited opinions from some friends and family members who are privvy to a sneak preview and wound up even more confused than I had been, as there was no clear winner. Since then, I've spent quite a few hours performing light cosmetic surgery on images of my children, blurring backgrounds, messing with colors and lighting levels, consulting with my aunt the Photoshop goddess, etc., etc., etc. And then, because what you see on the monitor isn't necessarily what is going to come out of that nice, big printer at the store, I've made a total of 3 trips to Walmart (and I loathe going to Walmart!) to pick up trial prints.

I think I have finally narrowed it down to just a couple of pictures and expect to make the final decision any day now. Then I just have to choose the best card format from the bazillion-and-one formats that are available. My inner satisficer is quietly weeping in the darkest corner of my soul, but the maximizer in me is hoping to have these cards out by Easter.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Nothing to write about today

This has been an exhausting few days of blogging, what with all the video editing and such. Not to mention the time it takes to actually going to and doing all the things that I take the video of.

Anyway, I've got a project deadline staring me in the face, and Annabelle has called dibs on blogging about cool bassoonists, so really, what is there for me to say? Go see Annabelle and get your bassoon groove on.

Check back here tomorrow though. I have a recipe I've been meaning to share, and tomorrow might just be the day.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

I love the smell of chlorine in the morning

At 8:00 this morning, I dropped the kids off at the high school to catch the bus down to Elizabethtown for the '07 Fall Preview swim meeet. I drove down later, stopping by Barnes and Noble for hot chocolate along the way, and arriving in time for the 10:30 start time. I found a spot on the crowded bleachers and sat there until well into the afternoon.

This was a huge meet, with 15 schools participating. Each event was 50 yards, with the top 30 in each returning in the afternoon to compete in 100-yard heats. Mike participated in breaststroke and freestyle, and Annabelle did freestyle.

In her heat, Annabelle was a little motorboat and came in first! She beat out another seventh grader, 2 eighth graders, a ninth grader, and an eleventh grader, finishing in 38.82 seconds:

Mike's time in the breaststroke (34 seconds) put him in eighteenth place and qualified him to swim in the 100 this afternoon. He was the only boy on our team to qualify for the 100's! He hung with the pack through most of the heat but just wasn't able to pull it out in the end. At 1:21.74, he finished last, but he's even more determined to work hard to improve his time through the rest of the season. You can see that he's got a nice, strong stroke:

Here's Mike at the end of the meet:

You wouldn't believe how exhausting watching swimming can be. I'm beat!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Got talent?

The Xi Xi Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity held their First Annual Talent Hunt Competition tonight at the Leaders' Club here on post. I can't say enough nice things about this program! It was really great to see something offered for the teens of our community that was outside of school. School programs are wonderful, of course, but something like this serves kids from all of our local high schools. It was also nice to see an event like this held at a more upscale location like the club, rather than a high school gymnasium. The fraternity did a great job and offered a first-rate program . . . and I would be saying all this even if Mike hadn't won second prize!

Mike played Pachelbel's Canon on his electric guitar. He has been working hard on it for the past few weeks and does an amazing job with it. He keeps pointing out where he made mistakes or where he was having trouble hearing his background track, but I was just blown away. Is this really the same kid who was pleading for guitar lessons just 2 years ago?

Fred is TDY in Dallas today, so he had to miss the actual performance. Annabelle called him on my cellphone so he could hear. We also sat with Mike's friends Mark (who lent him his mas macho amplifier) and Scott (who came out the day after having all 4 wisdom teeth removed to offer support). Mike's got talent, good friends, a couple of cool trophies, a hundred bucks cash prize, a $25 gift certificate to Bob Evans Restaurant, and tickets for 2 free buffets at Pizza Hut. Lucky boy!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Another busy day

Hard to believe it's been a week already since I was blogging during class, but here I am again. I worked on my indexing project all morning, but then I had a school board meeting at 2:30, and I haven't slowed down since.

Mike had a rehearsal this afternoon for a talent show he's participating in tomorrow night at the Leaders Club. I let Fred take him to that since Fred will be out of town for the actual show. Apparently Mike did really well and impressed the warrant officer for the 113th US Army Band. He gave Mike his card and said he wants to talk to him about jamming with the band at their spring concert!

Tonight the kids had their second swim meet. I volunteered as a timer, so I had one of the best seats in the house but was too busy to really watch much of the meet. I totally missed Annabelle's 50-yard freestyle, because she was out of the water before I knew she had even been in. She did great though--shaved 3 seconds off her time! Mike also had a really good night. He came in second (by a whisker) in his 100-yard breastroke. The other kid's mom was my co-timer in lane 2, and we had a good time cheering for our boys.

Now I'm in my Intro to Legal Resources class (because FSU wouldn't give me credit for my ADVANCED Legal Research class from law school--duh) and just marking time until I can crawl into bed and catch up on "Grey's Anatomy." Tomorrow I'm helping out with band uniforms after school, picking up Mike from swim practice, taking Annabelle to a meeting at her old school, and going to Mike's show. Saturday is an ALL DAY swim meet in Elizabethtown. And Sunday I have a welcome reception to attend. The fun just never stops!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Reality TV, practically in my backyard

"Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" has been hard at work up in Louisville for the past few days. They are building a new house for Patrick Henry Hughes and his family. I've seen stories on Hughes in the newspaper occasionally since we moved here: He was born without eyes and unable to straighten his arms, but he plays trumpet for the University of Louisville marching band. His father works nights for UPS so that he can be available for his son during the day, including pushing his wheelchair through the marching formations and helping him get to class.

Today's the big day for the Hughes family, when they return to see their new home. I wish I could go up for the "big reveal," but we've got a full afternoon of swim practice, homework, guitar lessons, etc. So I'll just have to continue following the story through my local paper. Here's a link to today's article, which also includes links to previous articles and photos.

Editing to add: I forgot about another reality TV connection to this area, and now it looks like there's a connection between the 2! Kynt Cothron, half of the goth duo on this seasons "Amazing Race," is from Louisville, and apparently he showed up the other day to volunteer on the Hughes house.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

In the swim

Swim season started tonight, with a scrimmage against Meade County. Mike swam last season, but this was Annabelle's first meet. Both kids were really happy with how everything went. Turns out Annabelle is a little motorboat in the water, and I think she'll be able to make some great progress this season. Mike's happy because his times tonight beat his best times from last season. He's hoping to take his 100-yard breaststroke to state.

The best part of the evening for me was watching the kids support each other. After one of Mike's events, I saw them high-fiving down at the other end of the pool. Mike came up to our side of the pool when Annabelle was swimming her 50-yard freestyle and jumped up and down and hollered for her. I got kind of choked up between feeling so proud of her out there swimming her guts out and so touched to see her big brother cheering her on.

It's gonna be a great season!

Editing to add: Here is some video of Mike's 100-yard breaststroke. He's in lane 4 and the second guy out of the pool:

Monday, November 12, 2007

The list

Saturday morning I made a list of "things to do today." I'm hoping to finish the list tomorrow.

Here's what I have done:

  • Cleaned in my bedroom for 15 minutes (I find that I can get a lot done in 15 minutes, and if I set a timer and promise myself I can quit when it goes off, I'm a lot more likely to get started.)

  • Cleaned in the kitchen for 15 minutes

  • Returned plates that were left at the school after the Homecoming dance (2 weeks ago)

  • Updated Quicken and my calendar

  • Gone to the commissary

  • Emptied boxes in the basement

  • Transfered my photos from ImageStation, which is going out of business, to Shutterfly or Snapfish or something

  • Finished an indexing project

  • Bought Mike's ticket to Tucson

  • Made a hair appointment for Mike (for tonight--that's where we're going right now)

  • Boxed up a return to go back to (which is the BEST way to buy shoes!)

Here's what still remains:

  • Clear off computer desk

  • Clean up all the junk I have downloaded to my desktop

  • Mail check for Band Boosters to pay for spirit pins

Maybe tomorrow . . .

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Good taste in Halloween costumes

Turns out Annabelle wasn't the only Mrs. Lovett for Halloween! Carly, who works with my sister, also dressed as Mrs. Lovett, and her cubicle even got into the act, winning the prize for Best Cube with its cooking utensils, disgusting menu, and disembodied arm hanging out from behind the "baking supplies" cabinet:

Great costume (and cube), Carly! Are you excited about the movie coming out later this year?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Adventures in babysitting

Fred and I played host today to a preschooler and newborn baby while their parents dealt with a minor medical emergency. I'm fine with preschoolers--I dig out the crayons and paper and the box of Beanie Babies, and I peel oranges, and I can keep up my end of the conversation no problem at all. Babies, however, terrify and mystify me. Always have, always will.

You would think I would gotten over this, having produced 2 babies of my own, but no, they terrified and mystified me, too. We have some video footage of me changing Mike's diaper when he was a newborn. By "changing his diaper," I mean "holding one of his feet while Fred did the dirty work."

Today for the most part, Fred and I divided the job so that I had the preschooler-related tasks, while he tended to the baby. It's not that he was all that anxious to handle the baby; it's more that I was cowering in the kitchen, pretending to be terribly busy.

Once Fred had gotten the baby to sleep, he went out to rake leaves, leaving me all alone with both little ones. One thing about babies though, they always wake up, and this one was no exception. I managed to get her out of the carrier on my own (without her head falling off, which is what I really worry about with babies). Then I sat in the living room and held her while she drank a bottle and while her big sister and I watched us some Disney channel.

After a few hours, their parents came back and got them, and nobody was the worse for having passed the afternoon in our care. I, however, needed a nap.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Official homecoming photo

Yesterday Mike got his photo from the dance. If you click on the picture, you can see it bigger:

Aren't they cute?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Sh! No talking in class

Distance learning has its drawbacks. It can be hard to make friends, for example, when you're just a name in a chatroom once a week. But then there are the advantages, like being able to wear your PJs to school and being able to have a glass of wine during a lecture. Or being able to post to your blog, thus not falling off the NaBloPoMo wagon scarcely one week into the month.

My whole day has been taken up working on my current indexing project. I really underestimated the time this would take, and now the deadline (Saturday, but really Friday, as I hate working right up until the last minute) is staring me in the face. So I'm multitasking during class tonight: working, studying, updating the blog.

I'm in class from 6:00 to 10:00 each Thursday night this semester with a break from 7:30 to 8:00. It makes for a long night, but I really like having just one evening a week dominated by school. In fact, I like it so much that I've pre-registered for back-to-back classes again next semester. I just wish it were almost any night except Thursday: That's the night with the best TV!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


The past few weeks have been nuts. I think it all started the week before Halloween. I worked on the high school Homecoming, and I was a delegate for AFAP (this really cool organized gripe session that is the fastest way to get things DONE in the Army--I should blog about it). Then there was all the sewing and prep work for Halloween. At the same time, I'm taking 2 classes for my Master's and freelancing a bit as well. In fact, I have a project in right now for which I woefully underestimated the time requirements, and I'll be paying the price for that right up until deadline on Saturday.

The thing is, there's really nothing I'm doing that I don't want to do and that I didn't willingly sign up for. It's not like I'm trying to schedule my radiation treatments so that they don't conflict with meeting my kid's parole officer, you know?

But whatever the scheduling situation that is equivalent to one's eyes being bigger than one's stomach--that's what I've got!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Flyin' high

My "kid aunt" Yami (my dad's half-sister, ten years my junior) has reached an amazing milestone, and some familial bragging is definitely in order. Several years ago she decided to take flying lessons, and before we knew it, she soloed, got her private single-engine license, and started working on commercial, multi-engine, and single-engine instructor ratings. Here she is in August of '06, when she took my dad flying in a Cessna 172.

This past winter, Yami surprised us by announcing that she was learning to fly jets. We began to suspect she was serious about this aviation thing. Then last summer, she pulled off a stunning achievement: She was hired as a first-officer trainee at Memphis-based Pinnacle Airlines! Two months and a checkride later, she became an official copilot on a CRJ-200, which looks like this:

The Bombardier CRJ-200 is a 50-passenger regional jet used by short-route affiliates of some major airlines. Pinnacle does much of its business as NWA Airlink, a partner of Northwest Airlines. As a result, Yami is currently based in Detroit, commuting to work from her home in Tampa. (Hey, you do what you have to do.) She e-mailed my dad a few weeks ago from Kalamazoo, on a genuine high from carrying her first load of passengers.

Congratulations, Yami, on your exciting new career!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Should have posted this last month

Know what's one of my favorite parts of Halloween? Act II popcorn balls!

I have a dozen or so stashed away to last me the next couple of weeks until the Christmas popcorn balls come out.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Show Annabelle the NaBloPoMo love

One of these days I'm going to get around to updating the sidebar to include things like the link to Annabelle's new blog. She's participating in NaBloPoMo, too, so why don't you go there and see what she has to say? (We're both going to be keeping it brief for the next few days, as we have guests in from out of town.)

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Personal record(s)

I meant to write this post a couple weeks ago. I was going to use this photo that my friend Teresa took at Mike's cross-country meet. This was Mike setting a personal record, finishing the 5K in 22 minutes and 6 seconds:

I'm a lazy blogger though and just never got around to posting that. It doesn't matter now, because today at Regionals, he set a NEW personal record of 21 minutes, 40 seconds. This is the only photo I have of him running today, and it was a pretty bad pic--terribly washed out, and his eyes were closed--so I solarized it for a funky effect:

Here he is after the meet with his teammates:

There were several more PRs in the group, so even though they didn't make it to State, it was a great way to end a wonderful season.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Hooray for Fred!

I've spent the past couple of months in a state of loosely controlled anxiety, worrying and wondering about where we'll move next summer. We submitted our list of desired locations shortly after the Worldwide back in October, but we still weren't 100% content with the order we had put them in.

Fred called his assignments guy (AG) on Wednesday to request that a couple of places get switched on the list, and AG said, "Hey, I was going to call you today anyway." Turns out Fred was an alternate on the selection list for the War College, and a spot has opened up! When Fred called to tell me about it, he prefaced the announcement with "Are you sitting down?" which is kind of a stupid question when you think about it, because let's face it--I'm generally sitting down. I was totally shocked (in a good way) but managed to refrain from falling out of my chair.

Fred didn't want to say anything to the kids until he got confirmation that it was a go, but he got the confirmation yesterday, and we held a little family meeting. War College is a 1-year assignment, and we really don't want to move Mike for his junior year and then AGAIN for his senior year. He's happy where he is, and Annabelle is settling nicely into middle school after somewhat of a rocky start. So we have decided that the kids and I will stay here, and Fred will rent a hovelan apartment in Carlisle, PA, and come home on breaks.

The next year we're going to have to do some finagling to keep us here one more year to get Mike through his senior year. Best case scenario would be for Fred to get another assignment here. Worst case would be another deployment. Somewhere in the middle of those 2 extremes would be a 1-year unaccompanied to Korea or Fred just going off on his own to be a geographical batchelor wherever his next duty station is. We'll jump off ofcross that bridge when we come to it.

For now we're just celebrating Fred's very hard-earned and totally deserved success!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Halloween might just be the most perfect holiday at Fort Knox. We have had enough cool weather in the past couple of weeks to turn the leaves pretty colors and give my neighborhood a golden glow of autumn, but it was blissfully warm for trick-or-treat time last night. Fred and I sat on our front porch with Ginger, drinking wine, eating Doritoes, and hanging out with our neighbors. I had bought an amazing assortment of candy, and it was so nice to watch the costumed kiddies choose their favorite one (or favorite 2 or 3, as it got later in the evening, and I STILL have 4 unopened bags in my kitchen).

I had so wanted to make Ginger a Dorothy (from "The Wizard of Oz") costume. I have the pattern, and I have the blue gingham (and you can even buy little ruby red dog slippers on the Internet if you have more money than you know what to do with). What I was seriously lacking though was time. Between work and school and Homecoming, there just wasn't enough time to sew for Ginger, so she had to wear last year's costume, which she had actually grown into this year. She stayed in her chicken suit just long enough for me to get this picture before we took pity on her and let her go naked for the rest of the evening:

Speaking of naked for the rest of the evening, Mike and his friends had decided they were going to be Spartans in bikini underwear and red capes. I told Mike that he was smoking some serious crack if he thought Fred and I were going to let him prance around the neighborhood in bikini underwear. He said it would be fun, but I said that picking him up from the MP station did not meet my criteria for "fun" and to put some damn pants on. This was the compromise:

Annabelle and I worked hard for the past couple of weeks on her costume. She was going as Mrs. Lovett from "Sweeney Todd." In case you're not up on your Sondheim musicals, Mrs. Lovett is the partner in crime of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. He kills 'em; she bakes 'em into meat pies.

We found Annabelle's shirt at GAP, but the rest of the costume is a Taylor & Taylor original. I made the skirt out of upholstery fabric, which gave it a nice stiff sturdiness. I also made the apron, but Annabelle did all of the embroidery on the front. (The pockets say, "We serve anyone . . . to anyone.")

Best of all, Annabelle was able to convince her friend Matthew to dress as Sweeney Todd, so they were quite the gruesome twosome last night:

Annabelle even decorated special trick-or-treat bags for them to carry. Hers says "Lovett Pies," while Matthew's says "Fleet Street Barber: Closest Shave Ever:"

I took this picture after it got dark, because I thought it had a nice theatrical effect:

Begging for candy is hard work, so at the end of the evening, they collapsed on the front lawn . . . dead tired:

Happy NaBloPoMo!

Remember last November, when I blogged every day? Hard to believe it's time again for NaBloPoMo, National Blog Posting Month. I had fun with it last year, so I'm in again, for better or for worse.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Homecoming queen

For the past couple of weeks, I've been telling anybody who will listen that I wasn't this involved in high school when I actually WAS in high school. Somehow I wound up as the sophomore mom this year, and the sophomore mom's big responsibility is to coordinate the parent volunteers for homecoming. Most of October has been a blur of committee meetings and emailing parents to beg for baked goods or chaperones for the dance.

Finding dance chaperones was even harder than you might think. Plenty of kids put their parents on notice that they were cordially invited to be anywhere BUT the dance Saturday night. I was worried that we might not have enough, but in the end I did have a dedicated group show up to oversee the festivities. Also, I made a couple of friends through the International Spouses Club who told me that they were interested in volunteering on post. I said, "Wow, do I ever have a job for you!" Here I am with Carla (from Uruguay) and Cecilia (from Ecuador) working the refreshment table and enjoying the "monster's finger" cookies, which were a huge hit:

We had a great time! I didn't find the music half as painful as I expected, and it was fun watching the kids all dressed up and enjoying themselves.

But Homecoming isn't about me. You want to hear about Mike and whether he had a good time, right? I would have to say that yes, Mike had a very good time this week.

For one thing, he was the male sophomore representative for the Homecoming court. As such, he got a spiffy T-shirt to wear to the pep rally Friday afternoon:

He had to wear a suit to the game Friday night for the presentation. Here he is with Dana, the female sophomore representative (I'll be getting official photos in a week or so and will post them):

Here's a video clip to Mike and Dana's portion of the presentation.

Here are some pictures from Saturday night, the night of the dance. Here he is giving Ariel her corsage:

And the obligatory awkward-picture-in-the-living-room:

At the school, right after having their official pictures made (which, again, I'll post when I get):

During one of the couple dances, one of my friends said, "Oh, look, Mike is dancing with TWO girls!" By the time I got there to take a picture, it had turned into Mike and Brandon and a whole lot of girls:

When the dance ended at 11 last night, it took less than an hour to rip down the decorations and transform the cafeteria back to its normal state. We got home a little after midnight, and I have spent today taking care of tasks that have gone by the wayside while Homecoming consumed every ounce of my attention. It was a great time, but I'm SO glad it's over.