Thursday, December 31, 2009

A message for Uncle Fred

Greetings from Alabama! We are here for a couple of days to help Fred's parents celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary and to exchange Christmas gifts among the cousins. Fred sent special presents from Afghanistan for all the cousins:

They have a special message just for him:

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Play Misty for me

I've written here before about Journey's End Animal Sanctuary, an animal shelter in DeLand that provides long-term care for all manner of animals who have been let down by their humans. My parents and sister and I chose not to exchange gifts this Christmas and to donate the money instead to Journey's End. Mom and Dad took their donation along with Jenny's the weekend before Christmas, but that's when Annabelle and I were back in Kentucky. Today is our last day in Florida, so we made a quick visit this afternoon to drop off our donation.

We saw only a few of the many animals who live at the shelter, but we got to give out plenty of ear scratches. One cat, Misty, took a particular liking to Mike. Each time he tried to stop petting her, she reached out and grabbed at his hand with her paw. Mom got choked up, and I thought it was because of all the sad stories. She told me though when we got home that it was Misty's sad story in particular and her reaction to Mike that got her: Misty's former owner was a young man who was murdered several years ago. There was nobody to take in Misty or her co-cat Buster, so they went to live at the shelter. Mike took this picture of Misty with his cell phone:

I'm thankful that there are people like Mrs. Thuot out there who do so much for helpless animals!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Room with a view

My dad made this really cool panorama of the living room/kitchen in our Christmas beach house:

I continue to fret over the blog changes. My current project is getting my list of favorite blogs the way I want it on the sidebar. With my old template, I was using, and that's what I have up for now. I liked having the little button added to my browser toolbar that would allow me to instantly add a new blog to the list. About a year ago or so though, they started putting an ad banner up across the top of the screen when you click through to a new blog, and that bugs me. I've contemplated using Google Reader to organize my links, but I hate having to copy and paste the link into Reader in order to subscribe. No toolbar button--REALLY, Google? I find that hard to believe.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


I've been tweaking a few things here at the ol' blog. Bear with me while I work out the kinks. I have upgraded my template in order to tidy up my archive links. I've also switched from Haloscan for my comment management to Blogger's system. Haloscan got bought out and was getting ready to start charging for their services. I've got a downloaded file of the old comments and hope the day will come when I can finally get them imported back into the blog.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The day after

We're back in DeLand now, and I can tell we are all having withdrawal from our ocean view.

I am still in the process of getting the holiday cards in the mail--need to take the international ones to the post office. But here is this year's creation:

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

We had a nice Christmas. Linked up with Fred via the webcam so he could watch the kids open their presents:

Grandma and Dave came over this afternoon for a visit. We worked on yesterday's leftovers and our 1500-piece puzzle. Hard to believe our time at the beach house is almost over! We are mostly packed up and need to be out by noon tomorrow. I hope we can get the puzzle finished by then!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve report

I haven't gotten much blogging done this week, so I thought I would take a moment and bring you up to date.


Tuesday was Mike's girlfriend's birthday, so we met up with Abby and her family in St. Augustine for a movie (Blindside--great feel-good movie!) and a delicious supper at The Columbia. After supper, we walked around the historic district and enjoyed the Christmas lights:

Annabelle made a donation to this young street performer:


We thought that yesterday was going to be our warmest day, so even though it was a little bit chilly, we ventured out to the beach for a little treasure hunting (not treasure finding):

We rescued some starfish and a snail:

and found a cute little crab:

My dad took this picture of Annabelle making an unsuccessful run from a freak wave:

Here are a couple of house pics. This is our house viewed from the beach:

And here is the house across the street:

Nice neighborhood, eh?


Today was even warmer than yesterday. I took Mike to the (outdoor!) pool at the YMCA in Ormond Beach so he could get in some swim time. On the way home, I pulled off the road to take a couple of interesting holiday photos. Outside a bait shop:

And a very simple Christmas "tree":

Tomorrow we're keeping things relatively low-key, so we had our big Christmas dinner tonight. Dad used his timer to get this picture of family bliss and harmony:

Hee hee, just kidding:

Merry Christmas! I hope Santa is good to you!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Life's a beach

Annabelle and I arrived back in Florida last night and drove up to Flagler Beach to meet Mike, my parents, and Jenny and Jeff. My dad is borrowing a beach house from a friend of his, and let's just say it's not a shack. We spent the evening out shopping for groceries and then came home to wrap presents and drink rum punch. (Jeff mixes a mean rum punch!)

As it was dark when we arrived yesterday, I didn't get my first look at the view until this morning. I stepped out onto the deck a little while ago to snap a couple of pictures. This is MY kind of winter wonderland:

I wish Fred could be here!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The right choice

I'm glad that I brought Annabelle back up to Kentucky for Bruce's funeral today. Probably 25 to 30 kids from the drama group showed up to sing, and they sounded amazing. Not to go all "Little Drummer Boy" here, but I think it had to make an impression on Bruce's family to see how important he was to so many young people. I was touched to see how the kids comforted each other. We parents hung out on the sidelines while they cried together and hugged each other. That was what confirmed it for me that making the trip back up here was the right thing to do: Annabelle needed to be around others who are hurting in the same way she is.

After the service, we had a bite of lunch at home, and then she sat down to watch a movie. At around 4, I left to visit a friend, and she said she was going to take a nap. When I got home at 6, I woke her up so that she would be able to get back to sleep tonight. She was so out of it though that she thought it was 6 o'clock Monday morning. It took a few minutes to convince her that it was still Sunday night. This has been an exhausting few days!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Meet me in St. Louis?

You'll have to hurry though. We'll be here for another hour, and then it's off to Louisville. We are liking the St. Louis airport though--California Pizza Kitchen for lunch, free wi-fi, even a Starbucks:

LOL, we just saw the funniest thing on CNN. Check out Keyboard Cat:

Friday, December 18, 2009

Greetings from Florida!

Well, we made it to DeLand at around 4:30 this afternoon. There was a lot of rain along the way, but we still made pretty decent time. We stopped in Ocala to see a movie with one of Mike's friends. We saw Brothers--intense! Met with Grandma and Dave tonight for supper at Bellini's. I couldn't decide whether to go for the manicotti or the hot roast beef and cheese sandwich, so I ordered both and ate half of each. Yum!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Greetings from Cordele, GA!

Well, we made it over 500 miles today, leaving us just shy of 300 for tomorrow. Now we are all in bed with our laptops, enjoying the free wi-fi. We're hoping to stop in Ocala tomorrow afternoon to catch a movie with one of Mike's friends who recently moved there.

Annabelle and I are going to make a trip back home this weekend. It turns out that Bruce's funeral is on Sunday, and the kids from the theater group have been asked to sing. I can't imagine asking her to miss it, so she and I will fly up on Saturday and back on Monday, and then meet my family at the beach Monday afternoon.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Ah, the joys of getting ready to get out of town! Annabelle was supposed to have 2 finals tomorrow, but she went ahead and did them today, so now neither kid has to go in at all tomorrow. We will be able to get a head start on our drive to Florida, but only if I finish packing in a timely manner. Everything that is left to do will have to wait until the morning though.

Here's a cool picture of Mike (on the right) and his friend Harrison swimming the 200-yard IM at a swim meet back in November:

It was published in the post newspaper, so I emailed the reporter and asked for a copy for myself.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sad night

I don't feel very chatty this evening. The drama coach for Annabelle's theater group was killed in a car accident today. I feel sad not only for his family but for all the young people in the county who counted him a good friend and mentor.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Happy news

Fred got word today that his assignment to Fort Leavenworth has been approved. That was at the top of our wish list, so while it's not terribly sexy and exciting (like, say, Germany or Hawaii), we are very pleased. We think that this is the right spot for us for the next few years. Nice, stable job for Fred. Good school for Annabelle. Within a time zone or 2 from wherever Mike might wind up in college. And there's a Panera 20 miles away, so I'll be OK, too. :-)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

False advertising?

I usually ignore the ads that Facebook runs down the side of my page, but this one seems to be cropping up more and more often:

Is it just me or would a better caption be "Scholarships for Jesus"?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Swim meet

Man, today was super-long! I wanted to go to the swim meet in Bowling Green but didn't feel like driving (2 hours each way), so I went on the bus with the coaches and swimmers. That was great, but the bus left at 6 a.m., which is way early for me.

I'll try to get some video up tomorrow of the boys' 200 medley relay. They went 1:57.31, for a new school record!

Between the long hours and the extreme cold on the bus and extreme heat in the pool area, I'm zonked. We got home a couple hours ago, and I have just been sitting here playing Bejeweled Blitz. I need to get together the energy to button up the house and brush my teeth so I can go to bed.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Suzie Snowflake

December is just ripping right on by us. Yesterday was the final performance for Annabelle's Christmas show. I managed to get a picture of her in her "Suzie Snowflake" costume:

The kids have 4 days of final exams this next week, and then we are taking off for Florida.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Gone with the wind

Brrr . . . I thought I would blow away today!

I went yarn shopping in Louisville. Just about had a heart attack when I pulled up to my favorite knitting store and it was GONE. Turns out it had just moved a few miles down the road, so all's well that ends well. I ended up with some lovely red yarn for a sweater for moi. I knitted the swatch while Annabelle was in dance class tonight and am eager to get started for real.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Face to face

I think I'm in love. I spent a lot of time this afternoon messing around with Picasa, Google's free--FREE!--photo organizing software, and I am indeed in heaven. The main selling point to me is that Picasa seems to work very well in conjunction with my file management system. Elements, on the other hand, got its digital panties in a twist anytime I moved a file from one folder to another.

Picasa's face detection ability is also amazing. Elements 7 says, "Here's a face. Who is it?" Picasa says, "Here's a face, and I think it might be Annabelle." You click to accept or reject a suggestion, and it just gets smarter and smarter. Here is a screenshot from earlier this afternoon to show you a group of photos that Picasa pulled together as being of Annabelle:

Amazing, no? Long hair, short hair, yarn hair, glasses, no glasses, whatever. It does a remarkably good job of recognizing people.

It's also addictive. I meant to stop an hour ago. I'll never get any Bejeweled Blitz played at this rate.

Monday, December 07, 2009


I was updating my calendar this afternoon, and I realized that I have just over a month left until my next semester of classes starts up. I have really been looking forward to this break, but I want to make sure that I don't waste it. So I started thinking about what my priorities are for the month:
  • Enjoy Christmas without getting bogged down with the stress. I got a nice start on that tonight when Annabelle and I went to the John Hardin High School chorus's holiday concert. I need to make some more Russian tea and start addressing envelopes for my cards (I love doing my Christmas cards).
  • Work on organizing my photos. I think I have about decided that Picasa is the way to go for photo organization. I have 29,641 image files on my computer, so that is a lot of organizing. I also want to FINALLY organize my home videotapes so I can transfer all that to DVD.
  • Knit more. I am eager to start on a sweater project, but I want to finish up the socks I'm making first. Unfortunately I've been ignoring those socks for the better part of the past year, so I need to just suck it up and get on with it. Then I can treat myself with a trip to the fancy yarn store!
  • Read more. My reading really went into a slump when my eyesight deteriorated on me last spring, and I seem to have fallen out of the habit. When I remember to pick up a book though, I love it, so I need to do more of it.
  • Purge, purge, purge. I took a carload of stuff to Goodwill yesterday, but there's plenty more where that came from. Paring down now will mean a less painful move next summer.
  • Play a MODEST AMOUNT of Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook. Seriously, this is what sucks my time. Yeah, it's fun, but it also comes between me and all those other things on my list. I'd love to quit cold turkey, but I'm a realist. Maybe if I could at least stop playing in bed though . . .

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Photo organization

I spent today organizing all my digital pictures from 2009, weeding out the truly bad ones, and changing the file folder names to date plus general description instead of date alone. Then I pulled them all into Photoshop Elements and started tagging them with the Organizer. I feel vaguely dissatisfied. I really prefer the tagging method on Flickr, but when I tag with Flickr, the tags do not attach to the files on my computer, just to the uploaded files. If I use Elements, I can write the tags to the metadata of each file before uploading to Flickr and the tags will transfer as well. 'Tis a pickle.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Sports funny (and a happy, too)

Just had to share this letter that my dad had published the other day in the "Hey, Willie!" sports column in the Daytona paper:

Contrary to popular belief, Tim Tebow does not walk on water. Playing in The Swamp, though, Timmy does know where the stumps are.

How I wish the 'Noles could have pulled off an upset -- but then, they couldn't even beat USF at home. Oh, well, sooner or later the Gators will lose again, and when they do, you can tell your readers that it was due to a serious outbreak of ARD, better known as "a reptile dysfunction."



Somewhere in Birmingham, a headline writer is jotting down that one for Saturday -- you know, just in case.

Like others in my "business," I've resigned myself to hearing the complaints from those who feel we gush a little too much over Timmy (yeah, yeah, it's true: Buy 10 gushes and you're allowed to call him Timmy). But until further notice, I'm reserving the right to consider he might be the genuine article. When you consider he's had roughly 100-150 different teammates during his four seasons at UF, and we've never heard one (not ONE) dissenting comment about him, I'll continue to stand accused.

But then again, there's the following . . .
Click here to read the rest of the column.

Mike was bummed to see the Gators fall victim to "a reptile dysfunction" in this afternoon's game. But he had his own victories to celebrate in today's swim meet, especially his new personal best (and school record) in the 100-yard freestyle, an event he doesn't usually swim--56.99 seconds!

Friday, December 04, 2009

Film festival

Annabelle and I are in the middle of a film fest today. She had a short day at school, so we headed to Louisville to see Precious. It was really powerful but really disturbing, too:

We decided we were still in movie mode when we got home, so we ran to Movie Gallery and rented Adoration. We really enjoyed it . . . until the end. Let's just say that now we feel strangely unfulfilled:

We're going to watch Planes, Trains & Automobiles now to end the night on a high note:

"Those aren't pillows!"

Thursday, December 03, 2009


Mike did his PT test for his Air Force ROTC scholarship application today: 41 push-ups and 60 sit-ups (in one minute each) and a 1.5-mile run in 9 minutes, 28 seconds. Not bad!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Look, Ma, no cavities

We had a pleasant afternoon, especially considering how dreary the weather was today. The kids and I all had dental appointments, which went well and quickly. So quickly in fact that we found ourselves with time to kill before Annabelle's musical theatre class. We decided to kill that time at Red Lobster--cold, rainy weather always puts me in the mood for cheesy biscuits! Topping off my nice day, I just got out of my last class for this semester. Considering the number of times I considered dropping over the semester, I'm proud of myself for sticking it out. Four more classes to go, and then I will be a librarian.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Photo op

You may or may not remember that Hillary Clinton was in Kabul a couple weeks ago for the inauguration. She spoke at the embassy and posed for pictures. Here's one with Fred and the other military liaison officers:

He said she was very gracious in her comments.