Fill in the Blank

Back to the ScrapShare Blog Challenge. This one is easy (which is probably why I am doing it).....

1. My current favorite song is: Well, beats me. I guess I don’t have one currently…. I have been listening to a wide variety recently, including Christmas music.

2. The last book I read was: The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan. Sad thing is that I read this in August while on vacation…..

3. The last book I bought was: Across the Puddingstone Dam by Melissa Wiley and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. These books are for Erica (since I really don't buy books for me). Across the Puddingstone Dam is a prequel to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books.

4. The last cd I bought was: St. Elsewhere by Gnarls Barkley and Corrine Bailey Rae by Corrine Bailey Rae (I bought them at the same time). Now, I did buy the Hannah Montana Soundtrack CD more recently, BUT that is a gift for Erica and not for me……

5. Another CD I wanted but didn't buy is: Greatest Hits by the Little River Band. But the only reason why I didn’t buy it was just because I didn’t have time to mess with right then. I will probably purchase it once the craziness of the holidays has past. I know that this group is a little obscure (certainly not mainstream), but I was listening to the radio the other day and their song Lady came on and brought back memories for me (Reminiscing, anyone?).

6. Right now, I'm wearing: Brown pants, green sweater (work garb)

7. The last gift I bought was: Custom made Photo calendars for various people (I do this every year - Kodak Gallery)

8. The last time I laughed heartily and loudly: The Office Holiday party, just held on Dec 8. I am sure it was something that my friend's husband said.

9. My favorite holiday ornament is: The various photo ornaments from years past

10. My house smells like: Cookies – I baked several batches this weekend

11. The first thing on my to-do list tomorrow is: Make the kids lunch

12. If I could sit on Santa's lap and believe that he'd bring me whatever toy I wished for, I'd ask for: the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR Zoom Nikkor Lens. I assume that qualifies as a toy.

13. If I could holiday shop in ONE store, all expenses paid, I'd shop at: B&H Photo – you can get it ALL there – electronics, cameras, lenses, etc.

14. If an angel alighted on my doorstep today and said, "I'm here to grant a Christmas wish," I'd wish for: peace in the Middle east. I know – pipe dream……

15. When I see a bell ringer while out shopping, I: don’t make eye contact and pass by – gosh, I hope that doesn’t make me a bad person……


Hot and Spicy

I thought it would be appropriate to share something warm on this COLD, COLD day (it was 5 degrees when I woke up this morning!!). My office is on the ‘cooler’ side of the building and it was 66 degrees when I checked it at lunch (with the temperature set at 80!). The depressing thing is that the Conference room right next door is nice and warm. It really stinks when your fingers and feet are cold…..
But back to the Hot and Spicy topic….. my new favorite potato chip flavor is now Lays Barbecue Hot and Spicy:

Why the post on potato chips?? Background information - when I was in China, I got hooked on my hotel’s mini-bar offering of Pringles Hot and Spicy Potato Crisps:

Since vending machines haven’t made their debut in Nanchang, I would take the can with me to the Plant (along with a Diet Coke)to have as a mid morning snack. When I got back to the States, I searched for the same Hot and Spicy Pringles in the local supermarket. I get my hopes up when I see these Fiery Hot Crisps:

I think, Hey, the packaging looks very comparable......So, you would expect some really hot chips with a package like that - all of those flames - but no, they were incredibly disappointing! They just didn’t have the same kick as the Hot and Spicy ones. I do some searching on the Web and find out that the Hot and Spicy Pringles are only available overseas.

Then I discover the Lays potato chips and I will have to say that they are pretty good. Not so spicy that it is uncomfortable to eat them, but just enough heat to need some water (or Diet Coke) to cool the palette.

So warm your taste buds up this freezing day with some Lays KC Masterpiece Hot and Spicy Chips!


First Snow of the Season

You know the drill - the weather forecasters predict severe weather and the media goes into a tizzy with their winter weather programs. Predictions of copious amounts of snow are stated every 15 minutes on the radio, and everyone heads out to the grocery store to stock up on milk and eggs. The kids start watching the Weather Channel and start asking “Have they canceled school tomorrow?”. We pull out last season’s snow boots, only to find that they are too small for Erica and try to console her (fortunately, her feet are almost as big as mine, so she can wear my snow boots). Their heads are now filled with visions of 12" of the white fluffy stuff and anxiously look outside for the first snowflakes.

Ah, but as I awoke at 6am on Thursday morning, the ground was a bit icy, and nothing was falling from the sky - not even rain. The kids don’t get up until 7am, and that was a good thing, because at 6am their hopes would have been dashed. But by 7am, there was almost an inch of white stuff on the ground and there was a veritable blizzard raging outside.

As expected, school was not canceled (I have been told that they haven’t canceled school in our town for snow in over 30 years), and we braved the elements. The kids did manage to play out in the snowstorm before we left for school.

The forecasters predicted 8-12", we received MAYBE 3". That’s about right proportion of hype to reality. Still, the kids enjoy any amount of snow and spent some time playing in it this morning:


Log Cabin Outing - Nov 4

On November 4, we drove out to Indiana and spent the weekend with old friends at New Harmony State Park. Now, a weekend at a state park normally conjures up visions of camping, roughing it and communing with nature. However, in addition to the traditional campsites, the park has Family Cabins available, and that is what we and the two other families rented out. We were in Cabin 8 (or Cabin ‘ocho’ as Scott started calling it), with our friends in Cabins 3 and 4.

This “camping trip” has been an annual event for the past three years, but this was our first time participating. During the weekend, each family is responsible for hosting one of the meals, and the rest of the time is spent playing games, fishing, hiking, making campfires and generally hanging out (sounds like normal camping activities, eh).

Since this was our first time going to the State Park, we weren’t sure what to expect with respect to the Family Cabin accommodations. We had told Erica and Brian that we were going to a “cabin in the woods” and Brian automatically assumed that “Cabin” meant “Log Cabin”. In the days leading up to the trip, Brian hyped up our impending “Log Cabin Adventure” to all of his friends and teachers. We really didn’t expect authentic log cabins, so we continued to say to Brian “You know, it may not be a LOG cabin”, hoping not to disappoint him. So, imagine our surprise when we pull up to our cabin, and discover that it was indeed an authentic log cabin . Brian was so excited - he kept on touching the log walls.

The cabins has two bedrooms, a full bath, kitchen, great room and screened in porch - really not roughing it by any stretch of the imagination. In the kids’ bedroom, the immediate attraction are the two sets of bunk beds - each claimed the top portion of the beds and set up their sleeping bags (thank goodness there were two sets of beds - would hate to have to mediate the “who gets to sleep on top” argument).

Our first night was spent unpacking, having dinner with the W’s and enjoying the campfire Mr. Jeff built outside. The fire kept us nice and warm against the cold November night air. The mostly clear skies allowed the almost full moon to cast its cool glow on the campground.

Saturday arrived with sunny skies and fairly moderate temperatures. No, it wasn’t warm, but it wasn’t cold either. Our family (ie - yours truly) was responsible for the lunch meal. I prepared BBQ Beef brisket and Chinese Homestyle BBQ Pork. The Chinese pork is really easy to prepare - just combine cubes of pork (not to lean - it has to have fat in it to taste good!) with equal parts of Sugar, Ketchup, Soy Sauce (I use Kikkoman), Red Vinegar and a half part of cheap white wine in a stock pot and cook it for 3 hours or so, until the meat is nice and tender and the liquids have reduced to a medium thick sauce. We served it with rice and steamed broccoli

While lunch was cooking, the kids decided to explore the park grounds. They came across a lakes set down in the woods and decided to try there hand at fishing. As ususal, Brian was enthralled with the worms.

The heavy tree cover posed line casting challenges - several of the kids’ casts became tangled in the tree branches or got stuck in the floating branches in the water. They didn’t catch anything, but had fun while enjoying the fall scenery.

After lunch we took a hike on the number 2 trail which winds through the woods, along the banks of the Wabash and back through the woods.

We took time out at the playground to play on the swings and jump in big piles of leaves.

Dinner Saturday night was hosted by Mr. And Mrs. Jeff and followed by an evening of entertainment, games and general silliness while hanging out by the fire. For entertainment, Sarah first wowed us with ballet as she demonstrated her advanced pointe technique on her new pointe shoes. Then Meredith and Erica played several violin pieces from the Suzuki program. Finally, the extreme silliness set in as the kids created several cheerleading “cheers”, led by the sole male child (yes, that would be Brian - and he really hammed it up).

But the excitement didn’t stop there - it continued as we returned to Cabin “ocho” where we were greeted by an unexpected visitor - a MOUSE! The mouse ran from the kitchen into our bedroom, amidst some yells and squeals. Then it scurried into the kids’ room, around the beds and proceeded to climb the walls. The screaming started to crescendo until the mouse disappeared into the wallboards and seemingly up into the attic area of the cabin. Then the reality of a mouse in the cabin set in along with the normal feelings of the heebie-jeebies and elicited some funny comments, the being:

“I can’t go to sleep in this cabin! The mouse might come back and bite my head off!”
. We finally convinced ourselves and the kids that the mouse was not coming back into our sight and settled down to sleep.

The next morning, we all gathered at Mr. And Mrs. Jeff’s cabin again for a great breakfast:

The last activity before we all parted ways - we went on a letterbox search and found this cool letterbox that the kids signed -

Looking forward to attending in future years, and hopefully, we won’t get a mouse in our cabin the next time!!


Traveling Man......

I took one of those Blog Quizzes to answer the question "How Well Travelled" I am, and here are the results:

Your Travel Profile:

You Are Extremely Well Traveled in the Northeastern United States (100%)
You Are Very Well Traveled in the Midwestern United States (75%)
You Are Very Well Traveled in the Southern United States (62%)
You Are Well Traveled in Western Europe (57%)
You Are Well Traveled in the Western United States (53%)
You Are Somewhat Well Traveled in Southern Europe (27%)
You Are Somewhat Well Traveled in the United Kingdom (25%)
You Are Mostly Untraveled in Canada (20%)
You Are Mostly Untraveled in Eastern Europe (20%)
You Are Mostly Untraveled in Asia (13%)
You Are Untraveled in Africa (0%)
You Are Untraveled in Australia (0%)
You Are Untraveled in Latin America (0%)
You Are Untraveled in New Zealand (0%)
You Are Untraveled in Scandinavia (0%)
You Are Untraveled in the Middle East (0%)

Not surprisingly, I am well travelled in the North East where I grew up and very well travelled in the Mid West, where I currently live.

And of course, this points out all of my travel deficiencies, but I guess I can add these places to my "places to visit at one point or another in my life".

Now, my parents are very well travelled - I wonder how they would do on the quiz??


Halloween with the Girls

Whew - what an action packed night.....
First, the kids had Fall Parties at school (named as such to ensure no one is offended - except those who don't "do" Fall - OK, that was a little sarcastic and really the topic of another post). Then they had a Halloween party (and even named as such!) at their after school day care. Because of the Halloween party, the kids didn't want me to pick them up until an hour after their normal time - they wanted plenty of time to enjoy the party (ie - eat stuff).

Our church held a Fall Fun Fest from 5:30 to 7:30, and it is always a really good time with inflatables, games and food. Erica and Brian wanted K and M to attend the Fun Fest, so I picked them up as well and brought them to the house for a little between party snack (like they need any more food!).

We separated the girls from the boys at this point. Brian didn't want to go trick or treating with the girls and had made plans to go with his friends. This was the first year Erica and Brian didn't Trick or Treat together! Scott and Brian headed to the Church Fun Fest while the girls gathered all of their "stuff" - costumes, backpacks, shoes, missing headbands, treat bags, etc. It is a good thing that Erica has become slightly responsible because it is just too much to keep track of.

We spent about 40 minutes at the Fun Fest. The kids mainly played on the large inflatables and here is the one classic picture I got of all three of the girls going down the Megga Slide:

Isn't that just classic? If you look carefully, there are three sets of feet there......

Just as we were about to leave, the girls discovered that their other good friend, J was there! We arranged to meet at K&M's house for Trick or Treating. There, we were met by K&M's dad who was dressed as R2D2, and we all lined up for a group picture:

The girls spent the next hour or so running from house to house, gathering candy. Running was the only way to keep warm - I personally nearly froze and had to head back to K&M's house early.

At the end of the night, Erica had gathered almost 200 pieces of candy! That certainly was the mother load of all Halloween's and certainly far more enjoyable than last year's Halloween in the rain.


Just a Quick Trip to the Sonic for Ice Cream......

After dinner, Scott suggested that we go out to the Sonic for ice cream. It has been a perfect autumn day - crisp, sunny, wear your jeans and a long sleeve T-shirt kind of day (and VERY comfortable riding in the convertible type of day to boot). So it sound like a very nice, relaxing family outing and a very nice way to start off the evening.

We took the Tahoe (Scott wanted enough room to spread out) and listened to 80s tunes on the CD player in the truck while we enjoyed our ice cream. We were there for maybe 30 minutes when Scott started to power up the car and (insert sound of a motor winding down). Hmm..... sounds like ...... (trying to start car again - insert dead silence) ...... dead battery!

We start through our options - well, there are plenty of other cars around, maybe we could ask one of them if they have jumper cables and wouldn’t mind helping us jump the truck? Scott’s not so keen on that option. OK, so we call one of our co-worker friends who lives just a mile or two from the Sonic. We haven’t seen Geary for probably 3 months, as he has been in Germany on a work assignment and he has been back in town for maybe one day now, but hey - he’s a sport and comes out to help us.

Erica and Brian just LOVE ‘Mr Geary’ - they think he is the coolest because he is a complete Star Wars geek and he has helped them win the Star Wars trivia game. They are completely wound up with ice cream, the situation with the car and now the prospect of seeing Mr. Geary, so they get busy by bouncing up and down in the back of the truck, screaming and being generally noisy. Fortunately, you can’t really hear screaming kids when the windows are closed!

Long story short, the jump start doesn’t work, so we leave the Tahoe in the Sonic employee lot (a couple of guys from the Sonic helped us push it out of the customer bay). Scott thinks that the battery could be so dead that the jump start didn’t work. Geary thinks it could be a dead starter. So we’ll try again tomorrow with a new battery and go from there.


No Consequences (but plenty of conscience)

I have been very delinquent in my participation of the ScrapShare Blog Challenge, but I am hoping to get back on track with this week’s entry. Here is this week’s Challenge:

Q: If you could live one day without consequences, what would you do? Would you get a tattoo just to see what it was like? Would you skip work or school and sleep all day? Would you have a one-night-stand, or would you buy a yacht, or would you tell your parents what you REALLY think of them? If you could live one day without consequences, what would you do?

Hmmm....interesting initial thoughts were centered around the purchase of physical items - stuff I have been coveting, for example. Then I thought about it some more and realized that I can go out and buy “stuff” any day, and the question doesn’t indicate that you have other magical means at your disposal (like unlimited money)..... so I decided to limit my answer with the assumption that at the end of the magical day, items purchased would disappear......I also decided that money spent on the day’s activities and food don’t count though (gotta make this a little fun!).

First of all, I would definitely bag work (heck, on a normal day, there are very little consequences with not showing up to work for one day) and charter a flight to California’s Wine Country for a nice breakfast. I would rent out the Nikon lens I have been eyeing, and use it to take fabulous pictures (these I would be able to keep - they are just digital files, after all).

Without physical consequences to hinder my activities, I would partake in what I would normally consider to be ‘high risk’ - these are activities very much outside my current comfort zone. This would include sky diving and bungee jumping (really, anything involving heights!). I would also arrange to go horseback riding at full gallop along some scenic setting and maybe even try a bit of surfing. Then I would step the activity level down a little and experience some pampering at a pricey spa - minimum of a massage, facial, manicure and pedicure, along with a gourmet meal.

I would wind up my day with my family in a fun-oriented activity. Maybe a group horseback ride or some rock climbing. Oh, and a group bungee jump off of some high cliff! We would all enjoy dinner and everyone would get plenty of dessert....

As much as I’ve thought about what I would do, I have also considered what I wouldn’t do, even under the magic of the no consequences rule. For example, I wouldn’t consider extorting or stealing large amounts of money for future use. And while a steamy tryst with a hot Hollywood star might sound tempting, I doubt I could really choose to engage in such an activity. I bet when I look at others’ responses to this week’s question, I won’t find a truly ‘bad’ action. I guess that even in the absence of consequences, we are all still guided by our consciences and the concept of right / wrong and of personal commitments and priorities......


The 'JINX' game and other popular games

I always find it humorous, the fads that run through with our kids.
It seems as if they are recycled from our days as kids, some are perhaps 'updated' to fit with the current times, but many are just like the games we played as children.

One that is similar to when I was a kid is the "JINX" game.
You all know when you are supposed to say "JINX", right??

OK, for those who have forgotten, if you and your friend say the exact same thing at the same time. Then the first person to say "JINX" is the "winner". I recall the "winner" is entitled to a soda.

My kids have started the "JINX" game with a little twist (At least I don't recall this twist from my childhood)....... the person who says "JINX" first then starts to count - the "loser" is supposed to say "STOP", which stops the counting. Apparently, the numbers represent the number of sodas the "winner" is entitled to - I guess today's games have been "SuperSized"!

Another game the kids are currently playing is the Spot-A-Special-Car-First-and-then-Tag- Everyone-Else-Because-They-Didn't-See-It-First Game. Whew, that's a mouthful. In our case, the Special-Car is the VW Beetle or Bug. The first person who sees it says "XXXXX Slug-bug - No Tag Backs" and starts slapping everyone else while saying it. Oh, the XXXXX represents the Color of the spotted Beetle. I didn't know just how popular the VW Beetle is around our parts until the kids started playing this game. And of course where do they play the game? You guessed it - in the car, while I am driving.

The sad thing is, now I will be driving alone around town or on my way to work, and I will see one of those blasted cars and automatically think (or sometimes even say out loud) "Yellow Slug-bug - no tag backs". If Scott is in the car with me, we will play against each other. Sometimes we'll "play" with our co-workers, but then we usually get very strange looks.

And when my sister and her family visited, even their kids were familiar with a variation of the Slug-bug game (Different Car, and instead of "Slug Bug" another term was used).

Now, I really don't remember the Slug-Bug game from my childhood. Do you?? One game I do recall is "PiDiddle / PiSquattle". Do you remember that one? Played at night, looking for cars with a headlight out. When we played it, the guys would yell out "PiDiddle!" and go and kiss one of the girls. The girls would call out "PiSquattle" and slap one of the boys. Hmmmm - I certainly hope it is a LONG time before my kids start on this one........


Woolly Worm Expedition

In keeping with my theme of recording the family’s events in not-so-real-time, here is the account of one of their latest adventures - our first woolly worm expedition over Labor Day Weekend.

These Woolly Worm Caterpillars, aka Wooly Worms, have been sighted by our kids everywhere - at school, at the park, in the road, in the soybean fields and of course, in the landscaping by the house, conveniently munching on the leaves of my perennials..... Our neighbors had captured many of the fuzzy crawlies while exploring around the creek down the road, so Erica and Brian set off on their own expedition Saturday afternoon, with the big wagon, filled with leaves and grass, in tow.

It appeared that the normally tall wild grasses had recently been cut and it initially seemed as if the Woolly Worm would be quite elusive. But in a residual clump of grass, we came across several of the fuzzy creatures and we started to collect them in the wagon. (Actually, I would coax the Woolly Worm on to a stick and hand said stick to awaiting child who would run up to the street level and deposit the worm into the wagon.).

Erica with her first Woolly Worm:

Brian attempts to collect a lightly colored caterpillar:

The kids scramble up the banks of the creek to place the worms into the wagon:

Heading back home after collecting about 20 of the fuzzy guys:

Just a small sampling of our collection:

Playing the handoff game:

One of the unusual species - his hair was a bit spiky:

We kept the Woolly Worm collection for a couple of days before they were returned “back to nature”. Unfortunately, “back to nature” was the backyard landscaping......oh well, our Salvia plants were out of control anyways......(and the other option of bringing them into the house was less desirable!)


I haven't done one of these in a while

You Are a Carnation

You are down to earth and grounded.
You tend to be more traditional than trendy.
Your confidence gets you through anything.
People trust you and are very loyal to you.


What do the Contents of your bag say about you?

As usual, I am woefully late in participating in this week’s ScrapShare Blog Challenge (but I have a couple of excuses - really!). Here is the Challenge:

1. Open your purse/wallet/briefcase/diaper bag.
2. Inventory the contents.
3. Pick one item from your inventory list and expand on it. Why do you have it? Where did it come from? What special meaning does it have? Is there a funny/interesting story attached? Choose something that will tell the reader a little about you, whether it's serious, funny or unremarkable - or if you're writing for yourself, choose something that will remind an older you of who the younger you was.
4. Add photos if you'd like to.

Go - inventory your contents!

Well, my purse is really very boring. I don’t keep a lot of stuff in it and I am one of those people who, when given the choice to carry one or not, will choose not to carry a purse. That probably stems from the many years of lugging around a diaper bag, filled with stuff for every potential situation. If I will be out shopping or around the town, I will only carry my little wallet - that way I will be unencumbered by a dangly bag.

So here is a picture of my purse and the contents:

My purse - it is a Coach knock off, purchased in China. Notice the lime green trim (ref - favorite color blog entry). I have a matching big tote that I carry my laptop in.
Left to right:
  • iPod, with unattached earbuds - I normally have my iPod docked in the FM transmitter in the car. I put it in my purse when I leave the car and have the earbuds separate.
  • Medicine bottle - ibuprofin, allergy medicine, sleeping pills
  • Cell phone - one of the reasons this entry is late. This is my first cell phone! I ordered it on Tuesday off the web and just received it today - a Pink RAZR. If they offered the RAZR in green, that’s what I would have ordered, but I am very happy with this one.
  • Green wallet - this one is a real Coach wallet. I have had it for at least 10 years. Credit cards and minimal cash are in this thing.
  • iPod skin - just in case I want to use the iPod and want to protect it.
  • Pen - from the Gloria Hotel in Nanchang, China - see my July Blog entries to read about my two weeks in China
  • Checkbook - because you never know when you will need to write a check (kids afterschool care, lunch money, violin lessons, horse riding lessons, etc.)

That’s it. I know, not too exciting, but each item serves a purpose in my every day life.


First Day of School

OK, so the kids’ first day of school was almost 10 days ago, but hey, these are better late than never.......

The first day of school was on Wednesday, August 23 - both Erica and Brian were excited to go back, especially Erica, who has gotten bored at Summer Day Camp. Over the weekend, Erica and I attempted to buy Back to School clothes at the Target, which was extremely busy (like “day after Thanksgiving” busy) due to all of the college students moving back into town. We could only endure the crowds for 30 minutes before deciding to abort the day’s mission. So on Monday evening, the entire family hit the Old Navy. I have never seen Brian so excited to purchase clothes - he picked out several shirts and shorts and insisted on trying them on. He carefully chose his Back to School outfit - tan shorts with a deep blue T-shirt. Erica picked out three pairs of jeans, but insisted on wearing her Cape Cod hoodie while I took her annual First Day of School pictures:

Brian has shunned the red LLBean backpack we bought last year in favor of one of Daddy’s old grey backpacks, and he carries it with one of the straps across his chest (vs the standard “geeky” way - both straps on each shoulder).

The first day of school was only 2 ½ hours - barely enough time to get seated, find out the others in your class and get the basic rules of the classroom. Brian has Mrs. F, who was Erica’s first grade teacher (I requested her), and Erica has Mrs. K, a new 4th grade teacher.

We went back a couple of days later to take the kids pictures at the school sign and with their teachers. Here is Brian sitting at his desk:

And the kids wanted to play a bit on the jungle bars and insisted that I take their pictures at the top:



Week 2 of the ScrapShare Blog Challenge is about the word Remarkable.

Read the following quote and think on it:
"My students were middle-class kids who were ashamed of their background. They felt like unless they grew up in poverty, they had nothing to write about...I felt sorry for these kids, that they thought their whole past was absolutely worthless because it was less than remarkable."
-David Sedaris, from an interview in January Magazine
Admit it. You've said, "I have nothing to blog about. My life is boring." Haven't you. Haven't you?
Your challenge is to write about it anyway.
Write about your less than remarkable life. Write about your routines, your habits, your schedule. Find the unremarkable things about your life and CELEBRATE them.
Go - be remarkable!

Being literal in this week’s Blog Challenge, I thought about the quote first before reading on. Interestingly enough, the quote brought me back to my High School senior days when I was applying to college and had those darn essays to write. Back then, I was one of those kids with a different background. And I didn’t find myself REMARKABLE at all, but DIFFERENT and out of place - and that is what I wrote about in my college application essays.

Fast forward to now - I don’t find myself to be TOO Different anymore and yes, my life and daily routine is a bit on the boring side. Oh, and I read the rest of the challenge and realize that my teenage angst isn’t what this week’s challenge is about (thank goodness!).

So I started to think about the word Remarkable and what the word conjures up – I looked up a definition out of Wiktionary:
Remarkable (adjective): Worthy of being remarked or noticed; noticeable; conspicuous; hence, uncommon; extraordinary.
Side comment - Ack! Even the definition brings me back to my teenaged angst years (OK – I will need to keep on track again).

And as I was thinking about the word, the song "Suddenly I See" by KT Tunstall came up on my iPod, This was the first time I had listened to this song and I was drawn to how hauntingly appropriate it was to this week’s challenge.
Her face is a map of the world
Is a map of the world
You can see she's a beautiful girl
She's a beautiful girl
And everything around her is a silver pool of light
The people who surround her feel the benefit of it
It makes you calm
She holds you captivated in her palm

Suddenly I see
This is what I wanna be
Suddenly I see
Why the hell it means so much to me

I feel like walking the world
Like walking the world
You can hear she's a beautiful girl
She's a beautiful girl
She fills up every corner like she's born in black and white
Makes you feel warmer when you're trying to remember
What you heard
She likes to leave you hanging on a wire

Suddenly I see

And she's taller than most
And she's looking at me
I can see her eyes looking from a page in a magazine
Oh she makes me feel like I could be a tower
A big strong tower
She got the power to be
The power to give
The power to see

Suddenly I see
I think we all want to be Remarkable like the girl described in the song, and the reality is that we are ALL like the girl in the song. I look around me and find all sorts of Remarkable people, things and events. Just the other day, running in the dawn of the day, I observed a beautiful sunrise – wisps of clouds with pink, orange a yellow rays of light. I see Remarkable traits in my children and other people – immense talent, compassion, intelligence, even patience (to me – that is a most remarkable trait).

We are all remarkable – sometimes we just need to SEE it in ourselves.


Visit from Auntie T and Uncle Ray

We had a nice visit from Auntie Teresa, Uncle Ray and cousins Zachary and Matty last weekend. They drove all the way from North Carolina to Illinois - it was their first visit since we moved
here almost four years ago. They arrived on Thursday around noon and stayed through Sunday. We had plans to go to the swimming pool, the apple orchard and other local attractions. Unfortunately, Friday was a washout with thunder and rainstorms, Because of the rain, I retrieved the Perler beads and animal templates from the basement (I re-discovered these while cleaning up for their visit). I didn’t realize that this would be THE activity of the visit - Teresa and I had to make a Hobby Lobby run just to get more beads. Of course, we ended up buying more templates as well.
Here are the results of the boys’ work (Erica refused to have her photographed).

The light colored beads are glow in the dark - the kids checked those out by running in and out of the bathroom.....

After the rain on Friday, the hot steamy midwest weather returned, so Scott and Ray took the kids to the new area pool. Saturday night we feasted on fried dumplings. Sunday was a beautiful day - low humidity and sunny. The boys enjoyed playing baseball in the backyard:

Zach tees up:

Matty hams it up:

Brian swings and throws:

We had so much fun and we hope they can come again (or we can visit them)!


Colors of......

The scrapbooking bulletin board I frequent has put out a weekly Blog challenge. This week we are to blog about color. Here is the exact challenge:

This week, blog or journal about color. Your favorite color. Colors that make you happy. The color of your favorite flower. Colors that speak to you or that totally turn you off. The color of YOU. What's your color personality, according to the thousand websites out there that analyze that sort of thing? (Google "favorite color" and you'll find them.) Is the analysis accurate?

What color do you look good in?
What colors can you NOT wear?
What colors bring back vivid memories?
Do your favorite foods share the same color?

My favorite color would have to be green - that is what first popped into my head when I read the challenge. Not surprisingly, I chose a green based blog template! I love all shades of green - from chartreuse to deep forest green. OK, maybe not the avocado green of the refrigerator from my childhood through college years at home (I begged my mother to update that fridge, but you know, it worked and lasted for almost 25 years). But I digress.....

I am not really sure what draws me to green - perhaps it is so predominant in nature - green grass, green pine needles, glossy leaves. Growing up in New England the green of the pine trees in the mountains was always prevalent along with all of the beautiful maples. Something I definately don’t see as much here in the flat plains of Illinois.

Hunter green was my first obsession with the color green. In college it was a very popular color - I had a hunter green blazer, perfect for those New England fall days. I have a Hunter green KitchenAid mixer - a wedding gift from a group of my male friends in college - they even knew my obsession with that color and picked exactly what I wanted. As a result, much of our kitchen is decked out in Hunter green or some sort of variant.

Other green stuff I currently own:
Wallet - Hunter Green
Running shoes - Lime green
Matching running jacket - Lime green, of course
Purse - Lime Green accents
Laptop bag - Lime Green accents
Numerous Scrapbook albums - yep, green!

On the internet, here is what one site says about the color green:

Green: The color of harmony and balance, Green symbolizes hope, renewal, and peace, and is usually liked by the gentle and sincere. Greens are generally frank, community-minded people, fairly sociable but preferring peace at any price. Green people can be too self-effacing, modest, and patient and so may get exploited by others. They are usually refined, civilized, and reputable.

Hmm - the only glaring incorrect analysis is the patience thing - something I definately am not!

OK - some comments on other colors:
Orange - My least favorite color, probably because I look terrible in orange. And of course, I am the middle of Illini country, where everyone is obligated to wear and bleed orange . I even had to go out and buy an orange Illinois T-shirt just so that I wouldn’t stand out at the sporting events. My kids love the color orange. In fact, it is Brian’s favorite color. Scott’s friends give him grief because his kids are wearing orange Illinois sweatshirts instead of Syracuse!
I do love the orange-red of the rising and setting sun. Especially the rising sun. Everything is so peaceful at sunrise.

Blue - I love color of the sky and the ocean. Purple - my favorite garden flower color - purple coneflower, geranium, iris, lilac, aster.

Red - How could I not like the symbolic color of China? I tend to save the color red for special occasions. Oh, the first car I bought (and still have) is a little red convertible - I consider that purchase to be a special occasion.

Colors that I like to wear - Jewel toned colors - deep blue, burgundy, aubergine, rich chocolate brown. Can you tell that I am craving the return of Autumn and fall clothes? In the warmer weather I prefer pink, light blue, lavender and aqua.

So, what is your favorite color??


Brian's Lost tooth

This tooth has been noticeably "wiggly" since I got back from China. In fact, I thought it would have come out while we were out east on vacation. Each day, either Scott or I would ask, "has your tooth come out yet?". Brian would simply smile, show us his bottom row of teeth and wiggle his loose tooth with his tongue. "No, not yet". Offers to pull it out were always met with a determined (and somewhat fearful) "NO!".

But tonight, as the kids were romping around in the pool, we were informed that "Brian's tooth is really bleeding!". As I inspected it, the tooth was still attached. Then Brian grabbed it and declared "It's out, it's out!!". And then the "I dropped my tooth - where is it??". I retrieved the rouge tooth from the kitchen floor and placed it in a safe place.

And as Erica has reminded all of us, we need to "keep it away from Daddy" because when she lost her first tooth, Daddy inadvertantly threw it away. Can you tell we have not forgotten that?


Summer Vacation

We endured three digit heat and a power outage during our yearly visit out east. Otherwise, it was a very nice visit with family and friends.

Some of the highlights - fishing with Grandma Nai Nai on the lake - we rented out a small motor boat and headed out early on Monday morning:

The lake was quite still, almost like glass, as we cast our fishing lines in. After only two casts, I managed to tangle up my entire fishing rod line. Guess I'm out for the count. It's not that hot out (yet), so I help the kids with worms, casting and pulling in the abundant catch of the day - seaweed:

Finally, Scott and Erica score a couple of small perch. Obviously, they aren't keepers:

Erica seemed to have the most effective fishing style - just ignore your pole and line and they will come. Both times she caught fish, she thought she was bringing in more seaweed!

After 21/2 hours, it is starting to get hot out, so we go for a joyride on the lake. Both kids steered the boat:

While in NY, we also visited Scott's friends from college, Mark and Marianne. Their two kids are Erica's age and they all had a blast playing together. We hadn't seen them since their kids were just a couple of days old.

After NY, we headed to Boston, where we had to endure the Big Dig detours and 100+ degree weather. Fortunately, my parents' house has central air. While in Boston, we went whale watching - our first time. We saw lots of whales - Finback, Humpback and Minke whales. The Finbacks even came close to our boat (we were told this was unusual for the Finback whale). Our excursion took place after the heatwave broke, and it was a perfect 80 degree day with plenty of sunshine and fairly calm seas. As we set sail out of port, Erica and Brian practice using their binoculars along the shoreline and we pass by the Mayflower 2:

We pass by this lighthouse (I think it is the smallest one off the coast of MA) before heading out to the prime whale feeding area:

Here are just a few of the whales we saw on our trip, all humpbacks:

The back fin of the humpback (her name is Freckles):

Pictures of the Plymouth beach shore:

And the Plymouth Rock pavillion:



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